- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

As one enters Marquette, Mich., along U.S. Route 41, there is a monument with the following inscription to the Civil War veterans from

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula:

Ever in the realms of glory,

Shall shine your starry fame;

Angels have heard your story,

God knows all your names.

The angels may know the stories of all the Marquette veterans of the 27th Michigan, or Lake Superior Regiment, but I only know about two of them, who were my ancestors. Jerome White was a 21-year-old farmer when he signed up with his 38-year-old father-in-law, Edmond Remington, in August 1862. Jerome was born in Peru in Clinton County, N.Y., and Ed was born in Wallingford, Vt.

The news of the attack on Fort Sumter, which had started the Civil War 18 months earlier, reached Jerome, Ed and the other residents of Marquette “by the overland mail, the dog mail that came up from Green Bay, but the first authentic news was brought a little later when the first boats came in,” a history of the period records.

“Five steamers arrived in Marquette together. Then there was excitement. Business was practically suspended. Banks did nothing, storekeepers did nothing. Everybody talked of war and was anxious to have it prosecuted to the most vigorous extent. Political parties made no difference. Everybody was filled with patriotism.”

It took two years and more than 1,000 miles for Jerome White and Edmond Remington to go from the wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the Wilderness battlefield of Virginia, and the journey started with enthusiastic feelings of patriotism.

First, though, in March 1863, the 27th Michigan was called to Detroit to quell a race riot: “The Great Race Riot in Detroit/Thirty-Two Houses Destroyed/200 Innocent People Rendered Houseless/Terrible Scenes of Fiendishness/Innocent Persons Murdered in Cold Blood/Quiet Restored by Military Power,” were the headlines.

“With commendable promptness, at nine o’clock, a detachment of the 27th, numbering about 400 men, under command of Colonel Fox and Lieut. Colonel Richardson, arrived and reported at headquarters. They were immediately sent to the scene of the riot to disperse the crowd,” the New York Daily Tribune reported.

The following week’s newspaper stated that the riot was caused by Rebel sympathizers: “The mob at Detroit was virtually plotted at Richmond, fomented in New York, and led by Democratic ruffians, the allies of Jefferson Davis. … They will continue to inflame the same prejudices and passions to make the Government and the war unpopular,” the paper proclaimed.

The rioting ceased, the war worsened, and eventually the regiment left Michigan, with brief stops in Knoxville, Tenn., and Vicksburg, Miss., before heading east in the spring of 1864. After taking a train to Maryland, the 27th marched to Fredericksburg, Va. Along the way, the men passed in front of President Lincoln, who looked “pale and careworn,” at the Treasury Building in Washington, one of them would record.

The regiment’s worst single day of battle may have been May 12, 1864, at Spotslyvania, Va., during Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s bloody Overland Campaign. For a brief period that day, the soldiers of Company B found themselves exposed on three sides: “With no cover the men were exposed to the enemy, to a murderous fire, and the loss bid fair to be a fearful record. I ordered the men forward to the first line of the enemy’s works, which was carried, and jointly occupied by the Sharpshooters and the Twenty-seventh Michigan Infantry. After a few moments the whole left of the line gave way, and we became exposed to a murderous cross-fire of shell, grape, and canister,” wrote Col. Charles V. DeLand.

“To advance was impossible; to retreat difficult. Our brigade commander was wounded and temporarily left the field, and our ammunition was nearly exhausted, but on consultation with Major Moody … it was decided to hold the ground until the last possible moment in hopes the lines would be organized or some support sent to our aid. For a full hour the men in this position fought with a determination and gallantry unsurpassed. Twice the rebels charged to obtain our colors, and were as often met and driven back by our bayonets. We at length received the order to retire, being the only regiment of the brigade who remained to contest the field,” DeLand’s report continues.

• • •

According to a history of the engagement, “On the right stood the 27th — fighting with unparalleled coolness and bravery; everything on the left side of the sharpshooters had been swept away, and the attack on their front and flank, with both infantry and artillery, poring in shot and shell, was terrific, but they gallantly held their ground.”

