Civil War Memorial

Courthouse
Washington St 
Lexington, Dawson County, Nebraska

 

"1861 - 1865"

 

 

 Tour Notes: 

I don't think I have seen a less adorned GAR monument.  I may have missed something, it was early enough that the courthouse was not yet open. 

I went through my notes and collected archival materials to find the story of the Hedglin family of Eddyville, a tiny village of less than 100 residents in the northeast corner of Dawson County.

There isn't much there today; just a post office, farmer's Co-Op station that sells fuel and used tractors, one church, a community center that looks like it could hold almost every resident in the village, and a grain elevator business. The grain elevator is, comparatively speaking, a very large outfit. But what of Eddyville in 1917 and 1918, when a World War and Spanish Flu were cartwheeling through the population of the world, killing indescriminately? In the ten years between 1910 and 1920 the population had dropped from 254 down to 227 - a significant amount in a railroad town serving the surrounding farms. Maybe the influenza shook Eddyville harder than most. 

The Eddyvills State Bank building still stands  in the center of the business district, but the bank has been defunct for much of the last century. In 1917 the Cashier of that bank was Mr. Bert Hedglin. His family were Nebraska pioneers. Bert's father, Elias Hedglin, was born in New Jersey but became part of the western expansionand a youngster, settling in Illinois and Iowa in the 1850's and 70's. Elias went to war in 1861 and served six months, discharged due to illness. The elder Hedglin spent the rest of his life with a dislike of the effects of alcohol on any community and he supported prohibition efforts along with establishing schools wherever he could help get them going. 

Two days after Christmas in 1917 another generation had grown old enough to go to war. Eighteen year old Floyd Herbert Hedglin, Bert's son, enlisted in the US Navy and went to recruit training. Seaman Apprentice Hedglin was sent to the fleet immediately after training, joining the deck crew of the USS President Lincoln in time to make the May 10th departure to France.

The Lincoln was a converted German passenger liner, one of several that had been seized by the US Government at the outbreak of war between the two nations. The ten year old steamer was 619 feet long and could make over 14 knots through the water carrying a thousand troops and crew of over four hundred.

The out and back trips took just under a month and on the 29th of May she embarked about 300 westbound passengers for New York and departed Brest in company with three other troop ships and some Navy destroyers as escorts. The destroyer escorts stayed with the troop ships about 24 hours, long enough to get the little convoy through what was considered to be the most dangerous of the Atlantic convoy waters. During the morning watch of May 31st the German submarine U-90 successfully fired three torpedoes into USS President Lincoln.

The first hit, into the engineroom, killed most of the 26 officers and enlisted men that did not get away from the ship. The ship's captain quickly called for "Abandon Ship" and ordered the life boats lowered - with only two seamen aboard each boat. He had properly determined that most losses in sinkings of this kind were from fully loaded lifeboats dumping survivors into the water because of panic or inexperience. All of the ships lifeboats were launched without loss and then passengers and crew taken aboard. 

Official records and eyewitness accounts relate how some of the drowned sailors died, but none specifically mentiion Floyd Hedglin of Eddyville, Nebraska. Three days later the notification telegram was delivered to Hedglin's parents. His father, Bert, immediately sat down to compose a letter to the Navy's Bureau of Navigation. The text of the missive from a grieving father portrays a level of patriotism that most citizens of the 21st century probably can't understand. The letter reads: 

 

SA Floyed Hedglin, US Navy

B. R. Hedglin, Cashier.
June 3, 1918.

Bureau of Navigation, Navy Dept.,
Washington, D. C.

Gentlemen:

Your message in regard to the loss of the Ufe of Floyd Herbert Hedglin received today at 2 :50 p. m. We sincerely thank you for your promptness in advising us.

We had only one boy to give to our country and he was only a little past eighteen years of age. He went of his own free will and accord and with our blessing.

I regret that I have only the one boy to give.

Any little detail that you can send us will be appreciated.

It was God's will that he should be sacrified on the altar of his country and we will accept His will in the matter.

I know that the boy did what he could.

Respectfully,

Floyd's Father and Mother,
/s/ Mr. and Mrs. Bert. R. Hedglin.

 

Some survivors of USS President Lincoln, June 1, 1918.

The survivors of the President Lincoln sinking, over 700 men, were in the water 18 hours before being rescued. Other stories of its crew will be posted later within this website. 

 

07/31/2019

 

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