The Diary of Peter Jorgensen

Veteran of the Three Years War

Prepared by Penny Pedersen Kendezejsk


Now that the Lord has been so merciful and let me live to this very high age, I think, it would be a joyful commemoration for my children, if they could look back to past time and bear my experiences from those, so long ago, vanished days.

Peter Jorgensen with his memorial medal from the Three Years War. The photo was taken in 1909, when he was 89 years old.
Peter Jorgensen with his memorial medal from the Three Years War. The photo was taken in 1909, when he was 89 years old.

It was in the year of the Lord 1820 on May 24th , that my eyes first saw the sunlight. I was born in Osterhaesinge to a daughter of farmer Peder Hansen, who had died before my mother was born.

Hans Larsen later became her stepfather and he was my foster-father until I was 10 years old, at which time Niels Hansen took the farm over. I did well as far as food and clothes were concerned, which in many places were in great need, as money was short amongst folks.

When I was 14 years old (1834), I was confirmed, and thereafter came in the service of Niels Hansen, who was a half-brother of my mother; her name was Petronille Pedersdatter. My father’s name was Jorgen Nielsen and he was born in Hillerslev. My parents now lived in Espe. Then it was a different time than it is now.

A fourteen year old boy on a farm got 5 to 6 rigsdaller yearly. There wasn’t much left for shoepolish, but, in those days, we really didn’t shine our shoes anyway. A first-hands salary of 10 rigsdaller and a maid-servants 2 rigsdaler yearly.

When I was 17 years old (1837), I became a first-hand and received the great yearly salary of 20 rigsdaler; but, it was for all that, better than to be a soldier, which I became in 1843 and received 8 skilling a day on own board. But I began to get some education and a better outlook on life.

After I was discharged and came back home, I became a coachman for pastor Agerbaek, who lived that winter at Arreskov Castle, as the parsonage had burnt down together with several farmhouses and other smaller houses around the church. Thereafter, I served Niels Hansen for a year and in the fall went on army maneuvers in Jutland. this year, the maneuver was held on Hedensted Heath, and I was quartered in the town of Orum.

When I came home, I became an apprentice with an old wheelwright in Norre-Soby. The terms were that the apprenticeship should be for three years, and each year should be paid with a barrel of rye; but I realized, after I had been there for about half a year, that there wasn’t much to learn here. I got permission to leave if I paid the master 30 rigsdaler. Thereafter, I went in the service of coachmaker Jantzen in Odense. Here, I got my dinner daily and 5 mark a week.

One could not put the butter on too heavy, as the price of it was 3 mark a pound and a barrel of rye was 15 to 16 rigsdaler, the whole time I was there – namely two years and a half. Thereafter, I went to Copenhagen to take my journeyman’s examination; it was in the beginning of Lent in the unfortunate year of 1848. After I had worked for about a month in Odense, the war with Germany broke out. I participated in the war all of the three years.

We marched from Nyborg to Odense on March 28th, and stayed there the first night. The next morning at 6 o’clock, we lined up at the city square and were then transported to Middelfart, where we were immediately ferried over to Snoghoj. From there we marched to Kolding and put up in quarters, but at 1 o’clock we were called out and transported to Haderslev, where we stood on the square for four hours, while patrols were sent out to locate the enemy, but as the Germans were not near, we were put up in quarters and slept in beds for two nights.

Thereafter, we were never to sleep in beds that whole summer. Next, we were on march for several days and slept in the open fields every night. We stood watch and sent out outposts until , on the evening of April 8th, we located the enemy near Bov. That night we were on outpost patrol and it rained the whole night. We walked through a ploughed field in mud and water to up over the shoe tops, for, in those days, the soldiers did not wear boots.

We finally contacted the enemy on April 9. We drove them back through Flensburg and captured about 1,000 men – mostly civilians and volunteers. That night, I was quartered in a large mill in Flensburg, where I was rather well off. The next day, we were again on march toward Slesvig (Schleswig), which we reached after two days march. We stayed there for eight days, but, on Easter morning, the Germans came. So, we had to get out in a hurry to meet them.

We exchanged Easter eggs the whole day, but, they were pretty well hard boiled, because they killed a lot of men. The battle lasted the whole day until darkness. We laid there the whole night; or to tell the truth, we stood up or walked around, as it was too cold to lay down. At 8 o’clock the next morning, we started to march back to Flensburg. It wasn’t easy on an empty stomach, without a nights sleep and being in battle the whole day before. At last, after we reached Flensburg we had dinner.

