Why commemorate the 3rd of July?

July 3rd is the 150th anniversary of two of the major turning points of the Civil War. Not only was our State of Minnesota a major contributor to the Union Army, but Governor Alexander Ramsey was the very first governor to offer troops to Abraham Lincoln in 1861. It is most fitting that our present governor, the Honorable Mark Dayton, be present in New Ulm to participate in a memorable event, along with National Guard Major General David J.Elicerio and New Ulm native Dr. Peter R. Mansoor, Col., U.S.Army (ret).

The recently published quarterly from the Minnesota Historical Society calls attention to the events. Not only were some of the largest campaigns of the Civil War carried on in 1863, but some of the largest casualty lists accompanied these turning points of the war. Public memory concedes that the Battle of Gettysburg of July 1, 2, and 3 was the main turning point of the long and bloody Civil War. Historians, however, contend that the fall of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River on July 4th was also equally a turning point as it resulted in the splitting of the Confederacy and brought the important Mississippi waterway back into use by the Union. Prior to this Union victory the Confederate blockade of the Mississippi River was as effective as the Union Navy’s blockade of the East Coast.

That the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry made its valorous charge at Gettysburg, and that numerous other Minnesota units played important roles in other sectors at Gettysburg and at Vicksburg truly merits a special commemoration with the hope that it will inspire citizens of today and tomorrow to recall and to appreciate the sacrifices made by our forebears that give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

General Robert E. Lee, following his success at Chancellorsville, was convinced that an invasion of the North would bring him a victory that would lower the morale of the Union supporters and that a truce would result. He lost this opportunity at Gettysburg. Never again would he be able to launch a major offensive into the North and thus the Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point.

General Ulysses S. Grant led the Union forces to the gates of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and after months of siege, the Confederates were overcome and the city occupied on July 4th, 1863.

President Abraham Lincoln declared in a war strategy session: “Vicksburg is the keyThe war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” After Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, the resulting use of the ‘super highway’ of the Mississippi River by the Union provided not only the ability to ship agricultural goods from the Midwest but it also split the Confederacy in two.

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