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Photo of the Week: Union War Memorial (1925)

MSU Archives

The photograph shows the Union's War Memorial presented by the Washington M.A.C. Alumni Association in 1925 honoring those who died during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I.

You can't see all the names in horizontal view, so I'd recommend seeing the full photo to read all the names. It includes Francis I. Lankey, who wrote the fight song. He was an airman who died on a mission after World War I ended.

This memorial is at the Union, hence the name. (MSU obviously wasn't around during the Revolutionary War, so I went with another war photo)

The MSU Archives site also has a good history on MSU's involvement in the Civil War, which came shortly after the university began teaching.

As soon as the "Stars and Bars" had been raised above Fort Sumter in April of 1861, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to repossess the places that were seized from the Union. MAC students heard of this news in their first classes and by the end of that week, junior Samuel Alexander, was honorably dismissed from the University to enter the Union Army. It is said that through three years of the war he carried one of his textbooks with him studying botany whenever he got a chance. Other students were debating on whether or not to enlist right away or wait until the end of the semester. Michigan was one of the firmest anti-slavery states, so the impulse to enlist was very strong.

The fall of Fort Sumter prompted the University to begin organizing a war effort at MAC. Professor Thurber organized the "Plow-Boy Guards". These individuals were drilled by Professor Thurber twice a week. In the summer of 1861, the Plow-Boy Guards marched in Lansing's Fourth of July parade wearing uniforms of black trousers, purplish-gray military shirts, and black oil-cloth caps.

A few students enlisted during the summer of 1861, but a mass exodus didn't threaten the university enrollment until September of 1861 when an officer appeared seeking surveyors for Captain E.P. Howland's company of topographical engineers to serve under General Fremont in Missouri. The Reorganization Act of 1861 allowed for seven seniors to be excused early as well as two underclassmen. The following men who enlisted, seniors, Henry D. Benham, Larned Vernal Beebe, Albert Nelson Prentiss, Gilbert A. Dickey, Albert Fuller Allen, Adams Bayley, Charles Edward Hollister, and underclassmen Oscar Clute and Thomas Haigh, possessed a knowledge of science and engineering that was urgently needed by the Federal army. At the time they enlisted, these men were eligible for graduation; however there was no time for a ceremony for they had to leave as soon as possible. The students left in September of 1861 and seven Bachelor of Science degrees were awarded in November 1861 even though none of the recipients were present. These men also made up the first official graduating class of MAC.


Over 100 faculty and students of MAC contributed to the war efforts.

Hope everyone had a good Independence Day.