Torry  Larsen

Photo believed to have been taken after the Civil War.

Image courtesy of Torry Larson's grandson Quinton Larson.

Torry Larsen

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Torry Larsen
Birth Name Thor Larsen Svarttangen
Other Names Larson, Tory, Torrey, Torge, Thore, Thorey
Patronymic Name Larsen
Lived 28 Sep 1836 - 18 Aug 1926
Birth Place Gjerpen, near Skien, Telemark
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Manitowoc Rapids, Manitowoc County, WI
Company at Enlistment F
Rank at Enlistment Wagoner
Muster Date 12 Dec 1861
Death Location Washington State Soldier's Home, Ortin, WA
Mother Ingeborg Gurine Thorsdatter Ballestad Nord
Mother Lived 1807-1859
Father Lars Larsen (Larson) Svarttangen
Father Lived 1806-1889
Immigration 1846
Spouse Ragnild Johannesdatter Stokland
Spouse Lived 1844-1912
Married On 23 May 1870
Marriage Location Pope County, MN

Thor Larsen Svarttangen was enlisted under the name Torry Larson by Captain Kiler K. Jones. They were also called the "Valdres Company" because a large number of them were from that area in Norway.

Torry was mustered into Federal service as a Wagoner (wagon driver) on December 12, 1861 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was listed as being a 25 year old unmarried laborer who was at that time a resident in Manitowoc Rapids, Manitowoc County, WI.

On January 14, 1862, the men of the 15th WI were issued Belgian rifled muskets, also known as Dresden muskets. On March 2, 1862 after several months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Wagoner Larson left there with his company and regiment to join the war. Starting March 14, 1862, he was listed as "absent left sick" at the settlement of Bird's Point, MO, on the Mississippi River. He returned to the regiment sometime before the end of April 1862 when it was camped at Island No. 10 in TN on the Mississippi River.

From April until December 1862, Wagoner Larson was listed as "present" with the 15th. He may or may not have participated in the successful siege of Island No. 10 and the surprise raid on Union City, TN in March and April 1862.

Starting June 11, 1862, Wagoner Larson left Island No. 10 with the 15th to take part in a summer campaign through TN, MS, and AL. In August and September he would have participated in the grueling 400-mile retreat with U.S. Major General Don Carlos Buell up to Louisville, KY, with the last 2 weeks being on half rations and short of water.

It is said that Wagoner Larson was not present at the October 8, 1862 fighting at Perryville, Boyle County, KY, which is also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills. This was the 15th's first big battle, but it emerged without any fatalities.

According to a post-war sworn statement by Larson, he "contracted Rheumatism while on a March between Crab Orchard & Bowling Green Kentucky" on or about October 25, 1862. As a result, he became unable to march, was treated by the regiment's medical staff, and rode in a wagon for awhile.

According to official Army records, Wagoner Larson was "left sick with the [wagon] train" starting December 25, 1862. As such he missed participating in the 15th's desperate charge upon a Confederate artillery battery at Knob Gap, TN just south of Nashville on December 26, 1862. There the 15th captured a brass cannon. He missed 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.

Wagoner Larson was once again listed as "present" from sometime in January or February 1863 until October 1863. During the first half of this time the 15th was camped in the Murfreesboro area, except for 2 weeks in February when it was sent to Franklin, TN. Starting on June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in the Tullahoma campaign led by U.S. Major General William S. Rosecrans. 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. Wagoner Larson is believed to have been present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led, becoming the first Federal troops south of the river.

Wagoner Larson 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. There he rescued Captain August Gasman who had been wounded and left behind when the 15th was forced to retreat. Wagoner Larson also survived the near capture of the regiment near Brotherton Field 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 there.

Wagoner Larson then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN which began right after the battle. The siege caused severe shortages of food, medicine, and firewood which, combined with cold, wet weather, resulted in much suffering, sickness, and death. Starting October 13, 1863, Wagoner Larson was "absent on detached service [as a] guard with supply [wagon] train" that was sent over the mountains to the Army supply base at Stevenson, AL. By all accounts this was a physically challenging and dangerous assignment. Wagoner Larson was back with the regiment at the beginning of November 1863. The siege of Chattanooga ended on November 25, 1863, with the Union Army's victorious charge up nearby Mission Ridge, which the 15th took part in.

