The Men

• • •

Lewis McKune

Born in Pennsylvania on July 22, 1821, Lewis McKune was raised on a farm.  Married to Laure Ett in June of 1844, they farmed in Pennsylvania until 1846 when Lewis, age 25, and his wife started west, settled in Illinois where their first child, Caroline, was born in 1848.

Lewis McKune

This picture was taken in 1858, when Lewis McKune was a member of the first state legilature. (Minnesota Historical Society)

At the beginning of the California gold rush, the family headed further west to seek their fortune.  He was reasonably successful and returned to Illinois in 1855 with some money and more children, sons Frank and Fred.

In 1856 he uprooted them again and, travelling by prairie schooner, moved to the Minnesota Territory where he settled in Blooming Grove.  He farmed, bred horses, and in 1857 opened a store in Morristown.  A final child, Julia, was born in 1859.

An ardent Republican, Lewis participated in the local political campaign of 1856, was a member of the Minnesota Constitutional Convention of 1857, and served as a state senator from 1857-8. He was described by his friend James Childs “as a born hero, ready to stand by and fight for what he believed was right, regardless of personal ease, safety or financial sacrifice.”

During a conference committee meeting in the Constitutional Convention, tempers grew short and Judge Thomas Wilson, a Republican from Winona, was assaulted by Willis Gorman, a Democratic from St Paul, later to be a well-respected Colonel is the 1st Minnesota and after that a Brigadier General. Gorman was a large and powerful man.  Wilson was much smaller and in poor health. This mismatch so incensed McKune that he gave Gorman a severe tongue lashing and told Gorman that if he wished to whip some Republican, he was ready. At 6′ 5 1’2″ McKune was an imposing figure and Gorman chose not to accept the challenge.  It is not known how this dispute affected them when they were both officers in the 1st Minnesota.

An ardent patriot, McKune talked, in a conversation with his friend James Childs on the evening of March 9, 1861, about the inevitability of war and that he would be involved.  He felt, too, that he would die in the struggle.  He had already made arrangements for his family with this in mind.

With the outbreak of the war, the 39 year old McKune volunteered as a private in the Faribault Company.  He was elected First Lieutenant and later was appointed Captain of Company G.

One July 21, 1861, the day before his 40th birthday, with the very first volley from the Confederates at the Battle of Bull Run during the very first combat seen by the 1st Minnesota, Lewis McKune was shot through the heart as he lead his company.

McKune was carried from the field to the rear by Pvt William T Mollison and another member of the company where he died soon thereafter.

According to Ed Stevens of Company B, Lewis’ last words were “Rally men! Rally!” as the bullets flew fast around him.  And Ed Basset of Company G wrote, “He stood by us giving us commands and had his arms raised up encouraging the boys on. We lament his loss greatly. We loved him and he was no coward.”

After the battle his sword, belt and pistol were retrieved and sent back to his family. It is not known where he was buried.

Two years later, his widow Laure Ett McKune died on March 6, 1863, leaving three orphans.  Patrick Healey was appointed to be their guardian and a pension application for minor children was filed on their behalf. As a result, they received $20 a month.


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Latest News

25th Anniversary of Ken Burns’ ‘The Civil War’

Aug 8, 2015

To mark the 25th Anniversary of Ken Burns’ magnificent film The Civil War, PBS is rebroadcasting it over five nights.More »

Project update

May 10, 2015

Following the completion of the research and story development phase of the project, we have been quietly working behind the scenes to complete the fund raising needed to finish production of the film.More »

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June 29, 2013

This Sunday, No More Gallant a Deed will be featured as part of a Minnesota National Guard ceremony preceding the Twins game at Target Field.More »

Trading ideas with other Civil War stakeholders

October 30th, 2012

On the evening of Thursday, October 11th, a gathering of Civil War stakeholders in Minnesota was held at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul.More »

The 1st Minnesota’s Return Home: Winona

August 27th, 2012

Recently I had occasion to visit La Crosse, Wisconsin.  An evening soiree on behalf of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy was held on sightseeing pontoon boat. More »

On the trail of the 1st Minnesota

May 17th, 2012

Last week, Bill Semans, Director of No More Gallant a Deed, and I travelled to Rochester and Winona to speak to their Civil War Roundtables. More »

The 1st Minnesota's First Battle: Bull Run

April 20th, 2012

It was a time before newsreels. It was a time before the 24-hour news cycle. There were no battlefield photos from previous wars to be seen. More »

The Men

Charles Goddard

Charlie Goddard was born in Pennsylvania May 14, 1845 to Catherine and Abner Goddard. He was the only child of nine that survived childhood.More »

Edward Bassett

Edward Bassett was just 19 when he was mustered into Company G of the 1st Minnesota on April 29, 1861 as a private. His family moved west, settling in Morristown, Minnesota in the south central part of the state.More »

Mathew Marvin

Mathew Marvin was born on September 21, 1838 in Connaston, New York. In 1859 at the age of 19, Matthew moved to Winona, Minnesota where he worked as a clerk for J. J. Randall & Co, a leather goods store. More »

Samuel Stebbins

Samuel was born in Brookline, Vermont on April 30, 1830. Upon reaching his majority, he travelled quite extensively and worked at a variety of occupations before purchasing a farm near Winona, Minnesota in the fall of 1856. More »

The Timeline


Apr 12

Confederates open fire on Fort Sumter.

In Washington, Governor Alexander Ramsey pledges 1000 Minnesota troops to President Lincoln, the first troops pledged.

Apr 15

President Lincoln calls for 75,000 troops.

Apr 27

The ten companies of the 1st Minnesota report to Fort Snelling.

Jun 22

The 1st leaves for Washington D.C., arriving on June 26.

Jul 21

The 1st sees combat at the Battle of Bull Run. One of the last regiments to leave the battlefield, the 1st suffered the highest casualties of any Union regiment with 48 killed, 83 wounded, 23 wounded and missing, and 30 missing.

Oct 21

The 1st is lightly engaged at the Battle of Ball's Bluff.

More »