Wisconsin Historical Society, Iconography, ID 80051
|Name at Enlist||Thomas Thompson|
|Lived||ca. 1839 - 1893|
|Residence at Muster-In||Chicago, Cook County, IL|
|Company at Enlistment||A|
|Rank at Enlistment||Private|
|Muster Date||8 Jan 1862|
|Death Location||Winneconne, Winnebago County, WI|
Thomas Thompson was enlisted in Company A of the 15th WI by Captain Andrew Torkildson at Chicago, Cook County, IL, on December 28, 1861, for a 3-year term of service. The men of Company A called themselves the "St. Olaf's Rifles." They were also known as the "Sailor Company" because of the large number of seamen in its ranks, and the "Chicago Company" because so many of its members were residents of that city. Thomas was mustered into Federal service as a Private (Menig) on January 8, 1862, at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was 22 years old, not married, and residing at Chicago.
After about 2 months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Thompson left there in early March 1862, with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until April 1863, he was listed as "present" with the 15th. As such he would have participated in the successful siege of Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River in Tennessee and the surprise raid on Union City, TN, in March and April 1862. That summer he would have been with the 15th on the campaign though Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. In August and September he would have participated in the grueling 400-mile retreat with General Buell up to Louisville, KY, with the last 2 weeks being on half rations and short of water.
Private Thompson would also have been present at the October 8, 1862, Battle of Perryville, KY, which is also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills. At some point in November or December 1862, Private Thompson was fined five dollars by the regimental Provost (Police) Guard. While this was the first big battle the 15th was in, it emerged without any fatalities. On December 26, 1862, 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. Private Thompson would have also fought at the long, cold, wet, and bloody Battle of Stone River, TN, also called the Battle of Murfreesboro, on December 30-31, 1862. It is there that the 15th first suffered serious battle casualties, and was cited for bravery. One of those cited was Private Thompson. The following is from Buslett's 1894 history of the 15th WI:
"After the battle General Rosecrans issued an order to the various regiments' commanders to submit to headquarters a list of one sergeant, two corporals and four or five privates in each company (altogether no more than six from each company), who had shown the greatest courage and ability during the battle. These would be entered on the Roll of Honor."
The 15th's commander, Colonel Hans C. Heg, submitted Private Thompson's name to General Rosecrans' headquarters and he was subsequently entered on the Roll of Honor for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps for his actions in the battle.
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. On April 10, 1863, Private Thompson was detached "with the light battalion." Starting June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in General Rosecrans' Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, it camped at Winchester, Franklin County, TN. Sometime in July or August 1863, Private Thompson was promoted to the rank of Corporal (Korporal) in Company A.
On August 17, 1863, the 15th left Winchester to participate in General Rosecrans' Chickamauga campaign. Corporal Thompson is believed to have been present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led. He 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 during Longstreet's Breakthrough. Some 63% of the 15th's soldiers who were at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
Corporal Thompson would have then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after the battle. The siege resulted in severe shortages of medicine, food, and firewood which, together with cold, wet weather, caused much suffering, sickness, and death. The Confederate siege was finally broken by the Union Army's victorious charge up Mission Ridge on November 25, 1863, which the 15th took part in. From November 28-29, 1863, Corporal Thompson was listed as "absent sick" at Chattanooga, TN.
Starting right after Mission Ridge, the 15th was engaged in almost non-stop marching and counter-marching all over eastern Tennessee throughout the winter of 1863/1864. By many original accounts, this was the worst period of the regiment's 3-year term of service. Poor rations, inadequate clothing and shelter, and unseasonably cold weather made these months nearly unbearable. It is not clear if Corporal Thompson was with the regiment during this period. Starting in May 1864, the 15th participated in General William T. Sherman's famous campaign to capture Atlanta, GA. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. However, on May 5 or 6, 1864, near Ringgold, GA, Corporal Thompson was transferred from the 15th to the U.S. Navy by order of Major General George Thomas.
Sources: Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett, 1894, Decorah, IA; Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, compiled under direction of the Adjutant General, 1886, Democrat Printing Col, Madison, WI.