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Friedrich Franz Karl Hecker wurde 1811 in Eichtersheim/Baden geboren.
Als Student und später als Alter Herr, gehörte er drei schlagenden Verbindungen an.
Wie auch sein Zeit- und womöglich teilweise Gesinnungsgenosse Karl Marx war er Corpsstudent.
Corps Hassia (siehe Koesener Corps Liste 1910 Nr. 114/133), Corps Palatia (KCL 118/19)
und Rhenania (KCL 1910 Nr. 119/332).
Nach seinem Studium in Heidelberg und München bestand er 1834 die juristische Staatsprüfung und promovierte anschließend. Danach absolvierte er eine typische Beamtenlaufbahn.
1842 wurde er als bisher jüngstes Mitglied der liberalen Oppositionspartei in die zweite Kammer des badischen Landtags gewählt, welche jedoch mit heutigen Parlamenten nicht zu vergleichen ist. Nur sehr wenige Bürger hatten damals Wahlrecht (Zensuswahlrecht), und der Großherzog konnte sich sogar über Beschlüsse des Parlaments hinwegsetzen.
Im Landtag fiel Hecker schnell als geschickter und für ein "Honoratioren-parlament" radikaler Redner auf. Nachdem im Februar 1848 die meisten reaktionären Regierungen vertrieben werden konnten, tagte Ende März in Frankfurt das sogenannte Vorparlament. Er versuchte, die Errungenschaften der Revolution zu sichern, hatte damit aber im Parlament keinen Erfolg.
Eine Gruppe von radikalen Republikanern um Friedrich Hecker wollte diesen Zustand nicht länger hinnehmen und rang sich zu einer Aktion durch. Sie planten, von Konstanz aus, wo die erste deutsche Republik ausgerufen wurde, einen Zug durch Baden zu unternehmen, um letztendlich bis zur badischen Hauptstadt Karlsruhe vorzudringen (der sogenannte Heckerzug).
Jedoch, der Plan scheiterte recht kläglich: Noch südlich von Freiburg kam es zu den ersten Scharmützeln zwischen Bundestruppen und den Revolutionären. Da sich die Hecker-Anhänger vorher nicht mit anderen Revolutionsgruppen hatten vereinigen können, waren sie hoffnungslos unterlegen. Friedrich Hecker mußte in die Schweiz fliehen. Die Popularität von Hecker blieb aber ungebrochen. Im ganzen Land singt man die Hecker-Lieder, der Heckerhut wird zum Kennzeichen der Demokraten.
Von der Schweiz aus emigrierte in die USA. Friedrich Hecker war einer der populärsten Achtundvierziger und als er in New York ankam erwarteten ihn über 20,000 Menschen mit einem Meer von schwarz-rot-goldenen Fahnen und sangen das einst so berühmte Heckerlied.
Als es im Mai 1849 den Revolutionären tatsächlich gelang, den Großherzog zu vertreiben und die Republik auszurufen, reiste Friedrich Hecker mit Freiwilligen aus Amerika an, kam aber zu spät und emigrierte endgültig in die USA.
Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker was born in Eichtersheim, Grand Duchy
of Baden, on 28 September 1811, the son of a well-to-do court
councillor of Prince-Primate von Dalberg. He took his schooling
at the Gymnasium in Mannheim, then studying law at the universities
of Heidelberg and Munich, before receiving his doctorate in law
at Heidelberg. After a year of further legal studies in Paris
in 1835/6, he took up the practice of law as an advocate in Mannheim
In 1839 he married Marie Josephine Eisenhardt, daughter of a prominent Mannheim family. Hecker entered political life in 1842 when he won a seat from the district of Weinheim-Ladenburg in the lower chamber of the Baden State Assembly. Hecker made himself a prominent member of the "Liberal" wing of the Assembly, where he became famous for his dramatic speeches and theatrical actions aimed at gaining popular support. In 1845 he achieved notoriety all over Germany for opposing the incorporation of the German-speaking provinces of Schleswig and Holstein into Denmark.
Through his open criticism of the princely government of Baden and other states from both a nationalist and an egalitarian point of view, Hecker became one of the most important leaders of the German Left even before the outbreak of a general European revolution in March, 1848. He joined the socialist Gustav Struve in calling an assembly of the people at Offenburg on 19 March 1848, and he sought to obtain the virtual elimination of princely governments. After failing to obtain the support of the preparatory meeting of the German Parliament at Frankfurt,
Hecker and Struve called on 12 April 1848 for a general armed uprising on behalf of a German Republic. A small force marched from Constance through the High Black Forest, and on 20 April it was defeated and scattered by a force of Baden and Hessian troops commanded by General Friedrich von Gagern (who died in the battle). Hecker fled to Muttenz, Switzerland and then departed for America after his attempts to orchestrate further revolt from his exile failed. After a round of receptions as a revolutionary hero he prepared to buy a farm near acquaintances in the Belleville region of southern Illinois.
In spring, 1849, the radical uprising in Baden prompted Hecker to return to Europe to join the revolution, but the radical cause was lost by the time he reached the German frontier at Strasbourg. Since Hecker departed from Germany with his reputation for consistency intact, and since he never compromised with the princely governments or accepted amnesty, he became and remains a legendary figure of the German Liberal and Socialist movements. After leaving Germany in 1849, he did not attempt to intervene in German politics again. His future was in America.
Hecker returned to America and dedicated himself to making a new life for himself as a farmer. Using his savings, he bought land in Lebanon and Summerfield, Illinois, and began raising grapes using the latest scientific techniques. Although Hecker earned a steady income from public speaking in both German and English, he held no major political office (he was a candidate for the college of electors for John C. Fremont in 1856, and he was a delegate to the National Capital Convention in St. Louis in 1869). His political positions in the United States grew out of his long-term convictions as a democrat, but his erstwhile socialist tendencies evaporated in the air of the New World.
He was an early member of the Republican Party, though he tended to be found in the Fremont wing rather than in that dominated by Lincoln and later Grant. In the 1870s he would support the Liberal Republican wing under Carl Schurz. He was opposed to slavery as a system, though he never was a great supporter of rights for blacks. He was ardently anti-clerical and opposed to the Catholic Church as an institution (here he was a true German Liberal), and he was hostile in his later years to prohibition and the extension of women's rights.
The Civil War crisis caused Hecker to vote with his feet as well as with his voice. In the spring of 1861 Hecker crossed the Mississippi in a rowboat to sign up as a private soldier in the regiment of Missouri Volunteers organized against the secessionist state government under federal auspices at the St. Louis Arsenal by the Baden revolutionary Franz Sigel. Hecker was soon called back to Illinois to command a newly-organized regiment of German volunteers from the Belleville region, the 24th Regiment, Illinois Volunteers. This unhappy unit began to fall apart almost as soon as it went into action, due to a lack of confidence in Hecker's abilities as a military commander on the part of some junior officers.
Before the end of 1861 the regiment was sent back to Springfield, Illinois, and disbanded. After several months at home, however, Hecker was called back to head a German regiment recruited from the Chicago area, the 82nd Regiment, Illinois Volunteers. This unit saw hard service in Virginia and Tennessee, and Hecker was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1863). He returned to service and led his regiment until he resigned in protest against mistreatment by his commanders during the battle for Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, in late 1863. Hecker returned to his farm but continued to correspond with his former officers, leaving command to Edward Salomon, organizer of the Jewish company of his regiment.
After the Civil War, Colonel Hecker continued to be active as a speaker in Republican circles and as a columnist in the German press. In 1870 Hecker applauded the establishment of a unified Germany under Prussian leadership, since he believed that liberalization of the authoritarian regimes would inevitably follow. In 1873 Hecker made a speaking tour of Germany, where he had achieved almost legendary status over the years. On his return to Illinois, Hecker continued to involve himself actively in politics, though he also traveled to Colorado to gain relief for respiratory troubles. Freidrich Hecker died on 24 March 1881 on his farm in Summerfield, Illinois, and is buried in the Summerfield cemetery under a US Army tombstone as COL. FREDERIC HECKER 82ND ILL. INF.