The Sherlock Guard and the 5th Michigan at Fort Wayne - by Jeremy Bevard


 With the Rebels attack on Fort Sumter the Detroit Daily Advertiser summed it up in the headline of “The Crisis Reached!”. On April 16th Michigan Governor Austin Blair issued a proclamation that started the raising of military companies in the State of Michigan. This proclamation ordered that each company have a Captain, two Lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals, two musicians and sixty-five privates. These companies would all be drilled according to Hardee’s Tactics. Quickly the 1st Regiment of Michigan Volunteers was created from 10 existing militia companies. This did not stop additional companies being formed throughout the State with the hopes of being allowed to join one of the other regiments that might be formed. The Sherlock Guards were such a group of men.

The Sherlock Guards were started from the Wolverine Fire Company #3 in Detroit. The Wolverine Fire Company was started in 1835 and as of 1851 it had 44 members with an engine which was built in 1851 with 350 feet of hose. Their firehouse was located on the north side of Larned, between Brush and Beaubien. As of 1884 it was still standing. That property is now almost across the street from the Renaissance Center and is a parking lot. A large Firemen’s Benefit was held each year in the City of Detroit. This was a large social affair every year. At the Firemen’s benefit held on July 8, 1850 the following ode was read about the Wolverine Fire Company.

“The “Wolverine” next, Number Three
No laggard in the field will be
Stout arms are theirs, that never tire
That bravely work, thro’ smoke an fire.”

SherlockSome of the leaders of the Wolverine Fire Company caught the patriotic fever like so many others in April 1861. The “Sherlock Guards” were formed by two men. A Detroit hotel proprietor named John Pulford and a former Colonel Edwin Sherlock both from Wolverine Fire Company No. 3. Pulford spoke with Sherlock about forming a company for one of the upcoming regiments because of his familiarity with Hardee’s Tactics book. Both of these men were destined to command the 5th Michigan. The group wasted little time in started their preparations to go to war. They wanted to ensure they would be chosen to be in one of the next regiments raised. The Detroit Free Press reported on their progress in the April 27th edition. The article read: This fine company are drilling more than nine hours each day, and are fast acquiring sufficient knowledge to perform the ordinary military evolutions. At a meeting last night they passed a vote of thanks to Messrs. Butler, Waterman, Fisher, Starkey, White and other citizens for the kind manner in which they have responded to the call for assistance in obtaining quarters and a drill room for the company; also a vote of thanks to the Gas Company for their liberality in lighting the drill room.

The Sherlock Guards received more press time just a few days later. On May 2, 1861 in the Detroit Free Press as the list of Officers and NCO’s were published for The Sherlock Guards. It read as follows:

Captain – E.T. Sherlock
First Lieutenant – John Pulford
Second Lieutenant – John Wm. O’Callaghan
First Sergeant – Ernest Bassett
Second Sergeant – Wm. H. Danna
Third Sergeant – Thomas Manning
Fourth Sergeant – Hiram M. Odell
First Corporal – Casper Glest
Second Corporal – Washington Watkins
Third Corporal – John B. Fortier
Fourth Corporal – James L. Burns

The next day on May 3rd their time finally came. The Adjutant General of the United States Military Department of Michigan ordered that the Sherlock Guards, Mount Clemons Rifle Guard, Saginaw City Light Infantry, Pontiac Volunteer’s, Huron Rangers, Governor’s Guard, Washington Guard, Ingersoll Rifles, Livingston Volunteers and East Saginaw Volunteers combine to form the 5th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. The Sherlock Guards were designated company A of this new regiment. It was slow in forming however. The Sherlock Guards must have started to grow with volunteers at this point. The Company moved to Campus Martius which is at the heart of downtown Detroit. The Free Press reported this move was necessary on May 10th because the company required more space for company evolutions. The reporter also remarked that “The improvement in their drill is very marked.” Finally, on June 10th the Regiment received its commander when Governor Blair appointed Henry Terry to the position.

