Hans Christian Heg
In October 1861, Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall commissioned Norwegian born Hans Christian Heg as a colonel in the Federal Army. Reaching out to Scandinavian men through newspapers, Heg implored them to protect the “government of our adopted country.” “That which we learned to love as freemen in our old Fatherland—our government—our independence—is threatened with destruction,” wrote Heg. In response to such impassioned public pleas, Scandinavian immigrants stepped forward to enlist. With these volunteers, Heg organized the Fifteenth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment in February 1862, with Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Germans, and Americans filling the ranks. Many immigrants joined the regiment after only a few months in America. Over the next three years, the Fifteenth Wisconsin served in Union operations in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. Among the many notable battles the Fifteenth Wisconsin fought under Heg’s command are Island No. 10, Stones River, and Chattanooga. Heg was characterized by his serious nature, strict discipline, inspirational leadership, and unflinching courage. Before the Battle of Stones River, Heg exposed himself to enemy fire, riding in front of his lines rallying the men. A shot struck his horse, which rolled to the ground. Heg returned to his feet unharmed. His men became even more endeared to him when he lead them on the charge of Confederate artillery on Knob Gap, not expecting them to go where he would not lead. On September 19, 1863, the regiment was in the front line at the Battle of Chickamauga. “Again and again they formed and advanced, only to be driven back,” Col. John Martin’s reported. Half the brigade, including Heg, was killed. During one of many advances, a sharpshooter struck Heg in the abdomen. He continued on for a quarter of a mile before blood loss compelled him to turn over command, and died the following morning in a field hospital at the age of 34. Heg’s death was a great loss to Federal command;Gen. William S. Rosecrans stated that he intended to promote Heg to general. The Fifteenth Wisconsin continued through the duration of the war without its beloved colonel.
- Recruited Scandinavian immigrants into Union army
- Fought at Island No. 10, Stones River, Chattanooga
- Known for courage and inspirational leadership
- Killed at Chickamauga