A Day in the LIfe of Jens Dahle: 29 November 1864

We continue to follow Civil War soldier, Jens Dahle, a private in the 2nd MN through the eyes of a fellow prisoner, James Eberhardt.

“Up at daylight and went in to see Tom & he was dying & could not Speak but seemed to know me by his Eyes.  I stayed a while & got a lock of his hair & he was Carried to the dead House.” — James Eberhardt [1]

The dead house was the the building where they put the bodies until they loaded them on the wagon and hauled them out of the enclosure and buried the bodies.

James and Jens have now been in prison 100 days.

Atlanta ruined rr station 1864Lincoln was re-elected earlier in the month significantly aided by the capture of Atlanta by Sherman in late October. The war is not going well for the South and the majority of the Southerners are starting to realize the futility of continuation.  Sherman has just started his March to the Sea after the burning of Atlanta’s warehouses and railroads [2].  A month from now he will be in Savannah with a 60 mile wide swath of destruction and devastation caused by his 62,000 soldiers. [3]

None of those victories affected life in the camp; in fact it is not known whether the prisoners were even aware of these events..

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  prepared for our SGS Board meeting by generating my Publications report, put together a proposal to the Board for a Family History Writing Contest with a real prizes!  Contacted the Southern California GS to see if I could use their Family History Contest rules and FAQs for ours–they said yes (cooperation between societies is so amazing!); also contacted the writer of the dissertation I wrote about a few blogs ago.  Finished up writing my notes  for my KDP– got my 500 words in today!  AND had a very nice Thanksgiving at home with hubby–with full meal for the two of us!  Anyone want some left overs?

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

[3]  George N. Barnard, photographer, “Atlanta, Ga. Ruins of depot, blown up on Sherman’s departure,” digital image NARA (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003000882/PP/ : accessed 27 November 2014).

[2] The History Place, “Civil War 1861-1865: A House Divided,” timeline (http://www.historyplace.com/civilwar/ : accessed 27 November 2014).


A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 25 November 1864

“Nov 25–a little warmer to day.  But very muddy.  The mortality of camp is Very great.  From 40-50 a day. How long will we last.” — James Eberhart

James expressed the growing depression of the camp in his diary on 25 November.  Prisoners in Salisbury, including Jens had little to do except think about survival.

Salisbury trenchesIf a prisoner was sick, he was taken to the hospital which provided a roof over head and not much more.  The dead  bodies were carried off in carts to a location outside the compound to be buried in a common grave.  The names of those who died were not recorded.  Presently at the site, now a national monument, there are long rows that are designated as the burial trenches for the Salisbury soldiers.  (see photo.) [1]

At Andersonville, a prison of the same style as Salisbury and a notorious Confederate prison made more famous by the book of the same name by MacKinlay Kantor, death was as commonplace as at Salisbury.  Dorence Atwater, A physician’s assistant and Union soldier, recorded the name of many soldiers who died at Andersonville and where they were buried–at some risk to himself.

“In the spring of 1865 families from around the country were sending [Clara Barton] letters inquiring as to the whereabouts of their loved ones, as the Army had no system in place to notify next of kin when a soldier died. Barton began publishing lists of missing soldiers in the newspapers. On June 22, 1865 [Dorence] Atwater wrote Barton a letter introducing himself to her, and asked for a copy of her missing soldiers lists, suggesting that he could provide information on many of those listed. Barton then contacted Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and asked that she be given access to the Atwater lists, which by this point were in the possession of the army and being copied.” [2]

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I am working (finally) on my Kinship Determination Project.  I am setting a goal of a minimum of 500 words per day–no matter what.  I am just trying to get the story written as this seems to be a struggle for me.  Sometimes the words flow, but for me right now–they aren’t.

[1] photo used with permission from http://www.GoRowan.com, accessed 4 November 2014.

[2] Andersonville National Historic Site, “Myth: Clara Barton organized the expedition to Andersonville, identified the graves, and established Andersonville National Cemetery,” National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/ande/historyculture/bartonmyths.htm : accessed 4 November 2014)


A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 8 October 1864

In previous blogs, I tracked Jens Dahle’s experiences 150 years ago as he participated in the Civil War, fighting for the 2nd Minnesota under 1st Lt. Mahlan Black.

