Thursday, November 30, 2006


Existing records show that at least 32 men were court-martialed in the Third Michigan for a variety of offenses ranging from black-marketeering (Ambrose Bell) to destruction of private property (Captain Emery Bryant) to being absent from one’s company while being engaged with the enemy (Lieutenant James Bennett).

Only three men are known to have been tried, convicted and sent to the penitentiary in Washington, DC: Joseph Badger, James Maury and Abram Shear. (This was most likely the old Arsenal pentinentiary in Washington, where the Lincoln assassination conspirators would be tried and hung in 1865.)

By far and away the offense reported most often in the records is that of desertion. Of the total number enrolled in the Regiment between June of 1861 and June of 1864 122 desertions were reported.

The questions of who was a deserter and when he deserted are often difficult to answer from this distance, and the number of deserters calculated in this present study reflects a more accurate number of “real” deserters in the Regiment.

For example, a man might be taken sick to a hospital or wounded in action and transferred to a hospital in Washington or further north and never heard from again. Therefore he would be dropped from the rolls often as a deserter (under G.O. no. 92 regarding deserters) when in fact he may have died or discharged for disability and sent home.

This was most likely the case in September of 1862 when nearly four dozen men of the Third Michigan were charged with desertion. As the Regiment was trying to catch its breath after a summer of fighting during the horrific Peninsula Campaign in Virginia, it sought to re-group near Upton's Hill, Virginia. On September 21, 1862, at Upton's Hill at least 40 men were reported as having deserted (or nearly 33% of the total reported as deserters for the entire war).

Subsequent research, however, has shown that like many of the reported desertions, the "Upton's Hill" incident simply indicated a lack of information by company and regimental leadership as to the whereabouts of many of those reported as deserters. In fact, the majority of those reported as deserters had been discharged for disability at Upton's Hill (although the charges remained on their records for years afterwards).

Overall 51 men ended their service in the Third Michigan listed as a deserter, and all but five of those have been accounted for today.

Next: where are they buried?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Promotions and awards

Five brevet generals came out of the Third Michigan: four Brigadiers: Stephen Champlin, Ambrose Stevens, Moses Houghton and Israel Smith); and one Major General: Byron Pierce (photo at right; source Michigan at Gettysburg.)

By the end of the war, and including those men who were transferred to the Fifth Michigan or who entered second and third units, the following data is revealed:

Of the original Third Michigan Field & Staff:

Col. McConnell remained a Colonel
Lt.Col. Stevens became a Bvt Brigadier General
Maj. Champlin became a Brevet Brigadier General
QM Collins became a Captain of Subsistence and Commissary of the regular army
Both Bliss brothers became surgeons in the regular army -- D. W. ended the war as a Colonel and Zenas as Lieutenant Colonel

Of the ten original Captains:

Samuel Judd of Company A died a Captain
Adolph Birkenstock of Company C ended the war a Sergeant in a New York
regiment (by choice)
Byron Pierce of Company K became a Brevet Major General
Moses Houghton of Company D became a Brevet Brigadier General
Everyone else remained captains.

Of the ten First Lieutenants:

5 became Captains
3 remained First Lieutenants
Charles Spang of Company H ended the war a Private (by choice)
Fred Worden of Company F became a Lieutenant Colonel

Of the nine Second Lieutenants:

Israel Smith of Company E became a Brevet Brigadier General
William Ryan of Company H became a Major
2 became captains
2 became First Lieutenants
2 remained Second Lieutenants
George Phillips of D company ended the war a Sergeant

Of the 48 Sergeants:

Dan Root of Company K ended the war a Lieutenant Colonel
Homer Thayer of Company G became a Major
George Remington of Company F became an Adjutant
13 became Captains (seven of these men had started out as First Sergeants)
5 became First Lieutenants
6 became Second Lieutenants
10 remained Sergeants (plus one who became Commissary sergeant)
1 ended the war a corporal
9 as Privates.

Of the 78 Corporals:

Don Lovell and Peter Weber both of Company A became Majors
Milton Leonard of Company F a Captain
eight became Lieutenants
38 ended the war as Sergeants
27 remained corporals
17 ended the war as Privates.

Twenty-seven Sergeants and eight Corporals became commissioned officers.

Of the Privates:

4 would become Majors
8 would become Captains
11 became First Lieutenants
3 became Second Lieutenants
1 was a Naval Ensign

Of the Musicians who served in the Third Michigan:

2 would become Captains
2 became First Lieutenants
1 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.

