A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 25 March 1865– Last Post!

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

douglasUpon 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 Dahle famJens  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.)

Happy Hunting!


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.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Military Pension Record, Jens T. Dahle.
8 Ibid.
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.


A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 23 March 1865

We are following Jens Dahle and his Civil War experiences in Salisbury Prison in North Carolina at the time of the 150th anniversary of those events.

Jens has been released from prison (22 February 1865) and traveled by train (other able bodied prisoners had to walk) to Richmond from Salisbury, North Carolina.  On March 10th a prisoner exchange occurred at Cox’s Landing and Jens probably was loaded onto a steamer.  On 13 March he crossed into Union territory, location unknown but possibly Annapolis.

train Civil WarTwo days after being repatriated with the Union army he probably boarded a train and traveled to Benton Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri where he arrived on 23 March 1865. I found difficulty in obtaining much information on the Benton Barracks.  The area has been cleared for many years now.  Benton Barracks was a combination of a Union tent city–it was described as long rows of tents up to a mile long– and a hospital and large parade grounds.

Nevertheless, Jens stayed only long enough to receive a 30 day furlough (like James Everhart) and within two days of his arrival he boarded another train, this time to Chicago.

It is not known if Jens traveled in a new innovation for moving the sick and injured–the hospital train– shown above in the lithograph, but it is likely.  Given his emaciated condition this seems like the most likely occurrence.  Or, maybe I just want to think that maybe he was transferred in this type of transportation because it seems more humane.

Jens has now been traveling for about a month since his release.

The end of the war now seems inevitable.

Happy Hunting!


March/April Lecture Schedule

I am very pleased with my lecture schedule for the next four weeks.  I have two all day presentations and four single presentations.  Towards the end of ProGen (in mid 2014), I realized that I wanted to focus on genealogical lecturing. I developed goals for the advancement of this aspect of my genealogy work.

My goals looked like this (scheduling is usually 6 months to a year in advance of actually presenting):

  • 2014:  start scheduling local lectures
  • 2015: start scheduling regional lectures
  • 2016: start scheduling national lectures

I am thrilled at my progress!  I not only am scheduling regionally but I am speaking regionally–British Columbia; Burbank, California and Cape Cod/Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Here are some things I have done to expand my lecturing “reach.”

  • I solicited ideas and comments about how to make great presentations from professional genealogists on two listserves I subscribe to.
  • When a friend couldn’t do a couple of presentations, I was flexible enough to be able to step in.  This turned out to be a bigger deal than I initially thought, as the experience exposed me to some other groups which have subsequently hired me.
  • I asked Angela McGhie, a noted lecturer and blogger, to review and critique my response to requests for proposals and lecture list.  She was most kind and offered great constructive criticism.
  • I studied the book Presentation Zen, which offered some terrific concepts about how to improve presentations–development, design and presenting.
  • I have spent considerable time developing 15 lectures with two more in draft form.
  • I make sure I have obtained evaluations from the attendees whenever I speak.  I also self-evaluate every presentation.
  • I have sent out 3 (only) “cold call emails” to Vancouver, BC, Durham, NC and Cape Cod.  Two of the three (!) have asked me to speak to their group.
  • I attended Billie Fogarty’s presentation on lecturing at the Professional Management Conference.  I got several great ideas and some confirmation on others. (Did you know– it takes 80 hours to develop a presentation?!–I believe it.)
  • I have reactivated working on my website. Hope to have it active in a couple of months
  • I have improved the quality of my syllabi, a criticism of last year. These need to be content rich white papers and not taken lightly.
  • Often syllabi have to be submitted much in advance of the presentation itself.  In the interim, new information is identified which would be good for the audience to have but I would have no way to get that information to the audience except in the presenation itself. For each group I present to, I develop a website and post 1.) an outline of my lecture, 2.) the syllabus, 3.) the resources listed on the presentation and 4.) any other references and resources that emerge since the time the syllabus was submitted.
  • I am keeping my lectures updated on the Genealogical Speakers Guild page.  I also look at other lecturers websites and lecture lists to get ideas.

All that work in high school with Fred Swisher and Miss Hess (?), speaking at Iowa State Speech contests is paying off.  Of course, there is no substitute, ever, for good work.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since my last posting:  I have been working on presentations which are scheduled in the next 4 weeks.  In development are two more, one on insanity in the 19th century using Dirk Bode as my case study and another requested by a genealogical society on Tech Tools. I am also writing an article for the Illinois Genealogical Society Quarterly on an overview of non-population schedules. I have responded to three Calls for Proposals totaling 17 proposals. I’ll keep you posted.

