NAHA Header


Norwegian Soldiers in the Confederate Forces
    by C.A. Clausen and Derwood Johnson (Volume 25: Page 105)

Most readers of Studies undoubtedly will be surprised by the title given above. The idea that there were Norwegian soldiers in the Confederate forces is strange indeed. Norwegians in the Union armies, yes — but with the Confederacy? The mystery is explained by the fact that small settlements were founded in Texas by immigrants from Norway immediately after the state joined the Union in 1845. As the story of these communities has been told often and well, we shall touch only lightly on their history. {1}

The "father" of the first two settlements was that enthusiastic champion of emigration and liberal causes, Johan Reinert Reiersen. In his two publications, Christianssandsposten and Norge og Amerika, during the middle 1840’s, he preached with revivalistic fervor about America in general and about Texas in particular. On a trip to the United States and the then Republic of Texas in 1843, he wrote numerous letters home. After his return, he published a book with the formidable title Pathfinder for Norwegian Emigrants to the United North [106] American States and Texas. Demonstrating faith in his own gospel, Reiersen, in the summer of 1845, led a small group to the New World. It should be noted that the final decision concerning their destination was delayed until after they arrived in New Orleans early in June. They wanted assurance that Texas would join the Union. In New Orleans they learned of the congressional resolution of March 1, 1845, providing for annexation of Texas. {2}

Thereupon the Norwegians formed a settlement in Henderson County, Texas, with the auspicious name of Normandy. But Reiersen’s knowledge of soils evidently failed to match his zeal: the area did not live up to expectations. Soon the name was dropped for the more prosaic Brownsboro; and in 1848 Reiersen founded a second colony, Prairieville, in Kaufman and Van Zandt counties. Even this locality failed to attract many immigrants despite all the publicity given it by Reiersen and others. Overlooking the fact that Texas was a slave state, Reiersen wrote a friend in 1852: "I feel free and independent among a free people who are not chained down by any old class or caste system; and I am very proud of belonging to a mighty nation, whose institutions will and must in time come to dominate the entire civilized world, because they are founded on principles that sound intelligence must recognize as the only ones that are right and correct." {3}

The well-known Mrs. Elise Wærenskjold became an even more staunch champion of Texas. She was quick to defend the state against slurs emanating either from Europe or from the Midwestern states, which at the time were attracting most of the Norwegian immigrants. Her countrymen in Texas "are all [107] satisfied . . . . They are all prospering," she maintained. "The state is a paradise for poor people, because anyone who will work can get a good job in every season," she wrote later; she concluded by stating that "I have no doubt that immigrants would do much better by coming to Texas than by going to Minnesota." Even Cleng Peerson, "the father of Norwegian immigration," who spent the last years of his wayfaring life in Texas, joined the chorus of praise. He stated that he, too, "and without any reservations, preferred Texas to the northern states, both with regard to its wholesome climate and because of the advantages and pleasures it offers." {4} Despite these and other advocates, however, Texas failed to attract many Norwegians. To be sure, a third settlement, founded by Ole Canuteson in Bosque County in 1853, eventually surpassed Reiersen’s settlements both in size and prosperity. But according to the census of 1860, there were 321 Norwegians all told in the state at that time, and only 552 by 1870.

We may well ask why so very few responded to the lure of Texas. In the opinion of Professor Theodore C. Blegen, the reasons can be summarized thus: "[They were influenced by] the lines of trans-Atlantic commerce, the development of transportation routes from the Atlantic seaboard to the upper Mississippi Valley, and the historical tendency to follow the northern routes. There can be no doubt, however, that one of the potent reasons why the Norwegian settlements in the Southwest never gained any great headway was a deep-rooted hostility toward slavery." {5} [108]

In a document which she called her "Confession of Faith," Mrs. Wærenskjold gave eloquent expression to this detestation of slavery. She wrote in part: "I believe that slavery is absolutely contrary to the law of God . . . . We are, all of us, the children of God, created for the same high destiny . . . . I believe to the fullest degree that human beings are born with equal rights. Consequently it is repulsive to me to hear people read their Declaration of Independence and deliver bloated Fourth of July orations in honor of liberty while there are millions of slaves among them . . . . We immigrants, to be sure, can do nothing to abolish slavery; we are too few to accomplish anything for this cause and would merely bring on ourselves hatred and persecution, if we tried. All we can do is to keep ourselves free of the whole slavery system. I am well aware of the argument that when we live in a slave state we may as well own slaves the same as anyone else, but I cannot agree with this. We might as well reason that since we cannot prevent the existence of thieves, robbers, and murderers, we may ourselves become thieves, robbers, and murderers." {6}

The last sentence in this quotation indicates that not all Norwegians in Texas felt as strongly about slavery as Mrs. Wærenskjold — and we do know that some of them owned slaves. A certain K. H. Hajland, who visited the Texas settlements in 1860 and 1861, several years later wrote very unfavorably about the area and said, among other things, that his countrymen there owned slaves and "felt themselves made if they could possess one." In a reply, Ole Canuteson explained that "the possession of slaves by Norwegians in 1860 was in keeping with the society in which they then lived." {7}

Specifically, we can mention that George and Helene Grøgaard Reiersen owned nine slaves. Erick Bache is listed in the slave schedule of the 1860 census of Kaufman County as having one female slave, thirty-three years old. Thomas Fasting Grøgaard also possessed slaves. At least one of them, a little [109] girl named Hannah, remained with the family after the Civil War and, as she matured, worked for the Grøgaards. When old age overtook her, she was cared for by the family until she died. As many other slaves did when freed, she took the surname of her former master. She is buried in the Negro section of the graveyard at Atlanta, Texas. Her tombstone reads: "Hannah Grogard, 1862—1946." {8}

It is probably correct to say, as one source puts it, "The Texas Norse were divided over the Civil War. Though most were Union men . . . the records show that [many] served in the Confederate Armies." {9} Another commentator adds that "the Bosque Norwegians were inherently opposed to slavery and subsequently to secession and the Civil War. During the war years the Bosque contingent remained aloof from the war effort and emigration from Norway ceased altogether." {10}

It will be remembered that the first Norwegian emigrants to Texas delayed going there until they were assured that the republic would become a member of the Union. A perusal of the letters translated below gives the definite impression that the soldier writers were not interested in the future of the Confederacy. Nowhere do we find any expressions of patriotism or intimations that they felt they were engaged in a noble or holy cause. In fact, some of them were extremely critical of Confederate affairs and only hoped that the war would come to an end so that they might rejoin their friends back home and resume the pursuits of peace. The Texans tell the saga of "A Bosque Viking" named Otto Swenson, who was called to the colors and was sent on active duty east of the Mississippi River. But "knowing very little about the nature of the conflict, Swenson simply had no interest in the fighting. Since he had not been issued a uniform, Swenson solved his problem by walking away from his company, drifting around [110] in enemy and neutral territory until the war officially ended, and then leisurely walking back to Bosque Country. {11} Otto was no worse for his unimpressive "military career." When Texas was forced back into the Union, the authorities naturally dared not punish a man for having been an indifferent rebel.