Curiously, not one man who enlisted in the Regiment after June of 1861 became a commissioned officer.


Two Third Michigan soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing enemy colors:

Benjamin Morse of C company for taking a stand of colors from the Fourth Georgia Artillery on May 12, 1864 at Spotsylvania; and Walter Mundell of D company for taking colors on April 6, 1865, at Sayler’s Creek, Virginia.

According to the Official Records , 34 men of the Third Michigan were awarded the Kearny Cross, a medal given by Brigadier General David Birney on or about May 16, 1863, for their participation in the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863.

Next: misconduct

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Reentering the army

Aside from the men who transferred into the Fifth Michigan, 357 Third Michigan men reentered the military after being discharged or mustered out of the Third Michigan Infantry. While the majority of these men who reentered the army served primarily in Michigan regiments they also served in regiments from Massachusettes, Missouri, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Illinois,Ohio, Pennsylvlania, Wisconsin as well as the US army, navy and Marine Corps. (photo: Peter Weber, former cpl of the 3rd Michigan was serving as Major of the 6th Michigan cavalry whenhe was killed at Falling Waters, MD, on July 14, 1863; source: USAMHI.)

If we add the 357 men who reentered a second unit to the 373 men who were transferred to the Fifth Michigan infantry (minus 12 who were counted in the second unit category, 361), we arrive at a grand total of 718 men who served in a second unit

And 58 of those who had served in a second unit served in a third unit as well.

Next: promotions and awards

Friday, November 24, 2006


Between 1861 and 1865 scores of hospitals sprang up all along the eastern seaboard, from Boston to Washington, DC, to deal with the enormous number of sick produced by routine camp life as well as those injured in the great battles. Quite a few of the Third Michigan soldiers found themselves patients in hospitals in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Boston. (photo: George Kibbee, lost his arm at Fair Oaks, VA., May 31, 1862; source: National Archives and Recods Administration.)

But the great majority of Third Michigan men wound up in the hospitals in the Washington, DC, area, and were quite often discharged from those same hospitals never to return to either their Regiment or Virginia again. And some men spent their final hours or days of life in Washington hospitals.

During its time in service the Third Michigan suffered 388 men wounded.

A – 28
B – 38
C – 37
D – 39
E – 37
F – 33
G – 35
H – 45
I – 48
K – 36
F & S – 2
UN – 1

It remains unclear why Companies H and I suffered significantly higher rates of wounding than the others.

Of the major engagements in which the Regiment participated:

92 men wounded on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks
100 at Groveton (Second Bull Run)
41 at Chancellorsville
22 at Gettysburg
9 at Mine Run
63 at the Wilderness
24 at Spotsylvania

In the week of May 5-12, 1864, alone, the Third Michigan suffered 88 wounded (or nearly 23% of the total wounded).

The first man wounded in battle was probably Henry Kampe of Company C, at Germantown, Virginia, on July 17, 1861, the day before the Regiment was engaged at Blackburn’s Ford, near Bull Run.

The last man in the Third Michigan to be wounded was Philo Wier of Company G on June 10, 1864, and he subsequently died of his wounds on July 1.

The last Third Michigan member to be wounded in wartime was George D. Hill, while serving as a member of the First Michigan cavalry, on April 9, 1865.

Of the 388 men who were wounded while serving in the Third Michigan some 335, or mroe than 86& of the total wounded, suffered gunshot wounds Gunshot wounds. Moreover, very few men of the Third Michigan were wounded by cannon fire and virtually no reports of men being wounded the bayonet although hand-to-hand combat did happen.

Inclusive of the entire war period, 426 men who served at one time or another in the Regiment suffered wounds, or 30% of the total enrolled.

Of 744 disabilities reported by the members of the Third Michigan during the war, 303 were disease and 403 were trauma of which 388 were gunshot wounds. Indeed, one man in four would be shot during the war, and more than half of the men who served in the Third Michigan at one time or another would be disabled from wounds or disease.

Present research has shown that at least 43 men suffered the loss of a limb.

Next: reentering the army

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Remembrance Day at Gettysburg

As a holiday Thanksgiving has reportedly been around in the US since 1619, and while George Washington proclaimed "Thanksgivings' in 1789 and agian in 1795, it wasn't until the American Civil War that it became a national holiday. In early October of 1863 President Lincoln called for a national day of Thanksgiving to be held that yearon the final Thursday. It has been held as such ever since.

