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Ernst Mattias Peter von Vegesack

f. 18/6 1820 vid Gannarve i Hemse Gotlands län d. 12/1 1903 i Tegnérlunden 6 Adolf Fredrik Stockholms stad.Begravd 22/1 1903 Stockholms norra begravningsplats, avd. 1, kv. 2, nr. 509. Överste, friherre, (generalmajor).

      

Son till löjtnanten baron Eberhard Ferdinand Emil von Vegesack f. 10/5 1794 i Villberga. d. 30/1 1855 i Visby. Gift den 20/12 1819 med Ulrica ”Ulla” Christina Sophia Lythberg f. 23/4 1799 i Rone.

Ernsts syskon:

Medda f. 12/2 1823 i Rone Gotlands län

Anna Susanna Gunilla Emilia f. 27/3 1825 i När Gotlands län

Sofia Carolina Bibbi Mathilda f. 29/3 1827 i Rone Gotlands län

Johan Braf Eugéne f. 14/3 1829 i Rone Gotlands län

Cyrus f. 12/9 1831 i Alskog Gotlands län

Helena Christina Lovisa f. 29/5 1834 i Alskog Gotlands län

Gabriel Fredrik Roderik f. 17/9 1837 i Öja Gotlands län d. 10/3 1916 i Stockholm

  

De flyttade 1827 till Halor, Rone från När. Fadern kapten, ”Chef för Thorsburgs Compagnie.” De flyttade 1829 till När. De flyttade den ? till Ystad. De flyttade 1837 till Hamngården, Burgsvik, Öja. Fadern strandbevakningsinspektor. De flyttade den 16/11 1849 till Visby s. f.. Fadern f. d. tullinspektor. (Modern, Ulla, flyttade den 6/10 1858 till Ernst i Stockholm).

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Gift 21/10 1865 med Edla Amalia Sergel f. 8/6 1823 i Ärja Södermanlands län d. 24/3 1881 i (bodde i Sankt Jakobs församling i Stockholm) av lunginflammation.

Äktenskapet var barnlöst.

Jägare vid Visby jägarkompani vid Gotlands Nationalbeväring 16/5 1835, 2:a konstapel vid Gotlands Nationalbevärings artilleri 29/10 1835, 1:e konstapel 31/3 1836, sergeant 20/9 1837, styckjunkarexamen 13/7 1838, officersexamen 27-28/5 1839, avlagt gradpassexamen 1/2 1840, underlöjtnant vid Gotlands Nationalbeväring 2/3 1840, transport till Dalregementet 9/2 1942, 2:a löjtnant 28/11 1843, 1:e löjtnant 17/4 1852, batterichef på S:t Barthelemy  1/5 1852 - 10/6 1853, batterichef på S:t Barthelemy 1/5 - 1/11 1854, kapten och kompanichef 4/12 1857, 2:a kapten 31/4 1858, deltog i Nordamerikanska inbördeskriget 1861-65, överstelöjtnant och chef för Vesterbottens fältjägarkår 26/4 1864, överste och chef för Helsinge regemente 20/5 1868, militärbefälhavare på Gotland 20/9 1873, generalmajor i armén och generalbefälhavare i 5te militärdistriktet 24/3 1884, avsked 6/4 1888.

   

Edla Amalia Sergel von Vegesack

Då det amerikanska inbördeskriget utbröt år 1861 sökte von Vegesack anställning i nordstaternas armé där han inskrevs som korpral. Den 21 september samma år inskrevs han som kapten vid 58th Ohio Volunters Regemente. Han hann emellertid inte lämna New York innan han den 28 oktober utnämndes till major vid det 20th New York Infantry Regiment som vid den tiden var förlagt vid Fort Monroe. von Vegesack placerades emellertid i general Wools stab. Eftersom von Vegesack egentligen inte ville tjänstgöra i stabstjänst utan i fälttjänst begärde han förflyttning till general McClellans armé. Vilket dock avslogs. Han kommenderades istället som adjutant hos general Mansfield i det befästa lägret vid Newport-News. Där kunde han den 9 mars 1862 se den berömda striden mellan Merrimack och Monitor vid Hamton Road. Men nu hade von Vegesack fått nog av stabstjänst. Han begärde och fick avsked. Han anställdes emellertid omedelbart som frivillig i general McClellans Army of Potomac. von Vegesack deltog därefter den 20 april till den 4 maj i belägringen av Yorktown där han tjänstgjorde som tf adjutant hos general Butterfield. Han deltog därefter i striderna vid Hanover Courthous och Chickahominy. Efter den sista striden befordrades han till major och adjutant med tjänstgöring i general Butterfields stab. Han deltog därefter i slagen vid Seven Pines, Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Savage Station, Cross Road samt vid Malvern Hill. Genom sin tapperhet vid Gaines Hill erhöll han den 23 augusti 1893 utmärkelsen "Medal of Honour".

Ernst von Vegesack hade den 19 juli 1862 utnämndts till överste och regementschef för 20th New York Volunters Regiment. Regementet var då förlagt vid Harrison's Landing från den 2 juli till den 16 augusti varefter det förflyttades till Fort Monroe och därifrån till Alexandria och Manassa där det deltog i slaget. Hans regemente deltog även i striderna vid Antietam. Den 2 divisionen, dit regementet tillhörde, var placerad längst ut på vänsterflygel, med von Vegesacks regemente i mitten av divisionens stridslinje, en position som i stort sätt hela tiden var utsatt för fientlig artilleribeskjutning och prickskyttar. För att lugna sina soldater red von Vegesack utmed linjen med fanbäraren straxt efter. En officer vid ett angränsande regemente som märkt att den fientliga beskjutningen samlades just mot von Vegesack och hans fanbärare rider fram till von Vegesack och påpekar detta. Överste von Vegesack tittar på officeren och svarar lugnt "Let them wave. They are our glory".

Regementet blev det förband i divisionen som fick de största förlusterna, 38 döda, 96 sårade och 11 saknade. Under eftermiddagen beordrades anfall och von Vegesack i spetsen för sitt regemente stormade fram med påsatta bajonetter och under vilda hurrarop. Vid första artillerisalvan stupade regementets fanbärare.von Vegesack rider då fram och lyfter upp fanan och återtar platsen längst fram. Slaget vid Antietam kom att bli det blodigaste endagarsslaget under hela kriget med över 23.000 stupade på båda sidor. Ett trettioårigt minne. En veteran från amerikanska inbördeskriget, general T. W. Hyde, har nyligen utgifvit sina ”Personliga minnen från krigstiden”, af hvilka några utdrag ha intagits i tidningen The Bath Independent för den 24 September och 8 oktober innevarande år. Tidningen utgifves i staden Bath, staten Maine, och omtalar under rubriken ”Efter Manassas” följande trettioåriga minne, glädjande att läsa för hvarje svensk, emedan minnet gäller en svensk officer.

Tidpunkten är marschen från Manassas efter bataljen derstädes genom Washington till Maryland, der den blodiga dagen vid Antietam utkämpades — och det antydda minnet lyder i öfversättning sålunda: Vår brigad stod under befäl af svensken öfversten frih. von Vegesack, som just var mannen att omskapa sitt regemente af tyska soldater (the run-away Germans”) till soldater, sådana som de borde bara. Af alla utländska officerare som jag lärde känna — och det var många sådana i vår armé på den tiden — var han den bäste. Ingen af underbefälhafavarne i konung Gustaf 2 Adolfs arméer har gjort mera heder åt sitt fosterland. Han är nu generalmajor i sitt fädernesland, det gamla Sverige, och njuter, efter afskedstagande från krigstjensten, en välförtjent hvila. Men han har också gjort sig väl förtjent af vår republikanska tacksamhet och för detta i lika hög grad som någonsin Lafayette på sin tid — om vi än voro mindre i behof af hjelp nu än då. Han har öfverskridit den ålder, som menniskan vanligen uppnår — men jag har mina tvifvel om, huruvida icke alla de hedersbevisningar, som kommit honom till del der hemma, skola hos den gamle blekna inför erinringen af våra entusiastiska hurrarop, då han trotsade de hagelskurar, som rebellernas kulor vräkte öfver Antietam, och sålunda genom sin personlighet återförvärfvade hedern och anseendet år 20:e regementet Newyorks frivillige.

