Ninth Michigan Volunteer Calvary
Union Volunteer Cavalry Regiment
By Joshua Briggs
In April 1861, the American Civil War commenced off the shores of South Carolina. Holland’s residents, second-generation Dutch-American men, were called to defend the Union. The city’s volunteers enlisted in one of two local units: the Ninth Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment or the Michigan Twenty-Fifth Volunteer Regiment, Company One.
Organizing the Ninth Michigan Volunteer Cavalry
In January 1863, the Ninth Michigan Cavalry was organized in Coldwater, Michigan. The unit was under the command of Colonel James L. David. According to the Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers, “the regiment was splendidly equipped before leaving the state and armed with the Spencer rifle, which … was capable of being fired seven times without reloading.” Many local men, including Benjamin Van Raalte, served in both the Ninth Michigan Volunteer Calvary and the Michigan Twenty-Fifth Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
In June 1863, following six months of training, the Ninth engaged in combat for the first time. As stated in the Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers, the unit “was ordered to Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, in pursuit of a band of guerillas and its first engagement with the enemy at Triplett Bridge.” The Ninth, the report continue, “routed Everett’s guerillas … and captured a number of them.” Benjamin Van Raalte, son of Holland’s founder, described the triumph to his parents. “We lost none,” he wrote, “and took five prisoners, killed and wounded several others.” Following its victory over the Confederate forces in Kentucky, the Ninth experienced a brief respite before marching to Eastern Ohio.
In June 1863, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan led his cavalry unit from Tennessee to Eastern Ohio, the farthest north of any rebel unit, robbing towns. Throughout the campaign, known as Morgan’s Raid, the Confederate soldiers pillaged fields and robbed towns along the way. General Morgan’s men captured 6,000 Union soldiers, disrupted the North’s railroad network at 60 points, and destroyed over 30 bridges. Throughout Ohio, local newspapermen panicked, civilians trembled, and the state’s politicians reluctantly confirmed that the situation was indeed bleak.
On July 25, 1863, the Ninth Michigan Volunteer Calvary engaged General Morgan and his men in Carroll County, Ohio at the Battle of Salineville. The engagement was succinctly described in the Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers: “the sharp engagement … [resulted] in a complete rout of Morgan’s forces, [the] [capture] [of] 500 prisoners, a large quantity of small arms and three pieces of artillery.” Willem Roon, a young Dutchman and Union soldier, described the engagement in more detail: “on the 25th [sic] [of] [July] we were in a battle against Morgan’s troops. They were heavily armed but gave up quickly and we got three hundred prisoners and in the afternoon Morgan gave himself over to a regiment from Kentucky.” Willem Roon, a young Dutchman and Union soldier, described the engagement in more detail: “on the 25th [sic] [of] [July] we were in a battle against Morgan’s troops. They were heavily armed but gave up quickly and we got three hundred prisoners and in the afternoon Morgan gave himself over to a regiment from Kentucky.” Following General Morgan’s surrender, Roon prayed that “the Lord may reestablish peace” and that his fellow soldiers would “return in good condition.” While his prayers were granted, Roon never lived to see peace restored in the Nation. On April 3, 1864, the young soldier, who was suffering from an unknown illness, died in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Fall of Cumberland Gap
As the Civil War progressed, Holland’s Ninth Cavalry continued to engage in combat. Most notably, it “took part in the expedition against Cumberland Gap [when] the stronghold surrendered to the Union forces.”
The Atlanta Campaign
After the Union’s significant victory at Cumberland Gap, the Ninth Calvary joined General William Tecumseh Sherman on his famed “March to the Sea.” During this campaign, “the Ninth made a brilliant charge upon the forces of General Wheeler, driving the enemy in confusion and capturing 100 prisoners.” In recognition of this exhibition of bravery and valor, Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick appointed the Ninth as his personal escort to St. Catherine’s Sound, an island along Georgia’s Gulf shore. The Ninth was the first unit of General William Sherman’s army to reach the coast. Thus, Holland’s Ninth Volunteer Calvary achieved victories at the northernmost point of the war against General Morgan, and at the southernmost most point against General Johnston.
On July 30, 1865, the Ninth arrived in Jackson, Michigan. The men were paid and disbanded. Three months after General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Holland’s Ninth Infantry Regiment was mustered out of service.