Charles S. Black

Post-Civil War black and white photograph.

Image courtesy of his great great grandson Roger Christianson.

Charles S. Black

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Charles S. Black
Birth Name
Other Names Charles Peter Black, Charles Swartz
Lived 27 Aug 1828 - 4 Aug 1913
Birth Place Skien, Telemark
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Christiana, Bad Ax (Vernon) County, WI
Company at Enlistment G
Rank at Enlistment Private
Muster Date 9 or 10 Dec 1861
Death Location Ashby, Grant County, MN
Burial Location Lutheran St. Olaf Cemetery, Otter Tail County, MN
Immigration 1848
Spouse Bergitha
Spouse Lived 1824- 1889
Married On ca. 1854
Marriage Location Chicago, Cook County, IL

Charles Black was enlisted in Company G of the 15th WI by Captain John A. Ingmundsen at Coon Prairie, Bad Ax (now Vernon) County, WI on November 6 or 16, 1861 for a 3-year term of service. At almost the same time his brother enlisted from Rushford, MN in Company E under the name August Moller.

The men of Company G called themselves the "Rock River Rangers." Charles was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Private (Menig) on December 9 or 10, 1861 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time the Army recorded him as being a 33 year old married resident of Coon Prairie, WI (the 1860 U.S. Census listed his residence as Christiana Township, Bad Ax County, WI).

On January 14, 1862, the men of the 15th WI were issued Belgian rifled muskets. After nearly 3 months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Black left there on March 2, 1862 with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until October 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.

On June 11, 1862, Company G and Company I were assigned to extended guard duty at Island No. 10. The regiment's other 8 companies marched off on campaign, never to return. It is said that the two companies that were chosen to be left behind because the former was commanded by a native-born American and the latter by a Swede. These companies would remain at Island No. 10 for the next 15 months. They missed being with the rest of the regiment at the October 8, 1862 Battle of Perryville (Chaplin Hills) in KY; at the December 30-31, 1862 Battle of Stone River in TN; and at the September 19-20, 1863, Battle of Chickamauga in GA.

Initially the 15th soldiers were camped across the Mississippi River from Island No. 10 on the TN side at what was called New Madrid Bend. There they were engaged in capturing Confederate soldiers who had escaped when the island was captured, and hunting down, sometimes on horseback, local groups of rebel guerrillas who were resisting the Union occupation. The area around Island No. 10 was considered to be unhealthy and many of the 15th soldiers became ill there, with a number of them dying of disease. In early October 1862, their camp, which consisted of 150 men, was attacked just before dawn by 300 Confederate Cavalry. The following is from Quiner's 1866 history of the 15th:

 "Companies G and I, left at Island No. 10, in October, 1862, took part in a brilliant affair, in which the enemy, under [Confederate] Colonel Faulkner, with three hundred mounted men, dashed into their camp before daylight. In the brisk little fight which ensued, the two companies, under Captain Gordon, with a company of Illinois cavalry, charged upon the rebels in the confusion occasioned by the darkness, with such vigor, that they fled, pursued by the cavalry, for fifteen miles. It resulted in the capture of the rebel Colonel and his line officers, and ten men prisoners, seven killed and nine wounded."

The attack was badly managed by the Confederates and quickly repulsed with virtually no loss to the Union troops, but afterwards their camp was moved over to Island No. 10. There the 15th soldiers were safe from attack behind the Confederate-built fortifications with their 80 cannons. A drawing of the 15th's camp on the island can be viewed by clicking HERE.

In December 1862, a curious incident threatened their safety and caused the 15th's soldiers to repeatedly refuse orders. Union General Thomas E. Davis sent an order to Island No. 10 ordering the soldiers there to spike the cannons and throw their ammunition into the Mississippi River to keep it from being captured by the Confederates. In reality there were no Confederate troops anywhere nearby and the 15th soldiers were safe from attack on the island, so they repeatedly refused to obey the orders. Finally the General sent an officer to the island who forced the men to obey. The 15th soldiers managed to save a great deal of the ammunition and to 'destroy' the cannons in such a way that they could still be repaired, though for 3 days afterward the island was almost completely defenseless. After the officer departed, the 15th soldiers fired on a passing Union steamboat, forcing it to stop. They explained the situation to an officer on board, who carried the news down river to Union General U. S. Grant down near Vicksburg, MS. Once General Grant heard of these strange orders he immediately relieved General Davies of command and life returned to normal at the island.

On August 19, 1863, Companies G and I exchanged their old Belgian weapons for new British Enfield .58 caliber rifled muskets. On September 2, 1863, the 2 companies were ordered to rejoin the rest of the 15th. After a 3-week trip by steamboat, railroad train, and on foot they arrived at Chattanooga, TN where they were reunited with the survivors of the other 8 companies on the morning after the September 19-20, 1863 fighting at Chickamauga, GA. Some 63% of the 15th's soldiers who fought there were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. The 8 companies were so reduced that the arrival of the men from Island No. 10 more than doubled the size of the regiment.

The reunited 15th then helped defend Chattanooga, TN, which the Confederates laid siege to beginning right after the Federal defeat at Chickamauga. Starting October 13, 1863, Private Black was assigned as a "Guard" for the vital wagon train from Chattanooga over the mountains to the Federal supply base at Stevenson, AL and back. By all accounts this was a physically challenging and dangerous assignment. Despite the success of this re-supply effort, the siege caused severe shortages of food, medicine, and firewood. It was not until the Union Army's victorious charge up Mission Ridge on November 25, 1863 that the siege was broken. Private Black was listed as being with the 15th when it took part in the capture of Mission Ridge.

Starting right after Mission Ridge the 15th was engaged in nearly 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 entire 3-year term of service. Poor rations, inadequate clothing and shelter, and unseasonably cold weather made these months nearly unbearable. Private Black was listed as "present" during that time and it took a toll on him.

Beginning May 2, 1864, he was listed as "absent sick in hospital at Madison, Wis." until December 1864. As such he would have missed participating with the 15th in the 4-month campaign led by U.S. Major General William T. Shermanto capture Atlanta, GA.

In September and October 1864, Private Black was listed as "on duty in Nashville," TN even though he was also listed as being in Madison at that same time. In any case he was again "present" with the 15th starting in December 1864 when the regiment was engaged in guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN near Chattanooga. The men of the 15th considered their time at Whitesides as their easiest duty of the entire war. It is not clear if Private Black returned before his brother August mustered out of the Army on December 20, 1864 at the end of his 3-year term of service.

Private Black was mustered out of Federal service along with most of the other surviving members of Company G on January 13, 1865 at Chattanooga upon the end of his 3-year term of service. At the time he was owed $100 in bounty money by the government, minus $8.68 for transportation from Madison, WI to Louisville, KY. After muster out, the men of Company G were paid off, returned to WI, and the company disbanded.

After finishing his service, Charles Black returned to his wife and 3 children: Anna "Mary" Margretta, born 1855 in Chicago; Charles Peter Jr., born 1857 in Coon Prairie, WI; and Hans Peter, born 1860 in Coon Prairie. He and his wife then had 3 more children, all born in Coon Prairie: Edward, born 1866; Eliza, born 1868; and Caroline, born 1871.

In 1871 Charles moved his family in an oxen and mule-drawn prairie schooner to St. Olaf Township in Otter Tail County, MN, where he purchased a homestead across the road from the St. Olaf Cemetery. There he resided and farmed for the remaining 42 years of his life. Charles died there at age 90 of "old age" some 24 years after his wife passed away. The following is from his obituary in the September 15, 1913, issue of the Ashby Post newspaper:

 "Deceased...was a playmate of Ibsen, author of "The Doll House". In his early youth he went to sea and followed the life of a sailor for fifteen years. He ended his career as a sailor of Lake Michigan 60 years ago..."

Sources: Genealogical data courtesy of his great great grandson Roger Christianson and the Westby Area Historical Society, Westby, WI,  Ellen Pederson; Ashby Post newspaper (Ashby, MN, September 5, 1913); The Military History of Wisconsin: Civil and Military Patriotism of the State, in the War for the Union, E.B. Quiner (Chicago, IL, 1866); 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, IA, 1894); 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).


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