Furthermore, there were numerous Texans who shared Swenson’s disaffected feelings about the Confederate cause. It is said that about a third of the 600,000 inhabitants of the state in 1860 opposed secession. This attitude seems in particular to have characterized the great number of German settlers, who had migrated partly to escape military service in the homeland. Like the Scandinavians, they were overwhelmingly opposed to slavery and, understandably, no more anxious to shoulder arms for Jefferson Davis than for some German princeling. As we learn from the letters, desertion by soldiers was prevalent in Texas. There were also hundreds, possibly thousands, of "Jayhawkers" in the state who managed to elude the recruiting officers.

Because of its location and a lack of railroad connections with the rest of the Confederacy, Texas was never deeply involved in the Civil War. There were, however, a number of skirmishes along the borders, where Texas troops gave an excellent account of themselves under such crusty frontier colonels as "Dirty Neck Bill" Scurry and "Rip-or-Rest-in-Peace" Ford. Capable military leadership was also given by adventurers like Prince Camille Arnaud Jules Marie de Polignac, of noble French lineage, whom his troops unceremoniously dubbed "General Polecat." {12}

Because of unusually good crops in Texas during the war, [111] the people did not suffer from want of food or clothing. Large amounts of cotton were sent across the Rio Grande and thence to Europe. The Union blockade made this a risky business, but excessively high prices made the long hauls to Mexican ports and the blockade-running profitable. Texas also shipped large quantities of beef and other supplies to the Eastern states until General Grant took Vicksburg in July, 1863. This victory made the Mississippi safe for Union gunboats, enabling them to cut the Confederacy in two.

The letters reveal that Confederate money soon created a shambles. "One of the most fundamental causes of the ultimate failure of the Confederacy lay in its unwise financial policies," to quote a leading authority. The Southern treasury soon became "the greatest money factory in the world"; and privately issued "shinplasters" added to the confusion. An irate editor exclaimed that shinplasters "hop out upon us as thick as the frogs and lice of Egypt, and are almost as great a nuisance." Another maintained that unless drastic measures were taken, the value of the currency would soon sink so low "that at last no butcher’s boy would accept it for an ounce of cat meat." Even enterprising beggars spurned paper money in lesser denominations than five-dollar bills. By 1865, "Confederate money was not worth the cost of printing and signing." {13}

By way of conclusion, we may mention that the last land battle of the Civil War was fought at Palmito Hills in the southern tip of Texas. Of course the Texans won — against great odds. "Some of them Yankees could outrun our horses," chuckled the victor, Rip-or-Rest-in-Peace Ford. {14} But as this battle took place on May 11, 1865, after Lee had surrendered to Grant at Appomattox on April 9, it won for the Texans nothing beyond a historical marker and a legend. Perhaps these are the most lasting rewards for valor.

It will be noticed that practically all the letters translated below are addressed to Carl Questad. He was born in Hedmark, [112] Norway, in 1815. In 1841 he married Sedsel Olsdatter Ringnæs, and ten years later they migrated to Kaufman County, Texas. Some three years later, Questad took a leading part in founding the Norwegian settlement in Bosque County. There he soon became a prosperous farmer and cattleman, who in time acquired an estate of a thousand acres or more of good land.

Besides being a farmer, Questad was a skilled blacksmith and stone mason, who always gave his neighbors a helping hand. In many respects, the Questad farm became the focal point of the settlement. Numerous Norwegian immigrants received their introduction to the strange American ways at the home of Carl and Sedsel. Many young people would stay on the farm for quite long periods of time in order to pay off debts incurred in migrating. One member of the family has written: "When these people were ready to leave to make their own homes, Carl presented each with a gift, such as a cow or grain for planting." {15} Questad also gave the local Lutheran congregation an acre of land for a cemetery. On land purchased from him, Our Saviour’s Lutheran church at Norse is still standing.

Despite the fact that he had little formal education, Carl Questad had many intellectual interests. One author tells us that "he collected books and aided in the education of his fellows by loaning volumes to any who wanted to read." {16} He also gathered fossils and Indian artifacts from his locality and sent them to the museum in Bergen, Norway. In addition, for a number of years he aided the noted but impecunious Swedish naturalist, Gustav Belfrage, by providing him with a workshop and a place to live. {17} The trust which his countrymen had [113] in Questad is well expressed in the following letters. The soldiers repeatedly sent him money which they hoped he could invest profitably for them. "Act as if it were your own money and I will be entirely satisfied" is the typical theme of many messages Carl received from friends at the front.

Questad became a personal friend of Cleng Peerson. It is said that he was "the moving spirit in having a monument placed on . . . Peerson’s grave" — a dream which was realized shortly before his own death in 1886. {18} Very appropriately, he was buried by the side of Peerson in the cemetery at Norse.

The Questads had two children, Martha and Even, both born in Norway. Even saw service with the Texas Rangers. He died in 1862 of pneumonia while engaged in Indian fighting. Martha (Mrs. Erik Swenson) was a vigorous pioneer woman. As befitted a Texan of those days, she was an expert at horseback riding. It is through the kindness and co-operation of Martha’s daughter Sadie (Mrs. Ole Hoel) that the Questad papers, including the letters which follow, were acquired for the archives of the Norwegian-American Historical Association. The association and the editors of the letters wish to express their deep gratitude to Mrs. Hoel.


J. S. Jensen from Camp Salmon to his friend, C[arl] Questad, December 13, 1862.

As many of the Norwegian boys send money home to Bosque to pay off certain debts, they wonder if you would be kind enough to see that the money gets into the hands of the creditors concerned.

Osmund Nystøl sends you $20.00 with the request that you hand them to Jens Ringnæs and that this sum be substracted from the note. Osmund Nystøl further sends $5.00 with W. Anderson and asks if you will be good enough to pass them on to old man Knudson. Osmund has thus sent a total of $25.00.

Elias R. Skimeland [Skimland] sends you $25.00 with W. Anderson and asks you to be kind enough to pay them to Ole Almberg.

Knud Skimeland sends $20.00 with W. Anderson and requests that you transfer them to Ole Amberg. Together they have thus paid a sum of $45.00. [114]


The first Confederate conscription law was enacted April 16, 1862. It may be of interest to note that more than half of the soldiers listed above joined prior to that date. The list does not include the men who served in the state militia.



D [avid] Lund from Camp Kiamesher [Kiamichi], Indienteritori [Indian Territory,,], March 19, 1863, to "My dear Carl Questad and family."

As Lindberg is leaving for home, I will not miss the opportunity to send you some words, my dear friends, and let you know that I am still among the living. Neither hardships nor other things have succeeded in breaking me down. I cannot thank the Lord enough who mercifully has preserved me and held his hand over me, thus freeing me from sickness and other misfortunes. You are in my thoughts every day, and I hope that these lines will find you all well. I have been promised furlough, but there are so many promises that I can not depend on them.

I have neither heard nor seen anything from you since I left you. To be sure, I have heard that J. Lee had a letter for me which I assume was from you. Through Lindberg I send you $100.00, which I hope you will favor me by investing in livestock or something else, whatever you may think will be most advantageous for me. Act as if it were your own money and I will be entirely satisfied. With Camp I sent you $17.00, which I asked you to invest in cattle. I know that this causes you trouble, but above all else I know your goodness of heart and your willingness to help your friends and countrymen. We cannot have confidence in our money and therefore I would like to have it invested in something which will maintain its value. I still have with me over $100.00 in cash and $200.00 worth of tobacco.

