Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access



This is a history of the Eleventh Michigan Volunteer Infantry. It was never a famous regiment; it never did much out of the ordinary, and participated in few major battles. If three is anything to distinguish this regiment, it is that it is not distinguished. What happened to the Eleventh Michigan happened to countless other regiments both North and South. In a sense a study of one regiment provides a study of all.

The Eleventh tried to be different. It almost caught John Hunt Morgan in Kentucky. At Murfreesboro it made a desperate charge to retake the Cedars. It was the first to march into the valley south of Chickamauga. It claimed to be the last to leave the Chickamauga battlefield, and that after after. This regiment swore with its dying breath that it was the first to reach the top of Missionary Ridge. But try as it might, the Eleventh wasn't much different from its brother units.

In the years after the war, as one by one the veterans departed this life, the survivors began to sense their true place in history. They realized their single deeds meant nothing - that they had all been part of one massive army in which individual identification had been lost. And here was where they realized their importance. They were little people in a large army, but without the little people, there never would have been an army.

So the regimental reunions gradually became reunions for all the old soldiers. It was no longer really important what had been a man's unit. Although the old men would still gather with their regimental comrades of the past, others were welcomed, until in time the reunions became simply the coming together of old soldiers.

All the men who fought the Civil War are now dead. In the last years of their lives, many of them sat down to write their memories. These accounts usually took the form of regimental histories, hundreds of which now gather dust on the shelves of our major libraries.

Today, if one finds a recently written regimental history, it is almost always because of this particular unit was somehow noteworthy. But the Eleventh Michigan Infantry was not a famous unit, and no old soldier ever wrote its history. This account is an attempt to remedy that omission.

The Eleventh Michigan was originally known as Colonel May's Independent Regiment, and later was absorbed into the State forced. This paper is not a chronicle of its entire life. It examines the regiment's history from its birth in the spring of 1861 through the conclusion of its first major battle at Murfreesboro.

The Eleventh Michigan knew frustration. After its organization in early August, 1861, it waited more than sixteen months for its baptism of fire - sixteen months of agony and uncertainty as to how it would perform in battle. But when battle finally came it acquitted itself well, and brought great credit to Michigan.