by James A. Wright, Orderly Sergeant in Company F; Steven J. Keillor, editor
Wright’s memoir is based on his diaries and letters from this 3 years in Company F of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War. Painstakingly edited by Keillor, this book has been called the fullest personal account of the battles, marches, and soldier life of one of the most renowned regiments in the Army of the Potomac. Richard Moe, referred to earlier on this page, has written that this book “is one of the best first-person accounts of the First Minnesota’s remarkable story. It is certainly the most complete.”
This regiment took part in every significant battle and action in the war in the East from 1861 to 1864; Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Bristoe Station. At Gettysburg, the First Minnesota halted the Confederate charge, and suffered an 82 percent casualty rate. Wright’s account of this battle is striking in its description of the horror the men felt at facing their foes, their determination to do their duty, and the shock of the loss of so many of their comrades. Wright recalls the long marches, the poor food, the inadequate shelter, the dedicated officers, the debilitating illnesses, the longing for home, and yet a sense of pride to preserve the Union.
Keillor, a college teacher and author of books based on various facets of MN history, “stumbled” upon Wright’s the letters and manuscript-in-the-making while Keillow was doing research for another book.