I will close with best wishes for all of you and with the hope that God will hold his protecting hand over you.[117]


D[avid]Lund from camp near Alexandria, Louisiana, May 28, 1863, to "My dear friend."

Being tired and weary after a long march with little to eat, it occurred to me that I might divert myself a few moments by writing you a letter, my dear friend, even though it is uncertain as to when I will have an opportunity to mail it. I have been sick a while with fever [ague]; but now, God be praised, I am well again so that I can stand guard tomorrow.

We left Camp Caiomesjer [Kiamichi] and crossed the Red River, going back to Mount Pleasant, Texas, and thence to Jefferson. There we took a steamboat to Shreveport [Louisiana], where we stayed two days. Two regiments remained in that city. Again we went by steamboat and came to a little town by a river, the name of which I do not recall. From this little town we took to the road and have been covering sixteen to twenty miles per day. Three weeks ago the Yankees were here and took 4,000 Negroes and lots of grain. They destroyed a bridge, burned the grain they could not use, turned the horses into the fields, and otherwise did a lot of damage.

We have no idea as to what we are supposed to do or where we are supposed to go. Now, however, it seems that we may finally get in touch with the enemy, and even though I am not anxious to get into a fight, it is not going to be said that D. Lund was afraid and behaved like a coward. No, my dear friend, I am not fainthearted; and I know that my fate rests in the hand of God. Unless He wills it, not even a hair on my head can be crinkled. Not every bullet hits its mark. However, if God has determined that my time has come, then I cannot do anything about it, but will accept whatever He may decree. This faith, my dear friend, has sustained me, comforted and strengthened me so many a time. And I have the trust in Providence that we two will meet again, both of us chastened by trials and adversity.

I have little hope for our forces, and rumors are afloat that Vicksburg and Port Hudson have been taken. If this be true, [118] then we may as well give up, because Vicksburg is the key to the Mississippi. Without it, the Federal forces can do little, but if they can take Vicksburg, then our communications will be cut and we will be unable to receive money, orders, or anything else from Richmond. We know so little, but it is certain that a battle has recently been fought because we heard the thunder of cannons. Come what may, I shall try to keep you informed.

The money here has little value. Up your way it seems to have about 50 per cent of face value and down here about 25 per cent or even less. I sent you a letter, informing you that Lieutenant Dennison was taking $400.00 for me to Poulson with the request that you invest the sum in unbranded yearlings or some other type of property that you might deem best. If Vicksburg has fallen, our money will decline still more in value. I sent three coats, one pair of pants, one vest, a bag (handsæk) and some odds and ends to Poulson. I will take the risk of sending you $20.00 whenever I write to you, which I hope you will invest for me — the sooner the better because everything will go up in price day by day. It is very difficult for us to secure stamps because we seem bound to this place. Therefore pay for the letters with my money and let me hear from you as frequently as possible.

I have heard that the wheat crop was excellent; I hope you have harvested your grain and gotten it under cover so that you can provide for your livelihood and thus be free of worries in that respect. May God hold his protecting hand over you and permit you to enjoy the fruits of your labor in peace and quiet. The hope that you, my dear friend, may remain far from the horrors of war gives me great joy. When I see abandoned houses along the roadway, open to wind and weather, I remember our quiet valleys and thank God because you are still living in peace. Would that God might shield us and permit us to live peacefully, not only among ourselves but with all our fellow beings — then come what may during the brief time we live here below. If we have a clear [119] conscience and a kind disposition, death will not appear as an enemy but as a good friend who will lighten our burden and bring us to a better home.

Please greet Mr. Poulson from me. To you, your wife and daughter I send my greetings and my blessings. You are in my thoughts every day.


David Lund on the march near Washington, Louisiana, June 19,1863, to "My dear friend."

As Captain Reed is leaving for home, thereby giving us a chance to get our letters to Texas and probably clear to Waco, I will seize this opportunity and send you a few words. I sent you a letter from Alexandria containing $20.00, which I hope you have received. This time I am also sending you $20.00, which you may invest for me as you think best. I have just returned from a march and am quite fagged, but still I do not want to miss this opportunity of writing to you.

I am in good health. The same is true of Thompson, Even, and Pederson. Lars Olson has been sick but has now rejoined his company. Casper Poulson is feeling well, but George took sick with cold and fever while on the march, so I believe he will soon be here. We have marched night and day, and God knows that they (our officers) do everything possible in order to join battle; but as yet this has not fallen to our lot. At Port Hudson there took place one of the greatest fights of this war. General Banks, with 40,000 soldiers, has surrounded and bombarded that fort for three weeks without accomplishing anything beyond losing 6,000 men. {19} Our loss is said to have been between 400 and 500, which seems quite heavy as the garrison numbered only 2,000 men. Still the commandant wrote to Colonel Speight that he had enough manpower and provisions for six more weeks. {20} We drove 250 steers into the fort. [120]

General Banks had to leave the fort without gaining his objective. And the worst part of it (for him) was that when he wanted to cross the Mississippi he found the water level so low that he could not float his gunboats. Consequently he had to retreat and is now attempting to get out by going behind New Orleans. Presumably you know that from the Red River [Mississippi?] there is a bayou which flows behind New Orleans, and there is a lake which I believe is called Providence [Pontchartrain?]. Here he is in the same fix. The water level is low and is falling daily, so he does not know what to do. On top of that, he is hemmed in from all directions — by Walker’s division on one side and by Taylor’s (which is ours) on the other. We have gone or rather are on our way down, and I believe that when we are all combined, we will have a force of 12,000 men. We expect to make contact with them [the enemy] farther on and then you can be sure things will be hot. We are under the command of old General Taylor, and they say he is exactly like his father. {21}

At present we are in an unhealthful and warm area. Most of the places here are under water part of the time. The other day we passed through a place where they had eight feet of water last winter, but it is now an ordinary roadway. It has been unusually hot today, but as we covered only fourteen miles we are now able to rest in the shadows of the trees. There is a vast forest here. As a matter of fact, since I entered the service fifteen months ago, I have spent most of my time in forest areas — they are found everywhere. Often, as I have gone through large, beautiful woods, I have wished that they were near our home neighborhood. I have seen much land and inspected it carefully, but the only place where I should like to live is up among the Cocktoe [Choctaw Indians]. The soil there is excellent, and they have plenty of rain, woods, and good [121] water. Around a little town named Duksvill [Deaksville, Oklahoma], there is much fertile land. The hogs in that region were fat throughout the whole winter and the cows give more than a bucket of milk despite the fact that the calves get all they want and are big and fat. I had a letter from Poulson in which he told me that you had bought me a mare for $140.00. This pleases me very much.

According to reports from Fort Vicksburg, the Yankees have been driven back, so I feel certain that we will have peace before winter comes. It will be impossible for them to take Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

I would like to send you $100.00, but as the situation is so uncertain, I will not risk it. Please greet Poulson from me and tell him that I sent him a letter which I assume he has received. Usually I send a letter to you and then one to him. I am sure you will be kind enough to forward the enclosed letter to Molyen [?]. Somehow I feel very confident that I will see you again; and then, dear friends, when everything has ended in peace, we will prize more highly the good things that life gives us. As I have little else to write about, I will close with greetings to Jensen, Lindberg, Ole Ween and all others who may ask about me. But first and foremost I send greetings to you, my dear friend, and your family. You are in my thoughts every day. Address my letters to Shreveport, Louisiana, and they should be marked Speight Brigade, Gen. Taylor’s Division. In haste.


