Mackinac’s Longest Serving Soldiers: The 23rd U.S. Infantry

If you have visited Fort Mackinac during the summer, you have probably seen historic interpreters representing men from Companies E and K of the 23rd Regiment of U.S. Infantry. The original soldiers arrived at Fort Mackinac in June 1884 and left in May 1890, making them the longest serving unit to be stationed at the post. Fort Mackinac was considered an easy post to garrison, but the 23rd also saw hard service in numerous conflicts around the world.

23-infantry-regThe regiment was first organized during the War of 1812 and served in 13 battles, predominantly in New York and Canada. It was consolidated in 1815 to form the 2nd Infantry. The modern incarnation of the 23rd Regiment was born in 1861, when it known as the 1st Battalion of the 14th Infantry. The regiment served in Civil War battles such as Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Petersburg. After the war, the regiment was again reorganized, designated as the 23rd Infantry, and transferred to the territory of Alaska, which had been recently acquired from Russia. By the mid-1870s the 23rd returned to warmer climates, serving in the plains and southwestern United States. Soldiers fought in engagements of the western Indian Wars, such as the Apache Wars and the Black Hills War. Just prior to being stationed at Fort Mackinac in 1884, Companies E and K of the 23rd were stationed at Forts Union and Bayard in the New Mexico Territory.

parade-ground-groupUpon departing Fort Mackinac in 1890, the 23rd Regiment was first posted to Texas. The unit participated in the capture of Manila during the Spanish American War and fought in the ensuing Philippine Insurrection. The regiment “took the long way around” for their return from the Philippines and became the first U.S. infantry regiment to circumnavigate the globe. The 23rd served in both World Wars and saw heavy combat in the Korean War. In Korea the regiment earned their current nickname, “the Tomahawks”, and fought at Heartbreak Ridge and the Battle of Chipyong-ni. In more recent times, the regiment served in the Vietnam War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. When not serving abroad today, the regiment continues to be posted in Alaska.

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