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“…Where the black smoke of battle rolled heaviest,” said Edwin Hill of the 16th Michigan Infantry Regiment, “there could the 16th be found.”

For decades, students of the Civil War have been able to read histories of other famous regiments that served with the 16th Michigan in the Army of the Potomac— the 83rd Pennsylvania, the 44th New York and the 20th Maine. From the siege of Yorktown to Second Bull Run and Fredericksburg on to the final confrontation with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Hill’s regiment served with these commands in one of the most notable brigades in the Union army.

Yet the 16th Michigan became known as one of the most controversial regiments of the Civil War for the lingering questions over the conduct of its commander, Lt. Col. Norval Welch, in the battle considered the turning point of the war—the struggle for a rocky hill called Little Round Top at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.

Here is the narrative history of the 16th Michigan, from its formation as Stockton’s Independent Regiment on through its service in the Eastern Theater of the war, beginning in the spring of 1861when Col. Thomas B.W. Stockton, attempting to answer the direct call of President Abraham Lincoln, found his path to command a state regiment blocked by Michigan Governor Austin Blair.

Also presented is the previously untold story of the ill-fated Michigan Lancer Regiment, and how nearly 200 men who had originally wanted to fight in the manner of knights of old ended up in Stockton’s command. Recounted too is the regiment’s role in the nightmarish battles that took place in darkness at Gaines’ Mill, Fredericksburg and Laurel Hill at Spotsylvania Court House, and in daylight attacks and charges across open ground at the Second Battle of Bull Run and Peeble’s Farm.

Not all the collisions involving the leadership of the 16th Michigan took place on the battlefield. The story of the regiment also involves the ambition and personality conflict, intrigue and courts-martial, and the struggle between Stockton and Welch for control of the regiment itself,

But mainly this is the story of soldiers—volunteers from small towns, farmers, grocers and dry goods clerks—youths like George Sidman from Owosso and George Ervay from Grand Ledge, teenaged boys who didn’t want to miss what they felt would be a great adventure; of bright young men, like Frank Keeler from Saginaw, John Barry from the Upper Peninsula and sharpshooter Alfred Apted from Grand Rapids.

For Col. Tom Stockton, veteran, West Point graduate and uncle to Gen. James Longstreet, C.S.A, war was a family affair. Stockton would face his famous nephew at Gaines’ Mill and Fredericksburg and here, in his own words, is the story of how Longstreet’s family helped see to his needs while a prisoner of war in Richmond.

On the march, in camp and in battle, the words and experiences of Charles Salter of Detroit tell of a serious young man who had worked in his father’s grocery but found himself a junior officer responsible for the lives of others, trying to live as Christian as army life allowed. Contrasting are the decidedly more cynical views of Marion Munson from Oakland County, who has little use for his officers, the U.S. Congress and President Lincoln himself.

And here is an examination of the regiment’s terrible hand-to-hand, point blank combat on the exposed face of Little Round Top; the heretofore untold experience of its skirmishers away on the left of their brigade line; and the true story of their role in the historic battle of Gettysburg.

This book completes Morningside’s coverage of Vincent’s Brigade, or the Little Roundtop Regiments-44th New York, 20th Maine, 83rd Pennsylvania, and now the 16th Michigan.

Other books by KIM CRAWFORD