The Upper Peninsula in the Civil War

U.P. men enlist with the ‘Michigan devils’

By JOHANNA BOYLE – Journal Ishpeming Bureau (

The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE – The year was 1861. In April, after declaring that they would secede from the United States, forces representing the 11 Confederate states attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The events of the war are a popular subject in the study of American history – slavery, the conflict between North and South and the battles, of course.

While you might not find mention of the Upper Peninsula in many histories of the Civil War, the seemingly remote region felt both the positive and negative effects of the fighting that is normally associated with events that happened far to the south.

From 1861 to 1865, 90,000 Michigan men fought in the war effort, including 1,209 from the Upper Peninsula. Houghton County contributed 460 soldiers, while Marquette County sent 265.

“Most of them were infantry and calvary because the people up here were farmers, miners and woodworkers,” said Gary White, commander of the Albert and James Lyon Camp No. 266 of The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, an organization which researches and tracks Civil War veterans. “They could endure a long march. They were tough.”

Michigan’s First Infantry was originally organized and recruited throughout the state beginning on April 15, 1861, for 90 days of service. When it became clear the war would last longer than 90 days, the infantry was reorganized on June 28. The infantry began leaving Michigan on Sept. 16, which was when men from Marquette County left to join the war.

Seventy-nine volunteers from Marquette County served with the First Michigan Infantry, fighting in 51 battles and sieges.

The first group of men to leave departed Marquette on a ship called The Planet, which carried them to Detroit in late summer of 1861.

More would follow them, however. While Marquette County sent 265 men to fight in the war, only one of those veterans who left Marquette and died in the war has so far been identified as being returned to be buried here.

Albert T. Jackson

Albert T. Jackson enlisted in Company B of the First Michigan Calvary as a corporal on Aug. 8, 1861, at the age of 27. He transferred through several companies before being wounded on Sept. 19, 1864, at Winchester, Va. He died of those wounds on Nov. 12 and is buried in Park Cemetery.

Another young man also enlisted in Jackson’s company – Edward M. Watson. Copies of his letters back to Marquette to his mother and sisters are housed in the John M. Longyear Research Library in Marquette.

Watson, who left Marquette as a 21-year-old, began by writing to his family describing life in the various camps he was stationed in, meeting other soldiers from Marquette and the battles he fought in.

In a letter to his sister Til from Nov. 23, 1861, while he was stationed at Camp Rucker near Washington, D.C., Watson writes about wanting to go visit the “Marquette boys” who were stationed nearby as part of the First Michigan Infantry.

“Al Jackson wants to go too, by the way. Al is the best drilled man in the company and every man knows it too. I shouldn’t wonder if he was promoted some day. He deserves it for he studies the tactics more than any one of us, he lent me one of his books and told me he wanted me to study it,” Watson wrote.

Watson himself didn’t seem to start out as strongly as a soldier as Jackson, telling his sisters about being reprimanded for not waking up on time or for carrying out his duties incorrectly.

Often Watson wrote about missing Marquette and the people there.

“This week Wednesday though is Christmas. I wonder what we will have for dinner? Bean soup and pork like enough, how I should like to be at home about dinner time on that day, it makes my mouth water to think about the good things,” he wrote in December 1861.

Early in 1862, Watson and the others from Marquette began to see some fighting action, which he related in his letters – at first, with an air of excitement of finally leaving camp and joining in the battle.

“It seems the rebels have got a prety (sic) good opinion of our fighting propensities, for when they retreated through Strausburg they told the inhabitants that the Yankees were coming and the Michigan devils were leading them,” Watson wrote. “The people down here have been told the awfulest stories about what we are going to do when we got here and how we were going to treat them, that would actually make a timid person shake in their boots to hear the worst of it …”

Watson was eventually wounded in action, shot in the neck on Dec. 10, 1863, in Morristown, Tenn. In 1864 he was promoted to captain, but was not mustered. He retired as a 1st lieutenant due to his wounds.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

Coming next: Wednesday, in part two, the series will look at the impact of the war on the region’s iron mining industry.

