I attended a Funeral for 13,000 at Andersonville National Historic Site on Saturday 19 Sep 2015. It was a Funeral for those who died at Andersonville. I finally read J.N. Daniels article from 1904 on the Otsego GenWeb Site from start to finish when I returned home Sunday night. I had read parts of it parts of it years ago, especially those selections pertaining to my GGGreat Uncle, but having just been there in person… Wow, to have someone who had been there in that time and who knew my GGGreat Uncle recount what happened in such detail it really made it come alive. I don’t know who transcribed the article but would like to thank them and those that keep this website alive.
By J.N. Daniels of Morris
Company C, 152d Regiment NY Volunteer Infantry
A survivor of the battlefield and the horrors of Andersonville
These installments appeared in the Morris Chronicle from April 13 through Sep 14 1904
By a survivor of Andersonville
April 13 1904 Morris Chronicle
For sometime I have thought, in a few brief sketches, to give a kind of reminiscent history of the capture of others and myself, from Morris, members of Co. C, 152d Reg. N. Y. S. Vols., and our confinement in Andersonville and other southern military prisons. More than forty years have passed since the commencement of the greatest war of modern times, and the greatest civil war, I believe, the world has ever seen. To day there are men and women past the middle age of life who were in that day too young in years to comprehend anything of the great event; and therefore all knowledge which they and the generation still younger possess is obtained from the pages of history or in memorial stories from the pen or lips of those who participated in those events, and their ranks are thinning out. Probably that which is of greatest importance to our country resulting from the fearful struggle of ’61 to ’65, is well preserved in the pages of general history; but that which has to do with the little part of each one of the minor common participants will soon be lost – the stories of the personal experiences of those millions of men who participated actively in the field and the other millions of men and women at home who bore the burden of sorrow and anxiety, and deprivation in every way. Could this minor history all be written what an interesting volume it would make.
General history records, on a battlefield so many thousands killed and wounded, so many captured for military prison, and so many thousands died of starvation and disease. We are given the definite sum in lives and dollars which the results have cost. But the real, the true cost, who can compute that? Every one has suffered and borne sacrifices himself. Every individual has been first or foremost in some experience about which the public knows nothing, except that it sees a united effort of many bringing about results which have now passed into history as a grand whole.
Did you ever attempt to realise from comparison the loss sustained in some of the great battles of the civil war? More men were killed in some of these battles than there are voters in Otsego county. For instance at Gettysburg the total killed outright numbered more than 6,000, while the total loss of both armies during those three July days in 1863 was more that 43,000. If these deaths had been sectional through the country how well we could understand the great loss! But the country was affected by one from here and another there with months intervening before another loss came to us – and we recovered from on wound before we received another, and we do not suffer so much from the blows that fall upon the hearts of strangers; our Christian charity has not yet made many of us to such exalted love as that.
These reminiscences will relate to the capture and imprisonment of the volunteers who served with me in Co. C, 152d regiment, and I shall endeavor to speak of each one. I have no memoranda of dates or events and what I write must be purely from remembrance.
CAPTURED BEFORE PETERSBURG
On the 21st of June, 1864, we executed flank all day as quietly as it is possible to move a large army, and although we common soldiers knew nothing of locality or project, we did realize that the signs were ominous. We wound through valley and forest roads a long and weary march, and under cover of the night were again forwarded to a position just outside a piece of wood at the edge of an open field. Formed in battle line very quietly, and immediately went to work building a kind of temporary breastworks of old logs, rails and whatever we could utilize for the purpose that would afford any protection against the storm of shot and shell that we knew would break upon us at daylight. Spades were brought forward finally and we dug a shallow trench, throwing dirt over our accumulation of drift, thus forming quite a formidable defense against a front attack of infantry. Daylight came and with it as we had anticipated a salute, very pointed, from a rebel battery out of sight and reach, and so accurately did they get down to us that we were constrained to humble ourselves with faces in the moist dirt of the new trench for a time, until the first burst of their favors had passed over (and quite a few poor fellows were killed or mangled by the bursting shells along the line), but we knew with the slackening of the artillery there would be work for us, and we rose to meet the oncoming charge of the gray line of rebel infantry under the stars and bars, the insignia, not of freedom and independence, but of treason and human slavery, and we turned them back to the cover of the woods from which they came, with contempt of their effort. We were so crowded in our cover that we improvised an arrangement of our own, for we fought as we pleased in such circumstances; some lay low under cover and loaded the muskets and passed the to others in front who fired and passed them back to be recharged. Comrades James Miller and George Reeve were so passing guns to me, and all I had to do was shoot at a gray coat when I saw it. Our attention was wholly to the front. A gray coated color bearer came out of a wood some twenty or thirty rods in front of us and again attempted to rally the line to a renewed charge. They were our special attention, and I am happy to say the effort was a failure, so much so that the colors lay on the field and none dared attempt their rescue.
But now came the surprise. On turning to reach for a loaded gun I was very uncourteously, but strong adjectively, invited to throw down my gun and become the guest of the C.S.A., as represented by a line in the gray livery not two rods in our rear with ready muskets drawn. On additional emphasis to their invitation we were constrained to regard so pressing an invitation and we had not the heart to refuse, it was accepted and we were prisoners. Our line had been flanked and our company was the most exposed one on the line.
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April 20 1904 Morris Chronicle
LANDED IN LIBBY PRISON
The particular manner of the calamity which resulted in our capture we never clearly understood. No doubt history throws light upon the subject. The battle is recorded as that of Weldon Crossroads, June 22d, 1864. The whole number of prisoners taken by the Confederates that day amounted to nearly 1,600, some sixteen of whom were of Co. C., 152d Reg. N. Y. infantry, most of whom were from Morris. Later, on the same day, we were afterwards told, the fortunes of the Union changed and our people captured numbers to exceed the loss of the morning.
The explanation current with us relative to our capture was that it was the result of some official blunder. A gap was left in our line of connection with the Sixth Corps, which on being discovered by the enemy was taken advantage of, by throwing a force in our rear, which owing to the wood and brush covered ground was easily made possible and doubtless done. As soon as we were captured we were hurried to the rear of the Confederate line where we were corralled under a strong guard in an open field where we passed the remainder of the day and the ensuing night. Fortunately we had in our haversacks two or three day’s rations or I fear for that length of time we should have had to fast, as no provisions were issued us by the Confederates until the third day after our capture.
One the morning after the first night of our captivity a rebel officer with a squad came among us while we were yet in the corral in the field to collect our rubber blankets, but when we found what his purpose was we tore them in strips rather that they should afford comfort to our enemies. Later in the day we were formed in line and marched through the streets of Petersburg to a better locality in a grove by a small stream of water, where we remained for three or four days. When we were marching through the town the inhabitants all turned out to see the Yanks and seemed to feel much elated at the exhibition, as 1,600 in a well drawn out line makes no mean procession. They greeted us with a steady fire of banter, asking if we were the whole Yankee army; if General Grant was in the procession, etc. We answered there were a few not in line and that General Grant would do himself the honor of visiting them later. Our first rations from the Confederate commisary were issued to us in our new camp, and consisted of a limited supply of hardtack, or sea biscuit, and a little bacon. It seems we were only held here awaiting transportation. That now being provided we were put aboard first-class hog and cattle cars and after a short run arrived at the capitol of rebeldom, Richmond, where we were conducted under military escort to our hotel, the celebrated Libby Prison.
