The Hardest Lot of Men: The Third Minnesota Infantry in the Civil War

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University of Oklahoma Press, Sep 5, 2019 - History - 338 pages

Outstanding in appearance, discipline, and precision at drill, the Third Minnesota Volunteer Infantry was often mistaken for a regular army unit. Rebel Colonel Ponder described the regiment as “the hardest lot of men he’d ever run against.” Betrayed by its higher commanders, the Third Minnesota was surrendered to Nathan Bedford Forrest on July 13, 1862, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Through letters, personal accounts of the men, and other sources, author Joseph C. Fitzharris recounts how the Minnesotans, prisoners of war, broken in spirit and morale, went home and found redemption and renewed purpose fighting the Dakota Indians. They were then sent south to fight guerrillas along the Tennessee River. In the process, the regiment was forged anew as a superbly drilled and disciplined unit that participated in the siege of Vicksburg and in the Arkansas Expedition that took Little Rock. At Pine Bluff, Arkansas, sickness so reduced its numbers that the Third was twice unable to muster enough men to bury its own dead, but the men never wavered in battle. In both Tennessee and Arkansas, the Minnesotans actively supported the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) and provided many officers for USCT units.

The Hardest Lot of Men follows the Third through occupation to war’s end, when the returning men, deeming the citizens of St. Paul insufficiently appreciative, spurned a celebration in their honor. In this first full account of the regiment, Fitzharris brings to light the true story long obscured by the official histories illustrating aspects of a nineteenth-century soldier’s life—enlisted and commissioned alike—from recruitment and training to the rigors of active duty. The Hardest Lot of Men gives us an authentic picture of the Third Minnesota, at once both singular and representative of its historical moment.
 
 

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Contents

List of Illustrations Preface
Authorizing the Regiment
Raising the Regiment
Learning the Profession of Arms
Mastering Their Trade
Forged in Murfreesboro
The Regiment Broken
Attacked at Murfreesboro 13 July 1862
The Arkansas Expedition and Little Rock
Fighting Guerrillas and Disease at Pine Bluff
Recovery at DeValls Bluff
Pacifying Arkansas
The Regiment in Memory
Notes
Bibliography
November 1863

Reconstitution and the Quest for Redemption
The Third Minnesota in the Indian Campaign 5 September15
ILLUSTRATIONS
The Regiment Restored

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About the author (2019)

Joseph C. Fitzharris is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the editor of Patton’s Fighting Bridge Builders: Company B, 1303rd Engineer General Service Regiment.
 

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