This excerpt from R. B. Anderson's book is with permission and courtesy of Neil Hofland, retired computer scientist, member of the Norway List and resident of Santa Monica, California.

An excerpt from "The Sloop Party Chapter" - pages 112 to 127

Relating to the Slooper Ole Olson Hetletvedt & his family, 

especially son and Civil War hero Col. Porter C. Olson


[Neil Hofland: The following is from Norwegian Immigration 1821-1840 by Rasmus B. Anderson (author's photo) and was published in 1895. I believe this is the first history of Norwegian immigration published in English. Rasmus was my great grand uncle on my mother’s side. He was one of the most famous and influential Norwegian-Americans in the last half of the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century. He is not now regarded as a good historian by today’s standards of scholarship, but this book and other materials he wrote have been quoted and cited as resources for over a century, so he wasn’t so bad. The book is written in the first person and Rasmus supplies plenty of opinions. I have included some notes to clarify and amplify the text. These are all contained in square brackets, as is this paragraph.]

[WheelerFolk webmaster: The book transcriptions covering Ole Olson and his family were presented online in 5 installments below.  This has been edited slightly and most of Neil/Kneel's interesting comments have been deleted to conserve space here. Clicking on highlighted Subject/Date should take you to the original full installment posted to the List by Neil.] 

Subject: Uncle Rasmus - 108 - 111
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997

I have saved the slooper, Ole Olson Hetletvedt, for the last because I
have a long story to tell about one of his sons. He was born in the
northern part of Stavanger Amt in Norway, where he had been a school
teacher. He went first to Kendall and thence to Niagara Falls, where he
found employment in a paper mill, and while living there he married an
American lady by name Miss Chamberlain. Mrs. Inger Mitchell has informed
me that she as a young girl lived about a year with Hetletvedt's family
at Niagara Falls. After coming to this country he dropped the name
Hetletvedt and signed himself as Ole Olson. Ole Olson Hetletvedt came
west, and settled first in La Salle county and afterwards near Newark, in
Kendall county, Illinois, where he died about the year 1849. He became
widely known in the early days of our Norwegian settlements as a bible
agent and as a most efficient lay preacher of the Haugian school. Of his
gospel meetings I shall have occasion to speak in the latter part of this
volume. Ole Olson's first wife died early and he married another
American woman, a widow, but I have not been able to secure any further
facts in regard to her. Two of Ole Olson's brothers came to America in
1836. One was Knud Olson Hetletvedt , who was born on the farm
Hetletvedt in Stavanger Amt, April 21, 1793. He settled as a farmer in
Mission, La Salle county, and lived there until he died in the cholera
epidemic on August 12, 1849. He left 5 children Ole*, Søren, John,
Sophia and Bertha. Ole and his 2 sisters live in Norway, Benton county,
Iowa, and the other 2 in Illinois. John is married to a daughter of Beach
Fellows. The other brother was Jacob Olson Hetletvedt. He went to Sugar
Creek settlement in Lee county, Iowa, where he died August 12, 1857. His
widow married Sven Kjylaa, and with him she moved to the Fox River
settlement. Her second husband died there recently, but she is said to
be still living at a very advanced age.

Subject: Uncle Rasmus - 112 - 115
Date: Sat, 20 Dec 1997

Ole Olson the slooper had 4 children, 3 sons and 1 daughter. The 3 boys
were Porter C., Soren L. and James Webster. All 3 enlisted in Co. F,
36th regiment, Illinois volunteers. Porter C. was the captain, but
advanced to the colonelcy of the regiment, and was acting brigadier
general when he was killed in the bloody battle of Franklin, Tenn.

Soren L. was sergeant, and had his head blown off by a shell at the
battle of Murfreesboro, while James Webster came home again without a
scar. He went to Minnesota where his sister Bertha was living. Porter
was buried at Newark, Illinois, and a fine monument was erected on his

I think it is not generally known that Ole Olson Hetletvedt's son, Porter
C. Olson, distinguished himself in our late civil war, and I shall
therefore now give some account of him.

Everybody knows of Col. Hans C. Heg, the gallant colonel of the 15th
Wisconsin regiment of volunteers, but we never see Colonel Porter C.
Olson mentioned in the Scandinavian press of this country. He was born
in Manchester, near Niagara Falls, in 1831. As shown above, his father
was a Norwegian by birth and his mother an American lady. The family
removed to Newark, Kendall county, Illinois, when Porter was a lad. He
improved the usual advantages to be derived from country schools until he
was fitted for college, and he subsequently attended Beloit college in
Wisconsin, from June, 1856, to June, 1858, but he did not graduate there.

