The statue of a Civil War hero was re-dedicated in Wisconsin on Sunday after a mob tore down the original during the summer of 2020.
Descendants of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, a Union soldier who died from wounds suffered at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, attended the ceremony.
“The State has sent no braver soldier, and no truer patriot to aid in this mighty struggle for national unity, than Hans Christian Heg,” The Wisconsin State Journal wrote of Heg in 1863. “The valorous blood of the old Vikings ran in his veins.”
Heg’s statue in front of the State Capitol building in Madison was toppled during demonstrations in Wisconsin following the arrest of a local activist who had entered a restaurant with a bull horn and baseball bat. Protests over the arrest that night turned violent as a Democratic State Senator Tim Carpenter was beaten and another historic monument called “Forward” was torn down.
The phrase “Black is Beautiful” was spray-painted on the base of Heg’s statue, a Union soldier who supported abolition. The statue’s head was lost while the body was thrown into a nearby lake but later recovered.
A restored statue of the Norwegian immigrant turned Civil War colonel was commissioned and placed back in front of the capitol building, according to The Wisconsin State Journal.
“I want you to think about the story of Heg and look at that statue through a different and wider lens,” Christopher Kolakowski, director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum said at the ceremony. “Hans Heg is an exemplar for Norwegians in the Norwegian community for sure, but he represents much more than that.”
One of Heg’s descendants, Lori Coffey, told NBC15 that she was surprised to hear the news of the original statue being pulled down.
“I went, ‘Oh my gosh!’ And my heart sank. I thought, ‘Why?’’’ she said. “And then I thought, ‘What would Colonel Heg do?’ I know I want to be angry but that’s not what he would’ve done.”
Several groups, including the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, and Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, took part in the ceremony.
During his Civil War service, Heg, who supported the abolition of slavery, took part in battles at Murfreesboro, Perryville, and Island No. 10 before dying of wounds sustained at Chickamauga. Visitors to Chickamauga can see a monument at the location where he was shot.
“You may be a widow,” he wrote to his wife during the war, “but you will never be the widow of a coward.”
An identical statue of Heg is in Norway, Wisconsin, where he lived prior to enlisting in the army and is buried at a Lutheran Evangelical Church. Another can be found in his birthplace of Lier, Norway.
Wisconsin man Rodney A. Clendening has a trial in October over his alleged role in the destruction of the statue.