Michigan in the Civil War

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Michigan in the American Civil War

Michigan and the Civil War (1861-1865)

Michigan (1861-1865), part 1

Michigan felt little anxiety over the situation in 1860-61.
Her people were loyal to the core and resented the attempts
to fasten upon the North and West the chains of slavery, but
they could not comprehend that the slave power contemplated
open revolt or an attack upon the government. It required
the secession of the Southern states to arouse them to a sense
of the danger menacing the nation, and even then it was believed
to be but a threat. Lincoln's inaugural address was so con-
ciliatory in tone that it was the general belief the erring sister
states would return. It was only when Sumter lay in ruins
that the people of Michigan awoke to a realization of conditions.
But they arose to the occasion manfully.
The state was fortunate in its selection of an executive,
Gov. Austin Blair being one of the rugged, powerful men of his
day, clear of perception, with a strong mentality and excellent
judgment. He was one of that type brought forward by the exi-
gencies of the times immediately preceding the war, whose
personality impressed itself upon the pages of history for all
Although Wisconsin had preceded Michigan in the calling
of a Republican convention, in 1854, it was Michigan that
held the first assemblage and adopted the name. Several
gatherings had been held to protest against the passage of
the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and on Feb. 22, 1854, the Free-
Democracy had nominated a state ticket, adopted a plat-
form denouncing the act and declaring against slavery. The
passage of the bill aroused a storm of indignation, and a mass
convention was held at Kalamazoo June 21 , followed by another
at Jackson on July 6, which led to the dissolution of the Free-
Democrat, Free-Soil and Whig parties, as well as the state
ticket nominated in February. Horace Greeley, editor of
the New York Tribune, had noted the agitation, and in a letter
to one of the leading members of the convention of July 6 sug-
gested that the new party take the name Republican. This
was adopted unanimously. The convention was held in the
open, "under the oaks," at Jackson, a ticket headed by Kinsley
S. Bingham was nominated, and at the fall election it was
triumphantly elected. The state returned Republican majori-
ties in 1856, 1858 and 1860, chose Lincoln electors in the last
mentioned year, and named Austin Blair as her chief executive,
who succeeded Gov. Wisner at the beginning of 1861. The
latter was apprehensive of the future and in his farewell address
to the legislature of 1861, spoke in no uncertain terms as to
the duty of the state, saying: "This is no time for timid and
vacillating councils, when the cry of treason and rebellion is
ringing in our ears. * * * The constitution, as our fathers
made it, is good enough for us and must be enforced upon every
foot of American soil. * * * For upwards of 30 years this
question of the right of a state to secede has been agitated.
It is time it was settled. We ought not to leave it for our
children to look after," Gov. Wisner afterwards led the 22nd
Michigan infantry as its colonel and died at Lexington, Ky.,
Jan. 4, 1863, a martyr to the patriotism and principles he had
ever held.
Gov. Blair, in his inaugural address, left no room for doubt
as to his position or his fitness for the duties upon which he was
entering, saying, in part: "We are satisfied with the constitu-
tion of our country, and will obey the laws enacted under it,
and we must demand that the people of all the other states
do the same; safety lies in this path alone. The Union must
be preserved and the laws must be enforced in all parts of it
at whatever cost. * * * Secession is revolution, and revolu-
tion in the overt act is treason and must be treated as such.
It is a question of war that the seceding states have to look
in the face. They who think that this powerful government
can be disrupted peacefully have read history to no purpose.
The sons of the men who carried arms in the seven years war
with the most powerful nation in the world, to establish this
government, will not hesitate to make equal sacrifices to main-
tain it. * * * I recommend you at an early day to make
manifest to the gentlemen who represent this state in the two
houses of Congress, and to the country, that Michigan is loyal to
the Union, the constitution, and the laws, and will defend them
to the uttermost; and to proffer to the president of the United
States the whole military power of the state for that purpose.
Oh! for the firm, steady hand of a Washington, or a Jackson
to guide the ship of state in this perilous storm. Let us hope
that we shall find him on the 4th of March. Meantime, let
us abide in the faith of our fathers — "Liberty and Union, one
and inseparable, now and forever.'"
