New Civil War monument honors Minnesotans who fought at Nashville

By Jeffrey S. Williams

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

Members of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society and the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force on Nov. 16 dedicated a new Civil War marker on Shy’s Hill in Nashville, Tenn., to recognize the contributions of four Minnesota regiments who charged the hill in the pivotal Battle of Nashville that took place 150 years ago.

 Minnesota State Representative Dean Urdahl and Battle of Nashville Preservation Society representative James D. Kay Jr. unveil the new monument to Minnesotans who fought in the Battle of Nashville during the Nov. 16 ceremony.

Minnesota State Representative Dean Urdahl and Battle of Nashville Preservation Society representative James D. Kay Jr. unveil the new monument to Minnesotans who fought in the Battle of Nashville during the Nov. 16 ceremony.

Nearly 60 people attended the ceremony in a freezing rain that was similar to the conditions the troops who fought there had faced a century and a half earlier.

“We’re here this afternoon to memorialize the sacrifices of Minnesota troops who fought in the Battle of Nashville and to acknowledge, too, the sacrifices of their adversaries from the South,” said Ann Toplovich, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Society. “Let us remember the sacrifices of these men today.”

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force co-chairman, State Representative Dean Urdahl said, “I’m honored to be here in Nashville today to help dedicate the marker commemorating the exploits and courage of those four Minnesota regiments who battled here. We also remember today the Army of Tennessee for their valor.”

Urdahl recounted the story of Private James Dunn, 5th Minnesota Infantry Company B, who escaped the ambush at Redwood Ferry during the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War in Minnesota but was killed in action at Redoubt No. 4. He is buried at grave number F-3575 at the Nashville National Cemetery.

The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society owns a portion of Shy’s Hill, leases the summit from the Tennessee Historical Commission, and is protected by a conservation easement through the Land Trust for Tennessee. It was listed in the Civil War Trust’s History under Siege publication as one of America’s Top 10 endangered battlefields in 2003.

The Society also maintains the grounds and built a kiosk, trail and flag plaza at the summit. The plaza flies the Minnesota state flag year round, in addition to the United States and Tennessee standards, to recognize the pivotal roles those regiments played during both days of the Battle of Nashville.

The new Minnesota monument on Shy's Hill, Nashville, Tenn., commemorates the sacrifice of four Minnesota regiments who fought there Dec. 15-16, 1864.

The new Minnesota monument on Shy’s Hill, Nashville, Tenn., commemorates the sacrifice of four Minnesota regiments who fought there Dec. 15-16, 1864.

The effort to place the marker was led by Ken Flies, chairman of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force’s soldier recognition subcommittee, who approached Battle of Nashville Preservation Society with the idea. Flies also led the monument’s design effort and included a poem written by Private John Milton Benthall, 10th Minnesota Infantry Company C, who after the war, reflected on the memories of his comrades who fell in battle where the monument is located.

“This spot is sacred. We have worked so hard to save it. We have worked so hard to keep it clean and open to the public. Our fight never ends,” said James D. Kay Jr., representing the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society. “When we heard that Minnesota wanted to put a monument here, we said ‘yes’ to sanctify the importance of this site. The fact that this lot is worth $300,000 to $400,000 now, matters not. It’s protected for Americans forever.”

“We think there were 98 Minnesotans who died that day, almost one-third of all the Union soldiers killed on that day,” said Flies.

During the 45-minute ceremony, Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force board members Darryl Sannes and Thomas Heffelfinger read the names of Minnesotans who died during the battle.

After breaking Federal Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s siege of Atlanta, Georgia that lasted through the summer of 1864, Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood led his Army of Tennessee through Northern Alabama in October and November in an attempt to capture Nashville, the state capital, an important Federal supply depot which was captured earlier in the war.

Though Hood was hoping that Sherman would follow, the Federal commander instructed Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas to take care of Hood’s army while Sherman launched his infamous “March to the Sea.” Hood fought Federal Maj. Gen. John Schofield’s troops at Spring Hill and Columbia, Tenn., before engaging in a costly battle at Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864, while Thomas fortified at Nashville.

