Michigan Twenty-Fifth Volunteer Regiment
Union Army Regiment
By Joshua Briggs
In April 1861, the first shells were launched at Fort Sumter. The shots marked the start of the American Civil War. Holland’s residents, second-generation Dutch-American men, enlisted to defend the Union. The men joined one of two local units: the Ninth Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment or the Michigan Twenty-Fifth Volunteer Regiment, Company One.
Michigan Twenty-Fifth Regiment
On September 22, 1862, the Michigan Twenty-Fifth Volunteer Regiment was organized in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Holland’s volunteers formed Company One. Colonel O.H. Moore had command of the Twenty-Fifth Regiment. Following months of drills and training, Moore led his regiment on its march toward the South. The flag of Michigan’s Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiment bore the following inscription: “This flag is given in faith that it will be carried where honor and duty leads.” This pledge carried the rural soldiers of Company One onto distant battlefields and through peril.
On January 8, 1863, the Twenty-Fifth Regiment entered into combat against Confederate General John Pegram. The Twenty-Fifth drove the Confederates out of Kentucky, marking the Regiment’s first victory of the Civil War.
In June 1863, Company One marched to Louisville, Kentucky. In the southern city, the Regiment engaged in a massive defensive effort and “repulsed the attack of thousands of Confederates, performing gallantly.” Alexander Jonkeer, a Holland soldier, described the battle. “I was fighting … from 4:30am to past 8:00 at night and … a lot of men in our company fell,” Jonkeer stated. “Our Colonel,” he boasted, “was proud of us and the way we fought.” As a result of the Twenty-Fifth’s success in Lexington, Colonel Moore was promoted to brigadier general.
On November 24, 1863, the Regiment participated in the Union’s defense of Kingston. According to Jonkeer, “some were wounded but no one was killed. “[We] fought well,” he stated, “of the rebels there were 200 dead … we were in a good position to fight. We could see them well and it was good to see them retreat.”
In summer 1864, Company One participated in General William Tecumseh Sherman Atlanta Campaign. On July 14, 1864, Benjamin Van Raalte, the son of Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte, assured his parents that “[m]uch of the Rebellion has been licked and one thing is certain—they do not fight with the courage of our soldiers.” Approximately one month later, on August 10, 1864, Benjamin Van Raalte disclosed the challenge facing Company One. “The Rebs are fighting desperately here,” he exclaimed, “not a foot of ground is gained without heavy fighting.” Throughout the Atlanta Campaign, the Twenty-Fifth Regiment maintained its ground behind a dense labyrinth of breastworks, fending off repeated rebel raids and shelling the city of Atlanta into oblivion. During the Siege of Atlanta, Van Raalte wrote over one dozen letters home, describing his experiences and the trials of warfare. During the conflict, his brother Dirk Van Raalte was wounded. Consumed by a sense of duty to his brother, Benjamin Van Raalte traveled to the army hospital outside of Atlanta. When Atlanta fell in September 1864, Benjamin Van Raalte was present at the bedside of his brother.
April 9, 1865
Following the conclusion of General Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, the Twenty-Fifth Regiment marched throughout the South, engaging in combat as needed. On June 24, 1865, two months after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiment was officially disbanded and the soldiers of Company One were granted permission to return to their homes.