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1863 July 18: Joseph Hooker, Hans Heg, and the Week’s War News

July 22, 2013

The summary of the week’s war news, and two other articles, are from the July 18, 1863, issue of The Polk County Press.

The News.

The news of the week has been cheering, although not entirely without the dark shades.  The draft in New York has met with a check in the form of a terrible riot.  The police force of the city were unable to check its wild career.  The mob had at last accounts, torn down all the telegraph wires leading from the city and destroyed a large amount of property by fire, robbing and plundering private homes and stores, public buildings, railroads, &c.  The Tribune office was attacked and the publishing rooms gutted.  Before the mob could do further damage to the building they were driven away.  The residence of the Mayor was gutted and destroyed.  At last accounts the Governor had arrived and was addressing the mob.  Gov. Seymour [Horatio Seymour] had telegraphed to Washington to have the draft stopped.  Since then we have news of the course persued [sic] by the rioters.

The draft passed off very quietly in Pittsburg [sic] and Horton, starting no resistance in either city.

From the Army of the Potomac we have nothing reliable on account of the wires being down in New York.  There is a report in circulation that Lee had succeeded in crossing the Potomac.

From the army of the West the news is glorious as it always is.  The brave and gallant army of General Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks] have captured Port Hudson with 18,000 prisoners, all its stores and guns, and retaken the prisoners captured from us in the assaults.

From Grant’s [Ulysses S. Grant] army we have the cheering news that Gen. Sherman [William T. Sherman] with one division of the army had met and defeated Johnson [sic: Joseph E. Johnston] beyond Black river bridge, taking 2,000 prisoners and two cannon.  Gen. Frank Blair occupies the city of Jackson.  Johnson’s [sic] army is in full retreat into the interior of the State, closely pursued by Sherman.

The army of the Cumberland is again victorious, and the gallant Rosecrans [William S. Rosecrans] has marched in the rebel stronghold of Chatanooga [sic], capturing 4,000 prisoners.

From the Army of the South news comes that the army and fleet are moving on Charleston.  It is said, that great preparations have been made to ensure success.  The news from the army is most cheering, and but for the outrageous mob in New York we think the horizon looks bright.  But we entertain no fears of the result.  Vigorous blows have been struck and the ball is rolling which will crush out and put down this lawless and God cursed rebellion.

Why Hooker was Removed.

The following solution for the reason for Hooker’s removal [Joseph Hooker], is as probable as any we have seen, and may be the immediate occasion for it, but we suspect the real reason dates back to Chancellorsville, and includes the subsequent acts of the General :

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, June 28.—We were visited here yesterday by Gen. Hooker, accompanied by Brig. Gen. Warren.  The object of this visit was to enquire into the propriety of evacuating the Heights.  He sent for Col. Reynolds, our able engineer, and asked him what the object was in holding the Heights.  The Col. replied that he had often asked the question, and never got a satisfactory answer.  Hooker then issued an order that the place should be evacuated by 7 o’clock next morning ;  that such guns as could not be taken away should be destroyed and the stores removed.  Immediately afterwards he informed Gen. Halleck [Henry W. Halleck] of what he had done, whereupon he received a dispatch countermanding the order, and saying the fortifications had cost too much to be given, unless under the most urgent necessity.  He considered Harper’s Ferry to be the key to the present and future operations of the Army of the Potomac.  Hooker’s comment upon this was natural enough :  “What is the use in holding on to the key after the door is smashed?”  While on his way back from here, he received an order from Washington removing him from command, and placing Gen. Meade [George G. Meade] in his stead.

THE NORWEGIAN REGIMENT.—The The [sic] Murfreesboro Correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial, thus alludes to our gallant 15th Wis. Regiment :

“I have just returned from a pleasant visit to the outposts, a part of Gen. Jeff. C. Davis’ division occupying the front upon the Shelbyville Pike.  Col. Heg has a regiment of Norwegians, or Scandinavians.  They are a splendid body of well-disciplined men, and all speak our language fluently.  I heard an amusing anecdote of one of their Captains, who a short time since, took a lot of rebels prisoners.  As this Norwegian Captain had them drawn up in line, he said to them, in broken English and in accents very like German :  “Say, you fellers—you putternuts—I vant you all to schwear a little.  It do you goot to schwear mit de Constitution.  I schware him tree year ago—now you schware him goot—no d–n nonsense.  You schware him and keep him down, and not puke him up again!

1.  Hans Christian Heg (1829-1863), from Waterford, was born in Norway and moved with his family to Wisconsin as a youngster. As an adult, Heg became a rising young politician who became an ardent member of first the Free Soil Party and later the recently-reformed Republican Party. He was the first Norwegian born candidate elected state-wide in Wisconsin. He was an outspoken anti-slavery activist and a leader of Wisconsin’s Wide Awakes, an anti-slave catcher militia. Heg was a major in the 4th Wisconsin Militia and served as Wisconsin State Prison Commissioner. When the Civil War began, Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall appointed Heg as colonel of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment. 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. Heg and the 15th Wisconsin fought in the battles of Perryville, Stones River, and Chickamauga, where he was mortally wounded. For more on Heg, including a photograph, see the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

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