Friday, June 6, 2014

Hans Christian Heg

There is a statue on the Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin. The current issue of The Bugle, the quarterly magazine of the The Wisconsin Veterans Museum, contains an article about "The Statue on the Square" by Bob Drane. From that article:
Governor Alexander Randall appointed the popular Heg, Colonel of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteers as of September 30, 1861. His first duty was recruiting, which brought this appeal: "Scandinavians! Let us understand the situation, our duty and our responsibility. Shall the future ask, where were the Scandinavians when the Fatherland was saved?"

After winter training at Camp Randall, Heg led his 960-man contingent into the field. Indeed they were Norsemen — Olsen, Hanson, Peterson, Johnson, Tompson, Erickson, and no fewer than 115 who answered to the name of Ole. They marched off in companies: The St. Olaf Rifles, Scandinavian Mountaineers, Heg's Rifles, Rock River Rangers, Clausen's Guards.

What followed is what always follows in war. ....

The following September (1863), the blue army snaked further south, eager to attack Bragg again, below Chattanooga. Heg now commanded the entire Third Brigade, and he wrote a final letter home on September 18, 1863:
The rebels are in our front and we may have to fight him...in a big battle. Do not feel uneasy for me. I am well and in good spirits and trusting to my usual good luck. I shall use all the caution and courage I am capable of. Goodbye my darling
Toward sundown the next day Heg's luck ran out. He was leading a Union counter attack near the Viniard House when he felt the lead ball slice through his lower bowel. It was a grievous wound, and he suffered all night before succumbing mid-morning on the 20th. ....

When the war ended 18 months later, the Scandinavian Regiment numbered 320 survivors out of the 960 who marched out with Heg. ....
The Bugle, Summer 2014, pp. 8-9. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum