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On this date in 1858, Minnesota was admitted to the Union as the 32nd state. With the possible exception of Massachusetts, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" was the most anti-slavery state in America.

In those days Minnesota was also known as "Star of the North," which it lived up to as soon as the Civil War began. The state's governor, Alexander Ramsey, was in Washington when Fort Sumter was bombarded in April 1861 and was among the first to answer President Lincoln's call for 75,000 federal troops. Ramsey promised 10,000 from Minnesota alone, but the state actually produced 22,000 volunteers that first year.

The First Minnesota Infantry Regiment fought bravely from Manassas to Antietam and is credited with holding the Union position on Cemetery Ridge during the crucial second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Crossing 200 yards of open field against a larger rebel force, the First Minnesota suffered 170 dead or wounded out of a force of some 300 men before staggering back to their lines. But that line held.

Many members of the First Minnesota, such as Charles C. Parker, served for the entire war. As late as the 1920s, President Calvin Coolidge referred to the volunteers in the regiment as the Union's "saviors."

Its survivors held reunions until 1932, and its last remaining members, Edwin Season and James Wright, lived until 1936, two years before Franklin Roosevelt celebrated the 75th anniversary of Gettysburg in a ceremony intended as a day of unity.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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