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Report by the Pioneer Historical Society Commission


The Days of Fife And Drum

The Indians, who have been with us in every fight from the beginning of Michigan's history, had their place also in the Rebellion albeit a very small place.* Attached to Colonel DeLand's First Michigan Sharpshooters was a company of civilized Indians who won fame at Spottsylvania. On that bloody 9th of May, 1863, the Federal line, advancing with a cheer, met the charging enemy in a dense thicket of pines, and in the hand-to-hand struggle that followed, the Union forces were slowly forced back. On a little rise of ground the Fourteenth New York battery, supported by the Second and Twenty-seventh Michigan Infantry and the First Michigan Sharpshooters, was doing its best to hold the ground. Every now and then the Confederates would fight their way up to the battery and lay hold on the cannon to turn them upon the Union forces, but to touch one of those guns meant instant death at the hands of the sharpshooters. In this desperate encounter, the little band of Indians was commanded by Lieutenant Graverat of Little Traverse, an educated half-breed. Under a perfect storm of lead their numbers seemed to melt away, but there was no sign of faltering. Sheltered behind trees, they poured volley after volley at the zealous foe, and above the din of battle their war-whoop rang out with every volley. At dusk the ammunition gave out, but with the others the Indians rushed forward at the shout of "Give 'em steel boys!" from the twice wounded, but still plucky Colonel DeLand. When darkness came to end the bloody day, Lieutenant Graverat was among the one hundred and seventeen wounded sharpshooters, and a few months later he died of his wounds.**

**In 1890 there were nearly 6,000 Indians in Michigan; 1,000 near Sault Ste. Marie, 2,000 near the Straits of Mackinac; 1,000 in Mason and Oceana counties; 400 near Saginaw Bay; 500 in Isabella county, and the remainder in the southwestern portion of the State. They live in settlements of from 50 to 100 persons, use the Indian language exclusively in their intercourse with each other and are to a very large degree isolated from the whites. There are two schools for Indian children maintained by the Catholic church and supported in part by the government. Besides these is the government school near Mt. Pleasant, with a farm of 320 acres and an attendance (1894) of 150 pupils; it was opened January 3, 1893.—MSS. Report of Superintendent Spencer to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, September 30, 1894.

**Mr. Gil. R. Osmun, afterwards Secretary of State, was often sent to the trenches with orders for Colonel DeLand, and on one occasion he took an order from Sheridan to stop all firing. The Indians alone disobeyed the orders. They had come to fight and whenever a rebel head showed itself they fired at it. At last they were told that such action would cause Colonel DeLand to be shot for disobedience, and then only they ceased.

Source: Historical Collections Vol. XXVIII– Annual Meeting 1898 By Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Michigan State Historical Society, Michigan Historical Commission Published 1900 Starting page 446

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