By Roberta M. Gubbins
This year's list of Michigan Notable Books included the book "Michigan and the Civil War: A Great and Bloody Sacrifice," written by Michigan lawyer Jack Dempsey and featured as part of the Notable Books Tour held on each of Thomas M. Cooley's campuses. Dempsey came to the Lansing Campus on May 16th.
"I hope this book will provide some information to you" about Michigan and its role in the Civil War, said Dempsey beginning his discussion. "I have been a Civil War buff since I was eight years old." As he learned over the course of his research, he found there were many books but not one that clearly set out Michigan's importance in the war. This book helps to meet that need.
In 1860, according to the census, there were 750,000 people in the entire state of Michigan. Michigan, at that time, was a 'Free Soil State,' a party created specifically to keep slavery from expanding into the territories. One of the leaders of the party was Thomas McIntyre Cooley thus the "heritage of this law schools goes back to antebellum Michigan."
Dempsey subtitled his book 'A Great and Bloody Sacrifice,' "because of the roughly 90,000 (Michigan) soldiers who enlisted, put on the uniform, and went to the battlefront." Of those, 15,000 or one in six died from wounds or, "sadly, the great majority died from disease."
"No other Northern state suffered proportionally more loses than Michigan," he said. Michigan troops fought in over 800 military actions from three day battles to major campaigns to small actions. They fought in every major battle from first Bull Run in Virginia in July 1861 all the way through the course of the war in Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, the March to the Sea and all the way to the conclusion in Appomattox."
Dempsey noted that during those years soldiers were kept in units together, meaning that they would be serving with their neighbors and family members. Thus losses were translated into casualty roles posted back home so the impact on a particular community could be significant.
"Michigan's Civil War soldiers were diverse," he said. "Their ages ranged from pre-teen to middle age. The very young were drummer boys. There were women who enlisted, disguising themselves as men. One Michigan woman was able to receive a pension thanks to the testimony of her fellow soldiers while the majority deserted once they were discovered."
There were African-Americans and Native Americans. The First Michigan Colored Regiment was the first organized African-American unit to put on the uniform.
While this is his first book, Dempsey is a history book reviewer and author of several articles on Michigan history subjects. He spent three years researching and writing the book. All the proceeds from the book are being donated to the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial.
Dempsey is vice-president of the Michigan Historical Commission, chairman of its Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, and Chairman of the Michigan History Foundation. He is also a past member of the board of the Historical Society of Michigan, a life member of the Plymouth Historical Society, a regular member of the Ann Arbor and Abraham Lincoln Civil War Round Tables, and contributor to the Civil War Trust. Dempsey is a partner at the law firm of Dickinson Wright PLLC in Ann Arbor. He and his wife Suzzanne reside in Plymouth.
Michigan Notable Books is a statewide program that began as part of the 1991 Michigan Week celebration, geared to pay tribute and draw attention to the many people, places and things that make Michigan special. In that regard the annual program successfully highlights Michigan books and gives readers insight into what it means to make your home in Michigan and proves some of the greatest stories are indeed found in our own backyards.
A collection of Michigan ghost stories; a biography of one of the most recognized women in the Republican Party, Elly Peterson; a history of the role Jacobson's department stores played in Michigan communities; fiction by nationally-recognized authors; and three children's books that range from topics covering race relations, ''what is art?'' and teachers from Mars are among this year's most notable Michigan books.
This year's Michigan Notable Books Selection Committee includes representatives from the Library of Michigan, Cooley Law School, Grand Rapids Public Library, Lansing City Pulse, Detroit Free Press, State Historic Preservation Office, Michigan Center for the Book and Schuler Books & Music.
The primary sponsor of the Michigan Notable Books Tour is the Michigan Humanities Council. Other sponsors are Library of Michigan, Michigan Department of Education, Library of Michigan Foundation, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Michigan Center for the Book, and Meijer. Media sponsors include MittenLit.com, City Pulse, WKAR, Dome Magazine, Queue advertising, Kolt Communications and Gennara Photography. Western Michigan University, Michigan State University Press, Comerica Bank, Stephanie J. Milosavlevski-Ameriprise Financial, and Muchmore Harrington Smalley & Associates, Inc provided additional support.
Published: Thu, May 24, 2012