Two of a Kind: John
Cunningham and His Son
Michael Hayes Brannigan Cunningham
Written by Robert Lee Cunningham and Gregory Robert Cunningham
Michael Hayes Brannigan Cunningham was born in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania on April 11, 1842. He was the first of nine children to be born to John and Susan (Deam) Cunningham.
Michael Cunningham’s active and adventurous life started at a very early age. Michael's parents left Pennsylvania by wagon train with the Stoner and Deam party shortly after Michael's birth. Those in the covered wagon train that traveled westward in 1842 were: David Stoner, his wife Elizabeth Ann (Deam) Stoner, their two children John and Suzannah, John Cunningham, his new wife Suzannah (Deam) Cunningham, their first born Michael H.B. Cunningham, and George and Ellen Deam. Also in the party were newly weds John Deam and Elizabeth (Hughes) Deam, John Sr. and Elizabeth (Ayre) Deam (the parents of the Deam's) and David Hughes (brother to Elizabeth Hughes) and his wife. The Stoner's, Deam's, Hughes, and Cunningham's totaled fourteen in all. They were following the calling of the Latter Day Saints and were heading for Nauvoo, Illinois to join with prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.
Michael's father John Cunningham became involved with the Latter Day Saints sometime around 1836-1840 when he lived in Pennsylvania. A Latter Day Saint elder came and held meetings near where they lived. John's brother-n-law Henry H. Deam and his wife Elizabeth Ettleman started attending regularly and where baptized just prior or shortly after their marriage on September 22, 1836. He was ordained an elder and soon went west, leaving his wife and two children behind, to Illinois where he did missionary work. Later he was with the church in Missouri and suffered their tribulations and then re-joined with his family in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, in 1844 where Joseph Smith ordained him a high priest. After the murder of Joseph Smith in Carthage, Illinois, he joined with the Cunningham’s in the Wisconsin Yellowstone Branch around Blanchardville in 1851 where the Reorganized Church was being formed.
The Cunningham family first settled in Lima (also called Yelrome and Morley Settlement), Adams County, Illinois with the Stoner's, Ettleman's, and Deam's in 1842. Michael's parents had to deal with an anti-Mormon movement that was sweeping the country. An affidavit written by John Cunningham and Hiram Mount that appeared in Smith’s History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 6, p. 509 shows just how dangerous these times were. They testified that on Saturday, 15 June 1844, five men came to them at Morley Settlement, Adams County, Illinois, and “demanded their arms.” When it was revealed that the Mormon’s had none, the men required of them to make a choice. Either they must bear arms that the men would supply and go up to Nauvoo to take Joseph Smith or they must evacuate their homes at Morley Settlement and go join in Smith’s “fate”. The mob planned to draw upon two thousand men from Missouri and Illinois and kill any men, women, and children who would not align against Smith. Joseph Smith, the president and prophet of the Mormons, was killed on June 27, 1844 by a mob in the prison he was being held.
This violence against the Cunningham's and other Mormon's in Adam's county forced them further north to Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois where they lived for a total of three and half years as farmers. John Cunningham was active in the Church of Later Day Saints, becoming a seventy when he was endowed in the Nauvoo Temple on February 2, 1846. He later played a pivotal role in the foundation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints church (RLDS).
After the martyrdom of LDS president Joseph Smith, church members differed on who should lead the church. Two thirds of all Mormons followed Brigham Young to Utah to establish a new church. Some went with Moses Smith to Voree, Wisconsin and later migrated to Michigan with James Strang. Others followed Lyman Wight and George Miller to Texas. Many stayed in the area of Nauvoo including John Cunningham and supported Benjamin G. Wright who was appointed president over the western district of Wisconsin in Voree.
John was a remarkable fellow to suffer such danger for his religious beliefs. They continued with their faith even after the death of Joseph Smith. The times were still dangerous. John Cunningham and Henry H. Deam at first supported Benjamin G. Wright during this uncertain time for the Church. Henry Deam wrote to Wright saying, "I long to be in Voree, and be heart and hand with you. The saints all send their love to you, as also to our beloved prophet. This letter was written March 3, 1848 from Potosi, Wisconsin, and published in Gospel Herald, volume 2, on page 259. John Cunningham was in Potosi, Wisconsin at this same time, so I assume he shared his brother-n-law's feelings.
The Nauvoo Temple was abandoned in late 1846 due to opposition from neighboring settlers. During this exodus, John Cunningham moved his family to Grant County Wisconsin where Michael’s father John took a job as a lead smelter and lived in Potosi for five years. The June 1846 Census showed John Cunningham with 25 members in his household. Most probably fellow Mormons forced to leave Nauvoo, Illinois. He later went to Wingville for eighteen months (now Montfort) in the same county. On February 7, 1848, Samuel Blair and Henry Deam reported preaching to crowds of visitors in their branch of sixteen members, and having a shortage of hymnbooks (see Voree Gospel Herald, February 8, 1848). Their group later joined up with the Yellowstone Branch in 1851 led by Zenos Gurley. John Cunningham met Zenos Gurley while he was preaching at Wingville and united with him in his branch (The Messenger, vol. 2, p. 17).
Many Illinois Mormons came north to the Mormon Potosi diggings to acquire capital. Potosi (Snake Hollow) was a significant Mormon preaching ground in the lead mines by at least 1841. Michael worked along side his father in the mines. When Michael was eleven (1853) they moved to Lafayette County Wisconsin where his father brought forty acres in the Northeast portion of the county near Zarahemla (present day Blanchardville).
