Little is known of the ancestry
and personal life of a young man born in Noble County, Indiana,
who was a volunteer infantryman in the Civil War and earned his
nation's highest award for valor: the Medal of Honor. According
to state muster records for the unit he was in, Company G of
the 39th Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry, Henry M. Hardenbergh
(his name also sometimes appears as Hardenburg) was born in Noble
County, but by the time the Civil War started was living in the
tiny Cook County, Illinois, village of New Bremen, which later
became Tinley Park. When he enlisted on August 15, 1861, he was
single, 21 years old, stood 5'9" and had light hair, blue
eyes and a light complexion. His occupation was listed as a carpenter.
The Preacher's Company: Company G was known as the "Preacher's
Company" because it's organizer and first commanding officer,
Captain William B. Slaughter, was a Methodist circuit-rider minister
who traveled between Blue Island and Joliet. Many of the men
in Company G came from Bremen, Orland, Palos and Worth Townships
in Cook County, and Homer and New Lenox Townships in Will County.
Others in the unit included Lieutenant Amos Savage, who had resigned
as the Homer Township Supervisor to enlist, and Orland Township
Private Thomas Humphrey, the older brother of John Humphrey,
later a state senator whose house is now an Orland Park landmark.
Early Duty: In 1862 the regiment
had a brush with Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson's
forces in the Shenandoah Valley and in 1863 participated in the
siege of Charleston, SC. Outside Charleston Hardenbergh was detailed
to serve on a Requa battery. The Requa volley gun had 25 rifle
barrels mounted parallel on a frame with wheels. It could fire
175 shots per minute. In January of 1864 many of the soldiers,
including Hardenbergh, reenlisted. After a furlough at home,
the 39th Illinois was sent to Virginia.
Hardenbergh's Heroism: Starting on August 13, 1864, the regiment
was involved in strategic marches during a period of terribly
hot weather. The regiment started out with around 400 men but
by the 16th was down to just over 200 men. The dwindling number
was not caused by enemy action, but by sun stroke and sickness.
On August 16, the 39th Illinois took part in a 200-yard charge
on enemy entrenchment's. Despite heavy fire, the rebel fortifications
were reached and overwhelmed. Hardenbergh, who was carrying his
regiment's flag, was shot in his shoulder. Another member of
his regiment picked up the flag and carried it on, but Hardenbergh
kept going on to the enemy earthworks. There Hardenbergh had
a hand-to-hand struggle with the color bearer of the 10th Alabama
Infantry whom he left mortally wounded and whose flag he took,
according to a written account by Captain Homer Plimpton of Company
All this happened in the first minutes of what would come
to be known as the Second Battle of Deep Bottom. The fight would
last for three hours with the Confederates ultimately beating
back the Federals. According to the regimental history, 224 men
were involved in the battle, with 104 of them either killed or
Hardenbergh's Rewards: Flag captures were considered a special
high honor during the Civil War. Hardenbergh presented the rebel
flag to his corps commander, Major General David Birney. His
heroism resulted in a recommendation for a Medal of Honor. Hardenbergh's
gallant conduct also earned him a recommendation for an officer's
commission in a U.S. Colored Regiment. Only whites served as
officers in black regiments. "He has been in my company
over three years and I have always found him to be a faithful
and a brave soldier and one who could be trusted in any place
and under all circumstances," wrote Lieutenant James M.
Harrington of Company G.
Hardenbergh's Death: But on August 28, before receiving his first
lieutenant's commission in the 36th U.S. Colored Troops, Hardenbergh
was killed while on picket duty. "The said Private Henry
M. Hardenbergh was shot through the head by a rebel sharpshooter
on the 28th inst., while doing duty in the trenches before Petersburg,
killing him "almost instantly," reported Captain Lewis
Whipple, then the regimental commander, on September 1, 1864.
Hardenbergh's Medal of Honor also was awarded posthumously on
April 6, 1865. "He is silent in the grave, all unmindful
of earthly rewards," Plimpton later wrote.
One other honor accorded to Hardenbergh is a marble headstone,
one of only four erected where he is buried at Poplar Grove National
Cemetery south of Petersburg. Company G served on and its remaining
members were present at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865,
to witness the surrender by Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
After further Virginia duty, that December there was a return
to Chicago and muster out in Springfield.
The Hardenbergh Markers: In 1990, while doing research on a Civil
War book, Tinley Park attorney John E. Horn learned of Hardenbergh.
In late 1993, Horn initiated a fund drive to erect a highway
marker at the location in Virginia about 10 miles southeast of
Richmond where the battle took place. With $1,050 in contributions
from Horn and 26 other donors, the two-foot square metal marker
was made and dedicated on August 16, 1995 -- the 131st anniversary
of the battle. The pole-mounted marker is placed along the Darbytown
Road near Bailey's Creek just north of where the rebel earthworks
were at. The site has been plowed under for farm use, but other
trenchworks can still be found in the area. Horn and noted Civil
War author and former chief historian for the National Park Service
Edwin C. Bears were the speakers. "At the Battle of Second
Deep Bottom more than 3,500 northern and southern were killed,
wounded or captured and yet it is not one that is well recognized,"
Bearss said. But "at the Battle of Second Deep Bottom you
were just as dead, or just as badly wounded, or you suffered
just as much from the heat as you did in battles that have become
[national and state battlefield] parks." On March 3, 1997,
in a small ceremony at the Bremen Township office, 15350 Oak
Park Avenue, Oak Forest, Horn, the Bremen Township Clerk, presented
the framed text of the marker to other township officials. It
now is displayed in the clerk's office.