Minnesota and the nation mark 150 years since the end of the Civil War


Bells across Minnesota and the nation tolled at 2:15 p.m. Thursday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

That's about the time the meeting between Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee concluded 150 years ago, effectively ending the war that a divided a nation – and took the lives of hundreds of Minnesotans.

Minnesota and the Civil War

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Minnesota was the newest state in the union – and the first to volunteer troops to defend it, the Minnesota Historical Society says.

About 24,000 of Minnesota's 180,000 people (essentially half the eligible population) found themselves on the front lines of the war, the historical society notes. An estimated 626 of those Minnesotans died on the battlefields, while another 1,800 died from disease, reports say.

Many of those soldiers played pivotal roles in key battles that led to the surrender of the Confederate Army on April 9, 1865, and throughout the past year they have been marked by special ceremonies to commemorate the Civil War's sesquicentennial and remember the Minnesotans who gave their lives.

The historical society also marked the 150th anniversary by tweeting the words of Minnesotans who were there.

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Bells Across the Land

Thousands watched as historians recreated the battle at Appomattox Courthouse at the Appomattox National Park in Virginia, in which Gen. Lee gave one last fleeting attempt to pass through Union troops and reach his supplies, before giving up and agreeing to meet with Gen. Grant at the nearby McClean House.

Following the recreation of the meeting, Minnesota and communities across the nation participated in Bells Across the Land.

The National Parks Service encouraged churches, temples, schools, public buildings and historic shrines to ring their bells for four minutes – one for each year of the war – to mark the historic meeting between the two sides.

Following Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, the war slowly came to a close (although some Confederate troops continued to fight for the next few months) after taking the lives of at least 620,000 American soldiers, the Los Angeles Tribune notes.

Five days later, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

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Click here for a timeline of events from the final year of the war.

Events around Minnesota this week

On Thursday, and throughout the next week, there are numerous events scheduled to mark the anniversary of the Civil War throughout the state. Find a list of events here.

Several local publications have highlighted the stories of Minnesotans during the Civil War. The Star Tribune looked at the four Minnesota soldiers "to remember" from the war.

For the last four years, the Rochester Post Bulletin published dozens of stories as part of its "Fight for the Union" feature to highlight Minnesota's influence on the war ahead of the 150th anniversary.

The Brainerd Dispatch featured brothers from northern Minnesota who fought in the war, while the Mankato Free Press detailed how Minnesotans fought until the bitter end to defend the union.

The state historical society also highlights how Minnesota flourished in the years following the Civil War.

This June, Minnesota Military Family Tribute will dedicate a monument to all military families, past and present. Waseca County News takes a closer look at a Waseca Civil War soldier whose quote will be part of the monument.

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