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Ole J. Urness

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
The Scandinavian Regiment
Ole J. Urness Profile Image
Believed to have been taken circa 1885.
Photo courtesy of Ole's great grandnephew, Harland Hanson and his wife, Darlene.

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Name at Enlist

Ole J. Urness

Birth Name

Ole Johanessen Kroken

Other Names

Ole Urnæs


24 Aug 1840 – 14 Dec 1899

Birth Place

Kroken, Hafslo parish, Sogn og Fjordane fylke

Birth Country


Resident of Muster-In

Black Earth, Dane County, WI

Company at Enlistment


Rank at Enlistment


Muster Date

28 Jan 1864

Cause of Death


Death Location

Urness, Douglas County, MN

Burial Location

Fryksande Cemetery, Urness Township, Douglas County, MN


Kari Pedersdatter Sandvig

Mother Lived



Johannes Olsen Kinesdal

Father Lived





Bothilda Thice

Spouse Lived


Married On

17 Sep 1876

Marriage Location

Alexandria, Douglas County, MN

Ole J. Urness was enlisted in Company B of the 15th WI by a “Sergeant Wilson” on January 5, 1864 for a 3-year term of service. His brother, Anders Urness, had joined the same company over 2 years earlier, as had his younger brother, Peter Urness, who died of disease after less than 1 year of service. The Urness brothers were one of 3 sets of 3 brothers who served in the 15th.

The men of Company B called themselves the “Wergeland Guards” in honor of the famous Norwegian writer and poet Henrik Wergeland. Ole was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Private (Menig) on January 28, 1864 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time the Army listed him as being 22 years old and not married. His residence was recorded as Black Earth, Dane County, WI.

After a period of training, Private Urness was sent south to the war. He caught up with the 15th on March 31, 1864, just east of Knoxville at Strawberry Plains, Jefferson County, TN. The 15th was resting and refitting there after several months of incredibly grueling service marching and counter-marching all over eastern TN. 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 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. The 15th took part in the fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA in early May; and the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA on May 14-15, 1864. Starting May 22, 1864, Private Urness was listed as “absent sick.”

Private Urness did not return to the 15th until sometime in August 1864. It is likely he then participated with the regiment in its fighting at Jonesboro, GA on September 1, and at Lovejoy Station, GA on September 4, 1864. After a well-deserved rest following the capture of Atlanta in early September 1864, the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga in early October. This was followed by several months of guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN near Chattanooga. Some of the 15th’s soldiers felt that their time at Whitesides was the easiest duty of their entire war service.

On December 2, 1864, most of the surviving members of Company B, including Anders Urness, were mustered out of Federal service upon the expiration of their 3-year terms of service. Because Corporal (Korporal) Urness had only served 1 year of his commitment, he was not eligible to be mustered out. Instead, he was transferred to Company H, which was known as “Heg’s Rifles” after the 15th’s first commander, Colonel Hans C. Heg, who has been killed at Chickamauga the previous September. It was also known as the “Voss Company” because so many of its members came from that region of Norway.

On February 13, 1865, most of the surviving members of Company H and the other remaining companies were mustered out of Federal service at the end of their 3-year terms of service. On that date the 15th WI officially ceased to exist. Corporal Urness and a number of other 15th soldiers who had not yet served their full commitment were transferred to the 24th WI Veteran Volunteer Infantry, which was then located at Nashville, TN.

In April 1865, the American Civil War finally came to an end when the remaining Confederate armies surrendered to Union forces. On June 11, 1865, the veterans of the 24th WI were officially mustered out and it too ceased to exist. Corporal Urness and others from the 15th were once again transferred, this time to I Company of the 13th WI Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment. A few weeks later the veterans of 13th were mustered out and it ceased to exist. By this time the army no longer needed the services of Corporal Urness and the other remaining ex-15th WI soldiers, so it mustered them out, paid them off, and sent them home.

After returning from the army, Ole moved to Douglas County, MN, where he homesteaded 160 acres in Red Rock Township, receiving a land patent for it on October 1, 1867. A number of former 15th soldiers took up residence in Douglas County, including his brother Anders. In 1871, one of them, Amos Johnson, was responsible for changing the township’s name from Red Rock to Urness. From 1876 to 1888, Ole Urness served as the elected Sheriff for Douglas County. In 1883, he joined 14 other veterans in organizing the John L. Reynolds GAR post in Douglas County.

Ole and his wife had 13 children: John, born 1876; Martha, born 1878; Carrie, born 1880; John, born 1882; Louise, born 1885; Louis, born 1886; Onne, born 1890; Bennie, born 1892; Andrew O., born 1893; Emma, born 1894; Marie, born 1896; Annie, born 1898; and Olena, born 1899.

Ole J. Urness died of “pneumonia” at age 59, the same year his last child was born. The following passage by “a Veteran” appeared in Ager’s 1916 history of the 15th WI:

“Everyone in the regiment knew the Urness brothers. There were three of them. Anders Urness was the flag carrier or”Color Bearer.” He was also mature in his attitude. One could not find a more gallant soldier in the regiment than he. Likewise, his brother Ole, who after the war came to Douglas County and was the sheriff for many years.”

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); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886). Genealogical data from Darlene Hanson; Hafslo parish register #A5, born and baptised, p. 44,