Mormon elder Zenas Gurley was visiting the Fretwell family near present day Blanchardville in 1850 and administered a funeral for the Wildermuth's who had two children die earlier. He was convinced to stay and he soon converted and baptized the Wildermuth's into the Mormon faith in the nearby Yellowstone River. Neighboring families, the Newkirk’s and Cline's (family friends and blood relatives) joined them in the faith. They named the area Zarahemla that means “City of God”. By the winter of 1851-52, Gurley had succeeded in building up a congregation of 24 members. Other area Mormon groups knew this group as the Yellowstone Branch. They were Strangites (followers of James Strang) until Gurley received a revelation that Jason Briggs exposed. Jason Briggs believed the “seed of Joseph, Joseph Smith, III, would come forward to lead the church”. Zenos Gurley and Reuben Newkirk received confirmation of Jason Briggs revelation and became Josephites.
James Strang in Nauvoo believed himself to be the real successor of Joseph Smith. James Strang had a letter from Joseph Smith showing that Strang would lead the church on his death. The Yellowstone Branch learned that Strang believed in Young’s practice of polygamy and were horrified. They published a declaration in the local papers saying the Yellowstone Branch of the Church of the Latter Day Saints protested against the practice of polygamy and other abominations that were practiced by Strang, Young and their followers. They withdrew their fellowship with their groups. David Wildermuth, Cyrus Newkirk, William Cline, and Henry H. Deam signed this published document.
The Cunningham family later became intertwined with these other early pioneer families. For example, the youngest daughter of William and Elizabeth (Wildermuth) Cline married John Cunningham’s oldest son Michael Cunningham on March 26, 1865. Her name was Hannah Cline. John and Susan Cunningham's relationship with the Cline's is long and friendly. They even named one of their son's William Monroe Cline Cunningham when he was born in Blanchardville on January 3, 1854. Michael's second wife was the cousin of his first wife. Her name was Laura Luella (Newkirk) Lieurance and they married on April 14, 1878. Her parents were Noble and Elizabeth Jane (Newkirk) Lieurance. The daughter of Samuel and Celia Gates Cline, Charlotte, married Michael's brother, Henry H. Cunningham, on May 23, 1880.
Elder Gurley was away at the time when the declaration against Strang was signed and published, but when he returned he had the group pray for guidance. Gurley had a vision (confirming Jason Briggs revelation) in which he was told to leave the teachings of Prophet Strang and support the son of slain leader Joseph Smith III. The group had their first General Conference of the Reorganized Church of the Latter Day Saints at the Newkirk’s gristmill on October 6, 1852. Elder Briggs presided over the conference and Samuel Blair acted as clerk. They discussed ways of encouraging the younger Smith to take his “rightful” place. They presented and voted on a resolution for a temporary presiding officer. "Resolved, that the highest authority among the priesthood represents the legitimate President as a presiding authority."-Church Record, page 7. The bands renounced all would-be leaders, and were waiting in confidence for promised light and wisdom.
The Reorganized Church of LDS again met on the 6th of April 1853 where the group planned to completely cut themselves off from the established Mormon Church and the exiled Brigham Young. This was a bold and probably frightening step. At this meeting Elder Gurley said, "I have been a member of the church for twenty-three years, and in the course of my ministry have witnessed the manifestation of the Spirit in many of the branches, but never had witnessed what I did that evening. God was truly with us, and many felt to say with the poet, 'Angels are now hovering o'er us.'"
They named Jason W. Briggs to serve as acting President High Priest. Henry H. Deam was named the clerk. Ethan Griffiths, William Cline, and Cyrus Newkirk were chosen to select seven men for ordination to the office of apostle. They selected Zenos Gurley, Henry H. Deam, Jason Briggs, Daniel Rasey, John Cunningham, George White, and Reuben Newkirk. These men were chosen as the first seven to be ordained into the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Others present were ordained seventies. The seven apostles met to choose a president of the Quorum. After Zenos Gurley and then Henry Deam declined, Jason Briggs was voted President. He would serve until the "rightful" leader Joseph Smith III would step forward. The first stake for the Reorganized Latter Day Saints was established in Argyle, Lafayette County, Wisconsin.
Henry Deam grew impatient, since Joseph Smith III did not immediately accept the leadership. By January 1854 Deam conceived the idea that the expected son of Joseph had neglected to comply with the will of God, and had forfeited the right. It was their duty to go forward and fully organize. Deam met with Jason Briggs and urged him to declare himself the legitimate President. Henry said, "Let this position be taken and we will carry to whole church except Brother Gurley and a few personal friends, and they will soon fall in too." See Church History Volume 3, Chapter 10 for full details. Jason Briggs said he would not do anything without conversing with the brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Those who followed Deam's feelings became known as the "Deam Party". At the April 6, 1854 Annual Conference it was resolved, after some discussion, that manifestations of the Spirit, in anything relating to the church as a body, should be written and submitted to a body of high priests before circulating or teaching them to the church, and only then on their approval. This resolution was put forward in response to Deam's earlier efforts to change the leadership roles.
Another problem soon began to arise at the Conference. Henry H. Deam, John Cunningham, Aaron Smith and other members believed that all should be re-baptized as a test of faith. Others, including Zenos Gurley and Jason Briggs, felt that rebaptism should be required only of those who did not have any evidence of a legal baptism. The later group established the church’s final position on the matter.
Before the October 6, 1854 Semi-Annual Conference Henry Deam, John Cunningham and others held a conference separate from the main RLDS conference. Their two differences with the main body were over rebaptism and a “perfect organization” of the first presidency, or the triumvirate, which leads the church. The attendees of this separate conference called Henry Deam as president and Aaron Smith as first counselor, apparently founding a new church. Meanwhile, when the main RLDS conference met on October 6th, they disfellowshipped all members of this “Deam Party”. Henry Deam and John Cunningham were expelled from the Quorum of the Twelve for "apostasy and an assumption of authority".
