By Tim Bauer
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the Franklin Township Boys of ’65 returning home from service in the Union Army during the Civil War. It is only right and fitting that we remember their service and sacrifice on this occasion.
Minnesota had been a state for less than three years when, on April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired on by the fledgling Confederate Army. The population of Minnesota was estimated to be only 250,000, or one family in about four square miles. Of these, many were European immigrants and, of these, only a handful had applied for or been granted citizenship.
Minnesota could boast of having been the first to send troops to defend the government and suppress the rebellion. Amongst the first troops to volunteer in 1861 were the Rockford Drummers and the Rockford Home Guard. In fact, by the end of summer 1863, Minnesota troops had fought bravely and with distinction at First Manassas July 1861, Antietam September 1862, and had been decimated charging into Plum Rum at Gettysburg July 2, 1863.
When it became apparent the war would be long and difficult, Lincoln signed the Enrollment Act March 3, 1863, mandating conscription for able men between the ages of 20 and 45. During the entire war Minnesota provided more than 26,000 soldiers to the Union cause.
Those few years before 1863 were a turbulent time in Minnesota. Wright County was still recovering from what was to be known as “The Wright County War,” which centered on the murder of Henry A. Wallace by Oscar F. Jackson. Farmers had suffered locust infestations in 1857, and again in 1858, which was followed by a national economic depression. Ginseng became the crop that allowed the settlers to survive. In addition, much of Minnesota had been decimated and depopulated as a result of the Dakota Uprising in 1862. During the Indian attacks, Franklin Township residents fled to places like Rockford, Greenfield, and Minneapolis seeking safety. State militia like the “Volunteer Scouts,” along with former Confederates known as “Galvanized Yankees” and other federal troops from Fort Snelling were actively fighting renegade Indians well into 1863, when several members of the Dustin family were attacked by hostile Indians and killed July 29, just two and a half miles from Howard Lake.
In the fall of 1864, as a final attempt to rid the state of hostile Indians, and just as the Franklin Township boys were receiving their draft notices, the federal government was recruiting Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Light Cavalry at Fort Snelling. This battalion of Minnesota boys was issued orders to capture or kill any renegade Indians who had fled north. One man from Franklin Township fought with Hatch. His name was Private Andrew Cruickshanks of Company “A.” After the war, Cruickshanks returned to Delano to farm and raise a family of 12 children. He and his family then moved to Billingham, WA in 1900.
In effect, the scope of the Dakota Uprising can be considered as Minnesota’s second civil war. It was an unnecessary conflict initiated by the federal government’s disregard for treaties and harsh treatment of the Indian Nations. The Dakota War was fought in Minnesota primarily by Minnesota men. By the end of 1864, more than 850 white settlers in Minnesota had been killed by the Indians. This was more than all the Minnesota men killed in combat during the Civil War. The last battle between the government and the Indians in Minnesota took place at Sugar Point on Leech Lake Oct. 5, 1898, 33 years after the end of the Civil War, and was a victory for the Indians.
It is difficult at any time for men to leave their homes and families to serve military duty, but especially so for the men from Franklin Township during the Civil War. The responsibility and patriotism these men felt for their country in its time of need must have weighed heavily against their fears of leaving families alone in such a hostile and economically unstable environment.
July 1864 found the second draft call for troops being initiated. It was to this second call that the Franklin Township men responded. Each state had been divided into districts, a recruitment board established, and a census taken to ascertain eligible men. Those who had volunteered during this time were then subtracted from the district quota and the remaining men were drafted to complete the required numbers. It would take 1,700 Minnesota men to fill the 1864 quota. Any man could avoid the stigma of being drafted by volunteering prior to being mustered into service. This was what the Franklin Township men did. To encourage men to volunteer in 1864, Franklin Township had voted to approve a bond to pay an enlistment bonus of $300 to each volunteer. This money, however, was lost to legal wrangling and was not known to have been paid to any recruits. Wright County had a similar bounty of $25 that new recruits did receive.
The unit being assembled in the summer and fall of 1864 would be the First Regiment of the Minnesota Heavy Artillery and would be commanded by Col. William Colville of Red Wing, who was home recuperating from injuries sustained at Gettysburg. Col. Colville had been the commanding officer of the venerable First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry and led the charge at Gettysburg from Cemetery Ridge into Plum Run that saved the Union lines from being broken, ensuring victory for the North.
There were nine Franklin Township men who responded to the call to duty in 1864, and they all served together in Company “A” of the First Minnesota Heavy Artillery. They were: Malcom Anderson, 45, enlisted Sept. 19, 1864 and discharged while absent from the company sick in the hospital; Thomas Burnick, 26; Jacob Hauser, 36; Louis Kunkle, 28; and John Plattner, 28, all enlisted Sept. 19, 1864, and were all discharged June 20, 1865; John Peterson, 34, enlisted Sept. 28, transferred to Company “K” in July 1865, and discharged Sept. 27, 1865; Theodore Stranch, 33, enlisted Sept. 17, 1864, and discharged June 26, 1865; Louis Matter, 38, enlisted Sept. 20, 1864, and discharged at Louisville June 11, 1865; and finally my great-great-grandfather, Joseph Matter, 36, who enlisted with his brother, Lewis, and who was the last of the group to be discharged Oct. 9, 1865. All nine served honorably, but none of the nine attained a rank higher than private.
As fast as each company could be assembled it was sent directly to Chattanooga, TN for garrison duty under the command of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher. Chattanooga, with its two vital railroad junctions, had been captured less than a month earlier on Sept. 9, 1864, by the Union Army. By sending the Franklin Township men there, the Union was attempting to assure Chattanooga would stay in their possession.
While in Chattanooga, under the brow of Missionary Ridge, at the base of Lookout Mountain, with the battlefields of Chickamauga and Atlanta beyond, these brave men held the line, assuring that Confederate Gen. Hood could not join Gen. Lee’s army in advancing northward.
These men were green western recruits. Each one of them intelligent, stalwart, strong, healthy and accustomed to heavy labor, who in an instant of time had found themselves thrust together, under veteran officers, but who were otherwise new to every aspect of military duty. Not one of them had any prior military service. When they entered service at Fort Snelling, they were given no basic military training. They were not to receive their new Springfield muskets or full complement of uniforms until they were in Tennessee. All aspects of military life had to be learned through hours of drill and training after they mustered in at Chattanooga.
To make matters worse, they were placed on half rations of hardtack and coffee for the first few weeks of their stay in Tennessee. Seven of the nine stayed together at Chattanooga, while Lewis and Joseph were detached to Nashville, where they served their tour of duty.
The 10th man to enroll from Franklin Township in 1864 was my other great-great-grandfather, Franz Joseph Baumann, who had received his draft notice and volunteered for duty but was subsequently sent home with a medical deferment. His disability, embarrassingly enough, was severe hemorrhoids. Franz Joseph was later to become a Minnesota hero when, in June 1872, he opened his new home for use as a hospital during a smallpox epidemic that swept the Franklin Township and Delano area. He was the only nurse for those with the dreaded disease and was the only casuality, dying on June 7 of that year. His home still exists, having been moved to the Lawrence Bauman farm, and is now used as a workshop.
This year, 150 years after what would be their return home as veterans, let us remember the “Franklin Township Nine” who willingly filled the ranks of Company “A” of the First Minnesota Heavy Artillery.
As a kid, I grew up spending every summer on grandpa Herb Bauman’s farm and often heard many of these family names and they remain familiar even today. We owe them a debt of gratitude and we can fulfill our debt by remembering their sacrifice and service now 150 years later.
All gave some and some gave all. Regardless, we all today owe these men a debt of gratitude. Let us not forget. Thanks, guys, for your service.
Tim Bauer is a retired physician assistant and recreational historian. Bauer, of Hudson, WI, is an active member of the Minnesota Historical Society and the Saint Croix Valley Civil War Roundtable, as well as other civic and veteran organizations.