Ole Johnson was born in Telemark, Norway, in 1838. When he was six years old his family emigrated to America and they settled in Dane County, Wisconsin. Eventually Johnson became a school teacher in Stoughton.
After the battle at Perryville (October, 1862) Johnson was promoted to the rank of major. He took part in the battle of Murfreesboro (December, 1862) before becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in March, 1863.
Johnson was held in Libby Prison in Virginia before it was decided in May, 1864 to move him to a prison away from the advancing Union Army. At Chesterville, Johnson and two other officers managed to escape from the railroad car they were being transported in. The three men spent 29 days behind enemy lines before rejoining the Union Army at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee.
Lieutenant Colonel Johnson took command of the Scandinavian Regiment on 24th July, 1864. Promoted to the rank of Colonel, he remained with the regiment until the end of the fighting.
After the war Johnson settled in Beloit, Wisconsin, where he became part-owner of the Beloit Plow and Wagon Works, a company that produced the Beloit Norwegian Plow.
Johnson was an active member of the Republican Party and was elected mayor of Beloit. In 1871 Johnson was appointed Immigration Commissioner of Wisconsin. Later he became president of the Watertown Bank. Ole Johnson died in Beloit, Wisconsin, on 4th November, 1886.