The Minnesota 1st Regiment at Gettysburg.

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by syscom3, Apr 19, 2008.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Organization and early service

    The 1st Minnesota was the first state volunteer regiment formally tendered to the Federal government under Abraham Lincoln's call for 300,000 troops in 1861, being offered on April 14 for three months service, Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey happening to be in Washington at the time. It was organized at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, on April 29 and subsequently remustered for three years service on May 10.

    The regiment suffered significant losses during its term of service in the Eastern Theater. At the First Battle of Bull Run, it took the heaviest casualties of any Federal regiment on the field, an unfortunate honor that it would hold in more than one battle. At the Battle of Antietam, the Minnesotans and their parent brigade, commanded by the regiment's former colonel, Willis A. Gorman, were in General John Sedgwick's ill-famed assault on the West Woods, resulting in a Union rout from that part of the field. However, as always, the 1st Minnesota fought with courage and distinction.

    Gettysburg

    The men of the 1st Minnesota are most remembered for their actions on July 2, 1863, during the second day's fighting at Gettysburg, resulting in the prevention of a serious breach in the Union defensive line on Cemetery Ridge. Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, commander of the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac, ordered the regiment to assault a much larger enemy force (a brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox) in an effort to buy time while other forces could be brought up. During the charge, 215 members of the 262 men who were present at the time became casualties, including the regimental commander, Col. William Colvill, and all but three of his officers. The unit's flag fell five times and rose again each time. The 47 survivors rallied back to General Hancock under the senior surviving officer, Captain Henry C. Coates. The 82 percent casualty rate stands to this day as the largest loss by any surviving military unit in American history during any single engagement. The unit's flag is now in the Minnesota Capital's rotunda.

    Despite the horrendous casualties the 1st Minnesota had incurred, it continued the fight the next day, helping to repulse Pickett's Charge. The surviving Minnesotans just happened to have been positioned at one of the few places where Union lines were breached during that engagement, and, as a result, charged the advancing Confederate positions one last time as a unit.


    The monument to the 1st Minnesota at the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park bears the following inscription:

    “ On the afternoon of July 2, 1863 Sickles' Third Corps, having advanced from this line to the Emmitsburg Road, eight companies of the First Minnesota Regiment, numbering 262 men were sent to this place to support a battery upon Sickles repulse.

    As his men were passing here in confused retreat, two Confederate brigades in pursuit were crossing the swale. To gain time to bring up the reserves save this position, Gen Hancock in person ordered the eight companies to charge the rapidly advancing enemy.

    The order was instantly repeated by Col Wm Colvill. And the charge as instantly made down the slope at full speed through the concentrated fire of the two brigades breaking with the bayonet the enemy's front line as it was crossing the small brook in the low ground there the remnant of the eight companies, nearly surrounded by the enemy held its entire force at bay for a considerable time till it retired on the approach of the reserve the charge successfully accomplished its object. It saved this position probably the battlefield. The loss of the eight companies in the charge was 215 killed wounded. More than 83% percent. 47 men were still in line no man missing. In self sacrificing desperate valor this charge has no parallel in any war. Among the severely wounded were Col Wm Colvill, Lt Col Chas P Adams Maj Mark W. Downie. Among the killed Capt Joseph Periam, Capt Louis Muller Lt Waldo Farrar. The next day the regiment participated in repelling Pickett's charge losing 17 more men killed wounded.”

    During the chaotic fighting that took place in the repulse of Pickett's Charge, Private Marshall Sherman of Company C of the 1st Minnesota captured the colors of the 28th Virginia. Private Sherman received the Medal of Honor for his exploit. The flag was taken back to Minnesota as a prize of war and is displayed at the Minnesota Historical Society. In the mid-1990s, several groups of Virginians unsuccessfully sued the Society to return the 28th Virginia's battle flag to the Old Dominion State.
     

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  2. Karl Sitts

    Karl Sitts Member

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    Syscom 3, Where I'm from, It's referred to as The Second War For Independence, Or The War Between The States.So, don't we have rules about insulting others on this site? my Great,Great Grandfather,James W. Street, was from Ripley, Mississippi. When the war started he formed an artillary Batallion with the men from around Ripley. They served throughout the war. Since I am a Southern gentleman and a scholar, I will not insult the brave men of the 1st. -Karl
     
  3. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Did you know 24 Congressional medals were won by Canadians in the US civil war I discovered this when I looked up how many Canadians fought and it's between 50 and 60 thousand
     
  4. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Others here refer to it as the "War of Northern Aggresion" Thats an insult from where I'm from.