John Cunningham decided to ask for reinstatement to the main body of the RLDS church at the October 6, 1855 Conference. The conference decided that he could rejoin only if he was re-baptized. John must have seen this as rather ironic, because he never acted on it and was disfellowshipped again as a brother at the 1857 Conference.
John Cunningham followed agricultural pursuits until his death on April 28, 1861. Being the eldest child Michael took over the support of the family when his father became ill with stomach cancer. Michael worked in the lead mines most of the time. During the last three years of his father's life and after his father died the support of the nine children rested on his shoulders. Michael's mother lived a full life until her passing in the spring of 1893.
This additional background on Michael’s family was detailed to show that he came from a strong willed and very brave stock. The following pages will show that Michael Cunningham inherited this strong will and bold determination.
On December 17, 1861 at the age of nineteen Michael enlisted in the Eagle Light Infantry, Company B, Eighteenth Wisconsin volunteer infantry. Michael was the first to sign the roll that day. Other friends signed right after him or joined soon after. They were Michael Death, William Newberry, William Denson, Thomas Bateman, John Conklin, Enuell Ross Blake, John Driscoll, Peter Van Norman, Francis Smith, and Esek Sisson. They went to Monroe in Green County where they were mustered into the state service by Captain Charles Jackson.
Near the end of January 1862 they were ordered to Milwaukee. During the first winter of enlistment the companies were quartered in the city of Milwaukee, mostly in vacant store buildings. Company B was quartered on West Water Street opposite the Second Ward Bank in the American House run by Ave Veerhime. Michael said, “We had light snacks while we were in those quarters. Getting plenty to eat with nothing to do but get into mischief which we often did.”
They had little opportunity for company drill except in the manual of arms. In February the regiment was organized and went into barracks in Camp Towbridge, on the lakeshore in Milwaukee. The snow was quite deep, rendering it impossible for the regiment to do much in the line of regimental and battalion drills. The men did become fairly proficient in the manual of arms and company maneuvers. Captain Towbridge of the regular army completed its muster into the United States service on the 15th of March. Their Company B officer's were Captain Charles H. Jackson, 1st Lieutenant L.A. Jackson, 2nd Lieutenant Sam Bagington, and Orderly Sergeant Jacob Walkey. Colonel James Alban, Lieutenant Colonel Beall, Major Crain and Adjutant Coleman completed the field of officers.
They were camped a mile and a half north of Post Office Square. A great many Irish were living in shanty small frame houses near the camp. All of them seemed to have whiskey to sell. Michael wrote his girl friend back home, “The Irish sold pure whiskey at one cent a glass or five cent a pint. A boy could get hilarious for a small sum and I’m here to tell you they embraced the opportunity. The guard house did not have a lack for tenants.”
The regiment left the State on the 30th with secret orders to report to Saint-Louis. They marched out into columns of four and marched to the depot. Michael said, “We were soon all aboard and the train pulled out amid waving of flags and the shouts of the boys.” They went through Chicago and headed south. By Tuesday they arrived at Blood Island near Saint-Louis and stayed there until the late afternoon. They saw their first signs of war, which were twenty thousand stacked arms that were captured from the Confederates at Fort Donelson. After an hour's march the regiment embarked on the steamboat John Warner and started up the Tennessee River.
The men did not know where they were going, but it was felt by all that they were being massed at some point up the river to prepare for an engagement. They were equipped with Belgian muskets, which were heavy and awkward. At St. Louis they received forty rounds of cartridges.
On Saturday morning, April 5, the boat touched at Savannah Tennessee, and they reported to General Grant who had his headquarters there at this point. The regiment was ordered to Pittsburgh Landing, some ten miles further up the river and they arrived around noon. Not much to see, but a few log cabins. The place was probably selected, because it was the nearest point on the river to Corinth. It was only twenty-three miles distant to where it was known that a rebel army was gathering.
The regiment formed and marched two miles southwesterly, going into camp near a small field known as Spain Field. They broke camp after a rest and marched another two miles arriving at General Prentiss' headquarters about dark. They were assigned to the command of General Prentiss. The Eighteenth Regiment formed part of Miller's brigade, which occupied the extreme left of Prentiss' division. No provisions arrived, so their first army experience in the field was lack of supper. The pickets were sent up about half a mile that night. They heard occasional shots in the direction of Corinth, but nothing was thought of the firing until early in the morning. The shots became more frequent and volleys were heard on the right. The Commanding General neglected the usual precautions. No enemy was supposed to be within ten miles of the position.
The regiment fell into line for its baptismal of fire. The enemy had marched up during the night to within two miles of the Union line. The right was the first to engage the enemy around 5 o'clock in the morning. The skirmish line was being driven back before the main body of the rebel army, and the battle soon raged along the entire line of Prentiss' division. The raw regiment met the advance without flinching. The division opened fire along the whole line. The rebel troops in front of the Eighteenth were Chalmers' brigade of five Mississippi regiments. The enemy came in overwhelming numbers and by 8 o'clock succeeded in turning the right flank. Regiment after regiment fell back in order to avoid certain capture. The Eighteenth held its ground until the enemy, by means of the deep ravine on its left, succeeded in turning that flank. The regiment was now exposed to fire from the front and both flanks.
