On July 4th 1976, a group of four Civil War enthusiasts from Red Wing MN borrowed Civil War uniforms from members of the Hiawatha Valley Civil War Round Table in Winona MN and announced the start of the bi-centennial fireworks display in Red Wing with a three round salute from a ½ scale Model 1861 Parrott Rifle one member of the group had constructed. This was the beginning of what is currently the 2nd Minnesota Battery Light Artillery Inc.
From 1976 through 1982, this group, identifying themselves as the 2nd Corps Light Artillery, made annual appearances on Memorial Day and in a few local parades. During parades, the ½ scale Parrott Rifle was placed on a flat bed trailer and the cannon was fired once on each block the length of the parade. Members purchased their own uniforms & accoutrements and invoices for any artillery equipment or supplies purchased were equally divided among the members.
In September of 1983, the group, now five men, travelled to Davenport IA and participated in its first Civil War reenactment. Participating with a number of other Civil War enthusiasts to recreate a battle was exhilarating and the group began searching for additional reenactments they could participate in. Annual trips to reenactments in Prairie Du Chien WI and Keokuk IA were added to the schedule. In 1984, the group obtained a second piece of artillery, when one of its members purchased a Model 1841 12 pdr Mountain Howitzer.
By 1985, the group had become a local attraction and the potential of a donation significant enough to purchase a full scale cannon surfaced, if the group could obtain a 501(c)(3) status. On August 8 1985, the group filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Minnesota and the Internal Revenue Service under the generic name 2nd Corps Light Artillery Detachment Inc. and became a tax exempt non-profit corporation. Although those funds failed to materialize, the organization now had an opportunity to secure charitable donations or honorariums for appearances.
Because the stated mission of the corporation was to educate, members expanded their historical research and studied all aspects of this nations’ history from 1861-1865, particularly the involvement of the volunteers from Minnesota who served in the Civil War, field artillery equipment and tactics. As a family based organization, membership expanded to twenty-five active members; men, women and children. Since the majority of the membership lived up and down the Mississippi River, members studied the history of the 2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery, who had recruited men from the same area in the 1860’s.
On March 26 1987, application for a name change was made with the State of Minnesota and the Internal Revenue Service and the name of the organization was officially changed to the 2nd Minnesota Battery Light Artillery Inc.
During the 125th anniversary years, members of the organization travelled to participate in recreating historical Civil War battles at Shiloh TN (1987), Gettysburg PA (1988), Olustee FL (1989), Vicksburg MS (1989) and Westport MO (1989). Because these events were limited to full scale artillery pieces, members of the battery served on guns belonging to other individuals and organizations. Strong relationships were established with artillerists from across the country, particularly TX, OH, KS, MO and IL. This experience helped establish a reputation for the 2nd Minnesota Battery Light Artillery as having well trained individuals, with the ability to serve any type of Civil War artillery piece.
In addition to the 125th anniversary events, members also travelled to recreate historical Civil War battles at Wilson’s Creek MO (1991), Perryville KY (1992), Shiloh TN (1997), Chickamauga GA (1999), Wilson’s Creek MO (2000) and Perryville KY (2002).
In April 1991, the 2nd Minnesota Battery Light Artillery Inc was contracted to provide its first presentation for an elementary school, Bluff View in Lake City MN. Since then, our schedule has included a minimum of four school systems each year and included appearances in Red Wing MN, Rochester MN, Prescott WI, Faribault MN, Winona MN, Ellsworth WI, Maplewood, MN, Oakdale MN, Edina MN, Savage MN, Rogers MN and Albertville MN.
On November 13 1993 members of the group travelled to Chicago IL and purchased a ¾ scale Model 1861 Parrott Rifle, limber with ammunition chest, accoutrements and trailer from an artillerist that was leaving the reenacting community. A non-interest loan from a member and matching funds from the charitable foundation originally solicited in 1985 made this possible. After seventeen years of existence, the organization finally owned its own field piece, albeit a ¾ scale, and continued its efforts to accumulate funds to purchase a full-scale piece.
In January of 2003 members became aware an artillerist in Salina KS, whose full scale guns we had served during National events, had a tube for sale. This tube was used in the filming of the movie “Glory”, and we began negotiation for its purchase. On February 27 2003, the organization exhausted all the funds it had accumulated to purchase this full scale Model 1861 10 pdr Parrott tube. While the group began discussing plans to raise funds to acquire a field carriage for the tube, one member secretly began writing a grant application to the charitable foundation that had provided funding ten years earlier. On April 11 2003 a generous donation was received that allowed the organization to purchase a No. 1 field carriage and complete set of implements from Paulson Brothers Ordnance in Clear Lake WI, in addition to a stadia sight, heavy duty trailer and winch. This full scale gun made its first appearance on the field at a Civil War reenactment in Danbury WI on June 5, 2003.
By February 27 2006, the organization had accumulated sufficient funds to purchase a full scale limber with ammunition chest from Paulson Brothers Ordnance and after thirty years of existence, the organization finally had ownership of its own full scale field piece with limber. Serving their own gun with limber, members participated in historically recreated Civil War battles at Perryville KY (2006) and Chickamauga GA (2008). In 2010, the battery schedule includes trip to Collierville TN to recreate the historical Civil War Battle of Ft Donelson TN.
Wearing historically accurate uniforms and equipment, members of the 2nd Minnesota Battery Light Artillery have feasted on hardtack and salt pork, cooked over an open fire, slept on the hard ground, responded to the call of the bugle, breathed the black powder smoke of battle and endured weather conditions that would keep “less enthusiastic folks” inside in our efforts to educate.
Since July 4th 1976, eight-two men and women have at one time been included on our active membership list. The current active membership list still includes two of the original members. Portraying men and women of the 1860’s, through December 2009, our organization has over four hundred appearances on its resume. In addition to Civil War events at the National level, those appearances have included Civil War days in school systems, lecturing to service organizations, historical societies and on Cable TV programs, annual Memorial Day observances, and participating in a variety of Civil War related community events, including encampments & reenactments in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.