In May of 1861, recruiting began for Michigan’s Fourth Regiment of Volunteer Infantry. Men of various ages and occupations were gathered from along the southern counties of the state as they responded to the call to arms issued by President Abraham Lincoln and Michigan’s Governor Austin Blair. From Monroe and Wayne Counties, along the Detroit River on the eastern side of the state, moving westward out to St. Joseph county in southwestern Michigan, the recruiting officers returned with their men, some no more than boys, to the regiment’s training grounds in Adrian, Michigan. Farmers, students, laborers, lawyers, merchants, teachers, firemen, doctors and preachers rallied to the flag and the drum rolls of the recruiting office in order to preserve the Union, enticed with the promise of bounties for those who enlisted, while seeking war time adventure and glory. For most of the men enlisting in the Fourth Michigan Infantry, the abolition of slavery was not a cause worthy of fighting for, though some would eventually change their views on that topic as the war went on. For the greater majority, as patriots in this new war, their cause was just and true. As soldier’s in Uncle Sam’s Army, they were to punish the secessionists of the South, the traitors to the Union and the Constitution, two sacred concepts that men of just a few prior generations had fought so bravely for during the American Revolution. As Private Newell White of Company B would write in a letter dated August 5, 1861, less than two months after his enlistment, “I am tough enough to cross hell on a wooden bridge to whip a traitor”.
Many of the men of the Fourth Michigan Infantry were not Michiganders by birth. In fact, the larger portion of men in the regiment were born in other states. They were natives of New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Rhode Island, Indiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Texas, Illinois, Maine, New York. The muster rolls of the regiment indicate that there were also several men from other countries such as Ireland, Germany, Canada, Scotland, France, England, Denmark, Austria, The Isle of Man, Russia, Sweden, and Holland who served in it’s ranks during the war.
On May 20th, 1861, the Fourth Michigan Infantry was officially formed according to General Order #24 issued by Adjutant General John Robertson, of the Adjutant General’s Office of the Military Department of Michigan. The commander of the regiment was Colonel Dwight Woodbury, while the staff officers consisted of Lieutenant Colonel William Duffield, Major Jonathan Childs, Surgeon Joseph Tunnicliff, Assistant Surgeon David Chamberlain, Adjutant Francis Earle, Quartermaster Henry Grannis, and Chaplain Henry Strong.
The ten companies that would form the regiment were as follows:
Company A “The Smith Guard” of Monroe under Captain Constant Luce
Company B “Adrian Volunteers”of Adrian under Captain James H. Cole
Company C “Peninsular Guard” of Sturgis under Captain Abram R. Wood
Company D “Barry Guard” of Ann Arbor under Captain John M. Randolph
Company E “Hillsdale Volunteers”of Hillsdale under Captain George W. Lumbard
Company F “Hudson Volunteers” of Hudson under Captain Samuel DeGolyer
Company G “Tecumseh Volunteers” of Tecumseh under Captain David M. Marshall
Company H “Grosvenor Guard” of Jonesville under Captain Moses A. Funk
Company I “Trenton Volunteers” of Trenton under Captain David M. Granger
Company K “Dexter Union Guard” of Dexter under Captain Alexander D. Crane
June 20th – July, 1861
The Fourth Michigan Volunteer Infantry was mustered into Federal service on June 20, 1861, and was presented its regimental flag by the ladies of Adrian, near the regiment’s training grounds at Camp Williams, in Adrian, Michigan on the following day, June 21, 1861. Four days later the regiment left Adrian and traveled by rail to Washington, D. C. where it arrived and joined the Second and Third Michigan Infantry regiments in camp near the chain bridge at Georgetown on the night of July 2, 1861. It then advanced into Northern, Virginia and participates (actively or inactively) in the following events:
July 21, 1861
Bull Run (Manassas),Va.
The regiment is split into 2 separate groups, one in reserve at Fairfax Station and the other in reserve at Fairfax Court House, Virginia. Neither group was actively involved in the battle nearby. They form part of the rear guard for the panicked Union Army, retreating back to Washington D. C. The Fourth Michigan is attached to Wilcox’s Brigade of Heintzeman’s Division, McDowell’s Army of Northern Virginia.
August of 1861
The regiment is attached to Sherman’s Brigade, Division of the Potomac in the Defense of Washington where it builds Fort Woodbury, in honor of the regiment’s Colonel Dwight Woodbury.
September of 1861
The regiment is attached to Morell’s Brigade of Porter’s Division, Army of the Potomac
Winter of 1861
The regiment is encamped on Miner’s Hill, Virginia
March of 1862
The Fourth Michigan Infantry becomes part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the 3rd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, and advances to the Virginia Peninsula on March 16.
April 5 – May 4, 1862
The regiment takes part in the siege of Yorktown, Virginia
May of 1862
The regiment is attached to 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac and sees action at New Bridge, Virginia on May 24th and Hanover Court House on May 27th.
June 26, 1862
The regiment takes part in the battle of Mechanicsville, Virginia
June 27, 1862
Lieut. Colonel Jonathan Childs is wounded in the hip during the battle of Gaine’s Mill, Virginia
June 29, 1862
Savage Station, Virginia
June 30, 1862
Turkey Bend and White Oak Swamp, Virginia
Colonel Dwight Woodbury is fatally shot in the head while rallying troops in the battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia. Lieut. Colonel Childs is promoted to Colonel and Captain George Lumbard is promoted to Lieut. Colonel.
The regiment retreats with the Army o the Potomac to Harrison’s Landing, Virginia
July 2, 1862
Harrison’s Landing, Virginia
August 16-28th, 1862
The regiment proceeds to Fortress Monroe and from there to Centreville, Virginia.
August 29, 1862
August 30, 1862
Second Bull Run (Second Manassas), Virginia
September 17, 1862
Antietam, Maryland (unengaged but in reserve)
September 19th and 20th, 1862
Blackford’s Ford and Shephardstown Ford (Boteler’s Ford)
October 29 – November 17th, 1862
The regiment moves to Falmouth, Virginia
November 5, 1862
Colonel Childs resigns his commission
December 12th – 15th, 1862
January20th -24th, 1862
The regiment is encamped at Falmouth, Virginia and participates in Burnside’s failed “Mud March” after which it returns to camp, remaining there until April.
March 12, 1863
Captain Harrison Jeffords promoted to Colonel
April 27th – May 6th, 1863
The regiment takes part in the Chancellorsville Campaign culminating in the Battle of Chancellorsville from May 1st – 5th, resulting in a Union defeat.
June 11th – July 24th, 1863
The Fourth Michigan Infantry and the Army of the Potomac pursue Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia through Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Southern Pennsylvania, where they engage in battle on July 1st– 3rd, 1863 at Gettysburg.