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|Name at Enlist|
22 Nov 1833 – 21 May 1903
Bylderup i Slesvig
|Resident of Muster-In|
Norway, Racine County, WI
|Company at Enlistment|
|Rank at Enlistment|
2 Dec 1861
Racine County, WI
North Cape Lutheran Cemetery, North Cape, Racine County, WI
Niels Johnson was born on November 22, 1833 in Bylderup i Slesvig, Denmark. He immigrated in 1859.
Johnson enlisted in Company C of the 15th WI by Captain Fredrick R. Berg on November 12, 1861. Niels joined up at Waterford, Racine County, WI. Company C was the regimental Color (flag) Company, but its members called themselves the “Norway Bear Hunters.” Niels had previously served for a year and a half as a conscript in the 3rd Dragon Regiment of the Danish Army at Aarhus, Jutland.
Niels was mustered into Federal service as a Corporal (Korporal) for 3 years service on December 2, 1861, at Camp Randall, near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was 29 years old and not married. He had been working as a “Farm Laborer” and listed his residence as Norway, Racine County, WI.
On January 14, 1862, the men of Company C were issued Belgian rifle muskets. On March 2, 1862, after 3 months at Camp Randall learning to be a soldier, Corporal Johnson left there with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until April 1863, he was recorded as “present” with the 15th. As such he would have been at the siege of Island No. 10, TN, and the raid on Union City, TN, in March and April 1862. On May 1, 1862, Corporal Johnson was appointed as a Sergeant (Sersjant) in Company C.
Starting June 11, 1862, Sergeant Johnson would have been on the campaign with the 15th though TN, MS, and AL. In August and September 1862, he would have been with the regiment as it participated in a 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. On October 8, 1862, he would have been in the fighting at Perryville, Boyle County, KY, which was also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills. This was the 15th’s first big battle, but it emerged from it without any fatalities.
It is very likely that on December 26, 1862, Sergeant Johnson took part 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 is known to have fought at the long, cold, wet, and bloody Battle of Stone 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. One of those cited was Sergeant Johnson. The following is from Buslett’s 1895 history of the 15th WI.
“After the battle General Rosecrans issued an order to the various regiments’ commanders to submit to headquarters a list of one sergeant, two corporals and four or five privates in each company (altogether no more than six from each company), who had shown the greatest courage and ability during the battle. These would be entered on the Roll of Honor.”
The 15th’s commander, Colonel Hans C. Heg, submitted Sergeant Johnson’s name to headquarters and he was subsequently entered on the Roll of Honor for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps. This resulted in his being “absent on detached service with the Light Battalion formed from those placed on the Roll of Honor”for a short time beginning April 10, 1863. From late April until October 1863, Sergeant Johnson was once again listed as “present” with the 15th.
Starting in January 1863, the 15th camped in the Murfreesboro area for 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 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. Sergeant Johnson was present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led. Sergeant Johnson was also 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 of the battle, 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 present at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner there. Ager’s 1916 history of the 15th WI states that during the battle Sergeant Johnson took “command of a company” that had “lost all its officers.”
Sergeant Johnson then served with the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after the battle. The siege resulted in severe shortages of medicine, food, and firewood which, together with cold, wet weather, caused much suffering, sickness, and death. Starting October 13, 1863, Sergeant Johnson was assigned as a Guard with the Army supply wagon train from Chattanooga, over the mountains to the Federal depot at Stevenson, AL. This was by all accounts a physically challenging and dangerous trip. Sergeant Johnson was once again with the 15th in early November 1863. The Confederate siege was finally broken by the Union Army’s victorious charge up Mission Ridge on November 25, 1863, which the 15th took part in. Starting November 28, 1863, and during December 1863, Sergeant Johnson was listed as “absent sick” in Chattanooga.
Starting right after 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. Sergeant Johnson took part in the latter half of this. On February 1, 1864, the 15th’s Brigade Commander transferred Sergeant Johnson and a number of other 15th soldiers to the 68th IN Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On April 1, 1864, the War Department transferred Sergeant Johnson and the other 15th soldiers back to the 15th. On that same date Sergeant Johnson was appointed as the 1st Sergeant of Company C. He was then listed as “present” with the 15th until his company was mustered out.
Starting in May 1864, the 15th participated in General Sherman’s famous campaign to capture Atlanta, GA. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. 1st Sergeant Johnson and the 15th took part in the fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA in early May; at the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA on May 14-15; and at the disastrous Battle of Pickett’s Mill (often called Dallas or New Hope Church), GA on May 27, 1864. There the 15th suffered fearful casualties, losing some 50% of the men who went into that battle.
1st Sergeant Johnson and the 15th also took part in the fighting at Kenesaw Mountain, GA on June 23; before Atlanta on July 22; at Jonesboro, GA on September 1; and at Lovejoy Station, GA on September 4, 1864. After a rest following the capture of Atlanta in early September 1864, the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga at the beginning of October 1864. This was followed by several months of guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN near Chattanooga. Some of the 15th’s soldiers felt this was the easiest duty of their entire war service.
On December 31, 1864, 1st Sergeant Johnson was honorably mustered out of Federal service along with most of the other surviving members of Company C at Chattanooga, upon the expiration of their 3 year terms of service. At the time the Army noted that he was due a $100 bounty for having enlisted 3 years previously. Sergeant Johnson and the others mustered out with Company C were paid off and sent north by railroad to their homes.
After the war, Niels Johnson farmed at North Cape, Racine County, WI. In 1867, WI Governor Lucius Farichild, himself a distinguished Civil War veteran, commissioned Niels as a 2nd Lieutenant, with rank from October 19, 1864. Niels was never mustered into the Army at that rank. In 1883, he married Sophie in WI. She lived 1841 to 1918. It is unknown if they had any children. In 1900, they were living in Raymond, Racine, WI. Nels died on May 21, 1903. He and Sophie are buried in North Cape Lutheran Cemetery, North Cape, Racine County, WI.
Sources: Oberst Heg og hans gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys], Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1916); Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); Danske I Kamp i og for Amerika by P. S. Vig (Omaha, Nebraska, 1917) with Johnson biographical information translated by Anders Rasmussen; Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, 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); Civil War Pension Index, Roll #T288_245; 1890 Veterans Schedule, Roll: 112, Page: 3, Enumeration District: 141; 1900 Census, Roll: 1814, Page: 16B, Enumeration District: 0047, FHL microfilm: 1241814; findagrave.com.