L[ars] Olson to C[arl] Questad from camp at Marksville, Louisiana, June 26, 1864.

As at this moment I have nothing particular to do, I will write you a few lines and let you know that both I and the other Norwegians here are brisk and active and that we live about as usual — moderately well or somewhere between average and swell. We are fed corn meal, beef, a bit of sugar and molasses, some blackberries, and good spring water. We have been in this camp two weeks, and it appears that we are to [122] remain here some time yet. We have nothing to do beyond mounting guard off and on and drilling four hours five days a week. This we can well endure. It is getting to be rather warm down here now and the mosquitoes pester us, especially at night. Health conditions among the soldiers are good at present, but I presume the fever will arrive with the heat.

I have little new to relate. We hear nothing from the other side of the Mississippi, and the army on this side seems to remain quiet. Joseph Randal of our company passed away. He died of a wound he received at the battle of Mansfield. A soldier by the name of McBase from Clifton, who deserted from our company at Pleasant Hill and tried to join the Union forces, was captured and is now under arrest at Franklin, Louisiana. What punishment he will receive, I do not know. I saw Andrew Thompson yesterday. He is in good health but kicks for dear life because he is not permitted to go home and attend to his wife. There are rumors to the effect that Peder Pederson and Aasmund, together with several Americans, have deserted — presumably a bright idea.

There has not been much rain down here during the summer, and what little has been planted is middling, so to speak. Our supplies are now brought entirely from Texas. As already mentioned, I have nothing to write about which will interest anyone; and this is fortunate indeed because, as you will notice, I have no more stationery and there is nothing here to be had. Greet all my acquaintances down there, and special greetings to you and family. Please send me a few lines and let me know what’s new in Bosque. Send letters to Alexandria, La., Co. B, Hawp’s Regiment, Polignac’s Brigade, Texas Dismounted Cavalry.


E. R. Skiml and from near Columbus, Texas, July 15, 1864, to "My good friend C. Questad and family."

During periods of deep loneliness, which I often experience, a desire grips me to see all of you again. But it may be my fate [123] not to have this good fortune. Therefore I wish to send you my most heartfelt thanks for all the friendliness and goodness which you have shown me on occasions too numerous to mention here, but which I nevertheless keep in fond remembrance. I can truly say that I have not found any other people like you since I left my dear parents.

I can inform you that we are located fourteen miles from La Grange and eighteen miles from Kolombus [Columbus, Texas] and have rejoined the other companies of our regiment. We have gotten ourselves rented quarters together with several others who were here before us. Colonel Bankhead is our brigadier general and everyone is dissatisfied with him. He has a bad reputation among the soldiers because he is related to General Magruder. {22} One day when we were to drill before him, practically all the soldiers began to act up and shout as soon as they saw him coming. Then he delivered a speech, but we could hardly hear him because of the yelling and the insulting words the soldiers hurled at him. The next day we were paid in kind: he inflicted such severe fatigue duties on us that it was practically impossible to snatch a moment’s rest. Two or three nights later, thirteen men stole by the guards, bent on hanging the rascal. But they did not succeed. Our Major Alexander somehow sensed that some deviltry was brewing. He got up and ran over to the general’s quarters, where he found the rope in readiness and the general alone in his tent, quivering with fear for his life. His wife had taken to the woods. Then he sounded the alarm in all parts of the camp, and the people had to get out and arrest the culprits. A trial was held the next day, and they confessed that their idea had been to scare him because he had initiated too severe a regimen. This helped a bit. The fatigue (pligtterne) work was reduced by about one third [124] and the offenders were freed because the officers found that the prisoners had more friends than they had.

I have nothing else of interest to tell you except that we have done some drilling afoot. Generally it is the officers who are expected to learn first, and when they have learned a little, the rest of us are to begin. Cavalry drills cannot be carried out because there is no grass here and absolutely no grain. There is much talk that we shall become foot soldiers permanently. We have much sickness in the camp. Captain Lloyd has been and still is ill, and eighteen other members of the company are plagued by fever.

We have heard that there was a battle at Browns Mill and that we were thrashed; but everything goes by so quietly that we soldiers do not learn anything. We could get better information up where we formerly were than we can down here. We are expecting to hear from Richmond, but I believe it will be a long time before we hear about it in case the city has fallen. Our Confederate money has skyrocketed. We cannot buy anything with it except at a few places, and then at a ratio of 40 to 1. The Negroes charge three to four dollars for washing a shirt. We can get practically anything here for hard money. In Columbus coffee costs six bits per pound and tobacco a dollar per plug. I can inform you that our daily rations consist of one pound of coarse-ground grain and half a pound of meat —that’s all.

I have been in good health until now, for which God be praised, and I hope to hear the same from you. Please write if you can afford it, and also tell Marte and Miss Grann to write to me because I love to hear from Bosque. You must not fear that I will tire of reading letters sent me from there.

Now I must end with a hearty greeting to all of you from your ever devoted friend.

Written in haste. Please greet Joseph Olsen and family. [125]


L[ars] Olson from camp at Sicily Island, Louisiana, to C [arl] Questad, August, 20, 1864.

As I have the time and opportunity, I will write you a few lines to let you know that I and the other Norwegians are all fine at present and live well considering the circumstances. We are now eight miles from Harrisonburg and twenty-five miles from the Mississippi River. We came from Alexandria and have been here only a few days.

We have long suspected that they were going to take us to the other side of the Mississippi, and day before yesterday events proved that we were not far wrong. Then we received orders to prepare for a march and cross the river. This caused much excitement in the camp, and in the night 123 men deserted from our brigade. They marched out of the camp in regular order with their rifles and forty rounds of ammunition, and apparently no hindrances were put in their way. But they have now sent a cavalry detachment after them and some mounted infantry, our Captain Jacks being one of them. I have also heard that several hundred men absconded from Walker’s division, but how true this is I do not know. Yesterday evening we received orders that the crossing of the Mississippi had been postponed until further notice. What the reason for this may be I cannot say, whether it stems from the soldiers’ opposition to such an undertaking or from the difficulties connected with it. The enemy has many troops at Natchez but only a few mounted men on this side of the river. Their gunboats cruise up and down the Mississippi every day. I have no doubt that the officers will send us across if they can induce us to go and can overcome the obstacles. As for me, I have no great desire to go, but it does not make much difference either. {23} [126]

I cannot give you any news about the progress of the war because I know just as little or less than you people do. We have heard that there were big battles at Mobile, Alabama, and at Atlanta, Georgia, but the rumors about the results are so contradictory that we cannot believe anything. We have not been in any fighting recently and there is little chance of anything just now on this side of the Mississippi, there being too few Yankees to measure up against the Southern rebels. Walker’s division is quartered near Harrisonburg, and between us and the Mississippi is a cavalry division. The divisions of Price and Churchill are located in southern Arkansas. According to rumors they, too, have been ordered across the Mississippi.

As I have nothing of interest to tell you, I will close these lines with a sincere greeting to you and family. Please send me a few lines and address them to Alexandria. If we are sent east of the Mississippi, I suppose there will be little corresponding. Please greet Mr. Halien, Ole Ween, and others — with best wishes. So much for this time.


