More than 90,000 Michigan men served in the Union Army and Navy during the Civil War. The 17th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment was mustered at the Detroit Barracks in August 1862 under the command of Colonel William H. Withington. The regiment consisted of raw recruits from field, workshop and schoolroom. One company was composed almost entirely of students from Ypsilanti Normal School, now Eastern Michigan University. With less than a month of military training, the 17th left for Washington DC, on August 27, 1862. From there it was sent to the Maryland campaign. On September 14, a little more than two weeks after leaving the state and just three days before the Battle of Antietam, the regiment engaged in battle here.
The 17th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment was among the units of General Ambrose E. Burnside's 9th army corps that were engaged in battle here on September 14, 1862. The fight began around 9:00 A.M. just south of this site. Around noon a Confederate battery opened fire on the regiment, which was supporting Cook's Massachusetts Battery. The 17th held its position for several hours. At 4:00 P.M. the command was given for an assault along the entire Union line. The Confederates came out of the woods to meet the charge at a fence line in the middle of the field, then moved back to the stone walls along the crest of the hill. The 17th advanced and captured the stone walls. Of the 500 men of the "Stonewall Regiment" engaged in battle here, 27 were killed and 114 wounded, many mortally.