Monday, April 15, 2013

The Road to Andersonville

 by Frank Boles

On the evening of April 10, approximately 100 people attended the premiere of The Road to Andersonville, a documentary regarding the service of the 139 Native Americans during the Civil War in Company K, First Michigan Sharpshooters.

In 2010, members of the Anishinabe Ogitchedaw Veteran and Warrior Society traveled to Andersonville, Georgia in order to perform traditional burial ceremonies for the seven men from the Company who died and were buried at the Confederate Prisoner of War camp located there. The documentary tells the story of Co. K from two perspectives – the story of those who traveled to Andersonville in 2010 and the remembrances of descendants of the men who served in the company as well as a narrative by two historians who have studied the company.

For the men of Company K, simply serving was a challenge. Native Americans were originally excluded by state law from being recruited into Michigan military units. Eventually, wartime necessity led the State to lift the ban on Native American recruits, and Co. K, largely made up of men from the Little Traverse Bay area, became one of the few Native American units to serve the Union cause.

Company K, like all of the First Michigan Sharpshooters, saw hard service. The men of Company K fought bravely and well. One example of the bravery shown by the men of the Company was Pentwater Chippewa Antoine Scott, who was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864.

Fifteen of the men who served with the Company became prisoners of war at the infamous Confederate prison at Andersonville. Eight died. Seven were buried at Andersonville, while the eighth died in transit to another POW camp, and lies in an unknown grave. The trip in 2010 was both a recognition of these men’s valor and sacrifice as well as a spiritual quest to perform the traditional rituals believed to assist them in their passage through the western gate.

We are especially grateful to David Schock, the film’s producer, for the effort he has invested in telling this story. Thanks also to Dave Herek and Chris Czopek, who served as historical consultants, and the members of the Anishinabe Ogitchedaw Veteran and Warrior Society, who traveled to Andersonville to perform traditional ceremonies over the graves of their fallen brothers, and who honored us with their presence and opening ceremony at the film’s premiere.

The documentary telling the story of Company K was made possible, in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council. For more information about the film, please contact the documentary’s producer, David Schock, at