L[ars] Olson from camp at Camden, Arkansas, October 16, 1864, to "My good friend, C. Questad."

A long time has passed since I wrote to Bosque and a still longer time since I heard anything from there. So far as I am concerned, I have not received a letter from any of you since I left the place. As usual, I have nothing to report. After having roamed about and passed through Harisenburg [Harrisonburg], Monroe, Monticello, and many other places, we are now located here at Camden where we are engaged in building fortifications. We have not been in contact with the enemy for a long time, but this is not necessary as we are killed off rapidly [127] enough anyway. About fifty per cent of us are sick and the rest are worn out with marching and poor food. Furthermore, most of us are barefooted and half naked. When we are on the march, there are not enough wagons to carry the sick. They must trudge along as far as they can and then remain lying by the wayside. If we then arrive at a place where we are to stay several days, wagons are sent back to pick them up. I have been sick for two weeks but am improving, at least for the time being. The other Norwegians are hale and hearty.

Last week we were given a four-day ration of flour, which surprised us because this is all the flour we have received all summer and fall. At Monticello two men from our company deserted to the Yankees. I have heard that five of the Norwegians skipped and went home. That must be a wild speculation. Yesterday a captain in Walker’s division was shot. He is said to have encouraged his men to abscond when we were given orders to cross the Mississippi. The Yankees are now at Little Rock and Pine Bluff, and both our cavalry and theirs are somewhere between those places and Camden. I doubt that they will come down farther, for this country is too barren. It is suitable only for the likes of us.

I should not be averse to spending the winter at home as I did last year — but no such luck, I am certain. As there is nothing of sufficient interest to trouble writing about, I will close with a most sincere greeting to you and your family.


H. J. (Grann from Eagle Pass, Texas, to "Dear friend C [arl] Questad," October 17,1864.

I take this opportunity to send you a few words, as I have often thought of writing to you. I must beg your pardon for my dilatoriness. At present I am in fairly good health and I hope this letter will find you, your family, and friends all well. There is little news to report. I am not well pleased with matters down here. It is impossible for me to believe that anyone who wants to serve his country can be satisfied with what he [128] sees here every day. It appears to me that the officers do not think of anything but robbing the government as quickly as they can, and I get the impression that we are here merely to protect them. Furthermore, there are many difficulties to encounter even if we do not have to meet the enemy — I refer to those from the North. Here a person must suspect everyone of being an enemy, for we have Indians and Mexicans and fugitives. Also, people whom we might take to be our friends do as much evil as they have a mind to and then put the blame on others.

We have to scout round about in the region but we get no grain for our horses. Consequently they are becoming so skinny that it will soon be impossible for us to use them. When we are not scouting, we have to drive them four or five miles to pasture, so you see how they have to fend for themselves. There seems to be enough of everything here, so they could give us clothing and anything else we might need. But they maintain that they cannot give us anything. As for me, I have enough to get along on, but there are a great many who have practically nothing at all. So it is easy to understand how the soldiers live, if the officers behave the same way in other camps. I hope this is not the case.

We see lots of money around here — no paper money but enough of silver. I have not seen any Confederate money since I came here, and they have not paid us anything the last ten months. But that’s O. K. I hope they declare them null and void. I even read in my sister’s letter that they have begun to steal as much as they can from you people at home. She says that you have been barred from selling your wheat — that they must have it for the soldiers. Everyone says that they must have things for the soldiers, but the soldiers get mighty little, judging by what I have seen recently. If I were only free some six or seven months, I would earn as much as I might need for awhile. And I would not cheat. I would deal honestly. There is no use to write any more. I am sure you see enough of [129] these things back home. Is it not deplorable to watch such human beings?

I am not going to write to my sister with this mail. I have not heard from her for two weeks, but I will write to her the next time the mail goes out. I received a letter from Shulstad which was dated September 22, but it had not left Clinton until October 4. It had lain there about as long as it took to get out here. I received it on the 16th of this month.

It has begun to turn cold now. If any furloughs are granted, I will try to get away for a month or so in order to acquire some winter clothing. So I hope she will have it ready — I have in mind an overcoat and possibly something else.

Nothing further this time — but I will conclude my poor scribbling with a sincere greeting to you and family, my sister, and acquaintances.


Lars Olson from camp at Mindon [Minden], Louisiana, to Charles [Carl] Questad, December 18, 1864.

As a good opportunity offers itself to send a letter with Casper Poulsen, I will write you a few meager lines this Sunday morning while God-fearing people are attending services. I can inform you that at present I am, thank God, hale and hearty, which is a good thing. The other Norwegian boys are also in good health, and considering circumstances, we are living very well. We have established a regular camp here, and each mess has put up a house. In ours are four Norwegians and one American. We have built us a house twelve feet square, so now we do not fear the north wind. Thus far this winter we have had mild weather except for a few days. We have enough to live on and not much to do. Who would not be a Confederate soldier under these circumstances — plenty of food and clothing and little or nothing to do? We must stand guard about every fifth day and do a bit of work now and then. Drilling has not begun yet, but I fear we will soon have to start. Yesterday I was detailed for duty in the blacksmith shop and [130] that will probably become a daily chore. This I do not relish because I am too lazy to love work. Rumor has it that we are to stay here during the winter, and I will not kick if this turns out to be the case.

Things are very quiet at present. Good news and rumors of peace are plentiful, but — like the fool I am — I tend to be dubious about all such things. Every day we hear cannonading from Shreveport. People say the cannons are being fired because of the good news. Every tenth man is granted furlough, our company getting three — of whom Casper Poulsen is one. He has not received it yet, but his name has been sent in, so I assume he will get it, and then I will send this letter with him.

I have nothing of importance to relate, and no war news. We are proud of having shed the tough, old soldier life and of having begun to live like white folks. But how long will it last? I suppose that will depend on the movements of the Yankees. I will take this opportunity to ask a favor of you. If there is an opportunity, will you be kind enough to sell the wheat I have at home for specie and send the money to me in case this can be done safely? I do not need the money at present, but circumstances may so change that it will come in handy. I have written to you about this matter previously, but perhaps you did not receive the letter. In case you cannot sell the wheat for specie, possibly you could exchange it for a young horse or a mare — preferably the latter.

Please send me a few lines in case it is not too much trouble. You are greeted most cordially from your friend and countryman.

You must excuse this paper because our poverty is so great — it is my constant companion. It clings to me when all other things fail. I received a pair of socks with Murphy, for which I hereby thank you sincerely.

I am sending you 100 percussion caps, which I hope you will give to Ole Venn if you have an opportunity. I could give you some too, but I assume that you do not do any shooting. [131]


Lars Olson from camp at Mindon [Minden], Louisiana, to Carl Questad, December 23, 1864.

As news, I can relate that Mr. Lindberg arrived here yesterday evening under arrest. He says that he was taken out of the shop at Tyler [Texas], two months ago, and they have held him in Rusk since then. The reason seems to be that he was absent without leave when he was detailed, and that the detail therefore was illegal. He is now in the guardhouse and I do not know as yet what they will do with him. He is brisk and active and looks like his old self. He says he has no relish for being under arrest. I can also relate that a couple of weeks ago three men of Speight’s regiment were shot for attempting to desert last summer when we received orders to cross the Mississippi. In our homeland we shot old horses when they could work no more. Here they shoot soldiers when they are worn out or no longer retain the right faith and act according to it. Ross Cranfield was one of the executioners. I was also detailed but was excused because I do not like that kind of work.

