I have always been fascinated by The Civil War.
I’m not so much interested in the precise battle strategies or exact dates, times and locations of each engagement but rather in the mind set of those men who did the actual fighting. How could they be convinced to take up arms and fire upon a fellow American whose ancestors fought side by side with their own less than 90 years earlier?
I enjoy reading the letters and diaries of both Yankee and Confederate soldiers..most of whom seem more concerned about the weather, not getting sick and receiving letters from home than achieving glory in battle. But, when the time came to take the field and do their duty, they didn’t hesitate even though there was a very good chance an enemy bullet or shell would find their mark and rip them to pieces.
When my cousin, Grouse and I talked about attending Civil War Days in Pipestone last Saturday I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To be honest, I suspected those who partake in these reenactments are mostly guys who like to dress up in uniforms and play war games just like we all did as kids. Instead, we found a lot of dedicated enthusiasts from all over the country who take pride and pleasure in preserving that era of American history in a very realistic way for both entertainment and education.
Why Pipestone? No Civil War battles were ever fought in Minnesota but after the war lots of veterans settled in Pipestone and in 1886 it was the site of an encampment of the Southwest Minnesota Grand Army of the Republic that lasted for several days and drew ten thousand visitors to the area.
Although the state was just three years old when the Civil War broke out, Minnesotans were among the first to volunteer for service and paid an enormous price in preserving the union through their gallantry and sacrifice at places like Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Fredricksburg, Antietam and Gettysburg where 262 men of the First Minnesota Volunteers were ordered to charge a much larger rebel force in order to buy time for the Union to bring up reinforcements. The suicide charge, as it came to be known, resulted in 82 percent casualties: the largest loss by any unit in any war then or since.
Pipestone’s next Civil War Days won’t be until 2012 and you can bet I’ll be back. I might even wear an appropriate costume for the occasion. I wonder if I can find a uniform in size three X.