The surrender of Fort Sumter on April 15, 1861, was startling news throughout the country, and Michigan soon received the President's call for volunteers. The state was asked to furnish one regiment of infantry fully armed, clothed, and equipped to aid the federal government in suppressing the rebellion. Although the state treasury was not in a condition to meet this request, subscription made the necessary amount available; ten companies were at once mobilized.
The President's call for Michigan troops was promptly met by the mustering in of the First Regiment and its early movement to the seat of war in Virginia. In the meantime, the War Department authorized Michigan to raise three other regiments, but at the same time stated that it was "important to reduce rather than increase that number." This authority only covered the Second, Third, and Fourth Infantry Regiment, already in process of recruitment. Many companies throughout the state, not included in the regiments named above, recruited without authority in the hope of obtaining places in those or other regiments. They were disappointed however, and 13 companies found service in the units of other states. By December 1861, Michigan had sent 13 infantry regiments, three cavalry regiments, and five batteries of light artillery, totaling 16,475 officers and enlisted men to the front.
As The War Continues
On July 2, 1862, the War Department assigned Michigan a quota of 11,686, as part of the proclamation for 500,000 men. The regiments recruited were as follows: 21st, Ionia; 22nd, Pontiac; 23rd, East Saginaw; and 24th, from Detroit and Wayne county. More companies were raised than could be placed in the district regiments, so the 25th (Kalamazoo) and the 26th (Jackson) infantry regiments were formed and sent into the field. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Cavalry regiments were also organized.
Following the expiration of their three-year enlistment periods at the beginning of 1864, five thousand five hundred forty-five veterans reenlisted, entitling the units in which they were serving to the designation of "Veteran." These organizations were the First, Second, and Third Cavalry; Second, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, l0th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th Regiments of Infantry; the Sixth Heavy Artillery (formerly the Sixth Infantry) and Batteries B, C, and E, First Light Artillery.
Because Michigan was on the Canadian border, it was continually threatened with invasion by rebels who had found refuge in Canada and were encouraged by the Confederate government to raid the northern states. During the time of these threatened raids, Michigan relied on the following forces to defend its borders against any hostile demonstration: six companies of the Second Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps, three companies of the State Troops, the Scott Guard, Detroit Light Guard, and Lyon Guard, with a section of light artillery.
At the close of the Civil War, Michigan's Colonel Benjamin Pritchard and the 4th Michigan Cavalry captured Jefferson Davis, the defeated Confederate President.
From April 1861 to April 1865, Michigan furnished 90,747 men, not counting 1,982 men commuting and 4,000 Michigan men who served in the units of other states. The first Michigan troops discharged from federal service, the 20th Regiment of Infantry, arrived in the state from the battle field on June 4, 1865 and the last, the Third and Fourth Infantry, arrived on June 10, 1866.
According to official regimental commander's reports, Michigan men engaged the enemy on more than 800 occasions. Of officers serving, 177 were killed, 85 died of wounds, and 96 died of disease. Among the enlisted men, 2,643 were killed, 1,302 died of wounds, and 10,040 died of disease.
During the war, Michigan furnished more than 30 regiments of infantry (including the First Colored, 102nd United States, Infantry), a regiment of engineers and mechanics, light artillery of 12 six-gun batteries, two batteries of medium artillery, a regiment of sharpshooters, 11 regiments of cavalry.
Photographs on this page are from the Michigan Historical Center