When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Germans were the single largest ethnic group in Minnesota. Nativism during this period was a “patriotic” attitude that saw recent immigrants—particularly those of German descent— as potentially traitorous. Many felt that because German Americans shared their heritage with the Kaiser and the German Empire, they would side with the enemy power. That many German Americans advocated neutrality until the U.S. declared war was further proof of disloyalty to nativists.
The Battle of Birch Coulee, fought between September 2 and 3, 1862, was the worst defeat the United States suffered and the Dakotas' most successful engagement during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Over thirty hours, approximately two hundred Dakota soldiers pinned down a Union force of 150 newly recruited U.S. volunteers, militia, and civilians from the area, holding them until Henry Sibley's main army arrived.
The last in a long series of violent conflicts between Dakota and Ojibwe people took place on the banks of the Minnesota River north of the village of the Dakota leader Shakpedan (Little Six) on May 27, 1858. Dozens of Ojibwe and Dakota warriors engaged in fighting that claimed lives on both sides but produced no clear victor.
On September 23, 1862, United States troops, led by Colonel Henry Sibley, defeated Taoyateduta (Little Crow IV)'s Dakota force at the Battle of Wood Lake. The battle marked the end of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
Recruited in the fall of 1861, Brackett's Battalion served longer than any other Minnesota unit during the Civil War. After campaigning in the Western Theater, the Battalion participated in the Northwestern Indian Expeditions of 1864 and 1865.
Fanny Fligelman Brin devoted her life to the causes of world peace, democracy, social justice, and Jewish welfare. Her long career as a peace activist included involvement with the National Council of Jewish Women, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War, among others.
During his five decades in Minnesota, Joseph R. Brown was a significant figure in territorial and state politics. Although he never held high office, he exercised great influence on how the region developed. His ability to produce legislative results earned him the nickname, “Jo the Juggler.”
During the extended Cold War standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, many Minnesotans prepared for the terrifying possibility of nuclear war by participating in a variety of civil defense efforts. The civil defense strategies employed in Minnesota changed significantly as the perceived military threat evolved.
On the night of July 19, 1967, racial tension in North Minneapolis erupted along Plymouth Avenue in a series of acts of arson, assaults, and vandalism. The violence, which lasted for three nights, is often linked with other race-related demonstrations in cities across the nation during 1967’s “long hot summer.”
The fate of the Union army hung in the balance on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Confederate soldiers punched a hole in its defenses and only the men of the First Minnesota Infantry, led by Colonel William Colvill, stood in their way.
The Duluth Armory has served as both a military training facility and an entertainment venue since its construction in 1915. Notable for its neoclassical design, the armory was central to the work of the National Guard and Home Guard. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
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.
Organized in late 1864, the Eleventh Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the last infantry unit to be raised by the state. Though not involved in any major battles, the regiment performed a crucial service that helped to achieve ultimate Union victory.
The Fifth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment's Civil War service included participation in thirteen campaigns, five sieges and thirty-four battles, including duty on Minnesota's frontier during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. They were the last of the state's regiments to form in response to President Lincoln's first call for troops.
The First Battery of Minnesota Light Artillery played a critical role in the first major battle of the Civil War. The performance of its officers and men at Shiloh and elsewhere in the Western Theater gave rise to an enviable service record and added to the young state's prestige.
The First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment holds a special place in the history of Minnesota. It was the first body of troops raised by the state for Civil War service, and it was among first regiments of any state offered for national service.
Fort Ripley was a nineteenth century army outpost located on the upper Mississippi River in north-central Minnesota. It was situated near government agencies for the Ho-Chunk and Ojibwe. By its very presence, however, the fort spurred immigration into the area by whites.
During the Civil War era, Fort Snelling served as an induction and training center for nearly twenty-five thousand soldiers. Many of them fought in the Civil War. Around fourteen hundred of the troops raised at the fort served in the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862. After that war, a concentration camp for Dakota non-combatants was established near the fort. Following the Civil War, the fort supported U.S. military expeditions against American Indians and the garrisoning of western posts.
The U.S. Army built Fort Snelling between 1820 and 1825 to protect American interests in the fur trade. It tasked the fort’s troops with deterring advances by the British in Canada, enforcing boundaries between the region’s American Indian nations, and preventing Euro-American immigrants from intruding on American Indian land. In these early years and until its temporary closure in 1858, Fort Snelling was a place where diverse people interacted and shaped the future state of Minnesota.
The Fourth Regiment of Minnesota Infantry witnessed much of the action in the Civil War's Western Theater. They were part of minor skirmishes as well as major battles, expeditions and campaigns. They were fortunate to avoid heavy casualties in some large battles they were in, but they proved themselves good fighters. The officers and men saw Vicksburg surrendered. They were in Battles around Chattanooga. They marched with Sherman to the sea and witnessed the surrender of a major Confederate Army. Years after the war, the Fourth served as the subject for a famous artist's painting.
The U.S.–Dakota War of 1862 was a turning point in Minnesota history. Joseph Godfrey, an enslaved man , joined the Dakota in their fight against white settlers that summer and fall. He was one of only two African Americans to do so.
During World War I, families began to hang flags in their windows that displayed a gold star for each relative killed in military service. The title “gold star mother” was used unofficially to describe a woman who had lost a child in service until the national organization American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., was established in 1929. Many Minnesota mothers claimed membership, and local Minnesota chapters followed.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization which existed from 1866 to 1956. It was composed of veterans of the Union Army, United States Navy, Marines, and Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War. The organization allowed veterans to communicate with one another and plan reunions. At its peak in 1890 it was a powerful organization, supporting the rights of veterans and primarily Republican politicians.
Young Red Wing newspaper editor Lucius F. Hubbard backed his words with action when he enlisted as a private in the Fifth Minnesota Volunteers during the Civil War. He emerged from the fighting as a general and a war hero, and became wealthy through wheat marketing, milling, and railroads. He was elected governor in 1881.