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Charles Gustaveson

15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
The Scandinavian Regiment
Charles  Gustaveson Profile Image
Image believed to have been taken circa 1862.
Photo courtesy of his great grandson Robert E. Vits.

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Name at Enlist

Charles Gustaveson

Birth Name

Charles Gustaveson

Other Names

Carl Gustaveson


18 Dec 1821 – 5 Apr 1894

Birth Place

Ulricehamn, Västergötland

Birth Country


Resident of Muster-In

Eaton, Manitowoc County, WI

Company at Enlistment


Rank at Enlistment


Muster Date

13 Dec 1861

Death Location

Manitowoc, Manitowoc County, WI

Burial Location

Evergreen Cemetery, Manitowoc County, WI


Anna Greta Oberg


Gustaf Volter Mannerfelt




Ambjør Stephansdatter Brækken/Amber S. Stephenson

Spouse Lived

2 Mar 1828-25 Apr 1893

Married On

Sep 1850

Marriage Location

Manitowoc County, WI

Before immigrating to America, Carl Gustaveson served 5 years in the Swedish military as a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Älvsborg and Royal Mounted Life Guard regiments. After coming to America, he served from September 4, 1847 to August 4, 1848 as a Private in Company K (commanded by George Bowie) of the 15th U.S. Volunteers during the War with Mexico. Afterwards he took up farming a land grant in Manitowoc County, WI, which he received for his war service.

Under the name Charles Gustafson, he was appointed by WI Governor Randall as a Captain in the WI Militia on October 21, 1861, with rank from that same date. Captain Gustafson was authorized by the Governor to enlist a company of 40 Scandinavians for military service in the Civil War. Those men, and some 50 others became Company F of the 15th WI. The men of the company called themselves “K.K.’s Protectors” in honor of the 15th’s first Lieutenant Colonel, Kiler K. Jones. They were also called the “Valdres Company” because a large number of them were from that area in Norway.

Charles was commissioned by Governor Randall as Captain of Company F on December 28, 1861, to rank from December 13, 1861. Captain Gustafson was mustered into Federal service on January 14, 1862, at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was 38 years old and married. His residence was listed as Eaton, Manitowoc County, WI. Captain Gustafson was the commanding officer of Company F. The second-in-command was 1st lieutenant Thor Simonson and the third-in-command was 2nd Lieutenant Svend Samuelson. Captain Gustafson was very popular with his men and was considered to be the best swordsman in the regiment.

On January 14, 1862, the men of the 15th WI were issued Belgian rifled muskets. After only about 6 weeks at Camp Randall learning to be an officer and getting his men trained, Captain Gustafson left there in early March 1862, with his company and regiment to join the war. From then until April 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. In April 1862, he was listed as “absent sick” at Birds Point, MO. 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 General Buell up to Louisville, KY, with the last 2 weeks being on half rations and short of water.

Captain Gustafson would have led his company during 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. On December 26, 1862, he would have led the company 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. Captain Gustafson is known to have led Company F into 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 the casualties on the first day was Captain Gustafson. Colonel Hans C. Heg, the 15th’s commanding officer, wrote the following in his official after action report on the battle.

“Capt. Gustaveson was slightly wounded in the foot in this same engagement but did not again appear on the field.”

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, the 15th 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. Captain Gustafson is believed to have been present at the daring early morning crossing of the Tennessee River on August 28th, which the 15th led. Captain Gustafson is known to have led Company F into 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, but was capture near Brotherton Field 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. 1st Lieutenant Simonson took command of Company F after Captain Gustafson was captured. 2nd Lieutenant Samuelson survived the fighting too, but became sick and resigned his commission and left the Army in mid-November 1863.

Immediately after the battle, Captain Gustafson and many of the other 15th prisoners, including Lieutenant Colonel Ole C. Johnson, the 15th’s commanding officer at the time of the battle, were marched to Tunnel Hill, GA, under guard. There they were placed on a railroad train and transported to Atlanta, GA. After a brief stay there, they were taken by railroad train to Richmond, VA, the Confederate Capital. There Captain Gustafson and the other 15th prisoners were imprisoned.

Starting in December 1863, Captain Gustafson was incarcerated with Lieutenant Colonel Johnson in Libby Prison at Richmond. It appears that Gustafson and Johnson bunked together while in Libby. On May 2, 1864, they were taken from Richmond and sent further south by railroad train. It was rumored that they were being sent to the infamous Andersonville Prison Camp in GA. Rather than risk this, Lieutenant Colonel Johnson escaped from the train while it was stopped enroute. Captain Gustafson watched as Johnson successfully escaped from the train, but was too ill to join him. Instead, Captain Gustafson and the other prisoners were taken to Camp Oglethorpe, an officer’s prison in Macon, GA.