On June 21st the Officers of the regiment arrived at Fort Wayne which had been designated a camp of instruction for all new officers in the State. The 10 companies that were to make up the Fifth began to arrive at the Fort as well. The Sherlock Guards being in close proximity were likely the first to arrive. An article titled Affairs at the Fort on June 25, 1861 reported on the state of Fort Wayne. It said "A six pounder, stationed near the entrance is fired morning and evening as a signal for rising and retiring. The strictest military discipline is observed, sentinel are posted at all the avenues of approach, and in all respects the same rules are observed, and the same caution exercised, as though the camp were in the heart of an enemy's country."

The battalion was short on numbers however and additional recruiting was still needed. Near the end of August the regiment reached about 880 men, enough to be mustered in as a Regiment. The 5th Michigan received the oath and was mustered into Federal Service on August 28th. During the last couple of months some changes had taken place within the Sherlock Guard. All but two of the NCO's listed in the May 2nd Free Press article did not muster in. In fact, there is no record of all but the two in any Michigan unit. Perhaps the 3 year enlistment or the actions at Bull Run made them all second guess their level of commitment.

Now mustered into Federal service the 5th Michigan was still not ready to leave for the seat of war. The men were becoming anxious to go and false rumors only increased this. On August 29th false news spread at Fort Wayne that the Rebels had advanced on Washington and taken Arlington Heights. With this high ground in the enemy’s possession the city was being shelled. The men of the Fifth cried out “to Washington uniform or no uniform.” All of this was reported in the August 30th edition of the Free Press. The same article went on to describe the uniform state of the men. There was not much to report as all they had received at this time consisted of shirts which are believed to be blue flannel and dark blue caps. It also reported that the Regiment was still waiting for weapons. Some weapons had been transfer to the Fort to be used for guard from old Militia companies when they received new rifles before leaving with the 1st and 2nd Michigan. The 5th Michigan would ultimately leave the State without arms but would receive them on their arrival in Washington.

The rest of the uniform and equipment was on its way however. The Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Regiments were all being raised at almost the same time. The officers of these regiments were all trained at Fort Wayne. An article in the Free Press on August 10th gives the details of the contracts being issued and who issued for the various items needed for all three regiments. The contracts for all three regiments "army supplies" were furnished via the "Quartermaster General and the State Board of Contracts". It stated that 3,000 jackets and pants were to be made by "Samuel Sykes, of Detroit." It goes on to list almost every item of equipment except leathers and knapsacks including forks, knives, spoons, cups, canteens, haversacks, tents, caps and shoes to name some of it. It goes on to say about the uniform that "The over clothes are to be made of heavy dark blue cloth, all wool, and much more durable then those issued at first. The style of jacket is to be slightly altered, and the new ones will be made more loose than the others." While no further description of the Fifth has been found a nice description of the Seventh on Sept 8 says "They are uniformed in dark blue coats, pants and caps. The cloth is of a substantial kind." Fully equipped minus rifles the 5th Michigan departed Fort Wayne to join the Army of the Potomac on September 11, 1861. In less than a year they would be known as the "Fighting Fifth" with their numbers reduced by more than half. Many of the original regimental and company officers would also be killed or wounded by that time.


The War: The Sherlock Guards. The Detroit Free Press. April 27, 1861

The War: Matters at the Fort and Sherlock Guards. The Detroit Free Press. May 2, 1861

The War: Fourth and Fifth Regiments. The Detroit Free Press. May 4, 1861

The War: Sherlock Guards. The Detroit Free Press. May 10, 1861

The Contracts for the New Regiments. The Detroit Free Press. August 10, 1861

The War: The Fifth Regiment. The Detroit Free Press. August 30, 1861

The War: The Seventh Regiment. The Detroit Free Press. September 8, 1861

A Regimental History of the 5th Michigan Infantry Regiment from Its Formation Through the Seven Days Campaign (Sebrell II, 2004).

Hathaway, C. (Ed.), (1894). Our Fireman; A Record of the Faithful and Heroic Men Who Guard the Property and Lives in the City of Detroit.