Monday, May 13, 2013

Military Monday ~ Iver Iverson – A U.S. Civil War Soldier from Norway

Iver Iverson's Pension File Pg. 1

I'd love to visit Norway someday.  That's where my paternal 2nd great-grandfather, Iver Iverson, was born - Marteplads, Nes, Buskerud, Norway, to be exact.  He was born on August 2, 1827 and passed away on January 1, 1895 in Glenwood, Pope, Minnesota.  His parents were Iver Stenersen and Guri Olsdatter.

Nesbyen, Nes, Buskerud, Norway
Nesbyen, Nes, Buskerud, Norway
Photo by John Erling Blad
Wikimedia Commons
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

Isn't Iver's birth country gorgeous?  It's just so picturesque.  If this photo (above) looks anything like where he lived, I have to wonder why Iver would have ever wanted to leave his beautiful homeland of Norway.  Please don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful Iver did decide to immigrate to the U.S.A so I could be born here.  But I've still wondered why he decided to emigrate from Norway.  What were the driving forces behind his decision to leave?

The following paragraph regarding economic difficulties in Norway could explain the reason why Iver and many other Norwegians left Norway.

The website "intro" states,1
"....In the last half of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, about 800,000 Norwegians emigrated to the USA.  Norway's economy was poor and it was difficult to find work.  Many people dreamed of starting a new life in the USA.  They had heard that there were many opportunities there.  Many people found life in this new country difficult at first, most did well."

The information I have states that Iver and his brother Ole immigrated to the United States in April of 1858, and that his parents and another brother, Christopher, immigrated in April of 1861.  I'd love to find proof of this someday.  Years ago, my paternal grandmother, Ingrid Anna (Gillberg) Iverson, hired a professional genealogist in Salt Lake City to research our Scandinavian roots.

Following the death of my Grandma Ingrid, my father, Jan Iverson, inherited her family history stuff.  My father was involved in researching his Norwegian and Swedish ancestry and for many years I've been researching my mom's ancestry.  Since my dad's death, I've felt the need to continue researching his ancestry as well.

The immigration dates I have for Iver, Ole, Christopher, and their parents are from my dad's records.  Perhaps he got this information from my Grandma Ingrid, who got this information from the professional genealogist.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate the professional genealogist's report or source materials regarding these immigration dates.  And so far, my research hasn't produced any immigration information for Iver, his brothers, or his parents.

I know that Iver immigrated to the United States before February 23, 1860, because on this date Iver married Marit Thorsdatter in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  In the United States, Marit went by Mary, as you see her name listed as Iver's widow in the pension file page above.

Four years after Mary and Iver were married, Iver enlisted in the U.S. Civil War.  By then, Iver and Mary had one child and another one on the way.

Iver's enlistment date was February 19, 1864He was involved in the Siege of Spanish Fort and Battle of Fort Blakely, Mobile.  He was transferred to the 34th Iowa Infantry on July 12, 1865. Iver was honorably discharged on August 15, 1865.

By the time Iver enlisted, the war had been going on for three long years already.  I have some questions. 

  • Assuming that Iver's immigration date of April 1858 is correct, what were Iver's thoughts and feelings when the war started only three short years after Iver arrived in the U.S.A.?
  • How well did Iver speak English by the time he enlisted in the war?
  • What was his citizenship status when he enlisted?

I can't help but wonder if Iver ever longed for the beautiful scenery of Norway as he faced horrific and terrifying scenes like this during the Civil War.

Battle of Fort Blakely
Battle of Fort Blakely
Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain

I'm grateful for Iver's service.  He suffered long-term health problems from his service in the Civil War.  I'm also grateful that he stayed in the United States after the Civil War ended so his many descendants, myself included, could enjoy the blessings of living in the United States.

I have Iver's Civil War pension file, which is very interesting.  I will be sharing information from it in future posts.

Thanks for reading!


© 2013 Copyright by Jana Last

1 "Norwegian History: Immigration and Emigration." Norwegian History: Immigration and Emigration. Intro Student Book. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.


  1. I wondered the same thing - why did Iver join the volunteer infantry? My guess is he must have been thoroughly involved in his community and he followed his neighbors into service. He must have lived among very patriotic folks who thought it their duty and obligation as citizens. Were most of his neighbors Norwegian? (I'm picturing the Ingalls and Olesons.)

    1. Given that Iverson left Norway for financial reasons, he may have enlisted for the same reason. Union recruiters toured Europe and offered bonuses to men who enlisted. Some like immigrant Joseph Pulitzer, who would become a famous newspaper publisher after the war, took a bonus plus travel to the U.S., then enlisted again after arriving, thus taking two bonuses.

