- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2006

On May 25, 1861, Daniel Ferguson began a journey that would take him across the country and back over the next three years.

It began with his decision to answer the call for troops to save the Union. Daniel mustered into Company I of the 2nd Michigan Infantry at Detroit on that date. He volunteered to serve for three years.

The 2nd Michigan left for the front on June 5 and reported at Washington, according to “The Union Army Volume III,” an eight-volume set of books published in 1908 that provides short histories of union regiments and batteries.

The regiment arrived early in Washington, was assigned to Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia and was in the fighting at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18.

The 2nd Michigan was assigned to the brigade designated to advance as part of a “reconnaissance in force.” The Confederates were guarding the ford across Bull Run and responded with gunfire. The Union forces now knew the Confederates were in the area. This action became a prelude to the Battle of First Bull Run, which took place on July 21.

The 2nd was in reserve and not engaged in the main battle. However, it covered the retreat of the Union forces. Like most of the Union Army, the 2nd remained in Virginia after the battle and spent fall and winter of 1861 in the defenses around Washington.

On the company muster roll for Aug. 31, 1861, is a note that Pvt. Ferguson was on picket duty at Baileys Crossroads by order of Brig. Gen. Israel B. Richardson.

This information is contained in Ferguson’s service record. (Copies of individual soldiers’ service records are available from the National Archives.) As is common with most soldiers’ early service records, Ferguson’s status is “not stated” from May 25, 1861, to the bimonthly report for November-December 1861.

In the spring of 1862, the 2nd Michigan Infantry was assigned to Brig. Gen. Philip Kearny’s division of Brig. Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman’s 3rd Corps. This division would become known as the Red Diamond Division because Kearny had his troops wear a cloth red diamond on their uniforms so he could identify soldiers assigned to his division. This became a badge of honor to his soldiers.

The 2nd Michigan would be in this division for the entire Peninsular Campaign. Soon after arriving on the Peninsula, the 2nd was in the siege of Yorktown (April 5 to May 5) and was engaged at Williamsburg (May 5), Fair Oaks (May 31), Charles City crossroads or, as it’s often called, White Oak Swamp (June 30) and Malvern Hill (July 1). Its losses were 137 killed, wounded and missing.

The 2nd Michigan was in the hottest of the fight at Williamsburg, “forcing back twice its numbers at the point of the bayonet,” according to “The Union Army Volume III.”

Probably some time after this, Ferguson bought an ID tag. The tag is brass, with an image of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan on one side. On the other side is stamped “D. Ferguson. Co. I. 2d. REG MICH. BOWMANSVILLE, N.Y.” Bowmansville is close to Buffalo. It is not known why Ferguson had this location stamped on his tag. Perhaps some members of his family were living there.

This style of ID tag was designed by Frederick B. Smith, who is listed as an “engraver and diesinker” based in New York City. He worked at 122 Fulton St. during the war.

Records show that he signed some insignia. In the close-up of a similar tag can be seen the name “F.B.Smith.” Other examples of McClellan ID disks also have a “B” or an “F” before or after the name Smith. It is typical of the tags sold to the soldiers by sutlers. Similar tags were bought in late 1862.

After the fighting on the Peninsula, the 2nd remained at Harrison’s Landing until Aug. 15, 1862. At that time, it was ordered to return to Alexandria with the rest of the army, leaving on the steamer Express on Aug. 20 and arriving in Alexandria on Aug. 21, according to the “The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.”

The regiment’s men were used primarily as skirmishers in the Second Bull Run Campaign. Ferguson’s service records show him as “present” from Jan. 1862 to July-August 1862, so he saw a lot of combat during this period.

The 2nd Michigan was lightly engaged at the Battle of Chantilly on Sept. 1, 1862, and suffered four casualties, according to one source. Chantilly, also known as Ox Hill, saw the largest combat action in Fairfax County.

The 3rd Corps did not participate in the Antietam Campaign in September 1862. It remained in the defenses of Washington. Where Ferguson was for the September-October 1862 period is unclear, as his status is “not stated” for that bimonthly muster roll — so he may or may not have been at Chantilly.

However, he was reported as “present” on the November-December 1862 roll. The 2nd was transferred to Brig. Gen. Orlando B. Willcox’s 9th Corps in November 1862. The regiment, along with the rest of the corps, was held in reserve at Fredericksburg (Dec. 13) and reported just two casualties in the battle.

As if Ferguson hadn’t see enough of the country, his travels at government expense began again with the 9th Corps moving to Newport News, Va., in February 1863 and then on to Bardstown, Ky., in March. In mid-June, the 2nd Michigan joined Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of Tennessee in Mississippi and participated in the siege of Vicksburg in June and July 1863.

So Ferguson had gone from East to West in fighting the Confederates. The regiment remained in the West until April 1864. During this period, the 2nd was involved in several engagements, including the defense of Knoxville, (Nov. 17 to Dec. 4, 1863).

Ferguson’s service records show him as “present” until Jan. 30, 1864. The next entry in his records shows him “assigned to 17th Mich Jan 30, 1864.” No explanation is given. The 17th Michigan was in a different division in the brigade. However, on April 20, Ferguson was reassigned to the 2nd Michigan Volunteers by Special Order No. 5, division headquarters, Gen. Willcox.

On April 16, 1864, the 9th Corps was reassigned to the Eastern theater. It arrived in Virginia shortly thereafter. The May-June company muster roll describes Ferguson’s status as “Absent with leave in Detroit waiting discharge by order of Genl Burnside May 25/64.” So Ferguson was left behind and probably did not return to the Eastern theater.

Ferguson’s service ends with his muster out of the Army on July 21, 1864, in Detroit. He had a couple of items to settle with the Army because he had last been paid on Feb. 29, 1864. He also was due a bounty of $100. The rest of the 2nd Michigan would go on to see considerable fighting in the rest of 1864 and 1865 — but Daniel Ferguson was a civilian by then.

He never filed for a pension, and the 2nd Michigan does not have a regimental history to tell more, so the rest of his story is hidden from us — but Ferguson traveled many miles in the service of his country.

A description of Ferguson and his regiment may be summed up in the words of Col. Orlando M. Poe, their old commander, quoted in the history of the 2nd Michigan in “The Union Army Volume III”: “Proud am I that I was ever associated with such heroes. … There is something sublimely grand in the steady, quiet courage of those men of our ‘Second’; they never yet have failed in time of need, and never will.”

Joseph Stahl is a longtime collector of Civil War memorabilia. He lives in Fairfax.

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