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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Salt Creek Civil War Round Table

Last Friday night, March 18, I had a very pleasant time at the Salt Creek Civil War Round Table in Downers Grove, Illinois, about twenty miles from where I live.  Approximately thirty people attended.  I talked for around an hour about the 39th Illinois, the only regiment from Illinois in Grant's army during August 1864.  The 39th was known as the "Yates Phalanx" after Governor Yates of Illinois, who helped find the regiment a place in the army (the soldiers had previously offered their services to Missouri, which had declined).  I focused on Company G, "the Preacher's Company," so called because it was recruited by a preacher.  And it was recruited partially in Tinley Park, Illinois, where I have my law office.  Company G included Private Henry M. Hardenbergh, depicted in the Keith Rocco painting that hangs in the Tinley Park village hall and provides the basis for the dust jacket of my book, "The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864" (SavasBeatie, 2015).  Hardenbergh carried the colors of the 39th on August 16, 1864, when the 39th, part of the Western Brigade of Alfred H. Terry's X Corps division stormed Confederate earthworks north of Fussell's Mill about twelve miles southeast of Richmond.  In the earthworks stood Girardey's (Wright's) Georgia brigade of Mahone's division, thinly stretched.  Hardenbergh went down with a bullet in the shoulder during the initial onslaught.  Another soldier picked up the flag.  Hardenbergh picked himself up and after the breakthrough captured the flag of an Alabama regiment to the south of the Georgians, killing its color bearer.  For this he received a commission as a lieutenant in the 36th United States Colored Troops and a Medal of Honor.  They came posthumously, though.  He was killed on Bermuda Hundred August 28, 1864.  Now he lies in Poplar Grove National Cemetery, about six miles south of Petersburg.  The 39th was quite a good regiment.  It is one of Fox's 300 Fighting Union Regiments, with more than 130 killed during its service, even though its men did not consider themselves to have begun fighting until Second Drewry's Bluff, May 16, 1864.  (Their first action had been at Kernstown in the Shenandoah Valley in March 1862, the only battle Stonewall Jackson ever lost in the Shenandoah.)