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Story of Battle Lake Civil War veteran centerpiece of local Civil War museum

Plans are full steam ahead in Otter Tail County to honor its most famous Civil War hero.

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BATTLE LAKE, Minn. — A concert in Battle Lake on Friday, Sept. 24, and a separate Civil War reenactment ceremony in two weeks will help fund a collection of Civil War treasures preserved by one Battle Lake family.

Just off Battle Lake's Main Street is the Prospect House and Civil War Museum where, back in the day, the wealthy would come and stay for $7 a week for the summer. Built in 1886, it looks just like it did a century ago.

Those who visit the museum also come to listen to museum founder Jay Johnson talk about his great-grandfather, Civil War veteran James "Cap" Colehour.

"He enlisted in the summer of 1862 in the 92nd Illinois volunteers," Johnson said. "They were part of the Lightning Brigade, the first rapid assault force in the US military."

Colehour volunteered to fight in the Civil War. He was 20 years old.


"My great-grandfather right there, holding that flag, has his company flag that his sister sewed," Johnson said, referring to a picture of Colehour holding the flag that now sits under glass in the museum. "That flag right there, she made that in 1862."

He would be the last surviving Civil War veteran in Otter Tail County when he died in 1938.

"He got his horse and racing saddle designed by Gen. George B. McClellan," Johnson said.

His great-grandson now maintains the impressive Civil War museum in honor of his great-grandfather.

"When he recovered from being shot in the right shoulder, he was shot in his left shoulder in Muscle Shoals, Alabama," Johnson said, pointing to a map.

"This is the sleeves to his uniform, bullet holes in each shoulder where he was shot, the Bible he was carrying when he was shot, and letters he got in the hospital when he had typhoid in Nashville," Johnson said as he looked at a case containing the Civil War relics.

Colehour died at the age of 96, the last soldier in his regiment. Over the next few weeks, the sons of union veterans and local VFW and Civil War reenactors will honor his memory, and keep his legacy going for the next generation.

That fundraiser and music festival for the Civil War Museum is called WoodStack. It's set for this Friday, Sept. 24, at 5 p.m. at the Prospect House in Battle Lake.


The Sons of Union Veterans Civil War ceremony and reenactment honoring "Cap" Colehour is set for Saturday, Oct. 9, at 11 a.m., also at the Prospect House.

"There are times it almost brings me to tears, but it is a great story and he wanted someone to tell it, and I am proud to be the one to do it," Johnson said.

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