Peter  Hansen

Believed to be a post-war photo taken of the original circa early 1862 image.

Photo courtesy of Peter Hansen's great-great grandson, Tom Schiefelbein.

Peter Hansen

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Peter Hansen
Birth Name
Other Names Østre Barstad, Skognæs, Store Refsland, Gjendal
Patronymic Name Hansen
Lived 25 Nov 1822 - 15 Jul 1902
Birth Place Gjendal, Bakke, Vest-Agder
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Christiana, Bax Ax (Vernon) County, WI
Company at Enlistment A
Rank at Enlistment Private
Muster Date 20 Dec 1861
Death Location Bridgewater, McCook County, SD
Burial Location Bridgewater Cemetery, Bridgewater, McCook County, SD
Mother Anne Evensdatter
Father Hans Torstensen
Immigration 1852
Spouse Ingeborg Marie Iversdtr
Spouse Lived 1824-
Married On 28 Oct 1847
Marriage Location Sokndal, Rogaland, Norway
2nd Spouse Gunhild Ommundsdtr
2nd Spouse Lived 1817-
2nd Marriage Date 19 Jun 1851
2nd Marriage Location Sokndal, Rogaland, Norway
3rd Spouse Karen Tonetta Kolbensdtr
3rd Marriage Date 1854

Peter Hansen enlisted under Captain Andreas Torkildson in Company A of the WI 15th Infantry. Peter signed up for a 3-year term of service on December 16, 1861 in Bad Ax (now Vernon) County, WI. The men of the company 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.

Peter 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 he was married and 41 years old which made him one of the oldest men of the regiment. He stood 5 feet 9 inches tall, had light colored hair and complexion, and blue eyes. He was a farmer residing in Christiana, Bad Ax County, WI.

After several months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Hansen left in early March 1862 with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until November 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 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. And he would 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 for the 15th, they emerged without any fatalities.

On November 26, 1862, Private Hansen was detached from the 15th to serve with the Pioneers, the part of the Army that did construction work -- roads, bridges, fortifications, etc. This was a physically challenging assignment for a man of Peter's age. Private Hansen was assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion, Pioneer Brigade, Army of the Cumberland, which recorded his last name as Hanson. Army records describe this Pioneer Brigade as follows:

"This Brigade was organized by details of twenty men each from all Infantry regiments in the Army of the Cumberland, per G.O. [General Order] No. 3...and instructions from Headquarters 14 A. C. [Army Corps] of November 21, 1862."

Army records of Private Hansen's service in the Pioneer Brigade are incomplete, and some extant records contradict sworn statements that Peter made after the war. In March and April 1863 he was listed as "present" with the Pioneers at Murfreesboro, TN. He was also present in May and June 1863 when his unit's location at the end of June was recorded as "on the march." It is reasonable to assume he was then taking part in what is now known as U.S. Major General Rosecrans' Tullahoma campaign, which began June 23, 1863.

It is almost certain that Private Hansen also participated in what is now called General Rosecrans' Chickamauga campaign, which began August 17, 1863. It is not clear whether he was present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, led by the 15th. While he is listed for September 1863 as "present" by the Pioneers and "absent" by the 15th, there is evidence that he was with the 15th during the September 19-20, 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, GA -- the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Some 63% of the 15th's soldiers who were at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. According to a sworn statement in Peter Hansen's 1881 application for an Invalid's Pension, he was wounded there too.

"...he received a wound on the back of his neck by a shell from the enemies guns while the regiment was laying on the ground for protection...Surgeon Stephen O. Himoe then sent [him] to Hospital at Chattanooga after which he was sent home on furlough..."

Private Hansen's use of the word regiment suggests he was not with the Pioneers when wounded because there were no regiments in the Pioneer Brigade. The 15th was a regiment, and at one point on the first afternoon of the battle, it was lying down under artillery fire. It is a matter of record that the 15th's Regimental Surgeon Stephen O. Himoe was treating the wounded in the Federal field hospital at Crawfish Springs during the battle, and sending some back to hospitals in Chattanooga.

In any case, the Federal Army lost the Battle of Chickamauga and retreated into Chattanooga. The Confederates then laid siege to the city during October and November 1863. The siege caused severe shortages of food, medicine, and firewood, which, together with the cold, wet weather, caused much suffering, disease, and death. During this time, Private Hansen was recorded as "present" in Chattanooga by the Pioneers and "absent" by the 15th, while he claimed to have been hospitalized in the city. Starting November 20, 1863, the Pioneers list him as "Sick in Gen. Hospital at Chattanooga, Tenn" and noted that "$3.80 was to be deducted from pay for transportation." Five days later, the 15th, together with other regiments of the Army of the Cumberland, charged up nearby Mission Ridge and ended the siege by forcing the Confederate army to flee.

