Portion of a painted tintype photograph taken in 1861.
Image courtesy of his granddaughter Barbara Barsness Swedenburg.
|Name at Enlist||Erick N. Basness|
|Birth Name||Erick Nelson Barsness|
|Other Names||Erik Nelson Barsness, Nilson|
|Lived||27 Nov 1841 - 25 Apr 1925|
|Residence at Muster-In||Koshkonong, Jefferson County, WI|
|Company at Enlistment||B|
|Rank at Enlistment||Private|
|Muster Date||4 Jan 1862|
|Death Location||Glenwood, Pope County, MN|
|Burial Location||Lake Ben Cemetery, Pope County, MN|
|Mother||Agathe Bottolfsdtr Sogndalsfjæren|
|Mother Lived||1802- 1854|
|Father||Nels Nelson Barsness|
|Father Lived||1799- 1885|
|Spouse Lived||1841- 1880|
|Married On||8 May 1869|
|Marriage Location||Dane County, WI|
|2nd Spouse||Bertha Swenson|
|2nd Spouse Lived||1859- 1945|
|2nd Marriage Date||21 Nov 1881|
|2nd Marriage Location||Barsness Township, Pope County, MN|
Erik Nelson Barsness was enlisted in Company B of the 15th Wisconsin by Captain Ole C. Johnson on December 2, 1861 for a 3 year term of service. The men of the company called themselves the "Wergeland Guards" in honor of the famous Norwegian writer and poet Henrik Wergeland. Erick was mustered into Federal service as a Private (Menig) on January 4, 1862 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. The Army misspelled his last name, and for his entire service with the 15th he was officially listed as Erick N. Basness. His age, 20 years, and his marital status, single, and his residence, Koshkonong, WI, were all recorded correctly.
On January 14, 1862, the men of the 15th Wisconsin were issued Belgian rifle muskets. On March 2, 1862, after about 2 months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Basness left there with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until June 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, TN, from mid-March to its surrender on April 8, 1862. He may have also taken part in the surprise raid on Union City, TN, on March 31, 1862. Starting June 12, 1862, Private Basness was on campaign with the 15th through TN, MS, and AL. For a time in June he was temporarily "absent on duty with commissary [wagon] trains." From then until December 1862, he was once again listed as "present" with the 15th. During August and September he would have participated in the grueling 400-mile retreat with Major General Don Carlos Buell up to Louisville, KY, with the last 2 weeks being on half rations and short of water.
Private Basness was 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. Private Basness then fought in the long, cold, wet, and bloody Battle of Stones River, TN, also called the Battle of Murfreesboro, which started December 30, 1862. It is there that the 15th first suffered serious battle casualties, and was cited for bravery. One of the casualties was Private Basness, who received a "gun shot wound of right lung" on December 31st and was subsequently taken prisoner. The following description appeared in an 1888 book of Pope County biographies.
|"The agony he suffered was indescribable, being forced to lie on the cold, wet ground during the next two days and nights. He was then taken prisoner, and was laid between two wounded soldiers, who died in the evening, and all that night and the next day until ten o'clock when the stench of the dead men at his side became unbearable, he with difficulty and excruciating pain, crawled a short distance away. Shortly after, a rebel, who was passing by, accosted him and told him that he could have a better place if he could walk to it, but on his attempting to do so found the effort was too great and fell fainting to the ground. At this the rebel drew his revolver and was about to kill him, when an Irish soldier, who was at that moment approaching, besought him to spare the wounded man's life, and said that he would take him to a place of safety. This great-hearted Irish soldier then removed him to a tent hospital about three miles distant, where he remained for six days, when Union forces scattered the rebels, and he was once again with friends. During his stay at this impromptu hospital he had for sustenance but one dry biscuit."|
The following story is also told about Private Basness at Stones River.
|"When Peter G. Peterson Golie (Per Golie as he was called) was serving with [Company H of] the 15th Wisconsin Regiment during a battle in the Civil War, there were many casualties of the regiment left for dead on the battlefield over night. The next morning, after a late fall heavy frost, Peter Golie was among the soldiers who picked up the dead for burial. As he looked at one 'dead soldier', he noticed that his breath had moistened a spot in the white frost where he lay. Peter Golie thought 'This man is not dead'. He picked up the man and carried him to the hospital tent. The man lived. He was Eric Barsness."|
Private Basness was initially listed as "missing in action" by the 15th, but on January 19, 1863, it was officially notified that he was in Army Hospital No. 2 in Nashville, TN. Private Basness spent a month there before being transferred to a hospital in St. Louis, MO for 4 months. On June 30, 1863, he was sent to parole camp at Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, where he remained through October 1863. It is said he then left Benton Barracks without permission and returned to the 15th, which was with the Federal army under siege at Chattanooga, TN.
