On Dec. 12, 1862, the Michigan Cavalry Brigade was formed in Washington D.C., made up of the 5th. Michigan, Colonel Freeman Norvell commanding, the 6th. Michigan, Colonel George Gray, commanding and the 7th. Michigan, Colonel William D. Mann, commanding. The Brigade was under the command of General Joseph T. Copeland. The 1st. Cavalry was added to the command at a later date.
General Lee having entered upon his Pennsylvania Campaign, had crossed the Potomac at several points into Maryland. General Hooker, with the Union Army , having moved from Fairfax, being also on the march Northward following Lee, crossed the Potomac on the 26th.of June at Edward's Ferry.
The Michigan Brigade, under the command of General Copeland, and forming a portion of Hooker's Cavalry, moved from Fairfax Court House June 25th. via Dranesville, fording the Potomac at Edward's Ferry at 5 P.M. on that date, encamping at Poolsville, then the next morning marched via Sugar Loaf Mountain, crossed the Monacacy Valley, thence to Frederick, Maryland.
On the morning of the 27th. a part of the Brigade, the 5th., and 6th., moved from Frederick up the Cotocin Valley in Pennsylvania, to reconnoiter. Camping on the 27th. at Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Next morning the march resumed, entering the town of Gettysburg at 1 P.M. on the 28th., being the first of many Union troops to occupy that place. Notifying command headquarters of the proximity of General Lee's forces, Copeland was informed that he was to give command of the Brigade to General George A. Custer. Colonel Alger, newly appointed to command the 5th., headed with the 5th., and 6th. to return to Frederick, passing on the way, the advancing 1st.,under the Command of General Reynolds, and 11th. Army Corp whom they informed of the Confederate threat.
Under its new organization, now consisting of the 1st., Colonel Town, the 5th., Colonel Alger, the 6th., Colonel Gray and the 7th., Colonel Mann all under the command of Brigadier General Custer the reunited Brigade prepared to enter upon the great battle of Gettysburg.
On the 30th. they were heavily engaged at Hanover, then on the 1st. of July marched toward York, passing through Abbotsville to Berlin, encamping there that night. The next day they were engaged at Hunterstown, followed on the 3rd. with a pivotal engagement East of Gettysburg.
In the advance, and the early engagements with the Confederates, then throughout the whole battle as well as in the pursuit of the retreating southerners the Brigade took a prominent part, distinguishing itself for bravery and achievement in every encounter, finally making a most gallant attack on the Confederate rear guard at Falling Waters, driving them to the river, killing many and capturing large numbers.
Following the battle of Gettysburg, the Brigade was engaged with the Confederates at Monterey on the 4th., Cavetown on the 5th., Smithtown, Boonsborough, Hagerstown, and Williamsport on the 6th. Boonsborough again on the 8th., Hagerstown and Williamsport on the 10th, Falling Waters the 14th. and then Snickers Gap on the 19th. While Meade's army was following the retreating Lee, crowding him to the banks of the Potomac and while he was hurriedly crossing a portion of his army across a recently constructed pontoon bridge at Falling Waters, Kilpatrick, who then had under his command the Michigan Brigade, discovered the movement striking the rear guard, driving them into the river killing 125, taking 1500 prisoners with 3 battle flags. The Confederate General Pettigrew was mortally wounded while Mayor Weber, who led the 6th. in the charge was instantly killed. Thus, Michigan troops were the first to be involved in the Gettysburg action and conducted the last charge that signaled the end of that bold and formidable invasion of northern soil.
Returning to Virginia, the Brigade was engaged at Snicker's Gap on the 19th, Kelly's Ford September 13th., Culpepper Court House on the 14th., Raccoon Ford on the 16th., White's Ford the 21st and on the 26th. at Jack's Shop.
Saturday, October 9th., Confederate cavalry, infantry and artillery, attacked Kilpatrick's Division, near James City, but were held in check during the day. Sunday the army was in motion, Kilpatrick slowly retreating, fighting as he always fights, gallantly against superior numbers, back through Culpepper towards the Rappahannock until he reached the vicinity of Brandy Station.
As the head of Custer's Brigade reached the high ground beyond that place, he found across the wide plain, noted as a scene of former severe cavalry battles, a long line of southern cavalry drawn up under Fitzhugh Lee, evidently determined to prevent his further progress. Their numbers warranting them the belief that they would be successful. Further on the right, Buford was making a glorious fight, his force being toward the river. General Custer obtained of General Pleasanton, who had taken command, permission to attempt to break the well formed lines of the opposing cavalry with a charge. As Buford was fighting the right, a large Confederate column was coming up from the left. Forming his Brigade in two columns, led respectively by the 1st. and 5th., General Custer ordered his band to the front, placing them between the heads of columns, directed them to play Yankee Doodle. As the glorious strains of the national air broke upon the ears of the men of the brave Brigade, their sabers with one accord seemed to leap from their scabbards, as they eagerly awaited the order to charge. Placing himself at the head, Custer gave the word, then with loud cheers they dashed forward with irresistible speed.