The legislature was not slow in showing to the people of
the state that it could be depended upon in an emergency,
for on Feb. 2, 1861, it adopted joint resolutions, declaring the
adherence of the state to the government of the United States;
pledging and tendering all its military power and resources;
declaring that concession to, or compromise with, traitors,
was not to be offered or entertained, and in all succeeding acts
or words the legislative body of that state spoke in decided,
ringing words, with no hint of timidity or vacillation. At
the nation's capitol, the state was equally fortunate, her repre-
sentatives being men of influence, cast in heroic mould, holding
the reputation of the state in highest esteem, and anxious
for her welfare and that of the country.
No definite action was taken until word was received of the
firing on Sumter, followed by the first call for troops. The news
was as a trumpet call "to arms." Gov. Blair issued a proc-
lamation April 16, calling for ten companies of volunteers,
and proceeded to Detroit to attend a meeting held there that
afternoon. Michigan's quota was one regiment of infantry,
to be fully clothed, armed and equipped, and it was estimated
that $100,000 would be necessary for this purpose. The treasury
was comparatively empty and the state was in no condition
to meet the requirements promptly. This being made known,
a resolution was passed at the Detroit meeting, pledging the
city to a loan of $50,000 to the state, and calling upon the state
for a like amount. Those present pledged $23,000, and in
a very short time $81,020 had been subscribed. This enabled
the state treasurer, Hon. John Owen, to negotiate a loan, chiefly
from the state's own citizens, sufficient for the needs of the
hour, and this, together with all subsequent indebtedness of
a like nature, was assumed by the state.
Some feeble attempts had been made for years to form a
state militia, but these efforts had met with little response
from either the people or the legislature, and only after long,
persistent efforts had those interested succeeded in securing
an annual appropriation of $3,000 for military purposes. In
the face of such discouragements, twenty-eight companies had
been formed with an aggregate strength of 1,241 officers and
men, poorly armed and equipped. To the efforts of Col. F.
W. Curtenius, then adjutant-general of the state, Michigan
was largely indebted for whatever preparedness she exhibited
at the outset in the possession of militia. These companies
formed the nucleus for a number of the first regiments sent
forward in response to the several calls of 1861 for troops.
The response to the governor's proclamation was prompt,
the first regiment being mustered in May 1. More troops were
offered than were needed and the formation of the 2nd regi-
ment was at once begun. It was mustered in May 25. Both
of these regiments were three months troops, but were sub-
sequently reorganized as three years regiments.
A special session of the legislature convened at Lansing,
early in May in answer to a call from the governor, who addressed
them with reference to the work already accomplished, requested
that it be legalized, and the state authorities be given sufficient
power to act in any emergency. It required but four days
to accomplish the work required. All the acts of the governor
were endorsed, he was authorized to raise ten regiments, and
the necessary steps were taken to effect a state loan of $1,000,000.
Realizing also the hardships imposed by the enlistments of
men of family, and the sacrifices made in many such cases,
the legislature passed the "Soldiers' Relief Law," by which
the family of a soldier in need might receive aid to the extent
of $15 per month. The amounts varied, it being left to the
discretion of the supervisors of townships to determine what
assistance should be given. In case of the death of a soldier,
his family received aid for one year following his decease. This
relief was administered in generous spirit, and, though criticism
was unavoidable and in some individual cases justified, per-
haps, on the whole it was very satisfactory to the people for
whom it was intended. Imposition had to be guarded against,
delicacy and tact were needed, and good judgment was required
to place aid where it was justly deserved.
A military relief board was organized May 15 to cooperate
with the quartermaster-general, J. H. Fountain, who had been
appointed in March, in the matter of subsisting, clothing and
equipping the troops. This board consisted of Cols. E. O.
Grosvenor, Jerome Croul and William Hammond. Gen. Ham-
mond succeeded Gen. Fountain as quartermaster-general in
March, 1863. Friend Palmer was appointed assistant quarter-
master-general in May, bringing to the office invaluable knowl-
edge gained in the quartermaster's department of the regular

At the beginning of the war Gen. John Robertson held the
position of adjutant-general and continued to do so for a quarter
of a century. He was assisted first by Capt. Heber Le Favour,
who resigned June 15, 1861, to become a captain in the 5th
Mich, infantry. His successor was Capt. De Garmo Jones,
who served until May 6, 1862, and he was followed by Col.
