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The Letters of Mons H. Grinager: Pioneer Soldier {1}
    collected by Per Hvamstad (Volume 24: Page 29)

The Norwegian-American Historical Association and other institutions and individuals in the United States and Norway have published large collections of old America letters. People early realized that these letters would be of great interest to later generations and that it was urgent to preserve them. Not only are they of value to historians but it is plain that they were of great importance to those who received them. More than any other factor the letters served to give relatives and friends in Norway information about the unknown but promised land in the West. Thus they contributed greatly to the swelling of the emigrant stream, because through them people learned how their countrymen were faring in the New World. The letters of Mons Hansen Grinager are no exceptions. They are important historical sources, and we can gather from the contents that the [30] writer intended them to be read by both family and acquaintances. If there were matters of a personal nature, he would write two letters, one of a more general and another of a more private character. Therefore we occasionally have double letters in this collection. {2}

It is a pleasure to be able to publish so many America letters from one person, and their value is augmented by the fact that they are — to the best of our knowledge — one of the first collections to come out of Hadeland. This district, located in eastern Norway not far north of Christiania (Oslo), was, as it is now, a typical agrarian community. From there and from other eastern areas, many emigrants set forth. In the communities were numerous cotters, most of whom found it impossible to eke out a decent living. Consequently they had to leave, and with them went many farmers’ sons as well. Unless the young men inherited land or were fortunate enough to acquire a farm and home through marriage, no promising opportunities awaited them. Mons Grinager was one of these farmers’ sons who emigrated.

The following letters were written between 1853, the year Mons left home, and 1863, when as a Civil War captain he was relaxing in his tent getting ready for action. Unfortunately, only the first pages of this letter have been preserved. The collection covers only ten years, but they are well covered. And these are interesting years in the life of an immigrant — a period of groping and gradual adjustment to strange ways and environs. We are told how Mons, as a twenty-year-old lad, leaves the old home; how he meets the challenge of life in the new land; how he finds himself a help-meet and sets up his own household; and, finally, how he enlists in the Fifteenth Wisconsin, "the Scandinavian regiment," and assumes the responsibilities of an officer. As the letters speak for themselves, we need not say any more about their content. It might be of interest, however, to take a [31] closer look at the author’s childhood, youth, and old age, even though the biographical material is rather meager.

Mons Grinager was born October 7, 1832, on a farm called South Grinager in Tingelstad Parish, Hadeland, to Hans Pedersen Grinager and his wife Marthe. Besides being a farmer, the father also served as warden in a nearby stave church. {3} The mother, widowed at an early age, was left with six children. Mons, the youngest, was only a couple of years old when his father died. The other children were named Peder, Maria, Hans, Anne, and Thorstein.

Peder, the oldest brother, took over the farm after his mother. It was one of the largest farms in the neighborhood, but during the hard times of the 1880’s things went wrong, and Peder Grinager, with a large family, migrated to America where many of his descendants still live. Maria married J. J. Aschim who had inherited his ancestral farm known as West Grinager. It was on this farm, by the way, that Mons’s letters were found; Maria’s descendants are still living there. Hans Grinager was one of the founders of a local distillery and served as its manager for a long time; he remained a bachelor. Sister Anne married John Daehlen Hilden from the same parish; they migrated to Minnesota and had many children. Thorstein, who married Kjersti Egge, took over the Egge farm, not far from Grinager, where their descendants are living.

We know very little about Mons’s childhood years on Grinager, but this was one of the largest farms in the area. Even though the mother early became a widow, the family was comparatively well off. We have no specific details about the schooling the children were given, but, judging from the letters, we may conclude that Mons received as thorough an education as was possible in the parish at that time. The church book for the period 1842-1856 records that he [32] emigrated on April 5, 1853, and in his first letter he states that he left Christiania later that month.

His first ten years in America are dealt with extensively in the letters, but it is worthy of mention that during that time he married Anne Egge. She was born in 1836 in Brandbu, Hadeland, and she had a brother named Anders. Her father, Anders Egge, had emigrated in 1852. Anne’s mother had died previously, but the father had married again and with his second wife, Helene, had two children. This group of six left Hadeland with America as their destination. During the voyage the father was attacked by cholera and died either aboard ship or immediately after arrival in Wisconsin. Helene now found herself alone with the four children. She did, however, have a sister who was married to Hans Eggebraaten, also from Hadeland, who lived in Glenwood Township, Winneshiek County, Iowa. To them the newcomers went. Erik P. Egge, another native of Hadeland, had also come to the same neighborhood. He married Helene, and they built themselves a home in the new land — a simple log cabin far out on the prairie. It was here that the first Norwegian minister west of the Mississippi, Ulrich Vilheim Koren, lived for a time, sharing humble quarters with the Egge family, as is related in Mrs. Koren’s charming diary from this period. {4}

Erik Egge was both farmer and carpenter. Mons worked for him a while and thus met Anne Egge, his future wife. In 1854 he moved to Decorah, Iowa, where he was engaged in business for three or four years. In 1859 he moved to Freeborn County, Minnesota, and there he was engaged in farming. The Mons Grinagers had a large family and now have descendants scattered widely across the country. Among the children, Alexander and Norman especially distinguished themselves. Alexander was a prominent painter, specializing [33] in landscapes and portraits, while Norman, who was in the banking business, became well known as a singer. {5}

As indicated by the last letter below, Mons H. Grinager enlisted in February, 1862, and served in the Civil War with the Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment. This letter, regrettably incomplete, carries Captain Grinager to the evening before his company engaged in an expedition against Rebel forces at Union City, Tennessee.

In his history of the Scandinavian regiment, John A. Johnson, who knew Mons Grinager well, gives further details of the captain’s service through the battles of the Civil War. Writing after the war’s end, Johnson paid tribute to Grinager’s conspicuous service to the Union cause and to his admirable personal qualities. Johnson wrote: "Captain Grinager . . . because of his untiring efforts and his constant attention to duties . . . became one of the ablest officers in the regiment. He is a man of unquenchable heroism who will go through fire and water in order to carry out orders. In the battle of Stone River he was badly wounded in one leg, but, with blood streaming from the wound, he continued to reunite his company, which had been badly dispersed by enemy fire. At last, however, he was induced to join the rear troops, but he had not gone many steps before he sank to the ground exhausted and nearly unconscious from loss of blood. He was then sent to the hospital, but as it was captured by the enemy the next day, he was taken prisoner and remained in their hands until they fled Murfreesboro. He escaped being carried away by crawling into a secluded room where he hid as well as he could. He suffered much because of lack of food and care, but felt more than rewarded for his sufferings when he discovered that the beloved Stars and Stripes was again waving in the breeze.

"He was then given furlough until his wound healed, when he again joined his regiment and served faithfully until it was [34] dissolved, except for the winter 1864, when he went home on a recruiting commission. Grinager is one of nature’s gentlemen who loves a good time — always gay and friendly in conversation with his companions. He is a man of high principles and uprightness in all his dealings — a man who can never do enough for a friend but also a man who does not easily forget an enemy." {6}

At the close of the war, Grinager returned to his home in Minnesota. He evidently became well-to-do, for it is said that he acquired several farms, "had commercial relations in Dakota," and was vice-president of the Scandia Bank in Minneapolis. Nevertheless, he had time to take an active part in public affairs. Thus he was revenue assessor of the first Minnesota congressional district for several years, and he rose to considerable prominence in the Republican party. In 1873 he was a candidate for state treasurer, but suffered defeat. The next year President Grant appointed him head of the United States land office in Worthington, Minnesota, a position he held until 1882. For several years he served as vice-president of the Republican national league of Minnesota, and in 1888 he was one of the presidential electors from his state. {7} Needless to say, he cast his vote for Benjamin Harrison and Levi P. Morton.

Mons and Anne Grinager visited their homeland in 1885; the next year they settled in Minneapolis. There he died in 1889; Anne lived on until about 1910.

Those who knew Grinager spoke of him with great respect. The letters reveal an unusual individual. He was only twenty when he migrated, a fact that should be kept very clearly in mind when we read the letters, especially the first one. Even there the style and the spirit suggest a mature person despite his years.

Grinager and his wife created a good home and a fine environment, not only for their own family, but also for [35] numerous immigrants who came to them for help and advice. Many relatives from Hadeland who migrated to America found their first home with "Uncle" and "Aunt," Mons and Anne.


Mons H. Grinager, from Hanenchreech [Honey Creek], Wisconsin, August 25, 1853, to "My dearly beloved mother and brothers and sisters."

Since, with God’s great assistance, I have arrived in this far-distant land, I must take pen in hand because I know that you long to hear from me. First I will tell a bit about how things went on this long journey of ours. We left Christiania on April 10 [?]. {8} But because of a calm we stayed one night each at Hundøien and at Drøbak. We passed Færder lighthouse the evening of the 21st [of April] and got out into the North Sea. Because the wind was southerly, our captain chose to go north of Scotland instead of passing through the British Channel. On the 22nd, Bededagen, we sailed along the Arendal coast with favorable wind and before evening fell we had lost sight of Lindesnæs, the southernmost point of our beloved homeland. {9} The only thing we saw were sea and sky and a number of sailboats, which made a beautiful sight on the water.