Ore for the war – The Upper Peninsula in the Civil War Part II

by Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

NEGAUNEE – You only have to walk through Ishpeming or Negaunee to see the impact mining has had on the area, from street names like Iron and Hematite to now unused mine pits that dot the landscape.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Marquette County and the rest of the Upper Peninsula didn’t just send men to fight – iron ore from the region also went to help build cannons and ammunition.

Iron ore was first discovered near Teal Lake in present-day Negaunee in 1844 by a surveying team led by William A. Burt, a United States deputy surveyor, who noticed their magnetic compasses were thrown off by what turned out to be the ore in the area. In 1845, a party from downstate Jackson formed the Jackson Mining Company and began hauling ore to Marquette.

Then the Civil War erupted.

“It was Michigan’s iron ore that assured the economic and industrial success of the cities, which manufactured iron and steel materials. Yet until the time of the Civil War, the history of all Marquette Range mines was one of struggle and discouragement. However, the large requirements for iron brought about by the War caused a demand for iron ore from the Upper Peninsula that for the first time made these mines successful financially since they became a patriotic necessity,” wrote historian Victor F. Lemmer, in an article in the Skillings’ Mining Review in 1960. Lemmer, founder of the Gogebic County Historical Society, also worked to publish information for the Michigan Civil War Centennial Observance Commission on the impact of the war on the Upper Peninsula.

In 1857, the Jackson Mine, located in Negaunee, made its first regular shipments of iron ore, totaling 12,442 tons. By 1860, three iron mines were operating in Upper Michigan – the Cleveland, the Jackson and the Lake Superior.

In 1861, the war began, with a curious result. Total iron ore shipments from the region dropped to 49,909 tons for all the mines, down from 114,401 tons shipped in 1860.

“This was no doubt due to the attitude of the people resulting from the feeling that the mines must close to enable the men to fight to save the Union,” Lemmer wrote. “However, in 1862 as need for implements of war manufactured of iron and steel became more and more apparent, the shipments of the same three mines totaled 124,169 tons.”

By 1865, the end of the war, there were eight mines operating, with total shipments totaling 193,758 tons.

“The iron produced is soft and strong, answering equally well for mill or foundry use… It is too soft for railheads, but is unequaled for the base of the rain and for merchant bar and is now being successfully used for bessemer steel,” said a Maj. T.B. Brooks, an assistant of the Geological Survey of Michigan in 1870 of the ore produced by the Marquette range, as quoted by Lemmer.

Compared with copper that was mined in the Keweenaw Peninsula, mining on the Marquette Range was “easier,” Lemmer wrote, and “all the miners had to do initially was to break up the ore with crowbars, pickaxes and sledgehammers; and shovel it into wagons. It was easy to smelt. Iron of the best quality was produced.”

Today, with the only active mining in the county being carried out by Cliffs Natural Resources at the Empire and Tilden mines, the remaining mine pits serve as tourist attractions and reminders for longtime residents of the area’s history, but in the 1800s, the mines also served to bring in population to the remote area.

In 1860, the total population of the Upper Peninsula was 21,599 people. In 1864, that population had increased to 26,139, an increase of 21 percent.

By 1870, Irish, Cornish and Swedish immigrants made up 30, 27 and 18 percent of Ishpeming’s population, with waves of immigrants from other countries, such as Italy, until the yearly 1900s. In 1910, 38 percent of Ishpeming’s population was foreign born, many still drawn to work in the mines that began around the time of the Civil War.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

COMING NEXT: Thursday, in part three, the series will look at how two of the U.P.’s forts, Fort Wilkins and Fort Mackinac, were involved in the Civil War

The Upper Peninsula in the Civil War – Part III

by Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

Originally published June 30, 2011

MACKINAC ISLAND – Beginning with the attack on Fort Sumter, the American Civil War’s battles often played out around military forts and garrisons in the southern United States. Although battles might not have been fought in the Upper Peninsula, the region’s two military forts did play a small part both during and after the war.

