Thursday, February 23, 2012

Scandinavians in the Civil War

I have become interested in Scandinavia over the past few years, thanks to my sister's marriage to a Swedish man.  The links between the region and the Civil War are considerable.  Near my hotel at Djugarden in Stockholm, I discovered a monument to naval engineer and inventor John Ericsson.  His creation, the USS Monitor, helped the Union Navy win the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862 against the CSS Virginia.  Here's a picture of it.  

Many thousands of Scandinavians fought in the the war, mostly for the Union.  One of the more notable ones was Colonel Hans Heg.  Originally from Norway, he emigrated to the US.  He commanded the 15th Wisconsin Infantry, a unit comprised of Scandinavian men.  This must have been an interesting arrangement given tensions between Norway and Sweden at the time.  The two countries had been united, unhappily, into a single kingdom in 1814, lasting until 1905.  Danes and Finns had issues with the two as well.  I'm also sure other regiments with Scandinavians had similar situations.  Heg led the 15th wish distinction in the western theater,  Shortly after being promoted to brigade command, he was killed in action at Chickamauga in September 1863.  Here's a picture of his memorial on the battlefield.


  1. As a point of interest, I wonder if the Scandinavians got as much grief as the "flying Dutchmen" of the XI corps.

  2. It's possible but XI Corps consisted of '48ers from Germany, a much more volatile group than Scandinavians. Lincoln put Germans such as Schurz in charge of them in order to win support from the community. Scandinavians posed less of a challenge.

    Could you imagine if we had to run the army like that today?

  3. Perhaps Lincoln believed it was more important to get 200,000 Germans into the army than to put them under nativist officers.

    1. A distinct possibility, especially in a border state like Missouri or more Democratic states.

  4. John Ericsson has a neat statue in Battery Park in NYC. His statue holds a model of the Monitor. Without Ericsson, it is difficult to see how the Union blockade squadron in Hampton Roads could have stayed on station.


Your comment is awaiting moderator's approval.