Ole T. Westby

Image believed to have been taken post-Civil War.

Wisconsin Historical Society, Iconography, ID 86841

Ole T. Westby

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Ole T. Westby
Birth Name Ole Tostensen Gullord
Other Names Westbye, Wistbye
Patronymic Name Tostensen
Lived 2 May 1840 - 7 Jan 1898
Birth Place Vestby, Gullord, Biri
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Bad Ax (Vernon) County, WI
Company at Enlistment H
Rank at Enlistment Private
Muster Date 13 Feb 1862
Cause of Death Throat cancer
Death Location Westby, Vernon County, WI
Burial Location Coon Valley Cemetery, Vernon County, WI
Mother Berte Evensdatter Upper Galtestad
Mother Lived 1814-
Father Tosten Olsen Gullord
Father Lived 1815-1871
Immigration 1849
Spouse Sarah Dahl
Spouse Lived 1848-
Married On 16 Nov 1865

When Ole came to America with his family, his father adopted the surname of Westby in honor of the tenant farm Vestby on the Gullord farm where he had lived in Norway. Twelve years later, Ole T. Westby (sometimes spelled Westbye or Wistbye by the Army) was enlisted in Company H of the 15th WI by Captain Knud J. Sime. Ole joined at La Crosse, La Crosse County, WI, on December 24, 1861, for a 3-year term of service.

The men of Company H called themselves "Heg's Rifles" in honor of the 15th commander, Colonel Hans C. Heg. They were also known as the "Voss Company" because of a large number of them who were from the Voss region of Norway. Ole was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Private (Menig) on February 13, 1862, at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time the Army recorded him as being 22 years old and not married. His residence was listed as Bad Ax (now Vernon) County, WI.

After only 2 weeks at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Westby left there on March 2, 1862, with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until July 1862, 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. Starting sometime in May or June 1862, he was listed as a musician. It is said that he played the fife.

Starting June 11, 1862, Ole left Island No. 10 with 8 of the 15th's 10 companies to take part in a summer campaign through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. On July 22, 1862, Westby was listed as being "sent to hospital" at Monterey, MS. In August 1862, he was sent from there to the General Hospital at St. Louis, MO. In November 1862, Westby returned to Company H, which was stationed near Nashville, TN. At that time he was "reduced to ranks" as a Private effective November 1, 1862. Private Westby was then "present" with the 15th until he was mustered out in early 1865.

In late December 1862, Private Westby 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. He would have also fought at the long, cold, wet, and bloody fighting at Stone River, TN, also called the Battle of Murfreesboro, at the end of December 1862 and into early January 1863. 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, Williamson County, TN, and for a short expedition to Shelbyville, TN, on March 6, 1863. According to Buslett's 1895 history of the 15th, the following occurred during the Shelbyville expedition:

"Ole T. Westby was one of the two unarmed orderlies who were with Colonel Heg when they captured two armed Rebel sentries by surprising them."

Starting June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in U.S. Major General William S. Rosecrans' Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, the 15th went into camp at Winchester, Franklin County, TN, for 6 weeks.

On August 17, 1863, the 15th left Winchester to participate in General Rosecrans' Chickamauga campaign. Private Westby 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 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.

Private Westby would have then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which started right after the battle. The siege resulted in severe shortages of food, medicine, and firewood which, together with cold, wet weather, caused much suffering, sickness, and death. The siege was finally broken by the Union Army's victorious charge up Mission Ridge on November 25, 1863, which the 15th took part in.

Starting right after Mission Ridge, Private Westby and the other survivors of the 15th were 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.

Starting in May 1864, Private Westby served with the 15th in the famous campaign led by U.S. Major General William T. Sherman to capture Atlanta, GA. It was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. In the opening part of the campaign the 15th fought 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 mistakenly referred to as Dallas or New Hope Church), GA, on May 27, 1864. There the 15th suffered 50% casualties, including 29 soldiers captured. Most of them ended up dying of malnutrition-related diseases in the infamous Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, GA.

Private Westby was also present with the 15th when it took part in the fighting at Kenesaw Mountain, GA, on June 23; Atlanta on July 22; Jonesboro, GA, on September 1; and Lovejoy Station, GA, on September 4, 1864. It was there, at the final fight for Atlanta, that Private Westby received a "flesh wound in right arm." The next several weeks were spent resting in and around Atlanta. Its capture helped Abraham Lincoln win re-election that fall to a second term as President, guaranteeing that the war would be fought until the Confederate States of America was destroyed.

In early October, the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga. This was followed by several months spent guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN, near Chattanooga. Some of the 15th's soldiers felt this was the easiest duty of their war service.

On February 13, 1865, Private Westby was mustered out of Federal service at Chattanooga, along with most of the other surviving members of Company H, when their 3-year terms of service ended. At muster out Private Westby was listed by the Army as being owed $100 in bounty money from the government.

After being mustered out Ole Westby returned to Vernon County and purchased 80 acres of farmland in Coon. He also got married and began a family that included 11 children. They included: Emelie B. (1867), Netta M. (1868), Olga (1873), Julius A. (1875), Sade (1877), and Blaine L. (1879). In 1867, Ole opened a general store in Christiana Township. In 1879, the settlement around his store was officially named the Village of Westby in his honor.

Ole was a member of the Norwegian Lutheran Church and the Republican Party as well as the Lowrey Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and the Westby lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. In 1894, he was a merchant in Westby, Vernon County, operating a general store. He was also a musician. According to his death certificate, Ole passed away of throat cancer. In the 1907 Memoirs of Vernon County, Ole T. Westby was remembered thus:

"He was a man of sterling character and marked business ability and his life counted for good in its various relations."

Sources: Genealogical data provided by The Westby Area Historical Society, Ellen Pederson; genealogical data provided by Bjørn Herberg; Vernon County Heritage: 150th Anniversary by Vernon County Historical Society (Viroqua, Wisconsin, 1994); Memoirs of Vernon County edited by Earl M. Rodgers (1907); 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; Oberst Heg og hans Gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys], Waldemar Ager, 1916, Fremad Publ. Co., Eau Claire, WI; and Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, compiled under direction of theAdjutant General, 1886, Democrat Printinc Co., Madison, WI; 1880 Census, Roll: 1448, Family History Film: 1255448, Page: 211A, Enumeration District: 003.


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