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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard commemorates 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg

Minnesota National Guard ST PAUL, Minn- One hundred fifty years after the historic Battle of Gettysburg, the Minnesota National Guard honored the Soldiers who fought during that pivotal time of the American Civil War

On July 2, 2013, the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Minnesota National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Richard C Nash, traveled to Gettysburg to pay tribute to Minnesota's First Volunteer Infantry Regiment As the leader of the Minnesota National Guard, the state's volunteer military force, Nash took part in a series of events recalling the actions at Gettysburg and the valiant efforts of the First Minnesota

Beginning at the Gettysburg museum, Nash retraced the steps of the First Minnesota troops on the second day of battle at Gettysburg in 1862 He met with Alabama National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Perry G Smith, at Plum Run or "Bloody Run" It was there, where two confederate brigades from Alabama and Mississippi stormed through the broken federal line and the Union Army needed a few minutes before their reserves would arrive The First Minnesota, with 289 men, was the nearest unit When ordered to counter-charge the confederates, Col William J Colvill, the commander of the regiment, replied, "to the last man"

Following an exchange of gifts, both Adjutant Generals marched through the Valley of Death on the land their predecessors fought on Together they arrived at the First Minnesota Memorial Monument on Hancock Avenue where a rededication was held

Following an exchange of gifts, both adjutants general marched through the Valley of Death on the land their predecessors fought Together they arrived at the First Minnesota Memorial Monument on Hancock Avenue where a rededication was held

While Nash was at Gettysburg, a ceremony occurred at Cannon Falls Cemetery, Cannon Falls, Minn with approximately 30 soldiers comprised mostly of Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment

"The 1st Brigade Combat Team and notably the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry trace their lineage back to the First Minnesota," said Army Lt. Col. Simon L Schaefer, battalion commander for the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry "We honor the service and sacrifice of these very early citizen soldiers, whose bravery and gallant actions had a significant impact on the outcome of the battle of Gettysburg and quite possibly on the Civil War itself"

The key note speaker for the event, Army Col Jon A Jensen, brigade commander for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, had this to say as he addressed the crowd, "Two things have always captured my attention since I first became aware of the remarkable story of the First Minnesota in Gettysburg First, at the end of July 2, 1863, having attacked and checked a force many times its size, and having suffering horrific casualties, not one soldier was missing All remained accounted for - meaning not one man turned and fled the battlefield - even when death seemed so apparent and so close"

"Second, at the end of that day, despite the horrific casualty rate, the First Minnesota was not removed from the battlefield Instead they stood fast, fought and played a pivotal role in defeating Pickett's charge the next day - the final day of battle in Gettysburg"

The event included a description of the battle by reading the Plum Run report, a wreath laying ceremony at Colvill's Memorial and concluded with a traditional rifle salute

In 1861, when President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to support the Union Army in battle, Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey was the first to commit troops from his state When he returned to Minnesota from Washington, it took less than two weeks to obtain 1,009 volunteers to answer the call

The First Minnesota participated in several battles throughout the Civil War In 1861, they were heavily engaged at the First Battle of Bull Run, as well as the Battle of Ball's Bluff In May of 1862, the First Minnesota became part of the First Brigade, Second Division, Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac As a part of this Corps, the First Minnesota participated in the Peninsula Campaign, the Seven Days Battle, and Antietam in Maryland where they sustained heavy losses

These battles paled in comparison to the fighting which occurred at Gettysburg, where the First Minnesota was crucial to the future success of the Union Army During this second day of fighting at Gettysburg, troops of the First Minnesota charged the Confederates, securing the Federals position on Cemetery Ridge, which became essential to winning the battle At the outset, the Soldiers of the First Minnesota were outnumbered approximately four-to-one and suffered 233 casualties To this day, that casualty rate stands as the largest loss by a surviving military unit in a single day's engagement during the Civil War

One-hundred fifty years since the First Minnesota entered federal service, Minnesota's volunteer force has slowly transformed into the Minnesota National Guard we know today "Our predecessors had no way of knowing that 150 years later a new breed of citizen-soldier would continue to answer the call to preserve freedom for our state and nation," said Nash

July 3, 2013
by Spc Linsey Williams, 1/34th ABCT Public Affairs



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