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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

"Until the End" With the Fourth Michigan Cavalry

by Gordon Thorsby

In the Flushing History Museum near Flint, MI, a banner from the local GAR is proudly displayed of those that fought in the Civil War. After the men’s names, their company and rank are the words written again and again, “Until the end.” What did that mean?


The Fourth Michigan Cavalry was officially organized on August 29, 1862. The regiment arrived at Louisville, KY where it joined other cavalry regiments the Third Kentucky, the Seventh Pennsylvania and the Second Indiana regiments of cavalry into Minty’s Brigade. Horatio G. Minty, the commander had already made a name for himself in the Second Michigan Cavalry and would go on to be one of the most famous cavalry commanders in the Western Theater during the war. The Fourth began its fighting against Confederate John Hunt Morgan in the Fall and distinguished itself at Stone’s River around New Year’s in 1862-63. They tangled with Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joe Wheeler in several fights in 1863. At Tullahoma, the Fourth received great accolades for their hard fighting at Shelbyville as they fought enemy horsemen in the streets of the town with pistol and sword. The regiment gained a reputation saber charges when the saber was becoming a weapon of the past.


Their heavy fighting before, during and after Chickamauga depleted the regiment of men, horses and equipment resulting in the regiment to fall below fighting strength.. At some point in October to December, heavy recruitment began in Flushing, Michigan. Towns in Shiawassee, Genesee and Saginaw Counties needed to fill their quotas to avoid drafts so greater bounties were often irresistible. Did boys who had recently become eighteen join for the cause? Did they join because their families needed money? Did they join the Fourth Cavalry because of its fame of the regiment’s fame for hard charging horsemen? Or was it for all of those reasons?


The men enlisted in two groups; one in the November-December time frame after Chickamauga and the second group in January-February when the regiment was re-equipping at Nashville. Of the 36 who served in the Fourth Michigan Cavalry from the area, 33 signed up in 1864 during this period, sixteen in late ‘63 and 17 in early ‘64. There was Eli Day who enlisted. Day was placed in Co. E at sixteen and there was Solomon Powell, placed in Co. B who was 46. Both had to lie about their age to enlist because they were too young and too old. In 1861, men were placed in the same company if they were from the same area. In their case, the boys from Flushing were split up to fill up depleted companies.

unknown trooper

In 1864, the regiment now with their Flushing area enlistees, restarted their hard riding and fighting for the Atlanta Campaign.


Seven of the Flushing men died of disease in 1864-65:

Charles and his brother Daniel Pettingill, both in Co. K., about one month apart, both buried in Chattanooga, TN.

Thomas Armstrong- Co. E Buried at Nashville

John Calkins- Co. H possibly buried in Georgia, or transported back to Flint.

Eli Day-Co. H at Louisville.

Nelson Elwell Co. C at Louisville.

William Persons-in Grand Rapids, MI three weeks after joining up.


The “boys” from Flushing joined General James H. Wilson’s all cavalry 13,000 man advance to destroy Nathan Bedford Forrest’s army in March and April, 1865. After destroying Forrest's forces at Selma, they proceeded to Montgomery, AL and then toward Georgia until they received new orders from Gen. William Sherman. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and many in his Cabinet were attempting to escape south and Wilson was to arrest them. On May 10, men from the 4th Michigan including those from Flushing arrested the group in their camp near Macon, GA.


About one-third of the Flushing men that joined up were discharged at Nashville on June 6 and July 1, 1865. The others were discharged on August 15,1865 at Edgefield, TN. Of those that joined from Chesaning, Maple Grove, Taymouth, and Flushing, nobody died of wound or in battle. One man, George Malone of Taymouth, was captured at Kingston on May 18 (near Atlanta) was probably and was probably sent to Andersonville (based on the camp's nearby location and on it being just opened.) George did not return to the army, collect a pension, or return to the area. He simply disappeared. It is believed that he died and is buried at Andersonville as an unknown.


“Until the end” was never defined but there is a simple explanation. This regiment, no matter how long a trooper served was a tight-knit group and proud to serve one another. The banner that was hand embroidered was colored in red for those that did not return. The veterans took time at each GAR meeting to remember their buddies. Those that departed this world in the conflict deserved remembrance and every veteran in the 4th Michigan Cavalry for every man would eventually be united again "until the end."


none of those pictured are known to be from the area


Note: The song “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” mentions Wilson’s Cavalry that included the Fourth Michigan Cavalry.


Sources:


Tullahoma, Powell, David A. and Wittenberg, Eric J. Savas Beatie, 2020.


Yankee Blitzkrieg, Jones, James Pickett, University Press of Kentucky, 1976.


Flushing History Museum, Flushing, MI.


Historical Database, Inc. PO Box 35, Duxbury MA 02331


Fold3, Ancestry.com.




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