Database Record Change Request
|Name at Enlist|
10 Nov 1832 – 10 Sep 1912
|Resident of Muster-In|
Winchester, Winnebago County, WI
|Company at Enlistment|
|Rank at Enlistment|
18 Jan 1862
Pleasant Plain Cemetery, Chetek, Barron County, WI
Christian Olson was born on November 10, 1832 in Toten, Norway. He was married to Caroline Marthene and they immigrated in 1854. In 1860, they were living in Winchester, Winnebago County, WI with their daughter Olina (1859) and his mother Ellen (1786). He worked as a farmer.
Olson was enlisted in Company B of the 15th WI by Captain Ole C. Johnson, the commander of the company. Christian joined up on January 2, 1862 at Neenah, Winnebago County, WI for a 3-year term of service. The men of Company B called themselves the “Wergeland Guards” in honor of Henrik Wergeland, the famous Norwegian writer and poet. Christian was mustered into Federal service at the rank of Private (Menig) on January 18, 1862 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was listed as 30 years old and married. His residence was recorded as Winchester, Winnebago County, WI.
After about 6 weeks at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Private Olson left there on March 2, 1862 with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until November 1862, 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.
That summer he would have been with the 15th on campaign through TN, MS, and AL. In August and September he would have participated in the grueling 400-mile retreat with US Major General Don Carlos Buell up to Louisville, KY, with the last 2 weeks being on half rations and short of water. He 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.
Starting November 4, 1862, Private Olson was “left sick at Bowling Green” KY. He rejoined the regiment sometime between March 1 and April 10, 1863. From then until October 1863, Private Olson was again listed as “Present” with the 15th. It was camped near Murfreesboro, TN, near where it had suffered serious casualties and been cited for bravery in the long, cold, wet and bloody Battle of Stone River that took place from late December 1862 into early January 1863.
On April 20, 1863, Private Olson was assigned as the Company B cook. Starting June 23, 1863, the 15th WI left the Murfreesboro area to take part in U.S. Major General Rosecrans’ Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, the regiment 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. Private Olson would have been present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led. He would also have been 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 near Brotherton Field during Longstreet’s Breakthrough. Some 63% of the 15th’s soldiers who fought at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
Private Olson then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after the Battle of Chickamauga. The siege caused severe shortages of food, medicine, and firewood which, together with wet and cold weather, cause much sickness, death, and suffering. Starting October 13, 1863, Private Olson was one of about 120 soldiers from the 15th who were detailed as guards with the vital Army supply wagon train that was sent from besieged Chattanooga over the mountains to the Federal supply base at Stevenson, AL, and back. By all accounts this 3 weeks assignment was a dangerous and physically challenging trip. Upon his return Private Olson was once again listed as “Present” with the 15th from early November 1862, until May 1864. On November 25, 1863, Private Olson participated with the 15th in the Union Army’s victorious charge up Mission Ridge which ended the Confederate siege.
Starting right after the victory at 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.
Starting in May 1864, the 15th participated in US Major General William T. Sherman’s famous campaign to capture the Atlanta, GA. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. However, Private Olson missed the entire campaign. Starting May 1, 1864, Private Olson was once again listed as “Absent sick” and did not return to the regiment for 8 months.
On December 2, 1864, most of the surviving members of Company B were mustered out of the Army in Chattanooga, TN, at the end of their 3-year terms of service. Because Private Olson was still absent, he did not get mustered out. When his company ceased to exist, he was administratively transferred to Company H. In early January 1865, Private Olson finally returned to the 15th WI, which was then guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN near Chattanooga. On January 24, 1865, he made the following sworn statement about his 8-month absence to Lieutenant Otto Risum, the 15th’s Adjutant:
“…I was sent to Cleveland, Tenn. on the 3rd day of May 1864, by order of the Regt. [Regiment] Surgeon, from thence to Chattanooga on the 4th of May, from thence to Nashville [Tennessee] and Louisville, where I arrived on the 8th day of May, and was sent to Brown U.S. Genl. Hospl. [General Hospital] where I remained till the 2nd day of Jan. 1865, when I was discharged from the Hospl. and ordered to rejoin my Co. and Regt. then at Whitesides Tenn., where I arrived on the 10th day of Jan. 1865.”
The 15th’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ole C. Johnson, then arranged for Private Olson to travel to Madison, WI. There, on February 8, 1865, about a month after the end of his 3-year term of service, he was finally mustered out of Federal service. The Army noted he was due $100 in bounty money, was not paid in 14 months, and had been “…unjustly Charged for Transportation $3.50 while traveling on orders to report for muster out…”
The following was recorded in Ager’s 1916 history of the 15th WI:
“There was a man from Toten named Christian Olson in Company B. We called him the Totning. He had such vocal power his voice could be heard over the whole camp.”
Sources: Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Oberst Heg og hans gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys] by Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1916); Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers] by Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); and, Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886); findagrave.com; 1860 Census, Roll: M653_1437, Page: 845, Image: 551, Family History Library Film: 805437.