DAYS GONE BY: Lake County Civil War soldiers

By Jane Allison

Lake County Historical Society member

Editors note: This article is part of Days Gone By, in which members of the Lake County Historical Society share stories of Lake County’s rich history. The articles will appear every other week in the Lake County Star. The Lake County Historical Society office and museum are located at 830 N. Michigan Ave. in Baldwin. Its mailing address is 830 N. Michigan Ave., P.O. Box 774, Baldwin, Mich. 49304.

On April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired upon and the Civil War began. The 1st Michigan Infantry was recruited on Sept. 4, 1862, in the Fourth Congressional District of which Lake County was a part.

On March 3, 1863, The Draft Act took effect. Men who paid $300 to the government could avoid military service, which paid $13 per month. By Dec. 31, 1863, 53,749 Michigan men were in the service.

The Homestead Act was signed by President Lincoln in 1862. This Act enabled many Civil War veterans the opportunity of obtaining 160 acres of land for a fee of about $30 provided they lived on the homestead for five years.

Over 2 million acres were homesteaded in Michigan. In 1867, 12 former Union soldiers homesteaded near the southwest corner of Lake County. Chas. Thomas Carr was their leader. Another group took up land near the eastern border of Lake County and another settlement was made near Luther.

After the homesteaders had passed away, the government furnished stone markers for graves. The monuments had a shield insignia engraved with the soldier’s name, company and regiment.

A short description of a few of these fine men follows:

  • Corporal Andrew J Bradford was in Company F with the 2nd Michigan Calvary. Andrew was 19 when the 2nd Michigan Cavalry was “mustered in” at Grand Rapids in 1861. This unit lost 342 men during nearly four years of service. Andrew was “mustered out” in 1865. In 1907, Andrew built a house in Baldwin on South Michigan Street (M-37). He married Clara Bonney and they had a son George. George later married Violet Bell, a local school teacher.
  • Louis L. Duffing was born in 1840. He served the army in Company 1 with the 1st U.S. Infantry. While on leave in New York, he met Mary Nolan and they later married. Their first son George was born when Louis was stationed at Fort Randall in South Dakota. After Louis’ discharge, they moved to Detroit and eventually to Baldwin. Mary worked in a Baldwin hotel and Louis carried payroll for one of the local lumber mills. He was hit over the head by robbers during this time and was never able to work following the head injury.
  • Charles Ives was in Company A with the 3rd Michigan Calvary. Enlisting on Aug. 17, 1863 at the age of 19, Charles served until his discharge in 1865. He moved to Marlborough, Mich. after his discharge and lived there until the age of 92.

Several Civil War veterans are buried in Lake County cemeteries. Over a hundred plus years of Michigan weathering on the headstones makes some of the inscriptions illegible. The spelling on the monuments sometimes also differs from the military records. Established in 1876, the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Luther has 17 Civil War soldiers buried. North Park Cemetery in South Newkirk Township in Section 12 has eight, and Valley Cemetery in Ellsworth Township Section 17 has four soldiers buried there. Three soldiers are buried in Dover Township Cemetery. Pleasant Plains Cemetery rests 20 soldiers. Chase Township has five soldiers buried in the Chase Cemetery and 115 in the Baptist Cemetery in Chase Township Section 14. Sweetwater Township is the location of a private cemetery at Dexter and Wingleton Roads. Nathan Lucas is the only Civil War soldier buried here. He served two years in Battery E, 1st Michigan Light Artillery.

In 1903, the Michigan legislature drafted Public Act 147. This provided for publication of books, which included the history of Michigan’s military records of soldiers and sailors in the Civil War.