During recent days there has been much rain, but now it has cleared and is rather chilly. Nothing further this time.


E. R. Skimland from camp near La Grange, Texas, December 30, 1864, to "Dear friends C[arl] Questad and family."

I received your letter of November 20 on December 23. From it I learned that you were in good health, which pleased me very much. I can report that I, too, have been in good health all the time and that my brother Chnud has also recovered. I went to fetch my horse on the 14th of this month and then Chnud was very feeble. But, as I had two horses, he wished to try to go along to the camp. After I had gotten ahold of my horse, a terrible rainstorm broke loose . . . so we had to remain there more than five days. This helped him very much. I can also report that my horse has become well again. I had not expected that the cut would heal without showing more [132] than it does. As a matter of fact, I did not believe that the horse would ever become really well again, as I was unable to get a veterinarian for him.

I lived very well during the trip to Brenham, because wherever I stayed they were firm in the faith of a Southern victory. And I was not beneath damning both Lincoln and those whom he sent out to fight against us. So they believed that I was staunchly on their side, but if they had known what abode in my bosom, I would have had to pay. There are quite a few blockheads down here, and many are afraid to express their opinions to us soldiers. But if they only knew what was inside most of us, things would have been otherwise. Even though the soldiers generally are afraid of expressing their opinions to each other, we in our regiment speak what’s on our minds. There are very few among us who do not have one and the same idea, so they are not afraid to tell the officers what they think.

Things go well as long as we are here on the Colorado and move higher up whenever the camp is flooded. I have heard that you expect a battle at Brownsville. We are in hopes of going there, but there are no more than fifteen of us left in the whole regiment, because most of the men are home on furlough. But when all come back again, we must be off in one direction or another. I heard two months ago that B. Berg had been ordered to come down here, but I have not heard further whether he is coming. McCord does the best he can to keep his regiment together, but it appears that this is beyond his powers.

I have nothing particular to relate, because I believe you know quite as much as I do about happenings beyond the Mississippi. I heard that Sherman with a mass of men wanted to march through the state of Georgia, but the governor of Georgia called out 40,000 militiamen to stop him and a great number of troops from Charleston to cut his army up. They had stopped him, and the soldiers at Richmond were in better [133] spirits now than ever before . . . ready for anything except surrender.

I met a man from Galveston who said that the Yankees could be seen every day, and a number of them came in under a flag of truce to exchange money, to smuggle goods, and to acquaint themselves with things. He did not believe it would be long before they would enter for good, and there would not be much for them to take because there were only two regiments to offer resistance.

My dear Questad, if you were here you would get plenty of genuine tobacco. I have a full fifty pounds. In my last letter I asked for a pair of socks, but now I can inform you that I do not need them because I got a pair which Joseph sent me. I can say that I have everything I need for the time being. From your letter I learn that you had seen our horses recently and that they were in good shape. I was happy to hear this because I feared I would have the same luck there as I had here when my horse was crippled.

My good friend, I suppose it may strike you that I write too often for you to answer all my letters. But I shall not ask for replies to all of them, as I know that would be demanding too much. I write more to pass the time away than for anything else — even though I do like to receive letters.

All the Norwegians here send all of you greetings. We are living well, considering circumstances, and are in good health. We drill two hours per day; that’s about all we have to do. Nothing further to relate this time, so I will end my modest epistle with a sincere greeting.

My address is: Captain Lloyd’s Co. E, McCord’s Regiment, La Grange, Texas. Write if you have the opportunity.


Mrs. Elise Wærenskjold from Van Zandt, Texas, to "Mr. and Mrs. Questad," March 19, 1865.

As I am about to write you these lines, I will take the opportunity to send both of you my most sincere thanks for the great [134] kindness and courtesy you have shown both me and the children, and most especially my husband during his long and frequent visits in Bosque. It was a great comfort for me, during his long absence, to know that he was surrounded by so many dear friends who would do everything in their power to make his life pleasant. I next take the liberty of commending the bearers of this letter, Messrs. Schulz and Scholz, to your gracious hospitality for a day or so. They have been with us more than six weeks. Through the acquaintanceship I have thus had the opportunity of striking up with them, they have in an unusual degree won my respect and good will — especially Mr. Schulz, who is a very cultured and pleasant individual. He is a nobleman and a lieutenant in the Royal Prussian bodyguard, and I have no doubt at all that he is in every sense a man worthy of respect.

Please do not interpret me as implying that Scholz is less trustworthy. That is not my intention in the least, but he does not possess the breeding and the education of Mr. Schulz. They are en route to Mexico and intended to go by way of Waco, but at my instigation they will go through Bosque. They particularly love rye bread, and I have been bold enough to promise my German friends rye bread at your place, my dear Madam Questad. Will you be angry with me for thus imposing on your hospitality? I believe not, as I know of no one more hospitable than you.

Please greet Gønner Grann from me. I wonder if she will not find that Scholz resembles her brother. It would please me very much if she would write to me. Most sincerely I ask all our friends in Bosque — and especially you and your children — to accept a cordial greeting from me and my family.


J. M. C. Wærenskjold from Four Mile Prairie, Texas, March 20, 1865, to "Mr. C [art] Questad, dear friend."

As this excellent opportunity offers itself, I will take the liberty of sending you the following lines. [135]

In the first place, accept my sincere thanks for the hospitality and courtesy which you and your wife always have shown me during my visits at your home. With the hope that this letter will find you and your family in the best of health, I shall let you know how my family is getting along.

On my return home I had the pleasure of finding everything in good order and the farming in full swing. My wife had been fortunate enough to rehire for a year the Negro whom I had with me last fall. To be sure, I have to pay the high wages of $1,600 in the new issue, but then he is the most reliable Negro I know of. My wife has also hired a Negro woman and a little boy — the former to cook and do related jobs, the latter to tend the sheep. The grass is a bit farther advanced here at Four Mile than it was out your way, no doubt because of the spacious bottom lands found in this area. Presumably this also accounts for the fact that the livestock is somewhat better off than could be expected in view of the great number of cattle and sheep which keep the pasture in rather poor condition. On the other hand, the wheat hereabouts is far behind that in your area, which, I suppose, derives from the fact that it was sown a bit later, and — why not be honest about it? — more slovenly. Add to this our flat terrain and a deluge and you will come pretty close to the truth. My sheep have done exceptionally well, as we already have 110 lambs, and all of them seem to have both the desire and the strength to live.

There will soon be as many war rumors in circulation hereabouts as there were paper dollars last summer, and that is presumably the reason why they are so greatly depreciated. Apparently no one will accept them at face value. People demand a discount of 100 cents per dollar. As tidbits, I can offer you the following samplings. By some we are told that our Congress has declared the Negroes free, and that England, France, and Spain have recognized the Confederate states and have sent a fleet over to break the blockade — and God knows what else. But others, and these are in the majority, have the Yankees taking Richmond, Charleston, and Mobile. The whole [136] rigmarole is, of course, the brain-child of certain political hacks.

Since my return home my health has been very poor. I have been forced to see a doctor. I hope, however, to improve; if that happens, I will again have the pleasure of meeting my countrymen in Bosque — especially now that I have the necessary help. Then we can discuss further the "organ question."

