Pvt. Knut Aslaksen
Born September 12, 1846 on Buvigen Farm in Seljord, Telemark, Norway, the firstborn child of Aslak Knutsen and Taran Jorgensdatter, Knut Aslaksen had a patronymic surname (father’s first name with the addition of son or datter) and, as was customary, he was given the first name of his paternal grandfather, Knut. This family line has been traced back through the Viking kings to 65 B.C.
Leaving 3½-year-old Karen Marie Aslaksdatter, with her maternal grandparents, Knut (5½), Anne (22 mo.), Sara (3 mo.), their parents, their paternal grandmother Anne Halvorsdatter Knutson and uncle Kristoffer Knutson left Seljord on May 1, 1852 to immigrate to America. (Karen Marie followed in 1866). They settled first in northern Illinois where George was born in 1854 and Julia in 1855. They then moved to Dane County, Wisconsin where Henry was born in 1856 and Nels in 1858. Once in America, the children dropped their patronymic and used their father’s surname, Knutson. However, Knut’s Civil War records are under the name “Knud Aslaksen”, which would probably have been his legal name.
Knut enlisted as a private in Company K, 28th Wisconsin Infantry on August 13, 1862, a month before his 17th birthday. His age was given as 18, blue eyes, light hair and light complexion, 5’8”, medium build; farmer, unmarried. He is listed as a musician, which agrees with family legend that he was a bugler.
During the Vicksburg Campaign, he served on one of the gunboats which General Grant sent down the Tallahatchie and Yazoo Rivers in an attempt to find a back way into Vicksburg. Near Greenwood, Mississippi, the Confederates had hastily constructed a barricade, mostly of earth-covered cotton bales, which they called Fort Pemberton. It had enough fire power to successfully drive back the Union gunboats and after a series of skirmishes, they began their retreat on April 4, 1863.
Knut died of disease (probably typhoid fever) the next day, April 5, 1863 at the age of 17. They apparently had not traveled far because his place of death is listed as Greenwood, Mississippi. His place of burial has not been located and may be an unmarked grave on the riverbank.
Knut’s mother died about a year later and his father and siblings moved to Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, where Aslak died in 1895. George Knutson and his wife, Caroline, raised 4 children in Webb Lake, Wisconsin. The others eventually took up North Dakota homesteads in adjoining Dickey and LaMoure Counties. Henry was a bachelor farmer and was killed by a bull in 1889. Nels married Karen Olson and raised 6 children; Karen Marie married Peder Jorgenson and had 8 children; Anne married Pete Peterson and had 5; Sara married Alfred Lewis and had 10; Julia married Saber Thompson and raised 11.
Although he left no direct descendants, we don’t want Uncle Knut to be forgotten.
Information contributed by:Judith S. Hiatt, 2nd great niece.