Did you know that nearly 25 men with ties to Santa Clara County were engaged at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War?
What was the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Regiment? The 1st Minnesota was the first volunteer infantry regiment in the state of Minnesota for the Union Army. It is important to note that each regiment had different companies. In the case of the 1st Minnesota, the companies were lettered to indicate that those men serving within were recruited from the same geographical area.
William Rickart and Platt Smith Titus William Rickart of Company K (Winona Country) of the 1st Minnesota and Platt Smith Titus of Company D (Minneapolis) of the 1st Minnesota were part of one of the most famous acts in the largest battle fought during the Civil War (1861-1865).
Platt Smith Titus was a 24-year-old farmer when he volunteered for the Union Army in May 1861. He lived in Monticello, Minnesota on the Mississippi River northwest of Minneapolis. Titus was a part of Company D, known as the “Lincoln Guards”. The regiment fought in every major battle in the east in 1862 and 1863, including Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Platt managed to survive unscathed through all of these fights. However, it was the regiment’s actions on July 2 of 1863 at Gettysburg that sealed the fame of the regiment. Unfortunately, not much is known about William Rickart.
Both men were in the army for two years before the Battle of Gettysburg and had already been engaged in several other battles.
A Gap In The Line As part of the 1st Brigade of the 2nd Division of the II Corps, the regiment was in line behind Cemetery Hill when Confederate troops under General James Longstreet attacked around 4 pm. This attack nearly destroyed the entire Union III Corps, which began a retreat creating a gap in the line.
General Winfield Scott Hancock, commander of the II Corps, personally directed the 1st Minnesota to plug this gap. The 1st was down to eight companies (military units) with Titus’s Company D on the right and Rickart’s Company K in the middle of the line. They were the only organized Union troops available and a Confederate regiment was advancing toward the gap quickly.
General Hancock pulled up in front of the regiment, probably about 10 yards from Rickart, and asked Colonel William Covill of Red Cloud, Minnesota, “Do you see those colors?”
Covill responded. “Yes, Sir.”
Hancock replied, “Then take them!”
The 1st Minnesota Battles A Confederate Regiment
The 1st Minnesota charged, and stopped the Confederate regiment cold for ten minutes. What became apparent was that the Confederate “regiment” was actually an entire brigade, which outnumbered the 1st Minnesota nearly four to one. Of the 262 Minnesotans who made the charge, 215 were killed and wounded in those ten minutes.
Titus was wounded during the action, but Rickart was unscathed. They bought Hancock time to pull up further reserves, which stabilized the position and saved the situation for the Union army. Hancock later wrote in his memoirs that “the superb gallantry of those men saved our line…no soldiers on any field, in this or any other country, ever displayed grander heroism.”
After The War Both moved to Santa Clara County in the 1880s possibly under the promise of more farming land. Rickart and Titus lived the rest of their lives in the county and are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose, CA.