Eli Blanchard, Musician: The 24th Michigan of the Iron Brigade

EDIT: I spent a lot of time yesterday worrying about Eli Blanchard and his regiment, mostly concerned that I’d been a little lazy with my research, so I went back today to comb through the Orson Blair Curtis book one more time. I still wish I knew what instrument he played in the 24th Michigan band, when he got sick and with what, and when he left on furlough, but this is future grist for the blog mill.

To avoid too much ado, here’s my question: who is this guy? And how did he, a musician, end up dead at 21 during service in the Civil War?

eli blanchard

And here’s the back story: about a month ago, when I was first getting worked up about the diary of Farmington founding father Nathan Power, I paid a visit to the Quaker Cemetery, Farmington’s oldest, to visit with the Powers and their friends.

quaker cemetery

I paid my respects to Uncle Nathan, Farmington’s first teacher and conductor of the township’s stop on the Underground Railroad, and his first wife Selinda and their daughter Phebe Minerva, who died on the same day of cholera, and Patience Comstock Power, his second wife, whose headstone is considerably better kept than Selinda and the girl’s.

nathan power headstone

phebe minerva

A young teenage couple was nuzzling in front of the grave of an Oliver Hazard, d. 1923 (whether he bears any relation to the decorated Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry of “Don’t give up the ship” fame is an item for future exploration). I found it unlikely that they’d be mourning an 86-years-ago-and-counting death of a loved one, and indeed I saw them later that afternoon, nuzzling and making the same god-our-sadness-is-earth-shaking faces at each other in someone’s driveway, under a basketball hoop. Teenagers. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, though, and tried to be surreptitious about my picture-taking.

And this was when I was struck by the headstone of musician Eli Blanchard.

If you are at all sharp with your in Civil War history, you probably already know that the 24th Michigan Infantry, Eli Blanchard’s regiment, was part of the legendary Iron Brigade, which incurred a higher percentage of casualties of any Civil War brigade (while the 24th Michigan suffered more casualties during the Battle of Gettysburg than any other regiment).

iron brigade fw

But Eli Blanchard didn’t die at Gettysburg. He lived for two more years.

When President Lincoln was shot and killed in April 1865, the 24th Michigan escorted the President’s funeral cortege to Oak Ridge cemetery in Springfield. From History of the Twenty-Fourth Michigan of the Iron Brigade, by Orson Blair Curtis, 1891:

The assassination of Lincoln had its effect upon the men — that of profound sorrow. Many of the soldiers wept as at the loss of a father. On the occasion of the President’s funeral, the appearance of the Twenty-fourth Michigan which formed the principal escort added to the pageant and elicited much commendation from military men and citizens. The regiment was drilled with especial care for the honorable duty by Major Hutchinson and the company officers, and its appearance was at its best, being thoroughly furnished with new Iron Brigade black hats, feathers, brasses, and white gloves. They were soon recognized by Major General Joseph Hooker, who was in attendance, and who seemed pleased again to meet the Regiment whose acquaintance he had made in the early stages of the war. Lieutenant Colonel Edwards commanded the Regiment on the occasion.

Eli Blanchard may have marched in this procession, but it’s unclear when he fell ill and took sick furlough to return to Detroit. In any case, he either barely missed or just made his regiment’s homecoming to Fort Wayne on June 20, 1865. Eli Blanchard died the next day. By June 30, the Iron Brigade had officially disbanded.

It’s so tragic, although maybe not quite as bitter as the death a member of the 24th Company H, Michael Cunningham, who survived wounds sustained at Gettysburg only to die on leave in Canada when he was caught under a falling tree.

Naturally, the 24th Michigan has its own Michigan-based reenactment group.

Any other need-to-know on the 24th Michigan? Send it along.

#24th michigan#abraham lincoln funeral#civil war#eli blanchard#farmington quaker cemetery#iron brigade#oliver hazard#teenagers

Comments

  1. Daniel Rossi - July 13, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    Eli Blanchard was a drummer. 6/21/65 death date.

  2. amy - July 13, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    Wow. Thank you Daniel! I was just thinking about Eli Blanchard the other day. Glad to know this.

  3. Webster Wood - November 23, 2010 @ 6:04 am

    My Great granfather was a musician in the 24th-Company K. He was friends with Eli and mentions him often in his diaries. I don’t have his 65 diary so I can’t shed light on his death. Webster Wood

  4. Katie - December 31, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

    My thesis project is on Eli Blanchard and his brother Franklin. Their civil war letters were donated to my work by a distant relative, and I am digitizing and transcribing them to make them available to the public. Eli mentions Web Wood in at least one of his letters. Eli got a bad case of the mumps along with others from their same group and was sent back to Michigan. He died before Franklin returned home.

  5. Dave Roberts - March 15, 2011 @ 7:25 am

    To Webster Wood:

    I have been researching who was in the procession at Lincoln’s funeral in Springfield, IL on May 4, 1865. I have in my possession a fife that allegedly was played during the funeral march to the grave sight. The fifer was Jesse Lambert, who was a member of the 78th Illinois Volunteer Regiment.

    Could you be of any help to validate his participation? Dave Roberts

  6. amy - March 15, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    This comment thread is getting amazing.

  7. Christine - July 6, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    Two of my second great grand uncles, George and Herman Krumbach (immigrants from Württemburg) served in the 24th Regiment, Michigan, from August 15, 1862 until they mustered out on June 30, 1865. Herman is identified as a musician. Perhaps George was as well. Their brother Henry served as a musician with the 1st Regiment, Michigan, enlisting March 22, 1864.

    On the website for the Iron Brigade, Wisconsin’s “Black Hat” Brigade, is stated “In August 1862 the bands from the Wisconsin regiments were abolished. The 24th [Michigan] held on to its band until 1864.”

    Anyone have more information to share about Civil War musicians?

  8. Gary - October 20, 2013 @ 4:27 am

    Great posts.

    I am currently researching a member of the 24th MI. His name was Michael Greening. He enlisted 7 March 1865 and arrived in Springfield IL on 14 March. I assume he participated in Lincoln’s funeral, but, is there a difinative source that would list all the participants of the 24th ?

    Thank you for your assistance.

  9. Kathy - August 31, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

    Eli contracted and passed away from mumps.

  10. Peter Stoddard - November 3, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

    My great grandfather was a drummer with the 24th Michigan. He survived and lived to a ripe old age. If he wrote of his experience it does not survive. We know he attended a reunion at Gettysburg but that is all.

    https://ironbrigader.com/2013/04/08/24th-michigan-infantry-gettysburg/comment-page-1/

    Henry Clay Stoddard, Musician. Company I, 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry

    Enlisted Aug 2, 1862, served in the 24th Reg. Michigan Volunteers, 5th Corps, Army of Potomac; saw action at Antietam, South Mountain, Brandy Station, Fredericksburg, Chancellorville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, North Anna, South Anna, Mine Run, Siege before Petersburg and Five Forks. Was mustered out at Detroit July 29, 1865.

    I’m curious as to how long the band remained intact, and at what point they were asked to take up arms. Herny Clay was a drummer, so it is possible he would become part of some signal corps.

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