Under sjelfva slaget vid Antietam, det blodigaste i hela kriget, red jag fram till öfverste von Vegesack, påpekade att fienden särskildt riktade sin eld på hans person, emedan fanorna, som följde honom, hans befälstecken, buros så högt svajande, och hemstälde, om icke fanorna för tillfället kunde få sänkas en smula? ”Nej” svarade den tappre svensken, ”låt dem blåsa i topp, de äro ju ändå symbolen af vår ära”. Och så fortsatte han ridten fram och åter längs brigadens led, ordnande och uppmuntrande, ja — men med revolvern i hand för att nedskjuta den förste som visade lust att vända fienden ryggen, sjelf det mest i ögonen fallande målet för fiendens skarpskyttar. (Källa: 687)

 
 
 

(1862) Baron von Vegesack, som med beröm deltagit i Amerikanska kriget, men för närwarande befinner sig i Newyork för att återwinna sin genom mödosamma ansträngningar under bataljerna wid Richmond medtagna helsa, har blifwit utnämd till öfwerste och chef för 20:de volontaire-regementet från Newyork. (Källa: 819)

 
 

(1862) Friherre E. v. Vegesack, hwilken är anställd i Amerikanska unionsarmén, har blifwit utnämnd till brigadgeneral. (Källa: 820)

 
 

(1862) Swenska krigare. Angående twenne swenska krigare, hwilka, begge infödde Gotlänningar, med utmärkelse blifwit omnämnde för deras förhållande i åtskilliga bataljer under pågående nordamerikanska krig, hafwa nyligen ingått sådane underrättelser, som böra på det högsta glädja deras landsmän. Den ene är Kapitenen i Dalregementet Baron Ernst von Vegesack, och hwilken på ett annat ställe i tidningen wi meddela underrättelse och intyga, som äro för honom särdeles hedrande; och den andre är Öfwerste-Löjtnanten i Unions-armén Malmborg. Beträffande den sednaste komma wi att i det följande intaga såwäl en officiell rapport om en strid wid Schiloh, der Öfw.=Löjtn. Malmborg hade tillfälle att ådagalägga sådana militära insigter, att han på det mest smickrande sätt omnämndes af befälhafwaren Öfwerste D. Stuart, som äfwen utdrag af några högst intreßanta bref, hwilka genom benägen wälwilja blifwit oß meddelade.

 

Ernst v. Vegesack wid Antietam.

”Wid utbrottet af det olyckliga amerikanska kriget lemnade, såsom redan bekant är, baron Ernst v. Vegesack sitt fädernesland, för att ställa sig i deras leder som kämpade den stora unionens bestånd och för slafweriets afskaffande. Han war då och är fortfarande kapten wid Dalregementet, men han lemnade en tjenst mer än tillräckligt för hans bergning. Han war nemligen trafikchef wid Gefle-Dala jernwäg med en årlig lön af 4000 Rdr. något som icke slår många kaptener till buds. Men han älskade det yrke, han sedan barndomen egnat sig åt, och han fann hemmets stuga för trång i samma stund han insåg att den goda saken på andra sidan Atlanten, frihetens och mensklighetens sak, kunde behöfwa friska hjertan och öfwade armar. Han tog tjenstledighet från sitt reegemente, gaf jernwägen med deß 4000 på båten och reste med några fyrkar på fickan, men omgjordad med sitt goda swärd. Det dröjde icke länge förrän man genom underrättelse från krigsteatern i Amerika, här hemma fick erfara, huru denna wår landsman, utmärkande sig wid alla de tillfällen  han i den wilda leken warit med, avancerade från grad till grad inom unionens armé och en wacker dag finna wi honom anställd såsom öfwerste för ett infanteriregemente, bestående för det mesta af tyskar och skandinaver.

Det war såsom sådan han utförde en af de bragder, hwars rykte spridt sig öfwer hela unionen från tidning till tidning, från mun till mun. Den illustrerade tidningen Harpers i Nordamerika innehåller öfwer denna bragd en plansch, hwilken wi öfwerfört i wår tidning, öfwertygade som wi äro att denna bedrift, utförd af en wår landsman, skall finna icke swagare genljud i Vegesacks fädernesland.

Det war i den folkförödande slagtningen wid Antietam, der 45,000 menniskor dels sårades och dels blefwo på platsen. I centern af nordamerikanska arméns ställning reste sig trenne höjder, i högsta grad wigtiga positioner och wilka general Mansfield blifwit beordrad att till sista man förswara. Mansfield anfölls, blef slagen och stupade. General Weber fick då befallning att återtaga deßa höjder, men mißlyckades. Efter honom försökte general Sumner, men kunde icke bibehålla deßa positioner längre än 10 minuter, hwarefter han med stor förlust måste slå reträtt. Att utsigt att winna bataljonen ansågs förlorad. Då fick general Franklin, som på högra flygeln haft någon framgång mot rebellerna, order att intaga Sumners plats i centern. Det war under dennes befäl Vegesack regemente då stod och det war just detta regemente som först kom upp i linien och följaktligen äfwen först fick befallning att storma ifrågawarande höjder.

Vegesack, i spetsen för sitt regemente, rycker an. Men för fiendens först salfwa stupar bland andra regementets fanförare. Men wår landsman tager fanan från den döendes hand och ridande framför sitt regemente med fanan stormar han höjden. Det uppstår en förfärlig strid, en strid med blanka wapen man mot man. Nio officerare och 250 man stupa omkring sin hjeltemodige öfwerste, men icke desto mindre uppnår han kullens spets, kastar fienden hals öfwer hufwud ned, behåller positionen och räddar dagens ära.

På walplatsen komplimerad icke mindre af general Franklin än öfwergeneral M’Clellan för denna lysande bragd, blef han några dagar derefter befordrad till general. Det har warit  med werklig njutning wi nedskrifwit deßa rader, öfwersatta från amerikanska tidningar, som icke gerna slösa loford på krigare från främmande land. Wår landsman har häfdat den gamla swenska wapenäran och wisat att swenska stålet biter lika djupt på Söderns slafhållare som det fordom bet på Nordens moskoviter”.

  

  
Nordamerikansk Brigadgeneralen Dane Butterfield har till Swenska Ministern i Washington aflåtit följande skrifwelse:

”Potomacarmén d. 24 oktober 1862.

Grefwe Piper etc. etc.

Min bäste herre !

Det är en högst angenäm pligt jag går att uppfylla, då jag ber att få fäste eder uppmärksamhet på öfwersten wid 20:de friwilliga Newyork-regementet (kaptenen i swenska armén) Ernst von Vegesacks tapperhet och utmärkta uppförande.

Som ni wet, tog öfwersten (dåwarande majoren) von Vegesack afsked från den befattning i Förenta Staternas tjenst innehade wid fästningen Monroe, af fruktan att han eljest skulle blifwa försatt i owerksamhet under fälttåget på halfön. Han anställdes oförtöfwadt ånyo af krigsministern och utsågs att göra tjenst hos mig. Under fästningarne wid Hannover Court Hence(?) och Chickhominy ådagalagde han det största mod och det tappraste uppförande, ländade både honom sjelf och hans fosterland till ära. Jag har på det mest hedrande sätt omnämnt honom i de officiella rapporterna till mina förmän.

Jag anser mig likwäl icke hafwa uppfyllt alla de förbindelser, i hwilka jag slår till honom, förrän jag meddelat eder och genom eder hans konung och hemmawarande kamrater detta intyg om hans högst utmärkta tjenstgöring, hedrande för honom lika mycket såsom krigare och gentleman. Sedan deßa tilldragelser har han blifwit befordrad till befälhafware för det 20:de regementet från Newyork, och jag betwiflar icke att han fortfarande skall hedra både sig och sitt land under striden för den ärofulla sak som  han omfattat.

