With the car czar's birthday having just passed, we turn to historian Brian Egen for this perspective:
"Henry Ford and the Civil War" seems like an odd association – primarily because it wasn’t until the early 20th Century that he put the world on wheels and to which he is most categorically remembered. For those Civil War veterans who lived into the automobile era it is very likely that most of them, who marched and treaded miles during their service, rode and possibly even owned a Ford Model T. With over 15 million of them made and a vehicle relatively affordable for the masses, it became a part of everyday American life.
However, Henry’s connections to the Civil War can be more directly associated than simply creating an automobile that veterans came to know years after the fighting ceased. July 30, 2014 marks the 151st anniversary of Henry Ford’s birth. Born to William and Mary (Litogot) Ford just three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg in a modest farm house in Dearborn, Michigan, Henry’s parents were all too familiar with the war as it touched them personally.
Henry’s two uncles, John and Barney Litogot, enlisted the previous August in the famed 24th Michigan Infantry. Like countless thousands of Michiganders, these two farm boys were swept up in the conflagration of the Civil War and voluntarily joined to preserve a “more perfect union.” Approximately 90,000 Michigan citizen soldiers would serve during the Civil War -- over 14,000 of them, including John Litogot, would never return home. Having been killed on December 13, 1862 at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Henry’s mother Mary would have mourned the loss of her brother John while she was in the first trimester of pregnancy. Assuredly the family worried for the safety of her remaining brother Barney as news of the Army of the Potomac’s actions came back to Michigan. Such news would eventually reach home just prior to Henry’s birth that Barney was wounded in the arm during the first day’s fight at Gettysburg.
To learn more of the Litogot Brother’s story and to see photographs, please follow this link to The Henry Ford blog written about Henry Ford’s two uncles in the Civil War: Ford Uncles