In keeping with that same spirit there was an enormous "Remembrance Day Parade on November 21 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Antietam National Park Ranger Mannie Gentile was there to film it and he captured thousands of Civil War reenactors and lots of brass bands. It's really quite an awesome thing to see and hear.

Anyway, Mannie put a short clip of excerpts from his film online at YouTube. To check it out just click here!

Best to you all this holiday!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Prisoners of war

Between May 31, 1862, when the first man was taken prisoner, and June 10, 1864, when the regiment was consolidated with the Fifth Michigan Infantry, a total of 100 men were reported as taken prisoner (not including 2 former members of the Third Michigan who were then serving in other units), or about 7% of the total enrolled. (photo: Ernest Synold.)

The four-month period of May through August of 1862 witnessed 32 men captured (35 for the yerar), or 31.25% of the total, dropping to 25 for the whole year of 1863.

The number of men taken prisoner rose dramatically in the first six months of 1864 reaching 39 before consolidation. Following consolidation with the Fifth Michigan on June 10, 1864, another 6 would be captured on June 22, 1864, and if we include them with the prisoners taken in the first six months of 1864, that number jumps to 44, or 47% of all Third Michigan captured., some 22 former members of the Third Michigan were taken prisoner, on day, October 27, 1864 at Boydton Plank road, Virginia.

Thus, a total of 135 men of the Old Third Michigan infantry were taken prisoners of war during wartime.

By far the highest number captured was 27 during the week of May 5-12, 1864, during the Wilderness-Spotsylvania campaign in Virginia, followed by 19 between June 30 and July 2, 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign. Ten men were taken prisoner at Chancellorsvile on May 3, 1863, and only 4 at Gettysburg on July 2, and 9 were captured at Mine Run, Virginia on November 30.

Overall, during the years 1861-1864:

A lost 12 men captured
B 7
C 20
D 7
E 16
F 8
G 3
H 6
I 6
K 12

The company average for those men who had served in the Old Third was 12 captured during the war. The “high scorer” was C company with 20 men taken prisoner, and the lowest was Company G with 3.

Next: the wounded

Wartime deaths

Based on present research and analysis, from mid-June of 1861 to mid-June of 1864, 232 men died while serving in the Third Michigan: 103 men were killed in action and 47 died from their wounds, while 80 died of disease, 2 died accidentally and 1 was murdered.

This represents a 16% casualty rate (based on a total enrolled of 1,411). (photo: Joseph Heinrich, Dayton National Cemetery; source: Steve Soper.)

While figures are still incomplete, on a company-by-company basis we note the following mortality rates:

A company suffered 21 deaths
B 19
C 20
D 17
E 19
F 19
G 26
H 23
I 28
K set the record with 33 deaths
Band 0
Field and Staff 2

When we take into account the men who were transferred to other regiments or who were discharged from the Third Michigan and reenetered the military, some 346 men did not survive the war.

As a group then the Third Michigan suffered a 24% casualty rate.

In other words, one of every four men who enrolled in the Third during the war would not survive.

The first man to die in the regiment was probably Joseph Proper or Propier, on May 8, 1861, at Cantonment Anderson in Grand Rapids, and he was buried about one mile away in what is now Oak Hill (north) cemetery, at the corner of Eastern and Hall streets in Grand Rapids.

The first man to die after the regiment arrived in Virginia was William Choates of C company, and he died of disease at Camp Blair, Virginia.

Homer Morgan of B company was the first to die by violence, on July 20, 1861, allegedly a suicide.

The first man to be killed in action was David Stone of H company, who was shot on May 5, 1862, near Yorktown, Virginia.

It is somewhat harder to identify the last man to die during the war. Moses Monroe, originally of Company E and transferred to the Fifth Michigan Infantry in June of 1864, was wounded on April 6, 1865 at Sayler’s Creek, Virginia, near Appomattox and died of his wounds on April 23. However, 14 other former members of the Third Michigan died in April of 1865, and another 4 in May.

For example, Casper Thenner, sick from disease, had just returned to his home in Grand Rapids when he died on May 27, and was interred in what is now an unmarked grave in Oak Hill (south) cemetery.

The last to die in 1865 was probably Joel Guild, who had recently returned to his home in Grand Rapids and was suffering from dysentery contracted in the service, when he died in December.
Perhaps the last man to die as a direct consequence of the war was Samuel Thurston of C company. According to the Grand Rapids Herald of February 9, 1897, “After carrying a rebel bullet in his right lung for over thirty years” Thurston, who was an inmate of the Michigan Soldiers' Home “has given up the fight. The bullet had for over thirty years been ploughing its way downward through the tissues of the lungs, and yesterday afternoon dropped out, death being almost instantaneous. The ball was covered with a linen patch, just as it had left the rifle of some rebel soldier, the patch and bullet being firmly connected. At 2 o'clock yesterday morning Thurston was taken to the hospital, having been in usual good health up to a short time before that. In the afternoon he complained to his nurse that his heart pained him, and while she was gone to secure a hot water application Thurston died.” (photo: Michigan Soldiers' Home cemetery, Grand Rapids; source: Steve Soper.)

The last known survivor of the Third Michigan was Willard Olds of Company C who died at his home near Belding, Ionia county in 1937 and was buried in Otisco cemetery.

Next: prisoners of war

What happened to them?

During the period of service for the Third Michigan Infantry, of 1,411 total enrolled, and based on data up to June 10, 1864 when the regiment was consolidated with the Fifth Michigan:

2 officers were cashiered
1 was branded and drummed out of the regiment
54 men deserted
1 died accidentally
80 died of disease
47 died of wounds
103 were killed in action
450 were discharged for disability
128 were mustered out
7 never joined the regiment
3 were sent to prison
39 officers resigned
28 men simply disappeared (listed as “no further record”)
1 was “killed”
1 man was murdered

At least 457 men were transferred: 46 to the Veteran's Reserve Corps (the "Invalid Corps"), 31 to regular army or navy units, 362 to the Fifth Michigan Infantry and 18 to other state regiments. (photo: Allen Shattuck; source: Michigan at Gettysburg.)

Between late December of 1863 and March of 1864 206 men reenlisted as “veteran volunteers”. The company with the highest number of reenlistments was G company with 24 reenlistees (or 13.4% of the total reenlisted) and the lowest was B company with 11 (6.1%); the company average was 18. Of that number 191 men were transferred to the Fifth Michigan in June of 1864:

41 to A company
44 to E company
54 to F company
51 to I company
1 to Staff

(At least 15 men died prior to consolidation of the Third with the Fifth on June 10.)

Inclusive of dischargees, transferees, and men mustered out who reentered the service, 363 men would reenter the military and serve in a second unit, and of those who reentered the military 58 men would serve in a third unit.

At one time or another during the war a total of 84 men served in the Invalid Corps (the “Veterans Reserve Corps”), and 6 of those would join a third unit.

Next: How many died?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Familes and relationships

Of the 1,411 men who actually served in the regiment, at least 285 were probably related in one way or another. (photo: Ira Poats and his family; source: USAMHI.)

There were at least 10 father-son known combinations:

Baker and Almon Borden
James and Daniel Birdsall
Hiram and Henry Bateman
Peter and Henry Lawyer
Elam and Daniel Moe
Carlton and Oscar Neal
Silas and Albert Pelton
Joseph and Joseph Rounds
Hosea and Nathan Tracey
John and Charles West

There were at least 2 uncle-nephew combinations (Stephen and Clarence Lowing and Ezra and Dennis Guernsey) and some 154 brother combinations, which included 5 Austins, 3 Barnhards, 3 Carpenters, 3 Hamblins, 3 Nestels, 3 Shattucks, 4 Taylors (plus a second set of two brothers), 3 Tousley and 3 Waites.

It is not known for certain how many cousins and in-laws served together in the Third Michigan but it was certainly extensive.


Of the 1,411 enrolled at least 933 men were married, representing more than 66% of the total enrolled.

Of those who were married nearly a quarter, or 232 men were married a second time, 32 a third and 7 men married a fourth time.

At least 96 marriages (10% of the married total) ended in divorce or separation (of which 25 are probables), 8 were divorced twice and 3 were divorced three times. It may never be known for certain how many of the men separated from their wives.

Of the total married men at least 256 men died as widowers, 15 of whom were widowed twice.

At least 813 men had one child or more, and 127 had 6 children or more. Three men tied for the record: Andrew Kirschman, Theodore McClain and Elam Moe each had at least thirteen children. In Elam's case, two of his sons, Daniel and Robert also served in the Third Michigan. All three survived the war; Daniel’s sons also survived.


In religious matters the men were probably overwhelmingly Protestant, although this remains speculation. Of the 113 reported religious preferences we know that 82 were Protestant, 27 Catholics, (1 who converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, August Heyer), 2 Universalists, and 1 Jewish.

