Medal of Honor Recipient
Private Henry M. Hardenbergh
This article was written by Charles Stanley.
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
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 a written account by Captain Homer Plimpton of Company G.
All this happened place 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 wounded.
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. Bearss 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.