Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES OF A GERMANY EMIGRANT

Morning Star, August 23, 2020, pg. 8

A book has recently been published, originally written in 1921 by Albion’s Civil War soldier, 1st Lt. Joseph Ruff (1841-1921). He served in the 12th Michigan Infantry, Company D, made up of numerous Albion men. Company D earned the nickname "The Union Clinchers of Albion." Ruff was part of a squad of men under the command of Captain Phineas Graves of Albion, that fired the first shots in the historic Battle of Shiloh in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 6, 1862.

The book is entitled "Civil War Experiences of a German Emigrant, Company D, 12th Michigan Regiment," by Joseph Ruff. ISBN 9781623290900. The text is a first-hand account written by Ruff shortly before his death in 1921, of his first year (1862) as a Union soldier. The manuscript was first published in Michigan History Magazine in the spring of 1943 under the title "Skirmishing at Shiloh," and again in 1999 by the Michigan Historical Center as part of the book "Michigan and the Civil War, and Anthology, pages 35-38. Note: Ruff had written a previous article in Michigan History Magazine in 1920 entitled "The Joys and Sorrows of an Emigrant Family," about how he came to America and his life leading up to the War. Unfortunately, Joseph died in January, 1921 after writing his account of 1862. Thus, there are no memoirs covering the period from 1863 to 1865.

The latest printing was produced and edited by a great-granddaughter of Joseph Ruff, Dorothy Mercer, now of Stanwood, Michigan. She is descended via Ruff’s daughter Millie (Walter) Dodes of Concord, and their daughter Esther. Soft-cover, the book is 63 pages long, and includes some Ruff family photographs at the end of Joseph's memoir. The cover features the painting "The Battle of Shiloh" by Thulstrup deThure (1888).

The book is readily available on Amazon, and locally at Stirling Books & Brew bookstore in Albion, as well as at Hutch’s Supermarket in Spring Arbor, where Dorothy’s other books are sold. From our Historical Notebook this week we present the cover of the book. How many of our readers had ancestors who served in the Civil War? 

We conclude with an excerpt from the back cover concerning Shiloh: "Joseph writes his account of the experience, beginning with a skirmish on the night of April 5th when he and 200 soldiers undertook a scouting expedition, little knowing that a force of 42,000 Confederate men was lying in wait prepared to attack the next day. Fortunately, Joseph and his squad saw an outlying sentry, saving them from blundering into the entire enemy camp. Even so, they were able to deliver a warning to the Union Army, so timely it is thought to have affected the course of the War. Had the Union Army been caught unawares and defeated at Shiloh, it could have handed the Confederacy a victory."


"Civil War Experiences of a German Emigrant, Company D, 12th Michigan Regiment," by Joseph Ruff.

Next: Albion 100 Years Ago - SEPTEMBER 1920

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