11th Michigan Infantry

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History of the 11th Michigan Infantry

Text by Jeremy Bevard

The 11th Michigan was raised primarily in St Joseph County in the summer of 1861.  St. Joseph County had about 21,000 people spread through an area of small towns and farm land.  The towns included Burr Oak, Sturgis, Constantine, Three Rivers and White Pigeon.  White Pigeon was the largest town with the Detroit & Chicago Railroad running through it.  It had a railroad repair yard and turntable with hotel and dining establishments.  White Pigeon was the home to several newspapers which served the County.  The Republican oriented Weekly Mercury and St. Joseph County Advertiser and the Democratic Western Chronicle battle the political issues of the day in print.   When the sectional crisis took fire in 1861 it produced two additional Republican papers in the county called the Sturgis Journal and the Three Rivers Reporter.  In the summer of 1861 William May who was the owner of the White Pigeon Railroad Dining House decided he must do his part.  He received permission to raise a regiment in early August 1861.  May’s Independent Regiment as it was officially called at the time had 700 men by September 7th camped outside White Pigeon.  During this time a letter written to the Detroit paper, The Free Press, referred to it as the St. Joe Regiment.  On September 16th it was given the designation the 11th Michigan. 

The 11th was moved to a new training camp that was on grounds used for railroad facilities.  The barracks was a long car house.  This camp was first deemed Camp Tilden and then finally Camp Goodwin.  While the ranks continued to fill the men were drilled in Hardee’s Tactics without any equipment.  After much waiting and fear they would be disbanded their uniforms started to arrive October 19th, unfortunately there were no trousers.  At the end of November they received everything else except caps which did not come until December 2nd.  On November 22nd the order was given for the Michigan Quartermaster to furnish the regiment with 1,000 muskets.  These were outdated Belgian and Prussian Potsdam muskets which the men hated.  They suffered with these until 1862 when they were issued Springfield and Enfield Rifled Muskets.  Now that they were nearly fully outfitted the Ladies Aid Society of Three Rivers presented them with their National flag on behalf of the ladies in St. Joseph County.  All of this happened just in time as the Regiment left Michigan on the 9th of December after spending four months in camp.  They left home with at least the following issued uniform items: overcoat, dress coat, trousers, drawers, vest, 2 shirts, socks, shoes, forage cap, dress hat with plume and shoulder scales the men called frying pans.  Now that the men felt like real soldiers they went forward into Kentucky with 1000 men.  After three years only 340 would touch Michigan soil again.

 The Regiment was made up mostly of young men and boys who appeared to have spent more time working the land then working the school books.  Some men were veterans from the 3 months 1st Michigan and had been at Bull Run.   They also seemed to be prone to mischief as things came up missing almost wherever then went.  There was more than one story in the local papers while they were in camp about barrels of whiskey and cider going missing along with fighting.  These same stories followed them into Kentucky and Tennessee.  Three years later on their way home the Regiment stopped in Sidney Ohio where a Democratic rally was happening.   The men stole a cannon that was supposed to be used to give a salute to Vallandingham and took it north with them.  This cannon was used for years after to fire salutes at reunions and weddings until it burst from an overcharge.

The 11th Michigan spent December 1861 in Louisville and then Bardstown, Kentucky where they stayed until March of 1862 when they moved to Belmont Furnace, Kentucky to guard a railroad.  These first few months were hard on them.  An outbreak of smallpox went around the Regiment and from December 8, 1861 to March 12, 1862 there were twelve men who died of smallpox.  During this same period there were twenty-nine deaths from measles, eight from typhoid fever and twenty-six from pneumonia.  The move to Belmont Furnace seemed to help improve the health of the men.  They were assigned to this guard detail through April.  In May an order came that moved them to the Nashville area.  This is where the men first became acquainted with chasing guerrillas and Confederate cavalry.  When they were not marching and chasing after an enemy that seemed to disappear like smoke they were garrisoned in Nashville.  The men hated Nashville as it was full of Confederate sympathizers.  One man wrote about a women spitting in his face while staying there.   During this time the Regiment saw a change in command as Colonel May resigned and Lt. Colonel Stoughton was promoted and took command.   By the end of July, 1862 the 11th Michigan has marched all over eastern Kentucky and Tennessee without seeing any combat.  It was during these long period of marched that some men of the Eleventh showed they would stand together regardless of the enemy.  One of the men tells the story which took place on the bank of the Kentucky River as “Reglar Capt. Drew his revolver on one of the Co. F men.  In an instant some half dosen of us boys was at a ready for the Capt.  Had he shot it probley would have bin his very last shot.  On that you can depend.”  The reason for this disagreement was not written down but it illustrates the frustration of the men from marching hundreds of miles without firing a shot at the real enemy.