In a November 4, 1864, letter, Captain Gustafson described Camp Oglethorpe as “a very meseble plas.” There he helped to build an escape tunnel, “an undergrown Rellroad,” but it was discovered before it could be used. In late July he was included in a group of 600 prisoners who were sent via Savannah, GA to Charleston, SC, where they were used as human shields to deter Federal bombardment of the city. In the letter he wrote that in Savannah the Confederates “treeted us paty well becoues we where te first Yeankee prisonor thy eer had there…” but that in Charleston all 600 prisoners were quartered in an open 1/4 acre jail yard that he described as “A plase worsh than heall.”

In late September, Gustafson managed, with the help of a sympathetic Confederate officer, to get on a list of 200 Union Army Captains who were to be exchanged for 200 Confederate Army Captains being held by the Federal government. He was then returned with the 200 prisoners to Camp Oglethorpe. There 50 prisoners were cut from the exchange list, including Gustafson. However, when the names of the 150 officers to be released were called out by Confederate guards, “I vas at hand an two of us answard to the same name and I was out of the preson.” Captain Gustafson was then marched to the Macon railroad station with the group being exchanged and traveled with them by railroad train to Lovejoy Station, GA. From there the group marched through Jonesboro toward the exchange point at Rough and Ready, GA. Fearing that he would be discovered when the official exchange took place, Gustafson “took to the woods and that day I traveled over 30 mils.” He managed to avoid capture and reach Federal lines near Atlanta, GA on August 29, 1864.

Captain Gustafson later rejoined Company F and led it until he and the company were mustered out of Federal service on January 13, 1865 at Chattanooga, TN at the expiration of their 3-year term of service. On his discharge certificate Captain Gustafson was listed as 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes, and dark hair, who had worked as a lumberman before the war.

After his war service, Charles Gustafson returned to Manitowoc, where he was appointed Provost Marshal for Kewaunee County and then elected as County Supervisor for 2 terms and Under Sheriff for one. In 1867, the Governor commissioned him as a Major to rank from February 21, 1865, but he was never mustered into the U.S. Army at that rank. That same year he recommended to former Lieutenant Colonel Ole C. Johnson that Ole B. Olson be recognized for his heroism with a promotion to a Brevet officer’s rank, which he subsequently was. In 1882, Captain Gustafson wrote an affidavit in support a veteran’s pension application being submitted by one of his former Company F comrades, Torry Larson. In the affidavit Gustafson described Larson as “a good soldier who never shirked his duty.” The government granted the pension.

According to the affidavit Captain Gustafson was then living in Manitowoc Rapids, Manitowoc County, WI. He and his wife had 13 children: Anne Catrine, born January 14, 1851; Amborline Severine, born October 13, 1853; Gustaf, born August 22, 1854 (died 5 days later); Marie Elisabeth, born July 17, 1855; Gustavus (Gustaf) Adolph, born November 2, 1856; Christine, born circa 1858 (died October, 1860); Barnadina Gustava, born April 29, 1859 (died October, 1860); Chistine Charlotte, born December 20, 1860; Carl Anton, born August 7, 1862; Emma Margrethe, born July 18, 1866; Charles Anton, born March 18, 1867; Stephen Herman, born February 1, 1868; and Barnadina (Bernice) Augusta, born April 23, 1869. He was granted a pension of $20 a month because of chronic rheumatism.

To view photos of Captain Gustafson’s uniform frock coat, click HERE.


Sources: The Patriot, Captain Gustafson’s Great Grandson Robert E. Vits (Fish Creek, WI, 1997); History of Manitowoc County Wisconsin, Volume I, edited by Dr. Louis Falge (Chicago, IL); Norwegians of Manitowoc and Kewaune Counties to 1900, Robert A. Bjerke (Manitowoc-skogen, 1994); The Civil War Letters of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, Theodore C. Blegen (Northfield, MNa, 1936); Oberst Heg og hans gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys], Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, WI, 1916); Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, IA, 1895); Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, WI, 1884); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume 1, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, WI, 1886); Norwegian Immigrants to the United States. A Biographical Directory, 1825-1850. Volume Three 1847-1848, Gerhard B. Naeseth, 2000, Anundsen Publishing Co., Decorah, IA, p. 119, ID 271.