I recollect the outside appearance as of a large cheap wooden building without paint, two stories in height, across the face of which in large letters I read the sign, “Libby & Sons Warehouse.” At a little distance beyond on the opposite side of the street was Castle Thunder, where Union officers were confined. Some six or eight rods in the rear of the Libby flowed the James River, down which a little distance and nearer the opposite bank lay Bell Isle. These three places right there within sight of each other in the suburb of the very capital were scenes of the greatest sorrow and suffering to the unfortunate Union captives who had before fallen in rebel hands and bore names of terror to us in that day.
Little time was given us for outward observation. We were counted off in companies to suit the capacity of the different rooms to which were to be assigned. That with which our party as numbered was crowded into a large room on the second floor some thirty or more feet in length and perhaps fifteen feet in width. It was sealed in wide planed and matched pine boards, lighted and ventilated by two small barred windows at either end. Our view in one direction was a meager portion of the street from which we had entered the building, a poor and uninteresting prospect. From the opposite window we could see the James river, a noble stream, bordered with green fields, and in the distance groves of timber amid which a glimpse of what seemed to be fine plantation or suburban residences, a beautiful view if we had only had the heart to appreciate it. Down the river some half a mile distant we could see Bell Island, to which later we shall pay a brief visit, another scene of deprivation and suffering experienced in the earlier history of the war by unfortunate Union prisoners.
But to return to our room for a brief time. It was bare and plain as a pine box; not an article of furniture, and hot as a oven. We were compelled to divest ourselves of every article of clothing to the last garment, and then the perspiration flowed from every pore, a condition none of us could have survived more than a few days, packed as we were at this hot season of the year. It was not a very restful position, to sit or lie upon a bare floor, neither of which could be done without resting partially one upon another and leaning against the sides of the building. Our rations still consisted in meagre quantities of sea biscuit and bacon. Our amusement in berating the Confederacy and bemoaning our sad plight and prospects, and occasionally reading the name of some poor fellow who had been imprisoned there earlier, placed there perhaps with date of death’s release by the hand of some surviving comrade. There were many such inscriptions. In fact the walls were covered with these testimonies of earlier occupants. It was I think on the second day of our entering the prison that a rebel officer and squad came into the room and stated that a search of the prisoners was to be made but that those who had money or valuables on their persons might surrender them willingly and receive some credit. Stating that if this was done goods would be restored at close of term of imprisonment.
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April 27 1904 Morris Chronicle
Several accepted this promise and banked their capital. Whether, if the lived, they received it back again I cannot say; but if they died they certainly contributed to the Confederates. The rest of us were search and thoroughly. We were ordered to strip, and our persons and each article of clothing were searched. I need not say perhaps in my case it was barren, but not so in all; on the whole I thought they made quite a successful steal.
AT BELL ISLAND
I think it was the next day after the search we were removed to Bell Island. This is, or was, a beautiful little plot in the James river, of I should think one or two acres in size, nearly level and but little raised above the water. In fact I thought it so low that in seasons of high water it must be inundated. There were no buildings, but a few old tents in which we found shelter for our brief stay. The change to us was a most acceptable one as you may imagine, from the crowded, filthy room, with its sweltering heat and foul air, to the lawn-like island with the pure sweet air around us, the cool grass to rest upon, the clear water of the river in which to bathe our grimy faces and aching limbs. And yet this very island on which we found such appreciated relief, bore reputation as the scene of untold suffering experienced by those prisoners who had been confined there as in the Libby in the first years of the war.
ON TO ANDERSONVILLE
We bade good bye to the island the next day, when we were once more packed aboard train for our final destination, Andersonville, Georgia. I think no more fatiguing railroad journey was ever made that this, or greater suffering experienced by any one since this mode of travel was adopted. The cars provided were box cars, the only ventilation being from a partially opened door in which our guards were stationed. No seats were provided, and sitting with our backs against the sides of the car, or partially leaning on upon another when standing was no longer endurable, was our only relief. Two of our number were taken sick on this journey who never recovered, although they lived to reach Andersonville, Darel Stevens and George Reeve.
I think the day on which we started from Richmond was the 13th of June. We reached Linchburgh at evening, where we stopped over night. In the morning rations were issued to us for a four days’ march to Dansville, a distance of eighty or ninety miles, Union cavelry having raided the intervening section and destroyed large quantities of track recently. For this march we received sixteen sea biscuits each and half or three-fourths pounds of bacon. The biscuit seemed to be made of a cheap grade of wheat or rye flour, and were similar to hard tack in the makeup and about twice the thickness and weight. Counting three meals a day this was giving us but little better than one for each meal, but in spite of the fact that I knew that we need expect nothing more until the expiration of the four days, I ate my third biscuit on the evening of the third day and laid down tired, sad and hungry, with a woeful contemplation in mind of the fasting manner in which I was to observe the morrow.
We marched four abreast with a flanking line of guards on either side besides a company of mounted outriders, some of whom seemed to be volunteer citizens with mount and equipment of their own.
I will relate here a bit of conversation which I caught between two of these who chanced to be riding opposite the file in which I marched. They apparently were men of some consequence, well dressed, well mounted and armed with fine sporting pieces of their own. Their conversation was in regard to the best Confederate policy in its treatment of Federal prisoners. Whether it was simply their own idea or whether they expressed that which was really to be carried out by those in authority, I cannot say, and yet the last is best sustained by the treatment we received. It was that prisoners should be so disqualified by treatment that in case of exchange they would not be able to return against them in the field. The query with me has always been was Captain Wirz guilty save only as a tool of those higher in authority? Did he not die a scapegoat for others? The statement is true. The decision is with you.
The whole march was through a fine section of country; orchards groves and fields, rivers and streams, hill and valley. A pleasant panorama if we could only have been at liberty, on a full stomach. But as all things must the march came to an end on scheduled time. We reached Dansville on the evening of the fourth day and were quartered in a large barn-like room tired and oh how hungry. My forebodings had been fulfilled for the day, not a mouthful of food since the evening before, save a few kernels of wheat I had gleaned on a field of stubble where we halted for our midday refreshing. Most of the company were as dinnerless as myself. It must have been nearly 9 o’clock in the evening, when we had almost given up hope of receiving food that night, that several rebel soldiers came into the room bringing baskets of fresh baked corn hoecakes and boiled bacon, which the sympathizing ladies of the city had cooked for us since our arrival. Bless their rebel hearts. Though crowded somewhat we were in shelter and passed the most comfortable night of the journey. Next morning we were boxed for the conclusion of our journey. I think none of us would have survived it nut that each night, while the train lay by, we were corralled on the open ground where although without shelter or blankets we thankfully lay down on the dew wet grass, from the crowded and suffocating cars, and found rest in spite of damp and chill. Stations, towns and cities were passed in North and South Carolina, and I think on the fifth day from Dansville, the train stopped, about midday, at Anderson Station, Georgia.
