The First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics served an important service to the
Union Army in the Western Theater. It enabled the great armies of General Rosecrans,
Sherman, Thomas and others, to move and attack. Possibly more than any other
organization, the regiment worked in detachments, often at widely different places.
Their skillful services were required in the mechanical construction of bridges,
pontoons, boats, forts, blockhouses, saw mills and in the destruction of the enemyâ€™s
railroads. Their efforts throughout the war to self sufficiently build bridges across wide
rivers and over deep chasms from material s growing nearby in the forests shows their
craftsmen were truly geniuses.
Wright L. Coffinberry, Baker Borden, Perrin V. Fox and James W. Sligh of Grand
Rapids went to the office of William P. Innes wanting to raise a Michigan Engineering
Mr. Innes sent out a wire â€œWill the War Department accept a regiment from
Michigan on the same terms as Colonel Wilsonâ€™s of Chicago?â€� Their reply from
the War Department was â€œYes, with the approval of the governor of the Stateâ€�.
Governor Blair was then asked by the Hon. W.D. Foster. Mr. Innes was called in and
was soon given authority to raise ten companies to be officered and equipped as
infantry and provided with implements for engineering service. They were to be known
as the â€œFirst Michigan Engineers and Mechanicsâ€�.
The War Department accepted the regiment with the same pay and allowances as
engineers of the regular army. Line officers were allowed horses and the ranks were
given implements for engineering service.
Capt. H.R. Mizner, U.S. Army mustered the regiment into service on Oct. 29, 1861 at
Officers at organization were as follows:
Colonel William P. Innes, Grand Rapids
Lt. Colonel Kinsman A. Hunton Marshall
Major Enos Hoskins Jackson
Surgeon William H. Decamp Grand Rapids
Asst. Surgeon Willoughby Oâ€™ Donoughue Albion
Adjutant Clement F. Miller Kalamazoo
Quartermaster Robert S. Innes Grand Rapids
Chaplain D. Burnham Tracy Petersburg
Captain John B. Yates - Ionia
1st Lieutenant Frederick W. Huxford - Albion
2nd Lieutenant Horace C. Gilson - Albion
Captain Baker Gordon - Grand Rapids
1st Lieutenant John W. Williamson - Grand Rapids
2nd Lieutenant John W. McCrath -Grand Rapids
Captain Wright L. Coffinberry - Grand Rapids
1st Lieutenant James D. Robinson - Grand Rapids
2nd Lieutenant Edwin Baxter - Grand Rapids
Captain Perrin V. Fox - Grand Rapids
1st Lieutenant Joseph C. Herkner - Grand Rapids
2nd Lieutenant William T. Hass - Grand Rapids
Captain Silas Canfield - Ionia
1st Lieutenant Lucius F. Mill - Ionia
2nd Lieutenant Albert B. Culver - Ionia
Captain James W. Sligh - Grand Rapids
1st Lieutenant Albert H. Kimball - Grand Rapids
2nd Lieutenant William F. Nevius - Grand Rapids
Captain Garrett Hannings - Kalamazoo
1st Lieutenant Elias H. Boadwell - Kalamazoo
2nd Lieutenant Franklin Fisk - Kalamazoo
Captain Marcus Grant - Jackson
1st Lieutenant Edson S. Frary - Petersburg
2nd Lieutenant Solon S. Grant - Jackson
Captain Heman Palmerlee - Grand Rapids
1st Lieutenant Joseph J. - Rhodes
2nd Lieutenant Theodore H. Prall - Pontiac
Captain Emery O. Crittendon - Marshall
1st Lieutenant Lorenzo D. Mason - Boston
2nd Lieutenant Arthur Connelly - Grand Rapids
The regiment left Michigan on Dec. 17, 1861, with 1032 men for Louisville, KY.
There they reported to General Buell and the Army of the Ohio. Gen. Buell divided
them as follows:
First detachment-Col. Innes in command. Co. B, E & I to General McCook at
Second detachment-Lt. Col. Hunton in command. Co. D, F & G to General Thomas
at Lebanon, KY.
Third detachment-Major E. Hopkins in command. Co. C & H to General Nelson at
New Haven, KY.
Forth detachment-Captain J. Yates in command. Co. A & K to General Mitchell at
Bacon Creek, KY.
These commands remained with their divisions during the winter, engaged in various
duties. Companies D, F & G under Lt. Col. Hunton was involved in the battle of Mill
Springs, KY. 19th Jan. 1862.