Next: What happened to them during the war?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Where were they born?

While the Third Michigan was of course a “western” regiment in that it was formed in one of the western states, it was however composed mainly of men who were born and often reared in the east.

Based on the 1269 known places of birth, we find that 302 or nearly 1 out of every four men who served in the Old Third was born outside of the United States. Of course many of those who were born in Canada belonged to families that were “passing through” to the western frontier of the US. Nevertheless, if we were to remove all the Canadians from the list that still leaves some 203 men who were immigrants from Europe, or nearly 16% of the total reported birthplaces, nearly equal to the number born in Michigan. And of the 224 men born in Michigan only 38 were born in Kent County, the point of origin for the regiment. (photo: Dr. James Grove; source: USAMHI.)

The overwhelming number were born in New York State, 498 men, or nearly 40% of reported birthplaces. More than half of the total reported came from New York and Michigan (722); and if we add Ohio (129) we find that 851 men, or some 67% of the total reported birthplaces were born in those three states alone.

Of the reported places of birth to date we find:

2 Austrian (1 in Bohemia)
99 Canadians
9 from Connecticut
1 Dane
40 from England
4 French
104 “Germans”
6 from Illinois
6 from Indiana
27 from Ireland
7 from Maine
3 from Maryland
23 from Massachusetts
226 from Michigan
10 from the Netherlands
9 from New Hampshire
7 from New Jersey
498 from New York
4 Norwegians
129 from Ohio
43 from Pennsylvania
2 from Rhode Island
16 from Scotland
1 Swede
2 Swiss
26 from Vermont
2 from Virginia
1 from Wisconsin

Whatever their place of birth, upon enlistment, 1,392 men listed Michigan as their home of record, followed by 8 from New York, 4 from Illinois, 3 from Ohio, 2 from Wisconsin and 1 from Canada.

Next up: relationships and families

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Given the paucity of existing records it is far from clear what the overall level of schooling was of the men who served in the Third Michigan. One may presume that many of not most of the soldiers had at least achieved the rudiments of reading and writing. (photo: Moses B. Houghton; source: USAMHI.)

In fact, we know that at least 38 men were illiterate but that 678 men could read and write; both numbers were probably higher. Not bad.

We also know that 38 men attained “higher education” degrees in architecture, law, medicine, education and the ministry.

Next: Where were they born?

Prewar occupations

There was a wide variety of occupations represented among the soldiers who enlisted in the Old Third in 1861, from architect to butchers, cabinet-makers to dentists, doctors to engineers, grocers, librarian, plow-makers, shingle-makers, surveyors, tailors, students, teachers, teamsters to tinsmiths and wool-carders, among many others. Nevertheless, the farm accounted for more than half of the occupations represented, reflecting the overwhelmingly rural nature of contemporary American society. At least 798 (58%) of the 1,374 reported occupations were directly related to the farm, and if one adds the 162 common laborers, a total of 960 (69.8%) men were either farmers or common laborers (and quite often both). The next highest represented occupation was carpentry with 60 men (4.3%) who stated that they worked in that trade before the war, followed by 59 (4.2%) in the lumber industry, 34 clerks (2.4%), 23 blacksmiths (1.6%) and 23 shoemakers (1.6%).(photo: George Powers; source: Grand Rapids Democrat.)

If we add the farmer/laborer group to the next five occupations, 1,159 men (84.3%) of the regiment fall into seven occupational categories.

Interestingly, of the three Grand Rapids companies, A company had 8 (23.5%) of the 34 clerks, Company B company had 11 (18%) of the 60 carpenters, and the predominately German (C) company accounted for 24 (14.8%) of the 162 common laborers. The Muskegon company (H) had the highest number of the 162 laborers, (48, or 29.6%), reflecting the fact that Muskegon was one of the major sawmill communities in western Michigan.