We had fair wind but seasickness was already prevalent. I, however, escaped it entirely. I early got on good terms with the captain, and, as conditions were unhealthy and unclean in the passenger quarters, two of my companions and I got beds in the same cabin as the sailors, all of whom were reliable fellows. Thus I was as comfortable as I could ever wish to be. On the 26th we sighted land, namely the Orkneys near Scotland. But then contrary winds set in and we had to tack [36] for a couple of days before we got into the vast Atlantic. On the 28th the wind was favorable and we lost sight of the Orkneys. Now the scene was somewhat monotonous. We did not see any sailboats, but life was not dreary — all sorts of sports and entertainments were permitted. Whenever wind and weather were favorable — which frequently occurred — we danced on deck. This was not always the best dance floor, however, because at times the ship careened so sharply that chests and humans tumbled about helter-skelter. We were occupied all the time, either helping the sailors with odd jobs or reading and singing. Every Sunday there was religious service on deck.

On May 14 — Pentecost Eve — we again sighted sailboats as we were nearing the Newfoundland Banks. To celebrate, the captain gave each passenger a glass of punch. I spent the first and second Pentecostal days very pleasantly: I was invited by the captain to eat dinner with him and he told me about his life — all his journeys and the dangers and difficulties he had encountered during these crossings. It was all very interesting. On the 17th we reached the Newfoundland Banks. The next day the wind was calm, and in two hours and a half the captain caught so many fish that he could feed the 260 passengers. The morning of the 24th we saw land on both sides: Newfoundland on the left and the American mainland on the right. The same day we entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is 100 English miles long, but for ten miles it was so narrow that we saw land on either hand. It was a very beautiful passage. There were cultivated lands on both sides and the fields sloped down to the water’s edge. The soil was as fine and well cultivated as the most beautiful gardens in Norway. The farm houses lay side by side as if along a street. {10}

On June 3rd, we anchored at Quebec, a large but not very [37] beautiful city. The captain helped us obtain money in exchange for our Norwegian bills and also to draw up contracts for the trip to Milwaukee. We left Quebec by steamboat on the 7th and reached a place called Montreal on the 8th. There we transferred to another steamer which passed through some 16 to 20 sluices. On the 9th we reached Sjarbrogh and there we parted with our captain. {11} During the entire crossing he had done everything possible for the comfort of the passengers, and so we said a touching farewell to him. Here, too, we changed boats, and now our problems became much worse than before because we had no interpreter. On the 10th we changed our mode of travel once more and went by carriage (vognskyds) some six and a half miles (about one Norwegian mile), coming very close to Niagara, the world’s greatest waterfall. We spent the night under open sky. As we were only two English miles from the falls and the train was not to leave until 8:00 o’clock the next morning, some of us went to see it. We were not sorry that we did. It was interesting indeed to see such an immense mass of water plunge into the tremendous abyss. It formed a cloud of mist which could be seen five or six miles away.

We left Niagara by rail on the 11th and reached Buffalo in about an hour. There all our baggage was weighed. We could carry 100 pounds free but had to pay sixty cents for every extra 100 pounds, a cent being about equal to a Norwegian skilling. That afternoon we left Buffalo by steamer on Lake Erie and next day reached Detroit, where we remained over night. On the 13th we left by rail for Chicago; we arrived the following afternoon. We stayed until the 15th and then took boat on Lake Michigan for Milwaukee, reaching there after midday. The fare from Quebec to Milwaukee was eight dollars for adults; children went for half fare. In Milwaukee, however, we had to pay pier toll (brygepenger) of two to four dollars for our baggage. If only we had had an [38] interpreter, we would have escaped all this. We obtained lodging in the city with a Norwegian named Pettersen.

Now the toughest part of our strenuous journey was behind us. During the whole trip God had held his hand over us and protected us against all possible misfortunes. The number that disembarked in America was one less than had boarded ship in Norway: a child had been born at sea, but two persons had died during the passage. Life on the ocean was hard for those who had families, and, without an interpreter, especially trying from Quebec to Milwaukee. A British company was in charge of the passage all the way, and so we went on through tickets. At times we were not treated like human beings. For a single person, however, the difficulties were a small matter compared with what we were able to see and all the gayety and amusements we enjoyed during the long trip. Like a flock of sheep without a shepherd, however, we had to part company — some going here, some going there. Most likely very few of us will ever meet again on this earth.

Mikkel Dahl soon met me in Milwaukee and took my luggage to his home. He lives 21 English miles from Milwaukee, in a Norwegian settlement called Muskego. Erik Mahler and others from Hadeland accompanied us. We arrived at Dahl’s on the 17th, and there I remained a week and a half resting up after the long journey. My intention was to proceed farther, but I happened to talk with Ole Gulbrandsen Grinager-Stokket, who has been working for an American farmer ever since coming here. He can both speak and read English fluently. As his employer needed another man during the summer, I decided to accept the job. In this way I will have a good opportunity to become acquainted with the language. {12} [39]

The farmer lives about twelve English miles from Mikkel’s place. Our post office is called Hanachreck [Honey Creek]. I arrived on June 27, thus ending this extremely long trip. My intention is to stay here until fall, having hired out for four months at $10 per month. These are poor wages for the summer season, but those who do not understand the language are not well paid by the Americans. Furthermore, a newcomer knows almost as little about the methods of work as he does about the language. Everything here is done so quickly and with such effective implements that it is quite astounding. The going wage for a man who knows the language ranges from $15 to $18 per month. But then a person has to work at a different tempo than in Norway. I have now been employed two months and I am extremely well pleased. People are exceptionally kind. I believe there are very few people who are as good Christians and live in such harmony as do the American farmers. There is no class distinction here. No matter how poor a person may be he is still honored and respected as highly as are the rich if he lives decently and is willing to work. Only the drones are looked down upon by the Americans. We can work with real enthusiasm because we are well paid for our toil. Furthermore, since both priest and judge work as diligently as the common man, a person cannot feel humiliated by being classified as a laborer.

It might seem impossible for a farmer to get along in America, because he has to pay so much for labor. Still it is much easier in this country than in Norway. What the farmers primarily sell is wheat, Indian corn, and oats. To be sure, the price is not high, but they produce such an abundance that it still brings in lots of money. Cattle raising is the most profitable undertaking because livestock brings an extremely high price, but hay is very cheap. A yoke of good oxen may cost from $50 to $80 and a cow from $15 to $28, but the price formerly was not so high. Three laborers can manage as large a farm as eight or ten men in Norway, everything being done so quickly. Americans do not cultivate the soil [40] more than half as thoroughly as Europeans, because crops grow so luxuriantly. In this country they pay their officials little or nothing, and poverty is absolutely unknown. My observations thus far have been limited, but everyone I have talked with agrees about these matters. Among those who have been here a while, I have not met anyone who wishes himself back in Norway. If a person desires to rent a farm, he can do so by merely working during the summer. The owner provides the seed and receives half the crop in the fall.

I have visited Hans Skari, who lives about six miles from Muskego in an area called Yorkville. He sent word to me when he heard I had arrived and said I could stay with him if I so desired. Unless there are better opportunities among the Americans, I wish to stay with him and will accept his offer through next winter, because then I want to attend school in order to master the language all the more quickly. That does not take as long as you might imagine. If a person stays uninterruptedly among Americans for half a year or a year, he can get along well. School is free for anyone who wishes to attend, except that he must provide himself with board. The farmers pay for the schoolhouse, but the teacher is paid by the state.

Hans Skari built a new, very comfortable house last year. Dwellings are not constructed here as in Norway. The studdings (stolpeværk) are put up first and then the outer walls, after which the inside of the house is plastered. Hans has bought 120 acres of cultivated land, and he and his family are in good health and are well pleased with having come to America.

I cannot discuss the quality of the soil, because I have had so little opportunity to examine it. The land is usually level with only occasional elevations. Where it has not been cleared, it is covered with forests of giant oaks. But there are some areas we call "prairies"— vast plains bare of trees.

In the Norwegian settlements the houses are still poor, but this situation will improve with time. Immigrants usually [41] have just a small dwelling place and a stable or shed for the animals. Hay and wheat are put up in stacks; wheat is threshed in the fall with machines. I have helped with threshing a couple of days and the work goes unbelievably fast, as much as 100 tønde being threshed per day. {13} The machine is powered by eight horses and is tended by a crew of eight or ten men. It prepares the wheat for immediate sale, and it is hauled from one farm to the next on two wagons.

There is a great difference between the climate here and that back home. From late July to the present, we have had almost intolerable heat. And it seems to me that the air is not as pure as in Norway, but it is said to be better farther west. The sun mounts much higher here, and our days are shorter in the summer and longer in the winter than they are in the old country. On June 24th the sun rises at 4: 00 or 4:30 A.M. and sets at 7:30 P.M. At that time the nights are just as dark as during the fall in Norway. On December 24th the sun rises at 7:00 A.M. and sets at 3:30 P.M. There is a time difference of six hours between here and Norway. When it is 12 o’clock noon here it is 6 o’clock in the evening back home. The distance from Norway to Wisconsin is said to equal one fourth of the earth’s circumference.

There are many religious sects in America, every man having free choice. A Norwegian church has been built in Muskego and Pastor H. A. Stub from Norway preaches every Sunday. We are about one and a half Norwegian miles from the church. Ole and I are given a horse to go to it. But even the Norwegians are not able to unite religiously. A group of the so-called Haugianere (Haugeans) or læsere (readers) have built a church close to the first one and hold services every Sunday, the members taking turns preaching. {14}

Thus far this summer there has been little sickness. I have [42] not heard of anyone dying from a contagious disease. But cholera has at times been rampant in Muskego, which is said to be an unhealthful area. It seldom has serious results among Americans. They are so careful in every respect and have such cleanly habits that it is past all belief for those who have not witnessed their way of living. Furthermore, their food is of a kind that does not easily cause sickness. I know that many have written home about this matter and that people there have found it impossible to believe that anyone lived this way every day. But it is no lie. No kind of soup is used among the Americans. Neither do they drink coffee. They prefer tea, which is used with every meal, and pure, cold water is their main drink. They have wells up to a hundred feet deep and the water is always cold. But the Norwegians, who usually have little to start with and must buy many things, do not possess the means to have such wells. They take water from wells a few alen deep; during the summer it is warm and unhealthful and is a major cause of disease. {15} It usually happens that newcomers who stay in Norwegian settlements become sick, but after having been here a while they are quite free of this trouble.

