A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 25 December 1864

What were Jens and James Eberhart experiencing on Christmas Day 1864 in Salisbury Prison 1150 years ago?

129 day—

Christmas celebration 1860Up Early & had a good wash. Got my bugging done & cleaned up the best I could. A bright day. Oh if I was only home the good things I should of have to day. Nothing would be too good for thme to give  to me–but alas it cannot be so. Nothing to Eat to day. This a hard Christmas for us. But we must keep up our spirits. God have Mercy on us A Men. Done some trading of buttons & a gold pen. Got a molases pie & 5 Sweet potatoes. So fared pretty well after all. G Quinn died to day–of Co. “G” 191.” — James Eberhart

It is not known what sort of celebration that James is yearning for. the etching on the left shows a wealthy family around the Christmas tree. [2] We can only imagine that Jens yearned for the traditions of his home– the Norwegian celebration light, meat, beer and a Christmas tree.

So this is my Christmas “card” to all of my blog followers–Have a very Happy Holiday.  Do one thing today that reflects back on the traditions of your ancestors and remember that some individuals sacrificed everything so we could have the comfort of our families around us at this magical time.

Happy Hunting!


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

[2] “The Christmas Tree,” Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1850 and republished in 1860.


5 comments on “A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 25 December 1864

  1. Mary Swenson says:

    Happy Christmas! Your blog posts about my great-grandfather make his struggle come alive and is the best present ever…thank you!

    • Jill Morelli says:

      I don’t know why I didn’t do this before but I now have a copy of Eberhart’s entire journal. It is pretty interesting. I’ll send you a copy.

      Merry Christmas!


      Professional genealogist Give the gift of family!


  2. annette572 says:

    Great Christmas message, Jill. I enjoy reading these first-hand POW experiences as much as I enjoy reading your certification experiences. Merry Christmas!

    Annette Burke Lyttle

  3. sandy whitman says:

    Jill, you suggested doing one thing that reflects back on the traditions of your ancestors. Well, I did that this year. At our church’s Christmas Eve service I participated in the Scripture readings of the Christmas story, done by 8 readers in 8 foreign languages – indicating that the Christmas story is for all people. With the help of my Norwegian neighbor I (phonetically) learned to read and speak 7 verses of Luke, Chapter 2. I was elated when I finished that evening because I had just spoken the language of my grandparents for the first time. After the service people asked me how long I had been speaking Norwegian. “Three weeks”, I told them. They were amazed and I was thrilled. What a connection I felt to them!

    • Jill Morelli says:

      What a wonderful story and a wonderful holiday memory for you and your family! I am sure that your feelings of connection were almost tangible. I know mine are. Happy New Year!


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