At the breaking out of the Rebellion, he was teaching the public school
at Lisbon, Illinois, but just as Col. Hans C. Heg left a lucrative state
office in Wisconsin to serve his country in the war, so patriotism, duty
and ambition called Porter C. Olson from the school-room to the camp.
Through his efforts a company was recruited at Newark, made up largely of
the sons of Norwegians from that locality and from the town of Mission in
La Salle county. Porter C. Olson was elected its captain, and his
company, with full ranks, was among the first at camp Hammond, where the
36th regiment of Illinois volunteers was organized. This camp was on the
west side of Fox River, and 2 miles from Aurora. The 36th regiment,
known as the Fox River regiment, departed from camp Hammond for the seat
of war September 24, 1861, and Porter C. Olson followed the fortunes of
the regiment in its tedious marches and participated in all its fierce
encounters down to the fatal field at Franklin, Tennessee. He was a
modest and unassuming man and a thorough personal acquaintance was
necessary to fully understand and appreciate the many excellencies of his
character. The historian of the regiment, Major L. G. Bennett, testifies
that "next after the lamented Miller none stood higher or had a warmer
place in the affections of the men than Lieut. Col. Porter C. Olson." I
find in the records of this regiment that Mr. Olson commanded the
regiment with great bravery in the battle of Stone River in December,
1862, and January, 1863. When Gen. Sill was killed in this battle on
December 31, 1862, Col. Greusel of the 36th Illinois, took command of the
brigade, and as Major Miller of the 36th Illinois, was wounded, the
command of the regiment devolved on Porter C. Olson. Of the movements of
the regiment during those eventful days, Captain Olson made a full
official report, and as this is the only document I have hitherto been
able to find from the pen of this gallant soldier, I offer no apology for
reproducing it here as a monument to his memory, It gives us a most
charming glimpse of him has a soldier, man and writer, and eminently
deserves to be preserved among the records of our early Norwegian
settlers. Hitherto his memory has been neglected by his country-men in
America, but it shall henceforth live forever, and linked with that of
the lamented Col. Hans C. Heg, it shall be handed down from generation to
generation as long as descendants of the Norwegians shall be found among
the citizens of the United States. I give Captain Olson's report here as
one of the most precious historical documents that I have found for my
readers in this volume:

[Kneel here. As Captain Porter C. Olson's report is fairly long, I will
break here in order to be able to get it all into the next chapter. I
find it interesting satisfying to note that Uncle Rasmus was correct.
Captain Olson was ignored and his memory is being "handed down from
generation to generation as long as descendants of the Norwegians shall
be found among the citizens of the United States." ...]

Subject: Uncle Rasmus - 115 - 119
Date: Sun, 21 Dec 1997

Headquarters 36th Ill. Vols.,
Jan. 9, 1863

The 36th Illinois regiment, Col. N. Greusel commanding, was called into
line at 4 o'clock on Tuesday morning, December 30th, 1862, and stood
under arms until daylight, to the left of the Wilkinson pike, our right
resting upon it, 5 miles from Murfreesboro. At 9 o'clock a.m. we moved
forward to Murfreesboro. Two companies were deployed as skirmishers to
the right of the road and were soon engaged with the enemy's skirmishers.
When 2 miles from Murfreesboro, the regiment was deployed in a
corn-field to the right of the pike and 2 companies were sent forward as
skirmishers, as ordered by Gen. Sill. The regiment lay in line in this
field until 2 o'clock p.m. at which time the whole line was ordered to
advance. The skirmishers kept up a sharp fire ----- the enemy's line
retreating and ours advancing. We drove the enemy through the timber and
across the cotton field, a low, narrow strip stretching to the right into
the timber. A rebel battery, directly in front of the 36th, opened a
heavy fire upon us. Our skirmishers advanced to the foot of the hill
near the cotton-field and here kept up a well directed fire. We were
ordered to support Capt. Bush's battery, which was brought into position
in the point of timber where our right rested, and opened fire with
terrible effect upon the enemy. We remained as a support until nearly
dark, when Capt. Bush went to the rear, the enemy's battery, or rather
its disabled fragments, having been dragged from the field. In this
day's engagement, the regiment lost 3 killed and 15 wounded; total 18.
We occupied the hill during the night, and our skirmishers were in line
at the edge of the cotton-field.

