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Co. K of the 1st MI Sharp Shooters, the Native American Co.

Source: Redbook of Michigan pages 305-310



The regiment of Michigan sharp-shooters, organized and commanded by Colonel C. V. De Land, commenced its services in Indiana in 1863, in pursuit of the notorious rebel Morgan, while he was raiding through that State and Ohio, having an encounter with his rear-guard. The regiment was afterwards stationed at Chicago, guarding rebel prisoners, and subsequently joined the 9th army corps at Annapolis, Md., in March, 1864, and with much distinction, and gallantry participated in the important battles of that celebrated corps which followed.

In May, 1864, the sharp-shooters belonged to Colonel Christ's 2d brigade, of the 2d division, commanded by General O. B. Wilcox, and commenced their first important engagements with the enemy in the memorable battles of the Wilderness, sustaining a loss of twenty-five in killed, wounded, and missing.

On these occasions they performed commendable service for a new and inexperienced regiment, and in the second day's battle bore an active and distinguished part with their veteran associates; and soon following these battles came that of Spottsylvania, in which it became signally celebrated. On May 9th the 9th corps moved forward in the direction of Spottsylvania, the 3d division in the advance, and before noon encountered the enemy, when the lines were formed, the sharp-shooters, in command of Colonel C. V. De Land, on the left. Immediately the division experienced severe fighting; for a time the line wavered, but advanced quickly, gaining ground all day, and on the 10th, with the corps, crossed the Po river, and went into position on the heights southwest of the river, where its artillery commanded the junction of the two great wagon roads which the rebels had to hold in order to cover Richmond. Heavy skirmishing continued on the 11th, and the height of the fighting was reached on the next day, said to have been acknowledged by the Generals of both armies as one of the bloodiest of the campaign. The rain having continued for two days, the roads had become totally impassable, and it was only by the most persistent and overtasking exertions that the 9th and 2d corps were joined and put in a defensive position. The rebel General, moving on plank and macadamized roads, took quick advantage of this state of affairs to make a tremendous onslaught upon the 9th corps while thus isolated and unsupported, with a swollen and almost impassable river in its rear. General Burnside, not waiting to be attacked, initiated the action, and the fighting commenced at 4 o'clock A. M,, the 1st division (Crittenden's) in front, assisted by the 2d division (Potter's) maintained the action until noon, when the 3d division (Wilcox's) was put in, when a most determined and vigorous attack was made by the 1st brigade, under General Hartranft, which drove the rebels into their works and gave the Union troops a most decided advantage, and the division was instantly formed and ordered to assault the main line of works, while, at the same time, as was afterwards ascertained, Anderson's corps of the rebel army had been preparing to charge to dislodge the Union troops.

The Federal line swiftly advanced, with a cheer, to the desperate contest. Answering back came the shrill yell of the rebel hosts, as if in confident defiance. Midway the space between the two lines of battle the two charging columns met, amid the thick smoke of battle, in a dense thicket of pines; the bloody struggle commenced, and almost in an instant after the first shock they became mixed in inextricable confusion, and the charge became a series of furious and unrelenting hand-to-hand encounters. At length the superior numbers of the rebels began to force the Union lines to retire; regiment after regiment fell slowly and sullenly back, and the whole left was in retreat. The terrible sacrifice of the troops attest their valor and the magnitude of the struggle.

On a little knoll, among the thick spindling pine, where their rifles commanded the country for their full range rallied two Michigan regiments— the 1st sharp-shooters, Colonel De Land, and the 27th, Major Moody, while a little back, in a ravine, was the 14th New York battery, supported by the 2d Michigan infantry. The combat, slowly, sullenly, disastrously rolling down from the left, was bursting upon them, when Colonel Humphrey, of the 2d Michigan, commanding brigade, cool as an iceberg and resolute as fate, said : "Boys, this must be stopped." The leaden hail pattered and whistled with terrific furor, but the little band stood firm. More than once the bold rebels laid their hands on the guns of the battery only to be driven back by well-directed volleys. A cheer arose, the rebels were checked, broken, but not defeated; in incredible short time they had reformed, and again the fearful struggle was renewed. On the right stood the 27th, fighting with unequalled coolness and bravery; everything on the left of the sharp-shooters had been swept away, and the attack on their front and flank, with both infantry and artillery pouring in shot and shell, was terrific; but they gallantly held their ground. On the left of the sharpshooters were a company of civilized Indians, in command of the gallant and lamented young Graveraet, an educated half-breed—as brave a band of warriors as ever struck a war-path; they suffered dreadfully, but never faltered nor moved, sounding the war-whoop with every volley, and their unerring aim quickly taught the rebels they were standing on dangerous ground. The fighting continued on. Near night a rumor runs along the lines that ammunition is gone, and the cry of give them the steel is received with a cheer. The attack has again been repulsed, and the storm lulls; the fight is losing its horrid fury, and with a fearful burst of artillery it sinks into a scattered skirmish, but not until the darkness came did the battle cease. During this fearful and bloody day Col. De Land was twice struck and prostrated by the flying missiles, but badly injured as he was remained faithful to his command. The regiment lost 34 killed, 117 wounded, and 4 missing. Among the killed was Major John Piper, a brave and lamented officer, who, after several years of hard and faithful service, fell by a shot through the brain.