Many articles are expensive here. An ordinary wagon, for instance, may run to sixty dollars. But it is almost twice as large as a Norwegian one and is of a different shape. In it heavy loads can be hauled because the land everywhere is so level. Horses do not cost much more than in Norway. You can buy a rather good sturdy horse for one hundred dollars. Quite a number of things are just as cheap as they are back home because practically everything is factory made — and well made at that. It is unwise to bring goods along from Norway because they are not practical here, and it is expensive to freight them up through the country. Furthermore, they cause a lot of trouble during the trip and usually are ruined before they get here. Chests should not be more than 1 1/2 by 1 by 1 alen, and they should be well reinforced with [43] iron bands. When they are brought inland from Quebec or New York, they are treated so roughly at the many changes — hurriedly made in minutes — that it is quite incredible.

A person ought to set out for this country as early as possible in the spring. That is best in every respect. If one does not get here until August, the heat is so intense that he is likely to become sick. Besides, that is also the harvest season for wheat — demanding the hardest work of the whole year. It is tough to begin such labor directly after the trip during which one has done nothing for a long time.

The harvest is now drawing to a close. Farmers do not reap with a sickle here, but mow with an implement something like a scythe. Attached to the handle are long fingers which gather the straw as cleanly as if it had been cut with a sickle. A man can cut three or four decares per day, and a worker can bind as fast as one can mow. In a day two men can finish from 12 to 18 Norwegian maal with a good average stand of wheat. {16}

For those with families, I think it would be best to travel by way of New York, as there are fewer changes along that route. Thus they will avoid a lot of misery. For single persons, it makes little difference; for them it is merely a pleasure trip if God grants them good health.

Looking toward the future, it is plain that America has much more to offer than Norway. I think a person starting with nothing has as good prospects here as one in Norway starting with several hundred dollars — granting that he keeps in good health and vigor. I believe that many of those who have poor prospects in Norway would do well to come over — especially single people. Those who get married before they migrate will not reap as great benefits as the unmarried, because they will tend to stay with Norwegians, among whom they will learn very little. Even if one has lots of money when [44] he arrives, it will be wise, before acquiring land, to work for an American a year and thus to learn the language and ways of doing things. I have noticed that it is quite possible to return to Norway without financial loss if a person stays here a while. And he will be fully rewarded for any hardships and loss of time by all that he learns and observes. I believe this to be the best possible school for learning about agriculture, and I believe that I chose wisely when I followed the urge to get out into the world. But, of course, I have experienced little or nothing as yet.

There were many at home who thought there was something dishonorable about going to America. This is a mistaken idea. Many of my comrades expressed a desire to emigrate. I will advise them neither one way nor the other. This is a matter which they themselves must weigh carefully before reaching a decision, and once the decision is made they must stick to it. It is impossible to advise someone else, but if a person is fully determined to leave, he should not allow anyone to persuade him to remain at home. On my trip over many people became discouraged when things went a bit against them. Then they wished themselves home again. But those who have a bit of common sense will consider such matters before leaving and be prepared to take the bad with the good.

I must end my simple scribbling. God be praised, I am feeling fine — as I have been all the time — and I am well pleased with my new situation. God grant that these lines will find all of you in good health and vigor. Such would be the most welcome news for me from my distant native land. You must write me when you receive this message. Address your letter as follows: Mr. Mons Hansen Grinager, Hanychreek [Honey Creek] P.O., Ruseen [Racine] Conty [County], Weesconsen [Wisconsin], North Americken [North America]. Greet all my relatives and acquaintances — but first and last greet my beloved mother, brothers and sisters from their far distant but always devoted son and brother. [45]


Mons Grinager from Honey Creek, Wisconsin, to his brother Hans, Hadeland, Norway, January 24, 1854.

Your letter of October 20 has reached me directly, and it pleases me immensely to learn that all of you are hale and hearty. I can report the same: I am still in good health — for which God be praised — and in other respects, too, I am feeling fine.

You ask me concerning the fare from Norway to Wisconsin. I have talked with several people who have taken the route referred to in your letter, but they have not received good treatment during the journey. They say that the trip from Norway to England and overland to Liverpool is very pleasant, travel by rail being extremely rapid. But there one is forced to buy provisions at high prices knowing that food supplies aboard ship will be far from sufficient and of poor quality. Consequently I have not heard anyone recommend this route. I believe, however, that a person could bring along provisions from home — there being no charge for extra luggage — and thus make the trip via Liverpool considerably easier. This route is rather speedy, but it is more expensive than the other, and one would learn little of the [American] language by mixing with Englishmen. {17} It is, of course, impossible to tell how long it will take to cross from Liverpool to America by sailboat, that being dependent on favorable or unfavorable winds.

If you are preparing to come over, you must obtain good chests, well reinforced with iron and not too large. You may bring along homespun clothing because the winters are, at times, very cold. Linen clothing is cheaper here than at home. In providing food for the journey, it is well to take lots of beef but little pork, as the latter is more likely to cause seasickness. Be sure to come on a good ship which is not [46] overcrowded with passengers. Choose a bed near the middle of the ship, where there is least motion. Take care always to dress warmly at sea, for the air is raw and quite cold. Stay on deck as much as possible, as conditions in the cabins are not always sanitary. I remained on deck from early morning until evening, in good weather or bad, and I was not troubled by either seasickness or other ailments.

As for the much discussed Elias Stangeland and the company which sends passengers from Quebec or New York to Milwaukee, I do not know whether I ought to recommend him. {18} I know him personally because he runs a country store in this neighborhood. Several times he has asked me, when I write home, to advise everyone who is coming over to enter into contract with him. It is true that many of his clients had good passage last summer, and you cannot get it cheaper anywhere else. Norwegian papers circulate here and I notice that a great deal is written about him. So far as I can conclude, he is not a dependable person. He says that love of humanity caused him to go to Norway to help his countrymen, but I suspect that he acted more in his own behalf. He is well paid by the company that transports the passengers, the rate being one dollar per person. People think that he made from $1,300 to $1,500 last summer in this emigrant business. Those who contract with him must pay Pastor Halling in Christiania one dollar, and the rest when they reach Quebec or New York. All luggage and other expenses are included in the total charge. According to reports, there is nothing to Ole Bull’s colony. People who have been there have left because they received no pay for their work. {19}

I can report that I have been at the same place ever since I arrived here. I worked until eight days before Christmas. Since then I have attended school and expect to continue [47] until March. The schooling costs me nothing except the time I spend there. It begins at 9: 00 A.M. and lasts until 5 P.M. I work a bit in the morning to pay for my board.

During the Christmas season, I went west to a town called Janesville, where Hansen, the carpenter, and Christian Grinagershagen live. I found both in good health. They work in a shop and never earn less than $1.50 per day on a piecework basis. Hansen has rented a fine house, and so they are quite comfortable. Janesville is about fifty English miles from here. I went by rail forty miles, paying one speciedollar and 55 shillings. {20} Next spring I intend to go there to stay and will possibly work in a shop.

You wish to hear how N.N. is getting along, and I have not forgotten that I promised to let his parents know how he is doing. But as I had no information when I last wrote, I had to let the matter rest. When I heard that Anders Røsum once worked with N.N., I wrote to him. He said that they had had a job together at $18.00 per month. N.N. stayed for four months but owed the employer when he quit. That was last winter and since then Røsum has neither seen him nor heard anything from him. N.N. has been as unsteady here as he was in Norway, but I have not heard anything about his committing any crime.

Now you must write me without delay. I will not leave this place until I receive a letter from you stating whether or not you are coming. It would be a great joy to me if you should choose to come — a move which I also believe would be the best for you. And please let me know what is happening in my beloved native valley. The most trivial detail is utterly dear to me.

Please greet all my relatives, friends, and comrades from me. I am in good health and am feeling fine. But first and [48] last, greetings go to my mother, you, and my other brothers and sisters.


Mons Grinager from Honey Creek to his brother Hans in Norway, January 24, 1854.

N.N. has several times begged me to grant his mother fifty dollars from the sum I have in Norway. He wants to give her this for her support, promising to pay me here. I must therefore ask you to be kind enough to hand her the said sum. To be sure, I do not need the money at present. But if ever I should want to use it, I would not lose anything then by accepting a bank draft; neither would there be any risk connected with this transaction. Since I may as well use the money here as have it on deposit at home, it makes no difference to me. Unless I am mistaken, the note provides that the money shall be turned over to you in April, 1854. If Thorstein comes over next spring, he may, if he desires, bring the rest of my money with him. Otherwise I do not intend to transfer it until some time when I, God willing, shall again return to my beloved valley, which it is my firm determination to do, unless I meet especially serious obstacles. Please let me know at the earliest opportunity whether or not you have handed the money over.