The Confederates captured Jens at Ream’s Station, a minor skirmish, on the 25th of August and took him to Libby Prison in Richmond (Virginia) for intake on 27 of August.  Shortly after that he was moved to Belle Island, now called Belle Isle, which overlooks the city.

From this point forward the record of the experiences of Jens are scant except for the existence and publication of a diary of James Eberhart, a soldier whose capture, Belle Island and Salisbury Prison experiences are contemporary with Jens Dahles’.  [1]

33n1On 8 October 1864, Jens, James and a thousand or more other prisoners were loaded unto a rail car and hauled to Salisbury, North Carolina.  He may have been one of the lucky ones who rode inside but if not, he rode on top of the car exposed to the unseasonably cold Fall in the South.

“Sat Oct 8–About 11 am we marched back to the Depot & shipped to Salisbury.  We got on top of Cars..We were nearly frozen having been on top of the Cars 7 hours…Our ration is all gone.  So nothing to eat tonight. I found some wheat in the Cars and parched it & made coffee out of it. And laid down.” — James Eberhart

James was of stronger constitution than Jens who had already been confined to a hospital for 7 months due to dysentery or other sanitary condition related disease.  James, a sergeant in Co. G, of the 8th Pennsylvania RES felt responsible for his men and worked to keep his own physical condition strong and garner rations as they were available to assist his men.  He kept his physical condition strong through exercise and constantly taking quinine when it was available even when not outwardly sick.

Like Belle Island, Salisbury was considered a stockade type of prison.  While there were structures within the fence, these facilities were reserved for officers, Confederate soldiers who abandoned their posts, and criminals.  Other buildings were used for food preparation and the hospital.  This prison was well served by the rail line as seen on the right of the bird-eye-view (see photo on left)  Today only a small garrison remains of the facility, seen to the right of the rail line. [2]

The common soldier, including Jens and James Eberhart were left to their own ingenuity in the open area.  It was common that one or more would dig a small cave in the ground to share and in which to sleep at night.  Water was provided by wells which quickly became contaminated.  There may, at times have been a stream as well.  Food was served out of the cookhouse connected to the large multistory building. [2]

Here Jens would stay to the end of the war.  The experiences of James, to the extent they could have been experienced by Jens, will be relayed going forward.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I have worked on a number of presentations for the upcoming speaking engagements.  I am ready for the all day-er at Whatcom County, and I am starting to work on the presentations for the LDS Family History conference in early November.  the weather has been marvelous here in Seattle and so I also caught a little sunshine today.

[1] Florence C. McLaughlin, editor, “Diary of Salisbury Prison by James Eberhart,” The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, July 1973.
[2] “History: Salisbury Confederate Prison,” Salisbury, North Carolina, online database: http://www.salisburync.gov/prison/1.html.

A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: ~ 30 August 1864

Belle IslandOn or about this date, the Confederates moved Jens Dahle, and James Everhart, the diarist, from Libby Prison, crossed the James River to Belle Isle.  This prison was located an island overlooking Richmond, Virginia.  Jens and James stayed at Belle Isle until October of 1864. [1]

Belle Isle was a “tent” type prison in that there was no permanent structure to house the prisoners who were housed in tents. The James River served as  a deterrent to escapes. [2] This view  in the photo is taken looking at Richmond. [3]

Early in the war, prisoners would be exchanged between the two armies.  In April of 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant recognized that this exchange program was advantageous to the Confederates as the Confederate exchanged soldiers went back into the Confederate Army contrary to their oath upon release, whereas the Union soldiers went home.  Grant cancelled all further exchanges.  Prisons like Belle Isle, sized for 1000 prisoners, swelled almost overnight to many times that number. [4] This was true for prisons in the north and the south.  As a consequence, housing became crude, food shortages were chronic and deaths mounted as sanitary conditions became rudimentary and pathogens infiltrated what water supplies were available.  Death became common place. [5]

Next posting: 8 October 1864. Jens is transferred to Salisbury Prison.


[1] CMSR, Jens Dahle.
[2] “Civil War Prisons,” Civil War Home (http://www.civilwarhome.com/prisons.htm : accessed 24 August 2014)
[3] “Belle Isle, 1863,” NARA.
[4] “Exchange of Prisoners in the Clvii War,” Civil War Home, online (http://www.civilwarhome.com : accessed 18 January 2012)[4] McLaughlin, 245.
[5] “Civil War Prison,” Civil War Home.

A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 27 August 1864

Where was Jens Dahle 150 years ago today?