A Day in the LIfe of Jens Dahle: 10-13 March 1865

We are following Jens Dahle and his Civil War experiences in Salisbury Prison in North Carolina at the time of the 150th anniversary of those events.

Early in the war, prisoner exchanges between the two armies were informal agreements between military leaders but frequent enough that prisons were basically holding pens of a short duration. In April 1864, General Grant determined that the exchanges benefited the South more than the North and stopped the practice.  The South also disagreed with the concept of equal value for an African American soldier. As a result, both the North and the South experienced a sharp increase in the number of prisoners in prisons  which were sized to handle many fewer individuals. On 24 January 1865, the Confederacy agreed to resume prisoner exchanges.1

Jens was released from Salisbury Prison on 22 February 1865.  He was too sick to walk the 50 miles to Greensboro and so he traveled by train.

He arrived in Richmond two days later, on the 24th.2

cox's landingOn 10 March, Jens was paroled at Cox’s Landing in Virginia (see image on left3) but what he experienced those intervening 16 days in Richmond or how he traveled to Cox’s Landing is unknown. If he mirrored the experiences of James Eberhart, our diarist, he boarded a steamer at Cox’s Landing, due east of Richmond on the Rappahannock River.  On 13 March he arrived at the Union Line but again we are not sure where that event occurred.3

Happy Hunting!


1 January 14, 1865: Confederate Congress Agrees to Resume Prisoner Exchanges, History.com (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/confederate-congress-to-resume-prisoner-exchanges : accessed 1 January 2015).
2 Jens Dahle,  Compiled Military Service Record.
3 “Cox’s Landing, Virginia. Waiting for Flag-of-Truce boat,” image from stereograph, Library of Congress (digital file from original neg. of left half) cwpb 02167, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.02167.
4 Jens Dahle, Compiled Military Service Record.

Official Blogger for the NGS 2015 Conference

As you can see by the new logo on the right hand sidebar that I received notice that I was accepted as an Official Blogger of the National Genealogy Society (NGS) conference to be held the 13th- 16th of May in St. Charles, Missouri.  I was excited to be named for the third year in a row to this role.

The role comes with some benefits and some responsibilities.

  • I get to register at the press table and I get a ribbon.
  • I can sit at the press table with free wi-fi. (to me, this is a big benefit!)
  • I can compete for some monetary prizes if I do a really good job of blogging about the conference.
  • I get to post a cool logo on my blog site! (More importantly, I even figured out HOW to post the cool logo on my web site–not always a given.)

Since prizes are not my motivation, I will probably not be a contender for the money.  There is no other remuneration.

My other responsibilities are to blog before, during and after the conference so there were be a few postings about the conference. I will start each one with NGS, so if you are not interested, you know where the delete key is on your keyboard.  I like to blog during the conference but sometimes I get so engrossed in what I am doing that I cannot extricate myself from the intensity of the conference–which is, to me, a good thing!  As a consequence, my postings during a genealogical event are usually sporadic and short.

I have already registered for the conference and signed up for the German pre-course with Warren Bittner, an expert in German work.  I have the hotel room and I am sharing it with Karen…we found we were compatible at PMC in January (the Association of Professional Genealogists’s management conference prior to SLIG.) Neither one of us snores loud enough to wake up the other! 🙂

If you are thinking of attending, sign up now as the early bird registration cut-off date is 31 March and is rapidly approaching.  Hotel rooms are mostly gone but you might find that Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) and AirBNB have some interesting options for you–those are the groups I use when I forget to make reservations and everything is totally booked. (last time that happened: daughter graduated from college along with 4 other major universities in Boston and the cheapest room available was $439/night!)

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: submitted 8 responses for the NGS 2016 Call for Proposals (in Ft. Lauderdale, FL), submitted 8 responses for the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2016 Call for Proposals (in Springfield, Illinois), polished up my three syllabi for the Jefferson County GS all-day seminar in Chimicum WA, strategized with Mary Kathryn Kozy about our joint presentation to the Skagit Valley GS in September. Submitted the APG annual report for the Puget Sound Chapter (I am the Chapter Rep) It was a busy weekend.


What’s New in the ‘Hood: Department of Planning & Development (Seattle)

DD DPDOn 5 March a group of about 30 people toured the holdings of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) of the City of Seattle (see left).  This tour was one in a series of back-of-the-house tours sponsored by Historic Seattle in their “Digging Deeper” series which explores well known and obscure repositories in the Puget Sound area which have holdings that might be of interest to house historians, architectural historians and genealogists.  I have used the DPD collection before as it was my first stop when doing my own house history; however, I learned some tips on this tour that would have made that first visit much easier.

Sue Putnam, Josey Rush and Warren Chapman, employees of the City and caretakers of the records, warmly greeted us, answered all our questions and gave us some great tips about what was included in their collection and how to best access the records.

