Few 19th-century Americans were as adventurous as Henry Baxter. Best known for his Civil War exploits—from leading the 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in the first daylight amphibious assault in American history, to his defense of the Union line on day one of Gettysburg—he accomplished these despite having no prewar military training. His heroism and leadership propelled him from officer of volunteers to major general in the Army of the Potomac.
A New York emigrant from a prominent family, Baxter was involved in developing Michigan’s political, business and educational foundations. He excelled at enterprise, leading a group of adventurers to California during the Gold Rush, co-founding what would become the Republican Party and eventually becoming President Grant’s diplomat to Honduras during one of the most dynamic periods of Central American history.