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May 4 1904 Morris Chronicle
How well it is we are not able to comprehend the future. That the sufferings and hardships we are to meet are not massed before us but present themselves from day to day, or time to time, piecemeal, to be met with the courage that hope lends. Almost as long as life lasts that change will take place. To-morrow the clouds will be dispelled; the difficulties overcome to morrow – always to morrow.
We were hustled off the train and ordered to form in four ranks to be counted, which we hastily commenced to do, but being a mixed company a little confusion resulted at first, which Captain Wirtz did not obviate any as he came down the line with a drawn revolver in his hand, saying: “Vare I finds five I make four.” This was our introduction to the commander of Andersonville prison, and the only time in which I was ever in close proximity to him. He was a tall spare man, I should think about 60 years of age; sober and severe in every expression, betraying his nationality in a strong German accent. We were numbered in companies of 100. This I supposed was for two purposes. First, account must be taken by the commander of numbers received in charge. Second, for purpose of rations. One man was appointed in charge of each hundred to draw from the commissary and to divide to the sub-divisions of twenty-five, into which each hundred was separated. This sub-division was made by ourselves in the prison.
After all preliminaries had been settled our column was faced prisonward and the march was ordered down the little valley toward the terrible scene of suffering and death we were to face. Our eyes went out in interest. Before us we saw the stockade; we saw the dense crowd of moving human shapes, but we saw no canvas tents. We saw many blanket shelters which we knew were individual protections, and our hearts began to fail us. The Confederacy would not or could not afford to shelter its prisoners of war. We were to be herded as cattle, in open field at the mercy of whatever element prevailed. The sun, the tempest, the heat of day and the chill of dews of night were to rest upon us, on a bare uncovered ground, for we had, with nut two or three exceptions, not a thing but just the clothing we wore. I had a small piece of canvas which Edward Hammond had given me. He smuggled it from Bell Island. It was about four by six feet in size, and getting tired of carrying it on the march from Lynchburg to Dansville was about to throw it away when I discovered his intentions and tried to persuade him not to do so. I told him he might find it useful, that we did not know whether we would find shelter or not where we were being taken to. But he said he was tired of carrying it, and if I would not take it he would throw it away. So I accepted it and had brought it through. This with one or two other pieces was all that we Morris men possessed of covering or shelter. Everything of the kind had been taken from us in the search at Libby, excepting the very clothing we had on.
I may as well state here that Darel Stevens and George Reeve were not in the column; they had been overcome by the hardships of this journey so they were not able to march, and we suppose both were taken to the prison hospital where both died. We were never able, after leaving the train, to hear from them again. This prison hospital seems to have been a kind of death’s valley; to all who entered it none ever lived to be restored to us. Its treatment and management must remain a mystery. Here is where we parted with the first two of our number whose prison history is thus early told.
The general direction of the railroad is north and south. Andersonville lies about two miles west from the station, a mere hamlet of two hundred and fifty inhabitants. It is nowhere visible from the road. There was not a single habition at that time visible from the prison. The station was simply a flag of the cheapest kind. As we advanced I noted on our righthand the fort and batteries, occupying an elevated, commanding position. The black mouths of the cannon opening our threateningly to ward the prison, a warning to mutinous thoughts or purposes. Back of these, just visible we could see the tops of the white tents of the guards, who I afterwards learned murdered about 4,000 men. I think there were twenty-four pieces of cannon, so placed as to be able to sweep the prison in all quarters. To our left extended at a little distance what appeared to be a large pine forest. As we advance our view is contracted to the lower ground of the narrow valley. We cross the little stream to the northern side. We note first the stables of the teamsters and their own quarters. On the opposite side and lying between the batteries and the stream, which appears to be the water supply of the rebel camp as well as the prison, a little further and we pass the cook’s house for the prisoners. It is close to the edge of the stream, the wash and filth from which is added to its already murkey waters. And now the stockade of the prison rises before us, about parallel with the railroad, its face stretches down across the little ravine. A wall which shuts everything from view before us we note is made of pine logs hewn on two sides, the straightened edges of which are placed together and held upright by being set in a deep trench (I learned later that the logs were cut twenty-five feet long, six feet of which were in the ground and nineteen above). At intervals of about ten rods platforms were built out from the stockade about three feet from the top on the outside, with a board shelter from rain or sun, open on all sides and sufficiently high so as not to interfere with the tallest man’s standing beneath. These stations were reached by means of ladders and were always occupied by guards. There were forty-four of these platforms.
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May 11 1904 Morris Chronicle
The description of the western face is that of the other walls of the inclosure, which we estimated contained about 30 acres, not in a square but of perhaps three times the length north and south of the width east and west; about two-thirds the length or more lying on the north side of the stream.
Now we are at the gates. To day it is in the memories of the past, that we stand before them. Were it a reality we would turn and flee as from the gates of hell. We find them double; the outer gates open into a kind of anti-court and are not opposite the inner ones but at the southwest corner. The space is perhaps four or five rods square. Exactly opposite the inner gates are two twenty-four or thirty-two pounders side by side, watchdogs threatening and holding in check the half starved and despairing prisoners should a purpose form among them to make a dash for liberty. Before the inner gates are opened those in our rear are closed. This method is always followed in the entrance or exit from the prison. All prisoners are brought in thro’ this entrance as well as the rations, wood etc. While waiting in the court I noticed a set of stocks by the northern wall in which two men were being punished, sweltering beneath a broiling sun, hands and feet fast; they were uncomfortable at the least.
INSIDE ANDERSONVILLE PRISON
Now the massive inner gates are swung back, we pass through, they close behind us and we are prisoners of Andersonville prison. What does it mean? We look about us; we see the skeleton like faces and forms of those who are pressing near us. We see the drawn lips and burning eyes of famine and disease. We see the tattered, filthy garments. We hear the peculiar cry, and a feeling of depression comes over us as we realize that we are to become as these. They greet us kindly with many questions. Where are we from? What is being done? What appears the prospect of the war? Is there any talk of the exchange of prisoners? Have we any newspapers? etc. The poor fellows are in the world but no longer of it. What they know of what is going on outside the prison is from the lips of the new arrivals, or perhaps from the columns of some newspaper brought in by them. (These were generally confiscated, for the Johnnies had a curiosity to read Northern news) We moved along slowly as interest subsided, no longer in ranks, our guards having been withdrawn, we were at liberty; the liberty of hell, as the poor inmates designated it, and aptly, for truly it seems to me it would have satisfied the most orthodox idea as a type of that uncomfortable place.
