August 21, 1834|
|Died||July 3, 1863
|Years of service||1861–1863|
|Unit||4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment|
Harrison Jeffords (August 21, 1834 – July 3, 1863) was the colonel of the 4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Union Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. He was noted for his heroism on July 2, 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg, in which he gave his life while protecting the United States flag.
Jeffords was born in Michigan and educated in the common schools. A practicing lawyer during the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the 4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry and became captain of Company C. He later rose to the command of the regiment as its colonel. He saw action in several of the major battles in the Eastern Theater while serving in the Army of the Potomac.
While Colonel Jeffords was back in Michigan on a recruiting trip, the ladies of Monroe, Michigan, presented him with a new national flag to replace the regiment's original flag, which had been badly damaged in recent battles. Jeffords stated that he would defend the flag with his life.
During the second day at Gettysburg, the color-bearer of the regiment dropped this flag, and Jeffords advanced to retrieve it. He is said to have shot a Confederate soldier who had seized the flag and grasped the banner himself. In the ensuing melee, Jeffords received a gunshot wound to the thigh and was bayonetted by a Confederate soldier in the left abdomen, mortally wounding the 28-year-old officer. Meanwhile, other soldiers of the Fourth Michigan, including Lt. Michael Vreeland, rushed to his aid and reportedly carried both the flag and their fallen commander out of the Wheatfield. As his life slowly drained away, his final words were said to be "Mother, mother, mother." He died at 4 AM the next day, July 3, 1863. Jeffords became the highest commissioned officer in the Civil War to die of a bayonet wound. His body was sent home to Dexter, Michigan, after the battle, where approximately 2000 people attended the funeral of its beloved hero. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Dexter.
After the war, the regiment erected its monument on the battlefield near the point at which the colonel fell. Despite popular belief, the monument's image of the color-bearer is not a representation of Colonel Harrison Herbert Jeffords. Besides lacking Colonel Jefford's ever-present "goatee" styled beard, the soldier depicted does not have on the Colonel's uniform, but is actually outfitted according to post war army regulation. However, there is a verse inscribed in dedication to the Fourth Michigan's fallen leader, on the opposite side of the monument.