If my pen were not so poor and the paper even poorer, I should have written much more. But as matters are, I will have to end my ramblings. Mr. S. Ørbæk is at present staying with us. He has not as yet begun any school and will probably not do so — at least not until he has been down at Bache’s mill to put some order into its tangled records. He asks me to greet you and your family as well as Mrs. Grann and Mr. Halien.

The bearer of this letter is a Yankee deserter. Anything else of interest I suppose you will garner from my wife’s letter. In the hope that you will excuse these lines, which I wrote at a gallop, I send most cordial greetings to you and your family, among whom I count your son-in-law, Mr. Olson, Mrs. Grann and Mr. Halien.


L [ars] Olson from camp near Houston, Texas, to Ole Ween, April 23, 1865.

Your letter, sent with Mr. Bazer and dated April 15, was received yesterday. From it I learn that you are in Bosque and in good health. I can report that the same is true of me and the other Norwegians, with the exception of Christopher Pederson who is a bit frail and has been for quite some time.

Our camping place is located five miles from Houston and only half a mile from the railroad leading to Millican. We have a bad place in which to camp because it is low-lying and covered with water everywhere. When it rains — as it does almost every day — we have here what in good Norwegian would be called a lortehaal (dunghole) . Life goes on as usual. We have received some clothes and are to receive more. Here in Houston [137] everything can be had as in normal times, if a person only has the money. Most trading is done with specie; consequently almost everything costs double its former price. The ratio between Confederate money and specie is fifty to one.

There are many regiments of dismounted cavalry down here, and it is said that a reorganization of the army is to take place. I have heard that the Frontier Regiment is here some place, and that it is dismounted, but I have not seen any of the men. I have, however, seen Ole Olson and Svend Olson, who are in our division. As regards news, I have nothing to report. The rumors from beyond the Mississippi are depressing. It seems that Old Abe is beginning to raise real hell with our people over there. Richmond has undoubtedly fallen and the Federal forces are advancing everywhere. It seems that an attack is expected on the coast of Texas. But it strikes me as reasonable that the Yankees would first attempt to clean up the Eastern states.

There must be a mistake regarding the request you say I made of you to lease my place. I cannot remember having made such a proposition. I have talked about selling, not leasing. I have absolutely nothing against leasing it to you and Ole Void. But in case of an unforeseen circumstance, such as I have mentioned, I would be no better off than if I had leased it to someone else. If those who are on the place should like to continue and work it as well as others, then I suppose it would be most reasonable to let them have it. But I do not want to enter into any contract in this connection, because I have left the matter to Charles [Carl] Questad. I will be entirely satisfied with whomever he may lease it to, in case I should keep the place. What I desired was to sell it and thus be free to go either right or left as chance might offer. . . . I shall here state the terms I have thought of offering you. If they do not meet with your approval, nothing has been lost. They are as follows: Carl Questad could sell you the place and give you the legal papers. We could then share ownership in proportion to the amount I have paid and what remains unpaid. . . . I do not care to write[138] about the reasons why I want to sell, but I suppose you have a hunch.

I wish all this uproar would come to an end, but I am afraid it will continue to drag on. Please write me concerning the matter discussed when you receive these lines. Nothing further this time.

A sincere greeting from your friend and countryman.


L[ars] Olson from Sandy Point, Bragoria [Brazoria] County, Texas, to C [arl] Questad, May 2, 1865.

As time and opportunity are available, I will take my pen and write you a few lines — not because I have anything new or interesting to relate, but in order to have something to do and to let you know that I am alive and doing well for an old man, considering the circumstances. We are all brisk and active except Pederson, who was left in the hospital at Houston.

We arrived at this place by rail day before yesterday — twenty-five miles below Houston — and we will stay here merely a day or two until we can secure cars to take us away. Practically all the cars have been sent to Dallas for flour. According to reports, we are to be sent to a place called Liverpool, twelve miles southeast of here. The terrain down here is very low and unfit for a campground. There is water almost everywhere, but the drinking water is poor, and there are mosquitoes by the thousands. I am also afraid that the locality is unhealthful. I can not imagine why they drag us down to these mudholes, unless they expect the arrival of blue coats. Very likely this will happen sooner or later unless peace is declared.

As for war news, I am unable to tell you anything which you presumably do not know already. The fall of Richmond, the surrender of General Lee’s army to General Grant, commanding officer of the Union forces, the assassination of President Lincoln: these are the latest apparently reliable reports we have received. General Magruder has strictly forbidden the [139] publishing of Federal news unfavorable to us. As usual on such occasions, it is now said that the fall of Richmond and the surrender of Lee’s army are no serious defeats for us because they were no longer of any importance. It appears to me that there soon will be peace, because — to ordinary people — the outcome of the war can no longer be in doubt. We might as well surrender now as later, but it does not seem as if our leaders are of this opinion. The fraud-mongering press shrieks louder than ever: we are to sacrifice the last man, woman, and child and everything else rather than surrender. Under such conditions, the war might still last a long time. But probably they are like the woodpeckers who screech before a storm. I should hope they will surrender, even this summer. I will not even begin to state my opinions about Confederate affairs, because language would fail to express what I would like to say.

In the Houston papers I see that the so-called "mass meetings" are held everywhere in the different brigades and divisions of the army. Supposedly they are summoned to discover how the soldiers feel and what their expectations for the future may be in view of the recent defeats we have suffered. And the results are proclaimed as follows: the soldiers in general want to sacrifice everything, their very dearest, and accept death rather than surrender or lose what our leaders call "liberty." How far this may be true of the vast majority, you know yourself! I was an eyewitness to one of these mass meetings in Harrison’s Brigade. It consisted of General Harrison as president and Adjutant Tally as secretary. Harrison made various motions, and to adopt them he had two officers along from his regiment. We had nothing to say in the matter. Then he appointed two officers from each regiment — men whom he knew to have the right faith — and these should then, in the name of God, make known the spirit of the men. It reminded me of monks in the Catholic church selling indulgences in the name of the pope. You can yourself guess what the result was. I forgot to tell that on this occasion Harrison delivered a fanatical speech in which, you can depend upon it, he gave us our [140] instructions. The following night, however, he did not dare retire without stationing guards around his quarters, as he feared that some of the infidels might wish to get at him. The next day reports about this mass meeting appeared in the Houston papers as everywhere else and that was something.

Cotton is exported from Galveston as in normal times. Just how this hangs together, I do not know. In Houston there is no lack of anything if a person only has specie, but consequently everything is expensive. Confederate money is practically dead. You are given two cents for a dollar, and even at that price you must beg and wheedle in order to get rid of it. All morning we have heard the roar of cannons from Galveston. Presumably they are celebrating good news or firing at blockade runners, or something along that line.

Previously I sent a request asking you to sell my place. I do not know whether you have received it. I have also written Ole Ween and told him on what conditions he can get it back. If he is not willing to accept those conditions, you can sell it to someone else if you can get anything at all for it. I have no more to write about this time and will therefore close with a sincere greeting to you and your family.

I wish you would write me when you receive this letter. I do not know exactly what my address will be, because first we have one brigade commander and then another. It might be best to address the letter thus: L. Olson, Co. B, 31st Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade, Maxi’s Division, via Houston.


