Norwegian Soldiers of the Civil War (November 2008)

Up Close and Personal: An Evening with Norwegian Soldiers of the Civil War

Frank Jones, his cousin Kristin Oen Stone, two sons, and four grandchildren at the November meeting at which Eric Jones (holding musket) spoke on the (Norwegian) 15th Wis. regiment.

Eric Jones (son of Frank Jones) spoke on this topic at our Nov. 21st meeting. Mr. Jones is a descendant of a 15th Wisconsin soldier and has been re-enacting with the 7th Wisconsin Volunteers for the last five years.

About the Presentation

After the Union defeat at the Battle of First Bull Run in 1861, Norwegians living in the upper Midwest rushed to enlist in Mr. Lincoln’s Army. They were inspired to defend the Republic that had welcomed them with open arms, and given them a new start in life. This was a hopeful and exciting time in American history, and Norwegian immigrants played their part in the building of our new nation.

But what can we know about these distant times and these all but forgotten people? Civil War re-enactor and high school history teacher, Eric Jones will present a multi-media presentation that brings us as close as possible to the experience of the Norwegian immigrant soldier in Mr. Lincoln’s Union Army.

Dressed in the full marching gear of the 15th Wisconsin Regiment (the all-Scandinavian, mostly Norwegian Regiment), Mr. Jones will trace the path of these brave boys, as they battled their way across the Confederacy to Atlanta, Georgia. The journey will include the stories, letters and photographs of Norwegian soldiers from the Regiment.

In addition, Mr. Jones will share the sights, sounds, smells, camp life and emotional drama he has experienced as a Union Army re-enactor, to deepen our understanding of what these brave Norwegian boys went through.

Hans Christian Heg

Hans Christian Heg was a Norwegian immigrant to the United States of America who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Hans C. Heg was born in Lier, Norway. He immigrated with his family to America in 1840, settling in the Muskego Settlement in Wisconsin. A member of the recently formed Republican Party, he was an outspoken anti-slavery activist.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Heg was appointed by Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall as colonel of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment. The 15th Wisconsin was called the Scandinavian Regiment because its soldiers were almost all immigrants from Norway, with some from Denmark and Sweden.

About Eric Jones

Eric Hodges Jones (see picture on left) of Front Royal, Virginia, joined Washington Lodge in 2000. He was born in 1960 in Wyandotte, Michigan, the oldest of four children of Mary Susan (Adams) and Franklin Allan Jones (Lodge Editor).

He is a great great grandson of Private Ole Haraldsen (see picture to right). Uhlen who served with the 15th Wisconsin Regiment of the American Civil War. Ole had come to Wisconsin in 1850 and homesteaded in Iowa in 1853. His daughter, Ingeborg Olsdatter married and gave birth to Olava Thorine Olsen, Frank Jones’ grandmother.

Eric moved to Arlington at age 4, and was educated in the Arlington County Public Schools. In 1985 Eric received his Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology, Archaeology and History from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. While a student he worked as a Laboratory Supervisor for the Alexandria Urban Archaeology Program.

In 1988 Eric was employed as Sponsorship Developer for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Washington, DC. In this capacity he worked as an advocate for worldwide refugees, helping families resettle in America and better their lives. From 1993-2001 Eric worked as a bilingual English-Spanish welfare caseworker for the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Social Services, working with the Federal Food Stamp and Medicaid programs.

Ole Haraldsen Uhlen, age 49, 15th Wisconsin Regiment. Fought in US Civil War in Missouri and Illinois. He is the three times great-grandfather of Eric Jones.

In July 2000 Eric and his wife Sarah traveled to Norway to visit the mountains and valleys of Eric’s Norwegian ancestors. Highlights included a visit to his ancestral churches in Hedalen and Begnadalen. Prior to traveling Eric self-studied Norwegian and made it through the equivalent of a first year course.

In 2002, at age 42, Eric joined his first Civil War reenactment unit, with a desire to experience, as nearly as possible, his 3x great grandfather Ole Haraldsen Uhlen’s soldier experiences. He was encouraged by the fact that Ole was also 42 when he enlisted!

During the last 6 years, Eric has participated in dozens of historic reenactments, including rustic camps, battles and marches across the Mid-Atlantic States. He portrays a Norwegian immigrant soldier in the 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the famous “Iron Brigade.” Since 2007 Eric’s reenacting activities have expanded to include portraying a soldier in George Washington’s French and Indian War Regiment, and as a Pennsylvania minuteman from the Revolutionary War.

During the summer of 2008 Eric worked as a living history museum guide and curator of the Balthis House colonial house museum run by the Warren Heritage Society. Here he combined his interests in gardening and history to produce exhibits and living history programs on early colonial life in Front Royal.

Reenacting has been an exciting and personal way for Eric to share history with the public and with school children. His work at history summer camps convinced him he should return to college to study secondary education.

In 2008 Eric graduated from Shenandoah University with a Virginia State teaching license in Secondary School Spanish. Since then he has taught Spanish and English at the High School level, and is currently teaching World History at Skyline High School in Warren County, Virginia. He is currently pursuing his History teaching endorsement, so he can become a history teacher.

Eric is married to Sarah Elizabeth Jones, whose Scots and English ancestors settled in Bedford and Yorktown, Virginia during the 1700’s. Eric has two children, Erika, 18, and Owen, 14. Erika attends Northern Virginia Community College. Owen is an accomplished musician and photographer, attending West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Owen is also a soldier-reenactor with the 7th Wisconsin Volunteers.