MN150Logo_OL_FNLWhen the 16th Army Corps was dissolved on Nov. 7, 1864, the 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th Minnesota infantry regiments departed St. Louis, Mo. on Nov. 24, and arrived in Nashville on Nov 30. They were assigned to the 1st Division (Detachment), Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Brig. Gen. John McArthur.

On the evening of their arrival, the Minnesota soldiers could see the wagon trains arrive from Franklin, the location of a major engagement 20 miles away.

The weather was cold and rainy with occasional snow and ice during the first two weeks in December as soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies built their earthworks south of the city.

After two weeks delay for fortifying Nashville in the cold weather, much to the consternation of officials in Washington, Thomas launched his two-pronged attack against Hood’s forces on the foggy morning of Dec. 15. The Minnesotans hit the Confederates at Redoubt Nos. 3 and 4 and fought along Granny White Pike, before Hood reformed his now shortened lines on a ridge between Compton’s Hill and Overton’s Hill as nightfall approached.

The next morning, McArthur moved his division forward to within charging distance of the enemy on Compton’s Hill, where they constructed rifle pits for protection against the enemy’s fire from the hilltop.

Approximately 40 Minnesotans who attended the Nov. 16 ceremony take a group photo on the summit of Shy's Hill.

Approximately 40 Minnesotans who attended the Nov. 16 ceremony take a group photo on the summit of Shy’s Hill.

Fearing that a day-long delay would allow for a Confederate attack down the hill, McArthur, acting on his own, ordered his division to charge Compton’s Hill. The first line of troops from the First Brigade comprised of the 114th Illinois, 93rd Indiana and 10th Minnesota regiments, followed by a second line made up of the 72nd and 95th Ohio regiments. The 10th Minnesota was on the left flank of the severe incline of the north slope of Compton’s Hill and received a penetrating flanking fire resulting in several casualties. When the First Brigade reached the summit, the 10th Minnesota breached Confederate Brig. Gen. Jesse J. Finley’s Florida brigade, which hastened the Confederate retreat.

As the brigade was halfway up the hill, McArthur sent in the Second Brigade, commanded by Col. Lucius F. Hubbard, with Hubbard’s 9th Minnesota regiment on the right and the 5th Minnesota on the left of the line. Hubbard had two horses shot out from under him in the attack and the 5th Minnesota lost four color bearers in the charge.

The Third Brigade was led by the 7th Minnesota’s commander, Col. William R. Marshall, and immediately faced a four-gun artillery barrage with infantry support, making their advance difficult.

Seeing the success along the line from Compton’s Hill, other Federal troops charged up Overton’s Hill and took it. The fall of the Confederate left flank at Shy’s Hill marked the end of the Battle of Nashville. The hill was later renamed “Shy’s Hill” in memory of 26-year-old Lt. Col. William L. Shy, 20th Tennessee Infantry commander, who grew up in Williamson County, Tenn. He was killed by a close range shot to his head sometime during the charge.

Minnesota State Representative and co-chairman of the Minnesota Civil War Task Force, Dean Urdahl, next to the new Minnesota monument on Shy's Hill, Nashville, Tenn.

Minnesota State Representative and co-chairman of the Minnesota Civil War Task Force, Dean Urdahl, next to the new Minnesota monument on Shy’s Hill, Nashville, Tenn.

“Names of famous generals like George Thomas and John Bell Hood are forever linked with what happened here in December 1864. We know that the 10th, 9th, 5th and 7th Minnesota regiments made a dramatic charge up Shy’s Hill,” said Urdahl. “They are all gone, but they live on in the hearts and minds of those who remember. As long as we treasure courage, glory and selflessness, those who struggled here, Blue and Gray, will always be with us. Always.”

Kay summed up the ceremony by noting, “Fifty years from now, not one of us will be alive. There will be another group here hopefully, on this spot. This hill will be here and it will be protected. You can always come here every year on December 16th at sundown, get a tour and nothing has changed. It is quiet. It is peaceful. It is amazing.”

