A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 30 December 1864

We are following the experiences of James Eberhart and Jens Dahle, both incarcerated at Salisbury Prison in North Carolina during the final days of the Civil War and exactly 150 years ago.  James wrote almost daily in his diary about the experience which probably mirrored that of Jens.

“Dec 30 134 day–

Up Early. Went to the well and drew water to wash with & a cup to drink. Fell in Early & was Counted off. Drew Soup to day but nothin else all day. Bread did not go around. A great many of our boys are Complaining & death Rates is high. How much longer are we to remain here.” — James Eberhart [1]

I found this particularly compelling.  James and Jens will remain at Salisbury for another 7 weeks. Meanwhile the death toll is mounting and the food is declining in quantity and quality.

James is doing a good job of keeping himself healthy.  He exercises, stands in line for quinine pills when they are available and takes care of others in his regiment who were also captured.  Early in the war it was thought that having a general assignment of draftees and volunteers was the way to assign men to regiments–a true United States Army.  The states insisted on having very local regiment assignment because it was felt that if you knew the person in the trench next to you, you would help him more.

Certainly James exemplifies the responsibility of a commander to his regiment and makes sure they get food etc.  Note in a previous post, where one of his men died and he collected a lock of his hair.  With nothing else to give, one can only hope that the lock of hair made it back to the widow or mother awaiting word of their loved one.

Happy Hunting!

Jill

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

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2 comments on “A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 30 December 1864

  1. Mary Swenson says:

    Very sobering details indeed! Referencing another post about Jens, my brother commented, it really makes you think! Very true. It should be noted that at the time of his service, Jens was a Norwegian immigrant and perhaps wasn’t as comfortable with written English as James.
    Thank you once again for reminding me of my heritage!

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Jens probably wasn’t as fluent in English as James and in times of significant stress we often revert to what we know best and in this case it would be a reversion to Norwegian. However, in an affidavit for pension, one of Jens’s friends stated that before the war, Jens knew English better than some of the immigrants and served as an interpreter for the community. Jens is a wonderful story of strength, courage and tenaciousness that clings with me. I read an article in the latest Smithsonian magazine about the concept of PTSD and the Civil War veteran. We think of PTSD as “new.” It appears obvious to me that Jens took 20 years after the war to regain his health–mental and physical, at which time he built himself a new house, got himself a new bride and raised a family. I suspect that those first few years were not just getting his health back but dealing with the reality of what he experienced.

      Happy New Year!
      Jill

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