Jag har med utmärkt  högaktning äran wara
eder Dane Butterfield
Brigadgeneral

(Källa: 821)

 

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(1863) Swensk i amerikanska kriget. I Götheborgsposten berättas den 21 april: Kapitenen wid Kongl. ingeniörcorpsen C. R. Ljungberg, som på permission en längre tid warit anställd i amerikanska nordstaternas armé, derifrån han såsom ögonwittne medför intreßanta underrättelser om de sednaste bataljerna, ankom i går hit till staden med ångbåten från Hull och afreser med bantåget i morgon till Stockholm, för att åter ingå i tjenstgöring wid ingeniörcorpsen. Kapit. Ljungberg har under sitt wistande i nordstaternas armé träffat flera af wåra landsmän, såsom Cederström, Vegesack m. fl. och förmodar att löjtnanten Roßander är stadd på hemresan till Swerige. (Källa: 822)

 

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(1863) Baron Ernst von Vegesack, mottog wid sitt afskedstagande från nordamerikanska unionsarmén följande skrifwelse från divisionens högqwarter: ”Högqwarteret för andra divisionen af sjette armé-corpsen. Lägret wid Rappahannock den 26 Maj 1863. Baron Ernst von Vegesack, 20:de reg. Newyorker-volontärer. Högtärade Herre! Med tilländalöpandet af af eder tjenstetid slutar i dag eder werksamhet inom divisionen. Jag skulle kränka mina egna känslor, om jag skildes från eder utan att uttala mitt lifliga erkännande af edra tjenster. Såwäl uti lägret som i slagtningens tumult har divisionen städse uti eder funnit en trogen, fulländad soldat. Kamrater under slagtningen, äro wi wänner för alltid. Att ni må få lefwa länge och njuta den ära, som ni så glänsande och tappert wunnit, önskar eder män och wapenbroder A. P. Hawe(?), general och befälhafware för andra divisionen. (Källa: 823)

 

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(1863) Guldmedaljen för tapperhet i fält har Kong. Maj:t beslutat tillägga officerarne kapitenen wid Dalregementet, Friherre E. M. P. von Vegesack, Löjtnanten wid Wästgötha Dals regemente C. A. Rossander, Löjtnanten wid Lifbewäringsregementet C. U. O Nerman och Löjtnanten wid Bohus läns regemente E. O. Hultman, och har Statskontoret under den 6 innewarande månad erhållit nådig befallning att föranstalta om prägling af 4 exemplar af ifrågawarande medalj, samt att sedermera låta aflemna medaljerna till Landtförswars-departementets Kommando-expedition, för att i behörig ordning wederbörande tillställas. (Källa: 824)

 

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(1863) Kapten Ernst von Vegesack, hwilken på ett så ärorikt sätt häfdat det swenska namnet såsom krigare i amerikanska nordstatsarmén, anlände till hufwudstaden den 20 dennes. Wi ha redan förut omnämnt hwilka smickrande bewis af erkänsla, som egnats baron V. i New-York, hwarifrån han den 14 sistl. September afreste, men kunna nu tillägga, att han före sin afresa från Amerika af den utaf Nordamerikas ädlaste patrioter bildade ”Union Leage Aßociation” på ett högtidligt sätt fått emottaga deß i silfwer präglade medalj, en utmärkelse som hittills endast tillkommit tolf personer (i guld slås nämnde medalj endast för presidenten i Förenta Staterna.

Under sin hemresa har baron V. på flera ställen i Sweriges städer blifwit på ett och annat sätt uppwaktad, och wid hans ankomst till hufwudstaden med ångfartyget Arboga mottogs han af en mycket talrik folkmaßa med hurrarop, för hwilken wälkomsthelsning baronen med några hjertliga ord tackade.

Den 22 blef Friherre v. Vegesack af Kongl. Maj:t utnämnd till Riddare af Kongl. Swärdsorden. (Källa: 825)

 

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(1864) Kaptenen friherre von Vegesack höll å ”Sällskapets Krigswetenskapens Wänner” sammankomst den 9:e dennes föredrag öfwer det nordamerikanska kriget. (Källa: 826)

 

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(1892) Ett trettioårigt minne. En veteran från amerikanska inbördeskriget, general T. W. Hyde, har nyligen utgifvit sina ”Personliga minnen från krigstiden”, af hvilka några utdrag ha intagits i tidningen The Bath Independent för den 24 September och 8 oktober innevarande år. Tidningen utgifves i staden Bath, staten Maine, och omtalar under rubriken ”Efter Manassas” följande trettioåriga minne, glädjande att läsa för hvarje svensk, emedan minnet gäller en svensk officer.

Tidpunkten är marschen från Manassas efter bataljen derstädes genom Washington till Maryland, der den blodiga dagen vid Antietam utkämpades — och det antydda minnet lyder i öfversättning sålunda:

Vår brigad stod under befäl af svensken öfversten frih. von Vegesack, som just var mannen att omskapa sitt regemente af tyska soldater (the run-away Germans”) till soldater, sådana som de borde bara. Af alla utländska officerare som jag lärde känna — och det var många sådana i vår armé på den tiden — var han den bäste. Ingen af underbefälhafavarne i konung Gustaf 2 Adolfs arméer har gjort mera heder åt sitt fosterland. Han är nu generalmajor i sitt fädernesland, det gamla Sverige, och njuter, efter afskedstagande från krigstjensten, en välförtjent hvila. Men han har också gjort sig väl förtjent af vår republikanska tacksamhet och för detta i lika hög grad som någonsin Lafayette på sin tid — om vi än voro mindre i behof af hjelp nu än då. Han har öfverskridit den ålder, som menniskan vanligen uppnår — men jag har mina tvifvel om, huruvida icke alla de hedersbevisningar, som kommit honom till del der hemma, skola hos den gamle blekna inför erinringen af våra entusiastiska hurrarop, då han trotsade de hagelskurar, som rebellernas kulor vräkte öfver Antietam, och sålunda genom sin personlighet återförvärfvade hedern och anseendet år 20:e regementet Newyorks frivillige.

Under sjelfva slaget vid Antietam, det blodigaste i hela kriget, red jag fram till öfverste von Vegesack, påpekade att fienden särskildt riktade sin eld på hans person, emedan fanorna, som följde honom, hans befälstecken, buros så högt svajande, och hemstälde, om icke fanorna för tillfället kunde få sänkas en smula? ”Nej” svarade den tappre svensken, ”låt dem blåsa i topp, de äro ju ändå symbolen af vår ära”. Och så fortsatte han ridten fram och åter längs brigadens led, ordnande och uppmuntrande, ja — men med revolvern i hand för att nedskjuta den förste som visade lust att vända fienden ryggen, sjelf det mest i ögonen fallande målet för fiendens skarpskyttar. (Källa: 827)

 

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(1893) För tapperhet i fält”. Vi omnämnde nyligen att general E. von Vegesack erhållit ytterligare ett utmärkelsetecken från krigsåren, nämligen en ”Medal of honor”.

Utmärkelsetecknet i fråga, som i dagarne jämte diplom blifvit tilldeladt den gamle krigaren, består af en femuddig stjerna af brons, krönt af amerikanska örnen, med utbredda vingar, och sockeln bestående af två korslagda kanoner. I medaljens glob synes frihetsgudinnan, med Amerikas sköld nedtryckande symbolerna af förräderi och uppror. Frånsidan af medaljen bär en inskrift, som i svensk öfversättning lyder sålunda: ”Af Amerikas Förenta Staters Kongress till Brigadgeneralen Ernst von Vegesack i Förenta Staternas Volontärarmé för tapperhet i bataljen vid Gainses´ Mill, Virginia, 27 juni 1862”.

Medaljen bäres i Stjernbanerets band och fästes vid halsen medelst amerikanska skölden.

Särskildt betecknande för denna utmärkelse är, att den är fullkomligt lika för generalen som för den menige man och att den af kongressen utdelats lika till officerare, underofficerare och soldater, ”hvilka med synnerlig tapperhet utmärkt sig uti bataljer under amerikanska kriget 1860 (sic) -1865”. (Källa: 688) 

 

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(1903) Ernst M. P. von Vegesack. Telegrafen bringar oss idag på middagen det icke alldeles oväntade sorgebudet att den gamle krigaren, f. d. generalmajoren Ernst Mathias von Vegesack, en af de numera få svenska officerare dom på allvar luktat krutrök, fått lykta sina dagar, hvilka på senare åren fördystrats af nästan bedtändig ohälsa och svåra krämpor, ehuru den gamle nog, som det anstod en tapper krigsbuss, äfven när plågorna voro som värst, dock städse försökte hålla humöret uppe. Nu har han kämpat ut, och hans lidande är slut, sedan han i morse stilla aflidit i sitt hem i hufvudstaden. Han var vid sin död 82 1/2 år gammal. 

