Corporal Nathan E. Hickok

Hickok, a Danbury native, was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Civil War for capturing a Confederate battle flag.

In 1861, Hickok, 22, volunteered to serve in the Union Army. He was assigned as a sharpshooter to Company A in the 8th Connecticut Infantry. In June of 1864, Hickok was transferred to a new unit composed entirely of sharpshooters, who fought with new Sharp rifles that allowed them to fire repeatedly far more often than soldiers with muzzle-loading muskets.

Sharpshooters were at the forefront of any battle. This was true at the battle at Fort Harrison, on Sept. 29, 1864 – the day that secured Hickok’s place in history. The Union attack on Harrison, which is about eight miles southeast of Richmond, Va., began at 5:30 a.m. with the sharpshooters leading the 8th and 21st Connecticut regiments. Hickok and his group had to run across about a mile of cleared land leading up to the fort. The Union soldiers were facing about 22 units of artillery firing multiple kinds of shells from the front and sides, about 4,000 Confederate soldiers in the fort firing their rifles at the oncoming troops, and fire from gunboats on the James River from both sides. To take the fort, the Union soldiers had to cross a 10-to-20-foot-deep dry moat. Soldiers found the other side so steep that many stuck bayonets in the ground to create footing to scramble up the other side, all the while being shot at. Then the soldiers had to climb a huge dirt hill called the Great Traverse the Confederates had built to protect the fort.

Today, there is a plaque at Fort Harrison that has a painting of the battle on it showing a Union soldier, possibly Hickok, holding the Confederate flag while another soldier plants the American flag on the Traverse.

Hickok’s last battle was the Second Battle of Fair Oaks in Virginia where the sharpshooter regiment suffered 40 percent casualties. He was made a sergeant when he captured the flag.

It is believed Hickok died that day because, though Union records list him as “wounded and captured,” there are no Confederate records of him as a prisoner of war. If Hickok did die there, he was probably buried in an unmarked grave.