Frederick Morley, who served until March 11, 1865. A state
military board was also formed, consisting of Col. A. W. Williams,
Col. H. M. Whittlesy, Gen. A. S. Williams and Col. C. W. Lefifing-
well, with the adjutant-general and quartermaster-general as
members ex-officio. Col. Williams accompanied the 2nd Mich.
infantry to the front and was succeeded by Col. William M.
Fenton, who in turn entered the service as colonel of the 8th
Mich, infantry and was followed by Col. E. H. Thomas. Gen.
O. N. Giddings succeeded Gen. William Hammond in March,
1865. Col. James E. Pittman was appointed state paymaster
in May, 1861, and inspector-general of the state, Nov. 1, 1862.
All the officials named entered upon their duties with determina-
tion and to the organization of these forces is traceable the
promptness with which Michigan met every demand.
Authority having been given by the war department, the
3d and 4th regiments were called into being, both mustering
in June 10, 1861. Many companies were being organized, and
great disappointment was felt when the government declined
to take any more regiments. Gov. Blair differed with the
war department in belief as to the duration of the war, estab-
lished a camp of instruction, and encouraged the formation
of additional companies. To such good purpose did he act
that when in August the president was authorized to receive
500,000 volunteers, Michigan was enabled to respond promptly
with well-drilled troops, sending into the field during 1861,
thirteen regiments of infantry, three of cavalry, and five batter-
ies of artillery, a total strength of 16,475 officers and men,
besides thirteen companies, which had gone into service in
regiments of other states, having failed to find service in those
of their own. Ten of these regiments, one battery and one
company had been partly armed and wholly clothed and sub-
sisted by the state. All these organizations were well officered,
Gov. Blair making careful selections in the face of tremendous
pressure for the appointment of men unfitted for the positions.
When the legislature met in Jan., 1862, the governor in his
message said, in part: "The Southern rebellion still maintains
a bold front against the Union armies. That is the cause of
all our complications abroad and our troubles at home. The
people of Michigan are no idle spectators of this great contest.
They have furnished all the troops required of them and are
preparing to pay the taxes and to submit to the most onerous
burdens without a murmur. They are ready to increase their
sacrifices, if need be, to require impossibilities of no man, to
be patient and wait. But to see the vast armies of the republic,
and all its pecuniary resources used to protect and sustain
the accursed system which has been a perpetual and tyrannical
disturber, and which now makes sanguinary war upon the
Union and the constitution, is precisely what they will never
submit to tamely. * * * Upon those who caused the war and
now maintain it, its chief burdens ought to fall. No property
of a rebel ought to be free from confiscation — not even the
sacred slave. * * * The time for gentle dalliance has long
since passed away. We meet an enemy, vindictive, blood-
thirsty, and cruel, profoundly in earnest, inspired with an
energy and self-sacrifice which would honor a good cause, respect-
ing neither laws, constitutions, nor historic memories, fanatically
devoted only to his one wicked purpose to destroy the govern-
ment and establish his slave-holding oligarchy in its stead.
To treat this enemy gently is to excite his derision. To pro-
tect his slave property is to help him butcher our people and
burn our houses. No! He must be met with an activity
and a purpose equal to his own. Hurl the Union forces, which
outnumber him two to one, upon his whole line like a thunder-
bolt; pay them out of his property, feed them from his granaries,
mount them upon his horses, carry them in his wagons, if he
has any, and let him feel the full force of the storm of war which
he has raised. Just a little of the courage and ability which
carried Napoleon over the Alps, dragging his cannon through
the snow, would quickly settle this contest and settle it right."
In reply to this, the legislature passed a joint resolution,
declaring Michigan's hostility to traitors, her confidence in
the national administration, and her belief in the right of the
government to employ all means in its power to suppress the
rebellion, even to the point of sweeping slavery from the land.
At this time, five regiments and three batteries were being
organized, and the recruiting was pushed with such vigor that
all had left the state by the end of March. In addition to
these, a Lancer regiment, three companies of sharpshooters
and a company for guard service at Mackinac had been organized
and mustered in. By July 1, 1862, fully 27,000 men had been
enrolled in the state. This included the Lancer regiment, a
particularly fine body of horsemen, principally from Canada,
fully equipped with the exception of horses, and the "Chandler
Horse Guard," a four-company battalion, fully equipped and
mounted. These two organizations were not accepted by the
government, and were disbanded before leaving the state.
The enlistments without these two organizations numbered
25,734, including 2,028 recruits for organizations then in the
field, an excess of several thousand over the state's proportion.
Enlistments dragged after the disastrous Peninsular campaign,
and to stimulate the patriotism of the people public meetings
were held. One of these, held in Detroit July 15, was set upon
by a mob, whose members drove every speaker and officer
from the stand, pursuing them into the Russell House and
other places near by. This exhibition of treason aroused the
lethargic spirit of the people and a week later an immense gath-
ering was held, at which pledges of patriotism, means and
persistent support were given, and measures taken for recruit-
ing the regiments. Resolutions were adopted, favoring the
raising of means, both by the city government and by citizens;
treason was roundly denounced; enthusiastic addresses were
made and loudly applauded by thousands of all conditions
and walks of life — acres of ground being crowded by patriotic
people. Bounties of from $10 to $30 were offered by individ-
uals for enlistments in their respective wards; one laboring
man offered $50 towards raising half a company in his ward;
another offered $1 each to every man who enlisted from the
city of Detroit.
The influence of this meeting was far-reaching. The 17th
and 24th regiments were in process of organization at the time,
and one each had been assigned to the six congressional dis-
tricts under the call of July 2 for 500,000, the president issuing
a proclamation at that time in response to the urgent advice
of the governors of the loyal states. Of the number, Michigan's
quota was 11,686. Under the influence of this meeting, these
regiments were speedily recruited, five were mustered in dur-
ing August, and three in September, the last, the 19th, on
Sept. 25.
Men of all classes became either recruits or recruiting officers,
ministers of the gospel urged on the work and in many instances
joined the ranks themselves. The adjutant-general's office
was besieged for instruction and authority to recruit, and as
soon as camp grounds could be prepared, recruits came by
detachments and companies. The people of Detroit and Wayne
county raised the 24th regiment from their own citizens, Henry
A. Morrow, colonel.
So great was the rush that at the completion of the eight
regiments noted, so many more companies had been raised
than were required, that on Aug. 20 an order was issued for
recruiting the 25th and 26th. The former was mustered in
Sept. 22, and the latter on Dec. 12. In addition to these,
the government gave permission to raise three regiments of
cavalry and these were all mustered in during the fall of 1862.
On Aug. 4 another call was made for a further force of 300,000
men and an order was made by the war department for a draft.
Michigan's quota was placed as before at 11,686, but with the
provision that if the volunteers for old and new regiments
under the call of July 2 exceeded the number at that time
called for, such excess might be deducted from the number
to be drafted.
Gov. Blair gave orders for a census by counties, the adjutant-
general issuing orders determining the number to be raised
in each. So numerous were the obstacles and so great the
antipathy towards a draft that the governor was allowed his
own discretion as to the time for enforcing it. Vigorous measures
were put forth to secure the number by enlistment; substantial
bounties were offered to such purpose that when the draft
was finally made in Feb., 1863, but 1,278 men were needed.
Of these 710 were sent into barracks at Detroit, 545 of whom
afterward went into the field, a few deserted, and others were
discharged for various causes. Of the 545 men drafted for
nine months, 430 were induced to enlist for three years.
During Sept., 1862, three companies were offered from the
upper peninsula and the 27th regiment was ordered organized.
Soon afterward the 28th was authorized. Recruiting being
somewhat slow, the two were united as the 27th and mustered
in the following April. Authority was also given for raising
three regiments of cavalry and for the recruiting of a regiment
of sharpshooters. The government authorized advance bounty
and a vigorous effort was made to fill up the ranks.
The report of the adjutant-general at the close of 1862 showed
a total enrollment of 45,569 since the beginning of the war.
This did not include fully 1,400, known to have gone into regi-
ments of other states, nor several hundred who had gone into
the regular army. The deeds of Michigan's men had been
heralded far and wide, and when the legislature met in Jan.,
1863, Gov. Blair suggested that it would be only right to, "in
some appropriate way, place upon the enduring records of
the state its appreciation of the valor and patriotic devotion
of these brave men."
