It was July 2, 1863 and the place was Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Two hundred and sixty men stood between about 1,600 confederate soldiers from Alabama and the Union Artillery batteries. A defeat at Gettysburg would leave a clear path for the Confederate army to march to Washington D.C.
Minnesota became a state in 1858. It was at the very edge of the American frontier, far away from the trouble which was brewing far to the south and east. Yet when President Abraham Lincoln called for troops in 1861, The First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first in the nation to answer that call.
The order was given to charge that day and that is exactly what The First Minnesota did. Two hundred and sixty two men charged 1,600 men. History tells us that only 47 men from The First Minnesota came back that day. Eight-two percent of the regiment was killed or wounded making it the highest casualty rate of the war. History also tells us that all 262 men were accounted for. What does this mean? Though they were facing insurmountable odds, though they knew they would probably die, not a single man turned and fled. Not a single man deserted. Every single one of them faced their enemy, stood their ground and fought.
Was it worth it? Well, the very next day, 15,000 confederate soldiers attacked and suffered a devastating defeat due to the artillery barrage. Artillery which had been saved the day before by The First Minnesota Volunteers.
Earlier this week, representatives from the states of Minnesota and Alabama met at Cemetery Ridge as they remembered the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. They remembered how a nation had been torn apart as brother fought against brother but now they were meeting together in peace and goodwill.
On July 2, 2013, I was at the Minnesota History Center attending an event which commemorated The Minnesota First. My family had not yet reached Minnesota in 1863 but I am the great-great granddaughter of a Civil War Veteran. My great-great grandfather was not at Gettysburg. He was with the New York 10th Heavy Artillery which was stationed in Washington D.C., the place the Confederate Army would have moved onto had they not been defeated at Gettysburg.
I am reminded that there are many times when it may look like the battle is hopeless. It seems like we are outnumbered by the enemy. It seems like the enemy is much stronger and things may even seem hopeless. It is then, like the First Minnesota, that we need to obey the orders of our "Captain" and stand fast. We must not run in fear but must charge into the battle. Will the battle be fierce? Probably. Will we be wounded? Possibly but then we must put our faith in God and persevere no matter what.
Photo Credit: The First Minnesota by Don Troiani, courtesy of The National Guard, http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenationalguard/4101092782