If the regiment had been lined up on the brow of the ravine or taken position on the ridge to the rear they would have been in a good position. Instead they were in an open field giving all the advantage to the rebels. The officers knew nothing of war and the troops were green. They slowing fell back about three-quarters of a mile to a ravine in the rear. Acting Adjutant Coleman fell severely wounded. In crossing the ravine, the regiment was exposed to a raking fire from the rebels on the flank and front. They moved up the opposite hill and joined the main line and fell back. The fighting became irregular and fire was independent of orders. Regiments became mixed. After seven hours of fighting the portion of the Eighteenth, which was still together, was nearly surrounded by the enemy. Many retreated in confusion, but the general and 1,000 soldiers (including Michael H.B. Cunningham) rallied to form the center of a new defense line in a wooded area along a sunken country road.
The Confederates now had the Union campgrounds, but eleven charges at Prentiss men were repulsed at the road. It became known to the Rebel army as the Hornet's Nest. Prentiss' stand spoiled Johnson's plan to sweep behind the Union army and drive it into the swamps around Owl and Snake creeks. Grant ordered Prentiss to hold fast. General Johnson led a new charge against the Union line and was mortally wounded. General Beauregard took command. Prentiss' command and part of the division of General W.H.L. Wallace were isolated when the Union troops on both sides of them gave way under the shelling of 62 Confederate pieces. Colonel James Alban (who supervised the organization of the regiment in early 1862) was shot through the body by a sharp shooter dying the following day and Major Crain fell dead by eight bullets from a volley of rebel flankers. Before they could think of retreat, the enemy was among them taking prisoners, firing almost in their faces. Attacked on three sides, Prentiss' Sixteenth Division broke.
Prentiss continued to fight until 5:30 p.m.; about 12 hours after the battle had begun. Then he surrendered with 2,200 men. Historian Bruce Catton said, "They were prisoners, but they kept the Union army from being destroyed." Adjutant General Gaylord, of Wisconsin, in his report, says this of the Eighteenth Wisconsin: "The terrible list of casualties shows that on this blood-stained field they sustained the reputation of Wisconsin soldiers." Governor Harvey, who lost his life looking after the Wisconsin sick and wounded on the field, wrote this shortly after the battle, "Many regiments of that fight may well covet the impression which the Eighteenth Wisconsin left, of personal bravery, of heroic daring and determined endurance."
Many of the 174 men of the 18th Wisconsin who were captured in the battle were part of this surrendered force along with some of the 16th Wisconsin. Besides the captured, the regiment lost 24 killed and 82 wounded. The Colonel and Major were killed; Lieutenant Colonel Beall and Acting Adjunct Coleman were severely wounded. Captain Compton of Company G was killed. Among the captured were Captain Millard, of Company A, Lieutenant Jackson and Corporal Michael H.B. Cunningham, of Company B, Captain Layne, of Company C, Captain Fisk and Lieut. Wilson of Company D, Captain Bremmer, of Company E, Lieutenant Stokes of Company F, Captain Saxton and Lieutenant Woodworth, of Company H, and Lieutenant Ford and Southmayd, of Company I. Private's Hiram Bailey and William Spencer died with Company B and his guard in prison at Tuscaloosa, Ala, shot Redmond McGuire on April 10th.
Michael H.B. Cunningham was confined in the prisons at Tuscaloosa, Mobile, and Montgomery, Alabama and Macon, Georgia. He was moved to Richmond, Virginia where he was paroled from the famous Libby prison after a confinement of six months and thirteen days.
He rejoined his regiment in April 1863 in Louisiana. He then fought in the following battles: Raymond (May 12, 1863), Jackson (May 14, 1863), Champion Hills (May 16, 1863), and the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi (May 18-July 24). During this campaign he was with the Army of the Tennessee under Major General Ulysses S. Grant, XVII Army Corps under Major General James B. McPherson, Seventh Division under Brig. General Marcellus M. Crocker, 1st Brigade under Colonel John Sandborn and the 18th Wisconsin commanded by Colonel Gabriel Bouck. Captain Jackson of Company B was the most senior Captain present after the battle of Shiloh and took command and remained in command until Colonel Bouck arrived. Governor Harvey promoted Captain Bouck to colonel of the regiment after the battle of Shiloh.
The Eighteenth Wisconsin reported to General McPherson on the 13th of May 1863 and joined the attack on Jackson. They formed in line of battle, and with the division charged upon the enemy driving them from the field and capturing the city. Passing over the rebel works they found them deserted. The casualties as officially reported were 6 killed or died of wounds and 16 wounded.
On the 16th they started for Vicksburg and took part in the battle of Champion Hills around noon. The Eighteenth was in the reserve and was not actively engaged, but were exposed to a severe fire. 1 was killed and 5 wounded. The enemy retreated about 3 o'clock p.m. followed by the troops. They crossed the Black River on a floating bridge on the 18th and proceeded to the rear of Vicksburg. The Eighteenth did not take part in the assault on the 18th of May, but acted as sharpshooters to hold a position in front of a rebel fort and cover the advance of the assaulting column. 9 were killed or died of wounds and 7 wounded. On May 26th they made a reconnaissance between the Black and Yazoo rivers and destroyed several mills. They remained chiefly engaged in skirmish duty until the surrender of the city on July 4th.
On September 11th, they moved with the division now commanded by General Smith, to Helena, to reinforce General Steele. General Sherman had received orders to reinforce General Rosencrans at Chattanooga. General Sherman was able to obtain the division of General Mower, to which the Eighteenth Wisconsin was attached and headed for Chattanooga. An attempt by rail failed so the regiment instead marched 250 miles through Northern Mississippi and Alabama and Southern Tennessee. They reached Bridgeport on the 15th and Chattanooga on the 19th. With the Army of the Cumberland, with which the corps of General Sherman was connected, the Eighteenth crossed the Tennessee River on the 24th of November.