Ernst v. Vegesack, hvars ärofulla krigarbana vi för ej då länge sedan utförligt skildrat med anledning af den numera bortgångnes under år 1900 inträffade 60-årsjubileum som svensk officer, föddes i Hemse  på Gotland 18 Juni 1820. Föräldrarna var kapten E. F. E. v. Vegesack och hans maka, född Lythberg.

Utnämmd till löjtnant  vid Gotlands nationalbeväring 1840, förflyttades han därifrån efter två år till underlöjtnant vid Dalregementet och befordrades till löjtnant därstädes 1843. Under åren 1844-1850 biträdde han som landtmätare inom Stora Kopparbergs län, hvarefter han det sistnämda året befordrades till batteriofficer på S:t Barthelemy. Återkommen till fäderneslandet , utnämdes han 1857 till kapten och kompanischef vid Dalregementet hvarjämte han från 1858 innehade trafikschefsbefattningen vid Gäfle-Dala järnväg. Äfven 1861-1868 (sic) deltog han med stor utmärkelse i nordamerikanska inbördeskriget, först i egenskap af kapten, däreftet såsom major och slutligen såsom öfverste och infanterìregementsschef vid unionisternas armé. Härvid bevistade han ett 20-tal fältslag, strider och belägringar. Särskildt vid Antietam (16 och 17 Sept. 1862) ådagalade han i spetsen för 20:de regementet en tapperhet, som väckte allmän beundran. 1865 utnämdes han till brigadgeneral i Förenta staternas armé. Under tiden hade han 1864 befordrats till öfverstelöjtnant och schef gör Västerbottens fältjägarekår, och 1868 utnämdes han till öfverste och schef för Helsinge regemente. 1874-1884 militärbefälhafvare här på Gotland där hans minne skall lefva aktadt och äradt. Utnämd 1884 till generalmajor, förordnades han samma år till generalbefälhafvare i 5:te militärdistriktet och kvarstod i denna egenskap till 1885, få han efter erhållet afsked afgick ur krigstjänsten. Åren 1878-1887 satt han som ledamot  för Gotlands län i riksdagens  första kammare och af Krigsvetenskapsakademien var han ledamot sedan 1864. Af yttre utmärkelser innehade han storkorset af Svärdsorden , svensk guldmedalj "för tapperhet i fält" samt en mängd amerikanska fälttågsmedaljer, hvarjämte han var riddare af S:t Olafs orden. Gift 1865 med Ella Amalia Sergel, men efter endast  några få års barnlöst äktenskap vorden änkling, sörjes den bortgångne nu närmast af syskon, däribland öfverstelöjtnanten i Dalregementets reserv Roderik von Vegesack. 

Generalmajor von Vegesack var i sin krafts dagar en imponerande krigargestalt, med en stämma som hördes vida kring, när den höjdes för uttalande af kommandoorden. Man kunde såväl förstå, när man såg den ståtlige generalen, med sin stentorsstämma som överröstade stridens dån, själf slltjämt i spetsen kunna elda sina gossar att rusa till anfall och utföra under af tapperhet.

Den gamle generalen som genom sina bragder sprida glans öfver gutanamnet, var själf en minnesgod som han i lifvrets senaste höst ägnade sina varmaste känslor. Han bevisade detta genom att så länge krafterna det tilläto kvarstå såsom ordförande för Gotlands gille i Stockholm, och äfven efter det han afgått som gillets ordförande försummade han icke gärna att, såvida någon möjlighet fans, bevista gillets sammankomster, och när talet då, såsom naturligtvis ofta skedde, föll på gamla Gotland, då blef det åter klang i stämman och eld i blicken, ja, kanske skönjdes äfven någon gång innerst  i ögonvrån en saknadens  tår. Ja, han hade till det sista, äfven när plågorna ansatte honom som värst, ... , Gotland kärt, och kär var han själf, den tappre krigaren och flärdfrie hedetsmsnnen, för hvarje gotländing. Därför skall ock hans minne här lefva i kär och välsignad hågkomst  till senaste dagar och hans namn för alltid vara inristad i Gotlands häfder.

Hvile den gamle i frid ! (Källa: 1257)

 

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(1903) Generalmajoren frih. von Vegesack minne. Då framlidne generalmajoren frih. von Vegesack under lifstiden uttryckte sin önskan att ej blfva ihågkommen med kransar vid begrafningen, hade öfversten för Norrlands regemente A. von Arbin å regementets officerskårs vägnar till generalens minne på hans begrafningsdag öfverlämnat 100 kr. till bespisande af fattiga inom den församling, där generalen aflidit.  (Källa: 1258) 

 

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(1903) Från den gamle generalens griftefärd. Meddela vi idag efter Stockholmstidningarna följande, utöfver hvad telegrafen därom förut haft att förmäla.

På den svenska flaggan, och tillika med stjärnbaneret  höljde den dödes kista, voro i de fyra hörnen broderade namnen på de fyra regementen, vid hvilka den gamle krigaren tjänat: Gotlands nationalbeväring, Dalregementet, Västerbottens fältjägarekår och Helsinge regemente, samt midt i korset 5;te arméfördelningen, för hvilken generalen en tid varit schef. På kistans lock lästes å en silfverplåt vid hufvudet namnet Ernst von Vegesack samt hans värdigheter, svensk generalmajor och amerikansk brigadgeneral, jämte födelse och dödsår. På en plåt vid fötterna var inristad följande vers:

 

Han har kämpat, han har vunnit,

sitt stöd han haft, sin tro, sitt hopp.   

Nu har han till fredssint hunnit 

efter väl fullbordadt lopp

Efter arbete och strid   

har han nu fått salig frid 

hos sin Gud i evig tid.

 
Bland de synnerligen talrika kransarna märktes en från Gotlands infanteriregementes officerskår och en från frimurarelogen S:t N. i Visby (Med tacksamhet och vördnad för sin förste ordförandemästare.) Ledamöter af Gotlands gille i Stockholm, hvars ordförande general v. Vegesack varit under många år, hade, i stället för att lägga en krans på hans kista, sammanskjutit ett penningbelopp att öfverlämnas till gillets understödsfond.

Urnan, hvari generalens aska efter bränningen förvaras, kommer någon dag i denna vecka att neddättas i den Vegesackska familjegrafven å Nya kyrkogården jämte den ofvannämda flaggorna, hvilka vid jordfästningen täckte kistan. Den militära honnör, som tillkommer honom såsom en på slagfältet bepröfvad krigsman, kommer att ägnas honom vid urnans nedsättning. (Källa: 1259) 

 

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(1903) Generalmajoren frih. von Vegesacks aska nedsattes, efter skedd likbränning, i förgår middag i familjegrafven å Nya kyrkogården i nörvaro af den hänsofnes närmaste anhöriga, trotjänare och några vänner.

