On Tuesday, March 29, 2011 Lansing historian and author Chris Czopek presented the program:

Sharpshooters in the Army of General Grant: Native Americans from Charlevoix County.

The first 2011 CCHPS speaker program heard the fascinating history of Company K’s Charlevoix County Civil War veterans.  Mr. Czopek has carefully researched the history of Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters. The story is unique.

Company K was recruited from the Native American tribes of Michigan in early 1863. Native Americans were not subject to the recently enacted draft – all 139 Native American soldiers were volunteers. Their story is an almost forgotten episode in the Civil War. The unit fought in some of the bitterest battles of the Civil War: The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, The Battle of the Crater, and the Siege of Petersburg.  Of the 146 men in Company K (6 officers and the First Sergeant were white), 43 died in the war. Fifteen were taken as prisoners to the infamous Andersonville POW camp in Georgia, where half of them died of starvation or disease.  Of the Andersonville survivors, 2 also survived the sinking of the Sultana on April 27, 1865, the greatest maritime disaster in the United States.  Tough guys indeed!

Mr. Czopek’s talk concentrated on the Charlevoix County connections, including the stories of Benjamin and Jacob Greensky.  Benjamin and Jacob were sons of Peter Greensky who established the Greensky Church in Charlevoix County’s Hayes Township. Benjamin enlisted first and was killed in action on May 12, 1864 during the Battle of Spotsylvania in Virginia.  Soon after, Jacob enlisted and took his brother’s spot in the unit. Jacob survived the war and returned to Charlevoix County. He died in 1888 and is presumably buried at the Greensky Hill Methodist Church Cemetery.

Louis Miskoguon was one of the two Company K Sultana survivors. He had enlisted at Harbor Springs in September 1863 and survived the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and early Petersburg campaigns but was captured at Petersburg in June 1864 and sent with 14 other Company K soldiers to the Andersonville prison. There he survived an attack by the Raiders, a prison gang that preyed upon and robbed other prisoners.  The resistance of the Company K newbies gave heart to others who organized to put an end to the depredations of the prison gang.  Louis Miscoguon died near Burgess, Hayes Township, Charlevoix County in 1870.

Joseph Shawonosang lived on Beaver Island and enlisted in June 1863. He was severely wounded in the left leg at Spotsylvania in May 1864. He came back to Detroit, Harper Hospital, for treatment and was discharged for disability in December 1864.  Thereafter, he moved with his Beaver Island employer to Attica, New York and presumably died there.

Finally, Mr. Czopek discussed the service of John Jacko who grew up in Northport and initially declined to enlist but whose father, Jacko Penaiswanquot, enlisted at age 40 and died in Andersonville on November 1, 1864.  John enlisted in February 1865 after learning of his father’s death.  He fought at Petersburg and survived. Following the war he moved to Charlevoix County living in Horton Bay and Hayes Township until his death in 1907. He was an outgoing man, active for some years in the Horton Bay GAR, the fraternal organization of Civil War veterans. He died in 1907. His unmarked grave in the GAR section of Boyne City’s Maple Lawn Cemetery is finally to be marked with a stone. A dedication ceremony is set for May 7, 2011.

Mr. Czopek has published his research in a spiral bound volume of some 224 pages.

This great event kicked off our 2011 History Speaker Series and honored this year’s Civil War sesquicentennial.

Author Chris Czopek with CCHPS Treasurer, Jane Prebble

See Czopek’s website for more information about Company K.

Mr. Czopek speaking at the Charlevoix Public Library