The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter I
Civil War

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United State; by the republican party, on a platform hostile to slavery. Some Southern states thereupon announced that, rather then submit to this, they would secede from the Union. They called popular conventions, formally adopted ordinances of secession, and formed among themselves the Confederate States of America. The Northern states held that these states were still in the Union, since, by assent to the constitution, all the states had made an indissoluble bond. Certain border states sympathized with the South as to slavery and secession, but they would not go so far as to join them in maintaining a new republic by force. The border states tried to be peacemakers, and proposed compromises. One of these is known as the Crittenden compromise, proposed by Senator Crittenden of Kentucky. It satisfied neither side, and a similar fate met all the compromises proposed, even those of the peace conference called in 1861. Michigan refused to take part in this conference. It seemed to her that no conference could be called a peace conference worthy the dignity of the state, when held under a threat of war, unless the North should surrender principles upon which Abraham Lincoln had been elected. Nor did Michigan sympathize with President Buchanan's view, that the federal government could not constitutionally use force to keep the state in the Union.

Governor Austin Blair took a strong stand upon the platform of an indestructible Union. "Safety lies in this path alone," he said. "The Union must be preserved, and the laws must be enforced in all parts of it, at whatever cost. Secession is revolution, and revolution in the overt act is treason, and must be treated as such." Michigan was at peace without a peace conference. Hostile action by the Southern states would be in the nature of insurrection and, if need be, the army of the federal government must be called upon to suppress insurrection. In case the regular army could not do it, the state militia must be called out.

This sentiment was echoed by Senator Chandler, who in 1854 had succeeded Senator Cass. "The people of Michigan are opposed to all compromises," he said. "They do not believe hat any compromise is necessary; nor do I. they are prepared to stand by the Constitution of the united States as it is; to stand by the government as it is, to stand by it to blood if necessary."

War was inevitable. On April 12,1861, Fort Sumter in Charlestown harbor, was attacked, and a few days later surrendered. Michigan was roused as one man. From the University of Michigan to the humblest red school house, students listened to professors and teachers on the great issue of preserving the Union. Speakers in every center of population from city to hamlet spoke to thoughtful and earnest audiences of people on the duty of every citizen to rise to the defense of the Union, even to his last drop of blood, if necessary. In Detroit the citizens listened to the now aged General Cass, who affirmed: "It is the duty of all zealously to support the government in its efforts to bring this unhappy civil war to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion, by the restoration of its integrity of the great charter of freedom bequested to us buy Washington and his compatriots."

When the call to arms came from President Lincoln, Michigan was among the first to send volunteers to seal the Union with their blood. During the great struggle that followed, Michigan put into the field nearly a hundred thousand men. When the war was over, no state in the Union had greater cause to rejoice over the record made by her sons, many thousands of whom were left in soldiers' graves on southern battlefields.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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