In the meantime, the Confederates in the rear being temporarily checked, the other portion of the Division was formed into two columns, one led by General Pleasanton the other by Kilpatrick, the columns moved forward together. It was a grand sight,those columns, led by those three gallant men, the glistening of polished sabres, the trampling of thousands of hoofs, the cheers of the men, and inspiring all, the load notes of Custer's band as they continued to play the patriotic tune. It is needless to say that the southerners gave way as they had uninterrupted passage to the river.
After the severe engagement, the Brigade was again engaged at Stevensburg on November 19th., then at Morton's Ford on the 26th. On the 28th. of February, 1864, the Brigade broke camp at Stevensburg, starting on the cavalry raid to Richmond under General Kilpatrick. Starting on Sunday at 3 A.M. with a force of 5,000 cavalry, specially selected with regard to both men and horses from the divisions of Merritt and Gregg, with rations for but a day or two, the intention being to subsist off the land. The raid was successful so far as cutting rail lines between Richmond and Lee's army, but failed in its main goal to free Union prisoners then being held in Richmond.
Three hundred and seventy men of the 1st. Cavalry having re-enlisted as veterans started for home, on veteran furlough, reaching Detroit on January 7,1864, thus were not available for the Kilpatrick Raid, but did return in time for the Grant Campaign of 1864.
The Sheridan Raid commenced on the 10th. of May 1864, resulting in the engagement at Hawe's Shop on the 28th, followed by Travillion Station on June 11th. and 12th. On the 31st. of July the Brigade was ordered to proceed via Washington to the Shenandoah Valley where they engaged the Confederates at Winchester on August 11th., Front Royal on the 16th., Leetown the 25th., Sheperdstown the same day, then Smithfield on the 29th., Berryville, September 3rd. and Summit the 4th. followed at Winchester on the 19th., where three flags were captured.
On the 27th. of February 1865, the Brigade formed a part of the force with which General Sheridan made his movement against General Early's army and on the communication lines in the direction of Gordonsville and Richmond. On the 8th. of March they participated in the engagement with a part of the Confederate cavalry, under General Rosser, near Louisa Court House, assisting in routing them and capturing the town containing large stores of supplies sorely needed by the men with General Lee. The Brigade reached White House Landing in time to take part in the final battles with the Army of the Potomac. They engaged the Confederates at Five Forks on April 1st.,South Side Railroad on the 2nd, followed by Duck Pond Mills, Sayler's Creek and then Appomattox on the 9th. After the surrender of Lee, the Brigade, under the command of Colonel Stagg moved via Petersburg into North Carolina for a short time, then to Washington where they participated in the Grand Review the 23rd. of May.
Immediately afterwards they were ordered West, proceeding via railroad and riverboats to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where the 5th. and portions of the other regiments were mustered out of service. From there they were ordered to proceeded farther west to suppress the war then being waged by several indian tribes. After seeing service throughout the Dakotas and Montana, the regiments were consolidated into what was to known as the 1st. Michigan Veteran Cavalry.
The Brigade was improperly retained in service until March 10, 1866, when after many protests that the men were being held illegally in Federal service, after they had already been mustered out, were allowed to return to their homes.
|Hanover, Va||Hunterstown, PA||Gettysburg, PA|
|Monteray, Md||Smithtown, Md||Boonesborough, Md|
|Hagerstown, Md||Williamsport, Md||Falling Waters, Md|
|Snicker's Gap, Va||Kelly's Ford, Va||Raccoon Ford, Va|
|Culpepper Court House, Va||White's Ford, Va||Jack's Shop, Va|
|James City, Va||Brandy Station, Va||Buckland Mills, Va|
|Stevensburg, Va||Morton's Ford, Va||Richmond, Va|
|Wilderness, Va||Beaver Dam Station, Va||Yellow Tavern, Va|
|Meadow Bridge, Va||Milford, Va||Hawe's Shop, Va|
|Baltimore Cross Roads, Va||Cold Harbor, Va||Leetown, Va|
|Travillion Station, Va||Winchester, Va||Front Royal, Va|
|Sheperdstown, Va||Smithfield, Va||Berryville, Va|
|Summit, Va||Opequan, Va||Luray, Va|
|Port Republic, Va||Mount Crawford, Va||Woodstock, Va|
|Cedar Creek, Va||Madison Court House, Va||Louisa Court House, Va|
|Five Forks, Va||South Side Railroad, Va||Duck Pond Mills, Va|
|Sayler's Creek, Va||Appomatox Court House, Va|
|Killed in Action||265|
|Died of Wounds||120|
|Died of Disease||880|
|Total Casualty Rate||20.7%|