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Christian Olson

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
The Scandinavian Regiment

Database Record Change Request

Name at Enlist

Christian Olson

Birth Name

Mar 1839 –

Birth Country


Resident of Muster-In

Mount Morris, Waushara County, WI

Company at Enlistment


Rank at Enlistment

Second Sergeant

Muster Date

20 Dec 1861



Christian Olson enlisted in Company I of the 15th WI on December 9, 1861 at Scandinavia, Waupaca County, WI for a 3-year term of service. The men of the company called themselves the “Scandinavian Mountaineers.” They were also known as the “Waupaca Company” because some of them were residents of that WI county.

Christian was mustered into Federal service at the rank of 2nd Sergeant (Sersjant) of Company I on December 20, 1861 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was listed by the Army as being 22 years old, not married, and residing in Mount Morris, Waushara County, WI.

On January 14, 1862, the men of the 15th WI were issued Belgian rifled muskets. After several months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Sergeant Olson left there on March 2, 1862 with his company and regiment to join the war. Starting March 14, 1862, he was listed as “Absent left sick at Bird’s Point” on the Mississippi River in MO. From shortly thereafter until September 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.

Starting June 11, 1862, Sergeant Olson was detached from Company I “on daily duty in charge of a working party building batteries [artillery emplacements]” at Island No. 10. That same day 8 companies of the regiment departed the Island No. 10 area under the command of Colonel Hans C. Heg. Companies I and G remained behind on extended guard duty. These 2 companies would not rejoin the other 8 companies for some 15 months. During that time the 8 companies participated in several campaigns, as well as the battles at Perryville (Chaplin Hills), KY; Stone River (Murfreesboro), TN; and Chickamauga, GA.

Initially Companies I and G were camped across the Mississippi River from Island No. 10 on the TN side at what was called New Madrid Bend. There they were engaged in capturing Confederate soldiers who had escaped when the island was captured, and hunting down, sometimes on horseback, local groups of rebel guerrillas who were resisting the Union occupation. The area around Island No. 10 was considered to be unhealthy and many of the 15th soldiers there became ill, with several dying of disease. For a period during September and October 1862, Sergeant Olson was listed as “Absent sick in Hospital.” In early October 1862, the 15th’s camp, which consisted of 150 men, was attacked just before dawn by about 300 Confederate Cavalry. The attack was badly managed and quickly repulsed with virtually no loss, but afterwards the Union camp was moved over to Island No. 10. There the 15th soldiers were safe from attack behind the Confederate-built fortifications with their 80 cannons.

From November 1862 through August 1863, Sergeant Olson was listed as “Present” at Island No. 10. In November 1862, Sergeant Olson was commissioned by the Governor of WI to be the 2nd Lieutenant (Løytnant) of Company I. The commission was dated November 17, 1862, with his rank to be effective November 3, 1862. He filled the vacancy created when Lieutenant Martin Russell resigned on that date.

In December 1862, a curious incident threatened their safety and caused the 15th’s soldiers to repeatedly refuse orders. Union General Thomas E. Davis sent an order to Island No. 10 ordering the soldiers there to spike the cannons and throw their ammunition into the Mississippi River to keep it from being captured by the Confederates. In reality there were no Confederate troops anywhere nearby and the 15th soldiers were safe from attack on the island, so they repeatedly refused to obey the orders. Finally the General sent an officer to the island who forced the men to obey. The 15th soldiers managed to save a great deal of the ammunition and destroy the cannons in such a way that they could still be repaired, though for 3 days afterward the island was almost completely defenseless. After the officer departed, the 15th soldiers fired on a passing Union steamboat, forcing it to stop. They explained the situation to an officer on board, who carried the news down river to Union General U. S. Grant down near Vicksburg, MS. Once General Grant heard of these strange orders he immediately relieved General Davies of command and life returned to normal at the island.

From May 30th through August 1863, Lieutenant Olson was the “acting Post Adjutant” for the Union troops at Island No. 10. A drawing of the 15th’s camp on the island can be viewed by clicking HERE. Andrew Brown, was absent sick and its Lieutenant, Cornelius E. Williams, was on detached duty with the Pioneer Corps.

In March 1864, Lieutenant Olson was once again back with Company I. From April 23rd until May 1, 1864, Lieutenant Olson was “Detached to command” Company E while it waited for Adjutant Henry Hauff to be commissioned as its Captain.

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. The 15th’s part in it included fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA in early May; the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA on May 14-15; and 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. Starting in June 1864, Lieutenant Olson was placed in temporary command of Company F after its then commander, 1st Lieutenant Thor Simonson, was captured at Pickett’s Mill. On June 23, 1864, the 15th fought at Kenesaw Mountain, GA. During July 1864, Lieutenant Olson was also temporarily placed in command of Company A when its then commander, 1st Lieutenant Henry Siegel, became sick and was sent to the regimental hospital on June 25, 1864.

On July 22, 1864, the 15th fought before Atlanta, GA. On September 1, 1864, the 15th fought at Jonesboro, GA and Lovejoy Station, GA on September 4, 1864. As a result of these battles the Confederates abandoned Atlanta a few days later. The 15th then spent the next few weeks camped just outside of Atlanta, resting and refitting.

Lieutenant Olson finally rejoined Company I at the beginning of October 1864, after Captain Charles Gustafson of Company F escaped from a Confederate prison and returned to the 15th to resume command. At that point the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga.

The regiment then spent several months guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN near Chattanooga. Some of the 15th’s soldiers felt that this was the easiest duty of their war service. In November 1864, Lieutenant Olson was temporarily detached to Company B. This may have been due to that company’s Captain Joseph Mathiesen being absent on detached duty.

In November and December 1864, Lieutenant Olson was listed as “On daily duty in command of unassigned recruits” [men who had recently enlisted in the 15th, but had not yet been assigned to a specific company]. In December 1864, Lieutenant Olson was “on special duty in command of Block House at Lookout Creek.”

In January 1865, Lieutenant Olson was once again “Present” at Whitesides, TN with Company I. On February 8, 1865, the company handed in its weapons. At 4:00 AM on February 10 the company started by railroad train to Chattanooga, where at 9 AM Lieutenant Olson and most of the other surviving members of the company were mustered out of Federal service upon the end of their 3-year term of service. They then departed by railroad train to Nashville, TN where they arrived the next day at 11 AM and departed there at 3 PM by train for Louisville, KY. They arrived there at 3 PM on the 13th and were sent across the OH River to Jeffersonville, IN, where they were paid off and sent by train to Indianapolis, IN that afternoon. They reached Chicago, IL the next day and were finally back in WI on February 15, 1865, where the men were released to return to their homes.

Ager’s 1916 history of the 15th includes the following remembrance by Private Ben Nilson of Company I about Lieutenant Olson.

“We presented him with a beautiful watch and chain. He was well liked by everybody.”

After the war, Olson relocated to NM. He filed a pension on August 22, 1893 while residing in NM. In 1900, he was living in Fairview, Sierra, NM. He was still unmarried and working as a mine laborer. A “Christian Olsen” died on March 1, 1909 and is buried in Fort Stanton Merchant Marine & Military Cemetery, Lincoln County, NM, but there it cannot be confirmed whether this is the same person or not.


Sources: Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC); Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers] by Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); Oberst Heg og hans gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys] by Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1916); and, Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886); Civil War Pension Index, Roll #T288_355; 1900 Census, Roll: 1002, Page: 1A, Enumeration District: 0134, FHL microfilm: 1241002;