A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 16 February 1865

hospital SalisburyOn 16 February 1865, Jens checked himself into the hospital suffering from “chills & fever”.1  but hospitals within Civil War prisons were not much more than protection from the elements. See image on left of the hospital in Salisbury.2  There are no beds, no mattresses and no heat but you received some cover from the rain. The dead were taken from the hospital and loaded onto the wagon which appeared daily at the open end of the hospital.  All items of value would be removed from the body such as clothing or blankets and given to other prisoners or taken by the guards.  This late in the war no medications were available. In a show of personal strength, Jens returned to camp the next day. He was not ready to die..or had he heard a rumor?

I hypothesize that Jens must have been very close to death at this time. He is probably also losing hope–a dangerous combination. If something doesn’t happen soon to change his situation, he will die. The reasons for my supposition include that his condition was not strong when he entered prison back in October due to his “light duty” designation when he returned from the Union hospital where he was for 7 months in 1863 and 1864.  Family tradition says he weighed only 85 pounds when he got out of prison.  Hospitals were not places one went to become well but rather to die even in good times. Subsequent events substantiate this hypothesis.

James Eberhart described the weather as “more rain” and noted that the camp had missed rations two days of the week.3 Bad food or no food would have exacerbated Jens’s condition.

It was known at this time that the South was losing the war. How much longer would it continue? Who would take the burden of surrender on his shoulders?

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last posting:  worked on the newsletter for Seattle GS, “completed” my presentation “A Scandinavian Overview” which will be presented next weekend.  …unfortunately it is about 1 hour and 12 minutes long and way too dense.  Syllabus went out to the program planner.  Also did my SGS Board report.  I have just two more newsletters to do and 1 bulletin.  I am looking forward to seeing my daughter in Tucson AZ the end of this month.  Working with Skagit Valley GS for a presentation given with Mary Kathryn Kozy.  It will be fun working with her.

1Jens Dahle, Compiled Military Service Record, (private, 2nd Company Minnesota Sharpshooters), Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington DC.
2 Image probably from Harper’s Weekly magazine approximately 1865.
3 James Eberhart, Diary, 1864-1865.

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