Nels G. Tufte
Database Record Change Request
|Name at Enlist||Nels G. Tufte|
|Birth Name||Niels Semb Gregoriussen Tufte|
|Lived||1 Nov 1832 - 25 Dec 1884|
|Birth Place||Skien, Gjerpens parish, Telemark fylke|
|Resident of Muster-In||Pine Lake, Waukesha County, WI|
|Company at Enlistment||D|
|Rank at Enlistment||Private|
|Muster Date||16 Dec 1861|
|Burial Location||St. Johns Lutheran Cemetery, Dodge County, WI|
|Mother||Maren Gurine Jonsdatter Tufte|
|Father||Gregorius Nilsen Tufte|
|Immigration||6 Jul 1844|
|Married On||7 Jan 1874|
Nels G. Tufte enlisted for 3 years service in Company D of the 15th WI on December 10, 1861 by Captain Charles Campbell. The men of the company called themselves the “Norway Wolf Hunters.” They were also called the “Waupun Company” because so many of them were from Waupun, WI.
Nels was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Private (Menig) on December 16, 1861 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was recorded by the Army as being 29 years old and not married. His residence was listed as Pine Lake, Waukesha County, WI. He had been a sailor on the Great Lakes from the age of 15 until he enlisted in the 15th.
On January 1, 1862, Private Tufte was appointed as a Corporal (Korporal) in Company D. On January 14, 1862, the men of the 15th WI were issued Belgian rifled muskets. After 2 and a half months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Corporal Tufte left there on March 2, 1862, with his company and regiment to join the war. He is thought to 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 May 1, 1862, Corporal Tufte was appointed as a Sergeant in Company D. On June 11, 1862, Sergeant Tufte would have left Island No. 10 with the 15th to on go on summer 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. Sergeant Tufte would 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. In early November, 1862, he “served as in the Commissary as a wagon master.”
On December 26, 1862, Sergeant Tufte 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, Williamson County, TN. On June 3, 1863, the Governor of WI commissioned Sergeant Tufte as the 2nd Lieutenant (third-in-command) of Company D, with rank from May 27, 1863. Tufte filled the vacancy caused by the promotion of 2nd Lieutenant Christian E. Tandberg to 1st Lieutenant (second-in-command). Because Captain Albert Skofstad, the commander of Company D, was absent on brigade duty, the company was under the acting command of 1st Lieutenant Tandberg, with 2nd Lieutenant Tufte as acting second-in-command. This arrangement did not last long.
On June 23, 1863, Captain August Gasman of Company I of the 15th was ordered to leave Island No. 10 (where his company was doing guard duty) and travel to TN to take command of Company D. Also starting June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in the Tullahoma campaign led by U.S. Major General William S. Rosecrans. On July 3, 1863, the 15th 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. Lieutenant Tufte is believed to have been present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led.
Lieutenant Tufte was 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 afternoon of the first day of the battle, as well as the near capture of the 15th 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. Company D went into the battle with 3 Commissioned Officers, 9 Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO’s), and about 15 Privates. By the time it was over both Captain Gasman and 1st Lieutenant Tandberg were wounded, as were 2 of its 4 Sergeants and 2 of its 5 Corporals.
It is believed that 2nd Lieutenant Tufte took command of Company D at some point in the battle, and then led it during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after Chickamauga. The siege resulted in severe shortages of medicine, food, and firewood which, together with cold, wet weather, caused much suffering, sickness, and death. On November 16, 1863, 2nd Lieutenant Tufte was finally mustered in at that rank at Chattanooga, with his rank to date, retroactively, from June 9, 1863. The Confederate siege was finally broken by the Union Army’s victorious charge up Mission Ridge on November 25, 1863, which the 15th took part in. It is believed that Lieutenant Tufte led Company D during the battle.
Starting right after Mission Ridge the 15th was 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. During this period Captains Skofstad and Gasman both resigned their commissions and left the Army, as did 1st Lieutenant Tandberg. This left Lieutenant Tufte in sole command of Company D. Nevertheless, he also commanded Company E for a month at some point in 1864.
Starting in May 1864, the 15th participated in the famous campaign to capture Atlanta, GA, which was led by U.S. Major General William T. Sherman. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months straight. During May 1864, 2nd Lieutenant Tufte commanded the 15th’s Pioneer Company. The 15th took part in the fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA in early May; at the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA on May 14-15; and at the disastrous Battle of Pickett’s Mill (often called Dallas or New Hope Church), GA on May 27, 1864. There the 15th suffered 50% casualties, including 29 soldiers who were captured, most of whom subsequently died as prisoners of war (to view a list of these men and their fates, click HERE).
The 15th also fought at Kenesaw Mountain, GA, on June 23; before Atlanta on July 22; at Jonesboro, GA on September 1; and at Lovejoy Station, GA on September 4, 1864. On August 31, 1864, the Governor of WI commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Tufte as the new 1st Lieutenant of Company D, with rank from the same date. The Governor also promoted the 15th’s Adjutant, 1st Lieutenant Lewis G. Nelson, to be the new Captain of Company D. However, since Captain Nelson was immediately detached from the 15th to serve as the Aid de Camp on Brigade staff, Lieutenant Tufte remained in actual command of Company D.
After a rest following the capture of Atlanta, 1st Lieutenant Tufte was mustered in at that rank in Atlanta on September 30, 1864, to date from September 15, 1864. The 15th was then briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga in early October, 1864. This was followed by several months of guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN, near Chattanooga. Some of the 15th’s soldiers felt was the easiest duty of their war service. It is believed that at Whitesides Captain Nelson finally took command of Company D.
1st Lieutenant Tufte was mustered out of Federal service with most of the other surviving members of Company D on February 13, 1865 at Chattanooga upon the expiration of his 3 year term of service. After the war he returned to Pine Lake and resumed farming. The following was written about him in Buslett’s 1895 history of the 15th WI:
“He was a brave and respected soldier and a capable officer, one of the best in the Regiment.”
Sources: ; Ole A. Buslett, Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers] (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls, 1861-1865, Vol.20, Wisconsin Adjutant General’s Office (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885); Norwegian Immigrants to the United States. A Biographical Directory, 1825-1850. Volume Two 1844-1846, Gerhard B. Naeseth, edited by Blaine Hedberg, 1997, Anundsen Publishing Co., Decorah, IA, p. 19, ID 229; genealogical data from Tove D. Johansen.