NEW ULM - As the swollen Minnesota River silently but swiftly passed by Wednesday afternoon and evening, several hundred people attended a 150th Civil War Commemoration Wednesday at Riverside Park.
Perhaps New Ulm musician Dick Kimmel put it best in his original composition for the occasion, "The First Minnesota - Their Last Full Measure:"
'The First Minnesota, they held the line.
At the battle of Gettysburg, too many gave their lives.
Hundreds fought at Cemetery Ridge, 47 returned.
Their last full measure is what they gave,
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Ashley Schaefer, 9, of New Ulm, sings the national anthem in Riverside Park in New Ulm for to start the 150 Year Civic War Commemoration Wednesday. For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com.
And the course of the war was turned.'
"Gettysburg was a three-day battle. Many say it was a long time ago, but I knew men that fought there," said Master of Ceremonies Denis Warta.
New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman said he was thrilled to receive a personal phone call from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton who apologized for not being able to attend and talk at the event due to a hip injury.
Beussman read a letter from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar who told of the significance of Minnesota soldiers willing to risk everything to fight for what the country stands for, fighting to make a more perfect union.
"I want to thank all those who serve or ever served in the Armed Forces," Klobuchar wrote.
Warta later told of the First Minnesota soldiers who suffered an 80 percent casualty rate, one of the highest in the Civil War.
The Original German Band of New Ulm performed American and German marches, patriotic and military selections including a tribute to U.S. Armed Forces.
Following a New Ulm Actors Community Theatre Performance, Dick Kimmel & Company performed original blue-grass compositions including "The First Minnesota - Their Last Full Measure" and "Lauralee."
New Ulm native Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel who teaches political science at The Ohio State University, gave the address.
He said the First Minnesota Regiment played a crucial role on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, Pa. on the second day of the three-day battle, when rebel troops threatened the center of the Union line.
"The only troops nearby were from the 1st Minnesota, perhaps 230 men arrayed against ten times their number," Mansoor said. "Charging into the Confederate lines would be a forlorn hope, meant to buy time for other reserve units to move to the sound of the guns...Concealed by smoke, the Minnesotans burst without warning upon a brigade of Alabamians. The Confederate troops, facing the leveled bayonets of the Minnesotans, broke.
"The Minnesotans then halted and poured a volley of musket fire into the Confederate ranks. The charge was so fierce that the Confederate commanders believed they faced a much more substantial foe than a single regiment, so they decided to withdraw and regroup. Of the 230 men who made the charge, 183 were killed or wounded."
Mansoor said the Minnesota soldiers' sacrifice gained just enough time to save the Union position at Cemetery Ridge, and with it, the battle. Union reinforcements marched to plug the hole in the line and stave off the Confederate assault when it resumed.
It but remained for Robert E. Lee to complete his defeat by committing his remaining forces the next day in an ill-considered assault into the Union center that sealed the fate of his army and with it, the Confederacy.
The New Ulm Municipal Band performed a Concert of Commemoration including Semper Fidelus, America, Aces of the Air, An American Tribute, Armed Forces Salute, the National Emblem, American Folk Fantasy, Salute to the Colors, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Stars and Stripes Forever and God Bless America.
The Closing Ceremony included the Gettysburg Address with Bryce Stenzel as President Lincoln, a Comrades of Valor rifle salute, New Ulm Battery cannon salute and "Taps" performed by Sam Arsers.
The event was sponsored by the New Ulm Civil War Commission, New Ulm Area Foundation, and the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council with funds appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature.
Video of the commemoration can be viewed at www.nujournal.com.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.