The Seventh Minnesota Infantry served on Minnesota's frontier in the troubled summer of 1862 and through the first half of 1863. The regiment eventually headed south, taking part in a key battle that virtually destroyed a major Confederate army. They also participated in one of the final campaigns of the war.
The Seventh Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment formed in response to President Lincoln's summer 1862 calls for 600,000 additional Northern troops. The regiment's companies formed between August and October 1862. No sooner were the first several companies formed than they were called on to respond to the August 18 outbreak of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Five companies joined Colonel Henry Sibley in his campaign in the summer and fall of 1862. On September 3 they marched to the relief of the Sixth Minnesota Infantry on the Birch Coulee battlefield. They also participated in the Battle of Wood Lake on September 23.
The Seventh served garrison duty throughout the state until May 1863. Colonel Stephen Miller, formerly the lieutenant colonel of the First Minnesota and a future governor of the state, commanded the regiment at this time. They then took part in the first Punitive Expedition against the Dakota during the summer of 1863.
In October 1863 the regiment moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where it remained until the following April. In the meantime, Colonel Miller was promoted to brigadier general. William R. Marshall, another future governor of the state, was promoted to colonel of the Seventh in his place.
In April 1864 the regiment departed St. Louis for duty in Paducah, Kentucky. By June the men moved yet again, this time to the Memphis, Tennessee area to become part of General A.J. Smith's Sixteenth Corps.
In July the Seventh was part of General A.J. Smith's expedition to Tupelo, Mississippi. This operation was conceived to prevent Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest from disrupting General William T. Sherman's supply lines as that general moved toward Atlanta. The expedition culminated in the battle of Tupelo July 14–15. Forrest's men were defeated; however, the battle took a heavy toll on Minnesota. Colonel Alexander Wilkin, commanding the Ninth Minnesota, was killed. The Seventh Minnesota lost fifty-two wounded and ten killed, including the regiment's surgeon. Colonel Marshall's horse was shot, and a spent musket ball lodged in Marshall's felt hat.
Following Tupelo, the Seventh returned to Memphis. In early September the regiment moved to DeVall's Bluff, Arkansas. In the fall of 1864 General Smith's Sixteenth Corps, including the Seventh Minnesota, engaged in a series of severe marches while pursuing Confederate General Sterling Price through Arkansas and Missouri. Price wanted to take St. Louis and invade Illinois. In the end, Price was forced to retreat after losing half his force. His defeat marked the end of organized Southern operations west of the Mississippi.
Late in November the Sixteenth Corps arrived in front of Nashville, Tennessee. Here the men joined General George H. Thomas's forces. Confederates under General John B. Hood had built fortifications threatening the Union defensive lines outside the city. On December 15, 1864, Thomas's troops attacked the Confederate lines. The Seventh Minnesota's brigade charged a gun position and captured three cannon. Unfortunately, Colonel Sylvester G. Hill, the brigade commander, was killed. The Seventh's Colonel Marshall took command of the brigade.
The Union forces renewed the battle on the rainy afternoon of December 16. The Seventh and their comrades charged over soft ground across a corn field and captured the rebel works. The Union forces were victorious all along the line, and Hood's army was all but destroyed. The Seventh had six men killed and fifty-four wounded in the two-day battle.
Following Nashville, the Seventh served duty in Tennessee and Mississippi. Then in February 1865 they moved to New Orleans.
In March and April the regiment fought in General E.R.S. Canby's campaign against Mobile, Alabama. In laying siege to Spanish Fort outside the city, the Union forces found themselves lacking in mortars. To make up for this deficiency, the soldiers made functional wooden versions out of gum wood.
Mobile was the last campaign for the Seventh Minnesota. They returned to their home state and were mustered out of service on August 16, 1865.
Board of Commissioners. Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861-1865. 2 vols. St. Paul: The Pioneer Press Company, 1891.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Des Moines, IA: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.
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.
William R. Marshall Papers, 1853–1894.
Manuscripts Notebooks Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.
Description: Personal papers, including drafts of a narrative of the Seventh Minnesota Volunteer Infantry by James T. Ramer; letters concerning its members (1888-1890); muster rolls and official papers of Marshall as colonel of the regiment; Marshall's journal of Henry H. Sibley's punitive expedition against the Dakota in 1863; and his diary for 1864.
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. (Series 1, vol. 45, part 1.)
Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.
December 15-16, 1864: The Seventh Minnesota Infantry takes part in the pivotal battle of Nashville, Tennessee, which all but destroys Confederate General John B. Hood's army.