24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry
On June 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln called for each loyal state to fill the Union ranks with an additional 300,000 volunteers. Michigan, which had already sent 17 infantry regiments to the Federal Armies, received a quota of 6 more new regiments of volunteers to help put down the rebellion. Answering the call, a patriotic rally was held in Detroit. Confederate sympathizers from Canada shouted down several speakers, claiming that there was going to be a draft, and a riot broke out. To erase the shame of this unpatriotic display, the good citizens of Wayne County raised an additional regiment to offer the nation one more than the states quota. The regiment was filled quickly, mostly with recruits from Detroit and surrounding Wayne County. On August 26, 1862, two flags were received by the new Wayne County Regiment, who were designated the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, at Campus Martius, in Detroit.
On the August 29th, they embarked by boat, then by rail, to Washington, D.C., to await assignment with the Army of the Potomac. They arrived just as troops were being sent to South Mountain, Maryland to thwart the first Confederate invasion of the North. The 24th was held in reserve to help protect Washington, but would soon see the wreckage of war by setting up their first field camp on the banks of the Antietam, three weeks after the battle.
The regiment was assigned to the famed Iron Brigade, composed of 3 Western regiments from Wisconsin, and 1 from Indiana. The new Michigan regiment of nearly 1,000 officers and men almost doubled the size of the veteran brigade. The men of the all-Western brigade offered a less than warm reception to the Michiganders, referring to them as bounty men, who had enlisted for a cash bonus. The new Michigan men would have to prove their worth to their new comrades, and the 24th would soon have their opportunity. During a heavy Confederate bombardment near the lower crossing below Fredericksburg, Virginia in December of 1862, the regiment became uneasy with its' first combat loss. When a single cannon round severed the arm of one man and decapitated the head of another, the untested regiment began to unnerve under the shelling.
To steady his men, Colonel Henry Morrow, in command of the 24th, began drilling his men in the manual of arms. This had a calming effect on the men, and order was quickly restored to the ranks. The 24th proceeded to clear some nearby woods of the enemy. This action under fire brought praise from the Iron Brigade, as well as notice from Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill, whose artillery fire caused the regiment unease. The Confederate general made mention of the 24th's conduct under fire during a truce in the battle to another Union officer, and the Western men began to accept their new comrades.
On May 27, 1863, the 24th Michigan would receive their badge of honor, the coveted tall black 1858 Hardee hat, which helped solidify the identity and reputation of the Iron Brigade in the Army of the Potomac. June would find the regiment, along with the Army of the Potomac, preparing to strike camp in the great pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee commanding, on their second invasion of the north.
By July 1, 1863, the 24th Michigan's ranks had been depleted through battle and disease, to 496 men. On that day, those men, along with the leading wing of the Army of the Potomac, would engage the rebel army near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on McPhersons Ridge, west of the town. In a flanking movement, the 24th Michigan would be instrumental in helping to capture many rebels of the Tennessee Brigade. Into the afternoon hours of the battle, the 24th would engage in a fierce firefight with the 26th North Carolina regiment, who numbered nearly 900 men. For several hours the regiments dueled each other at nearly point-blank range in the woods and lots west of the Lutheran Seminary.
The greater numbers of the Tar Heels and reinforced Confederates finally caused the 24th, along with the remaining men of the Iron Brigade, to fall back through Gettysburg, onto the hills south of the town. The days work was costly to the 24th, fighting a withdrawal with no less the 6 stands, which the regiment paid for with over 80% casualties of its officers and men. Only 99 effectives answered the roll call on the morning of July 2 on Culp's Hill. The fighting on July 1 had cost the regiment severely, but it had helped hold off the Rebel onslaught long enough for the rest of the Army of the Potomac to arrive and secure the high ground south of the town, forcing the Confederate Army to do the attacking during the rest of the 3-day battle.
After the battle of Gettysburg, the regiment was a shadow of its former self. It participated in all battles with the Iron Brigade until it was dissolved, its regiments folded into other units. Though they were joined with other units, the veterans of the Iron Brigade retained their famous Black Hats until the very end. The Regiment was transferred to Springfield, Illinois in 1865, to await their return to Michigan. The 24th Michigan's last duty was to have the distinction of being the honor guard at President Lincoln's funeral.
The 24th Michigan of the North-South Skirmish Association had its beginning in 1954 as the Michigan Light Artillery, founded by William Whitmore and members of the Potawatami Valley Muzzleloaders. Joining the N-SSA in 1957, they remained as the Michigan Light Artillery Volunteers until 1962, when the present name was adopted, the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry.
The 24th has supported the region with many officers over the years including J. Glass, 2nd Regional Commander, R. Hubbard Sr. Regional Commander, R. Reed, Regional Deputy Commander and Adjutant, B. Welther, Regional Deputy Commander, D. McCoy, Adjutant, and John Janick, Regional Inspector. The club has sponsored several regional skirmishes and co-hosted National Skirmishes, beginning with the 39th National Skirmish, the first to have three days of competition. The Skirmish director for the 39th National was Robert Hubbard Sr., from the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry.
At present the 24th has a roster of 15 members, a number that has fluctuated throughout the years. We always manage to field at least one team at all official regional skirmishes, as well as the National matches. Like other teams, we have lost good friends who were instrumental in building our team. This fact alone supports our placing importance on recruiting new members.
Whether a prospective member recruited by us joins our team or another in the region, we have done our part in supporting our sport. As a unit, we strive to maintain an authentic appearance on the field. We support the uniform rules that have developed, and have altered our uniform as new reference sources become available.
We also believe that public exposure is very important to the longevity and growth of our sport. To support this ideal we participate in community events such as historical fairs and parades, and have some members who are guest speakers in area schools. In recent years, we have traveled to the field of Gettysburg, first to have the original 24th Michigan monument cleaned and rededicated, and then to set and dedicate a new monument of the unit's positions on Culp's Hill. The latter ceremony was conducted with the presence of several other reactivated regiments of the Iron Brigade.
The team has enjoyed competitive success in recent years, including a first place national class A-3 finish in musket competition in the fall of 2003. The team also found itself receiving regional medals in musket and carbine overall competition in 2005. We strive to be competitive at regional and national levels, and welcome those who wish to add to those wins. Perhaps more importantly we welcome a continuation of the same fellowship that has kept many 24th Michigan members skirmishing so long, and introduce their sons (and daughters) to the sport.