Michigan in the Civil War

Browse by Name: Shaffer, George T.

Shaffer, George T., 1822-1893.

Shaffer, of Edwardsburg, Cass County, Mich., enlisted in Company A, 19th Michigan Infantry, as first lieutenant, Aug. 2, 1862. He was taken prisoner at Thompson's Station, Tenn., March 5, 1863 and exchanged May 5. In 1864 he was commissioned captain in May, wounded in action June 22, commissioned major of the 28th Michigan Infantry Aug. 15, commissioned lieutenant colonel in December, then mustered out June 5, 1866.

Correspondence between Lieutenant Shaffer and his wife during 1863 concerns, in large part, problems about the farm, his debts, and his family. As for war news, he describes a river trip on the steamer Ohio III on the regiment's way to join Rosecrans' army; and marches and skirmishes such as the engagement at Thompson's Station in which they ran out of ammunition and had to surrender; battles, such as Chickamauga; picket and guard duty, especially at Duck River Bridge and the railroad between Nashville and Franklin to keep the rebels from cutting the supply line to Rosecrans' army.

He writes about winter quarters, camp sites, food, and a box from home containing fruit, butter, honey, wine on which "we have lived high." The officers are invited for a social evening of dinner and music by Dr. Armstrong, "as good a Union man as there is in the world."

He comments on Negroes as soldiers; on General McClellan, believing that if he had remained in command, "our army should have been in possession of Richmond long before now," or General Rosecrans who, if he had not been superseded would have "whipped out old Bragg and all his forces;" or on President Lincoln who "was afraid the war would come to a close before all his abolition friends could make a fortune." He talked with a rebel captain, a prisoner and said, "I think that he and I could settle this difficulty if they would leave it to us."

Captain Smith was sent to Michigan on indefinite leave to recruit. Lieutenant Shaffer had to assume the captain's duties as well as his own until he became resentful and said, "I am getting tired of doing two or three men's work and getting no credit for it." He wanted a furlough but there were no officers to spare except "cowards." He resented having Eli Griffin come as their new major when he thought there were men in the regiment already capable of taking over the position. Later he admitted that Major Griffin was a gentleman.

Many of the lieutenant's letters from August to December express his anger, saying, "I have been treated d--n meanly in this regiment, and I shall get out of it in some way or other before very long." Earlier he had declared, "I have enlisted in the army of the United States to assist ... in putting down this wicked rebellion, to throw in my might toward sustaining the best government the sun ever shone on."

His letters end on Dec. 26, 1863, but in 1864, according to his record, he evidently was appreciated and promoted.

The collection also contains an undated autobiographical sketch, which concentrates on Shaffer's service with the 28th Michigan Infantry and various official correspondence, orders, rolls, and lists (1863-1866), including a loyalty oath (July 1865) signed by about 70 former rebels in Cleveland County, N.C.

There are four letters to Shaffer from other soldiers:

Hiram R. Ellis, of Saugatuck, Mich., sergeant, Company I, 5th Michigan Cavalry, August 1862-August 1864; adjutant, 28th Michigan Infantry, at organization, August 1864- December, 1865; acting assistant adjutant general, District of New Berne, N. C., December 1865 and January 1866. Brevet captain U. S. Volunteers March 13, 1865, for gallant and meritorious services during the war. Mustered out June 5, 1866.

One letter from Greensboro, N. C., May 9, 1865, written to Lieutenant Colonel George T. Shaffer, gives news of divisions 1-2-3 and the men, also the colonel's horses. He describes Greensboro and the countryside. There is a great want of sanitary supplies. "The weather is awful hot and the dust has worried us considerable." "The colored population is large here."

Alexander Kirkwood, of Cass County, Mich., first lieutenant with Company I, 19th Michigan Infantry. One letter (Jan. 5, 1865) from Hardee's Plantation, S.C.

Rufus C. Nash, of Detroit, Mich., sergeant in Company A, 5th Michigan Infantry. One letter (Nov. 4, 1861) from Fort Lyon, Va.

Edwin O. Shaw. He entered Company H, 30th Michigan Infantry, the "Home Guards" December 2, 1864, and was mustered out June 23, 1865. His letter to Lieutenant Colonel George T. Shaffer on February 21, 1865 says, "We have good times here, plenty of rations and plenty of duty. Our duty is catching deserters, bounty jumpers, skedaddlers, etc. We have a good many to take care of. We arrested nine Johnnys who escaped from the prison at Rock Island, Ill. They want to take the oath of allegiance, and I guess they will be allowed to take it and be liberated."