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Hans Christian Heg

Born at Lier, Norway, in 1829 and an 1840 emigrant to the United States, Heg was a resident of Racine County. He was also the first Scandinavian elected to state office (State Prison Commissioner) and colonel in the 15th Infantry, Wisconsin's Scandinavian Civil War regiment. An ardent free-soiler, he affiliated early with the Republican party.

In 1860, while warden of the state prison at Waupun, he gave sanctuary to Sherman Booth following Booth's escape from Federal custody in Milwaukee, where he was being held for violations of the Fugitive Slave Law.

During Booth's stay at the prison, Heg, captain of the Waupun Wide Awakes, was accused by the Berlin News of activating the company on Booth's behalf, "One of the military company told me that he was notified on Friday to be ready, and if the prison bell tolled three times, it would be a sign that Maj. Heg wanted the military to protect Booth."

In his deposition describing Heg's answer to marshals seeking Booth's arrest, Federal marshal William Garlick testified that Heg responded to the effect that, Here is Booth arrest him as you choose, but I advise you not to do it, as, if I was in Booth's place I would shoot you down like a dog, and said he himself would fight until his last drop of blood was gone, and that this deponent ought to be engaged in better business than in holding an office under the Federal Government. (August 8, 1860)

In a letter dated January 21, 1863, while Heg was serving with the 15th Wisconsin Infantry, Heg wrote to his wife of his dislike of his commanding officer, Jeff C. Davis:

Yesterday I had quite a spat with Jeff C. Davis--our Division Commander--he is a pro-slavery General, and he is down on Abolitionists. I had some plain talk with him, and told him what I thought of pro-slavery Generals--I have a no good feeling for him, and I have made up my mind that I will not go into another battle under his command.

Heg died on September 19, 1863, of wounds received during the battle of Chickamauga.

Note: Davis was an Indianan who had shot a fellow officer to death for daring to criticize him. On December 3, 1864, as Davis' unit reached Ebenezer Creek, Davis had a pontoon bridge constructed across the creek, then ordered the bridge removed once his men crossed, leaving the freed slaves following the unit to remain on the far shore. Confederate forces subsequently opened fire on them. Those who were not killed by hostile fire or drowned in an attempt to swim were returned to slavery. Heg and a fellow officer petitioned general Rosecrans to relieve Davis from command.

Summary and citations courtesy of Kevin Dier-Zimmel.