Michael  Olsen

Michael Olsen

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Michael Olsen
Birth Name Michael Olsen Puntervold
Other Names Mical Olsen
Patronymic Name Olsen
Lived 17 Feb 1835 - 20 or 28 Jul 1862
Birth Place Puntervold, Ogna i Eigersund, Rogaland fylke
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Bad Ax (Vernon) County, WI
Company at Enlistment A
Rank at Enlistment Private
Muster Date 20 Dec 1861
Cause of Death Disease
Death Location Marine Hospital, Mound City, IL
Mother Maren Nielsdatter Melhus
Mother Lived 1802-1898
Father Ole T√łnnesen Puntervold
Father Lived 1795-1883

Michael Olsen was enlisted for a 3-year term of service in Company A of the 15th WI by Captain Andrew Torkildson on December 16, 1861 at Coon Prairie, Bad Ax (now Vernon) County, WI. His brothers, Niels P. Olsen and Amund Olsen, also joined the same company. Together they were one of 3 sets of 3 brothers who served in the 15th. 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.

Michael was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Private (Menig) on December 20, 1861 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time the Army recorded him as being 25 years old (he was actually 26), unmarried, and a resident of Bad Ax County, WI. He was also listed as standing "5 feet 6 inches tall," having "blue eyes, light colored hair," and being a "Farmer."

After almost 10 weeks at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Michael Olsen and his brothers left there on March 2, 1862 with their company and regiment to join the war. From then until June 1862, he was recorded as "present" with the 15th. As such he would have been at the successful siege of Island No. 10, on the Mississippi River in TN and the surprise raid on Union City, TN in late March and early April.

After the Confederate surrender of Island No. 10 on April 8, 1862, Company A was one of 5 companies from the 15th that were ordered to occupy and defend it. The island's fortifications were originally constructed to repulse an attack by Union forces coming down the Mississippi River. The 5 companies had to quickly re-construct the defenses to defeat an anticipated counterattack by Confederate forces coming up the river. This involved much hard labor building new earthworks and moving heavy cannon.

The soldiers assigned to Island No. 10 considered it a very unhealthy place to be, and not just because of the workload, bad water, fevers, and heat. 1st Lieutenant Andrew A. Brown of Company H wrote the following on April 22, 1862, in a letter to his mother:

"...a detachment of five companies viz: A, F, H, I, K, are on the Island suffering greatly on account of the tough Quartermaster's concern which obtains the rations from the Government [and] trades them for something else and leaves the boys on the Island to get along as best they can... I almost thank God that there is a Hell to receive all such men."

All of this took a toll on the men, including Private Michael Olsen. On June 11, 1862, Company A was one of 8 of the 15th's 10 companies that departed Island No. 10 by steamboat to take part in a summer campaign through TN, MS, and AL (the other 2 companies remained at Island No. 10 on extended guard duty). Company A left without Private Michael Olsen, who was left behind "sick" with a fever.

Private Michael Olsen was subsequently transferred by steamboat to a hospital at Mound City, IL, apparently the same hospital that his brother Amund had been in earlier that spring. There on July 20, 1862, the Army recorded that Private Michael Olsen died of "disease." However, Buslett's 1895 history of the 15th WI states that Michael Olsen died in Chicago, Cook County, IL on July 28, 1862.

In either case, news of his death apparently did not reach the 15th until late in the war. Both of his brothers served out their 3-year terms of enlistment and returned safely to WI.


Sources: Genealogical information provided by Bette Minehart; Egersund parish register #A9, born and baptised, p.60. digitalarkivet.no; Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers] by Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); and, Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885).

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