They reached the northern end of Missionary Ridge and halted, believing he was in position to relieve General Grant's forces to the south. He was mistaken. Confederate General Bragg orders Cleburne's division to meet Sherman's threat. At about 3:30 Cleburne's troops arrive at the northern end of the totally undefended ridge. Cleburne's Texas brigade under A.J. Smith blunted Sherman's advance. Bragg orders the Missionary Ridge position to be prepared for heavy defense. Cleburne expected to be ordered to retreat, but at 9 p.m. he received the order to dig in.
At dawn Sherman realizes his mistake about not being at the ridge at all. It was too late, but he tells his brother-n-law General Ewing to attack. By 2 p.m. Cleburne's reinforced division has stopped Sherman in his tracks. Grant became nervous, because Sherman was stopped. At 3 p.m. he sent four divisions of the Army of the Cumberland (Wood, Sheridan, Baird, and Johnson) on an uncoordinated attack up the ridge. The struggle up Missionary Ridge lasted almost an hour. The initial Union breakthrough occurred in the area of Tucker's Mississippi Brigade of Anderson's division. Bragg had no reserve to close the breach. The Confederate position ran along the top of the ridge so there was no lateral movement of the defenders. By 5 p.m. the Federal Army stood atop Missionary Ridge. The Eighteenth Wisconsin joined in the pursuit of the retreating Confederates as far as Ringgold, GA before returning to Chattanooga on the 28th.
On October 3, 1863 Michael wrote down his thoughts about what the war was doing to the country. He said, “I hope to be permitted to return home when this cruel war is over and live in a land of peace. It is hard to look at the country through which we have passed this spring and summer. Five years ago it was the pride of America and was the home of her most wealthy sons and daughters and now those homes are heaps of smoldering ruins. I hope and pray that the day not to distant when our glorious old flag shall wave free in the breeze in every city and hamlet in the United States. And that the din and tumult of war be heard no more in our broad land.”
Michael had no idea where they were going next. The rumors said they were going to reinforce General Rosencrans. He watched many ships unload troops and supplies while they were in Memphis, Tennessee. He hoped they would not have to go with them. He only knew that he was cold and tired. Michael wrote, “We have had a hard time here with no tents and no blankets to cover us and it’s rained very hard and is very cold. There is nothing to eat except hard tack. I would sooner eat sawdust if it was salted than to eat them. I tell you a soldier’s life is a hard one. There are some pleasant spots in it. When we look at the mighty reason that we are fighting for the preservation of the Union it moves us on and gives us new courage. But it has cost the lives of a great many brave men and is likely to cost a great many more. This is the prettiest country that I have saw since I left the north and there is plenty of cold water here. I have seen the time I would have given five dollars for a good drink of water and could not get it.”
On October 5th they left Memphis and traveled to Corinth by train. They then marched 12 miles to Glendale Mississippi. Michael wrote on October 9th, “I was taken sick on the road and they hauled my knapsack for me. If they had not I would not have been able to carry if for it was all I could do to carry my gun and ammunition. The doctor at the hospital said I better take care of myself or I will have a hard spell of sickness.” He went on to say, “There are a great many boys sick. Bill Denson, Bill Newberry and Mike Death are all in the hospital. Ross Blake and I are all that is left in the regiment of the Blanchardville boys and nineteen of us went out with it. How I wish for the comforts of home over camp life.”
Michael could hardly believe the changes that had occurred in the last three years. He said, "It makes me shutter to see the changes that a few years have made in this nation. Three years ago we were the most prosperous nation on the globe. All nations looked up to us and now we are fighting and killing each other as fast as we can. And all the other nations laugh at us for doing it."
From the 3rd of December 1863 to the 1st of May 1864 the Eighteenth Wisconsin were employed in guard, outpost and provost duty from Bridgeport, Larkinsville, Woodville, and Huntsville, Alabama and Cartersville, Georgia. While Michael was in Bridgeport Alabama, on December 12, 1863, he wrote a letter back home to Hannah Cline that said in part; “The last letter I received from you was just before the Battle of Chattanooga. You came down hard on the war in pretty strong terms. You said you would like Old Abe to do his own fighting for all that you care. We are not fighting for Old Abe any more than for you or anyone else. The rebels are trying to break down one of the best government that men ever had and we are trying to keep them from doing it. If things keep up the same way they have for the last six months we will whip them back into the Union.” The regiment was about to march 60 miles to Huntsville Alabama. The tired Michael said, "They say we will stay the winter in Huntsville. I hope we will for I am tired of marching. In the last campaign we marched nearly one thousand miles and whipped the Johnies along the way."
They were still in Bridgeport on December 12th when Michael had time to respond to a letter from home. He said, "You are correct in supposing that had I been home that I would not of went to the Democrat meeting for I consider the leaders of the Democrat Party traitors of the blackest sort and there actions prove them such. I don't think that the wives, brothers and sisters of soldiers ought to honor them enough to attend their meeting. I think any soldier that votes for McCleland is voting for one thing and fighting for another. For the men that nominated him are in favor of giving the south all they ask for. It was his popularity that gave him the nomination. Had he been nominated on a different platform he might have been elected, but never now."
Michael's strong opinion was reinforced when he went onto say, "Valandingham, Segmore and Lang are not fit men to trust with the reins of government. If they had power they would send every Union soldier to the bottom of the sea. I never want to see the day that such men have control of our government. You may not approve of my sentiments, but I cannot help that."
