The 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment was organized at Indianapolis on April 25, 1861, for a three month term of service, then reorganized and mustered-in for the three years' service on August 31, 1861, with Col. Lewis Wallace as its commander.
In the early days of the war many regiments assumed identities to distinguish them from others being organized. The 11th was recognized as a Zouave regiment similar to famous regiments of the same name that fought in the French armies. Zouaves wore distinctly colorful uniforms that clearly set them apart from their counterparts.
At the war's start, Lew Wallace was appointed by Governor Oliver P. Morton as the Adjutant General of Indiana. The son of a former Indiana governor, Wallace was a gifted Hoosier. He was a lawyer, veteran and statesman. All of this long before he would be known as the author of Ben Hur. He resigned his post to command the 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment that was one of the first six regiments raised by the state for the war.
On May 8, 1861, two stands of colors were given to the Zouaves during a memorable ceremony. They were the gifts of the ladies of Indianapolis and Terre Haute. With much cheering and singing of patriotic songs, the banners were given to Colonel Wallace by a Mrs. Cady who had embroidered the eagle on the Regimental colors. After graciously accepting the flags and expressing his gratitude to the ladies, Colonel Wallace turned and dramatically presented the colors to this regiment.
"Boys, then, will you ever desert the banners that have been presented to us today?" he asked. The Zouaves splendidly clad responded with a deafening, "Never! Never!" In one of the most dramatic scenes ever witnessed on the Statehouse Square, the Colonel ordered his men to their knees to swear they would never desert the flag of their country or their regimental colors.
Five years later, Major General of the Union Army, Col. Wallace had the honor and responsibility of presenting the Civil War Battle Flags of Indiana's regiments to the State of Indiana for safekeeping. His words on that occasion to Governor Morton were: "...I have the honor to give you back their flags, with the request that measures be taken by the next General Assembly to preserve them immemorially. ...Put them away tenderly."