On December 14, 2014, the Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force and Twin Cities Public Television released a short film highlighting Minnesota’s role at Nashville including film clips from the dedication ceremony. You can view that here.

Antietam Creek Entertainment released a series of 10 videos that extensively covered the Task Force’s activity in Nashville. You can access them from this page.

 

MINNESOTA SOLDIERS KILLED AT NASHVILLE

DECEMBER 15, 1864

REDOUBT #3
Pvt Fred Fessenden

REDOUBT #4
Pvt James Dunn
Capt. Henry Stasson
Pvt Daniel Eddy
Pvt Eli Berttand
Pvt Samuel Prentiss
Pvt George Abbott

DECEMBER 16, 1864

5th MINNESOTA VOLUNTEERS
CORNFIELD WEST OF GRANNY WHITE PIKE

Pvt William Everett
Cpl John Irish
Sgt Pulaski Miller
Pvt John Coly
Pvt J.W Douglas
Pvt Peter Eichelberger
Pvt Willard Woodward
Pvt Hanley Bartley
Pvt John Battles
Cpl Horace M. Beach
Pvt Wilmot H. Pennock
Pvt Lars Torkelson
Sgt William Young
Pvt Nicolas Angelsberg
1st Lt Henry G. Bailly
Pvt Nelson Roberge
Cpl Christian Wolf
Pvt Killian Barberich
Pvt Parick Burns
Pvt Adeline Lefebvre
Pvt Thomas Cramp
Pvt Daniel P. Glen
Pvt Jacob Jangles
Pvt Michael Lehay
Pvt Jeremiah Ryan
Pvt Andrew Stramberg
Pvt Fredrick Penrod
Pvt Ole Peterson
Pvt Lysias Raymond
Pvt Christopher Richter
Sgt Henry Bass (Base)
Pvt Frank Schlechter
Pvt Christian Schultz
Pvt Nicolas Schutz

7th MINNESOTA VOLUNTEERS
SOUTH OF BRADFORD HOUSE -EAST OF GRANNY WHITE PIKE

Cpl Napolean Chamberlain
Pvt Martin P. Oliver
Pvt George W. Simons
Pvt Benjamin F. Shaffner
Pvt Milton Burons
Pvt Peter Hanson
Pvt Sebastian Baulig
Pvt Jacob Hamlin
Pvt Joseph E. Fadden
Pvt David Coolidge
Cpl Archibald Savidge

9th MINNESOTA VOLUNTEERS
NORTH SLOPE OF SHY’S HILL

Pvt Alexander Rice
Cpl F.M. Harrington
Pvt Michael Klock
Pvt Adail Wilcox
Pvt John Bergink
Pvt John F. Burke
Capt Asgrim K. Skaro
Pvt James F. Cleary
2nd Lt John R. Roberts
Pvt John Huston
Pvt William Wallace
Pvt George C. Gay
Pvt John Brown
Pvt Stephan Demers
Pvt William T. Henry
Pvt Thomas Kennedy
Pvt Dennis O’Laughlin
Cpl Joseph R. Webster

10th MINNESOTA VOLUNTEERS 
NORTHWEST ANGLE SHY’S HILL

Cpl John G. Merical
Cpl Austin Carroll
Sgt Charles G. Dawley
Pvt Almon Doeg
Pvt Eusebius Mullins
Cpl John W. Murphy
Pvt Christ Nelson
Pvt Nathan/Nahum Putnam
Pvt Frank Griffin
Pvt George L. Lumsden
Pvt Ole Nelson
Pvt George Reeves
Pvt Jame Ryan
Pvt Stengrew Benson
Pvt Fredrick Chamberlain
Pvt Jesse Ferguson
Pvt Charles K. Flemming
Pvt Theodore Hacker
Pvt Hans Oleson
Pvt John Copperts
Cpl Henry Vasterling/Vasterlung
Pvt John G. Duff
Cpl Daniel Bracken(Brucken)
Pvt Michael McMonnamon(McMannon)
Major Michael Cook
Capt George T. White

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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