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Pine Island Area Historical Society Commemorates Civil War Veterans

(Reprinted with permission)

Civil War soldiers were brought to life at the Pine Island Cemetery on Sunday, October 9. The Pine Island Area Historical Society performed their annual Cemetery Walk with a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Several citizens of Pine Island who participated in the Civil War were portrayed.

Pine Island was a small village at the time of the Civil War. The 1860 census put the population at 588. Military records show that 151 men from Pine Island served in the war. When President Lincoln called for volunteers to help preserve the union of states, Minnesota was the first state to volunteer. All 47 of the Pine Island Rifles, a citizens’ militia, went together to Red Wing to enlist on the very first day.

Soloman Jewell (portrayed by Dennis Bailey) was a member of the Pine Island Rifles. Turned away at the recruiting station for a “rheumatic condition,” he vowed he would help the men fighting as best he could. He raised crops and livestock and sent food to Fort Snelling to feed the troops. Later in the war, his younger brother, Fenn, served in the infantry and Soloman liked to say it was his donations that kept his brother alive. Soloman lived in Pine Island, married and raised a family. He was known by all as a generous man, never seeking attention for himself. He passed away at the age of 74 in 1909.

Captain Orlenzo Morehouse was also a member of the Pine Island Rifles. He was the village assessor prior to enlisting in the war. He served from the first day of the war to the last, fighting in thirteen campaigns, fives sieges, and thirty-four battles and minor engagements. He became a local hero. He was the commander of Company H of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry and served under General William Tecumseh Sherman in the Siege of Vicksburg. A quote by Colonel Lucius Hubbard: “The Fifth Minnesota was a victor in every fight in which it was engaged. The only experience possible in war it did not acquire was that of defeat.” Following the war, Morehouse returned to Pine Island and married Miss Marion Parker. While traveling in the Dakota Territories, Captain Morehouse fell from a building and broke his back and several ribs. He was brought back to Pine Island, but died of the injuries about a month later. He was only 46 years old.

Joseph Dickey, a sharpshooter in the Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, was portrayed by Chris Dietz. He was one of the early settlers and a member of the Pine Island Rifles. He was wounded at the Battle of Antietam. That battle saw 25,000 casualties in twelve hours of fighting on September 17, 1862, making it the single bloodiest battle of the war. Discharged for the injury, Dickey returned to Pine Island and worked as a clerk. Struck by the carnage he had seen at Antietam, he vowed he would do what he could to keep the other young men in Pine Island from having to see the same thing. When he was able, he reenlisted and served to the end of the war. He again returned to Pine Island and turned to farming. He married Sarah Steelin in 1870 and they raised two sons, Earl and Bruce. Dickey also served the community in many ways. He was the village treasurer or the chairman of the Village Board of Supervisors for twenty years. With civic pride, he donated his salary back to the village. Dickey died in1912 at the age of 73.

Of course there were some soldiers who did not return home. Philip Hamlin of Pine Island was a student at Hamline College in Red Wing.  On the first day of enlistment, Hamlin and several of his schoolmates marched down the street from the college to the enlistment station and joined the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. Being older and educated beyond the level of most recruits, Hamlin was immediately promoted to Corporal. He and his fellow soldiers from the college wrote letters home. Hamlin’s younger brother, Charlie, saved the letters which are now kept at the Minnesota State Historical Society. Philip Hamlin fought in several battles and wrote very detailed letters describing them. But after he fought at Antietam, and saw the incredible death and destruction, his letters became more melancholic. In a letter to his little brother, he finished with these words: “You may someday hear that Philip is dead and know that I have fallen in battle and been buried in a strange land where you may never see me… but hoping for better things, I bid you goodbye.” Hamlin, now a 1st Sergeant, fought in the Battle at Gettysburg. The 1st Minnesota was ordered to charge the Confederate Army in order to delay the Confederate advance for five minutes until Union reinforcement troops could arrive. The 1st Minnesota charged down the hill with 262 men. The Confederate Army of 14,000 men fired into the charge. The battle lasted only minutes, but they were the crucial minutes of the war. The Union reinforcements arrived and the Confederates fell back. The 1st Minnesota was decimated. Only 47 men returned, all the rest dead or wounded. Hamlin, with the rest of Company F was on a separate mission when they heard the loud battle. They hurried back to the rest of the regiment, and found nearly everyone dead or wounded. The next day, July 3, 1863, was the Confederate assault with 14,000 men called Pickett’s Charge. Philip Hamlin was killed in the first few minutes. The Union prevailed with the reinforcements who had arrived the day before.  Hamlin’s friend James Wright later wrote of the evening after the battle, “…we decided to bury Hamlin that night... a shallow trench was dug beside a walnut tree, near which he had been killed, struck by four bullets. His blanket and tent-cloth were spread in it; he was then laid upon them and covered with the remaining portions. Then those present knelt in silence about him, with uncovered heads. I do not recall that a word was spoken; but it was a sincere and reverential service fitting the time and the situation. Then we covered him over with dirt and stones we had thrown out of the trench and placed at his head a board, on which his name, company and regiment, had been marked.” Later, after President Lincoln visited the Gettysburg battlefield and called it “hallowed ground,” Philip Hamlin’s body was exhumed and moved to the Gettysburg National Cemetery and today he rests alongside his comrades of the First Minnesota, Section A, Grave #10.

The commemoration ended with the statement that the Civil War is not celebrated. The death and destruction was so devastating that, in the end, no one won. The Union has been at peace since the war. May everyone continue to strive to live in peace.

Tom Bollman as Fenn Jewell

Fenn Jewell (portrayed by Tom Bollman), younger brother of Soloman and son of Moses Jewell, enlisted in Company H, commanded by Captain Morehouse in 1864. As the war ended in 1865, Fenn Jewell had served almost exactly one year and fought in the capture of Fort Blakely. He returned to Pine Island, married Eva Brink, and had four children: a daughter and three sons. All three sons died before reaching the age of eight and Eva passed away at a young age, also. Jewell remarried three times. He died in 1933 at the age of 89, one of the oldest men in town and was one of the most widely known men of the community.

Kodey Weis as Garrett Lesher

Garrett Lesher (represented by Kodey Weis) was only 15 years old when he enlisted in the Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. He told the recruitment officer he was 17. His uniform was a red flannel shirt, as the Union Army had run out of uniforms. He always thought of this uniform as looking like a target. He fought in several battles. At the Siege of Vicksburg he was wounded and soon after was discharged as disabled. After returning to Pine Island to recover, he reenlisted and served as an infantry guard for the Louisville to Nashville railroad which shipped supplies to the troops. Following the war he returned to Pine Island to farm, married Phoebe Cates, and they raised their children and grandchildren. Lesher passed away in 1923 at the age of 76, or was it 78?