The detachment with Gen. Mitchell (Co.A & K) were among the first to occupy
Bowling Green after the Confederates fled. Buellâ€™s Army arrived in Nashville soon
after the capture of Fort Donaldson by Grant. The regiment was concentrated and
engaged in building railroad bridges during March from Franklin, Columbia,
Murfreesboro and the other places. On the 3rd of April Col. Innes and staff and Co. B,
C, E, I & H left Nashville and were joined at Columbia by Co. D, F & G. The
combined force marched with Buellâ€™s Army of the Ohio to re-enforce Gen. Grant
at Shiloh, TN. They built several bridges quickly, thus enabling Buell to reach Shiloh in
time. In the meantime, Coâ€™s A & K command by Capt. Yates, and marched from
Nashville with Gen. Mitchellâ€™s division, through Murfreesboro to Huntsville, AL.
cutting the railroad communications there. Eight companies were with the army in its
advance on Corinth, engaged in building defenses, placing siege guns and constructing
miles of corduroy roads through the swamps.
After the evacuation of Corinth, June 1, 1862 these companies started on the march
toward Decatur, AL. building bridges on the Memphis & Charleston RR. During June
about 3000ft of bridges were built and put in running order, all the way to Decatur, AL.
Companies A & K worked for the Tennessee River bridges at Decatur. In July the
entire regiment was at Huntsville. In August Col. Innes, with five companies, marched
to Nashville and commenced rebuilding bridges on the Louisville and Nashville RR
which had been destroyed by Confederate Gen. Morgan. As Gen. Bragg advanced into
Kentucky, in September, the regiment was with Buellâ€™s Army hastily concentrated
at Louisville. On Oct. 6th, the detachment under Major Hopkins, (Coâ€™s. A, C &
H) with Rousseauâ€™s Division of McCookâ€™s Corps took part in the battle of
Perryville, with 17 men wounded. The regiment was reunited after Perryville and
marched to Nashville.
When Gen. Buell left the army, he complimented and made personal mention of Col.
Innes, Lt. Col. Hunton and Maj. Hopkins. Gen. Rosecrans, now in charge,
concentrated the army at Nashville. During November and December, the regiment
built bridges over Mill Creek and other streams on the Nashville & Chattanooga RR,
preparing for the advance on Murfreesboro.
During the last few days of December, the army advanced on Murfreesboro, with the
battle of Stone River on Dec. 31, 1862 and Jan. 1 & 2, 1863. Col. Innes was ordered to
take position at Lavergne, Tennessee to protect our communications and supply trains
passing to the battle. Gen. Wheeler, with 3000 to 4000 cavalry and a section of light
artillery, swung around and attacked the supply trains.
At noon on New Yearâ€™s Day, Wheeler attacked Lavergne, where Col. Innes and
390 officers and men behind an improvised corral of wagons and brush held off seven
distinct charges. It lasted until dark with the frail defenses managing to hold and inflict
â€œThe operation of the enemy in the rear of our army during the memorable conflict
(Battle of Stone River) reflects no credit on the intelligence and energy with which there
were resisted. The silver lining to this cloud was the most gallant defense made on the
1st of January by Colonel Innesâ€™s First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, 391
strong fighting behind a slight protection of wagons and brush, which repulsed repeated
charges from a slight more than ten times their number of Wheelerâ€™s Cavalry.â€�
A correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial Newspaper, in an account of the battle
written on the field, says, â€œColonel Innes with the First Michigan Engineers, posted
at Lavergne to protect the roadâ€¦..when Wheelerâ€™s Cavalry brigade made a strong
dash at the position. Colonel Innes had protected himself by a stockade of brush, and
fought securely. The enemy charged several times with great fury, but was murderously
repulsed. About fifty rebels were dismounted, and nearly a hundred of the horses were
killed. Wheeler finally withdrew, and sent in a flag of truce demanding surrender. Col.
Innes replied â€˜We donâ€™t surrender muchâ€™. Wheeler then asked permission to
bury his dead, which was granted.â€� (3)
The next morning one of Thomasâ€™ brigades passed through Lavergne on itâ€™s
way up, and an officer has left a description on the scene: â€œThe turnpike as far as
the eye could reach was filled with burning wagons. The country was overspread with
disarmed men, broken-down horses and mules. The streets were covered with empty
valises, trunks, knapsacks, broken guns and all the indescribable debris of a captured
and rifled army trainâ€�.
From January 1st to June 29th, 1863, the regiment was stationed at Lavenge,
Murfreesboro, Smyrna and Nashville. During this time they built bridges, blockhouses
(to protect bridges), magazines, buildings for commissionary and ordnance stores
besides relaying railroad tracks.
