Skip Navigation

Christian Olson

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
The Scandinavian Regiment
Christian  Olson Profile Image
Believed to have been taken between May 1862 and August 1863
Image courtesy of Christian's great-great-great grandson, Tim Schenk.

Database Record Change Request

Name at Enlist

Christian Olson

Birth Name

Christian Olsen Gunstadeie


15 Nov 1834 – 11 or 12 Nov 1863

Birth Place

Gunstad farm, Jevnaker parish, Oppland fylke

Birth Country


Resident of Muster-In

Avoca, Iowa County, WI

Company at Enlistment


Rank at Enlistment


Muster Date

11 Feb 1862

Cause of Death

Chronic diarrhea

Death Location

3rd Division hospital, Chattanooga, TN

Burial Location

Grave 368 or 369, Section A, National Cemetery, Chattanooga, TN


Kari Iversdatter


Ole Hansen Kalnebberud




Martha Gulbrandsdatter Vang

Spouse Lived

26 Oct 1823-30 Nov 1916

Marriage Location

Wiota Lutheran Church, Lafayette County, WI

Christian Olsen was born on the Gundstadeie farm, Jevnaker parish, Oppland, Norway. His parents were Ole Hansen Kalnebberud and Kari Iversdatter. He left the parish March 29, 1852, with his brother, Anders, and came to Wisconsin. He married Martha at Wiota Lutheran Church, Lafayette County, WI. Together, they had at least two children: Kari Andrine (1859-1947) and Frank Olaus (1861-1946).

Olson enlisted under Captain Mons Grinager in Company K of the 15th WI on January 9, 1862, for a 3-year term of service. The men of the company called themselves themselves “Clausen’s Guards” in honor of the 15th’s first Chaplain, Claus L. Clausen. Christian was mustered into Federal service as a Private (Menig) on February 11, 1862, at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was listed as 27 years old and married, with “blue eyes, red hair, and standing 5 feet 10.5 inches tall.” He was a farmer residing in Avoca, Iowa County, WI. Christian’s brother, Ola Olson, enlisted under the name Rollin Olson in Company E of the 15th.

On March 2, 1862, Company K and the rest of the 15th WI left Camp Randall to head south and join the war. Private Olson’s military service records do not record where he was or what he was doing during March and April 1862. During that time the 15th participated in the successful siege of Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River in Tennessee and the surprise raid on Union City, TN. From May 1862 until October 1863 he was listed as “present” and his rank was recorded as Corporal (Korporal).

On May 22, 1862, his brother Rollin in Company E wrote his wife that “…Christian has been in good health…” but “…has received only two letters from home since he left Madison.”

During the summer of 1862, Corporal Olson would have been with the 15th on campaign through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. 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. 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.

Corporal Olson was mentioned as follows in a letter dated December 3, 1862, that was written by his brother Rollin’s wife:

“I received a letter from Christian on 19 November and I had not received any communication from him in 4 months. He said he was in good health to that time but had had many hard marches and similarly was in several battles but came out with his life and health.”

On December 26, 1862, Corporal Olson 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 Stones 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 six months, except for two weeks in February when it was sent to Franklin, Williamson County, TN. In letters dated January 28 and April 26, 1863, Rollin Olson wrote his wife that Corporal Olson was “…in good spirits…” and “…is healthy to date” but on June 10, 1863, wrote “Christian for the present is somewhat ill and is back in camp at Murfreesboro…”

Starting June 23, 1863, the regiment took part in U.S. Major General William S. Rosecrans’ Tullahoma campaign. On July 3, 1863, the 15th went into camp at Winchester, Franklin County, TN, for six weeks. On July 12 and 25, 1863, Rollin Olson wrote his wife from there that Christian was “…well and healthy…”

On August 17, 1863, the 15th left Winchester to participate in General Rosecrans’ Chickamauga campaign. Corporal Olson is believed to have been present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led. In a September 7, 1863, letter home Rollin Olson wrote that Christian “…is healthy.”

Corporal Olson is also believed to have been present at the September 19-20, 1863, fighting at Chickamauga, GA — the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. At the time he was detailed as a cook for Company K. 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 during Longstreet’s Breakthrough. Some 63% of the 15th’s soldiers who were at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. One of those taken prisoner was his brother Rollin.

Corporal Olson then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after the battle. The siege caused severe shortages of food and firewood which, together with wet, cold weather, caused much sickness. Starting October 27, 1863, Corporal Olson was listed as “sick” in a hospital at Chattanooga. Two weeks later he died of “Chronic Diarrhoea” in the hospital of the 3rd Division of the 4th Army Corps. The hospital made an inventory of his personal effects and turned them over to Captain Grinager: “1 forage cap, 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of socks, and 1 haversack.”

Two weeks after Corporal Olson’s death the 15th, together with other regiments of the Army of the Cumberland, ended the siege of Chattanooga by charging up nearby Mission Ridge and forcing the Confederate Army to flee.


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] Ole A. Buslett, 1894, B. Anundsen, Decorah, IA; Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885); and, Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886); 1860 Census, Roll: M653_1412, Page: 980, Image: 470, Family History Library Film: 805412; 1870 Census, Roll: M593_1718, Page: 36B, Image: 76, Family History Library Film: 553217; Genealogical data from Tim Schenk, Susan Minkus, and Morgan A. Olson; Jevnaker parish register #5, born and baptised, p, 184, #6, out-migrated, p. 309,; “Norwegian Immigrants 1850 and later”, database, NAGCNL, #64048.