The Northfield Historical Society will present the 8th annual Cemetery Stories October 19. This year’s event takes place at the Northfield Cemetery. As part of the 150th observance of the Civil War, this year’s event will highlight Northfield-area veterans of that war. Tours start at 3:40 p.m. and will be repeated every 20 minutes, with the last tour at 8 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 children and $1 for NHS members. Parking is available across the street at the Northfield High School. To reserve your spot now, call NHS at 507-645-9268.
In spring 1861, political solutions having failed, southern forces fired upon Fort Sumter and the American Civil War had commenced. Fearing that they would miss the war entirely, men across the country rushed to enlist for fear that they would miss the entire war. Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey was in Washington D.C. at the time of the Sumter assault and was the first state to volunteer troops to President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 men, which resulted in the birth of the famed 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Men throughout Minnesota and Northfield answered the call to arms. Men named Fingal Fingalson, Halvor Quie, and Andrew Lockrem — who were all good friends — joined on the same day and served in the far-off battles of Manassas, Seven Pines, Seven Days, and Antietam as members of Berdan’s Sharpshooters, who were assigned to the 1st Minnesota.
Many more answered the call to duty, among them George and Charles Scofield, who defied their parents and struck out in the middle of the night to join at Fort Snelling. Only one son would return home.
Two other soldiers named James DeGray and James Little would both be hit by bullets that went through their hats but failed to penetrate their skulls. DeGray’s hat is today in the Minnesota Historical Society and Little’s is currently under display at the Northfield Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit.
Although many of the men remembered during this year’s Cemetery Stories aren’t buried in the Northfield Cemetery, their service and their stories should never be forgotten. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said at a military gathering after the war, “I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.”