Harvey  Britton

Harvey Britton

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

The Scandinavian Regiment

Name at Enlist Harvey Britton
Birth Name Halvor Halvorsen Doxrød
Patronymic Name Halvorsen
Lived 19 Jun 1835 - 11 Oct 1864
Birth Place Doxrød, Gjerpen, Telemark
Birth Country Norway
Residence at Muster-In Norway, Racine County, WI
Company at Enlistment C
2nd Company B
Rank at Enlistment Corporal
Muster Date 2 Dec 1861
Cause of Death Scurvy
Death Location Andersonville Prison, GA
Burial Location Grave 10685 or 10686, National Cemetery, Andersonville, GA
Mother Anne Marie Eriksdatter Brekke (Maria Britton)
Mother Lived 1805-12 Feb 1883
Father Halvor Engebretsen Doxrød (Halvor Britton)
Father Lived ca 1797-22 Jun 1882
Immigration 26 Jul 1843

Halvor arrived in New York on the Argo with his parents, brothers, and sisters.  They settled in the Town of Norway in Racine County, WI.

Halvor enlisted under the name Harvey Britton by Captain Fredrick Berg in Company C of the 15th WI. He joined up for a 3-year term of service on November 11, 1861, at Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, WI. The men of Company C called themselves the "Norway Bear Hunters." Harvey Britton was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Corporal (Korporal) on December 2, 1861, at Camp Randall, near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was 24 years old and not married. His residence was listed as Norway, Racine County, WI, where he lived near North Cape.

On January 14, 1862, the men of the 15th were issued Belgian rifled muskets. After some three months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Corporal Britton left there in early March 1862, with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until May 1864, 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 Tennessee, 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 Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. In August and September he would have participated in the grueling 400-mile retreat with General Buell up to Louisville, KY, with the last two weeks being on half rations and short of water.

Corporal Britton would also 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 Stones 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.

On January 1, 1863, Corporal Britton was transferred from Company C to Company B and promoted from Corporal to 1st Sergeant (Sersjant). This was the top Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) position in a civil war company. The 1st Sergeant ran the company for the officers. At that time Company B was commanded by Captain Joseph Mathiesen who was the only officer with it for most of the rest of the company's service. The men of the company called themselves the "Wergeland Guards" in honor of Henrik Wergeland, the famous Norwegian writer and poet.

The 15th camped in the Murfreesboro, TN, area for the next 6 months, except for two weeks in February when it was sent to Franklin, TN. Starting June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in General Rosecrans' Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, it went into camp at Winchester, Franklin County, TN, for six weeks.

On August 17, 1863, the 15th left Winchester to participate in General Rosecrans' Chickamauga campaign. 1st Sergeant Britton is believed to have been 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. He survived the vicious fighting around Viniard's Farm on the first afternoon, as well as the near capture of the regiment 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.

1st Sergeant Britton would have then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after the battle. The siege resulted in severe shortages of food and firewood which, together with cold, wet weather, caused much suffering, sickness, and death. The siege was finally broken by the Union Army's victorious charge up Mission Ridge on November 25, 1863, in which the 15th took part.

Starting right after Mission Ridge, the 15th was engaged in almost non-stop marching and counter-marching all over Eastern Tennessee 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 straight. For the 15th and 1st Sergeant Britton it included fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA, in early May, and at the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA, on May 14-15, 1864.

On May 27, 1864, the 15th took part in the disastrous Battle of Pickett's Mill (often called Dallas or New Hope Church), GA. There the regiment's soldiers charged right up to the Confederate battle line under murderous fire. With too few troops to break the line, and without orders to pull back, the men of the 15th took cover and for several hours exchanged musket fire at short range until they ran out of ammunition. That evening, the Confederates launched a rare counterattack. In the darkness and confusion some 25 of the 15th's surviving soldiers were taken prisoner. One of those captured was 1st Sergeant Britton.

These men were then transported to the infamous Andersonville prison camp in Georgia. There 1st Sergeant Britton kept a daily journal detailing the cruel and inhuman treatment suffered by the Union prisoners. On October 4, 1864, he was admitted to the prison hospital at nearby Camp Sumter, where he died a week later. The Army's Final Statement for 1st Sergeant Britton lists his cause of death as "Scorbutus" (now known as scurvy, which is caused by the lack of common vitamins contained in vegetables) and notes that at the time of his death he was 27 years old, had "blue eyes, brown hair," and a "dark complexion," stood 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and was by occupation a farmer.

A prison comrade saved Britton's journal, noted the details of his death and burial, and later sent the journal to his parents. After reading it, his sister, Mary, wrote a poem "In Memory of My Dear Brother, Harvey Britton" that concludes as follows:

"Oh, that war and the cruel prison-- The prison of Andersonville! And Camp Sumpter near it, Where prisoners were sick and ill. There rests my brother Harvey Till called by the voice of God; There rests dear Union soldiers Beneath the silent sod."

There is a memorial to him at North Cape Cemetery, North Cape, Racine County, WI.

Sources: Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, IA, 1894); Oberst Heg og hans gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys], Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, WI, 1916); Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, WI, 1885);  Gjerpen parish register # 7A, born and baptised, p 8, digitalarkivet.no; Norwegian Immigrants to the United States. A Biographical Directory, 1825-1850. Volume One 1825-1843, Gerhard B. Naeseth, 2008, Anundsen Publishing Co., Decorah, IA, p. 243, IDs 1024-1032; Genealogical data from his Grand Niece Agnes Holt; Genealogical data from Jan Christensen, Skien Genealogical page, submitted by Mike Enerson; Poem courtesy of Eugene Olswold; Portrait and Biographical Album of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin (Chicago, IL, 1892) submitted by Cynthia Gillen; findagrave.com.


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