    8)
     
  5. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I didnt know that.

    Wow, you learn something new everyday.

    Do you have a list of the CMH won by Canadians?
     
  6. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Dont get started on the North vs the South thing guys.... Anyone can call it what they want, as long as they dont shame the names of the brave sumbitches that fought for both sides...

    Im a damn Yankee and proud of it, and I remind thiese necks down here in Mississippi several times a year that the North won the War, so bragging rights are ours...

    Excellent story sys, I was aware of this before, but u reminded me of it, thanks... Talk about Bravery....

    Interesting fact pB about ur Canadians.... Knew some fought, but in the 10's of thousands??? WOW...
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Just like at Iwo Jima ...

    This was a valorous act performed on a day filled with countless acts of bravery, done by untold thousands of brave men, on both sides.
     
  8. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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  9. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    "September 17, 1862 was the bloodiest one day's fighting of the war. Of the 23,000 casualties, Mc Clellan could count 12,500 and Lee about 2000 less. Hood's division was shattered-his old brigade was decimated. The Texas Brigade went into action numbering 854 and lost 560 killed, wounded and missing,- a casualty rate of over 64%, the third highest in percentage losses for a brigade in a single battle." "The first Texas, led by Lt. Colonel P. A. Work, fought doggedly back and forth across Miller's blood spattered cornfield. The First Texas led the advance of Hood's Division, driving two lines of Federal infantry and over-running an artillery battery. Leading 226 men into battle, Work counted 186 killed, wounded and missing at the end of the day for a casualty rate of 82.3%. This was the highest casualty rate for any regiment, North or South, for a one day battle during the war. Of the 16 flag bearers that the brigade lost at Antietam, the first Texas lost nine." Of course, sometimes casualty records were not all that accurate, particularly for the South. Consequently which regiment had the highest casualty rate is probably still in question. The reports were that Miller's 40 acre cornfield was strewn so thickly with bodies of both sides that one could walk across the field and never step off of a body and there was not one stalk of corn left uncut by gunfire.
     
  10. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I visited Antietam back in the 80's.

    One day I will digitize those pics and post them.
     
  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    I would like to visit there also as well as Gettysburg. They are on my list. Saw a special on TV about Antietam( or Sharpsburg) and they said there was a slight ridge in front of the "sunken road" that let the Union troops get within about 100 yards be fore coming into view. That little ridge saved hundreds of lives. Would enjoy seeing your photos.
     
  12. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Are you reffering to the "bloody lane"?
     
  13. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Right Sys, some of my books on Civil War refer to it as the Sunken Road and some call it Bloody Lane but it was the place where the TV program said that there was a very slight ridge or perhaps the edge of a fold that is only apparent when one is in the road that concealed on coming troops until they were about 100 yards away. Did you notice that when you were there? Anyway that was the place where John Gordon received 5 gunshot wounds, the last going in one cheek, through his mouth and out the other cheek whereupon he almost drowned in his own blood. He is the one who supposedly said when asked if they could hold the position, "We will hold here all the liv long day or til the sun goes down." Or something like that.
     
  14. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I remember this very well. About 100 yards from the sunken lane, is indeed a small rise. If I remember correctly, the Union troops took position there and started firing at the Confederates that were positioned in the lane.

    After awhile, the lane was stacked with bodies, and the Union troops manged to take the position. But, the Union troops suffered such bad casualties, they couldnt exploit the situation.

    There is a small stone watch tower that was built when the area was made into a battlefield park. Its right astride the lane, and you get an excellent view of the local battlefield for the Union right and center.

    The attached photo is not mine, just to show you whats there.
     

