History inspires Blaine man to write Civil War musical

It’s a story Blaine resident David Carlson feels compelled to tell.

The First Minnesota regiment lost most of its troops in an effort to help turn the tide at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.

 Blaine resident David Carlson is looking for financial backers to help produce a Civil War musical he has written about the First Minnesota.Photo by Kelly Johnson Blaine resident David Carlson is looking for financial backers to help produce a Civil War musical he has written about the First Minnesota.Photo by Kelly Johnson

Blaine resident David Carlson is looking for financial backers to help produce a Civil War musical he has written about the First Minnesota.Photo by Kelly Johnson Blaine resident David Carlson is looking for financial backers to help produce a Civil War musical he has written about the First Minnesota.Photo by Kelly Johnson

Nearly 150 years ago, 262 Minnesotans, as part of the First Minnesota, charged up a hill in a battle against 1,600 Confederate soldiers to allow the Union cannons an extra five minutes to get into position to hold on to higher ground.

Two hundred fifteen members, more than 80 percent, of the First Minnesota regiment lost their lives in that battle, which Carlson said was one of the highest losses in military history.

It’s a story the longtime musician and thespian first learned of after seeing a painting of the First Minnesota years ago.

After seeing the painting and learning the First Minnesota’s story, Carlson felt compelled to write a song about the battle.

Years later, Carlson turned that song into a musical about the charge as well as the subsequent Pickett’s charge where 15,000 Southern soldiers marched on the Northern troops and an additional 23 Minnesotans died.

Carlson began working on the musical four years ago and it took three years to complete. It includes not only battle scenes and those describing what the First Minnesota, as well as other Civil War soldiers, endured but what the women – mothers, sisters and girlfriends – battled at home while the men were away.

“Beyond the historical facts of that battle, the play covers the wants, desires, dreams and daily living of the soldiers,” Carlson said.

“I researched the heck out of it.”

Most recently, Carlson has been looking for funding to produce the play for free public performances this summer, which marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

After pitching his idea to several theater and historical groups in the area, Carlson has turned to the website www.kickstarter.com to generate funding for his endeavor.

“It’s a sharing of a story that should not be lost, especially on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg,” Carlson said.

The Kickstarter website is a place for individuals and groups to pitch their ideas to the public in order to gain financial backing to move their ideas ahead.

Through the website, Carlson has developed a proposal outlining his plans for the musical and the costs associated with its production.

Carlson is seeking $18,700 to move the project from concept to stage. He calls the budget “realistic but stripped down bare bones.”

Potential investors have until Dec. 14 to contribute.

If he has not reached his financial goal by that time, Carlson intends to continue to pursue other ways to get the First Minnesota’s story out in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 2013.

Carlson hopes it is not necessary, but if he cannot produce the full-scale musical, he said he could tie the songs together with pieces of dialogue and perform it himself in local parks and other venues.

“I want to see this thing live,” Carlson said about the musical.

Whatever it takes to get the First Minnesota’s story out there is what matters most to Carlson, he said.

“This is really something that needs to be out there,” Carlson said.

To see Carlson’s proposal, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidjamescarlson/first-minnesota-a-civil-war-musical-of-a-famous-ch.

Kelly Johnson is at kelly.johnson@ecm-inc.com

  • Albert Bennett

    I was wondering if he had ever been to the site…It’s down a hill rather than up a hill….I do hope you use music that wold be familiar to the unit…like nice brass bands . fife and drums and good old gut string banjo/fiddle minstrel music… It would be nice to see this be a authentic as possible. I am glad the 1st Minnesota gets proper honor as what they did exceeds or at least equals other stories like the 20th Maine or Irish Brigade. This was one regiment facing a brigade, not in line of a whole corps. I loved the book. and have walked the area they covered. A big Hurrah for the 1st.

up arrow