Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Consider the Lilies of the Field ... Henry F. Berg

Henry F. Berg was born in 1834 in Maryland and grew up in Franklin County, Indiana.  He was the 5th son of Balthasar and Maria Christina (Krugg/Krong) Berg who came to America from Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany in the early 1830s.  Henry married Lucy Ripp on the 11th day of June, 1859 in Franklin County, Indiana.  Their first son, Arthur W. was born about 22 March 1861.  By the summer of 1862 the family was living in Bernadotte, Illinois.

When President Lincoln called upon the men of Illinois to serve in the Civil War, Illinois responded by organizing dozens of Infantries.  On October 2, 1862, Henry Berg mustered in to the 103rd Illinois Infantry, Company I.  On the 24th of October, the Regiment received orders to be ready to move at a moments warning. On the 30th orders were received to move by the Illinois Central Railroad to Cairo.  At Cairo they took a boat for Columbus, Kentucky where they were again placed on the railway to Bolivar, Tennessee.  They made the trip from Peoria in 52 hours.

We were now at the front, within 18 miles of a large and well appointed force of the enemy. We were here assigned to the First Brigade, commanded by Colonel Pugh, of the Forty-first Illinois, Fourth Division, Brigadier General Veach, Thirteenth Army Corps, General J. B. McPherson commanding.

November 3 we moved en route for LaGrange, where we arrived with the advance of the army, went into quarters near, and finally in town. Drill and frequent scouts filled up the time until  November 28 (Reconnaissance from LaGrange to Lamar, Miss., November 5. Wirsham Creek November 6. Garrison at Waterford, Miss., December 1-31), when the army designed by General Grant for the capture of Vicksburg we moved south, and on the 1st of December passed through Holly Springs and camped near Waterford, at which place we were left as garrison, with the additional duty of guarding the railroad to the Tallahatchie River. Companies B, H, I, G, E and K being placed on the railroad with orders to fortify and protect bridges.  
Taken from the Adjutant General’s Report

Henry would not accompany his Regiment to Waterford, Mississippi on December 1.  He fell ill sometime in November and died on December 8, 1862 of dysentery in what was then known as the General Hospital in La Grange, Tennessee.   Although several buildings in La Grange served as hospitals during the long three years that Union forces occupied the community, Henry’s early death during the occupation most surely put him in the Immanuel Episcopal Church building which served as a hospital during the early days of the war. 

I arrived at the village of La Grange, Tennessee late morning the day after Passover and a day before Easter.  Two sprays of white lilies graced the double doors of the church, the sanctuary held bouquets of the fragrant flowers and they lined all six of the cathedral windows.  The fragrance was exquisite and I shall always remember my visit to this peaceful place when I see an Easter lily.  A gracious lady of the church greeted me in the sanctuary and listened with great interest to my 2nd great grandfather’s story, she kept copies of Henry’s military photogragh and Muster Rolls and planned to use them as a historical moment they often include in their Sunday services.   Most of their historical journals date from after the Civil War, so Henry’s story might well be one of the earliest they now have in their Church history.  In the 1920s, a Church renovation revealed Bible verses and messages to home written by the wounded soldiers on the lower wall of this make shift hospital, to my knowledge no record was kept of these writings.

On Easter morning I arrived at Memphis National Cemetery, one of many American military cemeteries dating back to the Civil War.  It was established in 1867, and thousands of Civil War dead were reinterred there from cemeteries in the surrounding areas.  Henry Berg was first buried in No 7 Hospital Cemetery in La Grange, Tennessee and later reinterred to Section B site 41 of Memphis National Cemetery among some 2000 of his fellow comrades from Illinois.  During the move his name was misspelled and it appears on his stone as Henry Burg.  When I contacted the cemetery to correct his records, they treated the error with the highest regard and researched to see if the rules would allow Henry a new headstone with the correct spelling of his name, which being older than 50 years their regulations would not allow. However, they took copies of his Muster Rolls and corrected the date of death and spelling in their databases so anyone looking for Henry Berg can find his final resting place. 

Nationwide Veteran Grave Locator

I had to search Easter morning for flowers for his grave. It may well be the only time since his death 150 years ago passers by will see a white lily placed upon his grave.  

The 103rd Illinois Regiment went on to fight at Vicksburg and ultimately fought under General Sherman on his March to the Sea.  The Regiment participated in the Grand Review at Washington on the 25th of May 1865 and mustered out three weeks later on 14 June having been in service two years, eight months and twenty days.

In 1929, the State of Illinois placed a monument to their fallen Sons of the Civil War at Memphis National Cemetery. Its eloquent inscription reads -

When President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to defend the life of our imperiled nation, these valiant sons of Illinois, together with other heroes, offered their lives with patriotism unsurpassed. With unflinching bravery they fought the bloody battles of the great Civil War for union and liberty. Upon them, therefore, a grateful state bestows the crown of undying affection and the laurel of victory.

When Henry died in December of 1862, he never lived to see his 2nd son who came along on March 28, 1863.  Nelson Henry Berg grew up in Illinois and married Jessie Allpin on 18 September, 1884.  The couple moved to Wymore, Nebraska in 1885 and raised two children,  Lawrence and Pearl (my grandmother).  Pearl married Loren Allen Hillhouse in June of 1914. 

Lawrence Berg & Pearl (Berg) Hillhouse