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 1st Minnesota Infantry Monument

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1st Minnesota Infantry Monument

Monument to the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which suffered 82 percent casualties during the Battle of Gettysburg, the highest percent of casualties ever suffered by an American military unit in any single engagement. The First Minnesota was also the first regiment of volunteers to answer President Lincoln's call for 75,000 soldiers in April 1861 in response to the succession of the Southern States. The monument shows a running soldier, carrying his rifle with fixed bayonet, heading towards the attacking Confederates. On July 1, 1863, the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade, met the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, at the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. At the end of the first day's fighting, the Union forces had been pushed out of the town, and occupied the ridge east of the town, extending towards the south, ending at a hill known as Little Round Top. The First Minnesota, commanded by Colonel William Colvill, arrived the next morning after marching all night, and the men were sent to rest near the top of the hill near where the statue stands today. Two companies, C and F, were detached for guard duty, leaving 262 men remaining. On July 2, General Lee ordered two Confederate Brigades (about 1600 men each) to attack the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. As the Union line was extremely thin at that time (troops were still arriving), there was immediate danger of a Confederate breakthrough, with disastrous results should that occur. Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, seeing the danger, immediately went to the 1st Minnesota, and pointing to the attacking rebels, said, "Charge those lines." Colonel Colvill immediately formed up his unit, ordered them to fix bayonets, and charged the nearest of the two Confederate brigades, Wilcox's Alabama Brigade (commanded by General Cadmus M. Wilcox). Despite being outnumbered five to one, and running through a hail of Confederate fire, the men of the 1st Minnesota crossed 200 yards of open ground to reach the Alabama Brigade. The force of the bayonet attack into the Confederate units surprised them, and after sharp, hand-to-hand fighting, the Confederate units withdrew. Yet the 1st Minnesota proudly held their position until nightfall, returning only then back to the Union line. When the fighting stopped, the First Minnesota had lost 82 percent of its men, either killed or wounded, the highest percentage loss of any single unit in a single engagement, ever, in the history of the American Army. Of the 262 men before the battle, only 47 were still available that evening. The morning of July 3rd, the First Minnesota was reinforced by the two companies that had been detailed the previous day and had missed the fight. Now numbering about 150 men, they were assigned to defend a position of the line about 400 yards north of where the statue now stands. That day, July 3rd, Lee attempted to send Major General Pickett's Division through the center of the Union line, the attack known as Pickett's Charge. Again, despite their severe loss of the previous day, the 1st Minnesota was ordered to charge the attacking Confederate Division, which they did, suffering another 55 casualties. At the end of the battle, the evening of July 3, the First Minnesota had suffered 80 killed, 149 wounded, for a total two day loss of 70 percent of the entire unit. Colonel Colvill was severely wounded, and turned over command to the next senior surviving officer, Captain Henry C. Coates. On July 2, 1897, the statue, sculpted by Jacob Fjelde, was dedicated at Gettysburg. A few years later, a small obelisk was dedicated at the site where the First Minnesota had repelled Pickett's Charge. The battle is described in the book, "The Last Full Measure" by Richard Moe.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Graveaddiction
  • Added: 17 Nov 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6935558
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for 1st Minnesota Infantry Monument (unknown–unknown), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6935558, citing Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .