Civil War Letters of Colonel Heg
Hans Christian Heg grew up in southeastern Norway, migrated to Wisconsin, and traveled to the California gold fields and western mining camps, only to return to the Badger State to lead a regiment of Scandinavian immigrants from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in the Civil War. His life story typifies the processes of transition and service to his new country that marked the lives of thousands of immigrants to the nineteenth-century United States.
This personal account, told in battlefield letters penned to family and friends, remains an evocative and moving contribution to a wrenching national experience, relating both the horrors of the conflict and the loyalty of the young men of the Fifteenth Wisconsin, up through Colonel Heg’s death in the Battle of Chickamauga.
The Civil War period is a dramatic watershed event not only in U.S. history but in the adjustment of Norwegian-Americans, many of them recent arrivals from Norway, to what they consistently refer to as “our new fatherland.” The heroic roles played by the men of the Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment remain lasting and treasured images in the iconography of the Norwegian-American experience.
Managing editor of the Norwegian-American Historical Association and superintendent of the Minnesota Historical Society, Theodore C. Blegen (1891–1969) researched and wrote extensively on the history of the state of Minnesota and Norwegian-American immigration over the course of his lengthy career.