Monday, April 13, 2015

The “Brown” Books

The state-sponsored “Brown” series of regimental histories provide a good overall background to each Michigan regiment’s role in the American Civil War; unfortunately the volume devoted to the Third Michigan Infantry suffers from several important shortcomings.

(While the Brown Books do indeed have a brown cover and back, the name derives from George Brown who, as adjutant general for the state of Michigan, oversaw the publication of the regimental history series.)

For example, when the Brown history of the Third Michigan Infantry is compared to the more exhaustive “Regimental Descriptive Rolls” (RDR), the individual biographical sketches in the former are often found incomplete and occasionally inaccurate. Strangely enough, much information was dropped and new errors introduced, when the RDRs were turned into the Brown books. The result was only a cursory review of each soldier’s service; and even then some soldiers were omitted. In fact, there are least 44 members of the regiment whose service record is not given in Volume 3 of the Brown regimental history series. Omitted soldiers include some of well-respected citizens of Grand Rapids both before and after the war, and some who rendered notable service during the war itself.

From this distance it is unclear why so many men were omitted. Take for example the service records of Corporal Don Lovell and Peter Weber of the Third Michigan, men who eventually became Majors in other Michigan regiments. Lovell is not listed at all in the Third Regimental history and Weber, who was killed in action while a member of another regiment, is simply listed “No further record.”

Similarly, seven members of the Third Michigan who are not in the regiment’s history are found in Volume 5 (5th Michigan Infantry) of the Brown books.

Still other members of the Third Regiment are not found anywhere in the series. Daniel Littlefield, a well-known Grand Rapids boy who enlisted as a Sergeant in the Third and who would become a commissioned officer, transferred to the Seventh Michigan Cavalry and died of disease in 1864, is left out of the sketches altogether. Also omitted (though is mentioned in the brief introductory history of Volume 3) was Edwin S. Pierce, a Grand Rapids merchant who began the war as Captain of Company E and ended his military service as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Michigan, serving alongside his brother Colonel Byron Pierce. Edwin would return to Grand Rapids where he became one of the city’s leading clothiers.

These were some of the most promising and well-known young men in Grand Rapids in 1861, yet it appears that by the time the Brown books were written their service in the Third Michigan had been virtually forgotten.

It appears that the Brown books relied primarily on information readily available in Michigan while little or no effort was made to mine the wealth of information available in Washington, DC. The federal records have their gaps too, however: unaccountably some twenty members of the Third Michigan Infantry have no service record at the National Archives.

Even Michigan sources were often underutilized. Allen Shattuck (a former member of Company G) was the Third Regiment’s unofficial historian. During the regimental association reunion banquet of 1896 it was reported that Shattuck had maintained a diary (which has yet to be uncovered by the author), and which apparently served as the basis for the numerous anecdotal speeches Shattuck would give during many of the reunion meetings. In 1904 it was reported that Shattuck had been authorized to proof the copy of the regiment’s Brown history volume then being prepared in Lansing by the state authorities.

However, when the regimental history was published the following year, Shattuck reported back to the association during its annual reunion held in Grand Rapids that he was unable to correct the history of the regiment undertaken by the Adjutant General's office. Whether it was because of time constraints, lack of cooperation from Lansing, or problems unique to Shattuck was not stated.

Another shortcoming of the Brown books is the absence of cross-references to other units in which the soldier served. This omission is especially glaring with the Third Michigan since so many of its members went on to serve in other units. By contrast, the RDRs heavily cross-referenced many state and military reference materials when compiling its sketches of each soldier in the 1880s.

For example, of the 432 men in the Third Michigan who were discharged for disability, 145 reentered the military; of the 40 officers who resigned on account of disability, 18 reentered the army; and of the 130 men mustered out with the regiment on June 10, 1864, 13 reentered the military. Only a tiny fraction of these reentries were reported in the Brown series. In some cases, the compilers of the Brown books must have been unaware of a soldier’s subsequent service. The RDRs were meticulous in noting the cross-referenced service for each man.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How many men actually served in the 3rd Michigan?