In 1862, Congress passed that all volunteer organizations mustered in service were
put at the same level as Regular Army units. This allowed the First Michigan Engineers
twelve companies of 150 men each, same as the Corp of Engineers. In the winter of
1863-1864, recruiting parties were sent home from each company. They secured 913
recruits which allowed two new companies (L & M) and filled out the existing
companies. The officers of the new companies were:
Captain George D. - Emerson
1st Lieutenant Elias H. Broadwell - Kalamazoo
2nd Lieutenant ?
Captain Edson P. Gifford - Grand Rapids
1st Lieutenant Daniel M. Moore - Rome
2nd Lieutenant Douglas Nelson - Isbella City
2nd Lieutenant Caleb A. Ensign - Jonesville
The Officers of the battalion were John B. Yates, commissioned Major May 28,
1863; Perin V. Fox commissioned Major Dec. 15, 1863: and Garrett Hannings
commissioned Major January 1, 1864.
On June 29, 1863, the regiment moved south with the army from Murfreesboro in
the advance on Chattanooga and was engaged in repairing the railroad from
Murfreesboro to Bridgeport, building bridges, blockhouses and etc. The Bridge over Elk
Creek , 460 feet long and 40 to 60 feet high, was built in eight days from surrounding
timber forests. The Duck Creek Bridge was 350 feet long and took about the same
length of time. Later detachments were engaged in repairing the railroad to Bridgeport,
AL. this included bridges and repairing the rails.
One battalion, under Capt. P.V. Fox, accompanied the advance of the army to
Chattanooga. The detachment consisted of Co.â€™s D & K and commanded by Lt.
Herker and Lt. Curtis. Besides building pontoon and trestle bridges at Chattanooga, it
took the most active part in the construction of a pontoon bridge at Brownâ€™s Ferry
across the Tennessee River . This opened the well-known â€œcracker-lineâ€� from
Chattanooga to Bridgeport. In connection with this affair, the following correspondent
â€œDuring the night, Capt. P.V. Fox, company D. Michigan Engineers and
Mechanics, in command of three companies of that regiment, with forty of him men
and ninety-eight of the Twenty-First Michigan Infantry, volunteered to place the
pontoon bridge in proper position across the river at the contested point, which they
accomplished in seven hours, and only a short time was consumed in the construction
of fifty-two pontoon boats and their formation into a serviceable bridge.â€�
During the latter months of 1863 and the early months of 1864, the regiment was
engaged in the construction of the Nashville and Northwestern RR from Nashville to
Chattanooga, and in the construction of storehouses and ordnance buildings at
Bridgeport and Chattanooga. Companies L & M completed the defenses at Stevenson,
AL. in June 1864, the regiment, with the exception of two companies at Stevenson, and
company C, at Chattanooga, took up the line of march with the army under General
Sherman in its advance on Atlanta, rebuilding bridges, repairing railroads and materially
assisting in the advance of the army. The regiment arrived in Atlanta on September
28th, where its headquarters were established.
On November 2nd, the original term of the regiment expired. Colonel Innes and such
officers as desired to do so were mustered out: also the enlisted men whose term of
enlistment had expired. The re-enlisted veterans, together with recruits who had joined
the regiment from time to time, enabled it to maintain its full strength and organization
entire. Colonel John B. Yates succeeded to command of the regiment.
Ten of the companies were at Atlanta, GA. Nov. 1, 1864, employed in the constructing
defenses and destroying public property that was useful to the Confederates.
Companies L & M were in Tennessee and did not accompany General Sherman on his
March to the Sea.
The regiment was attached to the Fourteenth Corps and made the march to
Savannah, GA., its service often being required in the construction of bridged and laying
pontoons so the army might not be delayed on the march. Upon arrival at Savannah,
the regiment destroyed a vast amount of railroad track leading out of the city and
assisted in constructing defenses and fortifications.