Starting November 28, 1863, Wagoner Larson was listed as "absent sick at Chattanooga." He returned to the 15th sometime in January or February 1863, and was listed as "present" from then until muster out. While he was absent, the 15th was engaged in almost non-stop marching and counter-marching all over eastern TN. 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, Wagoner Larson participated with the 15th in the famous 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. During the campaign 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 referred to then as Dallas or New Hope Church) on May 27, 1864. There the 15th suffered 50% casualties, including some 25 men who were captured and sent to the infamous Andersonville Prison Camp where most of them later died of disease cause by malnutrition.

The 15th also 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. After a rest following the capture of Atlanta in early September 1864, the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga beginning in early October 1864. This was followed by several months spent guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN near Chattanooga. Some of the 15th's soldiers felt that this was the easiest duty of their entire war service.

Wagoner Larson was mustered out of Federal service along with most of the other surviving members of Company F on January 13, 1865, at Chattanooga, upon the end of his 3-year term of service. At muster out the Army noted that he was due $100 in bounty money. The men of Company F were paid off and sent home to WI, where the company was disbanded.

After the war Torry Larson received formal recognition of his heroism at Chickamauga. On March 20, 1867, the 15th's former Lieutenant Colonel Ole C. Johnson recommended to the Governor of WI that Larson be recognized for his heroism at Chickamauga. On April 4, 1867, WI Governor Lucius Fairchild, himself a distinguished Civil War veteran, honored Torry Larson with a promotion to Brevet Captain, retroactive to September 19, 1863. His award citation reads as follows:

"In recognition of distinguished gallantry at the battle of Chickamauga where when the command was forced to fall back he assisted an officer of his regiment who was badly wounded and in danger of falling into the hands of the enemy to the rear at a time when most men would have deemed it enough to take care of themselves."

In 1868, Torry Larson moved to Ben Wade Township, Pope County, MN, where he started a farm on Section 27. He got married there 2 years later and had 8 children between 1871 and 1885, including: Louie J., Anton E., Anna G., Lowry M., Theodore, John M., and Julia A. An 1888, book of Pope County biographies described Torry as "an energetic and thrifty farmer." The book contains the following stories that Torry told an interviewer about homesteading there:

"...his nearest market was St. Cloud, [Minnesota] a distance of over eighty miles, and with ox teams[drawing his wagon] it took eight days to make the journey ...The severe storms which come up so suddenly and almost without warning were a source of great annoyance... [during one] he could not go from one house to another for three days. In this blizzard his [heating] stove-pipe burned out [caught fire], the house came very nearly being burned, and, as he could not put up [replace] the stove-pipe [during the storm], they had to sleep in the cellar to keep from freezing to death."

While living in Pope County, Torry Larson served as a County Commissioner and as the County Treasurer. At some point he started going by the name Thory Larson. In 1882, he described himself in his pension application as being a 5 foot 6 inch tall farmer, with blue eyes, a light complexion, and sandy colored hair. He signed his application with an "X." In an accompanying affidavit, his former Captain Charles Gustafson described Larson as "a good soldier who never shirked his duty." Eventually the government granted Torry Larson a pension, which it gradually increased to $72 a month.

The book of Pope County biographies contains the following this description of what Larson, his wife, and family had achieved there by the late 1880's:

"The subject of this sketch was in poor circumstances when he came to this country, his wife having to work in the old country until she had enough to pay her passage, but by his energy, integrity and honesty he has placed himself in his present comfortable circumstances. He has eighty acres of his farm under cultivation, good substantial buildings, eight horses, and twenty-five head of cattle. His farm comprises 240 acres of excellent land, eighty acres being timber land."

In 1902, Torry Larson moved to Walla Walla, WA. At the time of his death 24 years later at age 89 he was amongst the very last of the 15th's veterans to pass away.

 

Sources:  Illustrated Album of Biography of Pope and Stevens Counties, Minnesota by Occidental Publishing Co. (Chicago, Illinois, 1888); Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Register of Commissions by Brevet 1864-1870 (Madison, Wisconsin); Civil War Compiled Veteran Pension Records, Pension Office, Dept. of the Interior (Washington, DC); Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886); genealogical data from Robert Anderson, Quinton Larson, Barbara Barsness Swedenburg, and Tove D. Johansen; Norwegian Immigrants to the United States. A Biographical Directory, 1825-1850. Volume Two 1844-1846, Gerhard B. Naeseth, 1997, Anundsen Publishing Co., Decorah, IA, p. 246, IDs 649, 650, 652.


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