Archive for the ‘Michigan’ Category

Thursday, October 11, 2012; 6:30-8:00 P.M.

Jack Dempsey, author of the 2012 Michigan Notable Book Michigan & the Civil War:  A Great and Bloody Sacrifice, will visit the library to discuss his book.  

Copies will be available for purchase and signing.  

All author proceeds are donated to Michigan’s Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration.

Registration begins September 13th.


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2012 marks the 2nd year of the Civil War’s Sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary.  Michigan’s role in the war has been well-documented–especially during the war’s centennial in the 1960’s–and will no doubt be further recorded and enumerated during the sesquicentennial period, as well. 

Michigan was well-represented during the conflict.  Nearly 90,000 troops saw service in one of the state’s 45 regiments of infantry, cavalry, artillery, sharpshooters, engineers/mechanics, within one of 50 other military units from other states, or the Union navy. Michiganders fought in nearly every major battle–from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.    

Wading through the ever-growing mass of Civil War literature can be daunting, so here are some recommended titles to get one started:

Father Abraham’s Children:  Michigan Episodes in the Civil War by Frank B. Woodford.  (Originally published in 1961 by Wayne State University Press and reprinted in 1999.)  This volume is a collection of anecdotes and stories culled from a variety of sources including written accounts and veteran’s reminiscences.  Highlights of the collection include:  Gen. Custer & the Michigan Cavalry Brigade; the Confederate plot for releasing POWs from Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie; the heroic stand of the 24th MI Infantry at Gettysburg; Sarah Emma Edmonds who served in the ranks of the 2nd MI Infantry as “Franklin Thompson” ; the Sultana disaster–the worst martime tragedy in U.S. history (overshadowed by Lincoln’s death and the end of the war); and the capture of Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis by the 4th MI Cavalry.

A Distant Thunder:  Michigan in the Civil War by Richard Bak. This amply illustrated work briefly chronicles Michigan’s involvement in the Underground Railroad before turning its attention to the war years.  Bak doesn’t focus solely on Michigan’s soldiers in battle; he also details the home-front in Michigan, children at war, Medal of Honor winners,  prisoners of war, and Civil War veterans and the G.A.R in the aftermath of the conflict. The book is rounded out by a bibliography for further reading, and a list of suggested resources for those seeking additional information on Michigan’s role in the Civil War at archives, libraries, museums and other organizations.

From the Cannon’s Mouth:  The Civil War letters of General Alpheus S. Williams edited by Milo M. Quaife. (Originally published by Wayne State University Press & the Detroit Historical Society in 1959 and reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1995.) Williams’s letters to his daughters offer astute observations of this general officer from Michigan.  Active in Detroit society prior to the war, Williams served variously as a probate court judge, bank president, newspaper owner/editor, postmaster, and was also involved with the state militia.  When the war came he was involved in training the first volunteers for service, before a promotion to brigadier general himself.  Williams saw major action in the Shenandoah Valley, Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in the east before being transferred to the western theatre to reinforce Grant at Chattanooga.  For the remainder of the war Williams served variously as a division or corps commander under Sherman in the battles for Atlanta, the March to the Sea, and the Carolinas. After the war he served as a diplomat and was later elected a U.S. Congressman. A capable and dedicated officer, Williams was too often overlooked and overshadowed by the cadre of West Point generals with whom he served.  Buried in Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery, an equestrian statue in his honor has graced Belle Isle since 1921.

If I Am Found Dead : Michigan Voices from the Civil War edited by David L. Poremba.  Culled from the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library, Poremba has transcribed the letters and diaries of four Michigan soldiers:  George Vanderpool of Muskegon (3rd MI Infantry), Charles Salter of Detroit (1st & 16th MI Infantry), John Presley of Stockbridge (7th MI Infantry), and James Vernor of Detroit (4th MI Cavalry).  Vernor, who would later go on to fame creating the beloved ginger ale that bears his name, served in the west with the Army of the Cumberland, while Presley, Salter & Vanderpool all saw action in the Army of the Potomac in the east.  All but one of them would survive the war.

“My Brave Mechanics” :  The First Michigan Engineers and Their Civil War by Mark Hoffman.  When the Civil War began the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consisted of 44 officers & 100 men.  In response to the lack of experienced engineers in an ever-growing army, Congress authorized a substantial increase in the number of troops to serve as engineers.  Michigan was one of only a few northern states to recruit a regiment of volunteer engineers for the Union.  Comprised of engineers, railroad men, artisans and craftsmen, the 1st Michigan Engineers & Mechanics served exclusively in the western theatre of the war where they constructed or repaired railroads, telegraph lines, bridges, blockhouses and fortifications–all to keep the Union army’s crucial supply line functioning, and ultimately contributing to a northern victory.  In addition to tracing their behind-the-scenes engineering feats, Hoffman also reveals the considerable combat experiences of this little-known unit against Confederate guerillas and bushwhackers.

The Iron Brigade:  A Military History by Alan T. Nolan.  This history of the only all-western brigade fighting in the eastern Army of the Potomac “remains one of the best unit histories of the Union Army during the Civil War.”  Comprised of the 2nd, 6th & 7th Wisconsin Infantry, the 19th Indiana Infantry, and the 24th Michigan Infantry, this unit fought hard and with distinction from 2nd Manassas to the end of the war.  At Gettysburg the 24th MI alone lost more killed and wounded than any Union regiment during the 3-day battle due to death, wounds or capture.  For its actions at Gettysburg, the 24th would become one of the most celebrated units from the Great Lakes State. The 24th was later given the honor of serving as the escort  for Pres. Lincoln’s funeral.

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