Grafven var klädd i svart, och å densamma voro placerade alla de kransar, som sändts till likbegängelsen, hvarjämte de svenska  och amerikanska flaggor, hvilka till likbegängelsen omslöto kistan, voro vackert draperade å två friska, mindre enar. Urnan var placerad i en större, med lock försedd cylinder af Höganäs lera, och i densamma nedlades de båda flaggorna, i enlighet med den frejdade krigarens i lifstiden gjorda bestämmelse. Till sist nedlades alla minneskransarna, hvarefter griften igenmyllades. (Källa: 223) 

 

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"AMERICA IS, HOWEVER, THE MOST CURIOUS COUNTRY UNDER THE SUN"

THE CIVIL WAR LETTERS OF COLONEL ERNST VON VEGESACK, 1861-1863
ROGER KVIST

Among the many foreign officers who served in the United States during the Civil War, about thirty were on leave from the Swedish army. The best known of them was Ernst von Vegesack. Ella Lonn says that "[n]o other Swedish knight-errant equaled the Baron von Vegesack in importance or in the recognition which he received."1 Alf Åberg, the Swedish military historian, says that of the officers who returned to Sweden, Vegesack was the only one who received any substantial benefits from his service in the American Civil War. He became a Major General and was elected to the Swedish Diet.2 Vegesack started his military career in the United States as a Captain of the 58th Ohio Volunteers in 1861. He became a major and aide de camp the same year, and ended his American service as colonel of the 20th New York Volunteers, 1862-1863. At the end of the war, and after his return to Sweden, he was breveted Brigadier General, U.S.V. He was also decorated with the Swedish Gold Medal for Bravery and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

 
Ernst von Vegesack belonged to a family that moved from Westphalia to Estonia during the late Middle Ages and was raised to Swedish nobility in 1598. In spite of its baronial title, the family was never rich, and after his retirement from the army, Ernst's father eked out a meager living as a customs inspector on the island of Gotland. Ernst, who was born in 1820, followed the example of his father and grandfather, and became an officer, first on Gotland, and later in a regiment on the mainland. His love of adventure got the upper hand in 1850, and he became a battery officer on St. Barthelemy. He stayed in the Swedish West Indian colony for six years. Back in Sweden, he soon left his company command for a far more profitable job as a railroad superintendent. An argument with the president of the railroad, however, led to his resignation and subsequent departure for America in 1861.
Ernst von Vegesack at age 68. Gösta Florman Studio, Stockholm. (American Swedish Institute collection.)
In America, Vegesack wrote a series of ten letters from the "North American Theater of War" that was anonymously published in the Stockholm evening paper Aftonbladet. He also wrote four long letters to his brother officer, Captain Carl Fredrik Toll, and several letters to an acquaintance, the iron-master Mr. V. Åman. In addition, he wrote letters to the Swedish Consul General in New York, C.E. Habicht, and to the Swedish minister in Washington, D.C., Count Edvard Piper.

From the existing copies of the letters to Captain Toll, it is evident from the exclusion marks, that the copier, Gustaf Nyblæus, has left out parts of the original letters, probably those not pertinent to Vegesack's military efforts. The letters to Mr. Åman have only been available to me as published in extract. The letters to Aftonbladet, however, exist as original manuscripts and as originally published. Copies of some of the letters to Habicht and Piper were enclosed in the diplomatic dispatches to Stockholm and still exist.
Letter from North America. A page from one of Vegesack's letters to Aftonbladet. 30 September 1861. (ASI collection.)

In his letters Vegesack discussed military organization, strategy, military and political events, and rumors about the conditions in the South, and he made unsuccessful predictions about the future. In the private letters he also told about his own achievements in colorful battle sketches. The most interesting aspect of the letters, however, is his view of leadership, morale, and discipline in the Union army. Although Vegesack's perspective was colored, first by a kind of culture shock when he encountered American conditions, then by sickness and increasing war weariness, it is still the view of an European professional officer writing, not as an outside observer, but as an insider in the Union army. The recurring theme is the contrast between the enlisted men and the officers in the volunteer army. The former are seen as the best and bravest ever put under arms, while the latter are regarded as professional incompetents and moral cowards.

 

