There I mentioned that as many as 160 British North Americans served with the 20th Maine during the Civil War. Many of these would have fought at Gettysburg where the regiment's famous downhill charge, almost without ammunition, has been well recorded in US History.
Today's blog with cover a brief part of the history of the First Minnesota in the Civil War. Some 65 British North Americans served in this unit and many of these would have also been fighting against the Confederates at Gettysburg. (There were no doubt Canadians also fighting here and serving with the Confederates as well.)
On day 2 of the 3 day battle some 100,000 soldiers would face each other in duels at the Devil's Den, Little Round Top, the Wheat Field, Peach Orchard, Cemetery Ridge, Trostle's Farm, Culp Hill, and Cemetery Hill. Twenty thousand of these boys and men would either be killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. Who knows the numbers that would die from wounds in the weeks, months and years to come as a result of these 3 bloody days. A battle later to be claimed to be the 10th worst in the entire war.
You have read in this space about many of the Canadians serving with the First Mn. One of these of course being Alonzo Pickle, who earned his Medal of Honor at Deep Bottom Va. a year after the above battle. But he still fought at Gettysburg. As did many other Canadians. Many of these very soldiers held Non Commissioned Officer ranks, many at the senior level. Many more would also served as commissioned officers, and within the First Mn. and the 20th Maine. Clearly these men were leaders, as well as followers.
(Days ago Sergeant Alonzo Pickle was honoured in Minneapolis as briefly noted in past blogs. More to follow in the weeks to come on that ceremony.)
Horatio Bingham, shown above, joined the First Mn. in the Fall of 1861 as a 2nd Sergeant. Within 2 months he was promoted to Sergeant. But soon he took ill, and a disability caused him to leave the military. But by early 1864 he rejoined and served briefly with the 2nd Minnesota Cavalry as a commissioned officer. He would hold several different titles until just after the Civil War ended, and then took another release. But he would re-enlist a 3rd time, but this time in the regular army as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 2nd US Cavalry.
As either a Lieutenant or Captain, sources confusing, he would be stationed out of Fort Phil Kearney in Wyoming. It would be from here that he was ordered out with a squad of mounted infantry and other troops to come to the aid of a wood-gathering party who were under attack from natives.
In the process of this he came across a handful of natives and with only a few men gave chase, but soon realized that he had been led into a trap. He and one of his men were killed. The following day his Colonel retrieved his body. It was riddled with at least 50 arrows. Clearly this was a message to the military to leave the natives alone.
I have located no information of any posthumous awards for this officer. But the next time you go to the area of the Charleston Harbour have a look at Fort Moultrie and a battery named in honor of this brave Canadian hero.
Other troops were expected to arrive as reinforcements but there would be a delay. However the gap had to be instantly filled or the battle could well have been lost. (An event that could have literally changed the results of the entire war.) So he turned to Colonel William Colville (above right), commander of the First MN, and ordered his 8 companies of men on a suicide mission. The orders were to advance on a brigade FIVE TIMES his size and take their colours. The general did not expect many of the men to live through the charge but desperately needed just 5 minutes before the reinforcements would arrive to help out.
So the First, once commanded by Ontario born Brig. General George Nelson Morgan, charged forward with what they had. Just 262 men! They faced about 1,500!
In the above map, look for the Confederate General Wilcox's name. It's in red. Now look to the right and you will see the line running from top of page to bottom, sort of, all blue and showing the Union forces. Immediately in front of Wilcox's name you can see the gap in the blue line that needed to be filled.
The downhill charge would last only about 15 minutes. But when it was over 215 union soldiers lay dead or dying on the battlefield. That's almost 85% of the men going into battle just a few minutes earlier. It has been claimed that the losses to the regiment where so high, that there was no parallel in history. (At that time.) And Canadians were in those ranks.
They would be near the centre of the line when Pickett's charge closed but finally got halted in its tracks and pushed back. During that battle on July 3, 1863 the First lost their Regimental Commander, a Battalion commander and then the unit command fell to Major Mark Downie, shown here.
Chatham New Brunswick born Downie would only hold command for a few minutes before he too fell from 2 wounds to his arm, a bullet through his left foot and a serious wound to the chest. Disability caused a release but before the war ended he returned and again commanded the regiment as a Lt. Colonel till stricken from service at war's end. He would be dead from health conditions resulting from wounds within 14 years. NO information can be found on any medals being awarded to him, though I believe others with similar service received the Medal of Honor.
On Sunday I will end this mini series on the First Mn. with another soldier most deserving of a MOH, but instead just forgotten to history.
Like so many others Canadian and otherwise.