More on the Gettysburg event. Why is this battle so important to Minnesota? Why are there so many Civil War prints made about the 1st Minnesota Regiment at Gettysburg? Why should you go to Gettysburg to see this particular battlefield that became the turning point of the Civil War?
Day 2 at Gettysburg: After a series of grueling marches north in pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1863, the 1st Minnesota found itself on the battlefield at Gettysburg in the early Morning of July 2nd (day 2 of the battle) on Cemetery Ridge. At this time Company C was on another assignment. This left the regiment with only 262 men and officers. Union II Corp commander, Major General Hancock, seeing the danger of the Union position being overrun rode up to the Minnesota troops and asked Colvill "What Unit is this?" Colvill responded "1st Minnesota Sir!" Hancock's response was "Charge that line". Hancock knew that the charge was suicidal but hoped to delay the Confederates long enough to get reinforcements to the ridge. Without hesitation, Colvill ordered the charge against a brigade four to five times larger. Their sacrificial charge against overwhelming odds halted the Confederate advance. It bought desperately needed time for the center of the Union line to reform. 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.” A total of 215 men and officers (82%) were killed, wounded, or missing on the afternoon of July 2nd 1863, the highest casualty rate in the Civil War. Among the wounded was Colvill who was hit three times and severely wounded. General Hancock ascribed unsurpassed gallantry to the famed assault stating: "There is no more gallant deed recorded in history".
Day 3 at Gettysburg: On July 3rd, the survivors of this regiment aided in repelling Pickett's Charge, running to the aid of Webb's Brigade taking a conspicuous part in the counter-charge which successfully ended the conflict. Amid the firefight, Private Marshall Sherman of Company C eyed a Virginian "shouting like mad,". He was barefoot, the legend goes, as he charged the Virginian with his bayonet. Jabbing at the enemy, Sherman said "Throw down that flag or I'll run you through." He was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing the flag of the 28th Virginia Infantry. While they were a key part in this monumental victory, they lost an additional 17 and wounded.