In the eastern U.P., Fort Mackinac, located on Mackinac Island, was first constructed by British forces in 1780 after Fort Michilimackinac, located in what is now Mackinac City, was determined to be too vulnerable to American attack. The fort was returned to the Americans after the war of 1812.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the fort became increasingly obsolete as the frontier moved westward. During the Second Seminole War (1837-1840), the Mexican War (1848) and the Santee Uprising (1857-1858), soldiers were sent from the fort to give support, as they were during the Civil War.

“There wasn’t much action up here,” said Steve Brisson, chief curator for the Mackinac State Historic Parks. “The company that was here left right away.”

With the soldiers stationed at the fort sent to help guard Washington, D.C., one soldier was left behind to guard the fort, Brisson said.

In 1862, however, the fort saw some new arrivals in the form of three civilian prisoners of war, guarded by a company of Michigan volunteers, known as the Stanton Guard, named for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who determined the location for the three prisoners.

“He wanted to get them out of Tennessee,” Brisson said.

Washington Barrow, Josephus Conn Guild and William G. Harding were all wealthy residents of Tennessee, sympathetic to the Confederacy, Brisson said. After being arrested in April of 1862 by Andrew Johnson and refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the Union, the three were sent to Detroit and then to Fort Mackinac.

“They were well treated. They were allowed to roam about the fort and the island even,” Brisson said, provided they were accompanied by their guards. “They occasionally dined with the commander of the guard. They weren’t in a prison cell.”

Although they were allowed to send and receive mail, by the end of the summer Barrow and Conn Guild both agreed to sign the oath of allegiance and were released. Harding, however refused and was transfered to a military prison in Ohio later that year. After the departure of the prisoners, the Stanton Guard was disbanded, leaving the sergeant as the lone caretaker.

“There was the community here. It wasn’t exactly the middle of the wilderness,” Brisson said, comparing Fort Mackinac to Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor.

After the war, soldiers returned to Fort Mackinac, which was closed in 1895.

Fort Wilkins, on the other hand, was pretty much abandoned during the Civil War.

Established in 1844 to help safeguard mining interests in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Fort Wilkins helped keep the peace in what was a remote area, said fort historian John Griebel.

“It was pretty much wild,” Griebel said. “Having the fort here kept law and order.”

After several years, however, many of the mines surrounding the fort had been exhausted and by 1864, troops were removed from the fort, which stood vacant until 1867.

Following the Civil War, however, the fort saw activity once again, housing troops that had enlisted for a longer period of service. Fort Wilkins housed troops from the Veterans Reserve Corps, made up of men who had been wounded but were still on active duty.

“Fort Wilkins became a place for the misfits,” Griebel said.

In 1870, the fort was closed once again with 19 men stationed there. During the summers, however, visitors can see what life was like at the fort before and after the war thanks to re-enactors. This year on Aug. 11, 12 and 13, re-enactors portraying members of the Michigan infantry will hold a three-day encampment at the fort, doing demonstrations and displays of Civil War-era life. At other times during the summer, the fort’s regular re-enactors showcase life before and after the war.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

COMING NEXT: Friday, in part four, the series will look at the impact of the war on local railroads.

Upper Peninsula in the Civil War – Part IV

‘Iron horse’ played key role in Union victory

by Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

Originally published July 1, 2011

MARQUETTE – In the 1840s, iron ore was discovered in what is now the city of Negaunee. Although the ore was at first easy to mine, with miners having to “break up the ore with crowbars, pickaxes and sledgehammers; and shovel it into wagons,” in the words of U.P. historian Victor F. Lemmer, getting it out of the Upper Peninsula was a different story.

Although railroad promoters began discussing the idea of a railroad from Negaunee to Marquette in 1851, a plank road was first completed using mules for power, and was replaced in 1854 by an iron-strap railroad, with the full rail system completed in 1857.

Then the Civil War began in 1861.

“The requirements of the Civil War brought about the realization that the movement of iron ore by hundreds of thousands of tons from the mines to the furnaces required steel railroad systems on a large scale,” Lemmer wrote in the Skilling’s Mining Review in an article on the Civil War and its impact on Michigan mining.

With the opening of the Sault Ste. Marie locks on 1855, the building of a permanent dock for the Marquette Range in Marquette in 1859 and finally the extension of railroads across the Upper Peninsula, it became easier to deliver the U.P.’s ore to the war markets.

“As the Civil War progressed and the dependence of the North upon Upper Peninsula iron became greater, a railroad was begun to link Marquette with Escanaba and thus assure northern industry of iron ore during the winter,” Lemmer wrote of the route completed in 1864.

Menominee and Escanaba were connected by rail in 1872, which was later extended to L’Anse. Houghton and Ontonagon railroads from the southern portions of the U.P. in 1883 and 1889.

The building of those railroads meant work, bringing immigrants from the rest of the country.

Commander of the Albert and James Lyon Camp No. 266 of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Gary White has his own ties to those who arrived to construct the railroads.

White was adopted into the Goodman family, which was descendant from a man named Peter Fitzpatrick who arrived in the area to help survey for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad running between Marquette and Escanaba.

Fitzpatrick, who is buried with his wife, Kate, in the Ishpeming cemetery, arrived in Negaunee in 1859 looking for work as a railroad surveyor.

“He snowshoed up,” White said of the trek Fitzpatrick made from Green Bay, Wis.

Born in Ireland in 1839, Fitzpatrick was 9 when his father, a school teacher, died. With his mother and siblings, Fitzpatrick traveled to New York and then to Detroit and finally Green Bay.

“He was always working,” White said. “Even when he was going to school, he paid for school by carrying fagots (bundles of wood).”

When the Civil War began, Fitzpatrick refused to fight.

“He would do other work. He wouldn’t go out there and actually fight,” White said, adding that the decision was due to Fitzpatrick’s family morals.

When the war made necessary the connection of Marquette and Escanaba, Fitzpatrick went to work as a surveyor. After the completion of the railroad, he continued working for the Chicago and Northwestern as a dispatcher until he retired in 1902.

While working as a surveyor, Fitzpatrick came across property he liked in what would become Little Lake. That property still serves as the family’s camp. Fitzpatrick and his wife had 10 children. One of the daughters married a man by the name of Goodman, whose family established a lumber mill in the Gwinn area.

Although he wasn’t involved in any battles, Fitzpatrick’s part in constructing the U.P.’s railroads brought a family to the area, stemming from the impact of the Civil War on the area.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

COMING NEXT: Saturday, in part five, the series will look at the soldiers who came home after the war.

Upper Michigan in the Civil War – Part V

Marching home again: Vets come to the U.P.

By Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

Originally published July 2, 2011

NEGAUNEE – During the American Civil War, Marquette County and the rest of the Upper Peninsula sent soldiers and iron ore, feeling the impact of the conflict despite being far north of any actual fighting. When the war ended, however, the county saw an influx of new residents, many of whom had fought in the South.

Whether drawn by work in the mines or in the forests, men came to Marquette County and established new lives after the fighting.

Negaunee resident Alan Nelson has been working to gather the histories of those Civil War veterans with a connection to Negaunee, finding a wide variety of stories and reasons they came there.

“I’ll be darned if I know,” Nelson said with a laugh when asked if he had found a central theme that drew veterans to the area. “That was something I’d been wondering about.”

Some found work in the mines, some cutting lumber, some on the railroads and a few set up their own businesses.

“There were miners and there were lumber workers,” Nelson said. “There was a whole variety of things besides that.”