On the morning of December 31st, soon after daylight, the enemy advanced
in strong force from the timber beyond the cotton-field opposite our
right. They came diagonally across the field and upon reaching the foot
of the hiss made a left half wheel, coming up directly in front of us.
When the enemy had advanced up the hill sufficiently to be in sight, Col.
(N) Greusel ordered the regiment to fire, which was promptly obeyed. We
engaged the enemy at short range, the lines being not over ten rods (55
yards/about 50 meters) apart. After a few rounds, the regiment
supporting us on the right gave way. In this manner we fought for nearly
half an hour, when Col. Greusel ordered the regiment to charge. The
enemy fled in great confusion across the cotton-field into the woods
opposite our left, leaving many of their dead and wounded upon the field.
We poured a destructive fire upon them as they retreated until they were
beyond range.

The 36th again took position upon the hill and the support for our right
came forward. At this time Gen. Sill was killed and Col. Greusel took
command of the brigade. A fresh brigade of the enemy advanced from the
direction that the first had come and in splendid order. We opened fire
on them with terrific effect. Again the regiment on our right gave way
and we were again left without support. In this condition we fought
until our ammunition was exhausted and the enemy had entirely flanked us
on our right. At this juncture Major (Silas) Miller ordered the regiment
to fall back. While retreating Major Miller was wounded and the command
devolved on me. We moved back of the corn-field to the edge of the
timber a hundred rods (550 yards/about 500 meters) to the right of the
Wilkinson pike and 2 miles from Murfreesboro, at 8 o'clock a.m. Here I
met Gen. Sheridan and reported to him that the regiment was out of
ammunition and that I would be ready for action as soon as I could obtain
it. We had suffered severely in resisting the attack of superior
numbers. I had now only 140 men. The regiment fought with great
obstinacy and much is due to Col. N. Greusel for his bravery in
conducting the regiment before being called away. Adjutant Biddulph went
to find the ammunition, but did not succeed. I then informed the
Quartermaster Bouton, that I needed cartridges, but he failed to find any
except size 58, the caliber of most of the arms being 69. I was ordered
by Major General McCook to fall back to the rear of Gen. Crittenden's
corps. I arrived there about 10 o'clock a.m. I here obtained
ammunition, and dispatched the adjutant to report to Col. Greusel the
condition and whereabouts of the regiment. He returned without seeing
the Colonel. Lieut. Watkins soon rode up and volunteered to take a
message to Col. Greusel, or Gen. Sheridan. He also returned without
finding either officer. I now went in search of Gen. Sheridan myself;
found him at 12 o'clock, and reported to him the regiment (what there was
left of it) ready to move to the front. He ordered that I should hold
the regiment in readiness and await his commands.

At 2 o'clock p.m. I received orders from Gen. Sheridan to advance to the
front to the left of the railroad and connect my command temporarily with
Col. Leibold's brigade. We were here subject to a very severe artillery
fire. A 12 pound shell struck in the right of the regiment and killed
Lieut. Soren L. Olson (a brave and faithful officer, commanding company
F) [This was Col. Porter C. Olson's brother. Kneel], Corporal Riggs, and
wounding 3 others. At dark we were moved by Lieut. Denning one quarter
of a mile to the rear, where we remained for the night. At 3 o'clock in
the morning of the first of January, 1863, by order of Gen. Sheridan, we
marched to his headquarters on the Nashville pike, a distance of half a
mile, where at daylight I reported to Col. Greusel. As ordered by him we
took position to the right of Capt. Bush's battery, fronting west. We
built a barricade of logs and stone and remained through the day ready to
receive the enemy, but no attack was made. On the morning of the second,
the regiment was in line at 4 o'clock; stood under arms until daylight.
We remained ready for action through the day until 4 o'clock p.m., when,
by order of Col. Greusel, we moved to the right on the line formerly
occupied by Gen. Davis. During the night considerable skirmishing
occurred on our front. On the morning of the 3rd instant the regiment
stood under arms from 4 o'clock until daylight. At 8 o'clock a.m., by
order of Col. Greusel, we changed position to the right and somewhat to
the rear, letting our right rest upon the Nashville pike. On the morning
of the 4th we were under arms at 4 o'clock. No fighting occurred on our
part of the line during the day. In the action throughout, the regiment
behaved in the most gallant manner. The officers, with only a single
exception, distinguished themselves for bravery and coolness. The men
with unflinching courage were always ready, and met the enemy with a
determination to conquer. I tender my thanks to Adjutant (George G.)
Biddulph for the gallant and efficient manner in which he assisted me,
and also to the other officers for their gallant action throughout the
strong conflict, which resulted in victory. I append to this report a
list of casualties.

Porter C. Olson
Captain, Commanding 36th Illinois Vols.