AIDE DE CAMP TO GENERAL WOOL

With royal permission, Ernst von Vegesack left Sweden in the fall of 1861 for North America, and the ongoing Civil War. In Washington, he was met with kindness by the President and the Secretaries of State and War. Through diplomatic arrangement, and the interest of Secretary Seward, Vegesack received a commission as captain in 58th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry in September 1861. He did not serve in this regiment, however, but served on the staff of Brigadier General Dan Butterfield. After only a month in Butterfield's brigade, he received an appointment as major and additional aide de camp on the staff of General Wool, the ancient Federal commander of the Department of Virginia. In spite of the move, young Butterfield remained his friend and benefactor long after the end of the war.5 Vegesack served with Wool at Fort Monroe during the fall of 1861 and the spring of 1862, as the only foreigner among the general's eight staff officers. With a colonel on the staff, he was in charge of the outposts. The enemy used the wooded terrain, and constantly sent forward patrols that attacked isolated posts, and Vegesack often had to spend nights in the saddle, wet and cold.6 Before his promotion to major, Vegesack wrote his first letter to Aftonbladet, dated Washington, 30 September 1861. In spite of his brief service in the Union army, Vegesack held very definite opinions about it. He was particularly struck by the contrast between the soldiers and the officers.
The unhappy affair at Bull Run taught the North the impossibility of crushing the southern rebellion with an army thrown together in great haste, without discipline, and with officers that almost without exception are useless. The South has, moreover, shown that they have a rather able army, good officers, and competent generals. . . . . . Although the Northern army does not possess the military bearing and discipline characteristic of European soldiers, it contains good material to develop, and surely no army in the world can compete with its soldiers' intelligence, strong physiques, and enthusiasm for the cause they have taken up arms to defend. Enlisted men in the regiments are, to a significant extent, made up of merchants, clerks, tradesmen, skillful mechanics, and landowners who, considering it their absolute duty to defend the existence of the Union, have left their profitable occupations, their families, and the comfort of home to submit themselves to all the drudgeries and dangers of war. The Union soldier is excellently armed and dressed well; baggage and medical equipment are arranged in the best way, and nothing that can be bought for money for the use and need of the army has been neglected. Indeed, the government must be given all credit for its ceaseless efforts to put the army on excellent footing. These efforts would surely have been met with success, had it only been within the power of the government to procure competent officers, but here lies the weakness of the army, impossible to rectify, as long as the present principles of promotions are adhered to. In order to raise an army rapidly, the President was forced to ask the state governors to form volunteer regiments within their jurisdictions. However, the several states did not, out of envy, allow the Union government to supply the new regiments with officers. They are, therefore, commissioned by the state governments, after due election by the men. Washington is now calm, but that was not the case two months ago. . . Then General McClellan came and took command of the Army of the Potomac, and soon everything changed... The wild soldiers were at first astonished that they were to be deprived of the right to be as rowdy as they pleased in their own capital. They were, however, arrested, taken to the regiments and punished, and are today finding 'it is all right.' General McClellan is a forceful man in his best years, and unwavering trust has been placed in him, as he is expected to restore the martial honor lost at Bull Run. Without doubt McClellan will justify the confidence put in him by the Nation. Daily and constantly he is on horseback, visiting camps and outposts, not neglecting now and then to look at the conditions in the city. He has had good entrenchments thrown up to defend Washington, he is indefatigable in his efforts to bring home discipline and efficiency in his army, and he is often holding reviews to inspect the order within the several brigades. .
In his first letter to C. F. Toll, dated Fort Monroe, 1 November 1861, written after less than a month service with General Wool, Vegesack returned to the theme of the incompetency of the Union officers. Again he expressed the views that the soldiers were excellent and that with adequate officers the rebellion could be crushed within a month.
... I am feeling excellent, am in a very good mood, and finding that life has so many good sides that have previously been unknown to me. . . Skirmishes occur daily, and last Saturday, when I rode some hundred yards in front of the skirmish line, a rebel scoundrel shot my orderly, so he fell head over heels to the ground; I retired within the skirmish line. Here it is common to try to shoot each others' posts, so when a company leaves for outpost duty, they all say goodbye to their friends. The country is so wooded that it is difficult to see far ahead. Therefore, small, stealthy patrols constantly sneak around and snatch away the posts. We are daily awaiting an attack from General Magruder, and let us see how we then can persevere. I fear that we will have to pull our troops back into the fortress. Up until now the rebels have had the upper hand in all encounters, and this because they have good officers, while our army has some captains and sergeants, who in comparison make our wonderful old Sergeant S. an angel of light. The soldier is excellent when disciplined. Dress, weaponry, and equipment are as good as can be desired. Baggage, ammunition, and ambulance wagons are very much to the purpose and in abundance; did there but exist passable officers to the 400,000 men strong army would the rebellion be crushed within a month. . . . Otherwise I have it as good as can be wished for, and if the war continues, I will probably not come home for training camp, but ask for extended leave. My pay is $197 monthly, or in Swedish currency 736 Rd. 65 ore for me, batman, groom, and four horses—a rather good salary if in Sweden, but not that much here. Of course, I can still save some.
Shortly afterwards, Vegesack wrote his second letter to Aftonbladet, dated 9 November 1861, in which he repeated his now familiar complaints about the lack of competency among the Union officers, but also praised the moral and personal bravery of the Northern volunteers. According to Vegesack, his commanding officer, General Wool, was neglected because he did not share the exact political views of the government in Washington.
. . . The first and largest army, the Army of the Potomac, has about 175,000 men, and is commanded by General McClellan, a man in his best years, who spares no efforts in his attempts to install discipline and a military spirit in the volunteer regiments. Yet he is lacking the sharp eye and ability to perceive his enemy's movements quickly, so necessary for a general, in order to use immediately the advantages shown in that way. He is also too careful and afraid of being beaten, rather resting his arms, now and then interrupting the monotony with a review. As he is held in high regard by the President and the members of the war cabinet, he surely aspires to succeed General Scott. .. The Articles of War here are as rigorous as in any other army, but are applied to the volunteers with all possible leniency, and the methods of punishment are largely dependent on the imagination of the sentencing authority. .. By leaving no wrong unpunished and by the efforts of the generals to dismiss as many incompetent officers as possible, installing a rather good discipline in the volunteer army has been possible. As respect for the Southern army is growing every day, because it has not been so easy to overcome, one is hoping that more carefulness will be shown by Northern officers, and consequently their efforts to crush the rebellion will be crowned with success. The hard-won victories carried off by the rebel army cannot be ascribed to the greater bravery of their soldiers—as more moral and physical courage than shown by the volunteers from the free states can hardly be found in any nation—but rather the advantage of having in their ranks the best officers of the United States Army that, as bom in the slave states, went over to the rebel army at the beginning of the rebellion.. . America is, however, the most curious country under the sun, and a European has to live here for many years before he can see things with the same eyes as the Americans themselves. The northern free states now have in the field, in training, and under formation almost 400,000 men, and are without difficulty putting $500 million to the disposition of the federal government. No one can yet see that the country is suffering from this. Manufactures and agriculture flourish. Everything takes place as usual. If need be, there is will to increase the army to double strength and to obtain necessary means for its maintenance. Here everything, almost as an ambition as for any other purpose, concerns the subjugation of the South, and for this idea there is no sacrifice that cannot be done. And with all this, what has this Northern army done? Well, almost nothing. If one did not read in the papers now and then with large letters 'Brilliant Victory—Great Defeat of the Rebel Forces—Dashing Bravery of Captain John Doe,' it would hardly be sure that in this country armies of 700,000 men are concentrated. In vain the bases for this way of conducting a war are sought. The public is crying out for energy and 'forward,' and wants to see large and decisive battles; while, in contrast, the government and the generals, at least some of them, seem to be gifted with a more than reasonable calm. The reason for this is difficult to find out, but surely there are under all this deeper political calculations than generally assumed and believed. The South has many friends and supporters in the North trying to find a peaceful solution of the situation, if this is possible, even with large sacrifices from the North.. . The foreign military here and also some of the Americans themselves laugh at these so-called achievements—but what is to be done? Americans are very fond of outward distinctions, and to see his own name in the papers is something for which he is willing to risk a lot. For the present, the newspapers perhaps have the most difficult problem to solve, that is to keep the public in a good mood and show that this large army and these enormous sums so willingly put to the disposition of the government have accomplished something. Patience is, however, starting to give out, and one finds now and then in the papers, especially in the New York Times, the most independent of them, articles, if not exactly critical of the government, the immobility of the Army of the Potomac, and the many blunders committed by the higher officers, at least statements that the public can no longer stomach this tardiness.
In a letter to Aftonbladet, dated New York, 5 December 1861, Vegesack repeated his complaints about the slow progress of the Army of the Potomac. He went on to argue that most of the people in the North were said to be abolitionists and how it was generally regarded that a peace without slave emancipation was impossible.
The large Army of the Potomac is still commanded by McClellan, although he has been appointed general in chief of the United States Army after General Scott and is a real sloth. It is gliding forward with glacial speed. If I am not mistaken, this army has, since the Bull Run affair, advanced only 10 kilometers, and then only because General Beauregard found it to his advantage to pull back his outposts toward Fairfax, with the Army of the Potomac obligingly following him at a proper distance. However, one can daily read in the papers that foraging parties and patrols have been snatched away by the rebels, who are active and use all opportunities to lure Yankee boys into a trap. The Army has still not induced itself to dislodge the rebels from the batteries that are blocking the Potomac River and cutting off the navigation to Washington. Although this might eventually happen.
In another letter to Aftonbladet, dated New York, 29 December 1861, Vegesack attributed many of the Northern defeats to American impatience and went on to report about the emancipation proclamation issued by General Phelps and the resistance it met in the army, which did not want to see the war for the Union turned into a war for emancipation. He also conjectured that the abolitionists wished for a slave uprising as a way to end the war soon. The army and a large part of the public saw it as a disgrace to need the support of the slaves, and regarded the army as fully capable of ending the rebellion on its own.
In order to uphold the confidence of the popular masses in the will of the generals and the government to crush the revolution, the newspapers have, at all the setbacks suffered by the Northern army, tried to show the advantage of being beaten at first. Yet, since the public has grown used to this idea and now finds it rather tedious in the long run, urgent wishes are put forward that newspapers and the authorities, at least for a change, would be so kind as to show what effect the misfortune of a large victory might have. He who lives will see. However, patience is not a virtue known to Americans. Inspiration is immediately followed by action. Therefore, understanding why the revolution has not been crushed immediately has been impossible to grasp. Used to judge everything according to business principles, it is taken for granted that the war could be conducted and battles won by orders, like larger trading ventures. Calculating that the North has so many millions of men, so much money, so many ships useful for naval purposes, and so many factories making munitions of war, it is concluded that with these resources battles must be won and the South convinced to rejoin the Union. This impatience is caused by inexperience, which indeed has been the main reason for the setbacks suffered. It cannot be fathomed that there are many other factors, besides numerical superiority, that decide the outcome of a battle including the time it takes to form even a mediocre army, and how much more difficult it is to instill military discipline and skill in a soldier, than just to equip him with a rifle and a uniform.
In the next letter to Aftonbladet, dated 31 January 1862, Vegesack wrote:
The soldiers are burning with impatience to meet the rebels and thus soon end the war. Most of them have left a good farm, a profitable trade, or another advantageous position to fight for the existence of the Union and the sanctity of the Constitution. They regard it as shameful to stay at home, and many of them own property to the value of fifty or even a hundred thousand dollars. Now they have nothing to do, and this idle camp life is demoralizing. Many a youth, who has left his family as its future hope and support, is returning as a gambler and drunkard. They are furious with their generals about the time and effort spent without coming any closer to the goal for which they have taken up arms, and scorn their officers for the neglect and lack of care that has spent thousands of lives. It is also among the soldiers that, overall, the real patriotism is found. There is hardly a volunteer regiment where 50 to 100 enlisted men cannot be found with more intelligence and ability than nine tenths of the officers. They were elected because they were good companions and are too soft to demand any obedience. Therefore, the soldiers did not think they had anything to fear from them. They are now realizing their delusion and find the only good officers are those who have the strength to make themselves obeyed and attain their respect and devotion. When the soldiers, for instance, know that their colonel sold the sutlership (position of provisioner) for one thousand dollars, and later on shares the profits with the sutler, or lets him pay a sum each year or month; when the colonel charges $500 for the promotion to regimental quartermaster, which, of course, must be paid back by the soldiers, one cannot wonder that they are lacking in respect for their officers. There are, of course, regiments that are exceptions to the above description, but they are few, and most colonels regard the formation of their regiments as a business. There is no real military spirit in the volunteer army. Esprit de corps and the comradeship are unknown concepts, and the sanctity of the uniform is not respected. Officers find it uncomfortable to carry their swords, and they are rarely seen with sidearms. Instead, they often carry only a pistol in their belt. This is something that is also common in the regular army. Yes, unarmed officers are even seen commanding troops. Envy and a wish to ruin each other are essential features of officer life. The reason for this is also to be found in the Articles of War that make it easy for a subordinate to accuse a superior with impunity, but leaves the latter rather little authority. . . . . . Fraud against the government takes place on a large scale. Condemned horses are one day auctioned away for a pittance, a fortnight later the same horses, somewhat fattened, are sold back to the government for the full price. That the same horses are paid for and mustered twice is a daily event. All this was going to be investigated by a congressional committee; but to start making trouble after the Bull Run affaire, which they ought to be ashamed to talk about, is not, upon my soul, worthwhile. . .
The same complaint about lack of comradeship is also put forward in a letter to V. Åman in 1862.
There is no comradeship among the officers—envy and an insufferable portion of vanity is the fundamental feature of character, but worst is the terrible ignorance. Gentlemanly behavior and the rudiments of good manners are missing.
Vegesack's notes on his service in the Civil War. (ASI collection.)
On 8 March 1862, Vegesack watched as the Merrimack sank the U.S.S. Cumberland and drove the U.S.S. Congress aground. During this engagement, he was ordered to take two cannon and three companies of sharpshooters to the beach and drive the enemy away from the Congress. Although the captain of the Merrimack was wounded in the skirmish and Vegesack's detachment succeeded in its mission, this did not come before the Congress was set aflame.

