PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Byron Cutcheon 1836-1908

Posted by ppna on March 31, 2008

Here are a couple of book notes about Byron M. Cutcheon who was one of Ypsilanti’s most distinguished residents. He served 3 terms in Congress and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War. The first is a biography and the 2nd is an interesting retelling of the battle from which he received the Medal of Honor. Byron Cutcheon is buried in Highland Cemetery.

CUTCHEON, Byron M. (1836—1908)

CUTCHEON, Byron M., a Representative from Michigan; born in Pembroke, Merrimack County, N.H., May 11, 1836; attended the common schools and Pembroke Academy; taught school in Pembroke for several years; moved to Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1855; principal of Birmingham Academy, Oakland County, in 1857; attended Ypsilanti Seminary, and was graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1861; professor of ancient languages in the Ypsilanti High School 1861 and 1862; enlisted in the Union Army in 1862 and served in the Twentieth Regiment, Michigan Infantry, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel; commissioned colonel of the Twenty-seventh Regiment, Michigan Infantry November 12, 1864; commanded the Second Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps, from October 16, 1864, until his resignation on March 6, 1865; was graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1866; was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in Ionia, Mich.; moved to Manistee, Mich., in 1867; member of the board of control of railroads of Michigan 1867-1883; city attorney of Manistee, Mich., 1870-1873; prosecuting attorney of Manistee County, Mich., in 1873 and 1874; regent of Michigan University 1875-1881; postmaster of Manistee, Mich., 1877-1883; elected as a Republican to the Forty-eighth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1883-March 3, 1891); chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Fifty-first Congress); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1890 to the Fifty-second Congress; awarded a Medal of Honor by Congress June 29, 1891, “for distinguished gallantry at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Ky., May 10, 1863”; appointed civilian member of the Board of Ordnance and Fortifications by President Harrison in July 1891 and served until March 25, 1895; editorial writer for the Detroit Daily Tribune and Detroit Journal 1895-1897; resumed the practice of law in Grand Rapids, Mich.; died in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, Mich., April 12, 1908; interment in Highland Cemetery.

Byron M. Cutcheon

Major 2th Mich infantry

Highest rank attained: Brevet Brig-Gen U.S.V.

Born at Pembroke, N.H. May 11 1836


The Twentieth Michigan Infantry under the command of Lieutenant W.H. Smith formed part of a provisional brigade which included three regiments of Kentucky cavalry and the Thirteenth Indiana Independent Battery, and was commanded by Colonel Richard T. Jacob. The gallant regiment from Michigan, was sent with this provisional brigade south of the Cumberland River, to hold the Confederate general, John Morgan, in check. How this was accomplished Major Byron M. Cutcheon describes as follows:

“After some skirmishing at Monticello, Ky., we had fallen back to the Cumberland River on May 9, 1863, and were waiting for a scouting party to come in, to recross, when Morgan’s advance attacked our outpost at Horse Shoe Bend, that evening. I hastened back to the Bend to take command of the companies stationed there, while Colonel Smith remained behind to hurry up the rest of the regiment. That night the regiment came up, and on the morning of the 10th we were re-enforced by a small body – a squadron I believe – of the Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry, dismounted, and armed with Henry repeating rifles.

‘Before their arrival, Morgan’s men made a dash and succeeded in seizing the ‘Coffey’ house, a large log house on the east side of the road, so called after its owner. We had occupied it as a picket post through the night. The house, outbuildings, and garden were filled with rebel sharpshooters, who, though they harassed us throughout the day, did not attempt to advance.

“About 4 o’clock PM – It was Sunday – Colonel Jacob having been re-enforced by a piece of Captain Sims’ battery, resolved to take the aggressive, and to drive the rebels out of the house and grounds. To me was assigned the command of four companies, A and D, on the left of the road in the field, and C and K, in the road and to the right. At the signal we went forward at our very best pace. I was then just six feet two inches tall, one half of the length in legs, and an expert runner from practice in college. I took a course directly down the road to the south in front of the companies, – one could hardly say ‘line’, for there was no line; it was a ‘go as you please’ foot race – with Captain George C. Barnes, an old fireman from Battle Creek, Mich., a good second, a rod (17ft) behind me. The distance was about 150 yards, and we made it on the jump. There were three steps up to the porch, but I made only one of them. With my sword in my right hand, and a big Colt’s navy revolver in my left, I threw myself against the weather-beaten door. A moment later, Captain Barnes came to my side, and the door yielded.

“Why we were not both shot down then and there, I have never been able to understand. The rebels certainly missed their opportunity. Instead, we saw the Johnnies going out of the back doors and windows, and making for the woods, while the companies coming up right and left of the house, poured volleys into the retreating foe.

“The charge was a complete success, but Lieutenant William Green and two enlisted me were killed, and quite a number wounded.”*


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