As I have space, I will tell something about our winter work. Farmers seldom finish shelling their corn until nearly Christmas. Manure hauling is also going on. Americans do not as yet pay much attention to the use of fertilizers. Manure will undoubtedly be more fully utilized when soil exhaustion sets in. Cutting and hauling wood is most important, as settlers lay in supplies for the whole summer, when there is [49] no time for such work. Winter is also the season for splitting rails. Because there are no commons here, everyone must cut on his own land. The farmers are also busy hauling produce to market. They do this quickly, for railroads and ports are found almost everywhere. Where there are no such facilities, there soon will be, because the Americans are great speculators and also well educated. They frequently attend school until they are twenty-one years old. School is held during the four winter months when there is the least work to do. On reaching twenty-one, they must set out and fend for themselves. A farmer who has many children can will his land to whomsoever he pleases. When the children have reached the age of twenty-one, the father has no more authority over them than anyone else. By that time they are supposed to have paid for their upbringing. If they remain at home, the father must pay them according to contract for their work. The child to whom the father leaves the farm is supposed to provide for the other children. According to his wishes, he in turn may or may not leave something to the others.

The government has proposed to grant 160 acres free to any interested person who does not already possess land. He may do with it whatever he pleases after he has lived on it for five years. But this land policy will not be acted upon until the present session of Congress, just now beginning, has completed its work. Like the Norwegian parliament, Congress meets every other year.

As I do not have anything more to add, I will bring these lines to a close. I hope for an early reply because I love dearly to hear from the place of my birth and my dear relatives. I live quietly and alone, but I am happy and well contented. The people of Norway are frequently in my thoughts, but as yet I have not felt any longing for home.

In conclusion, a heartfelt greeting from your devoted brother. [50]


Mons Grinager from Decorah, Winneshick [Winneshiek] County, Iowa, May 15, 1854, to his family in Norway.

Your letter of January 28th arrived safely. From it I learn that you are all well and vigorous — very dear news to me. And I can report the same to you: I am still hale and hearty and in good condition. I hope you have received my letter of January 24th which crossed with yours in transit. You will remember that I was determined not to leave Honey Creek until I received a letter from you. But when I got it and learned that there was no use waiting — as none of my people had decided to emigrate — I left my place of work on Easter Eve and spent the holidays with Mikkel Dahl. Thence I left with one of my shipmates, going about 250 miles westward to the state of Iowa (pronounced Ei-o-ve), where we arrived after a trip of eight days. We went 150 miles by wagon and the rest of the way by steamer up the Mississippi River. This stream is 600 Norwegian miles long, and some 2,000 to 3,000 steamboats ply its waters.

A great many Norwegians live in Iowa. By chance I came to the neighborhood where Erik Egge from Hadeland lives. I secured lodging at his place until I found work in a carpenter shop; I have been employed there since then. I will say something about the nature of the land in my new environs. The area I passed through consists largely of prairies — land which is absolutely bare of trees or, more correctly, plains separated by occasional stretches of forest. So a person wanting a home has ample opportunity to choose a fine piece of land. People are especially eager to secure prairie land close to woods, because the prairie can be plowed just as quickly as a tilled field. But they must hitch three or four yoke of oxen to the plow because the land is hard to break after having lain uncultivated for centuries. Trees are sparse and of small growth. But everywhere the soil is as fertile as a man might wish. Everyone prefers this part of Iowa to [51] Wisconsin and, furthermore, the climate is rather pleasant and healthful. The land here is more rolling than in Wisconsin. The hills and valleys are something like those in Norway, but on a much smaller scale.

People in large numbers, both natives and foreigners, are coming to this region and laying claim to the uncultivated land. They sell and buy and speculate in land as they do with horses in Norway. Some people make a lot of money by selecting a good piece of land and holding it several months or a year until all the surrounding land has been bought up. Then, without having made any improvements, they can sell it for three times the purchase price. Towns spring up on the banks of rivers or streams. First a flour mill or sawmill will be set up and in two or three years it may be surrounded by a lively trading center. No government grant is needed for the founding of a town. Everyone is free to engage in trade and is his own master in all respects. But the villages are not comparable to those of Norway in size. Many of them are only two to four miles apart.

The price of wheat and other products is lower here, far inland, than it is in the states located along the Eastern coast, because the produce is shipped to various other lands. This year the price of wheat is quite high because of the war in Europe. England has bought up a tremendous amount of grain. {22}

With great sorrow we read in the papers that our dear fatherland is ravaged by famine and destitution. If conditions are as bad as reported, we can consider ourselves lucky for being on American soil, where there is not likely to be any starvation. There have been repeated appeals to the local Norwegian church congregation for support of the suffering ones at home. There has been talk of a co-operative effort to send a shipload of wheat over to Norway and to bring passengers back free of charge on the return voyage. I believe [52] the plan will soon be realized for I am certain no one will refuse to contribute his share. The Americans, also, have proposed setting up a loan fund to aid the migration of poor Scandinavians, Scotsmen, and Irishmen. Just how far this plan will become a reality, I do not know. Undoubtedly the present European war will become horrible if it is to be settled by the sword alone.

I can tell you that many well-known people from Hadeland live in this neighborhood, for example, from Blegen:

Hans Eggebraaten, Torger Onsager, Abraham Hvinden, and others. I have not had an opportunity to talk with them as yet, but I have been told that they are all well and are doing fine. Erik Egge has married Helene Egge, has a good farm, and is getting on in every respect. All my acquaintances who came over with me are scattered here and there; scarcely any two families are located in the same area. Plans that we laid in Norway are shattered because everyone is seeking his own profit and following his own desires.

Christian Ruden or Einæs is said to be living at Torger Onsager’s place. In this country people from all nations are mixed together, Europeans of all sorts, and I have also seen many Africans or Negroes. They are absolutely black and have woolly hair and beards. Here in Iowa you can see Indians, some of whom live in this neighborhood. But as the white settlers arrive and take possession of the land, the Indians move westward. They are not always willing to leave their plots, which contain a little "tent" made of branches and grass and a patch planted to maize or Indian corn, as it is called here. Otherwise they gain their livelihood by hunting or fishing, at which they are experts. In case they do not want to move, they must either be paid a trifle for their land or else be driven away by force. Their clothing consists of some rags around their feet, which serve as shoes, and a horse blanket around their shoulders — that’s all. They are armed with bows and arrows which they handle skillfully. Some of [53] them engage in trade with the Americans, selling all sorts of furs to them in exchange for guns, knives, and ammunition.

Attempts have been made to convert the Indians to Christianity and to train them to work, but this they resist absolutely. Their tribes are dying out because they are mutually exterminating one another. The Indians are thievish and sly, but they have a great fear of the white man. In complexion they are yellowish or copper colored. They are of slight build and not strong.

I hope you have answered my letter of January 24. Your reply will go to my former address, but I have made arrangements to have it forwarded.

Please greet all my dear relatives and friends from me. I am hale and hearty and feel well. Greet Gudbrand and Hans Hørgen, Torsten, Bent, and Peder Næss, Ole and Simen Næstegge, Hans, Iver, and Torsten Kjos, and all my other good companions. Some lines from anyone who will write to me will be greatly esteemed. A letter from a friend is always welcome, all the more so when intervals between letters are so long.

And, finally, greet all my neighbors and acquaintances. But first and last, dear mother, brothers and sisters, greetings from your faraway son and brother, who keeps you ever in tender and loving memory.


Mons Grinager from Warsengton [Washington] Prairie, Iowa, May, 1855, to his brother Thorstein, Hadeland, Norway.

Your eagerly awaited letter reached me without delay. I kept looking for it with great suspense, because many times I have gone to the post office in vain. I had a foreboding that something very sad must have struck my never-to-be-forgotten family; this was verified by your letter, in which I learn in what dire circumstances my letter found you. I cannot describe my emotions when I heard that many of you [54] were confined to the sickbed. I know all too well how long the hours are for those who, in agonizing pain, lie and await the dawn of day. I sympathize deeply with my beloved mother, who is suffering so much in her old age. But we must submit to the will of God. It cheers me greatly on the other hand to learn that all of you have regained your health and strength. I owe our Heavenly Father heartfelt thanks for the fact that I, too, can give the same report: I am fairly well again, even though not quite as strong as I was before being struck by a severe sickness. Nevertheless, I have been so well since early February that I have spent my time working. For the preceding six months I could do nothing. During that time I frequently and sorely missed my darling mother and the rest of you. But this period of trial also came to an end, and now time again passes uneventfully by.

I began working on February 1st and continued until the end of March. But I was frequently subjected to mild attacks of illness and was still so weak that I found the work difficult. As a result, I became tired of laboring for others and therefore I have bought a team of horses and a wagon, and now I am steadily engaged in hauling. I also rented 30 acres, about 130 Norwegian maal, which I have sown to wheat. The agreement stipulates that the owner shall receive one third of the crop while I, who provide the seed and horses besides doing the work, receive two thirds. I finished the field work in April; since then I have done various kinds of hauling and have earned fairly good money.

I must tell you that during the Christmas season I paid a short visit to a Norwegian settlement about twenty-five miles from here. A number of people from Hadeland live there. I can mention Abraham Hvinden, Paul Brorby, Ingebret and Torgrim Bilden, Ole and Bent Tingelstad, and others. All of them were doing quite well and were free of worries, except for Thore Kittelsrud who arrived there last year. This spring he set out on his return journey and by now is presumably nearing the Norwegian coast. He absolutely could not find [55] satisfaction here in anything, no matter what it might be. Scarcely had he put to sea when he was seized by such homesickness that, without exception, everything that was a part of America was offensive to him. I have been told that he was willing to pay the captain a considerable sum of money to let him go ashore at Lindesnæs. This the captain would not agree to do.

I presume Thore will paint conditions in the New World in pretty dark colors when he gets to Norway. I suppose it is true that those who write home are either so intoxicated with the good things here that they speak only in superlatives, or else they hate this country so much that they cannot blacken her sufficiently. The latter, however, are few. As I gathered from a letter Thore had received from Norway, he was not guilty of praising America too much. I also learned that more attention was paid to Thore’s letter than to all the other America letters put together, because his contradicted all the rest. There are not many who will picture both the bright and the shadowy sides of American life, and therefore two parties have arisen.