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  15. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Thanks Sys, your memories and insight are most valuable. The Confederates held the positon for several hours during the middle of the day. The carnage was terrible on both sides. Part of the time the Union troops making the attack were the Irish Brigade and they were decimated. Finally one Confederate unit under mistaken orders withdrew, allowing Union troops to take over their position and taking the rest of the Southern troops in the Lane under enfilade fire. It was at this time, I think, that General Longstreet, because the situation was so desperate, was actually manning an artillery battery to the rear of the Sunken Road. The whole battle broke down into three segments. In the morning, the fight for the Woods, Miller's cornfield and the Dunker Church. This was where Hood's division and the Texas Brigade was shattered. The midday fight was at Bloody Lane. The afternoon fight was at the Burnside Bridge where Hill's light division saved the day. Of course these actions were continuous. The number of KIAs, something over 6000, is misleading because many of the WIAs died in the following weeks. One interesting point to me is that there were military observers from the armies in Europe with both the Union and Confederate armies and they were all astounded at the ferocity of the fighting and at the huge numbers of casualties.
     
  16. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Some interesting facts about the Texas Brigade. It was the only unit with a sizable amount of Texans in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as most Texans fought in the armies in the West. They were not yet there in 1861 when the first major battle was fought, First Bull Run(First Manassas.) Arriving in the winter of 61-62, the Brigade was put under the command of a new brigadier, John Bell Hood, under whom they played a major role during the Seven Days at Gaines Mill. Hood went on from there to become a division commander in Longstreet's Corps and later the commander of the Army of Tennesee. When the Texas Brigade was formed in Virginia there were three Texas regiments, the 1st, 4th and 5th, plus the 18th Georgia and Hampton's Legion. Later in the war the 3rd Arkansas supplanted the Georgians and Hampton's boys. When the 18th Georgia was in the Texas Brigade they were known as the Goober Grabbers. The Texas Brigade played a major role in the following battles: Gaines Mill during the Seven Days, Second Manassas(Second Bull Run), Sharpsburg(Antietam), Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Wilderness. They were in every action the Army of Northern Virginia fought except Chancellorsville when they were in the part of Longstreet's corps that was in North Carolina and they were in the contingent that went to fight for Braxton Bragg at Chickamauga and subsequently spent the winter of 63-64 in East Tennessee. They were in the rear guard when Lee's army was retreating toward Appamattox Couthouse. During the war there were approx. 4000 men enlisted in the three Texas regiments. Around 1000 died. Interestingly in both the Union and Confederate armies the number of men who died from disease was about twice the number who died from battlefield wounds. In the Texas Brigade that trend was reversed. Twice as many died from wounds as from disease. Perhaps that can be explained by Lee's words about the Texans, "When the Texas Brigade is out foraging, the chickens have to roost mighty high." In my opinion there is no unit on either side with a more illustrious record than the Texas Brigade.
     
  17. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    One thing I remember about the Battle of Antietam was the SHEAR CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE of McLellan and his staff in planning the battle.

    Noone thought to coordinate the three attacks for a unifed assault time.

    If only two of the three attacks went off within an hour of each other, the Confederates would have collapsed at one of them, and their whole position and army rolled up at once.
     
  18. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I'm not too impressed with McClellan either.

    Only place I've been to for the Civil War was Bull Run. It was amazing to stand at the spot where Jackson was declared to be standing like a "stonewall". Amazing place.
     
  19. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I like what Lincoln said about him a month later.

    Upon visiting him at his camp bivouac, Lincoln was said to have said with exasperation ... "This isn't the Army of the Potomic".... this is General Mclellans bodyguards".
     
  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    McClellan failed to co ordinate his attacks or the battle could have been a worse disaster for the South than it was. The Union had around 90000 troops at Sharpsburg and Lee barely got 40000 on the field. The whole story of the war on both sides was lost opportunities because of poor coordination or inept leadership or just plain bad luck. The "Fog of War" and "the enemy always gets a vote" played a big role. However, I believe excuses may be made for the generals because communications were so poor. The armies were huge for that day and once the battle was begun, a commander could not see very far and messages were limited to the speed of a horse. A lot of crucial decisions had to be made by small unit commanders and many of them had little or no training. The war was a tragedy, especially for the South as that region was practically destitute for many years after the war was over. In some ways, though, I believe that it may have been the finest hour of the American Experience. The character, fortitude, the devotion to a cause and the sacrifise for that cause displayed by both sides in that conflict are an example for future generations.
     
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