This was done, the thanks of the state being tendered them,
and the assurance given that "while Michigan thus holds them
forth as examples of emulation to the soldiers of other states,
she is also proudly grateful to them for the renown which their
noble deeds have shed upon her name." That body also declared
itself as opposed to any terms of compromise, or anything
but "unconditional surrender and obedience to the laws and
constitution of the Union."
The quartermaster-general was authorized to pay $50 bounty,
from March 6, 1863, and the action of townships, cities and
counties, in raising bounties for volunteers was legalized.
An appropriation of $20,000 was made for the care of sick
or wounded soldiers and in payment of services of agents to
look after their general needs. Six agents were appointed,
and their efforts went far to alleviate suffering among Michigan's
In accordance with the act, passed by Congress in March,
1863, for "enrolling and calling out the national forces," an
enrollment was made during the summer, by Congressional
districts, of all who came under the provisions of the act. The
result showed 80,038 in the first class, viz: "all persons subject to
do military duty between the ages of 20 and 35 years, and all
unmarried persons subject to do military duty above the age
of 35 and under the age of 45." The second class, compris-
ing "all other persons subject to do military duty," numbered
40,226. It was provided that in making a draft 50 per cent,
should be added to the number required, to cover exemptions
and other losses. On the completion of the enrollment a draft
of one-fifth of the first class was ordered, the number subject
to such modifications as might be produced by adjusting the
accounts of each state under previous calls. The war depart-
ment had given a credit for a surplus of 4,403 men supplied
by Michigan. Examination into the records by the adjutant-
general resulted in a credit of 9,518 being given. The total
number drafted during the fall and winter was 6,383. Of
these, 261 were sent to the rendezvous at Grand Rapids, 643
furnished substitutes (of whom 43 deserted), 1,626 paid $300
commutation money, 596 were exempted for physical disa-
bility, 330 as aliens, 204 for unsuitableness of age, and 1,069
failed to report. A total of $487,000 was paid to the bounty
fund by men drafted, as commutation money.
In October the war department offered to recruiting agents
$15 for each recruit, a bounty of $302 for each new volunteer,
and $402 to reenlisting veterans. Under this stimulus recruit-
ing proceeded with new vigor. Another call was made Oct.
17 for 300,000 men, Michigan's quota being placed at 11,298,
and the governor's proclamation calling for energetic action
to avoid a draft met with a cordial response. At the end of
the year 1863 an aggregate of 53,749 had been mustered in.
The offer of the government to accept reenlistment of soldiers
with the title of "veteran" was accepted by 5,545 men, so
divided as to retain the organizations of the 1st, 2nd and 3d
cavalry: 2nd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and
16th infantry; 6th heavy artillery (formerly the 6th infantry),
and batteries B, C and E, 1st light artillery. (See Records
of the Regiments.)
In Feb., 1864, the legislature authorized the payment of
a bounty of $50 from Nov. 11, 1863, to Feb. 4, 1864, to reen-
listed veterans, and of $100 to all soldiers enlisting or reenlist-
ing after that date until May 14, following. At the same time
townships, wards and cities were empowered to raise money by
taxation for the payment of bounties to volunteers, not exceed-
ing $200.
On Feb. 14 an order was issued for a draft on March 10,
for 500,000, this being an extension of the order of Oct. 17,
preceding, for 200,000 men, credit to be allowed for all enlist-
ments or drafts not credited at the time of the previous order.
A subsequent order postponed the draft until April 15 to per-
mit of enlistments as far as possible. An act, approved July
4, allowed the recruit to enlist for one, two or three years,
and limited the term of men drafted to one year. The presi-
dent's proclamation of July 18 called for 500,000 men under
these modifications and directed that credits be allowed for
all furnished in excess of all previous calls. It was directed
that a draft should be made immediately after Sept. 5 for one
year troops to make up for deficiencies existing at that date.
Gov. Blair promptly issued a proclamation directing attention
to the provisions and suggesting that, so far as practicable, a
recruit might select the regiment with which he would serve,
so long as such regiment was below the maximum number,
going for one, two or three years as he might elect, if he chose
one of the regiments in the field, and to receive $100, $200,
or $300 as bounty from the government, according to the term
of enlistment. If in a new regiment, he must enlist for three
years or during the war. Six new regiments were authorized,
one for each Congressional district. The quota, after making
all credits, was a little more than 12,000.

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Source: The Union Army, vol. 3


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