I see in your letter that you have entered the school for noncommissioned officers. This was not happy news for my ears, for I have always nourished the hope that sooner or later you would come over, as you are the only one I might have expected to migrate. I regard America as better than Norway, and I believe that I will make it my permanent home. Nevertheless, if God grants me life and health, I hope once again to forgather with my people. As long as the war trumpets are sounding, however, I deem it best to remain quietly here. I hear that times are changing in Norway and that economic prospects there are brighter. This news cheers me very much, as it would be well if Norway, without difficulty, could now nourish her children.

I wish you happiness in your new venture. May God grant you health and well-being. I notice that there are bad reports about America in Norway, and it is true that prices are high. [56] Everything has gone up from 33 per cent to 200 per cent, but the high prices do not mean that there is any shortage or want, as everything has risen proportionally. The laborer receives more for his work, and the farmer is well paid for what he has to sell. In every respect there is more business activity and money circulates faster than when prices are low. I also notice that there are rumors about thousands of laborers being unemployed — a report that we, too, have heard. This condition has been true of the Eastern states, but in our area there is no lack — either of income or of work; here all the manpower that can be mustered is needed.

I can greet you from Ingvald Larsen Flatla. He is in good health and is feeling fine. I had a letter from him some three weeks ago. He tells me that he is going to Norway this summer. The two or three earlier letters you sent have not reached me. I did, however, receive the letters that Erik Dæhlin brought along, but there was nothing from you. I wrote to Ingvald Flatla and Hans Førsli last year, but Ingvald tells me that the letters did not arrive. Please greet all my relatives and friends warmly from me. Tell them I am in good health and well pleased with my situation. And, finally, a heartfelt greeting from your faraway but always devoted brother.

Please write as soon as you receive this letter and give me your address in Christiania.


Mons Grinager from Wassington [Washington] Prairie, Winneshiek County, Iowa, October 23, 1855, to his brother Thorstein in Christiania, Norway.

Your letter dated August 26th has reached me safely. I received it on October 7th, the day when I became 23 years old. I can assure you that no dearer birthday present could have been given me, especially since I learned that you are all in good health. I understand that everything goes on [57] about as usual in Norway. The same is true over here: there is no exciting news to report. I am in good health, and time slips silently by. I see that you have been stationed at Gardermoen this summer. There must have been great pomp and circumstance when the royal family paid you a visit. {23}

From your letter I also learn that you have spoken with Thore Kittelsrud, who, after his troublesome immigrant trip, has returned to his home community in Norway. I hope he will now have greater appreciation of the good things his fatherland has to offer, and that he will not again be lured to emigrate. I felt assured that he would criticize America in every respect — as he did the time I talked with him. But now it seems that he is primarily criticizing the climate, the houses, and the food. The first two do not deserve any praise; but, as for the last, there are few who do not thrive on it. The heat is much more intense here than in Norway. During the summer there is no use counting the drops of sweat. It is true that the houses are poor, but since I have become accustomed to them, I accept the situation as it is. Those who are not willing to forsake old customs and to begin life anew, so to speak, ought not go to America. And Thore reported that I was going to marry Mari Dæhlin! This time he was caught in a lie; Man was married before Thore came to America. If he had said that I was going to marry a maid instead of someone else’s wife, it would not have seemed quite so unreasonable. You will realize that no bachelor is quite apathetic as regards the opposite sex.

I can greet you from Ingvald Flatla, but probably you have later news of him than I have. He visited me in early July last summer. At that time he was in good health and was well pleased with America. Unfortunately, I did not have much chance to talk with him, because at the time of his arrival I was all set to leave for Minnesota. I [58] postponed the trip a day and a half, however, and we spent the time very pleasantly chatting about old times and new. He lives in Wisconsin, about 250 miles from here.

The European war, we notice, rages on, and a terrible bloodbath took place at the storming of Sebastopol. All sorts of rumors circulate to the effect that the Scandinavian countries will also get involved. About a month ago, some three weeks passed without any mail arriving from Europe. At that time an emigrant ship brought the report that Prussia had joined Russia and that Norway and Sweden had come to the assistance of the allies. Hence the mail which passed through Prussia had been stopped, but soon it was again delivered regularly and factual reports put matters straight.

As I have nothing important to relate and have previously described the country hereabouts, I will tell you something about my doings since last I wrote to you. Of course this has no particular importance, but I know from my own experience that the letters I receive are always too short. Therefore I believe that you too will gladly let your eyes peruse these few lines. If I remember correctly, I told you earlier that I bought a team of horses and a wagon last spring, and also that I had rented a farm. When I was through seeding — which I did all by myself — I went from the Mississippi River to do hauling in several little villages here in Iowa. A couple of times I also crossed into the state of Minnesota. In short, I accepted the best offers and earned good money. But there are lots of expenses for a person on the road. Nevertheless, I cleared from two to three dollars per day.

I must relate that during the past summer I took a trip through part of Minnesota, looking for a piece of land. I hauled a load to a village in that state and equipped myself with provisions, a tent, and other necessities for camping in the wild. My traveling companion was Juul Hansen Skari, who had the same objective as I. But luck was not [59] with me this time. No sooner had I delivered the load than my horses were lost one night when turned out to grass. I searched for them a whole week without finding hide or hair. The idea struck me that they must have been stolen — something which frequently happens in the new territories. This idea was strengthened when I learned that some Indians had, at that very time, stolen other horses in the neighborhood. I then set off afoot in search of the Indians and caught up with them about a hundred miles away, where some 400 were encamped. They had sold their land to the government and were moving farther west. On learning that several white men had recovered some horses which the Indians had stolen, I made an investigation, but mine were not among them. Thereupon I mixed with the Indians for several days in the hopes of getting a clue, but all was in vain. I must admit that my ears frequently got hot when the Indians gathered around us with their guns and bows. I was in the company of an American who knew well how to associate with them. He explained that the best way to soften them up was to put the fear of God into them: the better you treat them the more aggressive they become. Finally I tired of the search and decided to return, taking another road. But when I was some thirty miles from my own place, there were the horses! They had not been stolen, but had started homeward on their own and were quietly resting on a grassy plain.

About three weeks had elapsed between the time the horses left me and the day I found them. Then I went back to my camping site to fetch the wagon and harnesses. By this time the wheat had begun ripening, and so I had no opportunity to go looking for land, but had to hurry home. You must understand, dear brother, that it is quite difficult to locate an easily worked and desirable farm, even though there is an abundance of land. During the last two years vast areas have been claimed and settled in these western states. Hundreds of square miles are now under [60] cultivation which a couple of years ago were unoccupied. But no sooner is the land taken than it jumps in price. Five years ago the district where I live was only a wilderness inhabited by wild people. Now all the land has been bought and settled. At that time it was priced at $2.25 per acre, which means that with $200 a person could get as large a farm as anyone needs. Now land brings from $10 to $25 per acre, depending on its location. The same development will, of course, take place in other regions still unoccupied, if immigration continues at its present rate.

I must return to my own doings. I came home in time for harvest and had to hire two men to help gather in the grain. The wheat crop has been good everywhere this year according to what I hear. I got 350 bushels from 16 acres, but the field had been poorly cultivated for several years, and so there were a great many weeds. Those who had their soil in good condition raised about one third more per acre than I did. But I got a good yield of oats and Indian corn; thus I was well rewarded for my work. The price for wheat is now 75 cents per bushel. Before next summer, however, I believe it will go up to more than $1.00. For this reason, I intend to hold my wheat until spring.

The past summer was very healthful and pleasant. The heat was not excessive and, to the best of my knowledge, no part of the country has been ravaged by contagious disease. Everyone goes about his work the best he knows how. Since I finished the harvest, I have worked with a threshing machine and, believe me, things are done in a hurry. We thresh from 200 to 400 bushels of wheat per day and from 600 to 800 bushels of oats and barley. We move from farm to farm and operate out in the fields where the grain is put up in large stacks. I intend to stay with the machine until Christmas. It is powered by eight horses and has a crew of twelve men.

I must tell you that, shortly after I wrote the letter to which you have replied, I sent another to Jens Grinager, [61] because I did not know your Christiania address. In the letter to Jens, I enclosed one for you and still another that you were to take to its destination. As you do not mention these matters, I presume you did not receive these messages. Will you please let me know whether an American dollar I sent home last year arrived safely. Please write as soon as these lines reach you. Tell me all the odds and ends. You may feel that such things are not worth setting down on paper, but I can assure you that they are welcomed by me, be they ever so trivial. Your last letter was very dear to me because it told about all my people — their comings and goings. Even though I am deprived of all association with my friends and relatives in the homeland, only now and then hearing about past happenings—mere shadows of reality — you must not believe that love of my native country has cooled. Not at all! In memory I recall every little incident of bygone days. As often as I find myself alone, my thoughts seem to wander back across the sea to seek fellowship with those among whom I spent so many happy and innocent days.