A telegram from the field to Gen. Wilcox detailed the urgency of the situation: “Will you send us re-enforcements immediately, or give us an order to withdraw. Major Moody and Captain Schwenk, with detachments of the Twenty-seventh and Twentieth Michigan and Fiftieth Pennsylvania and a portion of my regiment are here. They will be captured, I am afraid, but we will hold as long as possible.” It was signed by I.S. Catlin, lieutenant colonel of the 109th New York.

In June 1864, Jerome and Ed were both severely wounded. Jerome was shot by a musket ball that “entered his left side below the ribs and exited over his liver on the right side,” which was “a most peculiar wound that it did not either kill or paralyze this man at once.” He was transferred to Washington’s Columbia College Hospital aboard the steamer New World. “When he was well, he was one of the best soldiers I had in my regiment,” Capt. Nelson Truckey wrote in support of Jerome’s pension application after the war.

Ed suffered a “gunshot wound of the left leg by Minnie ball” at Cold Harbor and recuperated at Mount Pleasant General Hospital.

In “Regimental Losses in the Civil War,” William F. Fox described 300 regiments that had the war’s highest casualties. According to Fox, just 19 Union regiments suffered a higher casualty rate than the 27th Michigan’s 15.1 percent. The only other Michigan regiment in the most-wounded group was the 7th Michigan Infantry.

Jerome had two cousins in Michigan regiments. Francis Marion Bishop, from the 1st Michigan, was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg but survived to die in Utah in 1933. Charles Bishop, Company F of the 27th Michigan, was taken prisoner in Knoxville and died in Andersonville Prison in May 1864.

The war produced many interesting stories and anecdotes:

“We had an odd character in our company, noted for his in-place and out-of-place remarks. This afternoon, after the first attempt to drive the enemy had failed, and while standing in line waiting for the order to advance, this man noticed some pieces of shelter tent lying upon the ground in front of us. Said he: ‘What good towels my wife could make if she had those pieces of tent.’ Poor fellow, he went down in the next hour, and his bones lie among the great mass of ‘unknowns’ in the Wilderness,” recorded a history of the 9th Corps.

“We had an Irishman in our company, a great smoker. His pipe was in his mouth nearly all the time, and he could not sleep without it. He had not had his usual amount of smoke that afternoon. There was too much excitement. After the firing had ceased, and it became dark, the desire was too strong to resist, but while lighting his pipe the glimmer of his match caught the eye of a rebel sharpshooter, and the crack of the rifle, followed by a yell from our smoker, startled us all. An investigation revealed that the reb’s bullet had knocked Pat’s pipe from his mouth and carried a couple fingers with it. This disabled him for the time, and he was sent to the rear. I saw him after the war, and speaking of the incident, he said: It was a lucky smoke for me, for I got out of the thing entirely.”

Some stories were particularly grim: “It began to grow dark. The surgeons were working like beavers by the light of the flickering candles. The legs and arms they were amputating accumulated in piles. The grounds were covered with wounded men, groaning, swearing, delirious. A noticeable thing was that all who were brought out of the surgeons’ quarters were very still; chloroform is a good quieting agent.”

• • •

Indeed, Death was all around Jerome and Ed. Brothers John and Robert Death, from Canada, both served in the 27th Michigan. Despite their surname, both survived the war. During the war, Robert was a hospital steward; reading his title on correspondence might take a second glance: Hospital Steward Death.

After the war, many Upper Peninsula veterans joined the Albert T. Jackson Post No. 300 of the Grand Army of the Republic. The post was formed in 1885, and on Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day) of that year, 400 schoolchildren joined in a solemn ceremony at the Protestant Cemetery, where “the band played the dead march and the school pupils rendered the national hymn in a very acceptable manner.” A newspaper reported that the speaker talked of patriotism and honor and mentioned an order that George Washington had received when given command of the Army during the Revolutionary War: “See to it that the liberties of America receive no detriment.”

The last public activity of the Jackson GAR Post was in June 1930, when three of the remaining veterans dedicated a memorial plot and flag to all the Marquette veterans. The last annual encampment of the Jackson GAR Post was in June 1948, but the last member of the post had died two months earlier.

After the war, Ed Remington moved to South Dakota, where he died in 1882. Jerome White died from injuries after being hit by a cart on a bridge in Marquette in 1900.

Paul Herbert is a special agent with the federal government.


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