Photo shows him wearing Sergeant stripes on his sleeves. Probably taken while on recruiting duty between December 1863, and February 1864.
Image RG985-CWP-161.80, Wm. Schultz College, U.S. Army Military History Institute.
|Name at Enlist||Ole Tostenson|
|Other Names||Ole Torstenson, Ole Thorstenson|
|Lived||22 Jan 1846 - 17 Sep 1898|
|Residence at Muster-In||Christiana, Dane County, WI|
|Company at Enlistment||H|
|Rank at Enlistment||Private|
|Muster Date||13 Feb 1862|
|Burial Location||Section D, Row 6, Lake Ripley Cemetery, Cambridge, Dane County, WI|
Ole Tostenson was enlisted by Captain Knud J. Sime in Company H of the 15th WI on December 14, 1861. The company called itself Heg's Rifles, but was also known as the Voss Company because of the large number of its members were from the Voss region of Norway. Ole was mustered into Federal service as a Private (Menig) for a 3-year term of service on February 13, 1862 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was recorded as being 18 years old and not married. His residence was listed as Christiana, Dane County, WI. Private Tostenson was appointed a Corporal (Korporal) in Company H on February 16, 1862.
After only a few weeks learning to be a soldier at Camp Randall, Corporal Tostenson left there in early March 1862 with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until November 1863, he was recorded as "present" with the 15th. As such he would have been at the siege of Island No. 10, TN, and the raid on Union City, TN in the spring of 1862. That summer he would have been on the campaign through TN, MS, and AL. On August 1, 1862, Corporal Tostenson was appointed as a Sergeant (Sersjant) in Company H. He would then have been involved in the grueling 400-mile retreat in late August and September with General Buell up to Louisville, KY. This was an extremely hard march, with the last 2 weeks being on half rations and short of water.
On October 8, 1862, Sergeant Tostenson would have been in the Battle of Perryville, KY, which is also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills. This was the first big battle that the 15th took part in, yet it came through it without any men killed. In late December he would have participated in the 15th's desperate charge upon a Confederate artillery battery at Knob Gap, TN, just south of Nashville. There the 15th captured a brass cannon. Sergeant Tostenson would have also fought in the long, cold, wet, and bloody Battle of Stone River, TN, also called the Battle of Murfreesboro, on the last days of December 1862. It is there that the 15th first suffered serious battle casualties, and was cited for bravery.
The 15th camped in the Murfreesboro area for the next 6 months, except for 2 weeks in February when it was sent to Franklin, TN. Starting June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in General Rosecrans' Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, it camped at Winchester, TN. On August 17, 1863, the 15th left there to participate in General Rosecrans' Chickamauga campaign. Sergeant Tostenson was present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led. Sergeant Tostenson was also present at the September 19-20, 1863, fighting at Chickamauga, GA -- the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. He survived the vicious fighting around Viniard's Farm on the first afternoon, as well as the near capture of the regiment around midday on the 20th near Brotherton Field during what is now called Longstreet's Breakthrough. Some 63% of the 15th's soldiers who were at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
Sergeant Tostenson would have then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after Chickamauga. The siege caused great suffering amongst the 15th's soldiers due to severe shortages of food and firewood which, combined with wet, cold weather, caused much sickness, suffering, and death. Sergeant Tostenson was detached from the regiment to do recruiting back in WI, departing just 4 days before the siege was broken on November 25, 1864 by the successful Union assault up Mission Ridge that the 15th took part in.
Sergeant Tostenson returned to the 15th sometime in February 1864. He thus missed most of the almost non-stop marching and counter-marching all over eastern TN that the 15th did during the winter of 1863/1864. In many original accounts, this period was described as the worst in the regiment's 3-year term of service. Poor rations, inadequate clothing and shelter, and unseasonably cold weather made these months nearly unbearable.
Starting in May 1864, Sergeant Tostenson would have been with the 15th as it participated in General Sherman's famous campaign to capture Atlanta, GA. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat. It included fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA in early May; the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA on May 14-15; and the disastrous Battle of Pickett's Mill (often called Dallas or New Hope Church), GA on May 27, 1864. There the 15th charged right up to the Confederate earthworks and shot it out with the Rebels for several hours, suffering fearful casualties, including about 25 men captured.
Perhaps due to the rigors of the campaign, Sergeant Tostenson became ill and was sent to an Army hospital on June 22, 1864. As a result of his illness he was absent from the regiment for the rest of his term of service. In August 1864, he was reported sick at Louisville, KY. He was then listed as sick at Keokuk, IA from October through December 1864 and then in a hospital at Madison, WI. Sergeant Tostenson was honorably mustered out of the Federal Army on February 12, 1865 at Madison upon the expiration of his 3-year term of service.
After the war in 1880, he was living with his brother, Morgan (1855), and living in Clinton, Dane County, WI. They both worked on a farm.
Note: the Company H roster in the official 1887 Roster of WI Volunteers spells Ole's last name "Torstenson" while the Lake Ripley Cemetery book spells it "Thorstenson."
Sources: Ole A. Buslett, Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers] (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); Oberst Heg og hans gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys], Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1916); Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls, 1861-1865, Vol. 20, Wisconsin Adjutant General’s Office (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885); and Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume 1, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1887); 1880 Census, Roll: 1421, Family History Film: 1255421, Page: 275C, Enumeration District: 063; genealogical data courtesy of Tom Bilstad.