I presume you are going home for Christmas if an opportunity offers itself. Then you must greet all my friends and relatives who have not entirely forgotten me. You must especially greet all the people at Frøslie. I have long expected a letter from Hans, but always in vain. Please bring my greetings to Flatla, Hørgen, Næss, Kjos, Svinning — all are most cordially remembered by me. Also give my best to everyone at Næstegge. Ole honored me with a letter last year, and I still owe him a reply. Thank him from me and ask him to forgive my negligence. I will soon repay my debt. I must not forget to give you a message from Ole Gudmundsen Grinager. I had a letter from him a month ago, and he reported that he was well in every respect. I have asked him on behalf of his parents to write home. This he has promised to do, but whether or not he really means it, I cannot say. You must in particular give my love to [62] our dear old mother. Tell her I am in good health and spirits. Greet my other brothers and sisters most cordially. And when you write again, you must tell me about Lise’s and Peder’s children. Have Hans and Maria become big and strong? Has Lars begun to talk plainly? When I left, he was not able to make himself understood clearly. Also tell me about Halvard’s and Maria’s children. In short, I am anxious to hear everything, big and little.

And now I must lay down my pen for this time. That these lines may find all of you well and happy and contented is the wish of your faraway brother. Finally, a most heartfelt greeting to you from your always devoted brother.

My address at the moment is Trout River P.O., Winneshiek County.


Mons Grinager from Decorah, Iowa, July 12, 1856, to his brother Hans in Norway.

Your letter of January 23rd this year has arrived. Its contents cheered me very much by informing me that all of you are well and doing fine. And God be praised, I can give the same happy report. I am in good health and am living well in every respect. Your most welcome letter arrived on Maundy Thursday. The greetings from my old comrades, whom you were with during Christmas, the many bits of news from home, and the account of your trip through Sweden and Denmark were all very interesting. Previously, on receiving letters from home, I have always grumbled because the contents were too skimpy. But your letter gave no cause for complaint. I could scarcely have learned more about the life of my friends and relatives even if I had been among you. Evidently last Christmas, like previous ones, was celebrated with gayety and amusements. I, too, have not lacked entertainment — especially [63] last winter. I attended three or four Norwegian dances here, as well as many other social events.

Now I must tell you about my activities since I last penned a letter to you. I continued to work with the threshing machine I told you about until toward Christmas, except during a trip I took through part of Iowa in November. This journey was much longer than the one I mentioned in my earlier letter. It was pretty difficult this time to camp under the open sky, as fall was already well advanced with quite severe cold. I selected a fine piece of land about 140 miles from here. This trip lasted about a month and I traveled on foot all the way. My horses were still working with the threshing machine. I averaged about 30 miles per day, mostly through wild areas or regions very sparsely settled. My food consisted of many kinds of wild game, of which there is God’s plenty, especially in the unsettled areas. One could notice moose, caribou, deer, wolves, bears, geese, swans, ducks, and the like. Of some types of game you could see scores every day, whereas of others, there were hundreds and thousands. I brought along a good rifle which, without any trouble, provided me with food. The trip was rather difficult because one often had to cross large streams of cold water. During the Christmas season, I sold my horses, and since then I have lived in Decorah, a lively little town.

I bought a lot here last winter, and as early as the weather permitted in the spring, Juul Skari and I together began building a house. We have worked since early March, but it is still not finished. We paid $150 for the lot. The house measures 32 feet in length, 18 feet in breadth, and 17 feet in height. There are two stories and a seven-foot deep cellar under the whole house. The building rests on an 18-inch thick stone wall. Houses here are built in a manner different from those at home. First 2-by-4-inch oak studdings, cut by either water or steam-powered saws, are put up 16 inches apart all around the house. Then the outer [64] walls, consisting of half inch thick boards, laid horizontally, are nailed to the uprights. The roof is covered by machine-made shingles 12 inches long and a half inch thick at the lower end, tapering to a sharp edge at the upper end. This makes a pretty good roof. The inner wall is made of thin strips an inch wide and a half inch thick, placed a half inch apart, after which the wall is covered with plaster.

Building a house is rather simple and goes rapidly. Nevertheless, it is quite expensive because the material comes high. Lumber is sold by the "foot," which is a square foot of lumber one inch thick. Pine sells at three and a half cents to four cents per foot, and other types sell at two and a half cents a foot. The total amount of material will run to 7,000 or 8,000 feet, and the house will cost us about $800. We have rented the first story to an American at $18 per month.

Now I cannot longer evade a certain piece of news: no longer do I feel so lonely and forlorn in this far-off continent. I have chosen a helpmeet to share the joys and sorrows which Providence may allot unto us during our precarious journey through life and, in a sense, to compensate for the separation from my beloved mother and brothers and sisters. Like me, the woman of my choice for this solemn union found herself alone and a stranger without anyone to whom she could confidently turn for solace and sympathy amidst all sorrows and adversities. You know very well her family and name, Anne Andersdatter from Upper Egge in Hadeland. I have known her since my arrival in Iowa and have been engaged to her for more than a year and a half. Modesty and the conviction that we cannot decide or undertake anything unless it be the will of God has kept me from telling you earlier.

Juul Skari also got married last spring to a girl from Lier in Norway. Both of us, with our young brides, live in the second story of the house. We have been working as carpenters this summer. Juul has taken training since coming [65] to America. However, the work is so simple here that anyone who is not absolutely helpless and has some little knack for work can pass for a carpenter. That is what I have been doing this summer and I have drawn full pay.

Dear brother! I have much to write about, but I lack both time and space. Please excuse me for not having written earlier. This summer I have been so busy that time has failed me. I sent my regards to you in a letter to Frøslie, which I hope you have received. Greet dear friends and relatives most cordially from me. To you, and my dear mother, as well as to my other brothers and sisters, go most tender greetings from me and my beloved wife. We look forward to a reply with great longing. You are always remembered with deep respect and devotion by your brother. Do not forget to address the letter to Decorah.


Mons Grinager and wife from Decorah, Iowa, December 16, 1856, to his brother Thorstein in Norway.

I must shamefully admit that I received your esteemed letter of January 30 last spring and have not as yet answered it. But now that winter has really set in and the stove is man’s best friend, I will find time to answer all the letters which have accumulated during the summer. I must thank you from the bottom of my heart for your last letter. I have always found fault that the letters from Norway were too short, as I never grow weary of reading accounts from the place of my birth. But you gave me no cause for complaint. Even if I had been there in person, I could not have been better informed about the activities of my dear relatives and friends. Dear brother! You must not be angry with me for failing to answer your letter earlier. I have been so busy this summer.

You have presumably heard that I got married to Anne Andersdatter Egge last spring. Shortly after this union was [66] entered into, I was chosen as trustee or director of the local Norwegian Evangelical Church. With this responsibility came a mess of papers that I had to examine and in part rewrite or correct. Thus my evenings, which I otherwise would have used for letter writing, were occupied with this work. I suppose you have also heard that Juul Skari and I built a house in the town of Decorah. This project took the greater part of the summer, since we did most of the work. But despite the fact that we did the job ourselves, it cost us upwards of $1,200 because the material is very expensive. Nevertheless, it pays well to build and to rent, for as the town grows, the property also increases in value. By letting out the whole house, we could have had a yearly income of between $350 and $400. We have rented out only the lower floor, which is used as a shop, for $216 per annum.

The upper story is divided into five rooms. There we live quite comfortably and conveniently. The rest of the summer I hired out to others as a carpenter. After having helped put up our house and thus learned the methods of work, I got along very well. I did not let on that I was anything but a skilled carpenter. This tactic enabled me to draw full wages, which last summer amounted to $2.00 per day without board. You will realize that it is not as difficult to become a craftsman here as it is at home. If a person is somewhat quick of perception — thank God, I can’t complain in this respect — and furthermore is industrious and attentive, he will soon be able to classify as an artisan.

I have no interesting news to report, but in order to fill up the paper I will tell you something about political affairs in America. Last fall we elected a president, the chief executive of the country. There are many political factions which group themselves into two main parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. The former resemble the common folk back home, while the latter are somewhat like the Norwegian aristocrats. You probably know that slavery [67] exists in the southern part of the United States. There people buy Negroes from Africa whom the slaveholders can sell, trade, or handle like any other piece of property. The policy of the Republicans is to abolish slavery, whereas the Democrats want to extend it. Last fall two men were nominated as presidential candidates: Fremont by the Republicans, Buchanan by the Democrats. Buchanan received a majority of the votes and was thus elected. The question at present being hotly debated in the newspapers is the following:

Shall two territories which are to become states be slave or free? {24} If the former turns out to be the case, as seems reasonable since the slavery faction has the president on its side, it might also seem reasonable that the Republicans will not tolerate it. Liberty and equality are their motto, and they will not calmly accept the victory of their antagonists. They are pledged to oppose slavery — even at the price of blood if they can find no other way of checking this brutal and unchristian system. The fear exists that there will be a terrible civil war.

Next, I will report that we had excellent weather last summer. To the best of my knowledge, conditions round about were wholesome and healthful. The heat was not excessive, but we had a couple of violent storms, common events in these areas. No serious damage was done, however. Winter came earlier than usual this year. For about two months now we have had quite severe cold accompanied by wind and snow. At present we have about two feet of snow, which is more than usual. I do not expect to do any serious work as long as the cold is so intense, and so I will take life easy and thus have an opportunity to enjoy the company of my dear wife.

