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.
By the second summer of the Civil War, The nation realized that the initial rush to arms had not provided enough manpower to fight a prolonged war. Therefore, on July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 more troops to serve for three years or the duration of the war. The Ninth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry was formed in response to this call, and its men were recruited and mustered into service between August and November.
As the regiment's companies recruited and headed to Fort Snelling for training, hostilities erupted on Minnesota's frontier as Little Crow attacked New Ulm and other settlements. Thus, as each company formed, it headed to a troubled spot on the frontier. The regiment spent the next year on frontier duty, its companies scattered throughout the state. Not until late May of 1864 would the entire regiment be concentrated in one place.
In September 1863 the Ninth received a short furlough, and in October the companies departed Minnesota in groups for Missouri. Here, as part of the Department of the Missouri, the regiment spent the next seven months guarding railroads from near St. Louis westward to the Kansas state line. In May 1864 the Ninth concentrated at St. Louis. At dress parade on the evening of May 26 the entire regiment came together with all ten companies present for the first time in the Ninth's history.
From St. Louis the Ninth moved to Memphis, where they joined a force led by General Samuel Sturgis. They were tasked with protecting General William T. Sherman's railroad supply line from Confederate raiders while Sherman's army campaigned toward Atlanta. On June 10 Sturgis's force clashed with Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Battle of Brice's Crossroads (Guntown), Mississippi. Sturgis's units joined the battle piecemeal and were defeated by Forrest. Throughout the night and into the next morning Forrest pursued the federals for more than twenty miles. The Southerners captured many cannon and wagons, as well as some 1600 prisoners. 233 men from the Ninth were sent to prison camps in Georgia and North Carolina, one of which was the infamous Andersonville. 119 died while in prison.
As the campaign to protect Sherman's supply line continued, General A.J. Smith replaced Sturgis as Union commander in Memphis. On July 14 Smith's force turned the tables on Forrest, defeating his force in the Battle of Tupelo. Unfortunately, the Ninth's Colonel Alexander Wilkin was killed in the battle. He was well liked by his regiment and was the highest ranking Minnesotan to die in the war.
The regiment spent the fall of 1864 in operations throughout Arkansas and Missouri. In November the Ninth received orders to proceed to Nashville to reinforce the Union army under General George H. Thomas. The men arrived in Tennessee's capital on December 1. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General John B. Hood approached Nashville and built earthworks south of the city, hoping for a federal attack.
The attack came on December 15. The larger federal force pushed Hood's army hard, capturing the advanced Confederate positions. On the next day the battle continued. The Ninth Minnesota, whose division included three other Minnesota regiments, played a key role in capturing a series of hills held by the Confederates. The federal attack virtually destroyed Hood's army and swept it from the field.
In March and April 1865 the Ninth participated in the capture of Mobile, one of the South's most important port cities. In July, after subsequent duty in Alabama, the Ninth headed home. They mustered out of the service at Fort Snelling on August 24, 1865.
Beard, W. E. The Battle of Nashville, Including an Outline of the Stirring Events Occurring in One of the Most Notable Movements of the Civil War-Hood's Invasion of Tennessee. W.E. Beard Papers, 1913.
Bearss, Edwin C. Protecting Sherman's Lifeline: The Battles of Brice's Crossroads and Tupelo, 1864. Washington, D.C.: Office of Publications, 1971.
Board of Commissioners. Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861-1865. 2 vols. St. Paul: The Pioneer Press Company, 1891.
Burns, W. S. "A.J. Smith's Defeat of Forrest at Tupelo (July 14th, 1864)." In, Battles and Leaders Vol.4, edited by Johnson and Buel, 421-22.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Des Moines: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.
Faust, Patricia L., ed. Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991.
Hanson, E. Hunn. "Forrest's Defeat of Sturgis at Brice's Crossroads (June 10th, 1864)." In Battles and Leaders Vol. 4, edited by Johnson and Buel,, 419-21.
Hubbard, Gen. L.F. Minnesota in the Battles of Nashville, December 15th and 16th, 1864: An Address Delivered Before the Minnesota Commandery of the Loyal Legion. St. Paul: n.p., 1905.
Johnson, Robert U, and Clarence C. Buel, ed. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. 4 vols. New York: The Century Co., 1888.
MacDonald, C.F. "Narrative of the Ninth Regiment," in Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars Vol. 1, Board of Commissioners, 416-54.
Along with three other Minnesota regiments, the Ninth takes part in the Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864. Confederate General John B. Hood's Army of Tennessee is swept from the field in a dramatic series of Union charges.