Anders J. Urness

Photo taken sometime after May 1862. He is wearing a non-commissioned officer (NCO) sword.

Wisconsin Historical Society, Iconography, ID 80711

Anders J. Urness

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Anders J. Urness
Birth Name Anders Johannesen Urnæs
Other Names Anders Urnæs, Andrew G. Urness
Patronymic Name Johannessen
Lived 24 Feb 1837 - 28 Jun 1901
Birth Place Urnæs, Hafslo parish, Sogn og Fjordane fylke
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Black Earth, Dane County, WI
Company at Enlistment B
Rank at Enlistment First Corporal
Muster Date 16 Feb 1862
Death Location Alexandria, Douglas County, MN
Burial Location West Moe Cemetery, West Moe Township, Douglas County, MN
Mother Kari Pedersdatter Sandvig
Mother Lived 1810-1880
Father Johannes Olsen Kinesdal
Father Lived 1813-1894
Immigration 1861
Spouse Antonett Jacobsen
Spouse Lived 1845-1926
Married On 17 Sep 1867
Marriage Location Holmes City, Douglas County, MN

On October 28, 1861, Anders J. Urness was enlisted by Captain Ole C. Johnson for 3-years service in Company B of the 15th WI. In January 1862, his brother, Peter Urness, joined the same company, as did his brother, Ole Urness, 2 years later. The Urness brothers were one of 3 sets of 3 brothers who served in the 15th.

The men of Company B called themselves the "Wergeland Guards" in honor of the famous Norwegian writer and poet Henrik Wergeland. Anders was mustered into Federal service at the rank of 1st Corporal of Company B on February 16, 1862, at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time the army listed him as being 24 years old and not married. His residence was recorded as Black Earth, Dane County, WI.

Corporal Urness was promoted to 2nd Sergeant (Second Sersjant) of Company B at a date not indicated. He was later appointed as the 15th's Regimental Color Sergeant (Regimentets Fanebærer), a position of great honor.

Color Sergeant Urness was present at the September 19-20, 1863, fighting at Chickamauga, GA -- the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. During the vicious fighting near Viniard's Farm on the first afternoon of the fighting he was shot in the breast while carrying the 15th's National flag. Private Jens Hanson rushed forward and rescued the flag. The following is from Hansen's award citation in 1867:

"In recognition of conspicuous gallantry manifested by him at the battle of Chickamauga at that date under the following circumstances: A charge was made by the rebels and the Brigade to which the 15" Regt. was attached was outflanked and compelled to retreat a short distance. In this retreat the color bearer was severely wounded and dropped the colors, when Jens Hanson noticed it and exposing himself to a deadly fire advanced to the front and picked them up thereby preventing their falling into the enemys hands. Hanson was afterwards captured and died a prisoner at Andersonville Georgia."

Hansen's advance also saved Sergeant Urness from capture. After recovering from his wound, Sergeant Urness was ordered away on recruiting duty in WI starting in November 1863. It was during his time at home that his brother Ole enlisted in the 15th.

Sergeant Urness returned to the regiment in time to participate in the successful campaign to capture Atlanta, GA, led by U.S. Major General William T. Sherman. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. The 15th took part in the 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 suffered 50% casualties, including 29 soldiers who were captured. Buslett's 1894 regimental history contains this quote about Sergeant Urness at Pickett's Mill:

"He was a flag-bearer and a smart man; even though he lay hidden among the Rebels, he managed to sneak away."

Sergeant Urness served as the 15th's Color Sergeant till November 1864, a period that included fighting at Kenesaw Mountain, GA, on June 23; Atlanta, GA, on July 22; Jonesboro, GA, on September 1; and Lovejoy Station, GA, on September 4, 1864.

After a rest following the capture of Atlanta in early September 1864, the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga, TN, at the beginning of October 1864. This was followed by several months of what many in the 15th consider their easiest duty during the war: guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN, near Chattanooga.

Anders mustered out of Federal service with most of the others survivors of Company B on December 2, 1864 at Chattanooga upon the expiration of his 3-year term of service.

After returning from the army Anders and a number of other former 15th soldiers, including his brother Ole, moved to Douglas County, MN. There he established a farm in Brandon. In 1868 Anders wed the same day as his sister Kristi, who married a 15th comrade of his, Amos Johnson. In 1871, Amos was responsible for changing the name of nearby Red Rock Township to Urness. Anders and his wife Antonett had 9 children: Carrie, born 1869; Johanna, born 1871; John, born 1873; Anna, born 1876; Martha, born 1878; Peder, born 1881 (died 1882); Peder, born 1883; Andrew, born 1885; and Alice, born 1887. In 1893, he was living in Urness Township, Douglas County, MN. In 1896, he and his wife moved to Alexandria, MN. He died there in 1901, killed himself using an old revolver he had brought home from the war.

Anders was a member of the John F. Reynolds Post No. 51 of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R., the Union veterans organization) in Northfield, Rice County, MN. Other 15th members included: Ole J. Urness and Andrew Burke, both of Company B; Gustav Olson of Company F; Andrew A. Brown of Company H; and Martin J. Norde of Company I.

The following passage by "a Veteran" appeared in Ager's 1916 history of the 15th WI:

"Everyone in the regiment knew the Urness brothers. There were three of them. Anders Urness was the flag carrier or"Color Bearer." He was also mature in his attitude. One could not find a more gallant soldier in the regiment than he."

Sources: Oberst Heg og hans Gutter [Colonel Heg and his boys], Waldemar Ager, 1916, Eau Claire, WI; Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls, 1861-1865, Wisconsin Adjutant General’s Office, compiled circa 1885, Archives, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Vol.20;  Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume 1, compiled under the direction of the Adjutant General, 1886, Democrat Printing Co., Madison; genealogical data by Ann Urness Gesme; data about Anders and Amos Johnson provided by Darlene and Harland Hanson; Roster of John P. Reynolds Post No. 51 Grand Army of the Republic (Alexandria, Minnesota, not dated; Hafslo parish register #A5, born and baptised, p. 18, #A18, out-migrated, p. 57, digitalarkivet.no.


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