War fever hit Detroit in 1861


In April 1861 everything in Detroit had changed, seemingly overnight. The Civil War had commenced with the bombing at Sumter. President Lincoln issued a call from the various states for 75,000 volunteers. Michigan responded quickly. There were meetings all over the city in churches and halls. Governor Austin Blair traveled to Detroit to meet with military personnel and leading citizens. Funds needed to be raised. Troops needed to be trained. Detroit’s Common Council officially denounced  the “rebellious acts” that had occurred against the Federal government. Michigan’s clothing factories ratcheted up production with orders for military uniforms. Old Glory was seen flying over all public buildings. Notables like Lewis Cass were giving patriotic speeches. Detroit’s Fort Wayne became the primary spot for the training of the new recruits. The First Michigan spent up to 9 hours a day at Fort Wayne drilling and training. People from Detroit, including friend and family, would bring meals and other items for the new soldiers at the fort. U.S. senator (from Michigan) Zachariah Chandler had contact with Secretary of War Simon Cameron making it known that it was Michigan’s intention to support the war to the fullest extent, bolding stating that: “Without a little-blood-letting, this Union will not, in my estimation, be worth a rush.” Chandler, like so many others, thought the conflict would be a short one. The fever continued. Religious-political sermons were preached from the pulpits. In May 1861, Detroit’s Campus Martius was abuzz with activity. Ceremonies were held. The First Michigan  was departing for Washington. Zachariah Chandler, in Washington, met the arriving First Michigan. President Lincoln proclaimed at that point: “Thank God for Michigan!” Michigan-and Detroit would never be the same. The mood would change, of course, when the war did not end as quickly as had been hoped. But for that brief period in early 1861- Detroit was a focal point of a fever that had rarely been seen in the city, up to that point.  There would be other momentous events in Detroit in it’s future, but they were a long way off…


Source: “Old-Slow Town” Detroit During The Civil War by Paul Taylor

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