On the 4th of January 1864, Colonel Bouck resigned. Lieutenant Colonel Beall had already resigned on the 3rd of August 1863, so Major Charles H. Jackson was appointed Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain J.P. Millard was appointed Major. From the 1st of May till June 19th, the regiment was engaged in guard duty at Whitesburg, Alabama. Michael enjoyed this break from long marching and fighting. He had more time to think about the future. Michael wrote this to Hannah on January 12, 1864, “I often think of the happy times we will have when this cruel war is over and peace once more blesses our beloved county. You believe the war is an abomination. I think different. The way it stands is this. The South is trying to break up this Union and build up an aristocratic government. We are defending the Union and a republican form of government. And you must say it is the best government the sun ever shined on. It has protected us so far and now when we are called upon to protect it ought not we to do it? As for my part I will stay to fight as long as there is an armed rebel in the South.”
Another family member was about to join Michael in trying to save the Union. Michael's seventeen-year-old brother Henry H. Cunningham joined the Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, Company C, when it was organized at Camp Randall, Madison, Wisconsin. On April 28th the first six companies, followed two days later by two more, left the state and proceeded to Washington, D.C. On the 30th of May the regiment left for the front. On June 10, 1864 the regiment marched to Cold Harbor Virginia where the regiment joined the Army of the Potomac and was assigned to the Ninth Army Corps. It reached the enemy's lines before Petersburg and participated in the charge on the rebel entrenchments on the 17th of June. The casualties, during the Cold Harbor Campaign, were 65 killed or died of wounds and 93 wounded. Second Lieutenant Freedman Riddle of Company C was one of the killed.
From that time until the surrender of the Confederates in the following April, the regiment was frequently engaged with the Ninth Corps in the numerous battles about Petersburg and Richmond. Including the attempt on the Petersburg location by exploding a bomb under its fortifications on July 30th. The Thirty-seventh lost 57 killed and 53 wounded on that disastrous and ill-conceived battle. After the surrender of Lee the Thirty-seventh participated in the Grand Review at Washington and remained about the city until the 26th of July. It was mustered out of service of the United States and returned to Madison Wisconsin and disbanded.
While in Whitesburg Alabama Michael wrote back to Hannah this on May 10, 1864, “You said in your letter that if you had thought that I loved my country better than I did you that you would not have been against my enlisting. I think that a man that has no love for his country and will not take arms in her defense in her time of need is not fit for a women to love.” Michael’s inherited strong will and determination sure comes out in his words and actions. While he went out to a local farm a half-mile from post with Jim Davis to get some eggs, butter and milk a bushwhacker fired them upon. The buckshot and ball almost took off Jim Davis's hand. They were not carrying their guns so the only course they had was “to give leg tail”.
The next morning Michael returned with eighteen volunteers, but they did not catch the “cut throats”. They were not able to bring in any prisoners, but were able to capture a number of guns. The Calvary caught three rebels and they were hung. Michael wrote, “We are 10 miles from Huntsville on the banks of the Tennessee River to keep the rebs from crossing the river. There’s plenty on the other side of the river. They come down to the waters edge on their side and talk across the river with any boys having an agreement not to fire at each other. A gunboat came down the river from Bridgeport and past by our camp. The Johnies hollered across the river asking the name of the boat. They said she was no account and while they were talking the boat came back in site and the Johnies got back in their fort in a hurry. The boat came opposite the fort and gave them a broadside and you ought to see them dig out of their holes and make for the hills.”
The regiment was transferred to Allatoona, ninety miles south of Chattanooga, and arrived on the 13th of July. On July 28, 1864 Michael wrote from the Pioneer Corps 3rd Division, 15th Army outside of Cartersville that, “The bushwhackers are very troublesome. They kill a good many of the men who go out in the country. They never take any prisoners. Death is the lot of all that fall into their hands. I never go without being well armed a couple of revolvers and the best friends in the country. There has been some hard fighting at the front in the last few days. The losses have been very heavy on both sides. General McPherson was killed the 22nd. He was one of our best Generals. We were under him at Vicksburg. The Rebs are getting the worst of it. Our Army has them nearly surrounded and if they try to get away. They will lose a lot of men. Our batteries are only a mile from Atlanta. I hope they will capture the city. It is one of the places the Rebs took me to when I was a prisoner and is 90 miles from Macon where I was kept most of the time I was in prison.”
Michael was finally getting a little rest while in Cartersville. On August 6th 1864 he wrote, "I know what it is to be lonesome and homesick for I was both when I was in the Reb prison. But here in the Army there is plenty to keep a man company. We do not have much duty to do at present. My partners and I have been pretty busy building a house. We have the best in the camp. It is made of nice pine boards, has two windows and at the back end is a window hung on hinges so we can let the fresh air in. Our door is a glass one and it’s the top of an old showcase. We have a good bunk and a lot of nice straw. There are a couple boys in here now and are playing chess. Its all the go in camp."
The Eighteenth Wisconsin occupied Allatoona until the 22nd of August before they were marched to Chattanooga and then into Eastern Tennessee in pursuit of the rebel General Wheeler who was raiding Sherman's communication lines. They camped at Cowan, Tennessee until the 19th of September before they were ordered back to Allatoona and rejoined their brigade.
After the surrender of Atlanta Georgia the rebel General Hood attempted a raid on Sherman's railroad communications. Hood destroyed the Atlanta Railroad at Big Shanty and sent General French and a large force to attack Allatoona and capture the immense stores. Sherman sent General Corse, who was at Rome, to reinforce the garrison at Allatoona. He arrived on October 4th with a brigade of infantry. The Eighteenth Wisconsin was deployed as skirmishers. At daylight, the enemy batteries were seen about 1,200 yards south of the defenses. An artillery duel commenced until about 10 o'clock when the enemy skirmishers made their appearance on the right and rear. They demanded the surrender of Allatoona to prevent further bloodshed. The order was promptly refused.
