Michigan in the American Civil War


Michigan in the American Civil War
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Michigan made a substantial contribution to the Union during the American Civil War. While far removed from the fighting in the war, Michigan supplied a large number of troops and several generals, including George Armstrong Custer. When, at the beginning of the war, Michigan was asked to supply no more than four regiments, Governor Austin Blair sent seven. Upon the arrival of Michigan's 1st volunteers President Abraham Lincoln was prompted to remark, "Thank God for Michigan.".[1]

Contents

Military contribution

More than 90,000 Michigan men, nearly a quarter of the state's male population in 1860, served in the war.[2] In addition to the approximately 600 men who joined the Union Navy, Michigan raised 34 regiments of infantry volunteers, one regiment of sharpshooters, eleven cavalry regiments, one engineer regiment, and numerous small independent units.

Among the more celebrated units was the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, which, as a part of the famed Iron Brigade, suffered considerable losses at the Battle of Gettysburg while defending McPherson's Ridge. George Armstrong Custer's "Michigan Wolverine" Cavalry effectively battled J.E.B. Stuart at Gettysburg on the East Cavalry Field.

Several Union generals hailed from Michigan, including: Custer, Elon J. Farnsworth, Byron Root Pierce, Orlando Metcalfe Poe, Israel Bush Richardson, and Orlando B. Willcox.

Casualties

Ah! yes, many a hand that vigorously grasped these Flagstaffs and led the van, now lies crumbling in the grave; and not color-bearers alone, but nearly 15,000 others who fought beside them—the flower of Michigan—return not to receive your thanks and the plaudits of their grateful countrymen.

- General O. B. Willcox, Presentation of Civil War Flags to the State, July 4, 1866[3]

14,753 Michigan soldiers died in service, roughly 1 of every 6 who served. 4,448 of these deaths were combat deaths while the majority, over 9000, were from disease, a constant fear in crowded army camps with poor food, sanitation and exposure issues and pre-modern medicine.[4] This put Michigan's loss at sixth highest among the Union states (the non-state U.S. Colored Troops losses also exceeded Michigan's).

See also

References

Further reading

  • Bratt, Peter. "A Great Revolution in Feeling: The American Civil War in Niles and Grand Rapids, Michigan," Michigan Historical Review vol. 31#2 (2005) pp 43+. online
  • Hershock, Martin J. "Copperheads and Radicals: Michigan Partisan Politics during the Civil War Era, 1860-1865," Michigan Historical Review 18 (Spring 1992)

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