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The Lost Regiment

The Cyrus Leader, May 29, 1958; Historical Society News

How many school children, or the elders for that matter; have heard about the "Lost Regiment" right here in Pope County, in Grove Lake Township, to be exact? Very few, hardly any. The story has been here all the time but the Historical Society had no records of it, and it might have been a lost story had not Alfred Krapes of Grove Lake brought the story to us last Saturday. How did a whole regiment (over 100 men) become lost, and how were they lost from November 1862 to June 1863? The year 1862 was the time of the Indian outbreak in Minnesota, when the few white settlers that had located in Pope County had to flee. One settler who came back to look after his stock was killed. The government sent soldiers into this territory. A regiment of foot soldiers with full equipment started from Fort Abercrombie in the Dakota Territory for Fort Snelling, where they were going to be quartered. They had two cannons with them besides their battle equipment. They hauled their equipment by oxen and carts. Three soldiers were sent ahead on horses as trailblazers. They left word at the stations along the way that the regiment was coming. Their path took them through Pope County and on to Lyman Prairie in Stearns County, which was to be their stopping place over night. They were scheduled to arrive there about November 9 or 10, 1862. A severe snowstorm with intense cold weather, like the 1940 blizzard, swept across the Minnesota prairies on those days. No regiment showed at Lyman Prairie, and scouts were sent out when the storm subsided.

No trace was found of the regiment and it became known as the "Lost Regiment". The Civil War, that cost the nation 700,000 lives, was going on at that time, and the regiment was just one more less for the North. Scouts were sent out in the spring of 1863 and in June the lost regiment was found all dead.

There was no one to tell the story but the facts show that the regiment, with all their equipment, had lost their trail in the storm, and had become mired in a floating bog in the central part of Grove Lake Township. The location is to the south of the first turn of the road, south of where the old red brick house used to stand on the Glenwood Grove Lake road. How the whole regiment happened to become mired in the middle of the bog covering about 80 acres is not known. It could have been that they were lost in the storm, that the bog had a little coating of frost on it that gave way. Anyway, once the storm struck there was no place to go for safety. When found, all were in the middle of the bog and they were bunched together, showing that they were trying to stay close to each other.

The scouts sent word back that the lost regiment had been found and a group of soldiers were sent out to bury the dead in July, 1863. The bodies of the men were decomposed and the dead soldiers were buried in long mounds where they were found. The oxen and all their equipment were also buried in separate mounds. Four mounds about a hundred feet long and four feet high, in the shape of boats, were piled up over the bodies and the dead oxen. At that time there was only brush in the bog, and as the years went by, trees grew up over the mounds that could be seen from a distance. The wooden slabs that marked each grave decayed as the swampy ground ate away at the mounds.

Among the burial party were three soldiers who later came back to squat on the land and later to homestead. They were John Krapes, father of Al Krapes of Grove Lake; John Jeffers, father of the late Dr. Jeffers; and Harry Frost, who became a Grove Lake pioneer. All three settled near the bog where the regiment perished, after they were mustered out of service. A cart that had been left by the ill-fated regiment was used by these three settlers for hauling provisions.

Donning hip boots, the writer, in company of Alfred Krapes and Melvin Lachelt, explored the region on a Sunday afternoon recently. If it had not been for trees that had fallen down, and afforded footing to step on, it would have been an easy matter to have sunk beneath the oozy surface. As poplar trees swayed in the breeze, the entire bog attached to their roots churned the water up and down. In the 95 years since the men were buried where they perished, nature and the trampling of cattle in dry seasons has all but obliterated the burial mounds. Alfred Krapes remembers how, as a boy, he picked up two muskets and two double-barreled revolvers that he found protruding on the surface. He also found an officer's sword and the case that contained it. Most of these relics were lost in a fire, but the sword case has been loaned to the Historical Society.

An attempt is being made at present to get further information from the War Department and the State Historical Society. This information will be published in this column.