The 27th joined in a blocking movement near Jackson, Miss., in the rear of Vicksburg, when General Joseph E. Johnston attempted to come to the relief of Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, then closely besieged by General Grant. After the fall of Vicksburg on July 4th, the 27th was sent with the Ninth Corps across the mountains to take part in the East Tennessee campaign. After a long, arduous march over almost impassable roads, it reached Lenoir Station, Tenn., and was attacked by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's forces, then advancing on Knoxville. The Union lines were gradually withdrawn towards Knoxville, but it became necessary to halt at Campbell Station, to insure the safety of the trains. Here, the Confederates fiercely attacked the Union forces, and the 27th Michigan sustained heavy casualties in this engagement.
The Union forces rallied behind their defenses at Knoxville and in Fort Saunders, where they were repeatedly charged by the enemy, who were repulsed with heavy losses in every attempt to get possession of the Union earthworks. Despite their own heavy losses in the defense of Knoxville the 27th Michigan followed Confederate Gen. Longstreet as he passed into Northeast Tennessee. The 27th followed
him as far as Rutledge, and then fell back to Blain's Cross Roads, in January 1864.
The 27th Michigan suffered severe hardships during this campaign since they were poorly supplied with rations, tents, blankets and clothing, and their shoes were worn out by constant marching, either in deep mud or over frozen ground.
Gen. Grant withdrew the Ninth Corps, including the 27th, to send them East to join the Army of the Potomac. The 27th returned to Knoxville, and then marched some 200 miles across the Cumberland Mountains to Nicholasville, Ky. Ninth Corps was then placed upon rail cars and sent to Annapolis, Md.
destructive infantry arm then known, was hailed with delight by the 27th for they were the only Spencer rifles in the Ninth Corps.
wish they were out here weeks at a time without relief;" "Well, it serves us jolly well right! If we hadn't been such fools as to want 'em 'cause they were new, we'd be used like the rest, but we got 'em--the damned sputter guns--and by G---,
we'll serve 'em!"
The 27th Michigan, now composed of twelve companies, 864 strong, in command of Major Moody, joined the Army of the Potomac, April 29, 1864, at Warrenton, Va., and was assigned to the First Brigade, Third Division, Ninth Corps. The regiment crossed the Rapidan with the Ninth Corps, the 6th of May, and was immediately engaged in the terrific struggle of the bloody Battle of the Wilderness, losing eighty-nine in killed and wounded in the different engagements.
The 27th scarcely emerged from the Wilderness before it was engaged in another bloody encounter at Spottsylvania, where its losses were 27 killed, 148 wounded, and 12 missing. During the month of May the 27th was constantly marching and fighting, sustaining frightful losses, and on June 3 fought the Battle of Bethesda Church, where sixteen of the regiment were killed, sixty wounded, among them a large number of officers.
From Cold Harbor the 27th crossed the James River, and during the 17th and 18th of June charged the enemy's works before Petersburg, meeting with severe loss from the fire of both musketry and artillery. During the months of June and July the regiment was constantly under fire, and on July 30 took part in the disastrous charge at the "Crater," when a mine was exploded immediately in its front. The 27th was in the advance of its brigade in this charge, and suffered severely from Confederate crossfire, meeting with heavy loss. Some time during the action at Petersburg, Sergeant Stephen Spitzley suffered a severe wound in his right leg.
During the siege of Petersburg the 27th held advanced positions, and took part in the numerous attempts to break the enemy's line at Weldon railroad, Peebles' Farm, Poplar Grove Church, South Side railroad, and helped to repel the Confederates when they charged Union lines. The regiment participated in the desperate charge to capture Fort Mahone, a strong work called the "Key," in the rebel line, and succeeded in placing its colors on the eastern wing, capturing three pieces of artillery and more than 150 prisoners.
When the Confederates finally evacuated Petersburg and Richmond, the 27th followed the retreating army until April 18, nine days after the formal surrender of General Lee at Appomattox, when it was ordered to Washington, D. C. to perform light guard duty for prisoners at Navy Yard.
The impact on the 27th was staggering:
Killed in action--Officers, 6; enlisted men, 128...................134
Died of wounds--Officers, 3; enlisted men, 74.......................77
Died in confederate prisons--Enlisted men, 40.....................40
Died of disease--Enlisted men, 102..........................................102
Discharged for disability (wounds and disease).................181
Wounded in action--Officers, 27; enlisted men, 511........ 538
Missing in action--Officers, 4; enlisted men, 126................130