During the American Civil War (1861-1865), soldiers from the same town or region mustered together into units. Men volunteered because they believed in the cause, to receive an enlistment bonus, or to avoid getting drafted. Many already knew each other; while others formed new friendships that would last a lifetime. Families back home followed news from the battlefront of their hometown boys with interest, pride, and sometimes horror. Several groups from the Grand Rapids area played important roles in the Civil War including the First Regiment Michigan Engineers and Mechanics.
Part of the Army of the Ohio, the First Regiment Michigan Engineers and Mechanics mustered into service in Marshall, Michigan, with quite a few men from Grand Rapids. This group of engineers built railroads, bridges and buildings in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama for the movement of troops and supplies from the North. In 1865 they participated in the siege of Atlanta, destroying Confederate infrastructure. From there the Michigan engineers built roads to facilitate Sherman’s famous march through Georgia to Savannah.
Following the Civil War, the group had reunions, providing medals such as this 1898 medal for W.M. P Innes who was one of their members.