Berge O. Lee

Berge O. Lee

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Berge O. Lee
Birth Name
Other Names Berge Olai Lee
Lived 29 Sep 1833 - 12 Nov 1909
Birth Place Voss, Hordaland
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Deerfield, Dane County, WI
Company at Enlistment H
Rank at Enlistment Corporal
Muster Date 13 Feb 1862
Death Location Snohomish County, WA
Burial Location Anderson Cemetery, East Stanwood, Snohomish County, WA
Immigration ca. 1860
Spouse Ellen “Oline” Anderson Kroshus
Spouse Lived 3 Sep 1848- 11 May 1913
Married On 21 Jan 1867

Berge O. Lee was born on September 29, 1833 in Voss, Hordaland, Norway. He immigrated to the U.S. circa 1860.

Lee was enlisted in Company H of the 15th WI by Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Hans C. Heg. It was also know as the Voss Company because a large number of its members hailed from the Voss region of Norway. On January 16, 1862, Berge was appointed to the rank of Corporal (Korporal) in Company H. Corporal Lee was mustered into Federal service at that rank on February 13, 1862 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was recorded as being 25 years old, not married, and a resident of Deerfield, Dane County, WI. His brother was Siver Lee.

After only a few weeks at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Corporal Lee left there in early March 1862, with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until February 1865, 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 TN and the surprise raid on Union City, TN in March and April 1862. That summer he would have been with the 15th on campaign though TN, MS, and AL. 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.

Corporal Lee would also have been present at the October 8, 1862, Battle of Perryville, KY, which is also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills. While this was the first big battle the 15th was in, it emerged without any fatalities. 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. He would have also fought at the long, cold, wet, and bloody Battle of Stone River, TN, also called the Battle of Murfreesboro, at the end of December 1862. It is there that the 15th first suffered serious battle casualties, and was cited for bravery. One of those cited was Corporal Lee. The following is from Buslett's 1895 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.

At the recommendation of Colonel Heg, Corporal Lee was entered into the Roll of Honor for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps.

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. Corporal Lee 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.

Corporal Lee 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 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 Corporal Lee and the 15th took part in.

Starting right after Mission Ridge, the 15th was engaged in almost non-stop marching and counter-marching all over eastern TN 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, the 15th participated in General Sherman's famous campaign to capture Atlanta, GA. Corporal Lee served with the 15th all through the campaign, which was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. The 15th was involved in the fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA in early May 1864; at the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA on May 14-15, 1864; and at the disastrous Battle of Pickett's Mill (often called Dallas or New Hope Church), GA on May 27, 1864, where the 15th suffered fearful casualties. The 15th and Corporal Lee also took part in the fighting at Kenesaw Mountain, GA on June 23, 1864; Atlanta on July 22, 1864; Jonesboro, GA on September 1, 1864; 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 at the start of October 1864. This was followed by several months duty guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN, which some of the 15th's soldiers felt was the easiest duty of their war service.

Corporal Lee was mustered out of Federal service along with most of the other surviving members of Company H on February 13, 1865 at Chattanooga, TN upon the end of his 3-year term of service.

After the war, he married Ellen “Oline” Anderson Kroshus on January 21, 1867. They eight children: Julie C. was born in 1867 in IA. Most of the children were born in MN, including John O. (1870), Maria H. (1874), Benny O. (1875), Clara A. (1877), and William (1884). The last child, Edwin, was born in WA in 1887.

The family relocated several times. They left IA in 1869 and lived in Tordenskjold, Otter Tail County, MN. After General Custer's army lost at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, Lee's land became an important refuge for his fellow settlers in western MN, as there were fears of Native American attacks. So, Lee and fellow Civil War veteran, Hans Juelson, constructed a fort on Lee's land to protect other settlers. They situated Fort Juelson on a hilltop amongst ancient Native American burial mounds. According to a description of the fort in the Fergus Falls Journal in 1876,

As seen from a distance this is a more formmidable earthwork than we saw in six months in the army of the Potomac, with the single exception of Yorktown, and in it 50 or a 100 men under the command of Capt. Juelson with arms and ammunition could keep the entire Sioux nation at bay. The building of this for as manual exercise and exhibition of military skill and courage was FAR BETTER THAN RUNNING AWAY... [capitalizations by original author.]

The Lee family left the farm and fort by 1880 and were living in Moland, Clay County, MN. Seven years later, they were in WA. In the 1900 Census, they lived in Stilaguamish, Snohomish County, WA. Lee died on November 12, 1909. Ellen "Oline" died on May 11, 1913. They are both buried in Anderson Cemetery, East Stanwood, Snohomish, WA. His headstone says "Corp 15 Wis Inf."

 

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 (Decorah, IA, 1894); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, WI, 1886); findagrave.com; 1870 Census, Roll: T132_9, Page: 798, Image: 55, Family History Library Film: 830429; 1880 Census, Roll: 617, Family History Film: 1254617, Page: 511A, Enumeration District: 188, Image: 0427; 1885 MN Census, MNSC_23, Line 16; 1900 Census, Roll: 1750, Page: 3B, Enumeration District: 0211, FHL microfilm: 1241750; Minnesota Historical Society, http://www.mnhs.org/shpo/nrhp/docs_pdfs/0053_fortjuelson.pdf.


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