The street on which we were is designated as Market. It is the Broadway of the city. It is in fact the only street through which a team can be driven. Here the supply of rations, wood, etc., are delivered for the prison. Here are police headquarters. Here near the gateway the trial was made of about seventy men, against whom charges were brought of murder and theft. Six of these heard the sentence of death pronounced upon them and to-morrow are to meet execution by the rope. Here is the suttlers’ place, where one may buy a good meal; potatoes, ham, eggs, biscuit, butter, etc. at the insignificant cost of from $5 to $10. Salt retails at 25 cents per spoonful; biscuit, inferior in size, color and quality, 25 cents per one. We pass hungrily and sadly by and seek a place to rest. The street upon which we are terminates about midway of the prison. Chaos commences of disorder and confusion. It seems wherever one has found a bit of unoccupied ground he has taken possession, for you see everyone has a home even in Andersonville, if it be only a bare unsheltered place where he can lay himself down and lift his eyes to the azure above. It is his home until he vacates his title by death or removal to another place. We picked a devious way in and out among the thickly settled community, bearing to the higher ground and so avoiding as far as possible the vicinity of morass which lay along the stream and was a bed of filth some five or six rods in width, filling all the surrounding air with its poisoned odors.
I think at this time we were nearly all together, and soon near the eastern side of the prison and near the top of the slope to the stream we found an unoccupied place and immediately took the necessary measures to securing our claim by seating ourselves upon it. Imagine if you can our situation. Turn yourselves into an open field in which you are confined, not a green thing around you, no shelter to life above your head from the sun by day or the damp and chill of the night; from the continued storm or the bursting shower, thinly clothed, half fed, surrounded by a dense throng of suffering, sick and starving humanity, with no promise in the future to look forward to only the evidence on every hand of what imprisonment had done, what it was doing and what it still had power to do. What wonder if the cheek pales the joke dies from the lips and even hope, the last and truest friend of poor humanity, almost flees the heart. We say little and we think much. As our eyes take in the situation and sights around us we see fully one-half the camp have blanket shelters raised in rude tent form, the occupants being compelled to use such sticks as they were able to find for the purpose of elevating them. We are told that the original prison was ready for occupancy in March of the present year. That the first installment of prisoners was brought here in that month from Libby and Bell Island, and it being in the cold season still they were allowed to bring their blankets with them, and others had since been brought in, especially those captured from Sherman, who had not been thoroughly plucked. This I had from the lips of one of the first commers, who had been at that time a prisoner seventeen months.
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May 18 1904 Morris Chronicle
He said the original stockade had closed about twenty acres with estimated capacity for the confinement of 20,000 men. This had been far overreached before our arrival and ten acres more had been added to the north end and opened just before our coming, now fast filling to the same crowded condition. It is mid-afternoon, I am nearly fried in the sun and thirst has got possession of me, so I decided to take a walk sightseeing and at the same time to procure the desired water. I collected three or four cups from among my companions and started out. I picked my way back again to Market street, and following it nearly to the gates I find a well beaten path leading to the stream. I followed this and soon found myself at the edge of the morass. He I first came in close proximity to the “dead line”. I noticed a row of posts driven in the ground some twenty feet inside the stockade, cut off to an even height of about three feet, on top of this is fastened a rail or strip; between this and the stockade is empty space, and no prisoner is allowed to enter it, the guards having instructions to shoot down any who do so. This line extends around the entire prison. My way was parallel with this line, but a few feet inside, and over a rude narrow bridge which the prisoners had constructed so as to pass from one side of the prison to the other, as well as to reach the stream for water. It was elevated a foot or more above the ground and the surface was pieces of board, barrel staves and anything that could be utilized that they could find.
Shall I tell you what I saw on either side of the bridge that made the creeps come over me and filled my soul with disgust; just a bed of maggots which hid the earth from site, writhing and wriggling in the hot July sun, a most loathsome sight. I passed on to the stream, which I found a small one, and yet of sufficient capacity to supply the prison. I looked at the water and my thirst was materially diminished. One needed to be very thirsty, take in large mouthfulls without breathing and closed eyes who drank it. I dipped up a cup of it just below the dead line, then threw it away, passed over the bride to the southern side and wandered down the edge of the morass where small springs had been cleaned out, the waters of which looked to be clear and pure, but in every one of which were more or less maggots. At last I come to one which, although not entirely free, was more so than any I had found. I decides I would fill my cups here and proceeded to do so. I stooped and dipped a cup and was proceeding to take a drink when a man in zuave uniform, whom I had noticed sitting on the bank just above the spring with a cupful by his side, threw its contents full in my face. Being similarly armed the broadside was returned promptly and accurately, the result of which, when he recovered his breath and eyesight, a roar that would have put to flight a whole regiment of Southern chivalry had it been in their faces on the battlefield. This demonstration was followed almost immediately by a seemingly miniature cyclone in which those standing at a little distance observed the flashing of tin cups amid the arms and legs of human shapes in mixed confusion. In the midst of the melee I remembered hearing voices crying “a fight! a fight!” and someone close by said ‘drop your cups; I will take care of them for you!’ which I did and was thereby was able to give my undivided attention to the other matter of lively interest in which I was engaged. Misfortune now began to overtake him. He first ran his left eye, by some blunder, against my right fist in a violent manner that seemed to daze him somewhat, and before he had recovered the first a second and worse overtook him. He suddenly fell to the ground with myself uppermost, in which position terms of peace were discussed, and it was agreed that he retire in peace to his place and war would be no more between us, the debts incurred to be mutually borne between us; a black eye on his side and a swollen lip and loosened tooth on mine. I think I must have caught one of his swings in my teeth when his fists were flying around my head in a reckless and disagreeable manner. However the unpleasantness was favorably over, casualties were light considering the noise. In this (on the American side) the Spanish-American war much resembled it. I was elevated to heroic heights, and victorious honors were awarded me, and when I asked my admirers what had caused the fellow to assault me in that way, they said that the springs I had discovered had been cleaned out by companies and individuals and were claimed by them as private property, and that the public camp was not permitted to use the water. When I told them I was a new comer in the camp and had had no knowledge of this, I was freed from blame by everybody. My second in the fray, who had taken care of my cups, returned them to me all right. Another admirer took me to a spring in which he had an interest and filled them for me. Then by the way which I had come I returned to my friends, and when I had related to them the story of my adventure there was one laugh in Andersonville.
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May 25 1904 Morris Chronicle
I think our first prison ration was issued to us toward night on our first day. As we had been without food since morning and it was after noon when we entered the prison we were ready for it. This time our provision was cooked. It consisted of coarse unbolted corn meal bread and bacon boiled; the bread was without salt, and had the appearance of having been baked in a shallow tin or sheet iron dishes of about ten or twelve inches in width, the loaves cut lengthwise through the middle then the halves divided into slices constituting the ration. These were from two to three inches in thickness, two inches wide and four or five inches long. The bacon was a piece not larger than a person’s two fingers. This ration was for twenty-four hours. For a time I tried to divide this into two meals, thinking it would be better for me to do so, but soon gave it up, as did most of the others, and ate the whole as soon as received, going without until the next day. This was the ration day after day for several days. Then a change was made and the raw material was issued to us with some variation, except in the corn meal; that portion of our diet was not changed. No bread food of any kind but corn passed our lips again during our stay in the Confederacy. I do not know why this change was made. Whether at the request of the prison or of their own minds. It necessitated the provision of wood for cooking and brought great hardship to many in the prison who had no means for cooking, as no dishes were provided for that purpose. Later I will continue this subject. The night is approaching, our first in the prison, and though we have no preparations to make there is much comfort to be found in companionship. The sights around us are gradually shut out by the gathering night. The noise and stir of the day ceases, only here and there where some suffering one moans in pain and dispair as he lies helpless and alone, with not a friend to sympathize, or minister to his dying wants, babbling perhaps in an abstraction of mind, of the home and loved ones he is never more to see. Such sounds as these which have been smothered by the confused noises of the wakened camp, with their subsidence are now revealed – sounds from which our ears are never to be freed again during our confinement in Andersonville. We are continually in the presence of death. An average of four in every hour of the twenty- four are falling in the great battle with exposure and starvation.
