Minnesota U.S. Troops in the Battle of Nashville
and the Civil War

On Sept. 20, 2001, at the BONPS meeting at Father Ryan High School, Mr. Ken Flies of Minnesota gave a presentation on the role of U.S. Minnesota soldiers at the Battle of Nashville and at other conflicts during the Civil War.

On Dec. 16, 1864, Shy's Hill was overrun by U.S. trooprs who routed the famous Confederate Army of the Tennessee. The BONPS website states that Shy's Hill was captured by U.S. Minnesota troops. The front line of the attack on the salient angle of the hill and on the hill's eastern slope and fields was manned by the 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th Minnesota regiments. These Minnesota regiments suffered over 10% of the Union casualties at Nashville. This was the single bloodiest date in any battle of any war in the history of the United States for Minnesota.

The 8th Minnesota- the famous Indian Regiment- took the most casualties at the same time in nearby Murfreesboro stopping the attack of Bedford Forest, thus preventing his employment at the Battle at Nashville. The 11th Minnesota was guarding the railhead at Edgefield north of Nashville.

In the Civil War, Minnesota contributed only 11 infantry regiments. Minnesota was the frontier and had only 175,000 citizens. The previously mentioned 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th were member of the highly mobile XVI Corps that became its own small army in the trans- Mississippi region and became known for their fighting prowess as the "Gorilla- Guerillas."

The 7th, 9th and 10th Minnesota regiments engaged at Nashville each traveled over 10,000 miles in the war, most likely a record for any regiments in the war. In addition to their exploits at Nashville, The Guerillas saved Bank's Army on the Red River. At Tupelo, it was one of the few units to defeat Bedford Forest, and it stopped Price in Missouri and Arkansas.

The Guerillas were only a few of the famous Minnesota regiments and fighters. Others included the 1st Minnesota that took the highest percentage of casualties of any Union regiment in the war when it took 89% casualties at Gettysburg.

The 2nd Minnesota Regiment took the highest number of Union casualties at Chickamauga, holding the right flank against Hood at Snodgrass Hill. The 2nd also initiated the attack on Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga that routed Bragg.

The 3rd Regiment was the first Union regiment to enter Little Rock. The 4th was the first union regiment to enter Vicksburg. The 1st Minnesota Light Artillery saved the Union at the Sunken Road at Shiloh. Minnesota was one of only two states to contribute companies to each of the two famous U.S. Sharpshooters Regiments that fought in over fifty engagements in the war.

In addition to these exploits in the Civil War, seven of the eleven Minnesota regiments (the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th regiments) all fought in the Dakota Indian War that broke out in 1862. These regiments included all of the Minnesota Regiments that fought at Nashville.

Other than Custer's battle at Little Big Horn, these regiments in the Dakota War fought the largest Indian battles ever conducted in the U.S. Lessons learned fighting against superior numbers of a highly mobile enemy along with the harshness of fighting and living on the frontier shaped the Minnesotans and made them the renowned fighters they became.

This presentation will focus on the Minnesota regiments with particular focus on those in the XVI Corps who fought at Nashville. The background of the Indian War and the Minnesotans exploits in this war and the condition and personalities of Minnesota that shaped the character of these men will be highlighted in the presentation.

Biography of Ken Flies:

In 1995 after 35 years in the computer industry, Ken Flies moved back home to the Hill Country of southeastern Minnesota, where his family has lived continuously for almost 150 years and which is the home of a large number of the Minnesota soldiers who fought at Nashville.

Since returning to Plainview, MN, Ken has been the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Rural America Arts, which has established the Jon Hassler Professional Theater, the Rural America Writer's Center and the Plainview Area History Center. Ken is also a member of the Minnesota State Historical Society.

Ken is a former member of the Twin Cities Civil War Roundtable and a current member of the Rochester and Hiawatha Valley Civil War Roundtables in Minnesota. He has lectured to numerous Roundtables, History Centers and schools.

His interest in the Civil War stems from a love of history and his grandmother's stories of her maternal and paternal Grandfathers, both of whom died in the Civil War. One a Pennsylvania native was with the Tenth Minnesota Regiment at Nashville and died and is buried in Tennessee and the other was with the First and also the Twenty-Third Connecticut Regiments and was captured in Virginia and died and is buried at Andersonville in Georgia.

In 1998, Ken's poem- An Ode to a Soldier Long Forgotten- about a soldier from the Hill Country and the Tenth Minnesota, who fought at Nashville, won the Editor's Choice Award of the National Library of Poetry and in 1999 the Editor's Choice Award of the International Library of Poetry.

In May 2000 Ken produced and directed an original play about soldiers from the Hill Country and their exploits at The Battle of Nashville, titled The Guerillas from the Greenwood.


 BACK to Features Page

BACK to Home Page