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Eleventh Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment

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Color image of Eleventh Minnesota national battle flag.

Eleventh Minnesota national battle flag.

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 Eleventh Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was formed in response to President Abraham Lincoln's last call for troops. The officers and men were organized and mustered into service at Fort Snelling in August and September of 1864.

The men initially were issued no weapons and had to borrow muskets from the fort. By late September the regiment was full, with just over a thousand officers and men. On September 20, the regiment departed Fort Snelling and marched to St. Paul's lower levee. Here, while waiting for the boats that would take them south, the men finally received their arms and accoutrements.

Due to the Mississippi's low water level, the Eleventh's officers traveled to La Crosse on a very small steamboat with a shallow draft. The enlisted men went downriver on two large, uncovered barges. At La Crosse the regiment took the railroad to Chicago. The regiment remained in Chicago for just over a week, and then headed toward Nashville.

The Nashville area became the Eleventh's area of operations for the remainder of its time in service. The Eleventh was assigned to the Department of the Cumberland. Here, the men were tasked with guarding a thirty-mile stretch of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad from the Kentucky line to Nashville. The regiment's largest concentration, including headquarters, was located just outside of Gallatin, about twenty-three miles northeast of Nashville.

The Louisville and Nashville was a major conduit for troops and supplies for the Union Army of the Cumberland. Therefore, the Eleventh Minnesota was tasked with the important job of guarding the railroad against attacks by Confederate guerillas. The men spent the following winter on picket, guard duty, and patrol. Occasionally, the men chased after bands of guerrillas. Usually, the chase ended with the guerrillas disappearing into the countryside.

By November of 1864 the railroad was operating at full capacity, with troop and supply trains constantly running to Nashville. During the battles of Franklin and Nashville, cannonading was distinctly heard all along the Eleventh's section of railroad. Some curious members of the regiment even managed to witness part of the Nashville battle.

On June 26, 1865, the Eleventh Minnesota started for home. The regiment arrived at St. Paul on July 5 and was mustered out of service on July 11. Throughout its service, the Eleventh lost three enlisted men killed, and one officer and twenty-one enlisted men died of disease.

The story of the Civil War is often told through accounts of its major battles and campaigns. However, as the record of the Eleventh Minnesota Volunteer Infantry attests, those who played important, if less dramatic, supporting roles contributed just as greatly to the war effort.

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  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

Board of Commissioners. Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861–1865. 2 vols. St. Paul: Pioneer Press Company, 1891.
http://archive.org/details/minnesotacivil01minnrich

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Des Moines, IA: Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.
http://archive.org/details/08697590.3359.emory.edu

United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 70 vols. in 128 parts. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901. Reprint: Harrisburg: National Historical Society, 1971.
http://archive.org/details/warrebellionaco17offigoog

P1948
William H. Van Kleeck Diaries, August 14, 1864–July 15, 1865
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Two diaries kept by the commissary sergeant of the Eleventh Minnesota Infantry.
The diaries discuss Van Kleeck's experiences at Fort Snelling, his duties in securing and distributing the regiment's rations, Confederate guerrilla activity, the Battle of Nashville, the weather, recreational activities, illnesses, Lee's surrender, and the regiment's return and discharge at Fort Snelling.

Related Images

Color image of Eleventh Minnesota national battle flag.
Color image of Eleventh Minnesota national battle flag.
Black and white Carte-de-visite of Loren Webb, Captain, Eleventh Minnesota Infantry Regiment, Company D. c.1861-1865.
Black and white Carte-de-visite of Loren Webb, Captain, Eleventh Minnesota Infantry Regiment, Company D. c.1861-1865.
Black and white Carte-de-visite of Archibald Calquhoun, Private, Eleventh Minnesota Infantry Regiment, Company D., taken in 1864 or 1865.
Black and white Carte-de-visite of Archibald Calquhoun, Private, Eleventh Minnesota Infantry Regiment, Company D., taken in 1864 or 1865.
Image of hand-painted drum composed of a walnut-stained wood shell and black hoops with rope tuning cords.
Image of hand-painted drum composed of a walnut-stained wood shell and black hoops with rope tuning cords.
A "soldier's housewife" sewing kit made from a strip of leather with a twill-like finish and lined with silk.
A "soldier's housewife" sewing kit made from a strip of leather with a twill-like finish and lined with silk.

Turning Point

In the fall 1864, the Eleventh Minnesota Infantry guards a vital section of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, allowing troops and supplies to safely and quickly reach the Union Army of the Cumberland in time for the battles of Franklin and Nashville.

Chronology

August-September, 1864

The Eleventh Minnesota Infantry is organized at Fort Snelling.

September 20, 1864

The Eleventh departs St. Paul and heads south.

October 1864-June 1865

The regiment guards the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

June 26-July 5, 1865

The Eleventh returns to Minnesota.

July 11, 1865

The Eleventh Minnesota Infantry is mustered out of service.