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A company of Indian soldiers from the Arbre Croche country fought in the Civil War under General Grant from the battle of the Wilderness until the surrender of the Confederates at Appomattox Court House. Company K, First Michigan Sharpshooters, was mustered into service January 12, 1863; was stationed for a time at Fort Dearborn to guard the State arsenal at that place and soon after was ordered to the front. With Grant the Indians crossed the Rapidan and received their baptism of fire in the terrible battle of the Wilderness. They also took part in the hard-fought engagements of Spottsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor and Petersburg, and letters received home from superior officers stated that these men were among the best soldiers in the service, gallantly charging in direct assault as well as doing effective sharpshooting and picket duty. Although being dispossessed at home, they fought as valiantly under the Stars and Stripes as their ancestors did under the plumes of the wild American eagle, and let it be said in all justice that they cast a glamour over the annals of the North that shall not easily be effaced.

Of the hundred men who left to fight for their country, more than half were killed in battle and practically all the rest were wounded. At the present time there are but two survivors.

Lieut. Garrett A. Gravaraet, who recruited the Indians and organized the company, brilliantly led his men in a daring charge at Spottsylvania after seeing his father shot dead at his side. At Petersburg, he was badly wounded in the left arm and died the first day of July following at Army Square Hospital, Washington, D.C. Lieut. Graveraet was a talented young man, an accomplished artist and a splendid musician. He was one of the first government teachers of the Indians at L’Arbre Croche and had great influence among the natives. Always honorable and straightforward in his dealings with them, his confidence was never betrayed and “My Indians,” as he loved to call them, proved true and lasting friends. The remnants of the little band were among the first to enter Richmond to share in the great victory the North had won.

An amusing incident is related of Antoine Tabayant, one of the member of the Indian company. Twins, two boys, were born to him, after he had gone to the front, and Mrs. Tabayant at once wrote to her husband asking what names should be given them, for in the Indian custom it was the father’s sacred prerogative to christen his sons.

Antoine answered immediately to call one Abraham Lincoln and the other Jefferson Davis.

His wife did as requested and the twins grew up to be lively youngsters; but sad to relate, both died before Antoine returned home from the war.

He did not know it, however, and as soon as he met his wife, after being mustered out, he inquired about the boys. Sorrowfully the mother informed him of their death.

For a time the old warrior was disconsolate; but finally he summoned up courage and asked for particulars; how they had behaved, what they had done, and all about them.

“Well,” replied Mrs. Tabayant, “they were always fighting. I couldn’t turn my back but what they would be pulling one another’s hair, clawing and biting and banging each other in the nose and eyes.”

Antoine pricked up his ears. “Which one was the best man?” he asked blandly.

Oh, Abraham Lincoln was always on top,” answered his wife. “He could throw Jefferson Davis down, blacken his eyes and make his nose bleed every time.”

The soldier’s face lit up with a broad smile. “By golly, that’s purty gosh darn good!” he exclaimed. Jus’ like I tole them fellers down South, aroun’ Richmond-“You’ll never find a Jefferson Davis that can lick one of our Abraham Linkum’s.”

Source: The Crooked Tree
By John Couchois Wright
Copyright 1917
Starting page 122

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