Hans Christian Heg

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Hans Christian Heg
Portrait of Hans Christian Heg.jpg
Colonel Hans Christian Heg, 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment
Born(1829-12-21)December 21, 1829
Lier, Buskerud, Norway
DiedSeptember 20, 1863(1863-09-20) (aged 33)
Chickamauga, Georgia
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1861–1863 (USA)
RankUnion Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Unit15th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment
3rd Bde, 1st Div, XX Corps
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Hans Christian Heg (December 21, 1829 – September 20, 1863) was a Norwegian American journalist, activist, politician and soldier, best known for leading the Scandinavian 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment in the American Civil War. [1]


Heg was born at Haugestad in the community of Lierbyen in Lier, Buskerud, Norway on December 21, 1829. He was the eldest of the four children of an innkeeper. His father, Even Hansen Heg (1790–1850), moved his family to America in 1840, settling in the Muskego Settlement in Wisconsin. Hans Heg was eleven years old when his family arrived in Muskego. He soon earned a reputation for himself as being a gifted boy.[2]

At twenty years old, lured by the discovery of gold in the Sacramento Valley, he and three friends joined the army of "Forty-Niners". He spent the next two years prospecting for gold in California. Upon the death of his father, he returned to the Muskego area in 1851. He married Gunhild Einong, daughter of a Norwegian immigrant.

Heg became a rising young politician who found slavery abhorrent. He naturally became an ardent member of the Free Soil Party.[3] Heg was a major in the 4th Wisconsin Militia and served as Wisconsin State Prison Commissioner. He was the first Norwegian-born candidate elected statewide in Wisconsin.

He soon joined the recently formed Republican Party. He was an outspoken anti-slavery activist and a leader of Wisconsin's Wide Awakes, an anti-slave catcher militia.[4][5] During this time, he sheltered Sherman Booth, who was made a federal fugitive after inciting a mob to rescue an escaped slave.

In 1860, Heg was elected commissioner of the state prison in Waupun, and served there for two years. Heg spearheaded many reforms to the prison, believing that prisons should be used to "reclaim the wandering and save the lost."[6]

Statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg, Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

Military service[edit]

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Heg was appointed by Governor Alexander Randall as colonel of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment. Appealing to all young "Norsemen," he said, "the government of our adopted country is in danger. It is our duty as brave and intelligent citizens to extend our hands in defense of the cause of our Country and of our homes."[7] The 15th Wisconsin was called the Scandinavian Regiment since its soldiers were almost all immigrants from Norway, with some from Denmark and Sweden. It was the only all Scandinavian regiment in the Union Army. On 8 October 1862, Colonel Heg led his regiment into its first action at the Battle of Perryville. Despite being under fire while being driven back several miles by the enemy, the 15th Wisconsin suffered few casualties and no fatalities. However, one of those hurt was Colonel Heg, who was injured when his horse fell.

Heg commanded the regiment during the Battle of Stones River. In response to his conduct at Stones River, Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans placed Heg in command of the newly formed 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division, XX Corps, Army of the Cumberland, on 1 May 1863.

On 19 September 1863, Heg led his brigade at the Battle of Chickamauga, where he was mortally wounded. Heg "was shot through the bowels and died the next day." [8] Upon hearing of Heg's death, Rosecrans expressed regret, saying he had intended to promote Heg to brigadier general. Heg was one of three Wisconsin Colonels killed in combat during the Civil War.

Heg was buried at the Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery near Wind Lake, Wisconsin.[9][10]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Borgerkrigen i De Forente Stater i Nord-Amerika (by Joh A. Enander. La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1881. The Promise of America)
  2. ^ Even Hansen Heg (Dictionary of Wisconsin History)
  3. ^ Blegen, Theodrore C., editor. Civil War Letters of Colonel H. C. Heg
  4. ^ Birth Records for the Parish of Lier (Den Norske kirke. Ministerialbok Nummer 10. Fylke: Buskerud. Prestegjeld: Lier/Frogner)
  5. ^ Mike Miller, "A Veteran For All Time. Abolitionist Col. Heg Died At Chickamauga[permanent dead link]" Capital Times, November 11, 1997.
  6. ^ Images of America: Waupun. Gunnink, Carla J. and the Waupun Historical Society, 2014.
  7. ^ Historic Heg Memorial Park, Racine County, Wisconsin. 1940
  8. ^ Frank Clement, Wisconsin in the Civil War. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1997.
  9. ^ Colbo, Ella Stratton. The life story of Colonel Hans Christian Heg. Historic Heg Memorial Park, Racine County, Wisconsin, 1975.
  10. ^ "Norwegian soldiers on Civil War battlefields" News of Norway, issue 4, 1999
  11. ^ Heg Memorial Park in Racine County, Wisconsin (Statues of Historic Figures)
  12. ^ Colbo, Ella Stratton. Historic Heg Memorial Park. Racine, Wis.: Racine County Historical Society, 1975.
  13. ^ "The Museum at Heg State Memorial Park" (PDF). library.wisc.edu. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  14. ^ Hans Christian Heg Battlefield Wanderings, December 5, 2008
  15. ^ Wisconsin's Civil War Memorials, sculptor Paul Fjelde

Further reading[edit]

  • Ager, Waldemar, Colonel Heg and His Boys: A Norwegian Regiment in the American Civil War. Northfield, Minn.: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 2000.
  • Buslett, Ole Amundsen. The Fifteenth Wisconsin (trans. of Det Femtende regiment Wisconsin frivillige). Ripon, Wis.: B.G. Scott, 1999.
  • "Hans Christian Heg". In Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library (comp.) The Wisconsin Blue Book 1933. Madison: Democrat Printing Co., 1933, pp. 37-41.
  • Heg, Hans Christian, The Civil War Letters of Colonel Hans Christian Heg. Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014.
  • Naeseth, Gerhard B, Norwegian Immigrants to the United States: A Biographical Directory. Vol. 1: 1825-1843. Decorah, Iowa: Amundsen Publishing Company, 1993.

External links[edit]