Get a lesson on the Civil War from 150 years agoBeginning at 7 p.m., Paul von Goertz will tell the story of a typical infantryman in the 1st Minnesota Volunteers with a slide show of the regiment’s heroism at Gettysburg.
The Knife River Rec Council is taking people back 150 years to the Civil War Wednesday as re-enactor Paul von Goertz (pictured) makes a presentation at the rec building.
Beginning at 7 p.m., von Goertz will tell the story of a typical infantryman in the 1st Minnesota Volunteers with a slide show of the regiment’s heroism at Gettysburg.
The program is free with refreshments but organizers are asking for a donation of a nonperishable food item for the Lake County Food Shelf.
“Their actions on the second and third days of the battle in 1863 may have saved the day, and the war, for the Union,” von Goertz said.
He will be wearing an authentic Civil War infantry uniform and have weapons used at the time. He is known by many students in the area from presentations made at schools.
After years of acrimony, the Confederate States of America was formed in February of 1861 with Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer, as president. In March, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. The Confederate army initiated war with the Union April 12 with the firing of 50 cannons at Fort Sumter, S.C. The confederates took over the fort and flew their flag over it in victory. Four more states soon seceded from the Union to join the confederacy.
The battle at Gettysburg took place two years later, in July 1863, and is considered a turning point in the war as the rebels were defeated.
The Civil War ended with a surrender by the South April 9, 1965. Lincoln was shot and killed five days later.
About this photo
We asked von Goertz about the photo he sent with information about the event.
“The photo was taken last April at Fort Snelling, where our regiment trains, by a photographer wearing period clothing and using period camera equipment. It took about 20 minutes to set up, take the photo and process it. I had a lot of questions ... and he was happy to answer them.
“It was really quite an involved process as there is a delicate balance between chemicals used to take and process the photo, and exposure time.
“... The first try I moved my head just slightly during the exposure period and so my head blurred. In this pic I actually have a metal collar around the back of my head and under my ears that is mounted on a pole behind me, all to keep my head from moving. If you ever wondered why people in these old photos are not smiling, it is because they could not hold a smile for the exposure period. Plus, it was believed at this time in history that only prostitutes and others of doubtful character smiled in photos.
“Photos were popular among soldiers both North and South because it embraced the most modern technology at the time and also because there was a danger of being killed in battle and the soldiers wanted loved ones to have something to remember them by.
“I am wearing the uniform of a Federal (Union) infantryman. It is rumpled because the uniforms were all wool and not very flattering, and because I had slept in it the night before in the fort barracks. It was April – cold sleeping. The musket rifle is a replica, but a functional 1861 Springfield, .58 caliber black powder muzzle loader. Our clothing and all leathers are historically very accurate, right down to the number of stitches per inch.
von Goertz signed off:
“Pvt. Paul von Goertz, 2nd Platoon, Company A, First Minnesota Volunteers 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.”