The Germans were now getting close, so, we had to retreat to Dybbol to get over to Als, as we were too few to engage them. We arrived in Sonderborg at midnight. Here, the captain gave us a choice: we could either march two miles out in the country, or find our own shelter for the night. We chose the last and went the two miles to Hundslev the next day. We were on Als for two days and got a count of our casualties. We had lost 40 out of 200 men. On the third day, we went back to Als Sund to about half a mile north of Sonderborg where we stayed in earthen huts in a beech tree forest for 8 to 10 days.

Then, we got orders to drive the Germans from Dybbol. There we had several skirmishes with them on and off until June 5th when we had a hot day and drove them back two miles. Sometime thereafter, the third Jaegerkorps were sent over Fyn to Jutland and through Kolding to Haderslev – where, we again, met the Germans. We stayed there about 10 to 12 days and looked the enemy in the eyes, to one day he came at us and we had to retreat to Kolding where we stayed and did outpost patrols, until the cease-fire for that year began, and I went home on leave for the winter.

Peter Jorgensen in 1915 - 95 year old. He died 97 years old, and thereby became one of the last surviving veterans of the war.
Peter Jorgensen in 1915 – 95 year old. He died 97 years old, and thereby became one of the last surviving veterans of the war.
In the spring of 1849, we were again called to the service and had to report in Sonderborg, where we stayed about 8 days. Then, we were ferried across the sound and drove the Germans back to Gravensten. That day we were so unlucky as the Germans sank two of our ships -one was blown up- and that night, we had to retreat to Dybbol . Here, the whole army was concentrated while they held counsel of war. Whereupon, we were distributed and took position on the hill.

Here we had several small skirmishes, but, the Jaegerkorps got orders again to march over Als and Fyn to Jutland to meet the enemy at Kolding. Here, we drove them out of the city, but, it wasn’t long before they got so much heavy artillery that we could not hold the line and had to retreat. I had now advanced so far ahead on a street, where I got cut off and would have been captured if I had not hid in a farmhouse and changed to civilian clothes.

Here, I had to act as a stableboy for two weeks before I could get back to my outfit. That night 36 Germans and some horses were put up in the same house. I stayed among those Germans for 14 days. Sure, they asked me if I wasn’t a Danish soldier, but, when I said, I was disabled, they let it go at that. The owner let me patch up some holes in the walls made by the German cannons the day before; the Germans then took me to be a bricklayer.

Fourteen days later, on a Sunday, as I was walking around to see a little of the town, I could tell by the Germans’ actions that they planned to attack the next day. They had their whole army concentrated here. I, then, made plans to follow the German army as close as possible. Now, it was lucky the farmer asked me to take some lunch out to one of his men who were out there ploughing a field, and it was just in the right direction, I could then follow the enemy’s line, and perhaps, after the battle, sneak through the line.

It was a little dangerous as I had been asked if I was a spy a couple of times. But, I showed them my work clothes and the lunchbasket with a three pint bottle in it, so, they could see I came from work. I understood that our army was moving toward Fredericia and the German army was following close by. The Germans stayed away from Kolding fiord. Here lived an old couple and I asked the man if he could take me across the water, but, he said, that he was too old, but, a little closer to Kolding, there was a man who could.

However, I was getting hungry and asked if I could have something to eat. The old woman said she only had some ryebread and fried pork, which I said was excellent as I had not had anything to eat the whole day. After I had offered to pay for the food, the man, who was a good patriotic Dane, said that I could trust the man he had referred me to. Nearby, there had been a hot battle and I came across where the artillery had held out. I saw two horses that had been shot and their harnesses were still in flame and two soldiers with half their heads blown off. As I looked ahead of me, I saw so many people and horses that it looked like a market. I didn’t know if they were Germans.

However, I had to go on, and when I came closer, I was told that they were people from the village of Gudso which had been burned down. As they were all civilians, I inquired about the man to whom I had been referred. I found him, but, he said he could not take me across as he wasn’t sure he could get back, but , I could stay with him temporarily. He also asked me to eat supper with him.

While we were eating a boy came in and asked to be taken across to Fyn, but, he was also told no. We finally located a family -people of humble means- from Gudso who had acquired a boat they wanted to sail over to Fyn, as their house had burnt to the ground. Nobody asked who I was, so, I jumped in the boat and sat quiet until we reached the shore of Fyn. Here, we were challenged by the Danish coast defense; we were not allowed to go ashore. We were told not to sail away or they would shoot; but, I was glad anyway.

