Hans Christian Heg

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Hans Christian Heg
Portrait of Hans Christian Heg.jpg
Born(1829-12-21)December 21, 1829
Lier, Norway
DiedSeptember 20, 1863(1863-09-20) (aged 33)
Chickamauga, Georgia, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States (Union)
Service/branchUnited States Army (Union Army)
Years of service1861–1863
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 abolitionist, journalist, anti-slavery activist, politician and soldier, best known for leading the Scandinavian 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment on the Union side in the American Civil War. He died of the wounds he received at the Battle of Chickamauga.[1]

Early life, immigration, and education[edit]

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 the innkeeper Even Hansen Heg (1790–1850) and his wife Sigrid "Siri" Olsdatter Kallerud Heg (1799–1842).[2] The family moved to America in 1840, settling in the Muskego Settlement in Wisconsin.[3][4] Hans Heg was eleven years old when his family arrived in Muskego. He soon earned a reputation for himself as being a gifted boy.[5]


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.[3][4] Upon the death of his father, he returned to the Muskego area in 1851.[3][4] He married Gunhild Einong (1833–1922), daughter of a Norwegian immigrant.[4]

Heg was a major in the 4th Wisconsin Militia, and became a rising young politician who found slavery abhorrent.[6][7] He was an outspoken anti-slavery activist and a leader of Wisconsin's Wide Awakes, an anti-slave catcher militia.[8][9] He became an ardent member of the Free Soil Party,[10] and soon joined the recently formed Republican Party. In 1859, Heg was elected commissioner of the state prison in Waupun, and served there for two years.[3] He was the first Norwegian-born candidate elected statewide in Wisconsin.[4] Heg spearheaded many reforms to the prison, believing that prisons should be used to "reclaim the wandering and save the lost."[11] On August 1, 1860, at great risk to his career, he provided shelter to Sherman Booth, a man who was made a federal fugitive after inciting a mob to rescue an escaped slave.[12]

Military service[edit]

Colonel Hans Christian Heg. Painting by Herbjørn Gausta (1854-1924) in 1915

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."[13] The 15th Wisconsin was called the Scandinavian Regiment because 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 May 1, 1863. Heg fought in the Tullahoma campaign of June–July 1863.[14]

On September 18, 1863, Heg led his brigade at the Battle of Chickamauga, where he was mortally wounded. Heg was shot in the abdomen and died on September 20.[4][15] Upon hearing of his death, Rosecrans expressed regret, saying he had intended to promote Heg to brigadier general. Heg was one of five Wisconsinite colonels killed as a result of combat during the Civil War.[16] "Colonel Hans C. Heg was Acting Brigadier General of the Third Brigade, Davis' Division, and therefore the highest ranking officer from Wisconsin killed in the Civil War."[17]

Heg was buried at the Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery near Wind Lake, Wisconsin.[18][19]


Statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg, Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison. During protests in June 2020, the statue was pulled down, decapitated, and thrown into Lake Monona.

Vandalizing of Heg's statue in Madison, Wisconsin[edit]

A statue of Hans Christian Heg by Paul Fjelde was installed at the King Street approach to the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin in 1925.[32] On June 23, 2020, rioters incensed by the arrest of a member of Black Lives Matter used a towing vehicle to pull the statue down. It was then vandalized, decapitated and thrown into Lake Monona. The words "black is beautiful" were spray-painted on the plinth, just above Heg's name. Forward, a statue designed by Jean Pond Miner Coburn to represent the state of Wisconsin, was also pulled down.[33][34] Both statues were later recovered by the authorities,[35] though Heg was said to have lost a leg.[36]

At a July 20, 2020, meeting of the Wisconsin Capitol and Executive Residence Board the board voted unanimously to restore both Heg's statue and Forward to their original condition and placement atop their pedestals.[37] Since his statue's head was still missing,[38] state officials plan to create a new one using a statue of Heg in the town of Norway as a model.[39] The state of Wisconsin received a grant of $30,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities the following October towards the expense of repairing of both the Heg and Forward statues. The statues were taken to Detroit where restoration will be done by Venus Bronze Works Inc. with reinstallation on the Capitol grounds anticipated by July 2021.[40][41]

