Henry Bohlen was born in the German city of Bremen, on the 22d of October, 1810, while his parents were travelling in Europe for pleasure; his father being a naturalized citizen of the United States, and domiciled in Philadelphia. At the very young age Bohlen was placed by his father in one of the first military colleges in Germany; but before he had completed his studies he was called to the United States, and he did not return to close his collegiate course in Europe.
In 1830 he was again upon the Continent, and in 1831 was brought to the favorable notice of the illustrious Marquis de Lafayette. Through the influence of Lafayette, young Bohlen obtained a position as Aide-de-camp on the staff of General Gerard, and took part in the infamous siege of Antwerp. For his able services in this campaign he received honorable mention. In 1832 he returned to Philadelphia, and married the eldest daughter of J. J. Boric, a much-respected merchant of this city, and in the same year he established himself in the French and West India trade. On the death of his uncle, John Bohlen, he succeeded the old house of B. and J. Bohlen, and at the time of his death he was the senior partner of the well-known house of Henry Bohlen and Co., general importers.
In the beginning of the war with Mexico, he accepted a position on the staff of his friend and companion, General Worth, as a volunteer Aide-de-camp, and participated in all the battles under Major-General Scott. On the restoration of peace, he resigned his favorite occupation as a liquor merchant in Philadelphia.
In 1850, the delicate health of his son caused him to take a trip to Europe, with all his family. On the breaking out of the Crimean War he entered the service of the allies, on the French staff. Bohlen was active during the siege, and up to the time of the storming and the final surrender of Sebastopol. After the Crimean War, he for some time resided quietly in Holland, when news reached him of the firing on and surrender of Fort Sumter. Bohlen arrived in Philadelphia in June, 1861 and applied for a position on the staff of some general officer, but finding no vacancy, he made application to the War Department for permission to recruit a regiment, which was at once granted. He immediately set about organizing a regiment, to be composed entirely of Germans, and he succeeded in the effort. He left with his regiment, 800 strong, on the night of the 27th of September, 1861, for Washington. Two companies were yet to be recruited; these were completed, and they joined him some time after. All the expenses of recruiting were borne by himself. In the following October, he was advanced to the position of Colonel, commanding the Third brigade of General Blenker's division. His brigade was noted for its discipline, celerity in evolutions of the line, and proficiency in the manual of arms. In March, 1862, his brigade had the advance in the terrible march from Warrenton, up the Valley of Virginia, to Winchester. For days his soldiers were almost without food, badly clothed, barefoot, and without tents, bivouacking at night in fields covered with water.
In the early part of April, 1862, Lincoln appointed him a Brigadier-General of volunteers, and in about two weeks he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. In the battle of Cross Keys, in June of the same year, he acted with distinguished bravery, and he was the subject of much favorable criticism for the skill with which he maneuvered his men. The battle near the Rappahannock closed his earthly career. On the morning of the 22d of August, 1862, General Sigel ordered General Bohlen to cross that stream with his brigade to reconnoiter. The Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania crossed first to feel the Southerners, and immediately after the Sixty-first Ohio and the Eighth Virginia followed, in order to support the Seventy-fourth, in case of an attack. In moving up the road, their advance was checked by four regiments of Confederate infantry (a detachment of Long-street's division), who poured upon them a murderous fire. It was in personally leading a charge of the Eighth Virginia, for the fourth time, that this Henry Bohlen fell, pierced by a rifle ball in the region of the heart, and died immediately. He left a wife and three children to mourn his untimely end.
The remains of General Bohlen were brought to Philadelphia, where they were interred, September 12th, 1862, with becoming honors.
Main source: Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania, by Samuel P. Bates, 1876.