In 1864, the officers and men of the Eighth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment traveled from Fort Ridgley deep into Dakota Territory and then returned to Minnesota. Next, they headed to Tennessee. From there, the regiment moved to Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and finally, back to Minnesota. During that final year of the Civil War, the Eighth claimed to have covered more miles and experienced more variety in its service than any other regiment in the Union Army.
The Eighth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was formed in the summer of 1862. As a result of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, however, the soldiers spent most of their first two years of service occupying posts around the state.
In May 1864, the regiment received horses in preparation for its next assignment. The men were to serve as mounted troops as part of the Second Brigade of General Alfred Sully's Punitive Expedition against the Dakota who had participated in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Sully planned to continue pushing the Dakota west beyond the Missouri River. After receiving its regimental battle flag in Paynesville, the Eighth proceeded to Fort Ridgley, where it joined the rest of the all-Minnesota brigade.
In early June, the brigade set out from Fort Ridgley, eventually meeting Sully and his First Brigade along the Missouri. On July 28, Sully's army arrived in front of a Santee Dakota and Teton Lakota encampment at Killdeer Mountain in what is now west-central North Dakota. In the ensuing battle, Sully's twenty-two hundred men defeated a roughly equal number of Dakota and Lakota warriors, most of them armed with bows and arrows. During this clash, the Eighth Minnesota fought dismounted, every fourth man standing in the rear holding his horse and those of three comrades.
Following the battle, the Eighth continued on and, in early August, arrived at the Badlands. Sully called the geology of the Badlands "hell with the fires put out." On August 6-9, his troops again defeated the Dakota in the Battle of the Badlands.
Sully's soldiers reached the Yellowstone River near Fort Union, where two steamboats delivered supplies. The expedition headed to Fort Rice on the Missouri River, and then returned to Minnesota. The Eighth arrived at Fort Snelling on October 15, 1864.
Eleven days after arriving at Fort Snelling, the Eighth finally began its journey south. In early November, the men arrived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, thirty miles southeast of Nashville. There, as part of an eight-thousand-man force, the regiment stood guard over the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad.
Union troops under General George H. Thomas and Confederates under General John B. Hood shifted to the area. On December 4, part of Hood's army attacked a blockhouse on Overall's Creek, five miles northwest of Murfreesboro. The Eighth and other regiments advanced under General Robert H. Milroy and drove off the Southerners. This was the Eighth's first experience fighting Confederates. The Eighth was nicknamed the "Indian Regiment" by their Union comrades because of their western experiences.
Three days later, General Milroy's troops again engaged a portion of Hood's army. When the fighting broke out along Wilkinson's Pike, the Eighth Minnesota was sent to the front. Confederate artillery pounded the advancing Northern troops. Although the Confederates were quickly routed, the Eighth suffered ninety-one killed and wounded, mainly due to the Southerners' accurate artillery fire.
With the defeat of Hood's army at Nashville in mid-December, the Eighth became part of General Jacob D. Cox's Twenty-third Corps. The corps moved to Washington, D.C., in January 1865, and served there for the next month. In late February, it was dispatched to North Carolina. In early March, part of the Twenty-third Corps, including the Eighth, fought Confederates under General Braxton Bragg at the battle of Wise's Forks. After a few days of skirmishing the Union troops were reinforced. Bragg's forces withdrew. Later that month, General William T. Sherman's Army of the Cumberland arrived, having just completed its infamous March to the Sea.
The main Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 26, two weeks after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. The Eighth occupied Raleigh, Goldsboro, and Charlotte until early July, when it returned home. The regiment was mustered out of service on July 11, 1865.
Board of Commissioners. Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861–1865. 2 vols. St. Paul: Pioneer Press Company, 1891.
George T. Campbell and Family Papers, 1857–c.1890
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: This collection contains George Campbell's typewritten reminiscences from about 1890 of his experiences while serving in the Eighth Minnesota's Company E during Sully's 1864 expedition against the Dakota. Campbell also provides information on the regiment's actions in the South.
George W. Doud Diaries, 1862–1864
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: This collection contains typescripts of diaries kept by Doud, of the Eighth Minnesota's Company F, during his service with the regiment in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and in Sully's 1864 expedition.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Des Moines: Dyer Publishing, 1908.
Faust, Patricia L., ed. Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991.
United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 70 vols. in 128 parts. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901. Reprint: Harrisburg: National Historical Society, 1971 (series 1, vol. 53, part 1).
From June to October, 1864, the Eighth Regiment takes part in General Alfred Sully's Indian expedition and becomes adept at wartime skills that will serve its troops well in the South.
Recruitment of the Eighth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment begins and continues until September 1.
The Eighth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment garrisons towns and outposts in western Minnesota. Patrols skirmish with American Indians.
The regiment leaves Minnesota to join General Alfred Sully's expedition against the Dakota west of the Missouri River.
The Eighth defeats Dakota and Lakota forces in the battle of Killdeer Mountain.
The regiment is moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The Eighth battles Confederates for the first time at Overall's Creek, outside Murfreesboro.
The Minnesotans help defeat the Confederates along Wilkinson's Pike.
The regiment moves to Washington, D.C., and is on duty there for the next month.
The regiment is moved to points in North Carolina.
The Eighth plays a small part in the battle of Wise's Forks, North Carolina.
The Eighth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment returns to Minnesota and is mustered out of service on the 11th.