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Introduction

Richard S. Reeves Although the American Civil War (1861-1865) was not fought on Minnesota soil, it had a dramatic impact on the new state of Minnesota and its people. Minnesota was the first state to respond to President Lincoln’s request for volunteer regiments to defend the Union. Minnesota sent 25,000 men, or about half of the state’s eligible male population, to war. More than 100 black men, a number of American Indians, and at least one woman also served.

Minnesotans fought in nearly all of the War’s campaigns and major battles, especially in the Western Theater where most of its units served. Some of these soldiers faced heated combat at Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Missionary Ridge, while others had relatively peaceful - though still vital - duty guarding railroads in Kentucky and Tennessee. Many also served in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, which raged for six weeks in southern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Historical Society maintains a rich collection of primary source materials (government records, manuscripts, photographs, art, artifacts) and secondary resources (books, published diaries, official sources) relating to the Civil War. The diversity of the materials and the many ways in which they came to the Society over the past century create challenges for researchers. This website is meant to give you a start and to point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of our collections.

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