Book Review: The Hardest Lot of Men: The Third Minnesota Infantry in the Civil War


by Joseph C. Fitzharris

Normal: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019. Pp. xiv, 324. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806164018

The Life of a Regiment

Although hardly the most celebrated Union regiment in the Civil War, the 3rd Minnesota was a very well disciplined, well drilled regiment, and performed ably under fire. But it fought in no famous battles, and suffered few casualties in combat but many from disease. In this, it was in many ways was rather typical of many regiments, on both sides, that served yet garnered little glory. But the regiment does have a history, and that history reveals a lot about soldiering in the war, as is well told by Prof. Fitzharris (emeritus St. Thomas at St. Paul).

Fitzharris covers the recruiting, organization and training of the troops in some detail. He follows this with their misfortune in the First Battle of Murfreesboro, being captured by the ineptitude of their superiors. This led the regiment to spend time in “exchange camp”, a unique characteristic of the conduct of war in the day, by which after being paroled, troops were held by their own side until properly exchanged. Normally a morale busting experience, Fitzharris explains how the regiment was rebuilt as a combat force. The 3rd Minnesota would go on to serve in the Dakota War of 1862, at the siege of Vicksburg in 1863, and then in field and garrison duty in Arkansas through to the end of the war.

Fitzharris gives us a lot of detail about the everyday life of a soldier of the day and the minutiae of contemporary military life. He also offers profiles of various people, some famous, but most not. Fitzharris ends with a look at the memorialization of the regiment.

A volume in the Oklahoma series “Campaigns and Commanders”, The Hardest Lot of Men is a very useful read for anyone interested in the life of the soldier.


Note: The Hardest Lot of Men is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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