Subject: Uncle Rasmus - 120 - 123
Date: Sun, 21 Dec 1997

Of the engagement thus described by Porter C. Olson, Gen Rosecrans says:
" The firing was terrific, and the havoc terrible. The enemy retreated
more rapidly than they had advanced. In 40 minutes they lost 2000 men."
In his report of this bloody battle, Gen. P. H. Sheridan says: "I refer
with pride to the splendid conduct, bravery and efficiency of the
following regimental commanders, and the officers and men of their
respective commands: Major Silas Miller, 36th Ill., wounded and a
prisoner; Capt. P. C. Olson, 36th Ill." The 36th Illinois suffered more
than any other regiment in this battle, the list of the dead and wounded
filling 2 closely-printed pages in Bennett's History.

Although Col. Heg and Col. Olson probably were strangers to each other,
it is interesting to note the fact, that Colonel Hans C. Heg also was
present and took an important part in the battle of Stone River,
attracting the attention and admiration of his superiors for his great
bravery and efficiency. Col. Heg and Col. Olson, both sons of pioneer
immigrants from Norway, fought together in the battle of Stone River and
on several other bloody battle-fields. They were both destined to meet
death in later engagements for the life of our dear republic, but their
fame shall henceforth go linked together down to the latest generations
of the descendants of Norwegians in America.

On the 9th of February, 1863, Col. N. Greusel felt constrained from the
state of his health to tender his resignation, which as accepted.
Captain Jenks, of Company A, Cavalry, was promoted to take his place.
"He was a man of excellent abilities, of fine taste and culture, a man
whom to know was to esteem," says Mr. Bennett, "but unfortunately he
found himself in a position equally unpleasant for himself and the
regiment. It was felt that the 2 companies of cavalry attached to the
36th Illinois, being so distinct in organization and service, ought not
to be reckoned in the line of promotion, but that the regimental officers
should be taken from the regiment itself. This feeling was so intense
that neither kindness nor discipline could overcome it. At one time it
seemed so high that it almost threatened mutiny, when Col. Jenks wisely
resigned and returned to his profession, in which he proved himself so
successful." The result was that Capt. Porter C. Olson again took
command of the regiment.

On the 11th of May, 1863, Olson was regularly appointed lieutenant
colonel, and took command of the regiment for Silas Miller, who had
received a commission as colonel, but was still a prisoner at Libby and
did not return till May 22. The promotion of Olson to the lieutenant
colonelcy "was," says Mr. Bennett, "highly honorable to that worthy
officer, whose fidelity and courage, tested both in camp and field, had
won the confidence of the regiment. The appointment, too, will never
cease to be equally honorable to Major George D. Sherman, who, though
himself the ranking officer and entitled to the position, recommended
Capt. Olson." This was an instance of self-abnegation as honorable as it
is rare, and speaks volumes both for Mr. Olson and Mr. Sherman.

It does not concern Col. Olson, but it interested me immensely to find
that in 1863 the 36th Illinois resolved to carry a library of books with
them for the social happiness and mental and moral improvement of the
soldiers, and that my publishers, Messrs. S. C. Griggs & Co., of Chicago,
sold them the books and presented the regiment with a copy of Webster's

[Kneel here. This interests me as well. Remember, this was before
centerfolds and paper backs were invented. These were real books, nice
and heavy. They would have needed an extra wagon and a couple of horses
to lug them around. Think how they must have been envied by other
regiments. All they got to do during the war was march around shooting
at people and getting shot at. Not only did the Norwegian regiment get
to have all that fun, but when they weren't shooting or getting shot at,
they were engaging in social happiness and enjoying mental and moral
improvement. Actually the Webster's Unabridged was a secret weapon that
was never used. If it had ever been launched by catapult into the enemy
lines, it would have crushed an entire regiment before it stopped
bouncing and sliding along.

I am surprised that Uncle Rasmus didn't relate that many of the victories
scored by the 36th were set up by the exchange of insults along the front
line before the actual battles began. The enemy was no match for the
literate Norwegians. They were cowed and demoralized by the brilliance
of the Norwegians repartee and knew that they were facing superior
forces. (The fact that the repartee was shouted in a Norwegian accent
only increased its effectiveness.)

The 36th Illinois suffered terribly in the battle of Chickamauga, where
our gallant Col. Hans E. Heg was shot on the 19th of September and died
the following day, September 20. Here is a glimpse of Col. Olson on the
day that Col. Heg died. I take it from Bennett's History: "In the
meantime the fiery conflict grew more desperate and deadly. Col. Miller,
on whom the command of the brigade devolved, gallant as ever; Lieut. Col.
Olson, brave to a fault, and Major Sherman, true and unflinching, were
everywhere conspicuous, encouraging the men by their example to wring
from unwilling hands of fate the victory which was denied."

At the battle of Mission Ridge Col. Olson again commanded the regiment
and led it into the thickest of the fight.

Subject: Uncle Rasmus - 124 - 127
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997

On February 2, 1864, the regiment returned to Chicago and a few days
later to Aurora, where it was reorganized and started for the south again
on the 19th of March, with Miller as colonel and Porter C. Olson as
lieutenant colonel.

As evidence of Olson's popularity it may be mentioned that the ground on
which they camped near Cowan, Tenn., was called Camp Olson. From June
until the 24th of August Olson was absent from the regiment on account of
sickness, but upon the death of Col. Silas Miller, he returned and
resumed command. On the 23rd of September, 1864, the anniversary of the
mustering in of the regiment, 127 men and one officer, whose 3 years had
expired, were mustered out and took leave of their comrades. Being drawn
up in line, they were addressed in a speech by Col. Olson who "reviewed
their connection with the regiment, honored their fidelity, and exhorted
them to be true to the country, as citizens at home, while their comrades
continued to bear the hardships of camp and field."

On the 30th of November occurred the bloody fight and slaughter at
Franklin, Tenn. For his successful resistance and victory in this battle
Gen. Schofield was in a large measure indebted to the cool courage of
Col. Olson and the gallant 36th in checking and delaying the march of
Hood's army until the works at Franklin were strengthened, It was a
delicate and dangerous duty to clear the pike and hold it open to enable
the troops from Columbia to pass without interruption, and Col. Olson
with his regiment was selected to do this.

In the battle of Franklin, Col. Olson was everywhere among his men with
words of cheer and encouragement, and utterly regardless of his own life
and safety. Shortly after reaching the works he was struck by a musket
ball, which entered the breast and passed through his body in the region
of the heart. He fell instantly, but in falling he requested Lieut. Hall
of Company E to take him to the rear. Assisted by Sergeant Yarnell of
Company G, they carried him to the shelter of a brick-house standing near
the works, when, perceiving that he was failing fast, the lieutenant
called to Capt. Biddulph to attend to the regiment as the colonel's wound
was mortal. Yarnell wrenched a window shutter from the house, on which
the bleeding body of their commander was placed and hurriedly borne to
the rear, while musket balls and cannon shot were striking around them in
fearful quantities.

Reaching the river, they were none too soon to secure the last vacant
place in an ambulance in which he was tenderly placed by the side of the
wounded color-bearer, Mr. Zimmer. Then taking a last look at their dying
chief, they hurried back to the trenches, resumed their position in the
line and fought bravely to the end. The colonel's life ebbed rapidly
away and in a half unconscious state the pious, god-fearing soldier
feebly whispered, "Oh, help me, Lord!" These were his last words and his
heart was still. His noble spirit had taken its flight to that country
where wars and battles are unknown. L. G. Bennett, in whose work this
account of Col. Porter C. Olson is found, closes the chapter on Col.
Olson's death with these eloquent and striking words: "When brave Olson
fell, a cold tremor thrilled along the line. At any other time than in
the face of the enemy and under murderous fire, the men would have sat
down and cried like children over his untimely fate. Brave, generous,
earnest and faithful, none had stood more honestly by the men or been
more true to the country than he. Always present in the perils and
hardships of the 36th, he had shared them all and won his way into the
hearts and affections of the men, making a record of glory that will
never by closed up or forgotten, though his mangled remains may moulder
and lay hidden from sight in an unknown and unmarked grave. The name of
Porter C. Olson will live forever, and be handed down along the
imperishable ages, indissolubly linked with the fame of the immortal

I am happy to be able to embellish this volume with a portrait of Col.Porter_Olson2.jpg (62789 bytes)
Olson. It shows a peculiarly mild, intelligent and thoughtful face.
This grand life and Col. Olson's splendid services resulted from the
immigration of his father, Ole Olson, in 1825, and many a descendant of Norwegian immigrants appreciates the force and significance of this remark.

[ webmaster: Image at right is portrait scanned from the R. A. Anderson book. Click on image for larger picture.]

______________________ end excerpt ______________________

Neil Hofland has transcribed most of this old hard to find book and made it available in a series of installments posted to the Roots-Web Norway List. These can be found by searching the Norway List archives under the subject of "Uncle Rasmus."  The installments presented above relating to Ole Olson and his family can be found in the:

NORWAY-L Archives: December 1997

       Also thanks to the work of Neil Hofland, the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) now has many past articles from their annual Norwegian-American Studies publication available on-line. These can be accessed though their publications page.

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