Moorhead unveils monument to Black civil war veteran

a man stands near a sculpture
Markus Krueger stands next to the newly installed monument he designed. Interpretive panels will be added to the site.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

A new monument in Moorhead honors a Black civil war veteran.

Felix Battles joined the Union army at Fort Snelling in 1864. After the war he settled in Moorhead and worked as a barber until his death in 1907.

The monument is set on the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead and is just feet from where the house in which the Battles lived once stood.

a sculpture lifted by a loader
A monument to Felix Battles is lifted into position on Thursday at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

“This can be a social gathering space, if people choose to gather here, this can be a place where people sit and contemplate,” said Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County program director Markus Krueger. “Putting yourself in a place where history happened, even if the history that happened was a barber raised a family here.”

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Krueger sees the monument as history and art — and open to interpretation. He said some people will see a monument to a soldier, others will be surprised to learn about the history of early Black pioneers among the first non Native residents of the area.

“And for civil war nerds like me, you’re going to see one of the few monuments to the United States colored troops,” Krueger said. “There were 209,000 African-American soldiers and sailors who helped win this war. And then after the war was over, they were intentionally forgotten.”

As he watched the monument installation process Krueger thought about the subject of the sculpture he designed.

“He would be so surprised at this.”