Dahle confederate rosterJust two days previously, the Confederate Army led by Hampton captured 1000 Union soldiers at the Battle of Ream’s Station, Jens Dahle was one.  He and his fellow prisoners were loaded onto a rail car and taken to Richmond, Virginia.  As with most Union prisoners, Jens was processed through a warehouse conscripted by the Confederate army and called Libby Prison.  The photo on the left is the original Confederate roster of Union prisoners processed at Libby on 27 August 1864.[1]  Jens Dahle is noted with the red box.  Officers were imprisoned on the upper floors; the lower floors were for the processing of prisoners before moving the regulars out to other locations.

The record of the capture, transference by train, intake at Libby and subsequent details of prison life are taken from the diary of  Sergeant James Everhart of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (Company G, 8th PA RES, Volunteer Corps) who kept a diary during his concurrent stay with Jens.  It is doubtful James and Jens knew each other as each unit would stay with its own.  And while Jens’s experience would have been different (e.g. he was already weakened by the bout of dysentery he had suffered the year before) James’s experience and the dates they occurred are almost mirrored day to day until their release in February 1865. [2]

Libby no longer stands but is memorialized by a plaque on the side of a flood wall on the James. [3]


[1] Confederate Record of Jens T. Dahle.  List of Federal Troops Captured at Reams Station, Virginia on August 25, 1864 and Recorded at Confederate Military Prison in Richmond, Virginia August 27, 1864, NARA, Identifier 616054; Record Group 249, Records of the Commissary General of Prisoners, 1861-1905.
[2] Florence C. McLaughlin, editor, “Diary of Salisbury Prison by James Everhart,” The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, July 1973,
[3] Personal observation by Jill Morelli, July 2013.

A Day in the Life of Jens Dahle: 25 August 1864

The year 1864– 150 years ago– was a pivotal year of the Civil War.

On this day, 150 years ago, Jens Dahle, a Norwegian immigrant, was captured at the Battle of Reams Station.

We know what lies ahead– Petersburg campaign, Sherman’s March to the Sea, Lincoln’s reelection (not a forgone conclusion), the fall of Richmond, the surrender at Appomattox and the assassination of Lincoln. Let’s watch these events through one soldier’s eyes– those of Jens Dahle of the 2nd Minnesota.

To the extent known by me, I will post the activity of Jens on the date of the 150th anniversary of key and known activities. The activities are obviously not regular and thus the postings will be irregular as well.

The last posting in the series will be 30 April 2015.

But, who is Jens Dahle?

Jens Dahle  was born on 25 March 1839 to the unmarried couple Torkel Torkelson and Unni Olsdotter in Leikanger parish, Sogn und Fjordane district. Torkel and Unni married, but not to each other, within the following three years. [1]

As the stepson of the husband of his mother, Jens would not inherit the farm which instead would go to the eldest biological son. Jens could look forward to a life in Norway as a day laborer or a small tenant farmer without rights of inheritance for his own future family members. [2] Others from his parish emigrated to the Midwest including his biological father. The mass migration from Norway to the United States was just beginning and ultimately would send 11% of its population, the largest as a percentage of any country except Ireland, to the United States. [3]

Jens left the parish for “Nord Amerika” on 14 April 1858 for Minnesota. [4]

After four years in Minnesota and with still few prospects but with a reasonable command of the English language, Jens enlisted in the Union Army on 20 January 1862 and was assigned to the Minnesota Sharpshooters. [5] Doris Gilpin Faust described “sharpshooters” as “killing machines”  in her book, The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War because they were the ones selected for their accuracy with a gun and who served as snipers.

The next few years saw Jens in and out of the hospital system with dysentery, one of the diseases that caused over 2/3s of the deaths associated with the War. [6] This weakened him for regular duty and placed him in Provost Guard, ostensibly “light duty,” where he served until 21 June 1864.  This could hardly be considered light duty as he was still involved with four of the ten bloodiest battles of the War and traveled New York City to quell the riots in that city responding to the draft. [7]

reams stationWhere was Jens 150 years ago today?

25 August 1864:  Jens captured at the Battle of Ream’s Station, Virginia. [8]

This was a minor battle characterized by strategic blunders by the generals of the Union Army in their positioning of troops on the hill.  Jens was under the command of Brigadier General John Gibbon and positioned on the south side of the hill which was attacked by Confederates units under Hampton’s command. Jens was not alone–over 1000 Union soldiers were captured at this time.