Based on present research, when the 3rd Michigan left Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 13, 1861, it had enrolled (inclusive of officers, musicians and wagoners) 1,046 men and officers:

Company A 102
Company B 100
Company C 103
Company D 101
Company E 102
Company F 103
Company G 101
Company H 102
Company I 106
Company K 99
Staff 8
Band 19

During its existence, the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry recruited some 365 additional men. They joined the original group of 1,046 who had enlisted by June 10, 1861, for a total of 1,411 men who either enlisted in or were assigned to the regiment during the war. Of the total enrolled:

Company A 127
Company B 121
Company C 132
Company D 134
Company E 163
Company F 131
Company G 125
Company H 128
Company I 144
Company K 130
Unassigned 46
Staff 11
Band 19

Friday, March 13, 2015

Third Michigan Infantry website has a brand-new look with updated information

Well, I suppose the subject line pretty much says it all. Anyway, you can see for yourself right here:

Spread the word! And thanks for your support --

members attending the 1921 reunion in Grand Rapids

l-r, top row: George Carlise, Abraham Eddy, Henry Patterson 2nd row: John Barrett, John Jackson, Oscar Foster third row: Charles Miller, Andrew Webster, Simon Brennan, August Heyer front row: Martin Taylor, George Davis, John McNab, Robert Musgrove

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Website update: Burial sites of the Men of the 3rd Michigan

In preparation for creating a brand-new look for the oldthirdmichigan dot org website, I've updated much of the content as well. Here's the latest information on burial sites:

The men of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry died literally all over the United States and Canada. They are buried as far west as California and British Columbia, as far south as Key West, Florida and as far north as Montana and Maine:

Alabama 2 

Arizona 1

Arkansas 2

California 22

Canada 4

Colorado 6

Connecticut 3

District of Columbia 34

Florida 3

Georgia 13 (11 at Andersonville) 

Iowa 4 

Illinois 16

Indiana 7 

Kansas 13

Kentucky 1

Louisiana 1 

Maine 2

Maryland 8

Massachusetts 1

Michigan 683

Minnesota 4

Mississippi 1

Missouri 6

Montana 3 

Nebraska 7

New Hampshire 1

New Jersey 2 

New York 33

North Carolina 8 (5 in mass grave at Salisbury)
North Dakota 1 

Ohio 24

Oklahoma 9 

Oregon 11

Pennsylvania 39 

Rhode Island 1 

South Carolina 8

South Dakota 2 

Tennessee 4

Texas 6

Utah 1
Virginia 195 

Washington state 15 

Wisconsin 20

Wyoming 1

The great majority, however, are buried in Michigan and Virginia. In fact, at least 881 of men who served in the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry, or nearly 62% of the total enrolled, died and were buried in Virginia or Michigan.

Of the 683 men reportedly buried in Michigan, by far the largest number (208) are found in Kent County, and of that number 42 are buried in the “Michigan Soldiers’ Home” Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

The Michigan counties with the next highest number of burials are Ottawa (53), Ionia (50), Barry (38), Muskegon (28) and Newaygo (22).

Many of the 195 men buried in Virginia are probably interred in unknown graves scattered throughout the state, like so many thousands of soldiers.

For example, it is likely that of the estimated 35 men who died at Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862, all are interred in Seven Pines National Cemetery, although we know exact locations for only a fraction of that number. And the men who died at Groveton on August 29, 1862, their remains were reportedly brought to Arlington National Cemetery and interred in a mass grave very close to the Custis-Lee mansion.

The fact that so many men who died in prison camps remain "unknown" is well-established. However, it is also quite likely that several of the Old 3rd soldiers who returned to Michigan during the war and died at home today rest in unmarked graves. This is particularly true for Samuel Camp in Lamont, Ottawa County, Francis Barlow, Henry Kampe and William Gibson in Grand Rapids, as well as Chauncey Strickland.