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.


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

  1. Mary Swenson says:

    I remain grateful for your stories of my great-grandfather, Jens T. Dahle. I find it of interest that the date Jens mustered out, is the date of my birth…over 80 years later!

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Thanks for sharing your ancestor with me–and I still got the better deal! You won’t ever forget the date! 🙂 (65 degrees in Seattle today! fabulous.) Jill

  2. This is a chronicle of “real America!” Thank you so much for bringing history to life through immigrant and family narration.

  3. Thank you for every one of these fascinating posts……you are a good mentor.

  4. Dee says:

    I love the posts about Jens Dahle. My ancestor also became a POW at Ream’s Station and followed Jens to Richmond and on to Salisbury. His story sheds light on the experiences of our ancestor! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Jackie Saemrow says:

    Jens Dahle was my Great Grandfather. I love reading about Jens and Anna’s life. If you have more information I would love to read it.

    • Jill Morelli says:


      Thanks for writing. I wrote a novella (not long enough for a book but longer than a paper) and self-published it. If you wish you can purchase it at http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=jens+dahle&type= It costs $13.88 plus shipping. Thanks for reading my blog. It was an honor to write about Jens and his Civil War experience. Note: three days ago – 150 years, Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House and more importantly told his troops to go home. Some thought that if Lee would not have told them to go home, the Virginia Army would have continued a guerrilla war as some did on the Western front.
      Thanks for writing.


  6. Jessica Dahle says:

    This was awesome to read! Thank you so much! Jens was my great-great grandfather. I was actually looking up info on the house he built and luckily came across this. I’m looking forward to buying your book soon. Thanks again:)

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Thanks! I am glad you found the blog; some of your cousins are blog readers as well. If you haven’t already do a sort on “Dahle” and pull up all 17 of the posts. I also hope you like the book. (I publish it at cost.)


  7. Susan Otterholt Kempe says:

    I only recently discovered while going through family photos and papers that my great great grandpa’s half brother was Jen Dahle. I do not have a family tree that far back but my grandmother had saved a photo of Minnesota First Regiment survivors at a reunion/monument dedication that had been published in the Mpls paper at the time of the Minnesota state centennial celebration. On it she had written a note with an arrow drawn to Jens in the picture. Jens is the second ancestor of mine that I have discovered served in the Civil War. Unfortunately the other one, a great great grandfather, evidently died on the way home after being discharged, and we do not know his final resting place. I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover your blog. I wonder how it happened that you came to write his story. I am interested in any further accessible or published information you might have.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      I have been busy with other items (teaching, writing, lecturing), and so I apologize for not responding sooner. I cane to write the Jens Dahle story because a friend of mine, Mary Swenson, a direct descendent of Jens, told me a part of his story and I asked if I could pursue the story for a class I was taking which interwove history with genealogy. If you want more information about Jens, I put it into a a small book, and self-published it on lulu.com. You can go that site, search on my name and download the book for a small fee or you can order the heard copy for slightly more money. I know the Swenson family would like to see the picture you have; I know that I would like to see it also. You could email a scan of it to me at jkmorelli@gmail.com and I would be happy to get it to the Swensons. On the CW ancestor of your that died–have you obtained his Compiled Military Service Record? –his pension record, probably applied for by his widow? —medical report? You obtain these from the National Archives. Finally, I recommend that you obtain a copy of the diary of James Eberhardt. If you have other questions, don’t hesitate to ask; and I promise to answer faster than I did with this response! Thanks for reading and writing. Jill

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