The First Minnesota

As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence on Thursday, we should take a moment today to remember an important anniversary in Minnesota history.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and with it the action in battle that has forever emblazoned the name of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment in our nation’s history. This small band of Minnesotans, already battle-hardened through the Army of the Potomac’s campaigns in the Civil War, charged into a gap in the Union lines on July 2nd, and for 15 desperate minutes held off a much larger force of Confederate troops until Union reinforcements could arrive. In those 15 minutes, 215 of the 262 members of the unit were killed or injured. It was the largest percentage of casualties suffered by any single unit in the nation’s military history, but they held their ground, preserving a strategic Union position.

The next day, the 47 men participated in repulsing the massive Confederate attack known as Pickett’s Charge. Seventeen more were killed or wounded. Thanks in part to their heroics, the Battle of Gettysburg was a victory for the Union, and was the beginning of the end of the confederacy.

It was this, among other heroics, that President Abraham Lincoln later said, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

We celebrate our independence, our strength and unity as a nation this week, thanks to the sacrifices made by men like the First Minnesota throughout our history. May the memory of their deeds never fade.

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