Michigan in the Civil War

Browse by Name: Burchell, George W.

Green, Sullivan Dexter, 1833-1889.

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"The jolly looking fellow on the right is me" -- Sullivan D. Green, from his papers

An earnest but opinionated young man, publisher of a temperance paper before he enlisted, who "firmly believed that the Union must be preserved by the power of arms . . . but that politicians for party's sake have prolonged this unnatural struggle and are accountable for the hardships our noble soldiers are now suffering." There are several discourses in the same vein through the twenty letters he wrote to members of his family. He talks of his father's "stern, unyielding patriotic principles of democracy." He is proud of the honors bestowed upon himself by the Grand Division of Sons of Temperance of Michigan.

He witnessed the retreat of the armies from Centreville and Fairfax "poor, jaded, disheartened fellows," described some of the camps, such as the one overlooking the Potomac and the city of Washington, saying, "I have fallen completely in love with this country." He also described the gruesome casualties at Fredericksburg and commented on the death of his brother in this battle. He gave his views concerning Homeopathic medicine; contrasted the pay of citizen clerks (friends of officers) with that of soldier clerks; talked about some of their meals, the "Dutch oven," and their Colored cook; commented on home news in a nostalgic way; and spoke of the newspapers and magazines he had been sending home. He wrote letters to newspapers and was labeled a "Copperhead" by some of their readers. He had pretty much made up his mind to spend the remainder of his days in the South, likely in the Union Army, for, he said, "My life is like a withered tree-not worth preserving, and I shall not want to outlive my country, nor do I care a great deal to see Michigan again."

There is a short note on the death of Lincoln and reference to the fact that his regiment, along with other troops, escorted "the remains of the late President in Springfield."

Green, from Detroit, Mich., was in Company F, 24th Michigan Infantry (1861-1865) as clerk at Brigade Headquarters and quartermaster sergeant. He was mustered out June 30, 1865.

The collection contains a letter in which his brother, Charles V. Green, of Company H, 13th Maine Infantry, stationed at Fort St. Phillip, La. (May 9, 1863), tells him that it is a delightful country to live in except for the tropical insects.

The collection also contains handwritten copies of about 40 letters (Mar. 1863-Jan. 1865) of George W. Burchell, lieutenant in Company G., 24th Michigan Infantry and later captain of Company B of that regiment. He was wounded at Spotsylvania, May 12, 1864. The next day he wrote "I have fought eight battles in eight days, terrible engagements of musketry. Indeed this is the most horrible fight the world ever saw. This it the 9th day and they are fighting yet. God knows when it will end but it cannot last much longer I think. We shall whip them I believe but it is tough. I have seen it in all its horrible variations this time. Gettysburg is a skirmish compared with this fight."

This collection is available on microfilm for interlibrary loan.

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