On this memorable march the regiment was required to keep pace with the
movements of the army, traveling over twenty miles a day, and during the time, was
employed in tearing up railroad track, twisting rails, burning bridges, repairing and
making roads through marshes, and building bridges. The regiment left Atlanta
November 16th and arrived before Savannah on December 11th. The following extracts
taken from a diary kept during the march will give a better idea of the work done, and
the hardships on the march:
"Nov. 17th - Companies K, D, C, G, E & I, with three days rations, left the main
column and struck the Atlanta & Augusta RR at Lithonia; tore up the track and twisted
the rails for several miles; then followed the large bodies of infantry from the
Fourteenth Corps until the reached Covington, twisting the track rails.â€�
â€œNov. 18th â€“ After reaching a point beyond Covington, the six companies left
the railroad about dusk and marched three to four miles until we reached the direct road
to Eaton, not far from the Oleonfanbacher River. The dayâ€™s march was very hard
on the men, some of whom fainted by the way.â€�
â€œDec. 2nd â€“ Marched as usual. Reached Buckhead Creek at 1pm; repaired two
or three bridges partly destroyed by rebels. General Slocum present in person waiting to
cross his troops and train. Crossed over and camped near Buckhead Church about dark.
â€œDec. 3rd â€“ Moved down the river toward Millen and Augusta. Then marched
to near Horse Creek, on the road to Sylvania; the last few miles were made after dark;
men very tired; halted in the road near water; supper at 11pm; sleep about midnight.â€�
â€œDec. 4th â€“ Reveille at 4am. Marched at 6am; repaired several bad places in the
road, one in particular near Little Horse Creek; cut down small pine trees and with
fence rails made a passable for the trains. Part of the men on duty at this place all night,
keeping road repair and assisting trains to cross.â€�
â€œDec. 10th â€“ Marched at 7am. At Telfair, we turned off on the railroad.
Formed column by companies and closed in mass. Waited orders; soon discovered an
engine up the track carrying a mounted cannon, which opened upon us. After a few
shots we moved across the track into the woods. One man, Robert Brown of Company
H was mortally wounded by the cannon ball. Soon after, the regiment was ordered on
to a canal where a dam was built to prevent the rebels overflowing the ground between
â€œDec. 11th â€“ Major Henning, with Companies C, E & I and B, moved over to
the Charleston & Savannah RR. After finishing the dam across the canal the balance of
the regiment moved out under fire and went into camp near General Shermanâ€™s
â€œOn Dec. 24th, the regiment moved into Savannah. Here a very comfortable
camp in the suburbs and the men are enjoying a well-earned rest.â€�
After the fall of Savannah, the regiment was embarked on transports for Beaufort, S.C.
and then started on the long march through the Carolinas for Goldsboro, N.C. During
the march a vast amount of the public property was destroyed, railroad iron heated and
twisted and almost numberless bridges built and repaired, the men often working all
night so the army could march the next morning.
Companies L & M, that had been left in Tennessee were assigned to duty with the
Army of the Cumberland and were busily engaged during the year in building
blockhouses, guarding railroads and were frequently attacked by the enemy. Another
source states that Co. L & M were stationed at Stevenson, AL. working on
fortifications there and on the Nashville & Chattanooga RR blockhouses, etc. till
December 1864; then at Nashville, TN till arch 1865. They participated in the siege of
Murfreesboro, TN., Dec 5-12, 1864. Near Murfreesboro on Dec. 15th Company â€œLâ
€� was captured.(5) March 1, 1865, these two companies proceeded by rail to New
York where they were sent by steamer to Beaufort and afterwards joined the regiment
at Goldsboro, N.C. on March 25th.
The regiment advanced on Raleigh, N.C. April 10-14 with the occupation on April
14th. They were present at Bennettâ€™s House on April 26, 1865 for the surrender of
General Johnstonâ€™s Army. (4)
After the surrenders, the regiment left on April 29, 1865 for Washington, D.C.,
marching through Richmond, VA. on the way. They arrived in Washington on the 20th
of May, and took part in the Grand Review on May 24th.
The regiment received orders to march to Louisville, KY. On June 6th, and hence to
Nashville, TN. There were stationed there from the 1st of July until 22nd of
September, where they were used to construct better defenses. The unit was mustered
out on Sept. 22, 1865, and marched back to Jackson, Michigan, arriving there Oct. 1,
1865. The solders were then paid and disbanded.
1) â€œRecord of the 1st Michigan Engineers and Mechanics during the Civil Warâ€�
State of Michigan Newberry Library F 8349.4925 Vol. 43
2) â€œThe American Conflictâ€� Mr. Greely
3) â€œCampfires and Battlefieldâ€� Mr. Johnson 973.7Joh Northbrook Public Library
4) â€œCompendium of the War of the Rebellionâ€� By Frederick Dyer Newberry
Library, Chicago History E 491.d99 1978
First Michigan Engineers & Mechanics
By Rick Reuss, Keith Rocco & Rob
Col. William P.Innes - Commanding Office, 1st Michigan Engineers.