George Spalding was born in Scotland in the year 1836. Andrew Spalding, his father, was a farmer; with his wife and family he emigrated to America in 1843, settling in Buffalo, New York. In 1853, he purchased a farm near Monroe, on the River Raisin. Spalding’s parents were of the sturdy Presbyterian stock, and have always been consistent members of that church. The home discipline received by the son, together with the instructions imparted by the public schools of Buffalo, formed the basis of’ an education and character which have proved their usefulness avd value both in the field and in civil life. Spalding lived at home until the winter of 1860-61, when he taught a district school. He was a Douglass Democrat, and was elected clerk of his township in the spring of 1861.
When Fort Sumter was fired upon he immediately enlisted as a private soldier in what was subsequently Co. A, 4th Michigan Infantry, which was mustered into the United States service in May, 1861, at Adrian, Michigan, and Col. D. A. Woodbury was appointed its colonel. George Spalding was made first sergeant of this company, and moved to the seat of war at an early day, passing through Baltimore shortly after the attack by rebels upon the First Massachusetts Regiment. The regiment moved with the forces under General
McDowell toward Bull Run, but before reaching that place was stopped at Fairfax Court House, and established a courier line between the telegraph office at that place and General McDowell’s headquarters at Bull Run battlefield. In the summer of 1861, Sergeant Spalding was promoted to first lieutenant and assigned to command of Co. B, same regiment. In the fall of 1861 he was commissioned captain of Co. B. In the reorganization of the army, the 4th Michigan Infantry was assigned to General Fitz John Porter’s corps. During the winter of 1861-62 the regiment was constantly occupied doing picket duty, encountering many sharp skirmishes with the enemy. After McClellan’s change to the Peninsula, General Porter’s corps had the right of the line resting on York River. On arriving in front of Yorktown, General Porter called upon Colonel Woodbury to send an officer and thirty picked men to reconnoitre the enemy’s position at Yorktown, to learn, if possible, the number of their heavy guns, etc. Captain Spalding was assigned to this hazardous enterprise and succeeded to the satisfaction of the commanding general, but in doing so he received a severe gunshot wound in the left shoulder. As the army soon commenced moving, he declined a “leave of absence” tendered him, and took command of his company with his arm in a sling; he participated in all the engagements, in the advance upon Richmond, and at New Bridge, during a sharp skirmish, he narrowly escaped death by being shot at by a rebel officer, who had surrendered to him, but fired his rifle when within ten feet of him, tearing away his pistol and belt, inflicting a painful but not dangerous wound.
The 4th Michigan Regiment participated in the following battles: Hanover Court House, May 27th, 1862; at Mechanicsville, June 26; on the 27th at Gaines Mill; Savage Station, June 29th; at Turkey Bend, June 30th; White Oak Swamp, same day; and July 1st at Malvern Hill, when it became conspicuously engaged, losing its colonel, D. A. Woodbury, Captains Dupuy and Rose, while Capt. Spalding was severely wounded in the left of the neck and reported in press dispatches as killed. The loss in 4th Michigan Infantry in six days was 53
killed, 144 wounded and 52 missing. Leave of absence was tendered Captain Spalding, which he accepted, and when about to leave, General Griffin, the brigade commander, handed him a sealed letter addressed to Governor Blair. It subsequently turned out to be a letter to the Governor urging Captain Spalding’s promotion to the rank of major. The Governor commissioned him major of the Fourth Regiment, but Captain Spalding waived it in favor of the senior captain, and afterwards accepted the lieutenant colonelcy of the Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, then at Hillsdale, Michigan, Hon. Henry Waldron in command. [Source: History of Monroe County, Michigan Illustrated, Talcott E. Wing, Editor, New York: Munsell & Company, Publishers; Copyright, 1890, By Munsell & Co., New York.]
This letter pertains to the death and burial of Pvt. Abel Piper who was killed in a skirmish with Rebels at New Bridge, Virginia, on 24 May 1862. The letter was written by Capt. Spalding to the soldier’s father in response to a request to have Piper’s remains sent home for burial.
Camp Gaines Mills, Va.
June 12th 1862
Your letter asking me to have the remains of your son sent home is at hand. I am very sorry that I am unable to full your request. Nothing would give me greater pleasure. But it is impossible at present. He was buried with military honors. I had his grave marked that you might at some future time be able to recover the body to your burying ground.
Your son died as all true soldiers ought to — with their face to the foe — while bravely fighting for the Constitution & the enforcement of the laws. He was a good soldier and I regret his loss.
Allow me to offer my sympathy to you in this your sad bereavement. And believe me to be yours respected; — George Spalding, Capt. commanding Co. B, 4th Regt. Michigan Vol.