Now for the first time we listen to the watch- word of the guards as they circle the stockade from post to post, ‘nine o’clock, and all is well’; and what a mockery it seems to us poor wretches as we throw ourselves on the naked earth and try to shut out the foreboding and surrounding worries that oppress us, in sleep.
It is the 11th or 12th of July, the day following our arrival in the prison and the day appointed for the execution of the convicted murderers. There is early an unusual stir in the camp. A crowd is gathering on the southern side between the gate and stream. The scaffold is being prepared, the accommodating rebels kindly loaning the material for the purpose. Two posts are erected some twelve feet in height and twelve feet apart, connected at the top by a strong horizontal cross-beam four or five feet from the ground. Directly beneath this is prepared the trap, a strong plank that will bear the weight of the six men who are to stand upon it, but which at a blow can be loosed from its supports and fall to the ground. Six dangling nooses at regular spaces are attached to the beam; six trembling men are ranged beneath them; they are adjusted; the word is given; the drop is sprung and five struggling forms are suspended in the air. One rope has broken and the poor wretch springs away down the slope towards the stream amid the dense throng, but falls to lose himself and is soon overtaken and dragged back protesting his innocence all the way, declaring the incident to be the intervention and testimony of Heaven in his behalf, but his words are not heeded for a moment. The crowd cries, ‘less talk and more hanging;’ and the poor fellow is lifted up and the rope readjusted and soon swings a corpse beside his fellows.
I did not join the crowd around the scaffold and I think none of our party did, but it was all in plain view from where we were on the opposite side. It was doubtless justice, but it was horrible to me, especially the latter incident.
We will refer again to our early time friend for information in regard to why and how the scene we witnessed happened. He said some weeks earlier great lawlessness existed in the prison. A gang of roughs ruled, almost taking by force or theft whatever they found in the possession of others that they desired; if no other way could be found even resorting to murder. Eight bodies had been found secreted in one place. For protection this had led to the organization of a police force, who had arrested these men. A court was convened consisting of judge, jury, counsel for defence and prosecution and everything had been done in regular legal form and order down to the execution which we witnessed.
This piece of justice doubtless had its influence. Though petty theft existed I never heard after of murder being committed among the prisoners. The police organization became a permanent institution. The members I was told received an extra ration as compensation for services, whether from the prison supply or outside, I am unable to say.
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June 1 1904 Morris Chronicle
The location of the Prison, climatic and otherwise, was the best possible. The air was dry and pure, the water supply sufficient and of good quality could it have reached us in its natural purity. I attribute the great suffering and mortality which existed to the quantity and quality of the food and exposure to the elements. No contagious epidemic of disease touched the prison as of small pox or fevers. Dysentery, diarrhoea and scurvey were the afflictions from which we suffered, and from which three-fourths of the deaths occurred. Had fresh vegetables even on alternate days been issued I believe the result would have been different. It was hot climate, poor food, wet and chilly nights and storms that here fought for the Confederacy.
Here was found representatives of every civilized country (excepting that out of which the war had grown, Africa); every profession and occupation; the theologiacal, the medical, and the law schools were represented. Every other occupation can be mentioned. Merchants had left their counters, the minister his pulpit, and the farmer his plow, to come to Andersonville. The wise and the foolish, good, bad and indifferent, all were here.
People have asked me what effect the seeing and meeting of conditions in the prison had had on new arrivals. This of course was almost as varied as their names, and wholly according to the different temperaments. Some took up the life hopefully, making the best fight possible; observing cleanliness as far as possible in washing their persons, keeping their clothing free from vermin, exercise, etc. Others drifted along, living from day to day easily and indifferently as was their natures. Some sat down hopelessly, waiting the death that seemed inevitable and which usually soon claimed them. We may conjugate the chances of the three classes of living in this way: Good, possible, hopeless. In regard to the moral effect of the prison, I failed to observe that affliction had a tendency to bring men to repentance. This too was governed much by temperament of the individual and perhaps by the earlier opportunity or training received. Many I fear followed the foolish counsel of Job’s wife, and cursing man and God died.
As only the usual events are occurring we will bring ourselves forward a couple of weeks. Our Morris party has broken up a little. Comrades James Lewis and Edward Hargrave have early removed to a more approved locality a few rods lower down the slope, and Adelbert Eldred alone is down near the very edge of the swamp. Abel Card and myself have found a location with more liberty higher up near the boundary of the old prison on the north side. A description of our new home may be of interest to some readers. In the first place we procured a quantity of the red clay of which the subsoil of the prison was underlayed, with which we raised a bed five or six inches high, six or more feet in length by four or five feet wide. At one end we built up a kind of bolster or pillow. This bed after it had dried in the sun was as smooth and hard as a brick, and could be brushed as clean as a house floor, but would soften and become sticky if exposed to continual wetting. Then we procured four sticks some four feet in length, which we drove in the ground at the corners of our bed, and to the tops of which we fastened the piece of canvas I have described. A fifth stick a little longer than the others elevated the center sufficiently to enable us to sit comfortably underneath, and although worthless as a watershed it sheltered us from the sun and the dew somewhat, which was a great comfort and advantage to us. Later I obtained a piece of board of which there seemed to be no owner. It was five or six feet in length by about fourteen inches in width. This was my bed for the future time of our first stay in the prison. It was drier than the earth at most times and equally as downy. I may say this was not the usual way of preparation. Most of the camp took the earth as they found it, with perhaps a little smoothing or leveling of a place on which to lay
Cleanliness had been one consideration with us in thus preparing to lift ourselves out of the dust, and an effort to escape the vermin of different character which infested the prison. We were unable to do this fully however, for although the sides of our bed were almost perpendicular, after a damp night we would have to dust the persevering maggot, who had scaled the walls and invaded the sanctity of our rest. Against these I had at first great antipathy, but later learned to regard them with less unfriendly eyes, recognizing them as the scavangers that by their number and industry were perhaps warding from us disease of other worse character.
In the construction of the prison the stream had been depended upon to provide all the essential needs for preservation of sanitary conditions. The upper end, where it entered the stockade, was to supply water for drinking and washing purposes. The lower part, at which the sink was located, to carry all filth from the camp. This accommodation was ample and well planned had all been able to avail themselves of it, but sickness and feebleness prevented. Men lingered in a helpless condition for some days usually before death came to relieve them, and sad were the sights one must witness on every side who started out for a walk in Andersonville. Have you no heart, have your nerves been steeled in the furnace of accustomed sights of suffering? We will go a little way. You must see through my eyes of remembrance, and the view to you will be softened as only that of reflection; the gazing upon a picture the reality of which you do not see and the experience of which you cannot feel.