Passing through Grant's great campaign on Richmond with much credit and crossing the James river, it arrived with its division in front of Petersburg June 16, 1864, and on the next day, while in command of Major Levant C. Rhines, became so heavily engaged and so specially distinguished in charging and holding the enemy's works and repelling his repeated assaults to retake them that this bloody battle becomes one of the most prominent events in the history of the regiment.

The position of the regiment being on the extreme left of the corps, and the 5th corps failing to connect the line after the capture of the rebel works, a large gap was left through which the rebels poured their troops, and most severe fighting occurred, the regiment most gallantly repulsing the enemy in two successive and vigorous charges, taking two officers and eighty-six men prisoners, and the colors of the 35th North Carolina, which were captured by Corporal Benj. F. Young, of company I, who was promoted for distinguished gallantry on the occasion. During the engagement the left of the regiment became completely enveloped, and was placed in a position compelling it either to surrender or cut its way through the rebel lines; the last-named resort was determined on, and having first destroyed the national color of the regiment to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy, then commenced fighting its way out, and finally succeeded in getting through the rebel lines. The gallant Major Rhines fell in this desperate struggle, together with 31 killed and died of wounds, 46 wounded, and 84 missing.

Lieut. Garrett A. Graveraet died at Washington, D. C., July 10, 1864, of wounds received in action before Petersburg June 17, 1864.

Capt. George C. Knight and Lieut. Martin Wrager killed before Petersburg; the former in action June 17th, and the latter in the trenches June 23d, 1864.

On the 30th of July the regiment led its brigade in the charge on the rebel works contiguous to the fort which was blown up by the "mine," and aided in carrying the works, taking about fifty prisoners. The rebels having finally succeeded in retaking the works it was obliged to retire, with a loss of three killed, twelve wounded, and thirty-three missing. The regiment remained in front of Petersburg until the 19th of August, when it was ordered to move to the Weldon railroad. Soon after its arrival it assisted in retaking a line of works from which our forces had been driven. Its loss in this affair was one killed and two wounded. Until the 28th of September the regiment was here engaged in the erection of fortifications. On the 30th of September it participated in the battle near Peebles' House, with a loss of three wounded and sixteen missing. The casualties of the regiment while in the trenches in front of Petersburg were twenty-seven killed and died of wounds and six wounded. On the 27th of October the regiment took part in the movement toward the South-Side Railroad, and was engaged during the day in skirmishing with the enemy, losing five men wounded.

On April 2d, 1865, the regiment, while in command of Lieut. Col. W. A. Nichols and in the brigade of Col. Ralph Ely, again most signally acquired a very enviable notoriety and great credit for a most daring and brilliant achievement while making a demonstration in front of Petersburg, on the left of the enemy's works, for the purpose of drawing troops from his right while our forces were attacking him at other points. After making two efforts, under a very severe fire of musketry and artillery, the regiment succeeded in getting hold on his works to the extent of its regimental front, which it held for an hour under a terrific fire. The object of the attack having been attained it was ordered back to its former position, having suffered a heavy loss. On the next day, about 4 A. M., it was again ordered to advance, under the supposition that the enemy was withdrawing. On moving forward and finding that he had evacuated his works, it pushed on and was the first regiment to enter Petersburg, and, while Col. Ely was receiving the surrender of the city, raised the first national flag on the courthouse of that rebel stronghold.

The capture of Petersburg was long and anxiously looked for, as leading to the immediate possession of Richmond by the Union forces. It was finally accomplished, the rebel army fled, and Richmond fell. Michigan troops were prominently instrumental in bringing about the result. Colonel Ely's brigade of Michigan regiments, belonging to Wilcox's division, (1st,) 9th corps, were, as previously stated, the first to enter the city and place their colors on the public buildings, raising one flag on the court-house and another on the custom-house; Colonel Ely himself receiving the surrender of the city from the authorities.

Gen. Wilcox, in the following report of the operations of his division in that affair, says:

"I have the honor to report the operations of this division in the field from the 29th of March to the 9th of April, 1865, inclusive.

"On the night of the 29th of March, at half-past 10 o'clock, the enemy opened on my lines, stretching from above Fort Morton to the Appomattox, with all their artillery of every description and some musketry from their main line. At about 11 o'clock the artillery lulled. I expected an advance of the enemy's troops and was ready to receive them, but no attack was made, and a desultory firing of artillery only continued through the night.

"It afterwards appeared from the official reports of the enemy that they thought that we had made an attack; in fact, Major-General Gordon reported such to be the case, and that they had handsomely repulsed us; but although we were under orders from corps headquarters to be ready to attack, and I had caused to be distributed axes for cutting the enemy's abatis, yet no sort of attack was actually ordered or made on our front.

"The sensitiveness of the enemy seemed to encourage our men. Preparations were made on the 31st as well as on April 1st for a night attack opposite Forts Steadman and Haskell, 3d brigade, and at a point in front of Ely's brigade, nearer the Appomattox. Through the night of the 2d various demonstrations were made along the line, and the enemy's picket-pits captured at various points, in pursuance of orders from corps headquarters, made in aid of operations being carried on, on the left of the army.

"At about 1 o'clock, on the morning of the 2d April, orders were received from corps headquarters to mass one brigade (except garrisons) by 4 o'clock on the same morning near Fort Sedgwick, on the 2d division front, where Gen. Hartranft was to make a real attack with his division and a brigade from each of the other divisions, while, by the same order, I was directed to make a vigorous demonstration along my whole division line with the rest of my troops at the same hour.

"Col. Harrirnan was accordingly detached, with staff officers who knew the road, tools, ammunition, and every possible aid, to report to Hartranft; and this brigade was in position and formed at the moment required.

"The demonstration along the line began precisely at 4 by the 2d brigade, Brevet Col. Ralph Ely; 3d brigade, Brevet Col. G. P. Robinson, and Col. Wm. J. Bolton, commanding 51st Pennsylvania, left on the 1st brigade line of entrenchments. Some of the enemy's picket-pits were captured near the " Old Crater" by Col. Bolton. The pickets of the 3d and 2d brigades, strongly reinforced, advanced handsomely, the artillery opened vigorously, and large portions of the enemy were down to oppose what they considered a real attack in force.

"On the extreme right, near the Appomattox, a portion of Ely's brigade actually carried some two hundred yards of the enemy's works; but our lines, two miles in length, were too much attenuated to hold the ground. Some seventy-five prisoners were secured and brought in. Three regiments were withdrawn from other points and double-quicked to the point, but before it could be reinforced the enemy had recovered it.

"The effect of the movement, however, on the grand result was most happy, inasmuch as it contributed to weaken the enemy's line in front of Fort Sedgwick, where the real attack was completely successful.

"For the handsome part performed by Harriman's brigade of this division at the latter point I respectfully refer you to his own report and that of Brevet Major-Gen. Hartranft, commanding at that part of the line.

"Through the day offensive demonstrations were kept up, and the batteries playing in aid of the more serious work of the day going on further to the left.

“In the afternoon and evening the enemy strengthened their line opposite me; but about midnight of the 2d reports came up from Colonel Ely, commanding 2d brigade, and Col. James Bentliff, now commanding 3d brigade, by virtue of his rank, that there were signs of the enemy’s withdrawing from our front, leaving only their picket line. I gave orders to the 2d brigade commanders to press through as soon as possible.

"At about 2 A. M. on the 3d some of our parties broke through.

"Bentliff's brigade advanced upon Cemetery Hill and Ely's more directly into town, with a section of Stone's battery. I gave Col. Ely orders to take measures to at once secure order in the city.

"At 4.28 one of Ely's flags, that of the 1st Michigan sharp-shooters, was raised on the court-house, and that of the 2d Michigan on the custom-house a few minutes later, and guards were posted about the town."

The 2d and 20th Michigan infantry and 1st Michigan sharp-shooters were in the 2d brigade, commanded by Col. Ralph Ely, of the 8th Michigan.

The 8th and 27th Michigan were in the 1st brigade.

The 17th Michigan were acting as an engineer regiment at division headquarters.

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