As you can see from the map, the blue lines indicate the Union forces and the red were the attacking Confederates.  You do not need to be a General Patton to figure out that if the Confederates shot at you and missed they had a second chance at hitting a Union compatriot in the back on the other side of this tight “V-shaped” formation.  Jens was stationed with his regiment on the lower right hand side of the V-shaped formation. [9]

Over the next two or three days, he and the others captured travel to Richmond, Virginia.

Our thoughts are with you, Jens and all the POWs who have sacrificed for this country.  I respect and honor the courage it took to face the long odds you endured.


Next installment: 27 August 2014, Richmond, Virginia.

[1]  Leikanger parish, Sogn of Fjordane County, Norway, Jens Torkelson birth entry (25 March 1837); original parish records online  Digitalarkivit (http://arkiverket.no : accessed 23 October 2011) entry 44, 11.
[2] Theodore Christian Belgen, Norwegian Migration to America (1825-1860), (North Stratford, New Hampshire : Ayer Company Publishers, In., 1969) 5.[3] Belgen, 22.
[4] Leikanger parish, Sogn og Fjordane County, Norway, Jens Torkelson Tjon moving out record (14 April 1858); original parish records online Digiatarkivet (http://www.arkiverket.no: accessed 23 October 2011) 248.
[5] Compiled Military Service Records (CMRS) of Volunteer Union Soldiers, National Archives and Record Administration (NARA); Jens T. Dahle (private, 2nd Company, Minnesota Sharpshooters). Copy of record in the possession of Mary Swenson [address for private use.]
[6] CMRS, Jens Dahle.
[7] CMRS, Jens Dahle.
[8] CMRS, Jens Dahle.
[9] “Maps of Reams Station, the Second Battle of Reams Station,” Civil War Home (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/reamsstation/maps/reamsstationmap.html : accessed 19 November 2011).

Research Plans! I have become a believer.

This past month the ProGen class has been working on Research Plans.  I got mine written and along the way I learned a lot about why people write them and their value.

I have not been a fan of research plans.  Recently I posted about them:


…and I received some great comments from Yvette!  Thank you.  Her comments illustrated how (and why) a research plan for a client is helpful.  In discussions with others in the class, a second scenario was presented.  One of the class members uses a very short (one page or less) research plan every time she is researching problem A and she runs into problem B.  Problem B could totally divert her from working on problem A. Instead, she quickly writes a research plan on problem B and move back to Problem A.  She stated sometimes she ends up with quite a stack of problem statements/research plans but at least she knows where the gaps are.

Pretty cool and probably obvious to many!  I have no clear system for tracking identified problems but ones that cannot be addressed at the moment.  This seems like a reasonable way to do it.

One of the common issues with the research plans of the class is that they ended up writing more of a report and less of a plan.  They incorporated the implementation of the plan as part of the plan.  It seems to me that  “A Plan” is strictly that….what you will do in the future to address the problem.  Even BCG when it requests the research plan, restricts it to one page (part of the document work segment.) Many of the commenters suggested alternative sources and places to look.  While this was helpful it didn’t address the effectiveness of the structure of the plan itself.  The lesson for me was to see how quickly I could write a research plan–the quicker I write them then the more likely I am to write many more.  I need to keep refining the process and worry less about the product.  I also learned that one type of problem, say document retrieval, might not elicit the need for a plan and others might vary in what is needed to include.

So if you care to look (and comment) here is my revised class submission:

2013 0327 research plan

(The client, whose name has been changed, approved the inclusion of this in my blog.)

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  submitted my assignment (took comments and revised it accordingly and that is what is posted here), participated in the group critique, got out a SGS newsletter (painfully), attended SGS Board meeting, got 2 more clients (!), got a request to present my Civil War Prisons presentation to SGS (end of April) and to present at the fall seminar. I also started researching doing house histories (I will blog about that soon), read Inheritance in America: from Colonial Times to the Present by Shammas (I’ll blog about that as well), skimmed The Law of Sexual Discrimination by Lindgren, and am in the midst of reading Visiting the Courthouse.  I found that my great grand uncle purchased a parcel of land using the Timber Culture Act, which I had never heard of; that’s a blog topic for the future as well.  I am starting the layout of the Spring SGS Bulletin, which must be published by the end of the month.  Whew!  It’s an over achiever month.