NEW ULM — In a small city like New Ulm, strongly connected to its German heritage, historians and residents find many occasions to reflect on important events of the past. And each time they do, they find personal ties.
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was the latest such event, and once again the city showed that New Ulm pioneers played an integral role in the battle that took place July 1-3, 1863.
“Many people will say that's an awful long time ago,” said Denis Warta. “But people of my generation are connected to it.”
The city of New Ulm held a gathering at Riverside Park Wednesday afternoon to commemorate the battle. Gov. Mark Dayton was supposed to appear to help honor local soldiers who fought, but he had to cancel due to medical reasons.
Mayor Bob Beussman said he was honored to receive a personal phone call from Dayton this week apologizing for not being able to attend. Beussman said there's a joke in New Ulm that the city has 5 ½ Democrats.
“Now there's six,” he said.
The event, “The Civil War, Gettysburg and New Ulm: A 150th Commemoration,” honored the significance and importance of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment's valor.
During the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Minnesota was the newest state in the Union and then Gov. Ramsey made the first offer to President Lincoln to volunteer troops in its defense. New Ulm and Brown County men had been training for the army before the war had started, having learned to fire a cannon at Fort Ridgely.
According to materials compiled by The New Ulm Civil War Commemoration Committee, the 1st Regiment played an important role at Gettysburg:
“Many historians claim the heroism of the 1st Regiment Minnesota Volunteer Infantry changed the Battle of Gettysburg. They stopped a Confederate charge on July 2, 1863, which saved the Union line and allowed Union troops to regroup for a counterattack.”
Of the 262 regiment members, 215 suffered battle casualties.
“Their courageous stand was a major factor in helping the Union win the Battle of Gettysburg and ultimately the Civil War.”
The event also included an appearance by Peter Monsoor, a retired Army colonel and military history author. Three concerts were given by the Original German Band, New Ulm Municipal Band and Dick Kimmel and Company, featuring blue grass music of the Civil War era.
The highlight performance was an original composition by musician Tony Rook of New Prague about a young confederate soldier marching to battle with Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The New Ulm Actors Community Theatre performed. Bryce Stenzel, dressed as Lincoln, gave the “Gettysburg Address.” And the New Ulm Battery fired the cannon.