Monday, September 16, 2019

Book News: The 6th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War

I've often mentioned that regimental histories appeal to me most when the unit under consideration spent the bulk of its Civil War service performing important duties distanced well away from the two main war fronts in Virginia and the middle western heartland. So I'm bringing up this title not because I have any particular interest in the 6th Michigan, but rather because Eric Faust's The 6th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster (McFarland, early 2020) seems to fit that bill. It looks to join two more as yet unseen regimentals at the top of my to-read list (the 3rd Minnesota book has been out for a couple weeks, though it hasn't arrived here yet, with the 31st Massachusetts study due before the end of this year).

Like the Bay Staters of the 31st, the 6th Michigan spent nearly all of its active service in the Department of the Gulf. Sailing to New Orleans with the Butler Expedition in 1862, the regiment was part of the city's occupying force before being heavily engaged in the August 5, 1862 Battle of Baton Rouge and the following year's Bayou Teche and Port Hudson campaigns. In July 1863, the unit was converted into a heavy artillery regiment and posted to various garrisons along the Mississippi River Valley before seeing final action during the 1864-65 Mobile Bay and Mobile city campaigns. Though the 6th's second career as heavy artillerymen interests me just as much as their exploits over the first half of the war, it appears from the wording in the description (see below) that coverage of that latter period will be only minor in scope.

According to Faust, who has also authored a pair of 11th Michigan studies, the 6th's "service along the Mississippi River was a perfect storm of epidemic disease, logistical failures, guerrilla warfare, profiteering, martinet West Pointers and scheming field officers, along with the doldrums of camp life punctuated by bloody battles. The Michiganders responded with alcoholism, insubordination, and depredations. Yet they saved the Union right at Baton Rouge and executed suicidal charges at Port Hudson."

More: "This first modern history of the controversial regiment concludes with a statistical analysis, a roster, and a brief summary of its service following conversion to heavy artillery."

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