A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 8 October 1864

In previous blogs, I tracked Jens Dahle’s experiences 150 years ago as he participated in the Civil War, fighting for the 2nd Minnesota under 1st Lt. Mahlan Black.

The Confederates captured Jens at Ream’s Station, a minor skirmish, on the 25th of August and took him to Libby Prison in Richmond (Virginia) for intake on 27 of August.  Shortly after that he was moved to Belle Island, now called Belle Isle, which overlooks the city.

From this point forward the record of the experiences of Jens are scant except for the existence and publication of a diary of James Eberhart, a soldier whose capture, Belle Island and Salisbury Prison experiences are contemporary with Jens Dahles’.  [1]

33n1On 8 October 1864, Jens, James and a thousand or more other prisoners were loaded unto a rail car and hauled to Salisbury, North Carolina.  He may have been one of the lucky ones who rode inside but if not, he rode on top of the car exposed to the unseasonably cold Fall in the South.

“Sat Oct 8–About 11 am we marched back to the Depot & shipped to Salisbury.  We got on top of Cars..We were nearly frozen having been on top of the Cars 7 hours…Our ration is all gone.  So nothing to eat tonight. I found some wheat in the Cars and parched it & made coffee out of it. And laid down.” — James Eberhart

James was of stronger constitution than Jens who had already been confined to a hospital for 7 months due to dysentery or other sanitary condition related disease.  James, a sergeant in Co. G, of the 8th Pennsylvania RES felt responsible for his men and worked to keep his own physical condition strong and garner rations as they were available to assist his men.  He kept his physical condition strong through exercise and constantly taking quinine when it was available even when not outwardly sick.

Like Belle Island, Salisbury was considered a stockade type of prison.  While there were structures within the fence, these facilities were reserved for officers, Confederate soldiers who abandoned their posts, and criminals.  Other buildings were used for food preparation and the hospital.  This prison was well served by the rail line as seen on the right of the bird-eye-view (see photo on left)  Today only a small garrison remains of the facility, seen to the right of the rail line. [2]

The common soldier, including Jens and James Eberhart were left to their own ingenuity in the open area.  It was common that one or more would dig a small cave in the ground to share and in which to sleep at night.  Water was provided by wells which quickly became contaminated.  There may, at times have been a stream as well.  Food was served out of the cookhouse connected to the large multistory building. [2]

Here Jens would stay to the end of the war.  The experiences of James, to the extent they could have been experienced by Jens, will be relayed going forward.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I have worked on a number of presentations for the upcoming speaking engagements.  I am ready for the all day-er at Whatcom County, and I am starting to work on the presentations for the LDS Family History conference in early November.  the weather has been marvelous here in Seattle and so I also caught a little sunshine today.

[1] Florence C. McLaughlin, editor, “Diary of Salisbury Prison by James Eberhart,” The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, July 1973.
[2] “History: Salisbury Confederate Prison,” Salisbury, North Carolina, online database: http://www.salisburync.gov/prison/1.html.


11 comments on “A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 8 October 1864

  1. Mary Swenson says:

    Such a pleasant way to begin my day by reading about my g-grandfather Jens T. Dahle! The history that you provide is invaluable. It helps me feel much closer to my own story which wouldn’t be possible without Jens’ survival.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      It’s amazing to me to think that it is 150 years ago. So many changes in that time period. Only 2x (plus a little) of my age!

      Have a great day Mary!

      Professional genealogist Give the gift of family!


  2. a gray says:

    I don’t know if you are aware of the multivolume work, “The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, the Official Records”, but you might to check it for information regarding Jens Dahle’s unit. It’s available at http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/sources/records/, and most importantly, it is searchable.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      I am familiar with the books and their contents although I did not use them for the Jens study.

      There is an amazing amount of information on the Civil War. I only wish I had someone who fought in it!


      Professional genealogist Give the gift of family!


      • a gray says:

        I would still search them with regard information related to Jen’s unit and the camps at which he was held prisoner.

      • Jill Morelli says:


        Jens is not my ancestor; he is an ancestor of a friend of mine. The books you brought to our attention are certainly a great set of references which I have looked at in the past. But, my family is quite different than yours which has a rich history of military service. My family actually (in more than one line) immigrated to avoid the draft in their own country, so they were not inclined to be affiliated with the military here either. My father was the first in my line to have any military connection when he enlisted in WWII. Many families have deep and broad military background which gives them wonderful records with which to work. While I can envy that, I, unfortunately, do not have those records to work. I am not now working on Jens and may not ever again. but It certainly is good to know that this reference exists should a client need that service.


      • a gray says:

        I remember that, Jill. I brought up the OR and Jens Dahle because I thought you used him in some of your talks. There are folks out there who might be able to make good use of the information 4that it contains.

      • Jill Morelli says:


        Now I “get it.” Sorry. Yes, the inclusion of this source as one for those interested in finding out what happened to their ancestor would be a very good resource.


        Jill Give the gift of family! Need a lecturer or a unique gift for a special event? Ask to see options.

      • a gray says:

        The OR is not perfect and it can take some work to find things, but the information is first hand, i.e., original source. It is pretty good stuff in my opinion when it comes learning what was going on.

  3. Zola says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award. No obligation, but just want you to know that I appreciate your blog.


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