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Ole Steensland

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
The Scandinavian Regiment

Database Record Change Request

Name at Enlist

Ole Steensland

Birth Name

Ole Eriksen Steinsland


29 Apr 1842 – 15 Aug 1903

Birth Place

Steinsland farm, Hjelmeland, Rogaland fylke

Birth Country


Resident of Muster-In

Moscow, Iowa County, WI

Company at Enlistment


Rank at Enlistment


Muster Date

08 Dec 1861

Cause of Death

Stroke of apoplexy

Death Location

Blanchardville, Iowa County, WI

Burial Location

Perry Lutheran Church Cemetery, Perry Township, Dane County, WI


Ingeborg Olsdatter

Mother Lived



Erik Asbjørnsen

Father Lived





Anna (Annie) Isaacson-Hegland

Married On


Ole Steensland was enlisted for 3 years service in Company E of the 15th WI by Captain John A. Ingmundson on October 28, 1861 at Iowa County, WI. The men of the company called themselves Odin’s Rifles. Ole was mustered into Federal service as a Private (Menig) on December 8, 1861 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was recorded as 19 years old and not married. His residence was listed as Moscow, Iowa County, WI. He was the brother of Asbjorn Steensland of F Company of the WI 46th Infantry.

After several months spent at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Steensland departed for the war with his company and regiment in early March 1862. That spring he participated in the Siege of Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River in TN and the raid on Union City, TN. That summer he went on campaign with the 15th through the states of TN, AL, and MS. In August and September he participated in the long, hot, miserable, 400-mile retreat with General Buell’s Army up to Louisville, KY. On October 8, 1862, he fought in the Battle of Perryville, KY, also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills. It was the 15th’s first big battle, though the regiment came through it without anyone being killed. In late December Private Steensland fought at Knob Gap, TN, where the 15th charged a Confederate battery, capturing a brass cannon and several prisoners. He also fought in the long, cold, wet, and bloody Battle of Stones River, TN, which is also known as the Battle of Murfreesboro. 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, TN. Starting June 23, 1863 the regiment took part in General Rosecrans’ Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, it camped at Winchester, TN. On August 17, 1863, the 15th left there to participate in General Rosecrans’ Chickamauga campaign. Private Steensland is believed to have been present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led, becoming the first Union troops over the river.

Private Steensland was in the ranks of Company E during the September 19-20, 1863 fighting at Chickamauga, TN — the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. He survived the vicious fighting around Viniard’s Farm on the afternoon of the first day when so many in the 15th were killed, wounded, or captured. The following quotes are from a speech he gave at a reunion of the 15th held in 1900. The first quote is his description of what happened on the second day at Chickamauga during what is now called Longstreet’s Breakthrough:

“Then came the gloomy morning of the 20th when the few of us that were left formed into line of battle. We had orders not to retreat in face of the fact that four strong columns of rebels were charging our weak and scattered line…These were nerve straining moments when boyhood chums were dropping dead or wounded all around me. Ole Milestone [Milesteen] was killed on my right, Chris [Christian] Thompson on my left. I got a bullet through my hat and that did no harm, but I was taken prisoner, and that was something that did hurt.”

After being captured, Private Steensland was marched to Tunnel Hill, GA, taken by railroad train to Atlanta, GA, and on to Richmond, VA, in late September 1863. There he was initially imprisoned on Belle Isle and then in Libby Prison. While there he came down with small pox, but managed to survive it. On November 7, 1863, the 15th officially learned that Private Steensland was still alive and being held as a prisoner. From Libby he was moved to Pemborton Prison and briefly put on Belle Isle again:

“…I was sent to Pemborten prison. It was very crowded here and all strangers, so before I got a place to lie down on the floor the first night I had the prettiest black eye I ever had in my life. Next for breaking one of their rules six of us were turned out on Belle Isle without shelter of any kind in the dead of that memorable cold winter of ’63. We walked all night to keep from freezing to death and got a little sleep in the hottest part of the day…After three days on the island we were sent back to Pemborten.”

