Review by Dave Bradley
The liberators of the 9th Minnesota by John B Lundstrom.
I bought this book at Ft. Snelling Minnesota and am very glad I did. It covers the story of the 9th Minnesota Infantry. There are, of course, quite a few regimental histories but this one is a bit different. For a start, the State of Minnesota had a very small and spread-out population at the start of hostilities and initially contributed very little. However, when Lincoln called for more volunteers in July 1862 Minnesota pulled its collective socks up and started recruiting.
One of the new regiments was the 9th Minnesota Infantry. After initial training they spent about a year fighting the Dakota Indians who were taking advantage of the absence of troops to cause mayhem. Many of the soldiers were beginning to wonder if they were ever going to move south and actually fight in the war. However, those of a Peace Democrat persuasion were rather glad to be kept out of it. The author makes it clear there was quite a bit of violence at elections due to different political opinions relating to the war and its conduct and justification, or otherwise.
Finally, the 9th was moved to Otterville, Missouri and very soon they had a moral dilemma to deal with. Lincoln's emancipation proclamation, as everyone who reads this will know, only freed the slaves in the seceded states. All the troops in the loyal state of Missouri were ordered in no uncertain terms NOT to get involved in the slavery issue. Don't free them, don't help or hinder an escape and don't try to capture them.
However, a slave named John had run away with his family and boarded a train heading north. At Otterville he saw the soldiers in blue and begged them for help. Despite strict orders and the presence of officers, 38 men of the 9th felt they could not just stand and watch. They boarded the train and brandishing arms, allowed John and family to escape.
They were soon arrested and put on trial. Potentially they faced the death penalty. The case actually caught the attention of the US Senate. However, after a period of time, their senior officer decided to release them on his own responsibility pending further action. As so often in the ACW no further action ever took place.
In June 1863 the 9th finally saw serious action when they fought at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroad. The regiment fought well despite the end result. Many of the 9th were taken prisoner and were taken to Andersonville. The book deals at length on their time here and the foul conditions they had to suffer and at subsequent prisons such as Cahaba, Millen and Salisbury.
The author concludes by describing what happened to the survivors after the war. One of them lived into his nineties, married 5 times and was accused of murdering his terminally ill wife. He was acquitted.
This is a book I very much recommend reading.