TIL about the 1st Minnesota Infantry who lost 82% of their fighting strength on July 2nd 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. This stands as the largest loss by any surviving US military unit in a single days engagement

Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Minnesota_Infantry_Regiment#July_2

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  1. For everyone wondering, that’s 215 casualties out of 262 men. What’s particularly incredible is that all 215 casualties apparently happened within five minutes of a charge to disrupt the Southern advance.

  2. July 2, 1863 is the day the 1st Minnesota is most remembered for. During the second day’s fighting at Gettysburg, the regiment stopped the Confederates from splitting the Union line, pushing the Union off of Cemetery Ridge and overrunning the battery there that could have been then turned on the North. The actions of the 1st Minnesota saved the battle.

    Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, commander of II Corps, could see two brigades of Southerners commanded by Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox breaching the line in front of one of his batteries. He quickly rode up to the troops guarding the battery and asked Col. William Colvill “what unit is this?” Col. Colvill responded “the 1st Minnesota”. Gen. Hancock responded “attack that line”. With their bayonets leveled the Minnesotans broke the first lines. The intensity of their charge disrupted the southern advance. With the unit nearly encircled, support arrived in time to allow them to make a fighting withdrawal. Their selfless charge bought the Union the time needed for reinforcements to be brought up. During the charge, 215 of the 262 who made the charge became casualties within five minutes. That included the unit commander, Col. William Colvill, and all but three of his captains.

    The 1st Minnesota’s flag lost five flag bearers, each man dropping his weapon to carry it on. The 47 survivors rallied back to General Hancock under the command of their senior surviving officer, Captain Nathan S. Messick. The 82% casualty rate stands as the largest loss by any surviving U.S military unit in a single day’s engagement ever. The unit’s colors are displayed in the rotunda of the Minnesota Capitol for public appreciation.

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