 
ON GENERAL BUTTERFIELD'S STAFF

Vegesack received his real baptism of fire on 17 March 1862, when he participated in the Army of the Potomac's first sortie from Fort Monroe during the reconnaissance toward and capture of Big Bethel. General Wool allowed Vegesack to serve on the staff of General Butterfield. During the attack, Vegesack had to take over command of a vanguard regiment, with its colonel subsequently serving as his aide. This colonel, happy without responsibility for a possible defeat, was regarded by Vegesack as typical of the Northern volunteer officers. Three times Vegesack in vain led the regiment charging the breastworks thrown up at Big Bethel, before he was successful on the fourth attempt.15 In a second letter to C.F. Toll, dated Big Bethel, 2 April 1862, Vegesack complained about General McClellan and the slow progress of the Army of the Potomac. The strange comportment of junior officers in the presence of seniors also puzzled him. Vegesack had, however, learned the "Yankee fashion" and was no longer surprised at anything.
. . .It is said with reliability that McClellan made the plan for the whole war, but whoever's work it might be, it is sure that the plan is a masterpiece, although its execution, unfortunately, is so dreadfully slow, that it therefore might fail totally. . . For twelve days we have been waiting for the great general's arrival, in order for us to know what we are going to do. But he seems to be so busy with the political circumstances in Washington that he does not have any time left to think about the progress of the army. . . .Terrible Babylonic confusion exists in the subsistence and quartermaster departments. I cannot understand the feasibility of moving our whole army by road to Richmond and bringing the baggage, which for each brigade of four regiments is as large as for 50,000 men in Europe, and yet each soldier is carrying a tent-half on his pack (the tents are of French model). It will, however, be interesting to see how they will proceed. The volunteer army consists of the best material and could be excellent, where it not for the unfortunate political conditions and how party interests determine regimental promotions. Both colonels and generals are, by the thinking-American, regarded as miserable. But what can be done as long as promotions are in the hands of the governors of the several states. And then, in order to be reelected, [these governors] will fill the regiments with their political creatures to get the regiments' votes. It seems to be unexplainable that we are not beaten everywhere. But our luck is that the same insufferable system exists in the rebel government, thus ensuring that they are about as good on both sides. The Prince of Joinville has accompanied our division as an amateur, and privately the generals are given many hard blows. Unfortunately, none of us dare to express our opinions openly. Although envious of the foreigner, the American is very reluctant to recognize the predominant ability possessed by the European officer. But a public acknowledgment of it is beyond capability. A Yankee general or colonel talks and brags as if he were another Hannibal, Caesar, or Napoleon when no danger is present; but when you close on the enemy, they come quietly asking what to do and gladly turn over command to the first European officer encountered. But they then do not regard it shameful to spout about their feats, once the danger is gone. For a European officer, that is one who does not plan to make America his future home, it is almost impossible to advance in rank. Every day, brewers and innkeepers are made generals. I have twice been suggested for promotion by General Wool, but both times had to yield; the first time to an innkeeper with political clout and the other time to a Jew— said to have paid three thousand dollars for the regiment. Yet, I have it as good as I can wish. I serve under a very pleasant general, and can do as I please. Were it not for the unhappy struggle between pro-slavery men and abolitionists, of which the latter eagerly want McClellan deprived of the command of the army and Fremont put in his place, I could look forward to participating soon in a large battle. Yet, it will happen eventually. For us Europeans, it is difficult to understand that a general, commanding an army of 80,000 men, can with impunity let this force be idle and spend his time in Washington working among the members of Congress so as to be kept in command. Soon I hope to have come so far into the Yankee ways that nothing more surprises me, and I am trying to dress myself into the Yankee nature as much as possible. Although, it seems rather odd to see infantry and other officers with impunity use general staff uniforms, or to see a second lieutenant enter the office of his general with a civilian overcoat on top of his uniform and hat on his head and without hesitation sit on the nearest chair and start the conversation with: "How do you do, General?", or to see the astonishment of an enlisted man when told to salute an officer. Fortunately, one soon gets used to the disorder, and I am now fully used to sitting at my general's side in his room with my hat on and my feet up on a table or a chair, as the circumstances might be. Yet, I have not lost all discipline, and I can still rouse and be worthy of my superiors at camp in Rommehed [the regimental training camp].. ,
In a letter to Aftonbladet, dated 16 April 1862, Vegesack comments on the unreliability of the media in America.
.. .Neither the wire services, nor the official reports can be trusted. The newspapers publish telegraphic intelligence about bloody battles that have never taken place, being invented only to have something new to tell. These newspaper reporters are masters in the art of bold stories about important victories and Confederate retreats taking place at locations that hardly have seen any soldiers at all. But the reading public is satisfied with being led by the nose, and the newspapers adapt themselves accordingly. . .
Later in the spring of 1862 Vegesack was formally ordered by General Wool to serve on General Butterfield's staff. On 27 May, the Fifth Army Corps, with Butterfield's Brigade, met a brigade from North Carolina. In the battle that followed Vegesack won distinction by reconnoitering behind enemy lines, and later commanding the center skirmish line.18 When General Wool did not allow Vegesack to continue his service with General Butterfield, Vegesack resigned on 29 May. On the same day he was appointed major and additional aide-de-camp to General McClellan. Vegesack was no admirer of McClellan, but the general was kind enough to order him to continue his service with General Butterfield. It was Vegesack's reconnoitering at Hanover Court House that won him support. A couple of days later, the enemy attacked the Army of the Potomac. The Fifth Army Corps did not participate in this encounter. Nevertheless, Vegesack had accepted an invitation from General Phil Kearney to serve as volunteer aide in the Third Army Corps temporarily, and so he participated in the bloody Battle of Seven Pines on 31 May.19 Back on Butterfield's staff, Vegesack took part in the Battle of Mechanicsville on 26 June 1862, and the subsequent retreat. At the Battle of Gaines' Mill the next day, he distinguished himself by rallying the defeated troops. He managed to gather a force of about 1300 men, and take them over the Chickahominy, in spite of the destruction of the bridge by their own troops. During the Army of the Potomac's retreat to the James River, Vegesack participated in the Battles of Savage's Station and Malvern Hill and arrived with the rest of the troops at Harrison's Landing on July 3.