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June 8 1904 Morris Chronicle
It matters little in which direction we go the same sights are on every hand around us, so if you please we will take the most familiar course, the path which leads down to the stream. It is not straight and regular, we pass in and out around one or two here and three or four there; some are lying down beneath the hot sun, some have blanket shelters beneath which they sit or lie, many are seated with some garment in their hands they are trying to mend or are picking from it the body lice that have accumulated through the night. It is a daily task with every one.
Ah, here is a poor wretch right at our feet, he is unable to rise, his face is bloated with dark, shiny expression, there is wildness, suffering and misery in every look. He begs a passer-by for a drink of water, who refuses him; he is dying of scurvy and there may be contagion, he is grimy and filthy. Here a little way on lies another, if possible a more pitiable object, his eyes are bright with fever, his body a skeleton, his reason has flown, he realizes no more his condition, though his garments are alive with the vermin which are devouring him. He has long since lost the strength to defend himself from them, he babbles perhaps the name of mother or father or home. We have not the courage to listen, there is nothing we can do so we leave him to the dread angel who is very busy here, who every fifteen minutes, on an average, bears aloft the soul of some sufferer released; he dies of dysentary or diarroeha. Now we come upon a corpse prepared for removal to the north gates where all the dead are collected each day for transportation to the cemetery. He is stripped almost to nakedness, his body is grimy with dirt, his wrists are tied in front of him and his ankles with strings of raveling. He is prepared for burial unwashed but shorn indeed. We will follow him to the gates. If he has friends they are his bearers; if not it is the task of the police. If he is known to be an officer there is given the name, regiment and company of deceased, if not I suppose he went on the book simply as a number. I think there must be many nameless graves in Andersonville cemetery. We arrive at the gates, and we find here that a kind of booth or low house has been built to receive them. The leaves have long since dried and faded and the sunbeam falls unobstructed on a row of bodies which are waiting burial. Our friend is placed by their side a fair sample of those that have preceded him. Let our walk end here.
We will retrace our steps remembering what we have seen is nothing uncommon or overdrawn. We might continue our walk until strength failed us over this vast field of misery and suffering, repeating the scene over and over again day after day. I have heard the “God bless you” from the lips of thirsty sufferers, but not as often as I might or wish I had to-day. It was an opportunity lost. I had not much knowledge of the character of scurvy or other ills, and with the ignorant turned away rather than indifferent.
About this time our cooked rations ceased and the raw material was brought to us, about two- thirds of a pint of meal, the same of southern peas, on alternate days bacon of the amount I have before given. We received with which to cook this per individual a stick of wood about the size of a man’s arm every three days. This was of Southern pitch pine. Mr. Card and myself had for utensils a quart cup and a half canteen, I think one spoon and about half a case-knife, the blade having been broken about mid-way and the corners rounded off, I daresay purposely for better convenience in carrying.
Again we brought the clay into service making from it a very small arch just sufficiently large enough to support our tin cup partially filled with water, putting in the peas if we had them, and cooked them until they were nearly done by keeping a little blaze of whittlings directly under the cup, then stirring in the meal we soon had our dinner cooked in the most satisfactory manner possible. I could always cook the day’s rations in one cup and it would not be too thick at that. This new order brought much distress to many. Some not even having a dish in which to draw their rations, and I actually saw men eating their meal wet as chicken dough in their hands. It meant death.
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June 22 1904 Morris Chronicle
At 2 o’clock in the morning we found the waters purest on account of the less number bathing or otherwise disturbing the waters through the hours of daylight. It was nearly always crowded and visitors were found there at all hours. This practice we continued as long as Comrade Card’s health permitted. I think it was about the middle of August that it had to be discontinued. At this time to I think the hearts of the prison commandants began to be touched by a little feeling of sympathy on account of our miserable condition, or fear at the terrible account of mortality in the eyes of the world generally. A change was made in the rations provided. Materials, tools and lumber were furnished and a kind of barrack or receiving hospital was built at the north end of the stockade, consisting of a double roofed open shed with four rows of bunks running down through the middle. They were made for each to accommodate two persons. The length and capacity of this barrack as it was is difficult for me to estimate. It may have been 150 or 200 feet in length, capacity from 500 to 1,000 occupants. It was under the supervision of the police, and those who were ill and without shelter were eligible applicants for a berth if an unoccupied one could be found. Aside from shelter and care (which was a good deal) no other advantage was obtained, the same rations were provided as in the general camp, and medical attendance or aid for sick Yankees were something unknown, at least inside the prison.
The change in rations consisted in the withholding of the bacon and the substitution of sorgum molasses and fresh beef issued on alternate days. The beef was an enormous hunk of from two to four ounces, and a little more than a tablespoonful of molasses. This change was agreeable to us. Although the allowances were small both of them were of a character to ward off the dread scurvey which afflicted so many. Of course from a place of so much suffering thoughts and plans of escape were much dwelt upon. If this was to be effected at all the attempt must be made before the deprivation of strength and health had too far resulted. The chance of scaling the stockade on a dark night between two guards and the possibility of tunneling underneath were discussed. The first method required some kind of ladder or grappling by which to mount the wall, which was difficult to obtain, and the risk of discovery almost certain. The last and most favored was an undertaking of much time and labor. A party must locate themselves for some time near the dead line to ward off suspicion, commence digging a well, of which there were a dozen or more from which water was procured. Nearly all of them being from 60 to 70 feet deep. The red clay of which I have spoken providing the very best kind of soil for the purpose, no curbing being required. Places could be cut for hand and foot without danger of sloughing off, which formed the manner of descending and returning to the surface by those employed in the digging and raising of the dirt and water.
Before the horizontal shaft could be commenced water must be reached, so that suspicion may not be excited by the guards, and when this is commenced it must be at a depth of seven or eight feet, so as not to undermint the stockade. It is eighteen or twenty feet from the dead line to the wall beyond which it must be carried a little, the more the safer. Say the well is 60 feet, the horizontal shaft to liberty 30, with 10 feet to surface outside, and we have a shaft 100 feet in length, large enough for the body of a man to pass through.
How and with what tools is all this work accomplished? A caseknife, a half canteen, a stick, the hands with which to dig, a piece of cloth, and old shirt or pair of pants with sleeves or legs tied for a sack to carry the dirt to the surface until the well is in use, then the dirt from the horizontal shaft is dumped into the lower part, and the harder work is accomplished. But the guards are alert and watching for just such an effort. If the outside is reached successfully there are a hundred miles or more of wood and swamp and hostile country to be overcome, the hounds to outwit, of which a pair with their master circles the camp every morning, which are almost certain somewhere to bring up the hopeless fugitive. I know a number reached the outside, but I think none succeeded in getting through. Indeed I have heard the rebels boast that no Yankee ever escaped the prison.
