In the last few weeks since I submitted Assignment 3, a thesis for my final assignment has come to form. As I began researching further into Michigan’s Twenty-Second infantry, I found some primary sources, mainly from Robert Ferguson Selfridge, who was a wagon master for 22 Michigan as well as a Sergeant who fought in the Battle of Chickamauga and gives some first hand accounts about the bravery of Ulysses S. Grant. His accounts were very interesting for my overall understanding of the American Civil War and I was able to cross reference his account with other primary sources that prove his accuracy through his description of the mundane like when he left Michigan, having breakfast in Ohio, and his first battle, the Battle of Cabbage Hill. This was all intriguing, but through this research, I also re-discovered that men from 22 Michigan were taken prisoners in the Battle of Chickamauga. From here, I began looking into where exactly these men were held as prisoners and found that they were taken to Andersonville Prison Camp a.k.a. Camp Sumter. This was arguably the most gruesome prison camp during the American Civil War. Here, Albert Baker died. He was the only man from Commerce Township known to have died during the Civil War. I also discovered that Commerce residents Marvin Bogart and Daniel Johnson were also taken to Andersonville, but survived. For a long time after this, I struggled in my research because a lot of the information is secondary sources from the National Park Association based off of information that is held at Andersonville, but not available online. While I trust the National Parks as a reliable source, I wanted to see the actual documents. This is when I found the diary of Ransom A. Chadwick who was a prisoner at Andersonville and wrote daily updates of his time there documenting his constant illness, inability to acquire medical care, the deaths of the men around him, the extreme temperatures, and other horrors of being a prisoner of war. From here I decided what would be most interesting to me to write about would to be to begin my essay by examining the beginnings of men from the 22 Michigan in the Civil War, but moving to a focus on Andersonville Prison Camp based on the existing first hand accounts of other prisoners from Andersonville Prison Camp and the effects it had on the war ending in the execution of Captain Henry Wirz, the stockade commander who was charged with “murder in violation of the laws of war.” As a tentative introduction and thesis statement, I have been perfecting something like this, though I am sure it will morph as I begin to write for real. Despite the size of Commerce Township and its seeming insignificance, it holds power as a historical site, specifically in the civil war. Men from Commerce formed a portion of the 22 Michigan and fought in many battles including the Battle of Chickamauga, one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil war and a near loss for the Union. Despite the technical victory of the Union as a result of Bragg’s exit from the battlefield, they faced heavy casualties and many men were taken as prisoners to the Andersonville Prison, one of the most brutal prison camps of the civil war. Three of those men were native to Commerce, Albert Baker (who died in the camp from wounds he sustained in battle), Marvin Bogart, and Daniel Johnson. While the facts of a war are interesting to read, written facts make a war seem like a distant event, when really wars are fought for passion, a very human emotion that still lives on today. The best way to understand the fire that lit the Civil War is to read a first hand account. One of the places where that same fire started the war lived on was in the prison camps like Andersonville Prison where Ransom. A Chadwick documented his time. It is one thing to say that prison is brutal, it is another thing to the read the gory details, but these details are where history lives.
This document is entitled “Introduction of the Selfridge family into America :
Their Participation in Three Great Wars : Records and Reminiscences / by Robert Ferguson Selfridge.” This document is very interesting because Selfridge was traveling with the 22 Michigan and gives first hand accounts of the Battle of Chickamauga as well as states that the 22 Michigan had bad luck leading to many prisoners being taken. After the battle, they became known as “the detachment of the 22 Michigan” with Major H. S. Dean Commanding.
This is a record of service from the Civil War that includes a portion on the 22 Michigan. It is mostly helpful because when it is cross referenced against Selfridge’s account, it proves him to be an accurate source.
This is not a diary from a man from Commerce, but it is the diary of a man named Ransom A. Chadwick. His diary documents his time at Andersonville prison. He describes his arrival at the camp, constantly being, ill hundreds of new prisoners arriving nearly everyday, extreme temperatures both hot and cold, his inability to find medicine, “men dying like sheepe”, carrying men to the hospital, and more.
This secondary source does not provide anything by means of first hand accounts prisoners of war, but it does explain that Albert Baker of the 22 Michigan died at Andersonville Prison Camp and is buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery. He also is the only known Commerce resident to die in the Civil War. This source also mentions Marvin Bogart and Daniel Johnson who survived Andersonville.
This article explains that Albert Baker was born in New York in 1836, married Sarah Ann Smith on December 9th, 1856, lived in Wixom, and had two children named Lewis and Lucy.
This article is primarily a secondary source, but does include a primary source of a quote from Sergeant Samuel Corthell, Company C, 4th Massachusetts Cavalry who described Andersonville Prison. “The camp was covered with vermin all over. You could not sit down anywhere. You might go and pick the lice all off of you, and sit down for a half a moment and get up and you would be covered with them. In between these two hills it was very swampy, all black mud, and where the filth was emptied it was all alive; there was a regular buzz there all the time, and it was covered with large white maggots.”
This record from the National Park Service (Andersonville is now a national park) lists Daniel Johnson of the 22 Michigan Infantry as being held at Andersonville and surviving, which matches with other research I have found elsewhere.
This video was helpful for understanding the Battle of Chickamauga where men from Commerce were taken as prisoners. According to Selfridge’s primary account, 22 Michigan was on the right center of General Thomas’s division during the battle.