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. ^ Lier kirkebøker, F/Fa/L0010: Ministerialbok no. I 10, 1827–1843. Lier. 1843. p. 23. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Col. Hans Christian Heg". Wood County Reporter. October 8, 1863. p. 2. Retrieved June 24, 2020 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Who Was This Man, Hans Christian Heg?". The Capital Times. November 10, 1952. p. 19. Retrieved June 25, 2020 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ Even Hansen Heg (Dictionary of Wisconsin History)
  6. ^ "Col. Heg Fell at Chickamauga". Wisconsin State Journal. June 26, 1976. p. 37. Retrieved June 25, 2020 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  7. ^ Williams, Harry (June 7, 1936). "The Civil War Letters of Colonel Hans Christian Heg. Edited by Theodore G. Blegen". The Capital Times (Book review). p. 18. Retrieved June 25, 2020 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  8. ^ Birth Records for the Parish of Lier (Den Norske kirke. Ministerialbok Nummer 10. Fylke: Buskerud. Prestegjeld: Lier/Frogner)
  9. ^ Mike Miller, "A Veteran For All Time. Abolitionist Col. Heg Died At Chickamauga[permanent dead link]" Capital Times, November 11, 1997.
  10. ^ Blegen, Theodrore C., editor. Civil War Letters of Colonel H. C. Heg
  11. ^ Images of America: Waupun. Gunnink, Carla J. and the Waupun Historical Society, 2014.
  12. ^ Butler, Diane S. "The Public Life and Private Affairs of Sherman M. Booth". Wisconsin Magazine of History. Spring 1999: 190–192.
  13. ^ Historic Heg Memorial Park, Racine County, Wisconsin. 1940
  14. ^ Hunt, Roger D. (2019). Colonels in Blue - Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin: A Civil War Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. p. 245. ISBN 9781476626352.
  15. ^ Frank Clement, Wisconsin in the Civil War. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1997.
  16. ^ Estabrook, Charles E., ed. (1915). Wisconsin Losses in the Civil War : A list of names of Wisconsin soldiers killed in action, mortally wounded or dying from other causes in the Civil War. Arranged according to organization and also in a separate alphabetical list. Madison: State of Wisconsin. pp. 7, 70, 75, 91, 173, 221-- A total of six Wisconsinite Colonels died in the service of the state of Wisconsin during the Civil War. Four were Killed in Action, one (Heg) Died of Wounds resulting from actions in combat, and one Died of Disease. Disease is not traditionally considered to be the result of enemy action, so the official count is five combat losses rather than six.
  17. ^ Colbo, Ella Stratton (1975). Historic Heg Memorial Park: photographic views and brief historical sketches of the outstanding points of interest in and about Heg Memorial Park, Racine County, Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin-Madison Library, The State of Wisconsin Collection: Racine County Historical Society. p. 35.
  18. ^ Colbo, Ella Stratton. The life story of Colonel Hans Christian Heg. Historic Heg Memorial Park, Racine County, Wisconsin, 1975.
  19. ^ "Norwegian soldiers on Civil War battlefields" News of Norway, issue 4, 1999
  20. ^ Heg Memorial Park in Racine County, Wisconsin (Statues of Historic Figures)
  21. ^ "Avsløringen av oberst Hegg [sic] -monumentet i Lier". Haugesunds Dagblad (144). June 25, 1925. p. 7. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  22. ^ Colbo, Ella Stratton. Historic Heg Memorial Park. Racine, Wis.: Racine County Historical Society, 1975.
  23. ^ "The Museum at Heg State Memorial Park" (PDF). library.wisc.edu. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  24. ^ Hans Christian Heg Battlefield Wanderings, December 5, 2008
  25. ^ Wisconsin's Civil War Memorials, sculptor Paul Fjelde
  26. ^ Hanson, Jill K.; Blythe, Robert W. (June 1, 2002). "Chickamauga And Chattanooga National Military Park Historic Resource Study". National Park Service. Appendix C, p. 9. Archived from the original on June 12, 2019. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  27. ^ Benington, Dale K. (October 19, 2020). "Hans C. Heg Memorial Shell Monument Historical Marker". The Historical Marker Database. Archived from the original on October 18, 2020. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  28. ^ "Hans Heg - Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (U.S. National Park Service)". National Park Service. Archived from the original on March 27, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  29. ^ Williams, Greg H. (2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland, Incorporated. pp. 204–205. ISBN 9781476617541.
  30. ^ Gerhardt, Frank A. (15 September 2014). "United States Maritime Commission 1936 thru 1950". Archived from the original on 28 Jun 2020. Retrieved 28 Jun 2020.
  31. ^ "Kaiser Permanente No. 2, Richmond CA". Shipbuilding History: Construction records of U.S. and Canadian shipbuilders and boatbuilders. October 13, 2010. Archived from the original on 16 Feb 2020. Retrieved 27 Jun 2020.
  32. ^ Staff, State Journal. "Photos: So who was Hans Christian Heg? Here's why the Civil War hero had a statue". La Crosse Tribune. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  33. ^ Langrehr, Jaymes. "Protesters explain why they tore down statues at State Capitol". www.channel3000.com. Channel 3000. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  34. ^ Beck, Molly. "Madison protesters tear down Capitol statues, attack state Senator from Milwaukee". jsonline.com. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  35. ^ "Twitter". mobile.twitter.com. Retrieved Jun 25, 2020.
  36. ^ Pavia, Will (June 25, 2020). "Statue of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, who helped defeat slavery, is toppled". The Times. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  37. ^ Richmond, Todd (20 July 2020). "Board OKs restoring Capitol statues, launching money drive". Associated Press, The Star Tribune. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  38. ^ Richmond, Todd (20 July 2020). "Wisconsin Capitol board agrees to restore 2 statues toppled by protesters". Associated Press, The Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  39. ^ Beck, Molly (July 21, 2020). "State officials can't find Col. Hans Christian Heg's head, will make him a new one". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  40. ^ Jones, Meg; Beck, Molly (October 16, 2020). "Wisconsin gets federal funds to help restore vandalized Capitol statues Forward and Hans Christian Heg | The National Endowment for the Humanities". The National Endowment for the Humanities. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  41. ^ Glauber, Bill (December 10, 2020). "Crew works to restore toppled statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg by next summer". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. Retrieved December 11, 2020.

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]