  
COLONEL OF "UNITED TURNER RIFLES"

Vegesack was promoted to colonel and commander of 20th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a reward for his achievements at Gaines' Mill. This was a regiment raised by "Germans in the city of New York and members of the New York Turnverein.21 At Harrison's Landing Vegesack fell prey to dysentery and had to be sent to the hospital at Fort Monroe and later to New York and the care of the Swedish Consul C.E. Habicht.22 From New York, Vegesack wrote a letter to Aftonbladet, dated 1 August 1862, in which he speculated about the feasibility of raising the new men needed after the retreat from the Peninsula.
Whether the 300,000 men desired could be obtained through volunteers is very doubtful, and at least until now many have not been willing to take the field to defend the Union, in spite of enticements. For instance New York State offers $50 in bounty from the state, $13 or a month's pay in advance, and $25 in advance of the $100 every man gets when he leaves the service—this in addition to the five dollars from the Union government—to a total of $93. The reason for the difficulty to recruit volunteers is probably first due to the continuous statements in the newspapers and in the official reports from the army that everything is well, that the Army of the Potomac did not retreat from Richmond, but only "changed its operational basis," that the Army of the Potomac is in the most brilliant condition, that General McClellan is ready to make another attack on Richmond, and that the troops are favored with excellent health and are only burning with desire to meet the enemy again. If everything is in such an excellent condition and no danger is present, what use would it be, it is argued, to leave your comfortable home and have a rough time as a soldier, when there does not seem to be any need of strengthening the army? Then there are the sick and wounded, sent home for better care, telling the most dismal stories about suffered pains, lack of proper food, and mistrust of the leaders. It is probable that if the government straightforwardly had told the truth and said that McClellan had to retreat from Richmond in front of superior forces and that the war cannot continue without an increase in the number of troops in the field, everyone would eagerly try to fulfill the wishes of the government and one way or another contribute to the raising of the wanted 300,000 men. Yet, in the western states, the recruitment is said to be more successful than in the coastal states, and it is probable that a draft will have to be put in operation in the states of New York and Pennsylvania in order to raise the number of men allotted them to field.
Not until 14 August could Vegesack take command of his regiment, and then only for a brief period, as he again became ill and was hospitalized on 21 September. Meanwhile, he and his regiment participated in the attack on the heights at Jefferson on September 13, and the next day in the Battle of Crampton's Gap.24 On September 17, he distinguished himself at the Battle of Antietam, leading the charge of his regiment with color in hand, taking the assigned objective and holding it for 26 hours under heavy fire.25 The day after the battle, Vegesack managed to write a letter to Aftonbladet, dated September 18, 1862, extolling the suffering of Army of the Potomac.
. . .The Army's confidence in General McClellan has mostly been restored after General Pope's defeat at Bull Run and McClellan's march into Maryland. Let us see if it can be kept. There is, perhaps, no army that so patiently would suffer hardships and privations as the one presently under the command of General McClellan. The uniforms are all but torn to rags and the provisions (when available) include some hard, well-nigh tasteless bread, coffee without sugar or some old tea, and bad salt meat or pork. There is a real feast when fresh meat is served. The generals care for nothing, and the commissariat, the most pitiful yet in existence in any country, does as it pleases. Nobody controls its activities, and the indifference regarding the good of the soldiers is so great that if complaints are made to some general about the inferiority of the food and the neglect by the commissars of subsistence, only some head shakes are given in answer, or possibly 'I cannot help it.' This makes both officers and men listless and has removed what little martial spirit existed in the army. Discipline is all but gone, and a reorganization of the army during the coming winter is essential, if it shall be of any future use.
Commission document in the New York State Volunteers. (ASI collection.)
As a convalescent in the care of Consul Habicht and his wife, Vegesack wrote a letter to C. F. Toll, dated New York, 9 November 1862, in which his sickness and war-weariness clearly shows.
. . .I am sick and tired of all this, and long only for the moment when my leave [from the Swedish Army] will expire, and I thus can return, without having anyone saying that I could not stand the war for the period of my leave. The state of things is that the enlistment of my regiment ends the sixth of next May. The men and I have thus completed our service at the same time. I cannot, of course, leave the regiment until I have mustered it out properly, finished its accounts, etc. This is no petty matter, especially as there is a frightful bureaucracy here, which makes our military office system in Sweden seem simple.
I know you have been following me with lively interest and will, therefore, find pleasure in my success. As I wrote to you from Big Bethel in the middle of April, as I recall, I was facing an unknown destiny, that—praise God—has turned out more advantageously than I could have hoped for in my wildest dreams. I am now using my diary to help me remember what I have seen and done, and I am sure you will not misunderstand my telling you only about my achievements or, rather, attempts to accomplish the purpose of my arrival here, which was, as you well know, only to win some military honors and thereby obtain promotion in my native country.
About the same time Vegesack probably wrote his other letter to V. Åman.
. . .Tired of all this misery. I should long ago have forsaken fighting for this wretched Government. Its thieves and rascals have never dreamed about honor or honesty, but I am ashamed to go home before the end of my leave.. .
As a convalescent Vegesack stayed in New York until 5 December 1862. Soon after returning to his regiment, they came under fire during the entire Battle of Fredericksburg (13 December), but did not participate in any offensive operations. After the battle the whole Sixth Army Corps, with Vegesack's regiment, went into winter quarters at White Oak Church, just north of Fredericksburg.29 From there Vegesack wrote a letter to Aftonbladet dated 29 January 1893, in which he discussed the number of men in the Union army.
One is surprised by the number of sick and deserters within the Army. Just in and around Washington are 34 hospitals full, each on the whole with beds for 800 patients, and similar numbers can be found in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and the other larger cities in the North. Altogether, 1,100,000 men have been mustered in during the war. Of these about 350,000 have been removed by death or by resignation on account of wounds or illnesses. At least 150,000 are, at present, sick in hospitals in the cities. Also, there are some 100,000 deserters roaming about in the several states, who are, through the unwillingness of the police to arrest them, rather safe from having to return to the army and face punishment. 50,000 are detached for service at the different headquarters as baggage and ambulance drivers as well as orderlies to the officers. In conclusion, the combatant forces of the United States at present number about 450,000 men.30
Ernst von Vegesack at the Battle of Antietam. From Harpers Magazine. (ASI collection.)
Vegesack's regiment remained in winter quarters until the end of the winter rains. In the spring of 1863, when the Army of the Potomac was about to start its offensive against the enemy, a mutiny occurred in the regiment. On 29 April, 199 men refused to obey orders. They thought that their enlistment period had ended, because they had signed their enlistment papers on this date two years earlier. Officially, however, the enlistment period did not start running until they were mustered into service, and that had taken place on 6 May 186131 In a letter to the Swedish Minister in Washington, D.C., Edvard Piper, dated on the banks of the Rappahannock, 1 May 1863, Vegesack angrily denounced the mutineers.
[The men] are now arrested, and we are holding a court martial. Let us see what will be done to these cowardly scoundrels. The truth is that they were too yellow-bellied to go into battle now, and they hid this behind a pretension of having served their time. My Lord can assume what state of outraged vexation I was in, when they refused to follow me. Had it been up to me, the whole bunch would have been shot down. But in this free country one does not have any power and has to pocket one's anger. My regiment, which was the first in the Army of the Potomac, is now demoted and the only way to restoration is to fight like lions. Yet, I fear the opposite. Many of my officers have told me that the general belief among the soldiers in the regiment is that I would lead them against any battery whatsoever and into the hottest death in order to win promotion to general, and I would be prepared to sacrifice every man in the regiment for this. What is there to say about such lunatics?
The court martial found the mutineers guilty of wilful refusal to do their duty in the face of the enemy and sentenced them to be dishonorably discharged and to be confined at hard labor during the remainder of the war.33 During the court-martial proceedings Vegesack's regiment participated in the taking of Fredericksburg on 2 May, and in the Battle of Chancellorsville on 4 May. In last battle Vegesack suffered his only battle injury—his leg was twisted when his horse was shot and fell on him.34 After the grand mustering out of his regiment in New York on 1 June 1863, Vegesack formally returned to his former rank and position as major and additional aide-de-camp. On 3 August his resignation was accepted, and he returned to Sweden to a hero's welcome.35 His achievements at Antietam gave him national fame. A woodcut of his charge was published in Harpers Weekly, and reproduced in a Swedish magazine.36 In Sweden, the news news of Vegesack's success was met with enthusiasm, and was seen by many as vindication of "Sweden's military honor," which had gone untested for nearly half a century. In Stockholm, he was honored with a party with 400 guests, after having received a gold medal and a honorary sword from the hands of the King.37 In spite of his war weariness and disgust with the military conditions in America, which he was careful to hide in Sweden, Vegesack's American achievements gave him fast promotion and many honors.

 
 
 
 
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