So who was the first Civil War volunteer for the Union Army? As an Australian, such facts appear trivial and merely a minor detail in the whole grand picture of the events that took place during the war. However, a chance discovery while geocaching revealed that facts like this are not trivial, but are actually fought over in the annals of history.
So who is the first? If the memorial located at this park is to be believed, it is Aaron Greenwald, of Anoka.
However, this is somewhat disputed. St Paul has a statue memorializing one Josiah King, who is the other claimant to this 'title' (if that is what we could call it). The reason for the dispute? Well, I need to explain.
Josiah King has been the main claimant to the honor of first to volunteer, as he was the first person to record his name in a book of St Paul militiamen willing to fight for the Union. This request was made on the evning of April 15, 1861. Little about this is in dispute.
However, on April 15, 1861, former Governor Gorman received a telegram message, from the then Governor Ramsey, regarding his offer to President Lincoln to provide a thousand volunteers for the war. Gorman that morning was in the Anoka court defending a criminal case. He used a recess in the proceedings to make an impromptu speech before those gathered. The request for volunteers was given, and seven men volunteered, the first of whom was Aaron Greenwald, a miller from Anoka. This took place at 10am, prior to the request made in St Paul that evening.
Proving the claim of Greenwald is difficult, as precious little written evidence is to be found. That would appear inconsequential to the Anoka County Historical Society, who in placing this memorial are seen to make the claim absolute, proven and final!