A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 6 December 1864

We are following the experiences of Civil War soldier Jens Dahle through the diary entries of James Eberhart, both held prisoners 150 years ago in the Confederate prison in Salisbury. North Carolina.

“110 days a prisoner

Prisoner Lean-To's at Andersonville PrisonDid not Sleep very good last night. Ground damp and have to lay on one side all night.  It makes one Hip Bones very Sore. I look at mine to see if they are coming through the Skin or not. Made a pad to put under my hips at night. Use my shoes and hat for a pillow at night. Drew our Ration of Bread & Soup this morning. It dont last very long & then a long wait for the next meal. Drew wood this Evening & was counted off.”— James Eberhart [1]

The prisoners in stockade type prisons such as Salisbury and Andersonville were forced to erect makeshift tents for protection from the weather. See contemporary photo on the left taken at Andersonville.  [2] Also, in this photo you can see the “deadline” fence on the left, over which if you crossed, the guards would kill the trespasser.

The term “drew firewood” means that James collected his ration of wood for heat.  This happened irregularly and James often “drew firewood” for others who did not have the strength to do so themselves.

Winter is setting in at the Salisbury Prison in Salisbury, North Carolina for the 5000 prisoners.  This is the month of the largest population of the prison.  Food quantity and quality is decreasing for the Confederate Army regulars and so there is even less for the Union prisoners.

Happy Hunting!


[1] Florence C. McLaughlin, editor, “Diary of Salisbury Prison by James Eberhart,” The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, July 1973.

[2] Carol M. Highsmith, “Prisoner lean-tos at Andersonville Prison, Andersonville, Georgia,” contemporary re-enactment, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division; image (http://www.loc.gov : accessed 29 November 2014).


3 comments on “A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 6 December 1864

  1. a gray says:

    The following link, http://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/salisbury/north-carolina/united-states/usnc0601, will give you some idea of what the typical temperatures are in Salisbury, North Carolina in December.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      thanks, Allen. I suspect that the winters were worse at that time then current weather patterns, but this gives me the idea. .Having been in Durham, NC when it snowed 6″ in March, I have a reason to be concerned about “averages.” Have a happy holiday.

      • a gray says:

        Being able to add some element regarding weather conditions, even if they are only historic averages, provides something that people can identify with. So much that occurred in the past is totally incomprehensible to people today. Today at Joseph Banks, I was talking with a salesman who was pitching the latest and greatest to me. Having sold clothes in high school and college, I wasn’t impressed. What he was so excited about was old hat to me. Suddenly, it dawned upon me that he wasn’t even born when I was selling clothes. How do you talk about a world without computers to someone who was born in 1980 let alone the Civil War. They do, though, understand the weather.

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