I was a student activist in Minnesota in the early 70s. Once, along with a group of other students, I was invited to meet with Governor Wendy Anderson.
Waiting in the Governor’s reception room, I was drawn to a massive painting depicting the heroic actions of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Gettysburg. It dominated a very large room. I don’t remember much about the meeting, but I do remember that painting, and the history I learned by seeing that painting.
I remember the receptionist telling me (as she had probably told thousands of other visitors) that the 1st Minnesota plugged a hole in the Union line on the second day of the battle. The same day of the battle the 20th Maine has recently received much notoriety in film and literature for stopping the Rebs on the left flank of the Union Army at Little Round Top.
On that day, the 1st Minnesota was comprised of 262 men who were ordered to charge an advancing Confederate unit from Alabama estimated at 1,600 men:
The men of the 1st Minnesota are most remembered for their actions on July 2, 1863, during the second day's fighting at Gettysburg, where the regiment prevented the Confederates from pushing the Federals off of Cemetery Ridge, a position that was to be crucial in the battle.
Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, commander of the II Corps, ordered the regiment to assault a much larger enemy force (a brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox) telling Col. William Colvill to take the enemy's colors. The fateful charge bought the time needed while other forces were brought up. During the charge, 215 members of the 262 men who were present at the time became casualties, including the regimental commander, Col. William Colvill, and all but three of his officers.
The unit's flag fell five times and rose again each time. The 47 survivors rallied back to General Hancock under the senior surviving officer, Captain Henry C. Coates.
That represented an 83 percent casualty rate. That was the highest casualty rate of any army unit at Gettysburg.
That 83 percent was the highest casualty rate of any army unit during any single engagement of the Civil War.
That 83 percent was the highest casualty rate of any army unit during any single engagement of ANY American war.
These men fought and died to save the Union from Southerners claiming states rights and favoring nullification and secession. There is great pride among many Minnesotans of the sacrifice these men made to save the Union. But with the passage of time, the history of these kinds of heroic sacrifices can fade.
So why might the men of the 1st Minnesota and the nearly 27,000 other Minnesotans who fought and died in the Civil War be ‘a wailing’ in their graves?
Because, the Republican Party in Minnesota has nominated a radical politician as their gubernatorial candidate. Tom Emmers is advocating nullification of Federal law and is playing around with the idea that secession might be an option for a state.
Tom Emmers submitted:
a Constitutional Amendment that would make Minnesota the first state to require a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to approve federal laws affecting the state. "Minnesotans enjoy inherent, natural, God-given rights," the bill states, and "Citizens of Minnesota are sovereign individuals, subject to Minnesota law and immune from any federal laws that exceed the federal government’s enumerated constitutional powers."
Emmer also authored a resolution that would lay claim to Minnesota’s sovereignty: "[T]he State of Minnesota hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution."
The Republicans in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District have gone further on the far right political fringe. They passed a resolution calling for Minnesota to secede from union if the federal government exceeds its authority.
I’ll admit that Emmers right now is just playing games with concept of secession. He’s dancing around that issue. But he’s embraced latter day nullification.
This is the Tenther Movement infecting the modern Republican Party.
It is time to turn the frame on this movement from them claiming the rights they see in the Tenth Admendment to them being modern day Secessionists. We need to frame these radical loons as the same kind of irresponsible people who nearly destroyed the Union a century and a half ago.
It is time we take the patriotic high ground on these loons (state bird of MN, can't help myself). Many cities in the Union of 1860 have their Civil War memorials. I suspect most are forgotten and little noticed. We need to remind others what they mean.
And most importantly, we need to turn the greatest Republican (and for me the the greatest president), Abraham Lincoln, back on the Tenthers. What would Lincoln think of their movement? If you are a 'Yankee' and have Tenthers in your 'Union' state, counter punch with Lincoln and the Civil War soldiers who fought to save the Union.
It is time we turn some of the greatest words ever spoken back on the loons and destroy their movement. As he gazed out on the fields holding thousands of dead including many of the 1st Minnesota Regiment, Lincoln concluded the Gettysburg Address:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
If elected governor, Tom Emmers will walk into the governor's office past that massive painting of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It will mean nothing to him. In spirit they will have died in vain.
Right now Emmers leads in a poll against 3 Democratic candidates.
One last thing – I write this from my wife’s farm that has been in her family more than 110 years. It was purchased from a Civil War veteran by her grandfather. We have the original deed of the farm. The land was given to the veteran for his service in the Army of the Potomac. The grantor of the land and signer of the deed was the President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. History has a long, powerful reach.
Update: The painting in the MN Governor's Office