Story of the “1st Michigan Infantry”
In compliance with President Lincoln’s requisition upon the State of Michigan for military aid to uphold the constitution and maintain the Union of the States, Governor Austin Blair issued a proclamation, dated April 16, 1861, for one Regiment of Infantry to be mustered into the service of the United States.
At this date there were a number of independent military companies in the state possessing military knowledge from long practice and study. Ten of these companies were accepted to form the First Michigan Regiment. Those companies accepted were designated at their home camps as the “Detroit Light Guard,” the “Jackson Grays,” the “Coldwater Cadets,” the “Manchester Union Guards,” the “Stuben Guard,” the “Michigan Hussars,” the “Burr Oak Guard,” the “Ypsilanti Light Guard,” the “Marshall Light Guard,” and the “Hardee Cadets.” Orlando P. Wilcox was appointed Colonel of the Regiment and the companies were ordered to report to him at Detroit with the least possible delay.
The organization of the Regiment was completed on April 29th., being mustered into the Federal service on May 1, 1861 with a total enrollment of 798 men. The President had called for these troops to serve in Federal service for three months and they promptly complied.
The equipping was thorough and complete and was pursued with such vigor that the Regiment was supplied with uniforms, armed and ready for service before it left the State on May 13, 1861 and was the first Regiment from a western state to reach Washington D.C., where it arrived on May the 16th. The Regiment after arrival was promptly ordered to cross the “Long Bridge” over the Potomac and take possession of Alexandria, Virginia which it accomplished with little incident on May 24th. It’s first serious battle of the war was at Manassas, Virginia (Bull Run) where the 1st. proved it’s mettle as a fighting Regiment while hotly contested with Confederate forces in that desperate battle. The First lost heavily in killed, wounded, captured and missing in the bloody preview of things to come.
The Regiment returned to Michigan at the expiration of its three months term of enlistment and was mustered out of Federal service on Aug.7,1861. Then the Regiment was immediately reorganized into a three year term of enlistment at Ann Arbor and immediately, with 960 officers and men set out for Virginia on Sept.7,1861.
The Regiment took part in the Peninsular Campaign of 1862 under the command of General McClellan serving in the 5th. Corp, 1st. Brigade, 1st. Division. It fought gallantly at Mechanicsville, Gaine’s Mill, Peach Orchard, Savage Station, Turkey Bend, White Oak Swamp and Malvern Hill. After the Peninsular Campaign it was assigned to Fitz John Porter’s Corp when it was desperately engaged at Second Manassas (2nd Bull Run) on Aug.19, 1862. It and the other Regiments of the Brigade sustained fearful losses from the murderous fire of the Confederates masked batteries.
The Regiment then took part in the battles of Antietam, Md, Fredricksburg, Va., and Chancellorsville, Va. before reaching Gettysburg, Pa. on July 2, 1863, in time to bear an active role in one of the hardest fought and most historic battles of the war. Colonel Troop's action report describes the part taken by the 1st near the base of Little Round Top in the battle. It was then engaged in active duty, with frequent contacts with Confederate forces until Feb. of 1864, when its enlistment term expired. At that time 212 of its members re-enlisted and were furloughed for thirty days to visit their homes.
On April 10, 1864 the Regiment re-assembled at Beverly Ford, Va. and then took an active part of the Campaign of 1864 being engaged at Allsops Mill, Spottsylvania, The Nye River, The North Anna River, Jerico Mill and Tolopotomy. It crossed the James River on June 16, 1864 and arrived in front of Petersburg on the 18th. when it was engaged in a desperate encounter with Confederate forces at Poplar Grove Church. The Regiment was continually employed, either building fortifications or skirmishing with the Confederates until Feb. 05, 1865, when it started on the pursuit of Gen. Lee’s retreating forces around Richmond, Va., marching and fighting until the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. After the surrender the Regiment proceeded by rail to Louisville, Ky., where it was mustered out of Federal service on July 19th. They then returned to Jackson, Mi. arriving on July 22nd. They were ceremoniously paid off and disbanded.
During their terms of Federal service, they were engaged at:
 Harrison Hawkins’s enlistment was up on August 31 at Petersburg, and he was discharged. The Regiment was present at the Appomattox surrender, but Harrison was not with them.