site logo
E. von Vegesack

E. von Vegesack

Federal (USV)


Ernst Mattias Peter von Vegesack

(1820 - 1903)

Home State: New York

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 20th New York Infantry


see his Battle Report

Before Antietam

A Captain of about 20 years experience in the Swedish Army, he came to the US in 1861 at the outbreak of the War. He had been a surveyor and engineer of railroads. He was appointed Captain in the 58th Ohio Infantry, but was soon Major and aide to Generals Wool and Mansfield. On the Peninsula in 1862 he was aide to Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield. He was a Medal of Honor recipient for action at Gaines Mill in June 1862. Butterfield himself was also awarded the MoH for bravery in that action.

He was mustered in as Colonel of the 20th New York Infantry 19 July 1862 at the resignation of Colonel Weiss, and led the regiment at 2nd Manassas.

On the Campaign

At Antietam, Baron von Vegesack led his regiment in a mid-day assault to and across the high ground immediately east of the Dunkard Church. His understated post-action report described it

...Advancing through the woods the regiment came into an open field, where they attacked the enemy and drove him across the field and the adjoining heights. The regiment occupied these heights until relieved the next morning ...
The scene was later immortalized in a painting by Thulstrup. Their Brigadier, William Irwin had this to say:
The Twentieth New York Volunteers by its position was exposed to the heaviest fire in [the Brigade] line, which it bore with unyielding courage and returned at every opportunity. The firmness of this regiment deserves very great praise. Colonel Von Vegesack was under fire with his men constantly, and his calm courage gave an admirable example to them. Each of their stand of colors is rent by the balls and shells of the enemy, and their killed and wounded is 145. This regiment was under my own eye in going into action and frequently during the battle, and I take pleasure in strongly testifying to its bravery and good conduct.

The rest of the War

He was with the Regiment from Fredericksburg in December through Chancellorsville in May 1863. He mustered out with them at the expiration of their term (1 June 1863) at New York City. He may have been a volunteer aide thereafter to General Meade, possibly including Gettysburg, finally resigning from US service in August 1863.1

After the War

He returned to Sweden and his military career there in 1864. He retired from the Swedish Army in 1888 at the rank of Major General. He had also served in the Swedish parliament from 1879-1887.

References & notes

Photograph above courtesy of Bo Bäckström, history teacher in Örebro, from the Krigsarkivet (Military Archives), part of the National Archives of Sweden. Bo noticed also that an image marked as von Vegesack at the US Library of Congress doesn't seem to be him.

Some bio details above from Martin, Frank, Vegesack, Enst von from the biographical dictionary Svenska Man och Kvinnor (Swedish Men and Women), 1955, cited on Wikipedia.

More on the Web

There's a biographical sketch in Swedish available online also. For more about the Thulstrup illustration, see a post on behind AotW.


6/18/1820; Gotland, SWEDEN


1/12/1903; Stockholm, SWEDEN; burial in Skogskyrkogarden, Stockholm, Sweden


1   Hokanson, Nels Magnus, Swedish Immigrants in Lincoln's Time, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1942, pp. 83-84  [AotW citation 844]