Carl Questad from Clifton, Bosque County, Texas, May 19, 1865, to "Dear friend L [ars] Olson."

I have received your letter of May 2, from which I was glad to learn that you are enjoying good health and that you are getting along fairly well considering present circumstances. We are also in good health and are doing as well as can be expected during these times.

The last news that we have heard is that the armies of both [141] Lee and Johnston have capitulated, and that an armistice of sixty days has been arranged. If this proves to be correct, I hope that the misery will soon come to an end.

As regards the deal with Ween, he says that he will do whatever he can to serve you, but he prefers not to take the place back again. Since conditions have changed considerably of late, and there is a likelihood that you will soon return home to take care of your own affairs, I have decided not to do anything in the matter until I have again heard from you, since Ween has promised to await developments. If you are still of the same mind as formerly, I shall settle things as best I can.

I heard a vague rumor today that Kirby-Smith has been ordered to lay down his arms within twenty days. His headquarters are now in Waco. {24} Jens Stark was in Waco the other day, and he says the general opinion there is that the war is over. We expect to receive newspapers today. If the signs for peace should prove to be unfavorable, I will close the deal with Ween in accordance with your proposal without awaiting further instructions, as he is favorably inclined. Otherwise I will wait until I hear from you.

The outlook for a good wheat crop is at present very favorable. More wheat will be raised in our settlement this year than any time previously, unless some disaster should strike.

As I have nothing further of interest to write about, I will close with a cordial greeting to you and the other Norwegians.


<1> For discussions of the Texas settlements, see Theodore C. Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America, 1825—1860, 177—195 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1931); Carlton C. Qualey, Norwegian Settlement in the United States, 198-209 (Northfield, 1938); Rasmus B. Anderson, The First Chapter of Norwegian Immigration (1821—1840): Its Causes and Results, 370—395 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1896); The Norwegian Texans (San Antonio, 1970); Ingrid Semmingsen, Veien mot vest, 1:276—283 (Oslo, 1942).

<2> For additional information about Reiersen, see Theodore C. Blegen, "Johan Reinert Reiersen," in Dictionary of American Biography, 15:487; Lyder L. Unstad, "The First Norwegian Migration into Texas," in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 8:39—57 (Northfield, 1934); Derwood Johnson, "Reiersen’s Texas," in Norwegian-American Studies, 21:252—268 (1962); Einar Haugen, "J. R. Reiersen’s ‘Indiscretions,’" in Norwegian-American Studies, 21: 269-277; Theodore C. Blegen, Land of Their Choice, 118-134 (Minneapolis, 1955); C. A. Clausen, ed., The Lady with the Pen: Elise Wærenskjold in Texas, 157—162 (Northfield, 1961).

<3> Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America, 1825-1860, 182.

<4> For information about Mrs. Wærenskjold, see The Lady with the Pen, which contains a biographical introduction and a translation of her letters. The quotations in the text are found on pages 52 and 90. Selections from her letters, with a brief introduction, are also found in Blegen, Land of Their Choice, 321—350. Any history of Norwegian immigration discusses the work of Cleng Peerson. For specific biographical material, see Rasmus B. Anderson, Cleng Peerson og sluppen Restaurationen (Chicago, 1925); R. B. Anderson, "Kleng Peerson, The Father of Norwegian Immigration to America," in American-Scandinavian Review, 8:502—509 (July, 1920); Theodore C. Blegen, "Cleng Peerson and Norwegian Immigration," in Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 7:303—331 (March, 1921). Blegen also has a brief sketch of Peerson in Dictionary of American Biography, 14:390. The Peerson quotation in the text is from Blegen, Land of Their Choice, 353.

<5> Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America, 1825-1860, 186.

<6> The Lady with the Pen, 19—21.

<7> Qualey, Norwegian Settlement, 207.

<8> Mrs. Janie Grogard Blair to Derwood Johnson, January 8, 1971.

<9> The Norwegian Texans (San Antonio, Texas, 1970). The pages are not numbered. The quotation is found under the year 1860.

<10> William C. Pool, A History of Bosque County, Texas, 41 (San Marcos, Texas, 1954).

<11> Pool, History of Basque County, Texas, 42; The Norwegian Texans (for the year 1860). In early 1862, Dr. S. O. Himoe, field surgeon with "the Scandinavian Regiment" (the Fifteenth Wisconsin), reported that a major on his staff had been in contact with some thirty Norwegian-speaking Confederate prisoners. "All of them were determined to join our regiment; but we are unable to get them except through some long-drawn-out red-tape proceedings by the Department of War," in Waldemar Ager, Oberst Heg og hans gutter, 150, 151 (Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1916).

<12> For a spirited account of the part played by Texas in the Civil War, see Frank X. Tolbert, An Informal History of Texas: From Cabeza De Vaca to Temple Houston, 208, 209, 212, 213 (New York, 1951).

<13> E. Merton Coulter, The Confederate States of America, 1861—1865, 149—164 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1950).

<14> Tolbert, An Informal History of Texas, 212, 213.

<15> See a transcript of "The Family of Erik Swenson and Martha Questad," 42. This document is in the archives of the Norwegian-American Historical Association.

<16> See "Karl [Carl] Questad," in The Norwegian Texans.

<17> Gustav Vilhelm Belfrage (1834—1882) was a scion of prominent Swedish noble families. He studied at the Royal Swedish Institute of Forestry and became an entomologist. The later years of his life were spent in Texas, whence he sent back to the Royal Swedish Scientific Society in Stockholm large collections of insects.

<18> Elise Wærenskjold, The Lady with the Pen, 75 n.

<19> Major General Nathaniel P. Banks (1816—1894) was a prominent political figure from Massachusetts who served his state both in Congress and as governor.

<20> Colonel Joseph Warren Speight was a planter-lawyer from Waco, Texas, who was serving as brigade commander at the time the letter was written.

<21> General Richard Taylor (1826—1879), son of President Zachary Taylor, served in the Louisiana legislature before the Civil War. In 1863 and 1864, he was in charge of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi. He defeated General Banks at Sabine Crossroads in 1864. In May, 1865, he surrendered to the Union army.

<22> John Bankhead Magruder (1810—1871) was a Confederate major general who had served in the Mexican War. In October, 1862, he was put in command of the district of Texas, which was later enlarged to include New Mexico and Arizona. After the war, he fled to Mexico and joined the forces of the ill-starred Emperor Maximilian. After the emperor was executed in 1867, General Magruder returned to the United States.

<23> In July, 1864, General Kirby-Smith, commander of the trans-Mississippi department, received orders from General Braxton Bragg in Georgia to send Walker’s and Polignac’s divisions across the Mississippi. According to J. E. Harrison, the brigade commander, a good many men deserted. He said, ‘There has been a great deal of excitement in my brigade. I have lost 123 deserted, who won’t cross the River. There are many others who dislike it extremely." On August 22, Kirby-Smith suspended the attempt to take troops across because Union gunboats controlled the river and the morale of the troops had become seriously impaired. See Alwyn Barr, Polignac’s: Texas Brigade, 48, 49 (Texas Gulf Coast Historical Association, 1964).

<24> Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby-Smith (1824—1893) commanded Confederate soldiers west of the Mississippi from 1863 until the end of the war.

<<   Previous Page   |   Next Page   >>

To the Home Page