One of the most interesting stories Nelson has so far come across is that of Samuel Cary, the only known African-American Civil War veteran to have lived in Negaunee.

“That is a fascinating one,” Nelson said.

According to Nelson’s research, Cary was born in Ohio sometime between 1833 and 1838. He enlisted in the army in December of 1863 and was mustered into Company A of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, a black cavalry unit, when it was formed in 1864.

Coming to Negaunee shortly after mustering out following the war, he is listed in the 1870 census as working as a barber.

“He was an inveterate gambler,” Nelson said.

In 1896 he bet his barber shop against $100 in a championship prize fight and lost everything, eventually ending up a barkeeper in Ishpeming.

Cary was married in Negaunee to a white woman named Elizabeth Tifft, 10 years before such a marriage would have been allowed by law. Married at the Negaunee Methodist Episcopal Church, the story did not end as happily for Tifft, who was confined to an asylum 12 years before Cary died of a stroke in 1898.

While many men who fought in the war were born in the United States, some came from other countries.

Martin Heiser was born in Germany in 1830 and immigrated the United States in 1855. He lived in Hancock and enlisted in the 16th Michigan Infantry in 1861 and was mustered out in 1865. Coming to Negaunee after the war, he remarried and worked as a carpenter, building a home on Peck Street and working on the interior of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Negaunee.

Others were drawn to the beauty of the area.

Nelson also uncovered the story of Peter Trudell, born in Quebec, Canada, in 1840. Trudell came to the United States to help fill the shortage of working men created by the draft, first working in shipyards in Ohio. After enlisting in Chicago as a bugler, he saw no action and mustered out in 1864. Later, after returning to Canada and then the United States once more, he began working as a sailor on the Great Lakes, eventually settling in Negaunee after becoming “impressed with the area,” Nelson said.

He worked as a pumpman at the water tank for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad at the Negaunee roundhouse and later opened a newsstand inside the city’s post office, which he operated for 20 years.

Although they arrived for different reasons, veterans of the Civil War came to settle in the area, leaving their mark on their new communities.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

U. P. Civil War Connection

By Ashley Palumbo WLUC-TV 6, Marquette, Michigan

Originally printed July 12, 2011

HOUGHTON – Though the Civil War was fought along fronts more than a thousand miles away, the Upper Peninsula played a significant role in the Union’s eventual victory. Dozens of names are on a plaque at Veterans Park in Houghton – a public reminder of the 73 men who served their country and lost their lives during the Civil War.

“In the three counties that make up the Copper Country, about 850 men were either drafted or enlisted to go into the Civil War,” says Michigan Tech history professor Larry Lankton. “That’s about two-thirds of the total number of soldiers from the Upper Peninsula.”

But the U.P. provided much more than manpower. Between the Keweenaw’s booming copper industry and the growing success of iron mining along the Marquette Range, Upper Michigan helped supply the military with two very essential metals.

“Copper was used for everything from buttons to buckles to bronze cannons,” Lankton says.

“Iron ore was put into gun metal as well as cannon balls, rails, railroad tracks, steam boilers and also steel for bridges,” says Barry James, curator of the Michigan Iron Industry Museum.

The Jackson Mine in Negaunee was one of only three iron mines operating at the start of the Civil War, but by 1864, ten new companies had formed and production had increased by 80 percent, despite a shortage of workers.

“Many men were going off to fight in battles and join the Union army,” James says. “The others coming to take their place didn’t want to work in mines in certain locations, so many would work in places that were safer.”

As with other wars, social unrest was common across the U.P. workers went on strike, drinking and violence were rampant, and the Quincy Mining Company formed its own militia to protect the property. But the consequences of the war weren’t all bad.

“The government hadn’t been involved prior to the Civil war in doing much on behalf of citizens that were suffering financially, but they felt obliged to provide some kind of economic relief to the families of soldiers,” Lankton says.

You can look at artifacts and learn more about U.P. mining in the Civil War era at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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