“Swedish American of the Year” to lead 150th anniversary Civil War event July 8 at Bishop Hill

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

 The 2010 “Swedish-American of the Year” will offer a unique perspective on the role of Illinois’ Swedes in the Civil War Battle of Shiloh during a special presentation Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m. in the Bishop Hill Museum at Bishop Hill State Historic Site.  This Civil War 150th Anniversary event is free and open to the public.

John Norton will present “Bishop Hill Soldiers and Illinois Swedes at Shiloh:  In their Own Words.”  In Bishop Hill, a military company called the Swedish Union Guards was raised during the fall of 1861 and mustered into service on December 26, 1861 as Company D, 57th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  A well-known member of this company was Eric Johnson, the son of the founder of the Bishop Hill colony, Erik Jansson.

Company D, 57th Illinois Volunteer Infantry fought in the bloody Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee on April 6 and 7, 1862, where a Union army under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant was surprised by rebel forces but managed to hold its ground.  The company also took part in Sherman’s March through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as the grand victory review in Washington, DC on May 24, 1865 before being mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky on July 7, 1865. 

John Norton is a Swedish-American history expert whose great-great grandfather Olof Nordin emigrated fromGästrikland, Sweden in 1849.  Norton studied in Sweden and while in the U.S. military was frequently an escort for Scandinavian military delegations, including the supreme commander of Sweden’s armed forces and the Swedish Parliament’s defense committee.  He has led Elderhostel group programs in Scandinavia and Europe for more than 20 years, and hosted numerous Scandinavian study groups during Midwestern visits.  He has been a Swedish translator for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Augustana Historical Society.  In 2010 he was recognized as “Swedish American of the Year” by the Vasa Order of America in consultation with the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

Bishop Hill State Historic Site is part of a largely intact mid-1800s Swedish settlement in Henry County, Illinois.  Buildings administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency include the Bishop Hill Museum, Colony Church and Bjorklund Hotel, all of which are open for free public visitation.