The Birneys

The Birneys are a Civil War family of whom I was only peripherally aware, but as this article points out, they had quite a history. The book, Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans, and the Civil War, could be quite an interesting read.

Although unsuccessful in his presidential campaigns of 1840 and 1844 as the Liberty Party candidate, Birney shook the political landscape with his abolitionist determination and influenced a number of politicians, including Abraham Lincoln and the fledgling Republican Party, Rogers noted.

He also imbued five sons with his political savvy and anti-slavery convictions, four of whom fought in the Civil War, as did one grandson, Bay City native James Birney IV. Two of his sons, David Bell Birney and William Birney, although not Bay Cityans, had strong connections to Michigan and both became major generals during the war.

Rogers said three of the four Birney sons who saw combat died during the war. The only one to survive was Gen. William Birney, the distinguished commander of black troops in campaigns in Florida and South Carolina. The grandson, James Birney IV, was a heroic figure at Gettysburg, riding with the 7th Michigan Cavalry in the Wolverine Division under Gen. George A. Custer. He also commanded a company of the famed Buffalo Soldiers, black cavalry troops, in the 9th U.S. Cavalry after the war.

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