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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Michigan's "Fighting Fifth" Civil War Infantry

Sometimes a single blog can't begin to cover all the research involved in my programs.  I'm deeply grateful to the descendants of Liberetta Lerich Green who "adopted" me for my programs reenacting her life and telling of the Lerichs.  Her parents, Peter and Sarah Lerich ran an Underground Railroad Station under the noses of their unsuspecting children.  Eventually Liberetta and her brother, Will, discovered the secret.  Both Will and Isaac enlisted in Michigan's 5th Infantry when the War of Rebellion started.  (It wasn't called the Civil War at that time and indeed it's true to say there was nothing civil about that war!)

Many of the family letters are on file at the Bentley Historical Library, including from the Civil War years. I plan to post my transcriptions of those letters from or about Will and Isaac.  In the meantime I've just begun a separate blog, Michigan's "Fighting Fifth" Civil War Infantry of Detroit newspaper accounts, posting articles at the same pace as they would have appeared 150 years ago.

No book exists only about the 5th Infantry, but they definitely deserve one.  They were also 5th in Union infantry deaths, with a record including some of these places where they fought:
Pohick Church,Va.Yorktown,Va.Williamsburg,Va.
Fair Oaks,Va.Peach Orchard,Va.Glendale,Va.
Malvern Hill,Va.Bull Run,Va.Groveton,Va.
Chantilly,Va.Fredricksburg,Va.The Cedars,Va.
Chancellorsville,Va.Gettysburg,Pa.Wapping Heights,Va.
Auburn Heights,Va.Kelly's Ford,Va.Locust Grove,Va.
Mine Run,Va.Wilderness,Va.Todd's Tavern,Va.
Po River,Va.Spottsylvania,Va.North Anna River,Va.
Tolopotomy,Va.Cold Harbor,Va.Petersburg,Va.
Deep Bottom,Va.Strawberry Plains,Tn.Poplar Springs,Va.
Boydton Road,Va.Hatcher's Run,Va.Saylers Creek,Va.
New Store, Va.Appomatox Court House
One man in three died, but if Will and Isaac were the two who didn't, each spent time enjoying Southern prison hospitality, as well as each being partially crippled, and prematurely dying 20 years after the war as a result of their injuries.

These online sources show why President Lincoln said "Thank God for Michigan!"
  • The classic book is Michigan in the Civil War compiled by Robertson of the Adjutant General's Department.  Google Books makes it available or go to Ed Hazel's reprint of the book to read it page by page.  His site has 56 pages on the 5th, but also his tagging makes its searchable.  His site, The American Civil War explores Michigan’s role in the civil war and his Civil War Resources page gives an interesting webliography on the war overall.
  • For something completely different and entertaining, the Fifth Michigan Regiment Band takes you back to the music of those days and the group's performances pass along historical information beyond just the Fifth.  Their page of Bibliographical Information in the History section is a treat!  So are their performances, so if they come to your area be sure and attend.
That wraps up the online resources, but there's still more to be researched as easily seen in a scan of Clarke Historical Library's listing of unpublished Civil War personal narratives.
For descendants and others interested in this important regiment, it shows there's still more than enough material to create a full-length book.  In the meantime I'll continue to give Liberetta's view from the Michigan homefront.  For more information on that and other historical programs, go to my website's page on historical programs

I wasn't going to try and post general Civil War information, but Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial History Partners is our state's partnership with its Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee and Civil War History Partners Steering Group to promote the commeration of Michigan's role in the war.  You can find events, resources, and contacts for all aspects of our state's involvement in what was at the time called the War of Rebellion.