No military records have yet been found that indicate where Private Hansen was located from January through April 1864. His pension records contain a sworn statement from a neighbor who remembers seeing Hansen “home on a sick furlough after he entered the service." On April 31, 1864, Private Hansen was once again listed as "present" by the Pioneers, which noted that the Army had subtracted $28.01 from his pay for transportation. This was a substantial sum, equal to more than his wages for 2 months, and might represent the cost of transportation to WI and back.

Starting in early May 1864, the Pioneers and the 15th took part with the Army of the Cumberland in U.S. Major General William T. Sherman's campaign to capture Atlanta, GA. The Atlanta campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. Private Hansen was recorded as being "present" with the Pioneers during May and June 1864. During that period the Army of the Cumberland and the 15th were involved in fighting in GA at Rocky Face Ridge in early May; at the bloody Battle of Resaca on May 14-15; at the disastrous Battle of Pickett's Mill (often called Dallas or New Hope Church) on May 27 (where the 15th suffered 50% casualties); and in the fighting at Kennesaw Mountain on June 23, 1864. For July and August the 15th listed Private Hansen as still "absent" with the Pioneers, but there is nothing by the Pioneers in his military service records for this period. During this time the 15th and the Army of the Cumberland were involved in the fighting in front of Atlanta on July 22; at Jonesboro on September 1st; and at Lovejoy Station on September 4, 1864, which finally forced the Confederates to abandon Atlanta. As the campaign drew to a close the Pioneer Brigade that Private Hansen was serving in was disbanded.

"The Brigade was broken up and men having more than one year to serve were transferred to the 1 Reg't. [1st Regiment] U. S. Veteran Engineers and the remaining men sent back to their respective regiments by...G. O. No. 132, dated Department of the Cumberland, September 1, 1864."

It appears that Private Hansen briefly rejoined the 15th in September 1864. Following the capture of Atlanta, the regiment was given a few weeks rest and then transferred to Chattanooga where it was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in early October. In the 15th's records for October and November, 1864, Private Hansen was listed as detached from the regiment at the "Chattanooga Water Works since Sept. 27, '64" through to the end of November 1864. Starting in mid-October, the 15th was stationed at Whitesides, TN, near Chattanooga, guarding a railroad bridge. According to several of the 15th's soldiers, this was their easiest duty of the entire war.

The 15th's records for this period also noted that Private Hansen was "now Veteran." This meant that he had chosen to re-enlist and become a Veteran Volunteer. One reward for re-enlisting was a 30-day leave of absence at home, but by re-enlisting he gave up his right to leave the Army at the end of his 3-year term of service and instead had to stay in for however long the war lasted. If this notation is correct, then he was one of the very few 15th soldiers who ended up re-enlisting. However, both his military and pension records show that Private Hansen mustered out of the Army at the end of his original 3-year commitment. He did so in Chattanooga on December 20, 1864, along with most of the other surviving members of Company A. At his muster out, the Army noted that Hansen had drawn $38.92 in clothing since June 30, 1863, had not been paid since October 31, 1863, and was also due $100 in bounty money.

After mustering out, the men of Company A were paid off and sent home to WI. Peter Hansen then resumed farming in Christiania, near the present day village of Westby (named after Ole T. Westby, of the 15th).

Peter was married twice before immigrating. His first marriage to Ingeborg Marie Iversdtr in 1847 produced one child: Jonas, born June 25, 1849 in Norway. Peter's second marriage to Gunhild Ommundsdtr in 1851 apparently produced one child too: Hans Olai, born February 17, 1852 in Norway. Peter's third marriage to Karen Tonetta Kolbensdtr produced between 7 and 9 children.

In 1885 Peter Hansen moved to Bridgewater, McCook County, SD. In his pension applications, he stated that while in the Army he had contracted "inflammatory rheumatism" and "chronic diarrhea" due to exposure and drinking bad water. According to sworn testimony, these conditions together with the effects of his wound meant he could only perform light labor and caused acute attacks of rheumatism that several times each year kept him bedridden for weeks. For this the government awarded him a small pension.


Sources: Genealogical data provided by Blaine Hedberg, Norwegian-American Genealogical Center and Naeseth Library, and by The Westby Area Historical Society, Ellen Pederson; military service and pension data from Kathy Brown; Coon Prairie, Hjalmar Holand (Coon Prairie, Wisconsin, 1927) translated into English by Ovind M. Hovde (Decorah, Iowa, 1977); Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); 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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