My Forbes Ancestors in the United States Civil War

The Forbes clan is no stranger to the pains of war. From the far-flung battlefields of the Jacobite cause to clan rivalries with the Gordons, the strong convictions of the Forbeses have often led them to opposing sides of a conflict. This was no different in the United States Civil War.

“Horse Drawn Artillery” by Edwin A. Forbes
“Horse Drawn Artillery” by Edwin A. Forbes

According to the United States National Archives there were 927 Forbeses fought on the side of the Union Army and 375 Forbeses fought for the Confederacy during the long and bloody war.


Among those Forbeses who answered the call for freedom was my Great-Great Grandfather Elijah H. Forbes (1839-1923.) Believing that all men were created equal, Elijah H. Forbes was just that man, who along with his brother John Forbes enlisted at Bronson, Michigan on August 15, 1862 and joined the Union cause. Both brothers joined the newly formed Battery I, 1st Regiment, Michigan Light Artillery.


Mustered into service August 20, 1862 and left the state of Michigan to join the Army of the Potomac on December 4, 1862. The unit saw its first engagement at Aldie, Virginia in April of 1863. The 1st Regiment, Michigan Light Artillery next seen action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. My Great-Great Uncle John Forbes was wounded in action on July 3, 1863. From there the unit moved to Culpeper Court House in September of 1863 where award-winning Civil War artist Edwin Austion Forbes captured the images of the battle with the below drawing.

“Culpeper Court House battle” Edwin A. Forbes

From Virginia, the unit was ordered to Nashville, Tennessee and remained there in reserve until March 7, 1864. Then the unit was ordered to join General Sherman’s “March to the Sea Campaign”. Engaging the Confederate Army in places such as: Cassville, New Hope, Lost Mountain, Kolb’s Farm, Marietta, Peachtree Creek, and Turner’s Ferry. Finally stopping and participating in the siege of Atlanta, Georgia until November 1, 1864. The unit was then ordered to Chattanooga, Tennessee until ordered home to Michigan and mustered out of federal service at Jackson on July 14, 1865.

My Great-Great Grandfather Elijah H. Forbes and his brother John both survived the war and were finally mustered out of service on July 14, 1865. They returned home and finally settled in Northern Indiana and lived the rest of their lives as peaceful farmers.


Learn more about the Civil War Artist Edwin Austin Forbes (1839-1895) and see some of his artwork here.

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