08 July 2013

Today's 'Red Bull' Troops Remember Civil War Fallen

A delegation of approximately 80 Minnesotans, including Army Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, retraced the steps of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment ("First Minnesota") as part of this year's commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle was fought from July 1-3, 1863, in Gettysburg, Penn., during the American Civil War.

Nash is adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, and was  commander of the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division when the headquarters deployed to Iraq in 2009-2010. During the events in Pennsylvania, Nash met Army Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, the adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, on the same ground as Minnesota and Alabama troops had fought 150 years earlier.

The self-described "task force" also included the Minnesota secretary of state, the state historian, students, reenactors, and 30 current citizen-soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment (2-135th Inf. Reg.). As part of its official history, or "lineage," the 2-135th Inf. carries the honors bestowed to the First Minnesota. The 2-135th Inf. is a battalion currently assigned to Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Inf. "Red Bull" Division (1-34th BCT). Further history of the 2-135th Inf. is here.

"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.

The First Minnesota was the senior-most volunteer regiment in the Union Army. On April 14, 1861, Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey was in Washington, D.C. when President Abraham Lincoln issued a national call for 75,000 troops. Ramsey offered troops for three months' service. The unit was organized at Fort Snelling, Minn. on April 29–and remustered for three years' service on May 10. The First Minnesota fought at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. In the latter battle, it suffered 82 percent casualties.

The Fist Minnesota Regiment is depicted in the U.S. National Guard's heritage series of historical prints. According to the narrative that accompanies that print, which was painted by artist Don Troiani:
On the morning of July 2, 1863, the First Minnesota, along with the other units of the II Corps, took its position in the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Late in the day, the Union III Corps, under heavy attack by the Confederate I Corps, collapsed creating a dangerous gap in the Union line. The advancing Confederate brigades were in position to breakthrough and then envelope the Union forces. 
At that critical moment, the First Minnesota was ordered to attack. Advancing at double time, the Minnesotans charged into the leading Confederate brigade with unbounded fury. Fighting against overwhelming odds, the heroic Minnesotans gained the time necessary for the Union line to reform. But the cost was great. Of the 262 members of the regiment present for duty that morning, only 47 answered the roll that evening.
The First Minnesota was also mentioned in a recent 4-slide presentation by the U.S. National Guard, regarding the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Pictures of the commemorative events in Pennsylvania are posted here and here.

All photos by Army Master Sgt. Daniel Ewer, Minnesota National Guard.

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