With the fall of Fort Sumter in 1861, Minnesota became the first state to offer troops to fight the Confederacy. Josias Redgate King is credited with being the first man to volunteer for the Union in the Civil War.
On April 12, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called upon Americans on the home front to help fight what would become known as World War I. In response, many Minnesotans turned to backyard gardening to increase their food supply. Homegrown vegetables filled pantries and stomachs and allowed “citizen soldiers” to conserve wheat, meat, sugar, and fats that were essential for U.S. troops and their European allies.
Though he lived in a Democratic city and a Democratic political era—the Great Depression and World War II—the conservative Republican Melvin Maas represented St. Paul in Congress from 1927 to 1945, with one short interruption. He also received two World War II combat decorations, was awarded a Carnegie Hero Fund medal, and served the public for two decades after leaving politics.
In 1942, the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) was established in Minnesota. The school trained soldiers as Japanese linguists to support the U.S. military in World War II. The MISLS became a point of pride for Japanese Americans who faced discrimination during the war. A unique institution, the school had a strong impact on the outcome of World War II.
When the Minnesota National Guard was federalized in the spring of 1917, the state was left without any military organization. To defend the state’s resources, the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety (MCPS) created the Minnesota Home Guard. The Home Guard existed for the duration of World War I. Units performed civilian and military duties.
The Minnesota Motor Corps was the first militarized organization of its kind in the United States. Comprised of volunteers and their vehicles, the corps existed for the duration of World War I. It provided disaster relief, transported troops, and aided police. The Motor Corps’ services proved crucial, but many viewed it as a state-sponsored police force that infringed on the rights of citizens.
Since its founding in 1859, the Minnesota State Fair had been an essential yearly tradition in the agricultural state. However, after the United States entered World War I in 1917, the fair took on an entirely new significance. Organizers reframed the event as a “Food Training Camp” that showed Minnesotans how to produce and conserve resources vital to the Allied war effort.
The World War I draft rally held in New Ulm on July 25, 1917, was an exciting event; it featured a parade, music, a giant crowd, and compelling speakers. The speakers urged compliance with law, but challenged the justice of the war and the government’s authority to send draftees into combat overseas. In the end, people obeyed the draft law, while the state punished dissent. Three of the speakers lost their jobs; the fourth was charged with criminal sedition.
The Ninth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment played an important role in defending its home state as well as in operations in the South. Its three years of service for the Union culminated in the Battle of Nashville, a battle in which its members fought side by side with men from three other Minnesota regiments.
General Lauris Norstad helped engineer World War II victories for American air forces in Africa, Europe and Asia from 1942 to 1945. As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1956 to 1963, he faced an even more dangerous challenge—the very real threat of nuclear holocaust.
When the James–Younger gang rode into Northfield on September 7, 1876, with the intention of robbing the First National Bank, they did not expect any trouble from the local citizens. Unbeknownst to them, the townspeople would soon be nationally applauded for defending their town from some of the period’s most notorious outlaws.
Built around 1820, the Round Tower at Fort Snelling is probably the oldest standing building in Minnesota. Though the U.S. Army originally built it as a defensive point for the fort, the tower has served many different functions over its long history.
The Second Battery of Minnesota Light Artillery fought in some of the major battles in the Civil War's Western Theater. In their three and a half years of service, the Second's officers and men had the unique experience of functioning in all branches of the army-artillery, cavalry, and infantry.
Minnesota raised two companies of sharpshooters during the Civil War. Both were in the elite Berdan’s Sharpshooters brigade. The Second Company of Minnesota Sharpshooters, however, served out most of its three-year enlistment with the premier regiment of the state: the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
On Wednesday afternoon, November 25, 1863, the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment participated in one of the most dramatic assaults of the Civil War. They were fighting the Battle of Missionary Ridge, one of several important battles they had been involved in throughout their two years of service in the Union Army. This battle would prove to be the most significant in the history of the regiment.
The Seventh Minnesota Infantry served on Minnesota's frontier in the troubled summer of 1862 and through the first half of 1863. The regiment eventually headed south, taking part in a key battle that virtually destroyed a major Confederate army. They also participated in one of the final campaigns of the war.
During World War I, African American Minnesotans wanted to serve their state and their nation. Historically, however, the U.S. military had been racist in its recruiting. It allowed African Americans to serve only in segregated units. Facing this institutional racism, the African American community of Minnesota asked Governor J.A.A. Burnquist to form an all-African American battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard. The Sixteenth Battalion became the first Minnesota-recruited African American military unit in state history.
The Sixth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry performed crucial frontier service during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and into 1863. Their first experience in the South involved horrible attrition due to disease. Yet the regiment held together, and they took part in one of the final Southern campaigns in 1865.
Bravery at the Battle of Tippecanoe and during the War of 1812 distinguished the military career of Colonel Josiah Snelling, but he is best known for commanding Fort Snelling in the 1820s. It was the first permanent U.S. government outpost in what would become the state of Minnesota.
The St. Peter Armory was the first state-owned armory built in Minnesota. Architecturally, the structure is an excellent example of Minnesota's so-called "early period” armories, all of which predate World War I. The building is also important because it served as a center of military and social affairs in St. Peter.
By the summer of 1862, it was clear that the Civil War would not be over quickly. In July and August, President Lincoln called for several hundred thousand additional men to enlist for the Union cause. In response, the Tenth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment formed between August and November of that year.
The Third Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment's record of service varied greatly. The regiment endured a controversial surrender in Tennessee, played a decisive role in the climactic battle of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, and helped win Union control of the vital Mississippi River.
On August 13, 1898, the Thirteenth Minnesota Infantry regiment led an American advance against Spanish forces holding the Philippine city of Manila. Their participation was crucial to the outcome of this important Spanish-American War battle.