Here are the stories …

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Here are the stories actually running in the Brooklyn Park Sun Post and other ECM publications this week:

There are also a LOT more little pieces about people who went on the trip and soldiers from our areas who fought at Gettysburg. Be sure to check your local ECM paper for them.

Minnesota students at Gettysburg

Students and their chaperones pose with the 1st Minnesota re-enactors in front of the 1st Minnesota monument at Plum Run July 2. Left to right, the students are Braeden Lanter of Wheaton, Amanda Schubert of Sauk Rapids, Joshua Hamel of Rochester and Brandon Peeters of Owatonna.  Peeters is the youngest member of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force. The other students were winners of the Minneosta Historical Society's "Dear President Lincoln" writing contest. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Students and their chaperones pose with the 1st Minnesota re-enactors in front of the 1st Minnesota monument at Plum Run July 2. Left to right, the students are Braeden Lanter of Wheaton, Amanda Schubert of Sauk Rapids, Joshua Hamel of Rochester and Brandon Peeters of Owatonna. Peeters is the youngest member of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force. The other students were winners of the Minnesota Historical Society’s “Dear President Lincoln” writing contest. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

The Minnesota Historical Society had a writing contest in which students wrote a letter to President Lincoln in response to the Gettysburg Address. The winners had the opportunity to go on the trip to the battlefield. Unfortunately, none of the winners was from any of the cities ECM covers, so I couldn’t write a longer feature for the paper – but congratulations to the winners! It was great to have you on the trip.

Learn more about the winners, read their winning letters here and read their blogs from the trip.

Keep checking back. I’ll post more photos and links to articles in the week to come.

We’re back, but the stories aren’t finished

Members of the Minnesota delegation to Gettysburg disembark at the Minnesota History Center the afternoon of July 4. Members of the 1st Minnesota re-enactors provided an honor guard. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Members of the Minnesota delegation to Gettysburg disembark at the Minnesota History Center the afternoon of July 4. Members of the 1st Minnesota re-enactors provided an honor guard. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

We made it home! The bus carrying members of the Minnesota delegation to Gettysburg arrived at the Minnesota History Center July 4 around 12:30 p.m. Members of the 1st Minnesota re-enactors group provided an honor guard.

Even though it was a holiday, there were plenty of people at the history center, because it was hosting a family event to mark the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

Thanks for following our trip – but don’t stop now! Although I’m back in Minnesota I’m not done posting to this blog. I had limited time and Internet connectivity available while gone, so I still plan to post a few more pictures and other items from the trip. I’ll also post links to the articles that run in next week’s papers from ECM Publishers.

Check back soon!

Re-creating Pickett’s Charge

The afternoon of July 3, 2013, thousands of people participate in a commemorative walk of the route of Pickett's charge, which happened 150 years earlier. (Sun post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

The afternoon of July 3, 2013, thousands of people participate in a commemorative walk of the route of Pickett’s charge, which happened 150 years earlier. (Sun post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

It’s difficult to imagine what it would look like to see approximately 12,500 soldiers marching and charging across a battlefield. I got little better idea as I watched a commemorative walk of the route of Pickett’s charge the afternoon of July 3.

I’m not sure how many people participated in the walk, though I heard rumors that 10,000 had registered. Honestly, the sight wasn’t as impressive as I expected. But then, there weren’t quite enough walkers to re-create the scene, and they weren’t all carrying muskets and marching with military precision. And I wasn’t one of about 5,500 soldiers – including members of the 1st Minnesota – standing in the Union line to repel the charge.

Based on descriptions by men who were in the Union lines, the Confederate charge did impress onlookers greatly. At least seeing the July 3 walk made it easier for me to imagine what that mass of humanity moving across those fields would have looked like.

Honoring Minnesotans buried at Gettysburg

Diane and Darryl Sannes of Brooklyn Center stand next to the 1st Minnesota urn, which they have "adopted." The urn was the first regimental monument placed at Gettysburg. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Diane and Darryl Sannes of Brooklyn Center stand next to the 1st Minnesota urn, which they have “adopted.” The urn was the first regimental monument placed at Gettysburg. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

It would probably be overly dramatic to say the sky was weeping as we made our way to the national cemetery and held a brief ceremony this morning, July 3. But I couldn’t help noticing that, despite clouds and humidity, the rain held off yesterday and today until shortly before the ceremony. It was a gentle, steady rain that stopped a few minutes after we finished honoring the Minnesota dead.

Fifty-two Minnesota soldiers are buried at the national cemetery at Gettysburg. Two more, William R. Allen, of Richfield, and Marcus Aurelius Past, of Brooklyn Township, are buried at Evergreen, the local cemetery next door.

Members of the Minnesota delegation placed commemorative Civil War veteran flags at each of the 52 Minnesota graves at the national cemetery. Earlier in the morning, a few members had also placed them at the two graves in Evergreen Cemetery.

