The First Minnesota has three monuments at Gettysburg. An urn placed in the National Cemetery in 1867 was the first regimental memorial placed at Gettysburg. (Monument map: National Cemetery) The main monument is located on Hancock Avenue near the Pennsylvania Memorial. (Google map; Monument map: Hancock Avenue Part 1) A smaller monument (Monument map: Hancock Avenue Part 3) is 1/3 mile north on Hancock Avenue. Both were erected in 1893.
The 1st Minnesota was attached to the 1st Brigade, 2d Division, 2d Corps.
The First Minnesota at Gettysburg
The First Minnesota performed one of the most critical actions of the battle during Longstreet’s Assault of July 2nd. Sickles’ Corps was falling back in disarray and Longstreet’s men were advancing to penetrate the center of the Union line, which had been dangerously thinned to prop up other sectors. General Hancock rode up to the 1st Minnesota, the only organized Union troops at hand, pointed at the advancing Confederates, and ordered them to “Take those colors!” Their sacrificial charge against overwhelming odds halted the Confederate advance and bought time for the Union line to reform, forcing Lee into one last desperate gamble with Pickett’s Charge the next day. The survivors of the 1st Minnesota played a role in repulsing that charge as well.
The regiment went through several commanders and suffered grievous losses during the battle. It entered the field 420 strong, of whom 32 men (Company L) were serving as skirmishers and 56 men (Company C) were detached on July 2. Fifty men were killed, 173 wounded and 1 missing.
Colonel William Colville led the men into action and was wounded during the July 2 charge. Captain Nathan Messick took over command only to be killed the next day during the repulse of Pickett’s Charge. He was briefly followed by Captain Wilson B. Farrell, who was also killed, and finally by Captain Henry C. Coates.
|Corporal Henry D. O’Brien of Company E was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on July 3rd when, “taking up the colors where they had fallen, he rushed ahead of his regiment, close to the muzzles of the enemy’s guns, and engaged in the desperate struggle in which the enemy was defeated, and though severely wounded, he held the colors until wounded a second time.”
Private Marshall Sherman of Company C was awarded the Medal for capturing the flag of the 28th Virginia Infantry on July 3rd.
From the front of the main monument:
1st Brigade 2nd Div 2nd Corps
April 29 1861 – May 4 1864
Bull Run, Balls Bluff, Berryville, Yorktown, West Point, Hanover Court House, Fair Oaks, Peach Orchard, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Glendale, Malvren Hill, 2nd Malvern Hill, Vienna, South Mountain, Antietam, Charlestown, Asby’s Gap, Fredericksburg, Marye’s Heights, Haymarket, Gettysburg, Auburn, Bristow Station, Mine Run and numerous skrimshes
Erected by The State of Minnesota a.d. 1893
From the right side:
On the afternoon of July 2, 1863 Sickles Third Corps having advanced from this line to the Emmitsburg road eight companies of the First Minnesota regiment numbering 262 men were sent to this place to support a battery. Upon Sickles’ repulse as his men were passing here in confused retreat two Confederate brigades in pursuit were crossing the swale.To gain time to bring up the reserves and save this position General Hancock in person ordered the eight companies to charge the rapidly advancing enemy. The order was instantly repeated by Col. Wm. Colville and the charge instantly made down the slope at full speed through the concentrate fire of the two brigades breaking with the bayonet the enemy’s front line as it was crossing the small brook in the low ground. There the remnant of the eight companies nearly surrounded by the enemy held its entire force at bay for a considerable time and till it retired on the approach of the reserve the charge successfully accomplished its object. It saved the position and probably the battlefield. The loss of the eight companies in the charge was 215 killed and wounded, more than 85 percent. 47 men were still in line and no missing. In self-sacrificing desperate valor this charge has no parallel in any war. The next day the regiment participated in repelling Pickett’s charge losing 17 more men killed and wounded.
From the smaller monument:
1st Reg. Minnesota Vols.
1st Brigade, 2d Div. 2d Corps.
Erected by State of Minnesota
On July 3d, 1863 the survivors of this regiment (see large monument 1/3 mile south of this) aided here in repelling Picketts Charge and ran hence to the aid of Webb’s Brigade taking a conspicuous part in the counter-charge which successfully ended the conflict. Losing then17 additional killed and wounded and capturing a Confederate flag. There Captains Nathan S. Messick and Wilson B. Farrel successively commanding the regiment were killed. Total killed and wounded in the battle 232 out of 330 engaged.”
From the front of the Urn:
First Minnesota Volunteers
From the rear:
The surviving members First Regiment Minnesota Infanty.
To the memory of their late associates who
“died on the field of honor”
at Gettysburg July 1863.
From the sides:
These dead shall not have died in vain.
“All time is the millenium of their glory.“
See more on the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War