About this time, middle of August, a plot was formed on a large scale, of which at the time none of our party had any knowledge, to escape. A tunnel was dug and two or three thousand of the most able men were enlisted, under the leadership of a commissioned officer (the only one, I think, in Andersonville) who when all things were ready and the night favorable was to lead them outside, when an attempt would be made to surprise and capture the fort and the whole rebel camp. Had it been made and successfully carried out it of course would have liberated the prison, when it was hoped connection might be effected with Sherman. It was a desperate plan, and I fear had it been attempted would have resulted in terrible slaughter. But it was not to be. One of the initiated informed the guard he had a communication for the commandant. He was taken outside, and betrayed the whole scheme. For reward he was put back in prison, and when it became known what he had done he got it from the betrayed. One side of his head was shaved and the word Traitor tattoed in ink across his forehead, and he was turned over to the camp. It was a terrible retribution; nowhere was he allowed to halt, kicks and blows were dealt him at every turn until the guards, seeing his terrible distress and foreseeing the certain fate that awaited him, took him outside again, and it was said that the next day he died. He passed close to me (remainder of article is missing)
June 29 1904 Morris Chronicle
One day one of our party recognized in some new arrivals Lewis Bryant and George Forster, a couple of Gilbertsville men. I believe they were members of a company of the Second N.Y.S. Heavy Artillery. How when and where they were captured, although I think I have heard them state, I will not attempt to repeat, remembrance is too indefinite. Although I had previously known of them, intimate acquaintance first began here. Of course they were promptly adopted by our little colony and faithfully returned what they seemed gladly to receive, sympathy and friendship, the essence of which was the cordial which helped to eke out the scanty fare and preserve life in the breasts of each. I think most of us are unaware of the benefits of social relation and intercourses. Of course the association of some is of far more benefit than that of others. The cheerful presence is like a sunbeam on the heart always, and the clouds that refuse to dispel in the presence of such companionship must be dense indeed.
Some natures are never cast down, the story, the joke, the laugh must follow, no matter what the situation of circumstances. Their presence is inestimable everywhere, in camp, on the march, even in the battle men do better, endure more, fight, I believe more courageously. Lewis Bryant was something of this type. His presence was always welcome and inspiring. His memory has a large place in my heart.
Although we were fortunate not to have had many severe storms, thunder storms were quite frequent in July and August, some of which I think must have been nerve trying for timid people. I have never been in a locality where the thunder seemed to bump along quite so close to the earth as it did in Andersonville, and really I believe the clouds did hover very low and the reports indicated the objects were frequently struck by the lightning.
Doubtless every reader has heard of what was designated as “Providence Spring”. The circumstances of its birth I will relate briefly as possible. In nearly the southeast corner of the stockade stood quite a large pine tree, leaning in such a manner it was thought if cut it must fall across the live. It was the last of its race, the one green thing in the camp, but necessity one day formed a plan which was successfully carried out, and the prize was obtained. I do not know just in what manner, rope or wedges, the last I think. After consummation of the trunk the stump followed. In digging this quite a large pit was formed which they named the crater. This became a favorite locality for the holding of prayer meetings. Every day for some time prayers had ascended from this place that God would speedily send deliverance to the distressed camp. One day, I think toward the last of August, while a company was assembled there praying a terrible storm burst over the stockade, rain fell in torrents and the little stream became a swollen brook; still rising, the morass was half submerged, the lightening came into the prison, striking an old pine stump which stood just south of the north gate between the dead line and the stockade, shivering it. On the east side the stockade began to give way until quite a breach was formed through which the muddy water flowed like a river. I saw a number of men in the water, and I think some escaped outside, but the rebels rushed, as soon as possible, a company to the breach and none, I think, succeeded in getting off.
Two or three days after, when the stream had returned to its normal condition, it was noticed by some that quite an amount of water was flowing from the vicinity of the splintered stump. A request was made of the guards that it might be brought inside the line for use. A couple of boards were furnished, the edges of which were nailed together forming a trough, the lower end resting on a support a foot and a half from the ground, the upper end receiving the waters of the spring, which flowed in a stream the size of a man’s arm nearly of excellent pure water, sufficient for the wants of the entire camp, and continued to do so. What do you think of it, is there a God, and did he in answer to prayer open this vein of living water in this miraculous manner, thereby supplying one of the prison’s greatest wants, or was it an accident?
Time steadily progresses and the disease with which our comrades are afflicted surely and unrelentingly the causes that generated are not mitigated sufficiently in the change of food to stay the progress. Card, Ripley and Miller are growing more feeble day by day. Hope which has promised so fairly, that surely some terms of exchange must be arrived at – we shall not be confined here until death has exterminated us all, is whispering her promises less cheerily, and despair is sometimes seen wringing her hands in the distance.
Abel Card has almost been confined to the bed, arising and moving about with great difficulty. Neither of us had spoken the word hospital; I could not bear the thought of parting with him, and I think something of the same feeling possessed him.
He had nearly all the time since our enlistment shared the same quarters, which proves something of the mutual feelings of regard in which we held each other. No word of discord had ever been spoken, and no man in camp had a better comrade than I. Thus you can imagine something of the feelings of loneliness, regret and sadness which came over me as one morning the poor fellow limped away, assisted by a stick to lean on, to try and obtain a bunk in the hospital, and thereby at least obtain shelter from earth and storm. In this he was successful, and the same day or the next Alden Ripley and James Miller joined him there; they were fortunate too in obtaining berths together and were thus able to enjoy such benefits as associated suffering could afford.
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July13 1904 Morris Chronicle
Were you ever half sick, half starved, half clothed, almost wholly exposed to the elements, shut off from all possibility of escape, sickness and death on every hand, your associate and most intimate friend just taken from you? Then you have been in my circumstance and will understand the feelings that possessed me. I did not cry, I did not swear, I did not kick the furniture all over the house; thee was only a black and bruised tin cup and part of a caseknife, not worth the while, in fact it is a little hazy what I did do, probably sat down and whistled. It has been a sort of instinctive remedy.
I was not long to remain alone; I think it was the same day or the next (call it Providence or chance, to me it will always be Providence) I saw Henry Bishop, and he volunteered to come and stay with me. The most valuable possession I can remember that he brought was a darning needle. Were I able to properly eulogize any thing it would be that needle, a yard or two of poetry would no more than do it justice. Now every raveling was utilized. It was continually employed either by ourselves or the neighbors around us. An old stocking, of which the foot portion had been worn past remedy, was appreciated to enormous value. The coat, the pants the shirt (if one had such a luxury) were mended and darned util our section became almost famous for the toniest of residents; the whole honor due to that needle.
