Aanensen, Gahr, Pvt. – CO A 15th WI Vol Infantry – The Scandinavian Regiment

Gahr Emanuel Aanensen was born in Haegebostad, Norway on April 30, 1832, to parents Aanen Gahrsen and Anna Jakobsdatter. He married Agnete Tobina Jacobsdatter in Vange, Norway in 1859.  They had two children, Anna Sophia and Jacob Alvig before emigrating to America. The family arrived in Madison, Wisconsin during the summer of 1861. There was a vibrant community of Norwegians in Madison.  Hans Christian Heg, a prominent Madison resident put out the call for 1,000 Scandinavian immigrants to join him in forming an infantry.  He wrote, “The government of our adopted country is in danger.  That which we learned to love as freemen in our old Fatherland- our freedom- our government – our independence – is threatened with destruction.”

The 15th Wisconsin Regiment was organized at Camp Randall, Madison, WI in December 1861, and mustered into service of the United States on February 14, 1862. Gahr Aanensen was 29 years old and joined Company A with other Norwegian, Swedish and Danish settlers as well as Norwegian officers who gave orders in the Norwegian language. He became part of a unit called St. Olaf’s Rifles.

“With companies named St. Olaf’s Rifles, the Norway Bear Hunters, Odin’s Rifles, and the Scandinavian Mountaineers, it is clear why the 15th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment was known as the Scandinavian Regiment. The 15th Wisconsin trained during the spring of 1862 at Camp Randall under Colonel Hans Heg, a prominent Norwegian immigrant who had recently been elected state prison commissioner. The men of the 15th passed through Chicago on their way to the western theater and received a special flag from a local Norwegian organization that combined traditional American and Norwegian symbols and carried the motto For Gud Og Vort Land (For God and Our Country). They went on to participate in the battles of Perryville, Stone’s River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge, as well as the Atlanta Campaign. A statue of Heg, who was killed at Chickamauga, which was erected outside the northeast entrance of the Wisconsin capitol, immortalizes the service of the 15th.”[1]

The 15th Regiment’s first battle was for Island No. 10 in March and April 1862. This victory opened the Mississippi River to the Union Navy. Gahr then fought at Perrysville, Murfreesboro, and the Battle of Nolensville before beginning the campaign at Stone’s River.  On January 1, 1863, Gahr was severely wounded and left on the battlefield where he was taken as a prisoner of war for a short time.  After the Union victory, he was treated in Nashville and left by the 15th Regiment at Stevenson, AL, when the 15th departed in late August.  He was then transferred to the Veteran’s Reserve Corps on September 1, 1863, as he was too disabled for field service, but was able to service in garrisons, hospitals and prisoner of war camps. He worked at Camp Joe Holt in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and was honorably discharged on November 24, 1864 at Lexington, Kentucky.

Gahr and Agnete reunited and moved to a farm in Silver Lake, Iowa.  Gahr took advantage of the Homestead Act in 1875 and received 160 acres in Luverne, Minnesota.  He is listed as one of the earliest settlers in Luverne. Throughout his life he was a member in good standing in both civic and church affairs.  He and Agnete had three more daughters.  He lived until 1903, dying of pneumonia at age 71.  His obituary said he was plagued his whole life by his Civil War wound.


Wisconsin in the Civil War, Michael Telzrow, Russell Horton, and Kevin Hampton

Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States

The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers, Ole A Buslett, 1894

Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume 1

Haegebostad Parish Register #A3/1 born and baptized, p. 28 Lyngdal Parish Register #A9, married, p. 194,

in-and-out migrated, p. 252, Herad parish register #A2, born and baptized, p. 36, digitalarkivet.n.,

1870 Census: Roll M594_427, Page: 455A, Family History Library Film: 545926

1880 Census: Roll: 632, Family History Film: 1254632, Page: 466D,

Photo RG985-CWP-161.76, Wm. Schultz College, U.S Army Military History Institute

[1]Wisconsin in the Civil War, Michael Telzrow, Russell Horton, and Kevin Hampton

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