LAFAYETTE HEGANS was born in Johnson County, Indiana, October 14th, 1841. His father, Michael Hegans, was an Englishman by birth, who emigrated to America and settled in the state of Indiana. He married Susan Spangler, who was born in Pennsylvania, and was of German descent. His father followed farming in Johnson county, Indiana, and died there. His mother lived in Indiana till the subject of this biography was fourteen or fifteen years old, and then moved to Jersey county, in this state, and settled on a farm near Otterville. She lived there till her death, on the 19th of June, 1875. Mr. Hegans attended the common schools, both in Indiana and in Jersey county, and obtained a satisfactory business education. When about seventeen he went to work at the blacksmith's trade, and was employed at that, together with farming, till the news reached Illinois of the discovery of gold at Pike's Peak, when, in company with his only brother who was younger than himself, he went to Colorado, but after a stay of about six months returned to Illinois. He was living at Otterville at the time of the breaking out of the war of the rebellion. In August, 1862, he enlisted in company C, 124th Illinois regiment. His regiment was organized at Camp Butler, Illinois, in August, 1862, and was mustered into service for three years on the 10th of the following September. It went into the field immediately, and constituted a portion of the old 3d division 17th army corps, from October, 1862, till March 1864. During this period it participated in all the memorable campaigns and battles under Grant, McPherson and Logan, and was prominently engaged in the battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill and siege of Vicksburg. At the battle of Champion Hill the regiment for a time occupied the extreme right of the Union line, and was desperately engaged with three times their number of Georgians, whom they routed and drove from the field, killing and wounding two hundred of the enemy and capturing two hundred and fifty prisoners and a battery of four guns, with sever loss to themselves. The regiment also participated in the Meridian expedition, under Gen. Sherman, in February, 1864. In January, 1864, it won the proud distinction of being the excelsior regiment of the 3d division, 17th army corps, and was presented by Major-general McPherson, with a splendid battle flag inscribed "Excelsior Regiment, Third Division, Seventeenth Army Corps." The regiment was also engaged in the campaign against Monroe, Louisiana, Yazoo City, Jackson, and Brownsville, Mississippi; and constituted a part of the 3d brigade, 3d division, 16th army corps, in the campaign against Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama, in March and April 1865. This brigade was the first to storm and enter Spanish Fort on the night of April 8th, and was one of the supports at the capture next day of Fort Blakely, the last important engagement of the war. The regiment also constituted a part of the brigade which was first to enter Vicksburg after the protracted siege which resulted in the capture of that stronghold. During the siege of Vicksburg, Mr. Hegans was wounded by the concussion of a shell, and his gun was shattered in two pieces by a rebel bullet. The regiment also took a prominent part in twice mining and blowing up Fort Hill, and in the assault on that fortress on the 26th of June, 1863, lost fifty-six men out of one hundred and fifty engaged. On the previous 23d of June, Mr. Hegans was wounded in the foot while on picket duty. The regiment went into the field with nine hundred and twenty-six officers and men, recruited two hundred and fifty-seven, and returned home with four hundred officers and men. It was distinguished for the superiority of its drill, discipline, and good conduct. It was mainly recruited from the counties of Kane, Henry, Mercer, Cook, Putnam, McDonough, Adams, Sangamon, Jersey and Wayne. It marched by land and water nearly seven thousand miles, was engaged in fourteen skirmishes, ten battles, and two sieges, and was under the fire of the enemy eighty-two days and sixty nights. At a grand reception given in their honor at Chicago on their return, Col. Howe, who had succeeded Col. Sloan in command of the regiment, truthfully said the "the men of the 124th never gave way one inch of ground in the face of the enemy, never turned their backs upon the rebels, and had never failed to drive them before them whenever they tried. There was not blot upon their record and no stain upon their colors but those made by the blood of their fallen comrades."
After his discharge at Chicago, on the 16th of August, 1865, Mr. Hegans came immediately to Virden and began his present business. An illustration of his blacksmith and wagon shop is shown on another page. He is known as one of the progressive and enterprising business men of Virden.
In his politics he is an earnest and strong republican. His first vote for president was cast for Gen. Grant, in 1868. He would have voted for Lincoln, in 1864, but was prevented by the illiberal and unpatriotic action of the Illinois legislature which refused the soldiers the privilege of voting while in the field in the defence of their country.
His only brother, Nelson Hegans, was also a soldier in the Union army. He enlisted in the 61st Illinois regiment, in 1861, and was killed at the battle of Shiloh, in April, 1862. Mr. Hegans is man of decided convictions and opinions, but liberal in his views on all subjects. He has a substantial standing as a business man, and as a citizen stands well in the estimation of the community.