Friedrich Heckler was born in Eichtersheim, Germany, in 1811. He studied law and history in Mannheim Heidelberg and Munich. A student with radical political views, Hecker acquired the nickname Red Friedrich.
Heckler became a lawyer in Mannheim and his public speeches advocating academic freedom, universal suffrage and an end to press censorship made him one of the most popular political figures in Germany. On 12th April, 1848, Heckler called for an armed popular insurrection. When the attempt at revolution failed, Heckler fled to Switzerland before emigrating to the United States.
In 1849 Heckler purchased a farm near Belleville, Illinois and began to raise cattle and cultivate wine. He remained active in politics and was involved in the founding of the Republican Party. A strong opponent of slavery, Heckler assembled an entire regiment of German-Americans on the outbreak of the Civil War. He was commander of the 82nd Illinois Regiment until being wounded at Chancellorsville. Friedrich Heckler died in 1881.