There are three primary record sets in their holdings:

  1. Permits
    Holdings include permits issued by the city back to the late 1800s indicating their approval to construct a building.  These records are contained on microfilm or “roll film.”  They hold some paper copies but these are difficult to access and are only accessed when there is conflicting data or a bad scan on the film. Permits between the years of 1894-1930 are on roll film. Later records are on fiche. Permits issued since 1994 are on line. Permits vary in the information given; usually the builder’s name is listed, as is the building type and permit value. Only during a few years did they record the name of the architect.  The permits from the 1920s are particularly rich with content.  Some of the very earliest permits have better legibility than later.
  2. Plans
    There are no plans of houses prior to 1974 due to a fire.  Commercial plans, however, do exist. Some of the later plans are online.
  3. Land use maps
    These include environmental studies and maps.  Especially strong are the shoreline permits.  The available records are generally from the 1970s to today.

DD DPD microficheThese documents are accessed using the street address.  There is no cross reference of addresses, i.e. if your address changed then you have to ask for both addresses. (City Directories can help with this.). This creates problems when street addresses change; each street address needs to be investigated and asked for separately.  Even a “north” exchanged for a “north east” will result in a different answer.  Also, if your house was parsed from another then the history of the house may not be accessible in its present address but rather is recorded with the “mother house.”

The staff will only pull what you ask for.

DPD is an very active office where building permits and other land use issues are reviewed and approved.  These holdings are also actively accessed by the general public who is interested in projects being built now or to be built in the future.  For those of us interested in the historical aspects of the holdings, it is best to not visit in person but rather send Josey and Warren an email describing what we need and give them a few days to find it. They will scan the record and send it to you electronically, saving the cost (and effort) of parking and coming in person.

If you do decide to go in person, the office is on the 19th floor of the Municipal building. Check their hours of public access as these are restricted.   My first impression of the lobby during public hours was of chaos in a large open space.  The information desk is in front of you, closed offices to the right and a large seating area on the left.  Against the wall behind you on the left are a series of computers for registering your presence and making an appointment (appointments can only be made in person for that day.)  While you may be interested in multiple addresses, it is only necessary to enter one address to make the appointment.  Be prepared for a wait. I cannot recommend (from personal experience) standing in line at the information counter for personal assistance unless there is no one else there.

Their busiest days are Tuesdays and Thursdays; their busiest time of day is early morning and late afternoon.  Noontime is the least busy.

This personal experience taught me to send them an email instead.  The email address is dpd_microfilm@seattle.gov.  Their website is http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/.

Ask for:

  1. “History Card”: this is a list of permits for each address.  At a minimum it will include the permit date the amount paid for the permit and the size and type of building.
  2. A copy of all permits listed on the History card.
  3. Determine if there are plans.  If yes, then ask for those.
  4. DPD also has “Abstracts” which are the historical ownership records back to 1908.  These are filed by legal description (lot and block) and are in alpha order. Again, you have to ask specifically for these records.
  5. If your property might be affected by a shoreline permit, ask for that.

It was a terrific tour and the staff was willing to answer all our questions.

DD DPD JoseyAn interesting issue of security and public access was raised during the questions and answer period (Josey responding to questions in photo at left).  Yes, these are public records; only one set of plans is unavailable to the public–plans of the County Jail.  There may be some reasons why certain owners might not want their plans public but while the DPD staff will work with people on that issue, it is rarely a request that is granted.

Thanks to Historic Seattle and Luci Baker Johnson for organizing this tour and all of the repository tours.  Here is a list of the remaining tours. I only blog about those I attend.  Click here to link to the series  It is necessary to make advanced reservations but Luci announced that some of these tours are already filled.

  • University of Washington Built Environments Library
         Saturday, April 4, 2015
  • Fiske Genealogical Library
         Saturday, May 9, 2015
  • Washington State Historical Society History Research Center
         Thursday, June 4 or Saturday, June 6, 2015 (offered both days, choose one)
  • Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room
         Saturday, June 6, 2015
  • Eastside Heritage Center
         Saturday, August 8, 2015
  • Providence Mount St. Vincent Archives
         Thursday, September 3, 2015

Happy Hunting!

What i have done since the last posting:  The past few weeks have been a genealogy marathon where I worked to complete the production of three presentations for Jefferson County GS which I will give on 21 March.  I created a webpage where I post presentation materials in advance for the attendees.  I keep it active until a week after the presentation and then take it down.  I have been asked to write an article for the Illinois State Genealogy Quarterly.  I responded to the NGS Call for papers with eight submissions.  Next, I need to respond to the FGS Call for Papers.

All photos taken by me on 5 May at DPD.