Michigan in Civil War
Michigan in Civil War
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Almost 23% of Michigan’s male population went to serve in the civil war, which is more than 90,000 men; about 600 men joined the Navy - Michigan in Civil War introduction. These men in the navy served in “31 infantry regiments, 11 cavalry, 14 batteries of artillery, and 1 unit each of engineers and sharpshooters. In fighting to preserve the Union, these Michigan servicemen generated a wealth of genealogical records from which family history researchers can benefit.” (http://www.michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-18835_18895_20699-61787–,00.html)
In July 1863, for three days thousands of Americans’s fought in the small state of Michigan. The Civil Wars biggest battle, the Battle of Gettysburg, killed 630,000 soldiers. It began a month before when General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia invaded Pennsylvania. The North’s Army of the Potomac followed the Rebels north.
The battle was totally unexpected as neither side expected it, therefore no one was really prepared for it, but a brawl started on the morning of the 1st of July that served as a catalyst for the fight. On the 2nd of July, things got incredibly bloody and at the end of the day the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den and Little Round Top were imprinted in American military history. On the 3rd and final day of the battle 13,000 Rebels followed General George Pickett in the war’s most remarkable charge. At the end of this 3-day battle, more than 51,000 were killed, wounded, missing or captured (casualties), and the next day, Lee’s army headed back to Virginia.
1,110 of the 4,000 men of Michigan became casualties that year and most of them were buried in the Michigan plot at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Decades later, stone monuments were placed at Gettysburg by Union veterans. Today, this homage is among more than 1,400 monuments, markers and cannons scattered over the Gettysburg National Military Park. There are ten monuments to the Michigan men who fought at Gettysburg.
Michigan Day at Gettysburg
Importance of the Battle
Gettysburg was a humongous conflict in the Civil War, no other battle ever came closer to equaling the four years’ struggle of the equality of numbers, or greater strategic issues at stake; troops from more States, on either side, or greater valor displayed on both sides; more bloodshed or a greater number of casualties. “Gettysburg not only marked the recession of the highest tide of the Rebellion, but it formed an epoch in the history of the ages, and will ever be classed among the few decisive battles of the world, with Arbela, Cheronea, Pharsalia and Waterloo”. The Gettysburg battle was the only one fought on the Northern side on the border of the slave state of Maryland. During the battle there was a legal motion for recognizing the Southern Confederacy in the British parliament. “Upon the first intelligence from America of the results of that battle, the above motion was indefinitely postponed, and thus all prospect of foreign intervention, the only hope of Confederate success, was forever lost.” (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html)
“It was recognized at once by both sides in the struggle and by disinterested foreigners, as the most important battle that far, and in a few months was made conspicuous from other fields by a national dedication in which President Lincoln delivered the epic which will be as lasting as his fame. According to “Fox’s Book of Regimental Losses,” this melancholy honor belongs to the Twenty-fourth Michigan Infantry of the Iron Brigade. The Union dead at Gettysburg were buried in trenches, and wherever convenient, after the battle. Later, a tract of seventeen acres on Cemetery Hill, south of the town and adjoining the village (Evergreen) burial ground, was purchased for a soldiers’ national cemetery. The removal of the Federal dead thereto began October 17, I863, and consumed five months. This national cemetery was dedicated November 19, I863, when President Lincoln delivered his singularly impressive address which succinctly stated the whole issues of the war, and will ever be a most wonderful American classic.” (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html)
In 1864, the Michigan Legislature, in harmony with the action of other loyal States, gathered $3,500 to make an improvement on the cemetery and in the next year the amount totaled to $2,500 to complete and repair the cemetery. Union soldiers from eighteen States are buried in that cemetery and a national monument 60 feet tall is at the top of the hill and the grave lie in crescent-shaped slopes around it. “Alleys and State dividing-walks separate the grounds into twenty-two sections; one for the regular army, one for each State, and three for the unknown dead.” The graves are all equal, the headstones are 9 inches above the ground and there were 10 inches reserved for the inscription of the name, company and regiment. Near the entrance of the cemetery, there is a colossal bronze statue of General Reynolds erected by the State of Pennsylvania. (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html)
The cemetery, the national monument and grounds were made out to be gorgeous and cost around $150,000. It had buried 3,583 graves of soldiers, 979 of whom were not recognized and had “unknown” engraved on their epitaph. Michigan ranked 3rd in the number slain and 1st in population; out of 3,583 graves there were 172 known people. “The frequent names of the Twenty-fourth Michigan are seen among them’ and the remaining people are in the ‘unknown” lot, excluding those who were removed by family and friends to the burial grounds near their home. ‘Rev. Dr. Potts, in his memorial address there, truly said: “It is an honor to rest on such a spot as this. I could wish no higher honor for my mortal frame than to be laid by my comrades in this beautiful retreat.” (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html)
A couple of years back, the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry was erected on Culp’s Hill, where it fought, a monument to its dead. The plan was originally to mark the monuments with the places of the regiments on that battlefield. It was first implemented by that State and later the other states followed until the total monuments equaled to 300 on the field under the sponsorship of the “Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association,” who have acquired sites and avenues along the battle lines.