In your last letter you asked about the cost of sending [68] mail between here and Norway. In this connection, I want to say that I have paid postage directly to Norway for all the letters I sent you, except for the first one and for the last two, which I sent to Hans. I omitted paying postage for the latter because you informed me that you also had to pay. I can not readily understand why you have to pay for them, unless it should be because of their weight. A "single" letter is supposed to weigh half an ounce. If it weighs more, it is classified as a "double" letter and thus requires extra postage. It is quite possible that my letters have weighed more than half an ounce. I have never weighed them nor have I ever paid for more than a single letter. The letters are weighed when placed in the European mail, which leaves from New York, Boston, and other cities. This time I will weigh the letter, pay the postage, and get a receipt, which I will place in the envelop. If it turns out that the postmaster in Norway also demands postage, you can just show him the receipt and make him refund the money paid for all the letters I sent you. If there has been any cheating, it can be exposed in this way. It costs forty-six cents to send a single letter from here to Norway — about two marks and two shillings. That is what I have paid for the letters I have received and sent, except your last letter for which I paid ninety-two cents. That was a "double" letter. In any event, I am anxious to receive such letters very frequently. Write again as soon as possible. Greet all relatives and friends including Thron Alm, if you have the opportunity. I wish to thank him very much for the message he sent me. I am hale and hearty and am well pleased with existence. Most cordial greetings from your faraway brother and wife. Write soon. Since I am not certain whether you are in Christiania, I am addressing this letter to Gran. I wrote to Frøslie last spring, but as I have not heard anything, I am wondering whether or not the letter arrived. [69]


Mons Grinager from Decorah, Iowa, April 24, 1857, to his mother, Marthe Grinager, in Norway.

As I now have the time, I will send you a sincere greeting and tell you that your far-distant son, daughter-in-law, and our little Anne Maria are happy and in good health. Dear mother, I know it would delight you greatly if you could see us in person and give us your blessing. But God alone knows whether such an opportunity will ever present itself. I am sending you our portrait. It is merely a shadow, but it will serve you as a remembrance. All of us are but shadows, which in a brief time will be seen no more — dim dreams like this picture. It was, of course, my determination when I left you to return to Norway, but no one can look into the future. Quite possibly I may still be permitted to revisit my childhood home. Now, however, I no longer lack a home. My dear wife and my little daughter have made up for the one I left. We can live as contentedly in one continent as in another — I do not wish for more.

Both of us are well pleased with our marriage. A happy home is an earthly paradise. I do not work as much as when I first came here. I am rather deeply involved in the store business and run the risk of losing what little I have been able to accumulate. Whether or not I do will depend largely on how the times develop. If the worst should happen, I am still young and — God be praised — able to work. If God grants me health and strength, I will be satisfied, for then I can easily provide for my family. If we cannot be satisfied with little, then we cannot be satisfied with much.

I will close with sincere greetings from my wife to all acquaintances. Be kind enough to greet her grandfather and to show him our portrait. He will probably be pleased to see it. We wished very much to send a picture of our little Anne Maria, but it is impossible to get one taken because she will [70] not sit still. In conclusion, greetings first and last, dear mother, from your devoted son and daughter-in-law, by whom you are always remembered with the deepest respect and love.


Mons Grinager from Decorah, Iowa, July 6, 1859, to his brother Peder in Norway.

I received your much appreciated letter of April 25th on the 4th of this month, as well as the portraits you sent with Gunild Thorsdatter. It was a real pleasure for me and my family to see the dear, well-known faces, which we hardly ever tire of looking at. We send you herewith our most sincere thanks. I could easily recognize the various people. Still it was plain that they had changed quite a bit; this was especially true of my beloved mother, from whom old age has taken its toll. It seems to me that you, too, dear brother, have changed considerably during the six years I have been away. Lise, on the contrary, is about the same as she was. I could easily recognize Hans, Anne Marie, and Lars. Marthe and Jacob were so small when I left that I could not recognize them, and I had not seen the three youngest children.

I can tell you that all of us are fine and that we like it very much here in the West. My daughter, Anne Maria, is most clever for her age. Since we received your picture, she has frequently talked about grandmother, uncle, and all the pretty boys and girls. As yet she cannot talk plainly, but she can easily make herself understood. My son, Henry Adolph, who was born June 16, 1858, is growing and doing well. If there is an opportunity, I will send you pictures of my children with some returning passenger. To send them by mail would cost too much. I have learned that my wife’s grandfather has passed away. I shall be thankful to [71] you if you will keep me informed about the estate when matters are cleared up.

As for me, I can tell you that I have had varied experiences since I came here, and fortune has both smiled and frowned on me. I suffered a considerable loss in the fall of 1857, when the big depression struck. I was involved in various trading ventures. Even yet business has not regained its former high level. {25} Until a couple of months ago, I ran a little store, but at present I am engaged in carpentry work, a skill I have become somewhat acquainted with since coming here. Last summer I also worked for a couple of months; otherwise I have been in the store business the last three years.

For news I can tell you that Torger Onsager for a time was a widower, but he has married Rangdi Hvattum. He is still the same old Torger, trading and speculating along various lines. I believe, however, that fortune has not been particularly kind to him these last three years. He has asked me several times to greet you when I write home. I can also send regards to you from Christian Ruen. He is getting along quite well here and has a fine little farm and is very hard-working.

Because I have nothing to relate that will interest you particularly, I will say something about the crops. Last year was miserable — the only one of that kind since I came here. The trouble was that we had so much rain that the wheat was washed to the ground and developed rust before ripening. Thus the yield was scarcely more than half of what it usually is and, besides, the quality was poor. We also had a great flood last summer. For a few days such torrents of rain fell that the water in all streams rose to unheard-of heights. It overflowed river banks and inundated the surrounding country, causing great damage. The town [72] in which I live is partly located on low land along a river. I happened to see a couple of houses washed away. The flood also took a great number of wheat- and haystacks. Many people here in town were in danger of losing their lives, but no one drowned. This year the fields are fine, and indications are that we will have a good harvest.

Greet my dear mother most tenderly from us and thank her ever so much for the welcome gift we received. It will always be a cherished remembrance for us. Give my best to Thorstein and Hans and tell them that I have long waited in vain for letters from both of them. I was very glad to hear that Grinager now has a higher common school. You must give my regards to the teacher, Mr. Staavi. Thank him for the message he sent me and tell him that I wish him success and progress in his noble profession. Also greet my brothers-in-law, Halvor and John, and their families from us.

I send our best wishes to you and your dear family. Please write to me at your earliest opportunity. Examine the seal; there you will find one dollar.


Captain Mons H. Grinager with the Union army at Island No. 10, Tennessee, on May 24, 1862, to his family.

As I have the time and opportunity this quiet evening in my cozy tent, I will take pen in hand and with these lines will let you know how I am getting along. I am, thank God, in good health and am feeling fine. Presumably you know that I have entered the army since I told our brother Peder about it some time ago. In late November last year, upon authorization by the governor of Wisconsin who commissioned me a lieutenant, I began recruiting a company for the Scandinavian regiment organized in that state. {26} [73] You will realize that, because of my dear family, I had many misgivings about accepting the commission. I was tremendously interested in the cause, however, and when my wife did not object — but believed that she could adjust patiently to the situation — I decided to place myself at the service of my country. To give a somewhat full account of the many interesting events in which I have been involved since I left my home in Minnesota would be entirely too complicated. Neither time nor space would allow it. Nevertheless, I will attempt to give you a brief summary of them.

I started out on January 1. You can imagine that leaving was not a pleasant experience. We volunteers went by wagon 150 miles over the western prairies. This experience was not particularly enjoyable either. From Prairie du Chien [Wisconsin], we went by rail about 100 miles to Madison, arriving on January 6th. We found about 500 members of the regiment assembled there. As new recruits arrived daily, my company was filled by January 30th. Then we elected officers, who are selected by the volunteers from among the men in the company. I was unanimously chosen captain, a position I have filled to the best of my ability. We remained in Madison until March 1st, receiving officers’ instruction and engaging in drills whenever the weather permitted. We had a lot to do, especially those of us who were absolutely ignorant of military matters. A great effort was made to organize everything. Never in my life have I been so busy as I was during the two months we were there. Several days before our departure from Madison, we marched from the barracks [at Camp Randall] up into the town, where the governor in person handed our Colonel Heg two standards, which we are to defend with our life and blood. {27} [74]

On March 1st we left for the South, arriving in Chicago late in the evening. The Scandinavians of the city presented us with a beautiful banner. {28} We continued our journey the same evening on a good train, and in twenty-four hours reached Alton, Illinois, where we stayed overnight and transferred to a large steamer. Late that evening, several other officers and I went uptown. In a hotel, we suddenly ran into half a dozen Rebel officers, prisoners who on their word of honor were permitted the freedom of the town. They asked us to spend the evening with them, an invitation which we accepted. As we enjoyed their songs and champagne, we forgot for a couple of hours that our hospitable hosts were our enemies, who under other circumstances could have given us quite a different reception. We reached St. Louis by boat about noon next day, marched through the city, and changed to another steamer. Leaving St. Louis on the morning of the 5th, we arrived at Birds Point [Missouri] the next day. It is located at the spot where the mighty Ohio River joins the Mississippi, and it is well fortified — a place of importance. There we remained until the 14th of March, drilling whenever the rainy season gave us the opportunity.

We were now in enemy country; but even though the people are Rebels, they always tell our forces that they are loyal to the Union. {29} One Sunday I took a trip into the country, visiting several plantations, which I inspected with great curiosity because I had often read about these great aristocrats who treated their slaves in such an inhuman manner. We were well received and treated hospitably. The plantation owners told us that they were Union sympathizers — a [75] statement which we doubted. We asked to see their slaves, and they took us willingly to the Negro cabins. These are usually located some distance from the main building and are arranged along streets. From ten to twelve slaves live in each cottage, or possibly only one family. Each day they are given a certain quantity of flour and other foodstuff, which they must prepare themselves during their free time. They are shabbily dressed, as they are seldom given more than one cheap outfit each year. They speak broken English and are generally very ignorant. They are strongly built, and many of them are rather light complexioned, being of mixed blood. But this fact makes no difference: Be they ever so light, with scarcely a trace of African blood, if they are born slaves, slaves they must remain. The owners may sell them as we sell our animals, no attention being paid to family relationships. Not infrequently it happens that plantation owners sell children whom they themselves have begotten with female slaves.