The rebels advanced repeatedly, but were repelled in all their attempts. Finding all their efforts to capture the place unavailing, the enemy retired leaving at least 1,500 killed or wounded. The three companies: E, F, and I, of the Eighteenth Wisconsin were stationed in a blockhouse near the railroad bridge two miles south of Allatoona when they were attacked and refused surrender. The eighty men under Captain McIntyre, of Company I, withstood the attacks of a regiment of infantry. It was not until dark, and the heavy artillery had been brought to bear on them, and their blockhouse was set on fire that the garrison consented to surrender.
On the reenlistment of the Eighteenth at Huntsville in the winter and spring of 1864 the troops were supposed to get a furlough. It was found impossible so they remained on duty during the summer and fall. 45 of the enlisted veterans of companies E, F, and I who were suppose to be on furlough instead were taken prisoner and languished in prison pens of the South. During the battle of Allatoona 4 were killed, 11 wounded and 78 taken prisoner.
Good news was filtering into the camp in Cartersville. On October 12th Michael reported home that, "The report is that Lee has evacuated Richmond and is moving his army into east Tennessee to try and get in Shermans' rear. Old Hood is going back by the way of the Blue Mountains to try and form a junction with Lee. We hear that Sherman has got ahead of Hood. If he has Hood's army will be captured. For Hood has only about 50,000 men and Sherman has twice as many with him and plenty more only a short ways behind. If Lee gets into Tennessee and Grant follows and Sherman falls in with him there will be one of the fullest battles that would ever be witnessed and the last for the Rebs who will get the severest whipping."
Michael reported again to his family on November 3, 1864 that, "I have had the hardest time the last three days that I have had since I came south. There was 400 men and 100 teams detailed to Georgia Infantry to get corn and fodder for the teams. I thought I would go along and do a little foraging on my own account and get some sweet potatoes, chicken and other things necessary for a soldiers comfort." They thought they would get back the same day, but it did not work out that way. Michael went on to say, "The Rebs had got a head of us and got all the stuff the natives said there was, but there was plenty of forage six miles further. We traveled to near sun down and did not find any corn. The teams by this time were tired and not able to get back to camp."
Michael continued writing about two things the soldier often wrote about: food and the bad weather. Michael continued by saying, "I and several of the boys started out and jay hawked a couple of turkeys, some ducks, and a couple of chickens for it was so cold and we had no blankets so we could not sleep. In the morning we got the teams ready for the ten-mile journey back. We marched till eleven o'clock at night. When it got so dark and began to rain so they went into camp. It rained so hard it put out our fire and then we had to stand and eat raw, cold food. It was so cold a blowing I thought I should freeze. I never in my life suffered as much in one night." It did not get any better the next day.
"At day light we started again. Got within five miles of quarters and the Rebs had burned a bridge over a mountain terrace so we had to turn back and go around about way over 16 miles of the worst roads I ever saw. I tell you we made the hogs and chickens suffer. It rained all the time and was so cold that I liked to shivered all my teeth out and to make matters worse I jumped off the wagon and busted the whole side out of my boot and then I had to ride and nearly froze."
"We saw a small parties of Rebs, but they did not attack us. After a good deal of whip and swearing we got to Cartersville at 10 o'clock at night. Wet, hungry and tired I was glad to get to camp. The report is that we will move in a few days and that the 15th and 20th will move on Mobile. Our division is all concentrating at this place. As soon as they all get together we will pull out and I expect after we start there will be no chance to send my mail. So don't be alarmed if you don't get any letters for some time." Michael did not know it yet, but a short furlough finally was coming.
After the battle of Allatoona, the non-veterans and new recruits were assigned to the Ninety-third Illinois, and accompanied General Sherman on his march to Savannah and Goldsboro. Lewis Jackson, of Company H, was reported killed at Fayetteville, N.C. The veterans finally received their furlough on the 28th of November. They reassembled in Milwaukee on the 28th of December. Before General Sherman resumed his grand march he directed the men on furlough and new recruits to report to General Steadman at Chattanooga where they would be organized into a Provisional Division and be sent to their respective units.
The veterans of the Eighteenth Wisconsin arrived in Chattanooga on the 5th of January 1865. They were assigned to the First Brigade, First Provisional Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, and embarked at Nashville. They traveled down the Cumberland River and up the Ohio River to Cincinnati. Then they went by rail to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland and boarded steamers and arrived at Beaufort, North Carolina on February 2nd. On the 8th they moved by rail to Newbern where they camped till the last of March.
Michael Cunningham left Company B in Savannah Georgia in March after having served three months more than his time. He received his honorable discharge March 16, 1865 at Madison Wisconsin and returned to Blanchardville, Lafayette County Wisconsin and married Hannah Cline on March 26, 1865. The rest of the company joined the forces of General Sherman at Goldsboro and rejoined with the First Brigade, Third Division, and Fifteenth Army Corps. They moved with Sherman to Raleigh were Johnson surrendered. They moved with the Fifteenth Corps by way of Richmond, to Washington, where they took part in the Grand Review. They preceded to Louisville and were mustered out on the 18th of July and reached Madison on the 29th and disbanded.
Regimental Statistics: Original Strength, 962. Gained by recruits in 1863, 619; in 1864, 103; in 1865, 34; by substitutes, 28; by draft in 1864, 200, in 1865, 71; by veteran reenlistment, 178; total, 1673.
Loss by death, 220; missing, 78; deserted, 208; transferred, 23; discharged, 265; mustered out, 843.
