|The White Acorn
The Corps Badge of the 2nd Division,
Fourteenth Army Corps
The White Acorn was the corps badge or symbol of the XIV Corps' 2nd Division, of
which the 121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry was apart. The corps badge was a new insignia
created during the Civil War, and it helped identify troops in the field.
The Army had its own identification methods before the war, which were continued
during it, but it focused on the regimental level. Each branch of service had its own badge:
infantry, the bugle horn; artillery, crossed cannons; cavalry, crossed sabers; etc.; which
the men wore on their hats. In addition, the men wore brass numbers and letters of their
regiment and company, identifying the men down to smallest tactical unit. This worked
well in an army that didn't number over 15,000 men total and that operated in groups of
hundreds and a few thousand at most. However, during the Civil War, troops moved in the
tens of thousands. An independent army could be anywhere from 40,000 to 120,000 men,
and confusion resulted. It took only the ire of one general to set it off.
According to legend, one day, Major General Philip
Kearny, commander of the 1st Division, III Army
Corps, was marching his unit when he came across a
group of officers resting under a tree. Kearny rode
over and berated the officers for not keeping up with
the men, to which the officers stated that they were
not part of Kearny's command. After this
embarrassing episode, the general ordered all his
officers to wear a piece of red cloth on their hats.
|The infantry bugle horn badge
In the Western Theater, the idea didn't
catch on until elements of the Army of the
Potomac, particularly the XI and XII Army
Corps, came west to help the besieged
Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga,
Tennessee in October 1863.
It wasn't until April 1864, however, that
Major General George H. Thomas finally
issued orders establishing corps badges for
the Army of the Cumberland in his General
Orders No. 62. For his former own
"Fightin'" XIV Army Corps, the acorn was
selected as its symbol. Tradition had it that
After Kearny was killed at the Battle of Chantilly, Virginia on September 1, 1862,
his successor, Brigadier General David B. Birney, extended the use of the "Kearny
Patch" to the men as well. It created a new esprit de corps among the men.
Eventually, the patch was standardized in the form of a lozenge, or diamond.
In March 1863, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, Major General
Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, looked to the "Kearny Patch" as a way to help
organize his troops and raise the morale of his men. For each army corps, Hooker
assigned a shape and to each division a color for the shape, viz: red for the 1st
Division, white for the 2nd, and blue for the 3rd.
The badge of
the 1st Div.,
|Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1864
the acorn's selection occurred as a result of the Siege of Chattanooga. Throughout the latter part
of September through October 1863, the Confederate Army of Tennessee had such a tight hold
over the approaches to Chattanooga, it was able to cut off nearly all supplies. Brigadier General
John Beatty, who on October 28, became the 121st O.V.I.'s brigade commander, stated that the
troops were so desperate for food that they picked corn from the mud that fell out of the wagons.
It was said that many men from the XIV Corps gathered acorns from nearby oak groves, roasted
and ate them, until a supply line was reopened at the end of October. Already nicknaming
themselves the "Acorn Boys," the nut lent itself as the symbol for the corps. As the part of the
2nd Division, the 121st O.V.I.'s acorn was white.
It was a symbol that remained firm with the men throughout the war. In his farewell address to
his troops on June 15, 1865, Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, the corps commander, stated
to his troops that they should fondly remember that they "fought and marched with Sherman and
Thomas; I belonged to the Acorn Corps."
121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry