Victor Vifquain

Victor Vifquain (1836-1904), a native of Belgium, was one of the first Nebraskans to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, first authorized for heroic action by military personnel during the Civil War. Vifquain was awarded the medal on June 8, 1865, for action at Fort Blakely, Alabama, on April 9 of that year.

At sixteen Vifquain was sent to the U.S. as a student. About 1857 he settled permanently in America in the Blue River valley of Saline County, Nebraska. He did not wait for Nebraska units to be formed when the Civil War broke out in 1861, but instead enlisted in the Fifty-third New York Infantry (disbanded before it saw action).

Before he reentered the army, Vifquain and three companions infiltrated the Confederate lines at Richmond in the spring of 1862 in an unsuccessful scheme to kidnap President Jefferson Davis. In June 1862 Vifquain was sent to Illinois, appointed adjutant of the Ninety-seventh Illinois by the governor there, and reached the rank of brevet brigadier general. In 1865, as the war entered its final days, Vifquain had a second chance to capture Davis. Suspecting that Davis was to be on a specific train, Vifquain captured it near Selma, Alabama, but the Confederate president was not on board.

Following the war Vifquain resumed management of his agricultural enterprises. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1867 and in 1871 was a member of the Nebraska Constitutional Convention. He established the Daily State Democrat in Lincoln in 1879. In 1886 Vifquain was appointed U.S. Consul to Colombia by President Grover Cleveland and later served in several diplomatic posts in Panama. In 1891 he was appointed adjutant general of Nebraska by Governor James E. Boyd and in 1892 again ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

He went on active duty as a lieutenant colonel and adjutant of the Third Nebraska Infantry under Col. William Jennings Bryan during the Spanish-American War and became regimental commander when Bryan resigned. Vifquain took the regiment to Cuba as an occupational force following the war. After the peace treaty Vifquain retired to his home in Lincoln. He died there on January 7, 1904, while engaged in writing his memoirs. 

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

The Massacre Canyon Oral History and Archeology Project

The Massacre Canyon Oral History and Archeology Project

Lest We Forget:  The Lynching of Will Brown, Omaha’s 1919 Race Riot

Lest We Forget: The Lynching of Will Brown, Omaha’s 1919 Race Riot

Portraits of Omaha’s 1898 Indian Congress

Portraits of Omaha’s 1898 Indian Congress

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.