Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers

Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers

4.7 7
by Richard Moe
     
 

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Since its publication, Richard Moe's The Last Full Measure has garnered a reputation as the definitive history of the First Minnesota Regiment and one of a handful of classic regimental histories of the Civil War. The First Minnesota Volunteers, the first regiment offered to President Lincoln after the fall of Fort Sumter, served in virtually every major battle fought

Overview

Since its publication, Richard Moe's The Last Full Measure has garnered a reputation as the definitive history of the First Minnesota Regiment and one of a handful of classic regimental histories of the Civil War. The First Minnesota Volunteers, the first regiment offered to President Lincoln after the fall of Fort Sumter, served in virtually every major battle fought in the eastern theater during the first three years of the Civil War. This is the story of the Army of the Potomac during that period: the initial enthusiasm dashed by sudden defeat at Bull Run; the pride at being shaped into an army by George McClellan and the frustration with his--and his successors'--inability to defeat Robert E. Lee; and, finally, the costly battle of Gettysburg, the decisive battle in which the First Minnesota played a crucial, and tragic, role. Drawing on a wide array of letters, diaries, and personal reminiscences, Moe tells the story anew through the experiences of the men who lived it. As James MacGregor Burns notes in his foreword, "Like Tolstoy's War and Peace, this work sticks close to the men in battle, and hence, like Tolstoy, the author keeps close to the human size of war."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, expertly chronicles a company of Union soldiers who led the charge on Gettysburg. ( June )
Library Journal
The First Minnesota Volunteers were among the earliest groups to volunteer for service during the Civil War. The unit was usually on the front line for every major battle and paid the extreme sacrifice, especially at the Battle of Gettysburg. This is a skillful portrait of the trials and tribulations of those volunteers during the first three years of the war. Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, uses the letters, diaries, and personal narratives of the unit's soldiers to create an excellent eyewitness account of battles from Bull Run to Gettysburg with the Army of the Potomac. The author creates a graphic picture of the horrors and sufferings that were endured during battle as well as life in the camps between battles. This account will rank among the best regimental histories of the Civil War. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/93.-- W. Walter Wicker, Louisiana Tech Univ., Ruston
Roland Green
Moe's excellent Civil War regimental history tells the story of the First Minnesota. Raised in 1861, it was, like the state's population, composed largely of frontiersmen, farmers, and small-town residents. It served with distinction until the battle of Gettysburg, when it achieved immortality by losing four-fifths of its men in a single, desperate counterattack. Too reduced in strength to serve in the field thereafter, it was disbanded during the winter of 1863-64. Thoroughly researched and excellently incorporating the soldier's-eye view of the war, Moe's is the best volume for introducing readers to this level of Civil War historiography to appear in some time. As such it is highly recommended for all Civil War collections.
Kirkus Reviews
One of the few first-rate small-unit histories of the Civil War, expertly conceived and gracefully written by the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The rule in modern Civil War studies seems to be that the more "micro" the focus, the duller the book. Moe's tale of one of the first volunteer regiments to enlist after the fall of Fort Sumter is a happy exception, a worthy companion to John Pullen's The Twentieth Maine (1980) and Warren Wilkinson's Mother, May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen (1991). Fresh from the farms, small settlements, and logging camps of a western frontier unknown to most of the Army of the Potomac, most of the Minnesotans who responded to the federal government's initial attempt to augment its small regular army had never seen a big city or a black American: The war proved a profound learning experience—and not merely in the school of combat. At first, the Minnesotans were afraid that they would have to sit out the war on Indian patrol, but then—even before they received regular uniforms—they were brought east to add to the Union corpses at First Bull Run. During that disastrous reversal, they stood as long as any federal troops, and their toughness was exhibited again and again on the Peninsula and at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and, finally, Gettysburg (where one of the two brothers Moe follows through the book was killed). In addition to battle history, we learn how enlisted men felt about long months on picket duty; what they ate (when they did eat); and how they related to the civilian population. Moe makes judicious use of the period's ubiquitous diaries and letters, as well as fascinating columns sent home tolocal newspapers by soldier- correspondents writing under pen names like "Raisins" and "Shingles." A seamless narrative of Civil War sights, sounds, and emotions that deserves the warmest reception. (Photographs—not seen)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780873517393
Publisher:
Minnesota Historical Society Press
Publication date:
04/01/2001
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
666,738
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Richard Moe, born in Duluth, Minnesota, is president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He is co-author of Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl and contributed the foreword to Minnesota in the Civil War: An Illustrated History.

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Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone who easily tires of dry textbooks, I have been engaged in and pleased by this work on the First Minnesota. I highly recommend "The Last Full Measure" for anyone desiring to delve deeper into this gallant regiment's history.
molson22 More than 1 year ago
The use of diaries an letters home seamlessly entwined with traditional historical accounts bring the story of the First Minnesota to live in vivid detail.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story of the Minnesota Volunteers is factual but reads like a text book, just providing facts. I wish more of the individual soldiers feelings
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Richard Moe's detailed biography of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers is an absolute masterpiece of writing. His book provides a thorough yet lively account of the history of the first regiment formed to preserve the Union from the state of Minnesota.

The writing is clear and to the point, and he does not cloud the story with too many details not directly related to the 1st Minnesota.

For instance, he describes the battle of Fredericksburg in very general overview terms as regards the objective of the campaign and the rationale for its planning. He does not, however, stray too far from the main point being the 1st Minnesota's involvement at Fredericksburg, and that type of focus is not easy to find in combat unit histories.

My only question regarding the content is in the chapter describing the route of march for the 1st Minn. prior to the Battle of Sharpsburg (later to be called 'Bloody Antietam'). On pg. 178 he states, '...The regiment crossed over South Mountain, passed through Boonesborough, and bivoucked that night near Shephardstown'. In a subsequent passage a Minnesota trooper stated that the following morning, 'we marched through Keedysville, and halted on high ground overlooking the Antietam'.

How could the 1st Minnesota camp near Shephardstown, which would have put them between Lee's army and the Potomac, southwest of Sharpsburg, before the battle opened? Keedysville is northeast of Sharpsburg between Antietam Creek and Boonesborough. To camp at Shephardstown would have put them astride Lee's line of withdrawal (a dangerous position for one regiment to be in to oppose the entire Army of Northern Virginia), and would make for a long march to return to Keedysville to participate in the battle the next day.

Beyond this confusion, I found the book very, very enlightening and a pure joy to devour.