Private Basness reached the 15th in time to take part with it in the Union Army's victorious charge up Mission Ridge, near Chattanooga, on November 25, 1863. In Ager's 1916 history of the 15th it states that Private Basness "was hit by a bullet which tore away one of his fingers" during the charge. Despite his wound he elected to stay with the 15th. Starting right after Mission Ridge, Private Basness and the remaining survivors of the 15th were 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. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. It included fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA, in early May; at the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA, on May 14; at the disastrous Battle of Pickett's Mill, GA, (often called Dallas or New Hope Church) on May 27 where the 15th suffered fearful casualties; at Kenesaw Mountain, GA, on June 23; at Atlanta on July 22, at Jonesboro, GA, on September 1 (the date that Private Basness was promoted to the rank of Corporal (Korporal)), and at Lovejoy Station, GA, on September 4, 1864. After a rest following the capture of Atlanta, the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga in early October. This was followed by several months spent guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN, near Chattanooga, which some of the 15th's soldiers felt was the easiest duty of their war service.
Corporal Basness was mustered out of Federal service along with most of the other surviving members of Company B on December 2, 1864, at Chattanooga, upon the end of their 3 year terms of service. At muster out the Army noted that he was due $100 in bounty money. Because the railroad between Chattanooga and Nashville had recently been cut by Confederate General Hood's Army, the men of Company B had to remain in Chattanooga until December 20, 1864, before they could start for home.
On February 11, 1865, Erick N. Barsness re-enlisted at Madison, WI, as a Private in K Company of the 2nd U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment of Hancock's Corps for a 1 year term of service. This time the Army spelled his last name correctly, and noted that he had blue eyes, light colored hair and complexion, and stood 6 feet and one half inches tall. Private Barsness was mustered into Federal service at Camp Stoneman, VA, near Washington, D.C., on February 16, 1865. The following was written by Erick's son Edward in a 1973 newspaper article.
|"As they [the 2nd U.S.] marched past the White House [President Abraham] Lincoln with his tall hat waved to them. Only a few days after, Lincoln was shot while attending the Ford Theatre. Father was guard when they hanged the man [men] and a lady who were supposed to have kept house for [Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth]."|
Private Barsness was next reported as "present for duty" with K Company at Elmira, NY, on December 31, 1865. After mustering out the final time, Erick Barsness briefly returned to Stoughton, WI, before traveling to Pope County, MN, where in April 1866, he homesteaded with his brothers Nels and Ole on section 14 of what was later named Barsness Township in their honor. It is said that when they arrived there was only one other settler in the township, and that Erick lived on lard, flour, and molasses for his first 3 months there. Starting in October 1866, he began receiving an Invalid's Pension of $4 per month from the U.S. Government. Three years later he married and the following children were subsequently born to him and his first wife: Anna, Josephine, Nels, James, Albert, and Martha.
Starting January 15, 1880, the U.S. Government paid Erick a pension of $8 per month "the pension being for gun shot wound of right breast." Later that same year Erick's first wife passed away. The next year Erick remarried and subsequently had 13 children with his second wife: Ida (who died in infancy), Hilda, Ida, Omer, Minnie, Edward, Blanche, Sidney, Anna and William (twins who died in infancy), Anna, James, and Lila.
While living in Pope County, Erick Barsness was active in a number of civic and religious organizations. At different times he served Barsness Township as its Clerk, Constable, Justice of the Peace, Overseer of Highways, and Chairman of Supervisors, and the local school district as its Clerk, Treasurer, and Trustee. He also served as Treasurer and Trustee of Barsness Church. He was a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and a charter member of Post 38 of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), the organization of Union Civil War veterans. Erick is known to have attended several reunions of the 15th Wisconsin, including one in Chicago, IL in 1900, and one in Minneapolis, MN on August 13, 1906, which was announced in the Glenwood Herald newspaper.
|"Captain T. A. Rossing, secretary of the fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment, has issued a circular letter to the surviving members of that regiment calling upon them to be present for roll call at the court house in Minneapolis at two o'clock p.m., Aug. 13. The juvenile court room has been reserved for this famous regiment during the G.A.R. encampment. Andrew Torguson, of Co. I, E. N. Barsness and Hans Lageson, of Co. B, and Hans Engebretson, of Co. A, are the only members from this county and they will all undoubtedly attend the re-union, enjoy a hearty hand-shake with their comrades and again go through the hardships and glories of the rebellion."|
In 1916 Erick was interviewed for Ager's history, which subsequently included the following.
|"Barsness...complains about the pain from the bullet he carries for the Cause and his memory is poor. As far as he recalls, he says it was his friend Anders Urness and another boy who were flagbearers at New Hope Church [now called Pickett's Mill, GA]. This boy, whose name he has forgotten, was killed and Anders came back with both flags. After that time Urness and Barsness each carried a flag."|
Erick N. Barsness was 83 years old when he passed away some 9 years later. The bullet that had nearly killed him at Stones River almost 63 years before was still inside him.
Sources: Genealogical data from Erick's granddaughter, Barbara Barsness Swedenburg; Illustrated Album of Biography of Pope and Stevens Counties, Minnesota by Occidental Publishing (Chicago, IL, 1888); Pope County Tribune newspaper (Glenwood, MN, November 1, 1973); The History of the Tosten & Jorgen Gulsvig Family 1824-1969, Etta Gulsvig; Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); 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); Oberst Heg og hans gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys], Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, WI, 1916); Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, WI, 1885); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, WI, 1886).