The Regiment was chosen to be part of an elite “light brigade” to track down and defeat Morgan.  They were chosen because of their reputation to withstand long, swift marching.  The light brigade was moved to Murfreesboro in September but then sent back to Nashville and disbanded.  The men felt a sense of pride in being picked but the brigade was never put into real use.  There they stayed building fortifications on short rations until the day after Christmas.  The move took them back to Murfreesboro and the men were part of their first skirmish on December 30th.  The next day the 11th Michigan was involved in the Battle of Stones River.  Here they stood their ground until ordered to retreat.  They fell back in good order and did make one counter charge but had to then withdraw quickly.  During their first real engagement the 11th Michigan took 31% casualties or 139 out of 440 engaged. 
The New Year brought with it a new issue item for the Regiment.  On January 5, 1863 the Army of the Cumberland received their first shelter tents.  Having the Sibley tents replaced with these “miserable dog kennels” was not a popular change.  The Eleventh Michigan did gain some luck on the 10th as they were made Provost Guard of Murfreesboro.  With this duty they had contestant but not hard service.  It also meant they were quartered in buildings instead of the shelter tents.  This assignment was carried on for six months. 

This easy assignment was ended on June 29, 1863 when the Regiment started south towards Tullahoma as division ammunition train guard.  A small skirmish was had July 1st at Elk River and then the Army pushed over the Cumberland Mountains into Alabama.  On August 24th the men celebrated 2 years in service.  The Officers of the Regiment pooled their funds and purchased a barrel of beer for the boys.  They had a parade for themselves and a speech from Colonel Stoughton and others.  They then went off to their quarters singing the Battle Cry of Freedom with 415 present for duty.
A few weeks later the 11th was in a sharp quick fight in Stevens Gap where they drove the Rebs back over a mile.  During the next few days their Brigade was hurried all over around that area.  On September 11th the men took off their knapsacks to build fortifications.  The Confederates were already on the attack in another area and the fight spilled onto the ridge they were on overlooking Chickamauga Creek.  The men had to leave in such a hurry there was no time to grab their packs because of the risk of being captured.  The division withdrew from the area of Davis Crossroads once the Rebel advance was checked.  The next few days and nights were quiet and filled with picket duty.  This changed on September 19th with the Battle of Chickamauga.  On this day the 11th Michigan performed a charge on the Confederates that drove their lines in ½ a mile.  That night the Regiment was on picket duty with no blankets and it was said that it was a very long cold night.  The next day Colonel Stoughton took command of the Brigade and the battle continued.  The 11th Michigan was located on Snodgrass Hill and withstood charge after charge.  At one point the Brigade fired a volley into the oncoming Confederates at point blank range and then charged with bayonets fixed.  On the way back up the hill the men took cartridges, canteens and knapsacks off the dead Rebs to resupply.  Around 10pm the order was received to retreat.  The retreat took them into Chattanooga where they were given three days rations.  During these two days of fighting the 11th Michigan faired better than many with 66 casualties.   After the Battle of Chickamauga there was some reorganization.  This landed the 11th Michigan brigaded with mostly Regular Army Battalions.

The men were sent back out into what they called Skedaddle Gap for a few days and nights of picket duty.  From September 22 to 25 the Regiment built fortifications near Lookout Mountain.   On the 23rd a man recorded that a whiskey ration was issued.  For a Regiment that had stolen a few barrels of the stuff while in service it was written that most of them sold their ration to others for a profit.  By September 27th there was no doubt that a siege was on as rations were reduced to ¼.  On October 3rd the Regiment was put on the picket line near Rolling Mill at the base of Lookout Mountain where the lines were just 80 rods apart.  Some informal truces were established so the two sides would not fire on each other without warning.  Of course trading between the lines was also begun.  From October 9th to 13th the 11th Michigan went on a foraging expedition in Washington Valley that was said to be successful.  On their return it was back on the same picket line they had left before.

Here the 11th Michigan seemed to stay for many days.  One man’s journal recorded “nothing to eat” on October 26, 27 and 28.  Things were very desperate when the cracker line was reopened on October 29th and rations were again issued.  The men still stayed on their line it seems by the Rolling Mill until the end of November.  On November 25th the 11th Michigan was one of the lead regiments to charge up Missionary Ridge.  The charge was successful in breaking the back of the siege.  As the Eleventh went up the slope firing and taking fire they took a total of 34 causalities, one being their Major.
After the siege the men performed guard duty in northern Georgia and received much needed rest.  There was no movement for 3 months.  In the summer of 1864 they participated in all of the fighting that leads up to the taking of Atlanta which resulted in several months of very hard service.  The men were counting their days as their enlistment was almost up.  Each day fighting in trenches and charging the enemies works was dwindling down the number of those who would make it home.  On August 7th they were ordered to charge the works to their front and at first the men did not want to go.  The rest of the Brigade started the charge without them.  After Lt Colonel Mudge addressed the Regiment they also began to charge.  They took the works as ordered and continued on to take the next set as well.  The cost was another 15 wounded and 15 killed.  On August 19th the men were pulled from the front lines and they believed that was it for them.  However, on August 25th the men were ordered back to the front and a near mutiny broke out.  The men believed their enlistment to be up the day before and at first refused to move.  Eventually, they gave in and moved back on the line.