In alphabetical order we see the following prewar occupations represented in the Third Michigan Infantry:

1 architect
3 attorneys
1 baker
1 bar-tender
4 boatmen
1 boilermaker
1 bookbinder
1 bootmaker
2 brewers
1 bricklayer
1 broom-maker
2 butchers
5 cabinetmakers
60 carpenters
2 carriage-makers
1 caulker
2 chair-makers
2 choppers
3 cigar-makers
34 clerks
1 cloth dresser
1 confectioner
1 constable
2 cooks
10 coopers
1 coppersmith
1 currier
1 daguerreotype artist
3 dentists
1 electrolyker
11 engineers
1 fanning mill maker
375 farm laborers
424 farmers
2 firemen
3 fishermen
1 foundryman
2 furnacemen
3 gardeners
5 grocers
1 gunsmith
2 harness-makers
1 hostler
2 jewelers
162 common laborers
1 librarian
1 log driver
1 lumber dealer
37 lumbermen
4 machinists
1 manufacturer
1 marble worker
10 masons
17 mechanics
7 merchants
5 millers
3 millwrights
2 ministers
1 moulder
6 musicians
1 news-dealer
15 painters
5 physicians
1 plasterer
1 plow-maker
8 printers
1 raftsman
3 railroad workers
1 rope-maker
1 saddler
1 saloon-keeper
2 sash-makers
22 sawyers
6 shingle-makers
23 shoemakers
8 students
2 surveyors
1 tailor
11 teachers
10 teamsters
1 thresher
3 tinsmiths
1 toll collector
1 trapper
6 wagon-makers
1 watchman
1 well-digger
2 wood turners
1 woodsman
1 wool carder

Next: Education

How old and how tall?

Of the 1,374 men who actually served in the Third Michigan it is fairly certain that all were white males, and their ages ranged from 11-year-old Jacob Rebhun (son of Band-master Valentine Rebhun) to 62-year-old Regimental Chaplain Rev. Francis Cuming, with more than three-quarters of the total enrolled born after 1830 and one in five born after 1842. (photo: Theodore Castor with his father; source: Rod Castor.)

Of the 1,374 men who served in the Third Michigan it is fairly certain that all were white males, and their ages ranged from 11-year-old Jacob Rebhun (son of Band-master Valentine Rebhun) to 62-year-old Regimental Chaplain Rev. Francis Cuming. The regiment was composed of 287 “men” who were 19 or younger, 30 of which were 16 or under; 826 in their 20s; 202 between 30 and 40; 76 were over 40; 10 men more were over 50 and 3 over 60.

If we combine the numbers of all those men under 30 (1128), that group comprised nearly 80% of the total enrolled (1411) in the Regiment and some 82% of the total who actually servied in the Regiment (1374).


Of the 915 reported physical measurements, we know that four men were five feet tall or under while two men were only five feet one inch tall and four men were five feet two inches tall. Some 233 men stood between five feet three and five feet six inches. Nine men stood five feet three inches, 38 stood five feet four, another 71 were five feet five and 107 were five feet six inches. 104 men were five feet seven, 158 were five feet eight inches tall, 109 stood five nine inches, 122 men stood five feet ten inches and another 74 were five feet eleven.

At the other end of the spectrum George Korten stood six feet ten inches tall, George Randall and Robert Swart were six feet six inches, Sam Aldrich and Ben Waite stood six feet four inches, and Alexander French, Calvin Wilsey, William Denny and Aaron Durfee stood six feet three inches. Another 12 men stood six feet two inches and 31 men six one and 45 soldiers stood at least six feet. Altogether some 94 men stood six feet or over.

It would seem that no single company in the Third Michigan infantry consisted solely of men over six feet tall.

Next: prewar occupations

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How many joined?

This isn't as easy to answer as you might think.

When the regiment began forming its companies in late April of 1861 the standard organizational requirements which required that a Regiment consist of ten companies of 100 officers and men consisting of a Captain, First Lieutenant, Second Lieutenant, Orderly or First Sergeant, 4 additional Sergeants, 8 Corporals, two Musicians (drummer and fifer), a wagoner, and the remainder privates; a small Field Staff consisting of Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Adjutant, Quartermaster, Surgeon, Assistant Surgeon and Chaplain. (photo: Col. Dan McConnell, postwar; source: Grand Rapids Public Library.)

Several enlisted men would also be detailed from the companies to serve as clerks for the Adjutant, Quartermaster and Chaplain, Hospital Steward and other assorted staff assistants as needed. Finally, there would be a Regimental Band made up of a Principal Musician or Drum Major and 18 musicians. The Regiment generally lived up to this standard.

The Field and Staff was comprised of Colonel Daniel McConnell, Lieutenant Colonel Ambrose Stevens, Major Stephen Champlin, Quartermaster Robert Collins, Adjutant Edward Earle, Surgeon Dr. D. Willard Bliss, his brother Zenas was Assistant Surgeon, the Rev. Francis Cuming was Chaplain, Walter Morrison was Hospital Steward, and Valentine Rebhun was Principal Musician and Drum Major. These men were joined by ten Captains, ten First Lieutenants, nine Second Lieutenants, 48 Sergeants, 78 Corporals, 19 Band members, ten wagoners and the rest Privates.

