At the height of Longstreet’s attack on July 2 the Union line suffered from a gaping hole on Cemetery Ridge with two Confederate brigades rushing to break through. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock ordered the only Union troops at hand, eight companies of the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment (map) – 262 men – to charge the roughly 3,000 Confederates and buy time for reinforcements to plug the gap. They did so, halting the Confederate charge and saving the position and possibly the battle, at a loss of 215 killed and wounded. Only 47 men remained in the ranks at the end of the day’s fighting, of whom 17 more would fall the next day during Pickett’s Charge.

Bronze bas-relief from the 1st Minnesota monument at Gettysburg

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