In March 1864, he was shipped by railroad train to the notorious Andersonville prison camp in GA, where he experienced its full horrors:

“The wood was getting short, so we would watch for a chance to carry the dead to the burial place, and they allowed us to carry wood back, but this did not last long, the prisoners started to die so fast that they only allowed us to carry them out to the gate and pile them up until the rebels would come with their wagon and throw them in and haul them away just like we farmers haul fence rails or posts. It was a sight to see the dead –most of them nude or nearly so, with greybacks [a type of insect] litterly covering their bodies which were usually nothing but a skeleton.”

As bad as that was, conditions in Andersonville continued to deteriorate:

“This brings us into midsummer of ’64 when everything had reached a point where it seemed impossible to get worse. Every grass root and every twig that had started to grow along a stump had been dug out and chewed to get what nourishment we could out of it. There we were wallowing in the dirt and filth fighting lice, under the scorching Georgia sun. The gruesome vermin, the terrifying stench of the swamp, and the terrible place where we got our drinking water are all beyond description…At this point a heavy rain came rushing down the ravine, tore the stockade out and washed out a ditch in the hillside from which came what was later called ‘Providence Spring’. Later the rebels ran the water from this spring a ways into the prison in a wooden trough. This was the only humane thing I ever knew them to do.”

That fall, in order to keep the Andersonville prisoners from being liberated by General William T. Sherman’s advancing army (and the horrors of the camp from being discovered), Confederate authorities moved Ole and other prisoners to Savannah, GA, to a prison at Millen, GA, and finally to the woods near Blackshear. When the danger passed, Ole was returned to Andersonville:

“Here came the most hopeless and desolate hours of my life. When on Christmas Eve, on the frozen ground as rough as a plowed field, barefoot, almost naked, among all strangers, I was again headed into Andersonville. By this time I had Scurvia [scurvy] so bad that I could have picked my teeth out with my fingers, and when I would chew the raw cornmeal it would be mixed with blood from my gums. Here I almost gave up hope. I spent this night weeping and thinking of my plight. The next day I made new acquaintances, made up my mind that there had to be an end to this somewhere, [and] started again on my fight for life. We dug ourselves into the hillside, like prairie dogs for protection against the cold. We had a terrible winter.”

Private Steensland just barely managed to survive until April 1865, when the war finally ended. Ole was then paroled by the Confederates, reaching Union lines on April 28th. In his speech he described the appearance of the Andersonville survivors when they were finally released:

“We were a hard looking bunch. Some of us almost naked, unshaved, with our louse eaten hair hanging down to our shoulders. My ankles were so stiff and my feet so swollen [from the effects of Scurvy] that I could hardly hobble around.”

Private Steensland was a prisoner of war for a total of 19 months and 8 days, of which 11 months and 14 days were spent in Andersonville. He was one of the very few who survived such a long stretch in Andersonville. Private Steensland was finally mustered out of Federal service on May 30, 1865 at Madison, WI. This was over 3 months after the last of the 15th’s companies had mustered out and almost 6 months after the expiration of his 3-year term of service.

After the war, Ole Steensland returned home to Moscow, WI, where he purchased a farm, got married, and raised 10 children: Blaine and Belinda (twins), Andrina, Caroline, Isaac (I. E.), Arthur, Maria, James, and Irving and Ingaborg (twins). Ole Steensland became a charter member of the John E. Gurley Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). In later years he served as Chairman of Moscow and as a trustee of the Iowa County Insane Asylum. Ole twice applied for a veteran’s pension, but was rejected both times. His Congressman heard about this and in 1901 got a bill approved granting him one, but by then Ole was so upset with the government that he refused it. Ole died 2 years later of a “stroke of apoplexy.”

Sources:  Oberst Heg og hans gutter, Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1916); Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885); and Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume 1, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886); genealogical information from Joyce Ashman and Bjarne Jormeland; “A Speech Delivered Thirty-Four Years Ago,” Blanchardville Blade newspaper (Blanchardville, Wisconsin, 1934); The Historic Perry Norwegian Settlement (Daleyville, Wisconsin, 1994);  A History of the Town of Moscow, Ethelyn Thompson and Lucile Lauper, 1976; Hjelmland parish register # A6, born and baptised, p. 49,