In 1887, the Michigan Legislature had about $20,000 for the creation of its monument there. “Colonel Geo. G. Briggs (Seventh Michigan Cavalry), Lieutenant George W. Crawford (Sixth Michigan Cavalry) and Lieutenant Peter Lennon (Fifth Michigan Infantry)”, were given a commission to expand the duty of the monument and they were given a hefty commission. They gave $2,500 to the Battlefield Association for the transportation of all privileges to protect the interests of Michigan. The complied to what they had to do without any compensation and set aside $1,350 for each of the “11 regiments for its monument, $1,000 to the battery and $500 to the four sharpshooter companies”. (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html)
Two years later, in the spring time, the monuments were completed and were located as follows:
· First Infantry, between the Wheatfield and Emmetsburg Road;
· Third Infantry, in the Peach Orchard;
· Fourth Infantry, in the Wheatfield;
· Fifth Infantry, in the woods west of the Wheatfield;
· Seventh Infantry, near the Clump of Trees where Pickett charged;
· Sixteenth Infantry and Sharpshooters, on Little Round Top;
· Twenty-fourth Infantry, in McPherson’s Woods (now called Reynolds’ Grove);
· Battery I, on Cemetery Ridge;
· The First, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Cavalry, east of the town where the cavalry fight occurred.
· The monument of the Twenty-fourth Michigan is located towards the west side of the McPherson’s Woods, where its first battle was fought.
When the monuments were completed, Governor Luce called all the representatives of the Michigan organizations affianced in the battle, to meet at Lansing on March 27, 1889, to arrange for their dedication. Hon. Robert E. Bolger, O. B. Curtis, Chaplain Wm. C. Way and Gurdon L. Wight attended on behalf of the Twenty-fourth Michigan. June 12th, 1889, was selected for celebrating “Michigan Day at Gettysburg.”
The government had $8,000 set for the dedication, $5,000 of which was committed to the transportation of the Michigan survivors of the battle. “The share of the Twenty-fourth Michigan was inadequate, and as it was Detroit’s regiment whose enlistment redeemed the good name of the city in its darkest hour, it was resolved to ask the citizens to aid its regiment to revisit the field on which they had won an honored name for themselves and their city. The responses were generous and, with the sum received from the appropriation, sufficient to furnish free transportation to all the survivors of the regiment who fought there.” (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html)
On June 10, 1889, hundreds of survivors of the various regiments of Michigan in the Gettysburg battle gathered for their ‘departure to the dedication ceremonies’ with their G. A. R. badges and blue suits. Towards sunset, Arthur S. Congdon of Chelsea, the old bugler of the Twenty-fourth Michigan, blew from his bugle the official call on the old Antisdel House steps on Michigan Avenue, where several veterans were waiting with 6 Detroit companies of state troops to serve as escorts to the organizations to their cars, under the leadership of Captain Wm. R. Dodsley. They were, then, combined with the cavalry contingent who serenely marched to the depot.
Two days later by noon the veterans and Michigan’s nationals had arrived and an old wartime rainstorm ruined the planned feature of the dedication. The reunion announcements were made at the end, these announcements stated that the survivors at the dedication would meet the following day.
The survivors of the Twenty-fourth Michigan got together in front of the Eagle Hotel on the public square, and rallied around their flag on Culp’s Hill the night of the first day’s fight. “They were formed under the command of Captain Wm. R. Dodsley and marched through the mud and rain to the rink. Captain Warren G. Vinton presided and Lieutenant C. C. Yemans offered a brief prayer in the absence of the Chaplain. Major Edwin B. Wight of Cleveland, Ohio, then delivered the Address of Dedication, at the close of which all united in singing the “Sweet Bye-and-Bye,” in memory of our fallen comrades.” The occasion was full of sorrow and contemplation. The men participating were nostalgically taken back to that horrible day 26 years ago when ‘the very ground where they were shook from artillery firing in the greatest battle of the age’. (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html)
MHAL – Michigan Civil War Research
http://www.michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-18835_18895_20699-61787–,00.html Accessed: October 27, 2006
Michigan Day at Gettysburg
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/lab/1419/MDGB.html Accessed: October 27, 2006
Dig Michigan! » Michigan at Gettysburg
http://www.absolutemichigan.com/dig/michigan/michigan-at-gettysburg/ Accessed: October 27, 2006