Civil War Research at the Minnesota Historical Society
Records of the fledgling Minnesota state government (Minnesota became a state in 1858) provide significant information about how the state recruited and supported troops for the Civil War; document the Dakota Uprising, a bloody war within a war; and portray the less dramatic events of a burgeoning frontier state.
Archives records are arranged by branch of government or state agency. They are described in the library catalog. More detailed information may be found in the archives inventory notebooks located in the Weyerhaeuser Reading Room.
Adjutant General Records
An act of Congress dated May 8, 1792, required each state to appoint an adjutant general to oversee and administer its militia. The new state of Minnesota created this office in 1858. The adjutant general was to be appointed by the governor to a seven-year term as inspector general of the state's militia.
The records of the Minnesota adjutant general document the creation of the state's Civil War units and provide information on the men who served in them.
The records series within this group that are most relevant to the Civil War are the following:
- Civil War allotment rolls:
Records of payments made from soldiers' pay to spouses, parents, creditors and other individuals. This series is incomplete and difficult to use.
- Final records of personnel:
Information on men in Minnesota units: age at enlistment, date mustered in, rank, promotions, wounds, death, etc. This data appeared in published form in the 1866 Annual Report of the Adjutant General.
- Muster rolls:
Original and later muster rolls of Minnesota regiments. Many are fragile, and most are incomplete.
- Pension records:
Ledger books showing who received pensions and to whom they were paid; veterans from other states who later settled in Minnesota are included. There is a separate set of indexes for this series.
- Reports and records of various regiments:
These include morning reports and hospital reports for Minnesota units. The First and Second Infantry Regiments are the best documented, although the records are incomplete. Some related records are cataloged in the Manuscripts collections.
- Correspondence, orders and official communications, monthly
returns of regiments:
Miscellaneous official communications between the adjutant general, Minnesota regiments, and the U.S. War Department. (Monthly returns are summaries of statistics.)
This records group documents the actions of the executive branch of state government and thus includes information on a wide range of activities affecting Minnesota's involvement in the war against the Confederacy, and the Dakota Conflict as well. Some of the relevant series include:
- Executive journals, 1858-1915:
Including copies of official acts, appointments, pardons, and messages to the legislature; communications to and from the national government; letters from the governor to officers commanding Minnesota regiments and reports from those units to the governor. Especially interesting are letters and telegrams to the War Department, the secretary of war, and the U.S. adjutant general about Minnesota's role in the war.
- Governor's records, 1858-65:
The majority of the official records of the governor's office, including letters received, appointments, accounts, and reports. The series is arranged by term and then by record type and subject.
There is a wealth of information here on the state's role in the war, on issues such as the appointment of officers to posts in Minnesota regiments, support for families of soldiers, procurement of equipment and supplies, the Dakota Conflict, Minnesotans in Confederate prison camps, reports of sick and wounded men from Minnesota regiments, and correspondence with federal military and civilian officials.
Financing railroads, encouraging immigration, and other nonmilitary topics also find their way into the Governor's Records.
To locate the inventory for this series, check the State Archives Notebooks under Governors to find the men who served as governor during the Civil War:
- Alexander Ramsey, 1860-63
- Henry A. Swift, 1863-64
- Stephen Miller, 1864-65