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1st Michigan Cavalry
in the American Civil War

Regimental History
First Michigan Cavalry, Cols., Thornton F. Brodhead, Charles H. Town, Peter Stagg; Leiut.-Cols., Joseph T. Copeland, George R. Maxwell, Andrew W. Duggan; Majs., William S. Atwood, Angelo Paldi, Charles H. Town, Thomas M. Howrigan, Myron Hickey, Thurlow W. Lusk, Melvin Brewer, Robert Sproul, Lineus F. Warner. This regiment was organized at Detroit and mustered into the U. S. service Sept. 13, 1861, with an enrollment of 1,144 officers and men. It left the state Sept. 9 for Washington, D. C, and went into camp at Frederick, Md., where it remained several months. It comprised a part of Gen. Banks' forces, which in Feb., 1862, moved to Harper's Ferry and later entered the Shenandoah Valley, advancing as far as Winchester, pushing the Confederates before them. The regiment distinguished itself in many skirmishes while advancing up the valley and companies and detachments made a number of brilliant charges which attracted the attention of Gen. Banks and received from him complimentary mention in orders. The regiment remained at Williamsport until June 12, when it took part in Gen. Pope's Virginia campaign. It was in Gen. Banks' command when he fought the battle of Cedar mountain, was engaged at Manassas, suffering severely in that battle, and during the early months of 1863 it had several skirmishes with the enemy, losing a number in killed and wounded. It was then assigned to the famous Michigan cavalry brigade, consisting of the 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th regiments, and served with the brigade until the close of the war. The brigade was formed at Washington, Dec. 12, 1862, of the 5th, 6th and 7th regiments, the 1st being added the following spring. The brigade moved in pursuit of Lee from Fairfax Court House June 25, 1863, and on the 27th the 1st was detached to Harper's Ferry, and the 7th for special duty towards Sharpsburg. The brigade was united at Hanover under the command of Gen. Custer and was engaged at Hanover, Huntertown, and at Gettysburg, where the 1st cavalry saved Battery M and the day, meeting an entire cavalry brigade in a saber charge and driving it from the field. This was one of the most desperate as well as brilliant charges of the war and turned what appeared to be a defeat of the Union forces into a complete victory. The regiment lost at Gettysburg 11 officers and 80 men killed, wounded or missing. On July 4 one squadron of the regiment charged the enemy at Fairfield gap, driving the Confederates out and holding it until the entire column passed. Two officers were killed and 17 men were killed or wounded in this charge. The regiment took part in the severe engagement at Falling Waters, where it captured 2 battle-flags, a major and 70 men. It then returned to Virginia and was constantly on duty with the brigade, meeting the enemy at many places. At James City in October, the 1st and 5th regiments were formed in column of battalions, ordered to draw sabers and, while the band played "Yankee Doodle," went forward at a full gallop, scattering the foe in their front, and afterward secured a place of safety for the whole command. On Oct. 19 the regiment met the enemy at Buckland mills in a severe engagement and a week later fought at Morton's ford. In December, 370 of the regiment reenlisted and went to Michigan on a 30-day furlough. In Feb., 1864, Gen. Kilpatrick started on a raid to Richmond, taking with him the members of the regiment who did not reenlist, and they shared all the vicissitudes, dangers and hard- ships of the raid, actually going over the first line of works at Richmond, but were unable to go further and returned to the army after severe fighting and many losses. After the veteran furlough the regiment reassembled at Camp Stoneman, D. C., and was joined by a battalion of newly organized troops that had been recruited the previous December. The regiment was among the forces commanded by Gen. Sheridan in his celebrated raid in the rear of Lee's army and took part in the severe engagements that were fought both in the advance upon Richmond and the return. One battalion charged the enemy conducting 400 Union prisoners to Richmond and recaptured all of them. At Yellow tavern the regiment moved forward, meeting a severe line of grape and canister from a battery concealed on the right, but, nothing daunted, it advanced with cheers and yells, though it had to cross five fences and a narrow bridge, rode straight for the battery and captured it with a large number of prisoners. It took part in the severe engagement at Haw's shop, where the battle raged for hours with great fury, each side obstinately contesting every inch of ground. The regiment was at Cold Harbor and during a spirited engagement with infantry, artillery and cavalry it made a saber charge upon the enemy and broke his line, when the Confederates threw down their arms and fled, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. The next morning that portion of the line held by the regiment was attacked by a large force of the enemy, but the attack was repulsed. In June it was engaged in the battle of Trevilian Station, and in the latter part of July was ordered to Washington to take part in the Shenandoah campaign under Gen. Sheridan. It shared all the vicissitudes of the numerous battles that culminated in driving Gen. Early and all Confederate forces out of the valley. In Feb., 1865, the regiment was a part of the forces under Gen. Sheridan when he moved against the enemy's communications at Gordonsville, and in March fought the Confederate cavalry at Louisa Court House, defeating the enemy and destroying a large amount of public property. The regiment helped to destroy the locks, aqueducts and mills on the James river canal, the destruction of which was a serious embarrassment to Gen. Lee. It fought at Five Forks and clung close to the enemy during the memorable days of the pursuit of Lee's army, everywhere striking hard blows that helped to deprive the enemy of his wagon trains and artillery, fighting desperately at Sailor's creek, where the Michigan brigade destroyed 400 wagons, captured 16 guns, and cut off Gen. Ewell's corps from Lee's army, when Gen. Ewell and his corps of 6,000 surrendered. After the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, the regiment was sent to North Carolina, but returned to Washington, where it took part in the grand review. It was then ordered to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., thence to Fort Laramie, Wyo. Ter., and the men endured great hardships in their campaign against the Indians in the far West. The regiment was mustered out at Salt Lake City, Utah, March 10, 1866, where the men were paid and disbanded. Its total enrollment was 2,490; killed in action, 96; missing in action, 40; died of wounds, 52; died as prisoners of war, 58; died of disease, 172; drowned, 2; killed accidentally, 4; killed by Indians, 1; discharged for disability, 209.

Footnotes:
Regimental history taken from "The Union Army" by Federal Publishing Company, 1908 - Volume 3

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