I understood, we were to follow the coast to the guardhouse. Two men followed us on the shore to keep us from leaving. At last we came ashore. Since nobody asked who I was, I just kept quiet and to myself and managed to sneak out to the kitchen where a couple of girls were kind enough to let me have a cup of coffee; it tasted good and warmed me up.

We stayed in the guardhouse a couple of hours before the coast commander finally came to interrogate us. I presented myself as a private of the third Jaegerkorps. He reprimanded everybody but me for crossing. He just asked me what I intended to do . When I said I would report to the commander in Middelfart, he said it was the right thing to do and I was free to go. I was very sleepy from the trip.

In Middelfart, I went up one street and down another looking to see if someone was up. When I came to a door that was open, I went in. Here was only an elderly couple who were still in bed; they offered me a bed which their son had just left. The bed was still warm and that suited me fine. When I awoke and got up, the old woman served me food and coffee. I now felt normal again and was ready to report to the commander.

Since he was very kind, I asked for a couple days leave. He could not grant me that since I was soon to be interrogated and possibly to present some information about the enemy’s positions. I could catch up with the third Jaegerkorps on the road between Fredericia and Elby. I then took after the company which I met down the road.

I sat down in a ditch along the road like a bum which I looked more like than a soldier. As the captain passed, I jumped up and saluted. He eyed me up and down and smirked but now came one after the other and asked me if I wasn’t “Osterhaesinge”; they all believed that I had been killed. Now, I got the job to distribute meat and bacon to the company. I did this during the whole siege and had to wear the rags I had on the day before the sally.

Again, I was issued a uniform and a gun. I helped to capture the first gun and that gave me the courage and desire to do the job ahead. Then a cease-fire was called and two weeks later we were in quarters in Nyborg and given a temporary leave. I went home and got married on November 3rd (1849 to Johanne Nielsdatter), but, had to report two days later to my company in Nyborg. We were immediately on march toward Als where we stayed until early spring.

We were then given two months leave. Wherefore, we again had to report and were sent to Als in our old quarters. We stayed there until the war broke out again. We fought at Isted and drove the enemy through Rensborg, but, I was wounded that day and sent to the infirmary in Copenhagen where I stayed to after Christmas 1850. Meanwhile, the peace treaty had been signed.

Now, I had to start my civilian life without clothes and no money and an old house that I was afraid to step into since it was ready to fall down. I owed the count 100 rigsdaler for rent. I was a wheelwright, but, had neither wood nor tools as well as no work orders for the first year.

I made a couple of wagons and I repaired the old house . So we had a fairly good place to live in. I, myself, made floors, ceilings and doors, but, it still took a lot of money, of which I had none.

I had good credit, for which I am thankful. One rule that I always followed, and I shall ask those who read this to bear in mind, always pay back borrowed money promptly at the appointed time, because those who keep this rule shall never lack credit.

The year after, I sold the two wagons and from then on had plenty of work to do. My wife had to help me sometimes with the saw, but, it went cheerful for us as we lived in good harmony. We lived for five years without children and seemed to think it was nice to be without them; but, when they came along, it was a great joy for us and this joy is still with us.

When the first was born, we had our debt paid off and the house all fixed up. I worked now for 21 years as a wheelwright. Then I took over a little grocery store after P. Lagoni, who had run the store in my house for about a year. We exchanged apartments and he became a tenant in my house and I became a grocer. I ran the store for 13 years, but, then my wife and I both became sickly. Wherefore, my son-in-law (Hans Pedersen) , who had a store in Gudjberg took my store over. When after a year had passed, I became fairly well again. I started to work in the wheelwright shop; I then worked again for 22 years in the shop.

It was then, we first began to understand that it was the Lord who had helped us. Yes, we can readily say that it was He who did it all, for without Him we can not do a thing. It is my distinct experience that Jesus has done wonders now, just as well as he did the time when he wandered here on earth. He still helps when we, in belief and trust, seek him with a sincere heart. There have been some sickness in the later years, especially five years ago, so, I will have to be content with doing only trifles of work, but, at my age, I am still very well. This is the year 1911, and on May 24th, I will be 91 years old.


1. Original text translated from danish to english by Hans Pedersen. Hans Pedersen was born Feb. 5 1911 – the year the diary was written. He was the great grandson of Peter Jorgensen, who died in 1917, six years after writing this diary.
2. Information in parens ( ) added by Penny Kendezejeski from genealogy notes taken from Hans Pedersen’s documents and not part of original manuscript.