The Museum’s collection is home to hundreds of letters, documents, and artifacts, from soldiers and veterans from Kalamazoo and other areas that moved to the Kalamazoo area after the war.
The American Civil War had a more profound social, political and economic impact than almost any other event in American history. In 1861, when word reached the city that fighting had broken out in the South, an enthusiastic crowd gathered at Fireman’s Hall on April 16, 1861, and a recruiting office was quickly established just four days after the attack on Fort Sumter. A total of 45 men enlisted the first day, and another 25 had enlisted by the end of that first week. On April 30, over 200 men from the Kalamazoo area boarded a train and headed east to join the Union Army.
Four years later, the war began to come to an end when Confederate General Lee surrendered to General Grand of the Union Army at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. On May 9, 1865, President Johnson officially declared an end to the war, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis was captured the following day. By the end of the war, 3,221 men from Kalamazoo County had served, and 365 had died, including 58 killed in action, 48 from wounds, 25 as prisoners of war, 22 missing in action and 212 from disease.
The museum’s collection is home to hundreds of letters, documents and artifacts from the soldiers and veterans of Kalamazoo and the Southwest Michigan region. Included, among others, are the collections of Spencer McOmber and the 7th Michigan Calvary, Joseph DeWaters and the 13th Michigan Infantry, Orlando H. Moore and the 25th Michigan Infantry, and Delevan Arnold of the 1st Michigan Calvary.
In observance of the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War in 2011, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum created a blog that features the letters of several soldiers from the Kalamazoo region. These letters provide unique perspectives on the lives of the men in the Union army, as well as the battles and skirmishes in which they fought. These men also voice their opinions on the causes and course of the war, as well as their hopes for a safe and speedy conclusion to the fighting. Visit the Online Collections Database to view items from the museum’s Civil War Collection and read firsthand accounts from the letters left behind from those who served from the Kalamazoo area.