Lewis Emery Park is now recognized as a historic site, dedicated to the 1,062 Union soldiers of the 18th Michigan Infantry Regiment, which included seven Hillsdale College students.

Civil War reenactors stand beside the new historical marker in Lewis Emery Park.
Anna Timmins | Collegian

Reenactors of the 18th Regiment attended a dedication ceremony on Saturday, along with residents and members of the Michigan Historical Commission.

The sound of a bullet volley ricocheted across the water at the ceremony’s close, reminding onlookers of a time when deadly conflict darkened our nation, reaching even Hillsdale.

In 1861, men from Hillsdale and surrounding towns gathered to form the 18th Michigan Regiment, training at Camp Woodbury — now Lewis Emery Park — on top of a hill on State Street near Lewis Emery’s house. A subdivision now sits where the men once trained.

Training in park’s ponds allowed the men to navigate through the swampy landscape of Alabama.

Bill Smith, president of the 18th Michigan’s reenactors group, headed the charge to make the park a historical site after a rigorous research process and long wait for the Commission’s approval. Linda Moore, Hillsdale College’s public service librarian, and Mitchell Resource Center volunteers helped him discover and confirm the historical significance of the unassuming spot.

“We got a notice back in June, I think it was, that it was approved, and what we had to go through was a lot of red tape,” Smith said. “We sent two packets in and it was about a pound a piece. You have to have documents of everything that goes on, what was there, documents that Emery owned the land, and then documents that showed that he let the army use the land to train on, and we did a lot of research, a lot of research.”

Thomas Truscott of Lansing is on the Michigan Historical Commission, and attended Hillsdale College. He has been involved in approving the placement of historical sites around Michigan.

“I’ve had the honor of doing probably close to a hundred markers,” he said.

As a student at Hillsdale, he was a history major, and recalls studying Hillsdale soldiers’ Civil War sacrifices. He attended Saturday’s dedication ceremony of the little-known heroes of Hillsdale, saying that coming back to Hillsdale feels like coming home.