Ortonville Cemetery Civil War Walk provides glimpse of local history

By David Fleet
Ortonville— On June 16, 1864, Brandon Township resident Pvt. Thomas Tucker was on guard duty at Union Army headquarters near Chattaooga, Tenn.
The Civil War had raged for more than three years.
“My the cannons have been roaring out in front a little ways,” wrote Tucker in his diary. ‘They are having a big fight out there. Quite a lot of rebel prisnors (sic) was brought in this eavning (sic) and our regiment is guarding them. This eavning (sic), a little while ago, I walked out to where the prisonrs (sic) are and a large percent of them are young boys 15 and 16 years old. Some of them are fine looking young fellows, black eyes and long curly hair. I talked with some of them and they did wish the war would end. Realy (sic), I felt sorry for the poor fellows, for they were ragged and some of them had no shoes. Yet they were a jolly lot and some of them are fine singers, and they try awfull (sic) hard to keep their courage up.”
Tucker’s Civil War reflections, written 160 years ago next month, were part of the day-to-day three year account recorded by the 17 year old township youth.
This Memorial Day, Tucker’s biography will be one of 12 local Civil War stories shared by reenactors posted at the gravesites of the local area soldiers at the Ortonville Cemetery. Visitors can walk from site to site and historians will share each soldier’s story and how they served in the Civil War. A total of 53 Civil War veterans are at the cemetery.
The historical walking tour is the culmination of Carol Bacak-Egbo, chief archivist and historian at Oakland County Parks and Recreation, Alan Allgaier, Ortonville Community Historical Society and Tina Algaier, a member of the OCHS. Bacak-Egbo and Algaier spearheaded the extensive research including cemetery records, Grand Army of the Republic roles, National Park Service along with other historical sources for the project.
“We didn’t know how many Civil War veterans are buried in the Ortonville Cemetery,” said Alan, with more than 40 years of experience as a Civil War reenactor.
In addition, ladies dressed in 1860s garb will reenact an early Decoration Day, by touring through the cemetery and placing flowers on the grave of all Civil War Veterans.
“Quite often during the Civil War, the majority of soldiers from a town (like Ortonville) served in the same company,” said Alan. “That’s not the case here, as the 53 soldiers were spread among 41 different companies that served in many theaters of the war. Because of this, almost every major conflict of the Civil War was witnessed by a soldier at the Ortonville cemetery.”
Benjamin Guiles of the Michigan Fifth Cavalry rode with Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer at the East Cavalry at Gettysburg; Benjamin’s brother William spent time in Andersonville prison, but was released and was present at Appomattox when General Lee surrendered ending the Civil War; Thomas Tucker of the 22nd Michigan and several others signed in early August 1862, in answer to President Lincoln’s Executive Order calling for the states to provide 300,000 more troops; Robert Martin of the 24th Michigan stood guard with the Lincoln funeral train after the president was assassinated;
“Descendants of these soldiers still live in our community today,” said Alan. “Many have committed to attending the event. Descendants will be recognized during the ceremonies.”
The Old Mill Museum, 366 Mill St., Ortonville has refreshed its Civil War display in the military room on the second floor. New are a special exhibit of historical Decoration Day postcards. Admission is free.

One Response to "Ortonville Cemetery Civil War Walk provides glimpse of local history"

  1. Kimberly Cris   May 25, 2024 at 5:03 am

    Great article, David. loved how you brought Pvt. Tucker’s story to life. Really enjoyed reading it!


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