Brief History

Sergeant Ole Torstenson of Company H Believed taken circa January, 1864, on recruiting duty in Wisconsin RG985-CWP-161.80, Wm. Schultz College, U.S. Army Military History Institute

The 15th Wisconsin served in the Federal (Union) Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was called the Scandinavian Regiment because almost all of its soldiers were from Scandinavia, predominantly from Norway, but also from Denmark and Sweden. The 15th was repeatedly recognized as a well organized and efficiently run regiment. During its 3 year term of service the 15th also earned a well deserved reputation for bravery and steadfastness in battle, especially at Stones River, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, and Pickett’s Mill.

Equally impressive, but less obvious, are the hardships that its soldiers went through virtually every day: often inadequate food, clothing, and shelter; inclement weather (they essentially lived outdoors for 3 years, often without tents); long marches (often 20 miles a day, wearing wool uniforms even during Summer campaigns in the South); going months without being paid; facing the fact that at any time they or their comrades could die or be permanently disabled; and watching this happen over and over again all around them.

Of the 906 officers and enlisted men who served in the 15th, the regiment lost: 267 killed in battle or died of wounds or disease; 22 missing; and, 204 who became physically disabled and were discharged from the Army. When the regiment mustered out after 3 years, only 320 officers and enlisted men were still with it.

To make the 15th’s history easier to understand, information has been added [within brackets] to explain abbreviations or clarify matters which the original author assumed 19th century Americans would know. In addition, hot links have been added to provide access to additional details about the 15th, which are contained in Quiner’s history of the 15th. In turn, hot links have been added to Quiner’s to provide access to relevant reports, letters, and soldier profiles.

After reading about the 15th you may wonder why this splendid body of men, and their deeds and sacrifices, are all but forgotten today. In part this is because the vast majority of the letters they wrote and the diaries they kept, as well as most of the 15th’s histories, were written in Norwegian — and have not been translated into English. Presenting their history in English is an important reason why this web site has been created.

Source: Records and Sketches of Military Organizations, Population, Legislation, Election and Other Statistics Relating to Wisconsin in the Period of the Civil War. Edited by Charles E. Estabrook. Published by the State of Wisconsin, Democrat Printing Company, in 1914. See pages 136-37.


“The Fifteenth regiment of Infantry was organized at Camp Randall, Madison, Wisconsin, and mustered into the service of the United States on the 14 day of February, 1862. It left the State on March 2, 1862, reaching Bird’s Point, Mo., opposite Cairo [Illinois], and on the 14th took its place in line with the forces investing Island No. 10, and remained until the end of the siege. (Siege of Island No. 10, February 28–April 8, 1862). Soon after the surrender of the Confederate forces at this point the Fifteenth was transferred to Tennessee, and the subsequent service of that regiment was rendered in middle Kentucky, middle Tennessee, and northern Georgia.

In the summer of 1862 it participated in many of the movements of the Union forces, and in the course of the campaign met the enemy at Perryville, Ky. (or Chaplin Hills) Ky. and took part in the battle at that place October 8, 1862. With the Union forces pursued the retreating Confederates and reached Nashville, Tenn. about the middle of November. About the 26 of the following December, as a part of the Army of the Cumberland, took part in the movement toward Murfreesboro, Tenn. and participated in the battle of Stones River or Murfreesboro, December 30 and 31, 1862, and January 1, 1863.

Thereafter the Fifteenth was continuously in service in various expeditions, in middle Tennessee and with the Army of the Cumberland under Gen. Rosecrans took part in the Tullahoma Campaign, June 23 to July 7, 1863, and in the advance into Northern Georgia near Chattanooga. Participated in the battle of Chickamauga, Ga., September 19-20, and in the subsequent battle of Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, Tenn., November 25, 1863, followed by service in the campaign to relieve the forces under Gen. Burnside at Knoxville, Tenn. Returning to the vicinity of Chattanooga the regiment joined [General William T.] Sherman’s Army, May 5, 1864, and participated in the Atlanta Campaign, May 1–September 8, 1864. Taking part in the battles of Resaca, May 14, 1864; Dalton, May 26, 1864; [Pickett’s Mill, May 27, 1864]; Kenesaw Mountain, June 23, 1864; Atlanta, July 22, 1864; and Jonesborough [Jonesboro], September 1, 1864 [all in the State of Georgia].

After the conclusion of the Atlanta Campaign the Fifteenth returned to Chattanooga where most of the companies were mustered out of service of the United States in December owing to the expiration of the [3 year] term for which the men had enlisted. Two companies, A & E, remained at that place until the 13 of February, 1865, when these companies were mustered out. A portion of the men whose term of service had not at that time expired were transferred to the Twenty-fourth [Wisconsin] Infantry, and subsequently upon the muster out of that regiment to the Thirteenth [Wisconsin] Infantry, with which regiment these men served until mustered out of service of the Thirteenth [in the summer of 1865].”