The delegation also rededicated a marble urn that sits next to the 1st Minnesota graves in the national cemetery. Placed in 1867, the urn was the first regimental monument on the battlefield. It’s now the only urn on the battlefield. Darryl and Diane Sannes, of Brooklyn Center, “adopted” the urn a couple years ago. They started a fund to pay for historically accurate plantings in the urn. A local volunteer serves as the gardener for the urn.

Darryl, who is a member of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, as well as the Brooklyn Historical Society, led the rededication ceremony, which ended with a moment of silence, a prayer by task force member Jeff Williams and a rendition of “Taps,” played on the harmonica by Jefferson Spilman of the 1st Minnesota re-enactors.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and glory of the charges and valor at the Battle of Gettysburg, but this morning was a solemn reminder that war isn’t about charges and excitement and glory – it has real consequences and takes human lives.

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Walking the steps of the 1st Minnesota July 2

This is the top of the most famous monument to the 1st Minnesota regiment at Gettysburg. The Minnesota delegation rededicated this monument in memory of the famous July 2 charge that left more than 80 percent of those who charged dead or wounded. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

This is the top of the most famous monument to the 1st Minnesota regiment at Gettysburg. The Minnesota delegation rededicated this monument in memory of the July 2 charge that left more than 80 percent of those who charged dead or wounded. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

It was an open field they charged across, headlong into whistling balls of lead that cut men down as they ran. The soldiers of the 1st Minnesota knew the bayonet charge they were making was suicide – Gen. Hancock, who gave the order, knew it, too, but he needed to buy five minutes to bring reinforcements to plug a critical hole in the Union line.

He paid for the time with Minnesotans’ lives.

According to tradition, the number of Minnesotans who charged was 262. After about 15 minutes fighting a larger Alabama force, only 47 soldiers returned. The rest were dead or wounded – an 82 percent casualty rate.

Around 6:30 p.m. July 2, 2013, 150 years later, I stared down the same hill and couldn’t imagine flinging myself across the open space into enemy fire. I don’t know if I would have done it. But historical accounts say the 1st Minnesota acted without hesitation.

Along with the Minnesota delegation to Gettysburg and others who gathered to commemorate the charge, I walked down the hill in safety to the point where the Minnesota regiment met the Alabama troops. Men from Alabama were also waiting there for us.

Minnesota Adj. Gen. Richard Nash, left, shakes hands with Alabama Adj. General  Perry Smith at the approximate point on the battlefield where the 1st Minnesota regiment clashed with a much larger force of Alabama men July 2, 1863, during the 1st Minnesota's charge. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Minnesota Adjutant Gen. Richard Nash, left, shakes hands with Alabama Adjutant. General Perry Smith at the approximate point on the battlefield where the 1st Minnesota regiment clashed with a much larger force of Alabama men July 2, 1863, during the 1st Minnesota’s charge. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

This time we met with open hands instead of lowered bayonets. Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, Alabama’s adjutant general, shook hands with Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, his Minnesota counterpart.

There were no hard feelings – in fact, Smith praised what the Minnesotans had done.

“If it wasn’t for the 1st Minnesota … I’m sure we wouldn’t be standing here as citizens of the United States of America,” Smith said.

After the meeting, members of the Minnesota delegation rededicated the 32-foot-tall monument in honor of 1st Minnesota’s charge.

Retracing the route of the charge was the most poignant moment of a day that began with our bus leaving the hotel at 7:30 a.m. and not returning us there until after 10 p.m. In addition to the rededication ceremony and re-creation of the charge, the delegation visited took a battlefield tour, stopped at the visitor center and spent time in the brand new Seminary Ridge Museum, which opened this week.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 3, is the final day of the battle’s anniversary and our final day here. It has the potential to be as powerful as today. I especially look forward to seeing thousands of people walk the path of Pickett’s charge in the afternoon. I hope to stand where Minnesotans might have stood, to watch the mass of humanity streaming toward me and to try to imagine how the soldiers would have felt. Check back for photos and more.

Here are some pictures from Tuesday, July 2:

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Arriving in Gettysburg on the anniversary of the first day of the battle

As we drove into Gettysburg from the northwest, we passed the same fields where the Confederates approached the town 150 years ago on the same day. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

As we drove into Gettysburg from the northwest, we passed the same fields where the Confederates approached the town 150 years ago on the same day. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

We drove through the night Sunday night and arrived at Gettysburg around 3 p.m. July 1, the anniversary of the first day of the battle.

We entered the town from the northwest, the same direction as the Confederates came exactly 150 years ago. Through the bus windows, we saw the ground they walked. Although we didn’t have time to stop and look,  we will return to the area during our battlefield tour Tuesday, July 2.

It was strange to ride the bus through bustling downtown Gettysburg and think of the streets filled with Confederate soldiers instead of cars. It was strange, but not so difficult to imagine, because Gettysburg looks like a historic town. The buildings appear old, and we even saw a piece of a shell still stuck in the brick wall of an ice cream parlor on our way to have dinner at The Pub & Restaurant in the heart of town.

I expect an even more tangible and powerful connection with history tomorrow, as we tour the battlefield, rededicate a monument and walk in the steps of the famous charge of the 1st Minnesota.

Here’s a snapshot of Monday, July 1, in photos.

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