Well, maybe not last post, really…
Since 25 August, we have been “traveling” with the Union Soldier Jens Dahle, 150 years to the day of the events he experienced in the Civil War. This is the 17th and final post on Jens as we “walk in his shoes.”
Jens was captured at the Battle of Reams Station in August of 1864, taken to Libby Prison and Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, Virginia, before being moved by train to Salisbury Prison in Salisbury, North Carolina in early October.1 While he did not record his life events in Salisbury, James Eberhart, Sergeant in Co. G, 8th Pennsylvania RES Volunteer Corps, did, writing a diary of events of his days that were probably similar to that of Jens.2
By 25th of March 1865, Jens had been released from prison–so sick he did not walk out like others but rather was taken by train. Jens was paroled at Cox’s Landing, taken to Annapolis, Maryland, and then traveled by train to St. Louis.3 And that is where we complete the final chapter of his story.
Jens stayed at Benton Barracks for just two days before re-boarding the train and heading north to Chicago. Ultimately, his destination was St. Paul, Minnesota and Fort Snelling to muster out, but his pension record states he was too sick to continue past Chicago and instead entered his fifth hospital of the four years of his service duty in the Union Army.4
Upon arrival in Chicago, date of arrival unknown but probably less than a week from the time he departed from St. Louis, Jens entered the Soldier’s Home at Camp Douglas.5 This was a former Union Camp and prison turned hospital. Interestingly, the improvement on the grounds was Chicago home of Stephen Douglas (see left)!6
Jens described himself in Chicago as “treated for Typhoid fever and was much of the time comatose.” He convalesced until he was able to take the boat to Minneapolis the end of April, where he suffered yet another relapse.7 What route he traveled is unknown.
It is striking to think that he probably was unaware of some of the most critical events in our nation’s history of this era–the fall of Richmond, the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln– all occurring in April. (These events are chronicled in a book I recommend to everyone–April 1865: The Month that Saved America by Jay Winik, describing how the nation was literally on the brink of total chaos and collapse.)
Jens mustered out of the Union Army on 26 June 1865 and went to live with his uncle Peter Nielsen but didn’t work for a year as he convalesced.8 His story is not complete without describing briefly the rest of his life, the remainder of which is a similar testament to the grit of this Norwegian immigrant.
Jens was proud of his role in the war and in 1867 filed his intent to become a citizen and was eventually naturalized in 1897.9 (The reason for the 30 year delay is not known.) He was an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, attending their gatherings for years and, according to the family lore, was buried with his three leafed shamrock pin, a symbol of the Minnesota regiments who fought in many of the bloodiest battles of the War.10
Jens used his monetary legacy from the War to buy land in Waseca County, Minnesota, which he farmed as a bachelor until 1886. On 7 February 1886, Jens, age 47 married Anna Olina Seim, age 23, a fellow Norwegian and recent immigrant, who proceeded to bear 13 children, 11 of which survived childhood.11 (see left for most of the family members) Many of these descendents have contacted me and offered remembrances during the time of my telling of Jen’s story.
Thank you all for reading this series; I am honored by your comments. I have learned so much from all of you. I have also grown to admire Jens and his sacrifices during the writing of the paper and these past few months of this series. If you wish to know more about Jens, you can purchase the novella I wrote in 2012 about his Civil War experiences and which is the basis for this blog series at Lulu.com. (I make no money on the book.)
1 Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR), Jens T. Dahle. Private, 2nd Company, Minnesota Sharpshooters, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC.
2 James Eberhart, Diary.
3 Military Pension Record, Jens T. Dahle.
7 Military Pension Record, Jens T. Dahle.
9 Jens T. Dahle, Declaration of Intention (1867), and Petition for Naturalization (1897), District Court of the County of Waseca, State of Minnesota.
10 Family lore from Paul Swenson and Mary Swenson.
11 Jens T. Dahle, Pension Record, Jens T. Dahle & Anna Oline Seim marriage certificate.