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R. Ely

R. Ely

Federal (USV)


Ralph Ely

(1820 - 1883)

Home State: Michigan

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 8th Michigan Infantry

Before Antietam

He was a founder and prominent citizen of Alma, Michigan, having founded the settlement of Elyton and built the sawmill (1854). He built a gristmill and was also the first Postmaster (1857). When Alma was incorporated in 1857 he was elected Village President.

In August 1861, he raised a company of troops and was made Captain; his company then became "C", Eighth Regiment, Michigan Volunteer Infantry. Captain Ely was wounded June 16, 1862, at Secessionville, South Carolina. Major Watson resigned his position September 10, 1862, and the same day Captain Ely was promoted to that rank.

The rest of the War

24 September he was in command of the regiment, Colonel Fenton taking the brigade. Lieutenant-Colonel Graves resigned on February 1, 1863, and Major Ely was promted to fill the vacancy. Ely was afterward commissioned Colonel, to rank from May 7, 1864. He was mustered out May 19, 1866.

After the War

He served in the Freedman's Bureau in South Carolina and Florida, attempting to set up a citrus farm near Jacksonville, but frost killed his young trees, and he returned to Michigan.

In 1873 he was elected to the Michigan State Senate, and served as Auditor General for State of Michigan

He kept a diary, recently published: The Diary of Captain Ralph Ely of the Eighth Michigan Infantry: With the Wandering Regiment, Edited with an introduction by George M. Blackburn, Mount Pleasant : Central Michigan University Press, 1965.

References & notes

Source: City of Alma History online; and a Biographical Memoir of his son Townshend, published by JB Beers & Co, Chicago, 1906 and extracted online. His gravesite is on Findagrave.


07/10/1820; Marshall, NY


04/14/1883; Emmet County, MI; burial in Riverside Cemetery, Alma, Michigan