Although contemporary newspaper accounts placed the number of men who departed for Washington on June 13, 1861, at 1,050, present research of available sources leads to the conclusion that in fact 1,046 men were officially enrolled in the Third Michigan when the Regiment was mustered into federal service on June 10, 1861. Furthermore, of the 1,046 men who had been officially mustered into federal service perhaps as many as three dozen men remained in western Michigan on June 13, most of them sick. While most of these soldiers would eventually rejoin the Regiment, at least three of them would die in Michigan, and another two would join other units. William F. Fox in his exhaustive and thorough Regimental Losses in the Civil War claimed 1,040 men were mustered into federal service by June 13. This is the same number found in the Annual Report of the Adjutant General for the State of Michigan, 1862, although the previous year’s Annual Report numbered 1,042 men enlisted in the Third Michigan . John Robertson, who served as Adjutant General for the state of Michigan during the war, noted in his Michigan in the War, that 1,040 men were on the rolls when the Regiment left Grand Rapids on June 13, 1861, for Washington, DC. (photo: Lt. Col. Ambrose Stevens; source: Grand Rapids Public Library.)

Fox, perhaps following the lead of the Annual Reports, claimed that the Third had a total enrollment of 1,238 during its organizational history from June 10, 1861 to June 10, 1864. However, the Annual Reports for 1862 through 1864 conclude that a total of 1,255 men enlisted in the Third Michigan. Specifically, the Annual Report, 1862, noted that as of July, 1862, an additional 123 names were added to the Regiment’s roster, which now totaled 1,163 men who had joined the regiment since the war began. The Annual Report, 1863 increased this number by 92 additional names, for a total by the end of the year of 1,255, quite close to Fox’s figure of 1,238.

In any case, present research shows these numbers of total enrolled in the Third infantry to be too low. When the Third Michigan left Michigan June 13, 1861, it had enrolled (inclusive of officers, musicians and wagoners) 102 men in A company, 100 in B company, 103 in C company, 101 in D company, 102 in E company, 103 in F company, 101 in G company, 102 in H company, 106 in I company and 99 in K company, with 8 men in the Field and Staff and 19 in the Band.

During the war, of 1,411 total enrolled, 127 men served in A company, 121 in B company, 132 in C, 134 in D, 164 in E, 130 in F, 125 in G, 128 in H, 144 in I, 130 in K, 45 in Unassigned, 19 in the Band and 11 served in the Field and Staff. According to the “Regimental Descriptive Rolls”, cross-checked through the military service records available at the National Archives, we find that during the lifetime of the Regiment 367 additional men joined the original group of 1,046 who had enlisted by June 10, 1861, thus giving a total of 1,411 men who served in the regiment during its existence. It should also be noted, however, that of the 1,411 at least 37 men remained unaccounted for, and it is fairly certain that at least 7 of those never joined the regiment and in fact went into other regiments. It is our conclusion (tentative to be sure) that the remaining 30 men (the vast majority of whom were originally and solely reported as having enlisted in “Unassigned”) likewise either joined other units or deserted or in some other fasion simply “disappeared. (photo: Major Stephen Champlin; source: John Braden.)

We can say with some certainty that a total of 1,411 enlisted in the Third Michigan Infantry (first organization), of which 1,374 men served at one time or another and in one capacity or another in the Regiment.

Next: How old and how tall were they?

A Very Brief History

At 8:30 on the morning of Thursday, June 13, 1861, the ten companies of the Third Michigan infantry, led by its regimental band and the field and staff officers, left their quarters at "Cantonment Anderson". The camp had been established on the site of the county fairgrounds, about two and a half miles south of the city of Grand Rapids. (This cantonment or camp would eventually serve as the staging depot for several more regiments that would be formed in western Michigan. Later on in the war the staging facilities were moved just to the edge of town, near the site of the present Central High School, in order to be closer to the railhead which was located north of the city.)

The Third Michigan marched north up the Kalamazoo Plank road into the city, turned down Monroe street to Canal street and headed north to the Detroit & Milwaukee railroad depot, near what is today the corner of Plainfield and Leonard streets.

