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Artifact from Native American Civil War soldiers joins 'Conceived in Liberty' exhibit

Contact: Sandra Clark, 517-373-6362
Agency: Natural ResourcesJan. 15, 2015

A beaded headband made by the Native American soldiers of Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters as a gift for their commanding officer is now part of the "Conceived in Liberty" special exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing.

Many of the Native Americans who formed Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters had tried to enlist at the beginning of the war, but they were rejected, along with black volunteers. When the United States began allowing Indians to serve in 1863, they joined Company K.

"Company K made important contributions to the war effort, especially in the fighting around Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864," said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center. "We appreciate the loan of this significant artifact, which gives visitors a tangible connection to these soldiers who saw their service as part of their commitment to defend their homeland."

The men of Company K came from Michigan tribal communities that had just spent 30 years fighting against removal to western lands in Kansas and Oklahoma. Individual Anishnaabek communities had negotiated a series of treaties to keep their lands and rights in Michigan. Their commanding officer was Colonel Charles V. Deland. Editor of the Jackson Citizen newspaper before the war, Deland formed the 1st Sharpshooters in 1862, after serving with the 9th Michigan Infantry. The loan to the museum also includes the telegram Deland sent home after he was injured at Petersburg.

When the fighting in the trenches surrounding Petersburg reached a stalemate, Union engineers exploded a large mine under Confederate lines on July 20, 1864. Union troops attacked across the crater left by the explosion and were decimated by fire from above. Private Antoine Scott of Company K was cited for a Medal of Honor for his actions that day and later during the attack on General Robert E. Lee's retreat from Petersburg. He never was officially recognized for his repeated acts of bravery. He died at the age of 37.

When Petersburg finally fell to northern forces, the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters were among the men who first raised the Union flag at the Petersburg Courthouse. It is not known if men from Company K helped hoist the flag.

To learn more about Michigan's contributions to the end of the U.S. Civil War and the impact of Reconstruction on the state, visit the Michigan Historical Museum's special exhibit, "Conceived in Liberty." The exhibit runs until Sept. 27, 2015. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/museum.

The museum and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, two blocks east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free. General admission fees for the Michigan Historical Museum are $6 for adults 18-64, children through age 5 are free, youth ages 6-17 are $2, and seniors 65 and older are $4. Annual passes are available, and there is no admission charge on Sundays.

The Michigan Historical Center is part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Its museum and archival programs help people discover, enjoy and find inspiration in their heritage. It includes the Michigan Historical Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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