‘Anoka County faces Civil War’ opens May 31

The Anoka County Historical Society will open its newest exhibition, “All for the Union: Anoka County Faces the Civil War,” Friday, May 31.

A preview event for friends and members of the historical society will take place Thursday, May 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. The gallery is featured in the exhibition hall at the Anoka County History Center.

The evening will begin with a short program about the exhibit and Anoka County’s role in the Civil War, then the United States Post Office will unveil two Civil War commemorative stamps that feature the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

Descendants of Civil War veterans will be recognized during the evening and historian Kerri Teske will be on hand to help people search her database of Anoka County Civil War veterans.

Bill Crowder, a bugler with the Second Minnesota Battery of Light Artillery reenactors, will be on hand to play.

Anoka County has a strong connection to the Civil War. When the war broke out in 1861, the four-year-old county was eager to show its national pride and hundreds of men stepped forward to volunteer, according to Todd Mahon, historical society executive director.

Anoka County even claims the first volunteer in the Union to come forward, Mahon said.

“Circumstances found Aaron Greenwald, a miller from Anoka, in an Anoka courtroom when Willis A. Gorman received a telegram notice that Governor Alexander Ramsey had offered 1,000 Minnesota men to fight the Confederacy and preserve the Union,” he said.

“Gorman addressed the courtroom with the news and asked for volunteers, Greenwald and others stepped forward.”

But Greenwald was just one of hundreds of Anoka County men to volunteer. At the start of the war, there were approximately 2,100 people living in the county. Six hundred twenty-seven of them were men of service age and 306 of those went off to war.

“It wasn’t just men that contributed,” Mahon said.

“Of course, many of the over 300 men who did go left behind wives and mothers who handled the affairs at home.

“Additionally, one woman, Lydia Hancock, followed Company A of the Eighth Minnesota, a company made up of mostly Anoka County men, to war.

Her story, only recently discovered by the historical society, is featured in the exhibit, according to Mahon.

Also discussed in the exhibit are efforts of the local county soldiers aid societies, Mahon said.

The exhibit, which will remain open until mid-2015, features photos, artifacts and documents from the historical society’s collection.

The history center is open Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $3 for adults and $2 for children. The first Tuesday of every month features free admission to the galleries.

High resolution images from the exhibit are available for media outlets on request.

The Anoka County Historical Society, organized in 1934, is headquartered in the Anoka County History Center and Library at 2135 Third Ave. N. in Anoka. For more information on its programs and activities please visit www.ac-hs.org.

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