Governor Alexander Ramsey happened to be in Washington in 1861, when President Lincoln issued his call for troops, thus, a regiment of the Minnesota Volunteer Infantry was first to respond. Among the original 100 to enlist were 20 students from Hamline University in Red Wing and 20 men and boys from Pine Island.
Recruits dispatched to Fort Snelling for military training. This was not always an easy task. Would-be soldiers, at one time dissatisfied with the rations being served, hurled plates of food at the cooks. Finally, decked out in black pants, red flannel shirts, and black felt hats, the regiment boarded boats for the trip east. After landing in LaCrosse, the troops journeyed to Baltimore by train.
Much to their surprise, the Minnesota Regiment was greeted by an unfriendly crowd in Baltimore. After loading muskets in full view of the assembled mob, the 1st Minnesota marched into Washington unharmed. Less than three weeks later, they found themselves advancing into Virginia as part of the Union Army.
The 1st Minnesota suffered the most casualties of any Union regiment at the First Battle of Bull Run. They are, however, most remembered for what occurred on July 2, 1863, the second day of fighting at Gettysburg. Led by Col. William Colvill, the unit attempted to capture the enemy’s flag, and, in the process, lost 215 of its 262 men. That 83% casualty rate remains, to this day, the largest loss during a single battle by any military unit in American history.
The Pine Island Area Historical Society is proud to present a commemorative program in honor of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The program will be this Sunday, October 9, in the Pine Island Cemetary with soldiers' stories being told at 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00. An open house at the History Center follows the presentations.
Admission is $5/person, or $10 for the whole family.