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R. McMichael

R. McMichael

Federal (USV)

Lieutenant Colonel

Richards McMichael

(1816 - 1894)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 53rd Pennsylvania Infantry


see his Battle Report

Before Antietam

He apprenticed as a carpenter, settled in Reading in 1839, and was a pattern-maker there. He had Mexican War service enlisting as Private in the "Reading Artillerists" - Company A, 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry. He was promoted almost immediately to regimental Sergeant Major on 5 January 1847. At Cerro Gordo on 18 April 1847 ...

After we had received the first round of grape and canister, our company fell back with the rest of the men, when Richards McMichael sprang forward, crying to us to come on. We immediately followed. He led us through the thickest of the fire, the men falling on each side of him, but he, undaunted, still encouraged the wavering and reprimanded the cowardly. Such conduct has gained him the esteem of this regiment.
He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant of the Reading Artillerists in September and mustered out with them on 5 July 1848.

On 30 April 1861, by then 45 years old, he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel, 14th Pennsylvania Infantry for 3 months's service and he mustered out with them on 7 August. He was again appointed Lieutenant Colonel as the 53rd Pennsylvania Infantry organized in September 1861, and he mustered-in with them on 7 November in Harrisburg. He was absent, sick, for the Peninsula Campaign in the Spring and Summer of 1862 but returned to duty, and commanded the regiment after Colonel Brooke was promoted to Brigade command on 11 September 1862.

On the Campaign

He commanded the regiment in Maryland.

The rest of the War

He led the regiment at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and at the Wilderness. On the night of 9 May 1864 ...

Hancock's only significant casualty was Lieutenant Colonel Richards McMichael of the 53rd Pennsylvania. Well fortified with drink, he skinned his nose on a tree, complained loudly about being the only man wounded in his regiment, then unsteadily led the way several hundred yards ahead of his troops. Somehow he survived until darkness, when he attracted a crowd by beating his horse to punish it for sniffing conscripts. Such was the drama of our officers who freely indulged in that dark beverage of hell, a witness declared.
He was relieved of command and was discharged on a Surgeons Certificate of disability on 19 May 1864. He enrolled again, as Lieutenant Colonel of the 100-day 194th Pennsylvania Infantry on 24 July 1864 and mustered out on 5 November 1864, by then 48 years old.

References & notes

His Mexican War service from a bio sketch in Morton L. Montgomery's History of Berks County in Pennsylvania (1886). Civil War service from the Card File.1 The first quote above from a letter in Montgomery's Historical Sketch of Reading Artillerists (1897); the second from Gordon Rhea's The Battles of Spotsylvania Courthouse and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864 (1995), citing the memoir of Joseph S. Wicklein, Company B of the 53rd. Personal details from family genealogists. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a CDV offered for sale by the Excelsior Brigade.


02/21/1816; Robeson Township, Berks County, PA


12/05/1894; Reading, PA; burial in Charles Evans Cemetery, Reading, PA


1   Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Adjutant-General, Pennsylvania Civil War Veterans' Card File, 1861-1866, Published <2005, first accessed 01 July 2005, <>  [AotW citation 23240]

2   Uriguen, Mikel, Photo Gallery (Generals and Brevet Generals), Generals of the Civil War, Published c. 1998, first accessed 01 January 1998, <>  [AotW citation 23241]