Nels  Olans

Photo believed to have been taken after 1900 and before 1918.

Image and permission to use it on the 15th website courtesy of Nels' great-great grandson, Herb Hair

Nels Olans

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Nels Olans
Birth Name Nels Olans
Other Names Nils Olavus, Nels Olavis Thorson
Patronymic Name Thorson
Lived 08 Jan 1842 - Sep 1918
Birth Place Vesterviig, Eiken i Hægebostad, Vest-Agder
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Winchester, Winnebago County, WI
Company at Enlistment B
Rank at Enlistment Private
Muster Date 18 Jan 1862
Death Location Greenville, Outagamie County, WI
Burial Location Grace Lutheran Church Cemetery, Winchester, Winnebago County, WI
Mother Askjær Gasesdt
Father Thor Odsen Eiesland
Father Lived ca. 1810- after 1865
Immigration 3 Apr 1861
Spouse Betsy Johnson
Spouse Lived 1847- 1928
Married On 17 Nov 1867
Marriage Location Winchester, Winnebago County, WI

Nils Olavus was enlisted under the name Nels Olans by Captain Ole C. Johnson in Company B of the 15th WI. He joined up on January 6, 1862 in Madison, Dane County, WI for a 3-year term of service. The men of Company B called themselves the "Wergeland Guards" in honor of the famous Norwegian writer and poet, Henrik Wergeland. Nils was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Private (Menig) on January 18, 1862 at Camp Randall near Madison. At the time he was listed as 20 years old, not married, and a resident of Winchester, Winnebago County, WI.

After about 6 weeks at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Olans left there in early March 1862 with his company and regiment to join the war. It is believed that from then until September 1863, 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 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.

Private Olans would then have been present at the October 8, 1862, fighting at Perryville, Boyle County, KY, which is also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills. While this was the 15th's first big battle, it emerged without any fatalities. On December 26, 1862, 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, on December 30-31, 1862. 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, TN. Starting June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in U.S. Major General Rosecrans' Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, the regiment 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 Olans was present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led. He was also present at the September 19-20, 1863 fighting at Chickamauga, GA -- the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. There he survived the vicious fighting around Viniard's Farm on the first afternoon, but was taken prisoner around midday on the 20th near Brotherton Field during Longstreet's Breakthrough. That was the last time he was with the 15th during the war. Some 63% of the 15th's soldiers who were at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

After the battle, Private Olans was marched under guard to Tunnel Hill, GA along with other captured 15th soldiers. From there he was transported by railroad train to Atlanta, GA and then on to Richmond, VA, where he was confined in a prison beginning September 29, 1863. The Confederates held Private Olans as a prisoner of war for nearly a year before paroling him to Federal authorities on September 12, 1864. He was then reported as being "sick" in a U.S. Army hospital at Annapolis, MD, and then later in a hospital at Louisville, KY.

Private Olans was mustered out of Federal service on January 18, 1865 at Madison, WI. This was 6 weeks after the expiration of his 3-year term of service and the muster out of Company B on December 1, 1864 at Chattanooga, TN.

After the war he got married and went by the name Nels Olavis Thorson. He and his wife had 11 children: Evelina, born July 20, 1866; John (Tobias), born January 21, 1869; Cnute (Gilbert), born February 9, 1871; George (Alvin), born January 15, 1874; Charles Louis (1st), lived January 13, 1876- January 8, 1885); Nettie Bertina, born March 23, 1878; Elizabeth Judin,a born December 12, 1880; Julius Olavus, born June 29, 1883; Charles Louis (2nd), born December 9, 1885; Isabelle Amelia (Amy), born October 28, 1888; and Maybell Louise, born March 27, 1891. It is said that at his death at age 76 he was survived by 10 children, 51 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

Sources: Genealogical data from Peter L. Christianson and Herb Haire; Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillage [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1895); Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886).


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