 The issue seemed to be that they were going by the majority of the muster dates for the companies.  The US government went by the last company’s muster date.  Finally, August 27th the Regiment was relieved from duty.  On the last day at the front Company A had only 13 privates for duty.  It is said that it was only by the efforts of Captain Hall of the Regiment who was serving as AAAG of the Brigade that this happened.  The 29th saw the 11th Michigan on their way to Chattanooga to pick up their sick and wounded.  The travel to Michigan would take longer then what the men had hoped for.  Wheeler was threatening the only line of road that they could take to get home.  The boys of the 11th volunteered to be part of the force that was organized to take care of Wheeler.  After more days of hard marching and a few small skirmishes the men went back to Chattanooga successful in their mission.  The last Company’s enlistment expired on September 10th.  At sunrise on September 25, 1864 the 11th Michigan rode back into Sturgis, Michigan in coach cars.  October 13th the 11th Michigan was formed up one last time to be paid off and discharged. 


Organized at White Pigeon, Mich., and mustered in September 24, 1861.
Left State for Bardstown, Ky. December 9, and duty there till March, 1862.
Attached to Railroad Guard, Unattached, Dept. of the Ohio to September, 1862.
29th Brigade, 8th Division, Army of the Ohio to November, 1862.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Center 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland to January, 1863.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland to October, 1863
2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 14th Army Corps to September, 1864.

Roster of Men of the 11th - Links to Photos of Men where known - Coming Soon


Field and Staff Company A Company B Company C
Company D Company E Company F Company G
Company H Company I Company K Unassigned Men


Links Related to the 11th Michigan

11th Michigan Flag

Follow this link to the part of our page on Michigan's Battle Flags dedicated to the flags of the 11th Michigan. http://www.allmichigancivilwar.com/flags.html#11thinfantry
11th Michigan Blog Blog dedicated to the memory of the 11th Michigan. http://11thmichigan.org/
Marvin Wood and the 11th Michigan Web page telling the story of one of the members of the 11th and the unit's history http://oldwoodhouse.org/2011/history-of-marvin-s-wood-in-the-michigan-11th-infantry-of-the-civil-war/

Books about the 11th Michigan

When Gallantry Was Commonplace: The History of the Michigan Eleventh Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1864 - By Leland W. Thornton The Michigan Eleventh Volunteer Infantry was recruited as May's Independent Regiment during the fall of 1861 in St. Joseph, Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Monroe counties. In 1862 the Michigan Eleventh was brigaded with the Eighteenth and Sixty-ninth Ohio and the Nineteenth Illinois as Stanley's Brigade. At the battle of Stones River, Stanley's brigade was the hinge on which Rosecrans' line bent and was in the vanguard of the counterattack on January 2, 1863. The Brigade under the command of Col. William L. Stoughton of the Eleventh were among the defenders of Snodgrass Hill at Chickamauga and were probably the last Federal unit to leave that bloody battlefield. The Regiment fought with distinction at Missionary Ridge and during the Atlanta campaign. This book is difficult to find as it is out of print. We don't share a link to it's Amazon page as it just shows out of print.
ISBN-13: 978-0820412597 ISBN-10: 0820412597
Conspicuous Gallantry: The Civil War and Reconstruction Letters of James W. King, 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry - edited by Eric R. Faust
The eloquent letters of James W. King shed light on a Civil War regiment that played important roles in the battles of Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. King enlisted in the 11th Michigan in 1861 as a private and rose to the rank of quartermaster sergeant.

The 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster - By Eric R. Faust

This is an updated roster with information about the men and the regiment.  
Arming Michigan's Regiments: 1862-1864 - Compiled by James G. Genco Privately published in 1982, this is a compilation of Quarterly Ordnance reports and gives us a good view of what the 11th MI is carrying, company by company
Small Arms Used by Michigan Troops in the Civil War - Edited by Donald F. Kigar This book is part of the Centennial Commission Books. It is a great reference on what regiment was carrying what weapon throughout the war. It will cover, generally, dates that the Genco book above doesn't.