Former Union Soldier Statue a Longtime Milam Landmark
by Jeanne Williams Associated Press Copyright
Temple Daily Telegram - October 20, 2008
Caption: Joy Graham reads the inscription on Herman Henniger’s
grave marker. In a land where Confederate veterans’ graves are
commonplace, that of a Union soldier is a rarity.
ROCKDALE - In a Central Texas community where Confederate
veterans’ graves are commonplace, the single burial site
of a Union soldier is no less than astounding.
However unusual a monument to a Union soldier on Southern turf may be, a life-size
statue of Herman Henniger proudly stood sentinel near the main gate atop a 5-foot
engraved pedestal for more than 60 years at Bushdale Cemetery near Rockdale until
vandals toppled the monument Christmas night in 1973.
The sculpture not only commemorated Henniger’s service to the Union Army, it served as a
landmark to the Bushdale Cemetery, which was famed in its own right as the first
cemetery to be recognized with a Texas Historical Marker.
Nearby, the community of Bethlehem was home to Russian, Czech and Polish immigrants.
Bushdale, three miles northwest of Rockdale on FM 908, was a German settlement, which
boasted a one-teacher school for 57 scholars in 1903. Its main claim to fame, however,
was the statue honoring a Yankee soldier in the Land of Cotton.
“The people of the community that are my age and little bit younger than I am have such
fond memories of knowing that we had this statute, which was the only Union soldier
statue in the state of Texas,” said Joy Graham, former Milam County Historical
Commission chairman, who volunteers with Bushdale Cemetery Association.
Many of her forebears are buried in the Bushdale Cemetery. Two other Union soldiers are
commemorated with markers, but Henniger is the only one with his likeness carved in
stone marking his tomb, Mrs. Graham said.
Mrs. Graham has vivid memories of the times she and her grandparents drove by the
cemetery and looked at Henniger’s statue.
“If you can imagine, this road used to be the main highway to San Gabriel,” she said. “I
used to come here as child with my grandparents. My Grandpa would say, ‘Now Mary Joy,
we are going to pass this man and he is going to say nothing at all.’ He would slow
down, and we would roll the windows down. I would listen, and say, ‘Grandpa, he didn’t
say anything’, and he would just die laughing.”
Henniger was born Dec. 6, 1838, in Wilhelmsdorf, a village in the province of Saxony,
Germany. When Herman was nine, the family immigrated to Texas, settling near Roeders
Mill in northwestern Austin County. When the War Between the States erupted, Henniger
enlisted in the Confederate Army with his two brothers and other German settlers living
in Austin County, serving as a private and later a corporal in Co. C, “Industry
Volunteers,” 1st Infantry Battalion, Waul’s Texas Legion.
Henniger, “after several months of soul searching” changed sides in the middle of a war,
and enlisted in the Union Army in Co. B, 12th Illinois Cavalry, where he served from
1862 to 1865.
Henniger did not return home to a hero’s welcome; rather “he encountered a certain
degree of animosity from his kin,” according to accounts. Ill feelings were so intense,
Henniger moved from Austin County around 1870 and settled in the Milam County farming
community of Bushdale. Henniger became one of the community’s most respected farmers and
civic leaders, and was noted in the community’s history as the donor of seven acres
where a Lutheran church was built.
Henniger arranged before his death in 1908 to have a life-sized statue of him depicted
in the uniform of a Union soldier mounted atop a granite base placed at his grave.
Although family members originally thought the statue was made in Italy and shipped to
Bushdale, new information has revealed that the monument was made at Teich Granite Works
in Llano, with his son Oswald Henniger working with the artist, said great-grandson
David Doren of Austin.
The inscription described him as “a late and honored member” of the Illinois Cavalry.
According to accounts, the Union Army Civil War veteran’s statue might have been
interpreted “as containing a slight taint of defiance, and the parting shot of a proud
old warrior, who to the very end, was convinced of the correctness of his decision to
follow his convictions and cross over the line to fight on the opposite side from his
Though many cemetery visitors might not have revered Henniger for his Union loyalties,
his statue was never harmed until Christmas night in 1973 when six teenagers toppled the
monument and broke the image in pieces.
“They desecrated the statue,” Mrs. Graham said. “The head and the hat were one piece and
the bust line was pretty much intact.”
Six teenagers were taken into custody in connection with the vandalism, but for reasons
undisclosed, apparently were never prosecuted, she said.
About two years ago, Doren located his great-grandfather’s gravesite, researched his
forebear, and posted a sign on the burial plot advising of a statue restoration project.
At the Henniger Web site, Doren is asking for donations, for information on the
whereabouts of missing statue pieces, photos of the statue before it was destroyed, and
the names of the six who vandalized the statue.
“We need the missing parts and photos of the statue to create the replacement statue,”
Doren said. “I have no hard feeling towards the six individual who vandalized the
statue 33 years ago, but I would like to contact them to give the opportunity to do the
right thing and help pay for the replacement. If they choose not to help, then it’s
their conscious they have to live with.”
Doren is working with Mrs. Graham and the Bushdale Cemetery Association to raise more
than $50,000 to replace the statue. A limestone replacement will be created at Texas
Carved Stone located in Florence, Doren said.
“They can carve a replacement using Indiana limestone for $46,000 plus the cost of
transportation and installation at the cemetery,” he said.
Currently, $506 is in the fund and donations are being accepted. Doren also plans to
pursue grants from the Daughters of the Union Veterans, the Sons of Union Veterans of
the Civil War.