Emil Munch

Emil Munch - Stories

Civil War (Union) · US Army

    . Emil Munch was born in Prussia in 1831 and immigrated to America in 1849. He settled in Taylors Falls first, but by 1860, he was in Chengwatana, working as a carpenter and miller, investing in land, and serving as a member of the Minnesota Legislature. In the summer of 1861, Munch traveled to St. Paul to volunteer his services in forming and leading a military unit. Governor Ramsey gratefully appointed him a captain and sent him home to recruit volunteers. Munch returned to Chengwatana and called a meeting, hoping to inspire his neighbors to join him in this adventurous effort to save the Union. Several young men accepted his offer. William Eppel, age 21; William Fenkner, age 25; Joseph Gray, age 25; Henry Hurter, age 30; Charles A. Johnson, age 22; and Paul Munch, age 27, left with Captain Munch a few days later. The group marched south through Taylors Falls, Stillwater, and St. Paul until they reached Fort Snelling where they met up with 25 men from New Ulm under the leadership of William Pfaender. When Governor Ramsey indicated Minnesota's need for a battery of light artillery, Munch and Pfaender decided to form their men into such a unit. They were joined by a group of men from southern Minnesota led by Ferd E. Peebles and together formed the First Independent Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery with 156 men. The unit, which was mustered into service on Nov. 7, 1861, elected Munch as captain and Pfaender and Peebles as first lieutenants.

    At this point it might be helpful to pause briefly to examine the function of a battery of light artillery. Technically labeled "mounted artillery," units like the First Minnesota were part of the military's field artillery division and were assigned to operate in support of infantry forces on the battlefield. They were mobile units that could transport their weapons from place to place as the situation demanded. Ironically, most men in mounted artillery batteries did not ride horses. Officers were literally mounted on horseback, and "drivers" rode or led the six-horse teams that towed cannons and other equipment, but the rest of the soldiers walked or, if there was a need for speed, grasped the "limber" (a two-wheeled vehicle that carried ammunition) and hung on. Field artillery units used several different types of cannons; the First Minnesota operated two 12-pound howitzers and four brass rifled 6-pound guns. Howitzers and 6-pound rifled guns weighed a hefty 750+ pounds apiece and fired everything from explosive shells to solid shot to canister (metal containers filled with lead or iron balls that sprayed out over a large area when fired). Artillerymen had the challenging jobs of transporting, loading, firing, and maintaining these weapons, often in the heat of battle and under heavy fire from the enemy's artillery and infantry. Munch and his men were volunteering for a highly dangerous, extremely strenuous task.