    2. Hi Wendy,

      You pose an interesting hypothesis regarding why Iver enlisted. I hadn't thought of that. I've also wondered if he couldn't enlist until he spoke English well enough, which happened to be three years after the Civil War started.

      The 1880 Federal Census shows that his neighbors or their parents were mostly from Norway or Sweden.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    3. Hi Ralph,

      I'm not sure if Iver actually left Norway for financial reasons or not. That's just a possibility according to the article I quoted in my blog post.

      Thanks for the information about Union recruiters touring Europe to try and find enlistees. I wasn't aware of this. How interesting!

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  2. Great piece of history you have there and such a great place to come form. I hope you get to visit.

    1. Hi Bill,

      Oh, I hope I get to visit Norway too someday! That would be amazing!

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comment!

  3. So many of the men who fought in the Civil War had health problems for the rest of their lives. I can only imagine how hard it was for Iver to fight for his new country while he, potentially, didn't speak the language well. I'm anxious to hear more about what you learn from his pension file.

    1. Hi Debi,

      Yes, you are so right about the veterans of the Civil War having health problems for the rest of their lives. I've seen that in at least three of the Civil War pension files I have for my family now.

      Regarding Iver speaking English well enough to serve, I wonder if that's why he didn't enlist earlier.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comments!

  4. You may find more than you think in that pension file, Jana.I'll look forward to hearing more of what you find.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      So far, I haven't found immigration or naturalization information in Iver's pension file. (Sigh) That would have been so awesome if I had.

      The information I have found is kind of sad though about Iver's physical health and financial situation.

      Thank you for stopping by and for your comments!

  5. I am with you---glad to live in the US, but at the same time, as I look at that picture of Norway, I think it had to be very hard for them to leave not only because of its beauty, but also undoubtedly because they left family and friends. I think the "push and the pull" must have been very strong for him to leave such a place.

    Whenever I come across evidence of hardships that the immigrants faced after they arrived, such as participation in a war (and most seemed to have faced some type of hardship), I always wonder if they had any regrets. I know they came with high hopes and expectations for a new life. I have started feeling a little like a 2 year old at times because I seem to ask why a lot. There's always one more question in family history isn't there?

    Like Debi, I would love to know what you learn from his pension file.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Yes, it must have been terribly difficult to leave family and friends back in Norway. I can't even imagine that.

      Just imagine the shock of coming to a new country and having a war break out. That must have been extremely difficult for them. Not only were these new immigrants getting used to a different culture, a new language, and trying to find a way to support themselves, but then their new country was plunged into a war. How frightening that must have been.

      I think it's important that we genealogists do ask "Why?" a lot. That one word can lead to future discoveries.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your thoughtful comments!

  6. My Civil War ancestors were all native born Americans whose families had been in this country for generations. It is so interesting to hear of your Norway ancestors service. I had never stopped to think that some that served were new immigrants.
    Great questions too. I tend to make a list of questions when I look at the lives of those I am researching. It helps me to focus and try to understand what is going on in their lives.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Cheri,

      I can't even imagine how scary it must have been for Iver and other new immigrants to move to a new country and be faced with the prospect of fighting in a war. How overwhelming this must have been for them.

      Making a list of questions for our ancestors is a great idea.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comments!

  7. What a "welcome" to America -- three years after Iver gets here, and the huge Civil War starts. I'm relieved for him that he didn't enlist until February of 1894. By then, the War had only about a year to go. And it sounds as if he wasn't taken into any prison camps -- lucky again. I'm assuming he enlisted for the Union and perhaps came through New York? I look forward to reading his pension files, to see what else happened to him.

    Are Norwegian records as thorough and well-organized as Danish records? I was thinking they might be. I've been learning about Danish records from @Sallyonthego

    1. Hi Mariann,

      Yes, facing the Civil War was not the best of "welcomes" for Iver or other immigrants was it? How frightening this must have been for them.

      Yes, Iver enlisted for the Union side and was with the 21st Iowa Volunteer Infantry most of the time he served.

      I'm not familiar with Danish records, so I'm afraid I can't answer your question. And I'm still a novice when it comes to Norwegian records for that matter as well. My dad was the one who was researching our Scandinavian ancestry. I've been focusing on my mom's ancestry. Now that my dad has passed away, I need to pick up the baton and get going on researching our Norwegian and Swedish lines.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comments! I appreciate it!




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