Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

All things Civil War at the Minnesota Capitol May 17, 2011

IN NOVEMBER OF 2009, I met Brandon Peeters. He’s an extraordinary kid. Tomorrow he’ll be at the Minnesota State Capitol, leading the Pledge of Allegiance as our state celebrates Civil War Sesquicentennial Day.

That’s quite an honor for this seventh grader from Owatonna who has a passion for the Civil War. He teaches Owatonna students and others about the war, has visited many Civil War battlefields and belongs to the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment re-enactment group and the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable.

Brandon Peeters, front center, marches with Civil War re-enactors.

When Brandon discovered while working on a third grade family history project that his great-great-great grandfather, Valentine Katzung, served with the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment from 1861-1864, fought at Gettysburg and was shot in the left heel, he was hooked on history.

“Brandon is so excited and very honored to be included in the program,” says his mom, Cindy Hokanson. “Needless to say, Brandon’s passion for the Civil War has only gotten stronger. He actually has applied to be one of the nine citizen members of the Governor’s Civil War Commemoration Task Force.” He’ll learn in June whether he has been selected to serve on that board.

Civil War buffs aplenty will gather at the Capitol on Wednesday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Events begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m. with a noon program in the rotunda that will include speakers (Governor Mark Dayton, former Governor Al Quie and others) during dedication of the 2011-2012 Minnesota Legislative Manual, aka the “Blue Book.” This year’s edition is packed with Minnesota-related Civil War history and trivia.

Several members of the Faribault-based Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable will participate in a Civil War Information Fair in the Capitol basement Great Hall. “We will have Civil War memorabilia, books, brochures and a Civil War band poster,” says CVCWR member Dan Peterson of Faribault. “It should be fun sharing with the public, other roundtables and some re-enactors.”

Several roundtables, authors, historical organizations and others will present educational materials and information to attendees. Some will dress as Civil War re-enactors.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul H. Anderson will dress in period costume during a presentation in court chambers. Civil War Capitol tours are also available at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Three Civil War cannons given to the First Minnesota Infantry Regiment in 1862 by Major-General A. H. Sanford, the American Ambassador to Belgium, are sure to be a hit with Capitol visitors on Wednesday.

It is the first time in decades that the trio of cannons—kept at Camp Ripley, the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley and in Montevideo—will be showcased in one location, according to information from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office. Two will be displayed in the rotunda and the third on the upper mall in front of the Capitol.

I’m certain tomorrow’s event will pack the Capitol with Minnesotans interested in the Civil War. Having attended one Cannon Valley Roundtable meeting and a recent Civil War event in Faribault, I know the passion people possess for this time in our nation’s history. I have yet to meet a young person more interested in the Civil War than Brandon Peeters. If anyone deserves to serve on the Governor’s Civil War Commemoration Task Force, it would be this self-proclaimed history freak.

If you’re at the Capitol tomorrow, look for Brandon. I expect he’ll be in his Civil War costume and sporting a smile a mile wide.

© Capitol photo copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Brandon Peeters photo courtesy of Cindy Hokanson

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FOX 9 anchor Heidi Collins deserves criticism November 4, 2010

AFTER SOME THOUGHT, I feel compelled to add to my earlier post regarding FOX 9 news anchor Heidi Collins’ on-air interview with Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie last night. The more I think about the interview, the madder I get.

Typically, I stick up for journalists. I once became so upset with a circle of friends who were blasting newspaper reporters and newspapers that I stalked out of the room. I had never done that before, but I get fed up with media-bashing.

This time, though, I cannot defend journalist Collins, if you can even call her a journalist. She deserves every ounce of criticism, every degree of heat, every negative comment tossed her way.

Her condescending attitude, her insinuations, her talking over Ritchie and that “I ask, you answer” statement showed an utter lack of respect for the office of Secretary of State.

Collins seemed biased and intent on provoking Ritchie. In other words, she was anything but professional and she was downright mean.

I cannot, as a professional writer and a former newspaper reporter, stick up for anyone in the media who conducts herself/himself in such an unprofessional manner.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling