Col. 1st Regt. Minn. Vols.
Born April 5, 1830.
Died June 12, 1905.
In Memory Of
Colonel William Colvill and the 1st Reg. Minn. Vols. which he commanded at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2nd, 1863.
This was the first regiment tendered to President Lincoln at the outbreak of the Civil War; and it served three years in the Army of the Potomac, during which time it engaged in the following battles and operations:
Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, Siege of Yorkton, Construction of "Grapevine" Bridge across the Chickahominy River (over which McClellan moved reinforcements to support his left wing at Fair Oakes), Fair Oakes, Peach Orchard, Savage's Station White Oak Swamp, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Flint Hill, Vienna, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Haymarket, Gettysburg, Bristow Station and Mine Run.
The loss of the Regiment on July 2nd, 1863, in its charge against the Confederate Brigades of General Barksdale and General Wilcox, was 82 per cent of the men engaged.
General Hancock says, - "I ordered these men to charge because I saw that I must gain five minutes time. Reinforcements were coming on the run, but I knew that before they could reach the threatened point the Confederates, unless checked, would seize the position. The charge was necessary. I was glad to find such a gallant body of men at hand willing to make the terrible sacrifice."
Again, on July 3rd, 1863, the regiment sustained a further loss of 15 per cent of the men engaged in resisting General Pickett's charge of 15,000 men against the left center of the Union line.
The regiment was successively commanded by Colonel Willis A. Gorman, Colonel Napoleon J. T. Dana, Colonel Alfred Sully, Colonel George N. Morgan, and Colonel Colvill, of whom the first three, through the valor of the regiment, were made brigadier generals during the service, and the last two were breveted brigadier generals at the close of the war.
Colonel William Colvill
Colonel William Colvill was born in Forestville, New York, April 5, 1830. He emigrated to Red Wing, Minnesota in 1854 where he opened a law office. In 1855, he established the first local newspaper, the "Sentinel," which he edited until the outbreak of the Civil War.
In 1861, he raised the Goodhue County Volunteers and was mustered in as its captain in the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to colonel of the regiment in May, 1863. During the Civil War, Colonel Colvill was twice afflicted with wounds that would affect him the rest of his life. He was discharged with the regiment in 1864. He was mustered out of the service in May, 1865, with the brevet rank of brigadier general for gallant and meritorious service.
He resumed his law practice in Red Wing. Appointed editor of the "Republican," he held the position until his election to state attorney general, serving at that capacity from 1866-1868. In 1878, he entered the House of Representatives and served one term. In 1887, he was appointed registrar of the federal land office at Duluth. A student of astronomy, mineralogy and geology, Colonel Colvill was the author of A History of Glaciers in the Northwest.
In 1867, Colonel Colvill married Jane Morgan. Jane Morgan was born in Trenton Falls, New York on October 9, 1834. She was a direct descendant of Parson Brewster, the minister who served the little band of colonists who came to this country on the Mayflower. Highly regarded for her charity and her leadership in church work, Mrs. Colvill died in Duluth on November 13, 1894. She was laid to rest in the Cannon Falls Cemetery.
Colonel Colvill died on June 12, 1905. He was buried beside his wife in the Cannon Falls Community Cemetery near the graves of his aunt, two sisters and their families.
The statue of Colonel Colvill, designed by Mrs. George Backus, of St. Paul, is of bronze and mounted on a pedestal of Bedford stone. A duplicate is found at the state capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. This monument was unveiled at a ceremony in 1909. After completing ground work including the balustrade and steps to the memorial, a plaque commemorating the Colonel and the First Minnesota was unveiled at a dedication ceremony on July 29, 1928. President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge along with Minnesota Governor Christianson were in attendance. The memorial stairway and balustrade were designed by St. Paul architect, J. C. Neimeyer.
This statue is the only state monument dedicated to a Civil War veteran.
July 31, 1994