I have often asked slaves if they were well treated. Seldom have I received an affirmative answer — usually the opposite. They are whipped for the least shortcoming. When they are at work, the overseer always goes armed with a large blacksnake whip, which is frequently used when the slaves fail to exert themselves to the utmost. There are exceptions, however: some slaves are well treated, depending on what kind of master they serve. But the abhorrence I have always felt toward slavery is considerably stronger now than ever before because of these firsthand observations. The plantation owners, however, are very gracious and hospitable toward white people.

I have strayed from the account of my journey and must return to it. On March 14th we departed from Birds Point, leaving about 300 men from our regiment there, some of whom were sick, while the rest were assigned to garrison duty. Two thirds of my company were among those who were left at Birds Point under the command of Lieutenants O. [76] Pederson and O. Solberg. With 33 men, I followed the main body of troops, which consisted of one infantry regiment, our 600 men, a cavalry detachment of 150 men, an artillery battery, eight gunboats, and ten or twelve mortar boats. All together, I presume we carried some 80 cannon. Late that afternoon we arrived at a little town named Richmond, where we thought we would have a little brush with our opponents. There were no enemy to be seen, however. Some Rebel cavalry had been there, but they fled at our approach. We marched up to the railroad station, where we tore up some of the rails, cut the telegraph wires, and then returned to the boats, remaining there until the morning of the 15th.

At 9:00 o’clock that forenoon, we stopped at a little house so that the soldiers could boil coffee and have breakfast. The people — poor, ignorant folk — were seized by terror when they saw us landing, and took to the woods. The family consisted of an old man, three women, and four half-naked children. When we saw them fleeing, we sent a small patrol who brought them back and assured them that neither they nor their possessions were in any danger. This treatment surprised them very much, as they had been told, they said, that we behaved like tyrants wherever we went. Little by little, however, they were reassured that this was not the case. The Rebels always make use of such lies to arouse the people against the North.

Although we remained at Richmond about two hours, the gunboats went on to Island No. 10, got within range, and began bombarding the enemy position with our 225-pound bombs. {30} Our boat arrived about two hours later and cast anchor a short distance from the gunboats. The Union guns did not bombard heavily the first day, and the Southern battery remained silent. On the morning of the 16th, however, when the bombarding was resumed, the enemy replied quite [77] vigorously. Since the Rebels did not have as powerful artillery as we, they could not reach their targets. We drew close to the gunboats to get a better view of the action. You can take my word for it that it was real sport to see these great gunboats, wrapped in heavy smoke, hurling their heavy charges. Lying some distance away from the clouds of smoke, we could see where the balls struck and how the bombs exploded within the enemy encampment. That day the shelling went on lustily, and we silenced two of the Confederate cannon. Both the island and the adjacent Tennessee shore were heavily fortified and, because of their favorable location, practically impossible to scale. The bombarding continued from day to day but not very heavily. The Union forces seemed to go about the job very slowly, and we soon realized that they were expecting reinforcements. To attempt to storm the island would have been sheer folly. A couple of times I was stationed on outpost duty at a point directly across from the island. The Rebels sent many cannon balls our way; they whined by our ears without anyone’s suffering harm, except for one man who was struck by a ball. We began to weary of it all, especially because of the discomfort resulting from the high water in the Mississippi. The river overflowed its banks, forcing us to move camp many times a week. The officers remained on the boat, while the men pitched their tents on shore.

On March 80th, a Sunday morning, we were ordered to bring everything aboard and proceed upstream. We arrived at Richmond before noon. Immediately we were ordered to move on Union City to "visit" some Rebels who were encamped there. Heavily equipped, with one day’s rations, we covered twelve miles that afternoon in quick march. The heat was very great, and, unaccustomed as we were to marching after being quiet for so long, most of us were exhausted when we stopped that evening. We were forbidden. . . {31} .


<1> The letters published here were preserved for more than a hundred years on the West Grinaker (Grinager) farm in Hadeland, Norway. Handed down through the family, they were copied by Karen Grinaker and through her kindness made available for publication by the young Norwegian historian Per Hvamstad. Through his instrumentality, some of them have appeared in the original Norwegian in Decorah-Posten (Decorah, Iowa). As presented here, they were translated and annotated by C. A. Clausen. With slight changes, the introduction is a direct translation of the document in Norwegian prepared by Mr. Hvamstad.


<2> Number 2 is such a double letter. The first paragraph in 2b is private in nature and was intended only for the immediate family.

<3> Stave churches, built of wood, were the oldest Norwegian churches; between the years 1100 and 1500, some 900 were built. Only about twenty are still standing.

<4> This diary, together with some of her letters, has been translated and edited by David T. Nelson under the title The Diary of Elisabeth Koren, 1853—1855 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1955). The Korens lived in "the Egge cabin" from December 24, 1853, to March 10, 1854. The cabin has been preserved by Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

<5> A biographical sketch of Alexander Grinager is found in O. N. Nelson, History of the Scandivavians and Successful Scandinavians in the United States, 1:409—410 (Minneapolis, 1893).

<6> John A. Johnson, Det skandinaviske regiments historie, 125—126 (La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1869).

<7> Nelson, History of the Scandinavians, 1:410—411.

<8> In the transcript of this letter, April 10 is given as the date of departure from Christiania. This must be a mistake, for the next date mentioned is April 21. Probably April 10 is a typographical error for April 18 or 19.

<9> Bededagen, a day of prayer, corresponds somewhat to the Rogation Days in Anglo-Saxon countries.

<10> Grinager is evidently referring to the French-Canadian farms along the St. Lawrence River. They were made narrow so as to give each farm frontage on the river.

<11> Sjarbrogh probably is a corruption of Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto on Lake Ontario.

<12> The Muskego settlement was one of the most famous and influential Norwegian colonies in the United States. Numerous references can be found in Theodore C. Blegen’s Norwegian Migration to American, 1825—1860 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1931) and in his Norwegian Migration to America: The American Transition (Northfield, 1940). See also Carlton C. Qualey’s Norwegian Settlement in the United States (Northfield, 1938). Søren Bache’s A Chronicle of Old Muskego: The Diary of Søren Bache, 1839—1847 (Northfield, 1951) gives contemporary impressions of life in the settlement.

<13> A tønde is a dry measure equal to about four bushels.

<14> Haugianere (Haugeans) were followers of the famous Norwegian religious leader Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771—1824). His followers were often derisively called læsere (readers) because of their excessive reading of the Bible and other devotional books.

<15> An alen is about two feet.

<16> A maal is about one decare or .2417 acre. There is a discrepancy in Grinager’s figures. He first states that a man can cut from three to four decares, or about an acre, per day. But in the next sentence, he says that two men can finish from 12 to 18 maal, or three to four and a half acres per day.

<17> Grinager is apparently referring here to the marked difference in pronunciation between the English spoken in England and that used in America.

<18> Elias Stangeland was a controversial immigrant agent and journalist who was active among the Norwegian pioneers in Wisconsin in the 1850’s.

<19> For information about Oleana, Ole Bull’s ill-fated settlement in northern Pennsylvania, see Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America, 1825—1860, 287—307.

<20> Until 1873 the speciedaler and the skilling were current monetary denominations in Norway. But in 1873 gold was made the foundation of the Norwegian monetary system, and in 1875 the speciedaler was replaced by the crown (krone) at the rate of four crowns to the speciedaler. At that time the crown was worth 25 cents or 30 Norwegian skillings.

<21> Although letters 2a and 2b bear identical dates, they appear to have been written at different times. In letter 2a Grinager does not seem to know the whereabouts of N.N., but he apparently had been in close touch with him before writing letter 2b.

<22> On March 28, 1854, England and France declared war on Russia, thus bringing on the Crimean War.

<23> Gardermoen was a military drilling ground about 25 miles northeast of Christiania. From 1814 to 1905, Norway had joint kings with Sweden. Oscar I ruled during the years 1844—1859.

<24> The territories referred to were Kansas and Nebraska. As is well known, a fierce struggle had been taking place between proslavery and antislavery forces over the question whether these territories, especially Kansas, should be admitted to the Union as free or slave states.

<25> A great financial panic, following a boom period, struck the United States in 1857, especially after the closing of New York and Boston banks in October of that year.

<26> The Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment was often called the Scandinavian Regiment because it consisted almost exclusively of immigrants from northern Europe, mainly Norwegians. It was organized in the fall of 1861 with Colonel Hans C. Heg as commander.

<27> Alexander W. Randall was governor of Wisconsin at the time. He had strongly encouraged the organization of the Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment.

<28> The banner was presented to the regiment by a Scandinavian society called the Nora Forening. The command was also given a Norwegian flag, which caused considerable consternation when it was later unfurled on a Mississippi River steamboat.

<29> The position of Missouri during the Civil War is rather confusing. It was a slave state, but Missouri unionists prevented secession in a convention at Jefferson City, February 28, 1861, and at a second session in March. The state legislature condemned secession that same month. But under the protection of Confederate troops, members of the legislature adopted a resolution of secession at Neosho, October 31, 1861, and representatives from the state were seated in the Confederate Congress.

<30> Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River and the nearby Tennessee shore were defended by about 8,000 troops under the command of General Mackall. Following three weeks of bombardment by Commodore Foote, the enemy withdrew and the island surrendered on April 7, 1862. Erosion has since caused Island No. 10 to disappear.

<31> Here the letter abruptly breaks off. The expedition against Union City, Tennessee, lasted only a few days and was successful. See Johnson, Det skandinaviske regiments historie, 19—21.

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