When Michael H.B. Cunningham returned after the war he stayed involved with his old comrades by joining in the Grand Army of the Republic. He was united in marriage to Miss Hannah M. Cline on March 26, 1865. She died young on October 24, 1877 at the age of 35 having born six children. Two of the children, Myra and Katie, died the same year as their mother. After farming a few years he was forced to retire from active labor due to rheumatic troubles. He moved to Richland County in March 1867 and opened a restaurant in Blanchardville and then a general store at Rockbridge. He was also involved in the cheese making trade.
He prospered in the mercantile trade for the next twenty-six years. He was also engaged in buying and shipping livestock and in the lumber business. Michael brought a steam sawmill in 1883 and built a mill in Rockbridge. He was nick named the "Lumber Baron". He accumulated 610 acres of valuable farming land. Cunningham Lane and Bridge are still standing as reminders of his prosperity in Rockbridge Wisconsin. He retired from the mercantile trade in 1893 and sold his lumber business in 1905. Michael remained active in supervising his extensive farming interests.
Michael was a stalwart adherent of the Republican Party and was active in politics. He ran unsuccessfully for Sheriff, but he served as treasurer of his township. He was President of the local 'Odd Fellows' Club in Rockbridge.
Michael and Hannah Cline Cunningham had six kids. The following family information is derived from a published historical study in 1906 from the Western Historical Association. William H. was engaged in business at Rockbridge as was John G., Frank O. was a resident of Shoshone, Idaho, Frederick M. was a railway mail clerk and lived in Avalanche, Vernon County, Wisconsin, Myra died at the age of four, and Katie died at the age of two.
The same 1906 study also describes Michael's second marriage. Michael's second marriage on April 14, 1878 was to Miss Luella (Newkirk) Lieurance (cousin to Hannah). Thirteen children were born of this second marriage. The first child died in infancy; Bernard G. became a lawyer in the state of Oklahoma; Ruby died in childhood; Winifred M. and Earl T. remained at the parental home; Marguerite S. was deceased by this study, Hayes, Kenneth N. and Doris Elizabeth were still members of the home circle. Herman is deceased, and the two youngest children were Margaret and Donald M.
Over the generations many of Michael's children and grand children went on to serve their country in its time of need. Michael's son Earl T. Cunningham went on to become a Private, Medical Training Department, during World War I. Hayes T. Cunningham also was a Private, but he served with Company B, 341st Infantry. Kenneth Noble Cunningham served with the Marines, and sadly died on September 22, 1918 while on leave. Michael's son Frederick Michael Cunningham had a famous war hero for a son who fought during World War II. He was Commander Winfield Scott Cunningham who was commander of Wake Island. Retired Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Cunningham went on to write a riveting book called Wake Island Command, which retold the events on Wake Island and the Japanese imprisonment ordeal.
Michael's brother William Monroe Cline Cunningham had three children who served in World War I. They were Sergeant George Hugh Cunningham, Private William A. Cunningham, and Private Monroe C. Cunningham.
Michael's two marriages produced nineteen children and many grandchildren including the authors of this history. Author Gregory Cunningham is the Great-Great Grandson of Michael Cunningham and Hannah Cline and Great-Great-Great Grandson of John Cunningham and Susannah Deam. Michael's son Frederick Michael Cunningham was my Great Grandfather and Ruth Ella Moore my Great Grandmother. Their son Rex Cunningham married Bernadette O'Brien and conceived four children including my own father and co-author Robert Lee Cunningham. My father married Marilynn Viola Wakeley and conceived four children of their own including Gregory Robert Cunningham, as stated above, one of the authors of this history.
Michael H.B. Cunningham died on April 28, 1918 at the age of seventy-six years. He is buried in the Rockbridge Cemetery, Cunningham plot, along with his first wife Hannah M. Cline (died October. 24, 1877), and second wife Luella Lieurance (died March 12, 1951). His mother Susan C. Deam (died March 14,1893), son John G. (died April 14, 1939) and his wife Nina F. Heath (died 1946) are also with him. His cherished two daughters Katie E. (died July 6, 1877) and Myra E. (died December 25, 1877), and son Kenneth N. are buried right next to him forever (died September 22, 1918). His brother Henry H. (died May 28, 1925) and his wife Charlette L. Cline and her parents Samuel and Celia Cline, and grandson Chester B. (died July 27, 1962) round out the loving family that is buried in Rockbridge.
The inscription on Michael Cunningham’s tombstone is a fitting; “I tried to do my duty”. I believe this is a good description of what he did with his life. His family and country were the better for it.
Each member of my extended family deserves a documented history of his or her own, which I will attempt with gusto with my father who is a much better genealogist.
Much of the information I used in detailing this history of Michael Cunningham was obtained from Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, 1866 and G.S. Martin, 16th Wisconsin, and History of Richland County Wisconsin, Western Historical Society, 1906. I also had the great fortune of having copies of quite a few of Michael's letters he wrote home to his girl friend Hannah Cline. Although he had very little formal schooling, finishing only third grade, Michael was well read and his letters are remarkable for their vivid use of language particularly considering the conditions under which he wrote.
for the details I used in describing the RLDS History of the Church.
For the details I used pertaining to the history of the 18th Wisconsin
see http://www.secondwi.con/wisconsinregiments/18th, http://www.shsw.wisc.edu/roster,
and http://badger.state.wi.us/agencies/dva/museum/cwregts/18wisinf. See
http://www.nps.gov/vick/vcmpgn for battle details on the Vicksburg campaign.
The copies of the correspondence from Michael Cunningham back to the home
front during the Civil War are in the author’s personal collection.