Upon reaching the train station, the men boarded two special trains heading east, passing through Ada, St. Johns, Owosso, Pontiac and terminated in Detroit, where the Third Michigan was feted by the citizens. (photo: Third Michigan marching down Jefferson ave. in Detroit, June 3, 1861; from the New York Illustrated News, July 11, 1861.)

The Regiment then boarded two boats for a night cruise to Cleveland, Ohio. From Cleveland they went by rail to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and then on to Harrisburg, Baltimore, Maryland, and finally arrived in Washington, DC, on Sunday June 16. They were tired, hungry and weary when they marched to Chain Bridge just above Georgetown on the Potomac river, where they set up their first wartime encampment on the bluffs overlooking the river. (photo: Camp Blair.)

The camp was first called Camp McConnell (after Daniel McConnell, the colonel of the regiment) but then quickly changed to Camp Blair, after Austin Blair (photo below), then governor of the state of Michigan. (photo above: taken at Camp Blair near the Potomac in July of 1861 -- first row (l-r) Chaplain Francis Cuming, Lt. Col. Ambrose Stevens, Col. Dan McConnell, Maj. Stephen Champlin, Drs. D. Willard and his brother Zenas Bliss; far back is Dan Bronson Col. McConnell's servant.)

The bands, the crowds, the patriotic fervor of late April soon give way to war’s harshest reality: death. The first man to die was William Choates of C company, who passed away on July 1, 1861, not amidst the glories of battle but in the throes of fever. He was buried near Camp Blair, and is presumably buried there still. The regiment’s baptism into war came less than three weeks later in the action at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, 1861, a prelude to the first battle of Bull Run on July 21. The Third suffered its first wartime casualty early on Saturday morning, July 20, 1861, when Homer Morgan of B company allegedly took his own life.

The Third Michigan infantry covered the retreat of the federal troops from Bull Run on July 21, and subsequently went into a succession of camps around Washington throughout the fall and winter of 1861-62. The regiment participated in McClellan’s Peninsular campaign of 1862 and suffered its worst casualties to date at Fair Oaks, Virginia on May 31, 1862 and at Groveton (or Second Bull Run) on August 29, 1862. The Third Michigan infantry played a peripheral part in the battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.

The next major action for the regiment was at Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863, followed by Gettysburg where the Third found itself exposed in the Peach Orchard on July 2, 1863.

Near the end of the summer of 1863 the Third Michigan was detached to the Department of the East under General Dix and sent northward to New York City in late August to serve as a deterrent to the expected rioting in the upcoming draft in that state. The Regiment spent several days in New York City, the draft went off without event and the Third Michigan was sent up the Hudson River to Troy to oversee the draft in that city, where it remained for two weeks before it returned south to rejoin the Army of the Potomac. Between December 21 and 24, 1863, while camped at Camp Pitcher, near Brandy Station, Virginia, 178 men reenlisted for another three years or “during the war”.

By early May of 1864, the Army of the Potomac was again on the move in Virginia and the Third Michigan was hotly engaged in on May 5-6 at the Wilderness and on May 11-12 at Spotsylvania Court House. The Regiment also participated in Grant’s sidestepping moves southeastward around Lee’s right flank across the North Anna river.

The Third Michigan formally ended its military service in the trenches in front of Petersburg, Virginia, on June 10, 1864, and was mustered out of federal service that same day. Those men who had enlisted in June of 1861 but who had not reenlisted were sent home to be mustered out in Detroit on June 20, while the remainder of the regiment, reenlisted “veterans” and recent enlistees, were incorporated into four companies (A, E, F, and I) and then consolidated into the Fifth Michigan infantry.

The history of the Regiment as an integral component of the Union military structure was over, but its history as a relic of that conflict, as a symbol of what that struggle represented would continue to linger on in the guise of the Third Michigan Association until well into the next century, indeed until every member had passed away.

Next: How many joined?

Introducing the Third Michigan

If you're looking for information on the Third Michigan Infantry (first organization) and the men who served in the regiment from June of 1861 to June of 1864, well you've come to the right place. (photo: Third Michigan monument in the Peach Orchard, Gettysburg, PA.)

First up will be a very, very brief history of the regiment during the war -- if you want to know more we will be publshing an ebook format of the regimental history in late 2006 or early 2007, completely new, updated, thoroughly researched with extensive footnotes, bibliography appendices and an exhaustive surname index.

Subsequent journal entries will deal with the men of regiment: how many actually served in the "Old" Third, how old were they, where were they born, and plenty more biographical information.

So stay tuned!