Observation had shown me that the Andersonville ration had a tendency to one or two results, diarrhoea or scurvy. Every prisoner almost was afflicted with one or the other, none of both at the same time. Comrade Card and myself were of opposite examples. Continued constipation with him had resulted in scurvy. Dysentary or diarrhoea had been my affliction. There had been a time when my friends had given me up almost, and I had little hope to lean upon myself. I heard one say of me, “His hands will soon be tied together.” Evacuations were half blood, and I experienced the most terrible pains. Whenever one of these gripped me I was compelled to lie down any where. In coming from the stream one day I had been compelled, in one of these spells, to lie down beside the path. A number passed me without speaking, but finally one whom I always since thought of as the “good samaritan”, came to me and after hearing an explanation of my condition he told me he had been in much the same condition and had saved himself by steeping blood root and drinking the extract/ I asked him were he obtained the root, and he said he had found it by digging in the camp. He said he had got some left and if I would try it he would bring it to me, which he did. When I reached home I commenced steeping it at once, at the same time I did a little mining on my own account, with the result that I found a piece of oak root. This I stripped and added to the brue. It was kill or cure. Desperate situations require desperate remedies.
Well, to my surprise as well as others, my improvement commenced. Added to this I took my ration of meal and scorched it, making of this a tea which I used for drink, eating the grounds for food, that nothing be lost. This statement may be kept for a recipe in similar cases. Simple remedy; no charge and sure cure.
On two or three occasions word was circulated in camp that prisoners would have an opportunity to write to friends. Letters must be brief and left unsealed, as all would have to be inspected. I had a few sheets of note paper and envelopes and improved each opportunity offered, writing simply that I was well and imprisoned in Andersonville, Georgia, to my parents, none of which they received. The letters were not stamped. Had I had the means to purchase a stamp none was procurable that I know of in the prison, either of Confederate or United States postage. I knew the uncertainty and consequent anxiety that must exist with them and desired very much to alleviate it if possible. Where the fault was I do not know, but doubt very much if the letters ever reached the point of exchange.
During all the time of my sickness and convalescing Henry Bishop, my new comrade, was very kind to me. I became so nearly helpless before the turning point was reached that I was unable to walk more then ten rods at one effort without being compelled to lie down and rest. I know of hardly a similar case in Andersonville of one recovering after being brought so low, and to him I have ever since given credit for my life.
A worn out blouse, pants, shoes and cap constituted my entire wardrobe. To this one day Henry added a dress coat which he took from the back of a poor fellow who had ceased to need it. It was perfectly alive with vermin, and for nearly two days we worked over it picking them off, and when almost in despair of ever being able to free it a happy thought occurred to him. He would try soaking and washing. This was the means of success. Not that the inhabitants were detached or drowned, but when after the scrub it was hung upon a stick to dry, I suppose to rearrange their rumpled feathers, get a breath of fresh air, look about to see if the flood had subsided or some other reason, they all congregated at the top, then le grand coup (as the French would put it) was accomplished, and the coat was rescued from the Philistines to become a comfortable, much appreciated garment for my own back.
It was one of Henry’s daily duties to visit our sick comrades in the barracks, carrying fresh water and doing for them whatever he might for their comfort and help, selfimposed of course, an authority which sprang from one of the largest and most sympathetic hearts that ever beat in human breast. Of this there is later evidence to prove. When sufficiently recovered in health and strength I joined him in these visits and helped to share the care, which at the time and since has been so richly rewarded in thanks and memories.
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July 20 1904 Morris Chronicle
Permit me to tell you a story. It is one I am not ashamed to say the recollection of which has caused me to shed tears many times. It is of one of the young men you will recollect in an earlier number I spoke of, with whom we made which merged into a close friendship, named Allen. The poor fellow had come to the barracks some time earlier than our own men for the shelter it afforded, having no blanket or other protection. He had become weak and feeble too from starvation and exposure. He had a berth a little ways from where our friends were located, and shared in the daily care with the others.
One morning, I think it was in the middle or the last of September, in the course of our daily visit, Card asked me if I had seen Allen that morning and I told him I had not. He said he is dying and had lost his reason. I immediately went to see him. He was lying down but recognized me as soon as I approached him, and rose to a sitting position and requested that I should bend my ear so that he might whisper to me. He said, “I went outside last night and saw my mother and sister. They are waiting for me there now. I am going out again tonight and we will fly the camp together; you will go with us too?” Do you wonder that I sat down beside him hopelessly, my throat filled almost to suffocation, preventing the possibility of speech had there been need? Does it not seem it would have been wrong to try and dispel the delusion that was so real to him? In his dream he had seen the loved mother and sister. In their company he would soon leave behind him the hunger and all the ills of the fearful place, and his true sincere friendship would include me.
As I recall and try in simple words to picture this true story after the lapse of forty years of intervening time, with all the events of thoughts dispelling characters they have contained, the tears will blur my eyes and the choking sensation come back again in my throat as I write to-day. He was so young, so pure and true and faithful. Such a son and brother. Did mother or sister ever learn of the terrible fate, did they hear of the loving remembrance; or did they wait, listening to the fair whisperings of hope until despair had banished him from their stricken hearts forever? The story is told in verse; some other time you may read the version.
I think there were no new prisoners brought to Andersonville after about the first of September, and news was very meagre with us as to what was being done in the field. Occasionally a Confederate paper blew into camp from some source, which we read eagerly, if we were fortunate enough to get possession. By some means however we heard the news that Sherman had routed the Confederate army under Hood, and was driving all before him. This for a time gave us a new source of hope; should he reach a position sufficiently near might he not detach an arm of cavalry for our liberation? Later excuses began to be made for his not doing so. One was that the rebels had threatened, should he attempt our liberation in such a manner, the guns of the fort would be immediately turned on the prison. Another I recollect was that Sherman would not encumber himself with so many helpless sick to feed and care for; indeed it would have crippled him greatly undoubtedly.
He chose the wiser, better course of liberating by pushing on and so terminating the war. But in all the delay there was suffering and death for many in the prison. We hear it frequently said that endurance has its limits. It is demonstrated in the increasing feebleness of our comrades in the barracks, all are daily losing strength. Alden Ripley was the first to become helpless, and about the last of September or first of October he died. It was another morning’s sad scene, though less pathetic than the other, for the reason that silence rested over it, broken only by the labored breathing which fainter and fainter grew until the end. He had borne the sickness and suffering to the last, though tormented, in an uncomplaining manner, as a brave true soldier that he was. He too had been a tent companion of my own, thus from intimate acquaintance I knew him to be a noble, good man, respected by all.
This death had a dampening effect, I think on the minds of Card and Miller. They seemed to see in it their own ultimate fate. Whenever and whatever liberation came to others it would be too late for them, disease was too deeply seated, their feebleness too great to enable them to recover, though treatment and care be obtained at once.
As a last recourse we advised them to try the hospital, and a few days later they consented. With the help of an arm thrown over each of our shoulders Henry and myself assisted them down to the prison gate and there bade them a last good by. It was a sad parting, in which feelings expressed more than words. Words said maybe there is change of food, medicine, health and strength restored. Feeling said it is a last farewell, we shall never clasp the hands or look upon each others’ features again. And thus it proved, for somewhere in the strange uncoffined city of nameless ones for almost two score years they have been at rest.
I have said little of James Miller. I could not speak too highly of him. He was another of our bravest, best men, honest, true and faithful, never backward in the performance of any duty. You may be sure it was sad and heavy hearts we carried back to our miserable place. Our friends were going from us one after another. Almost the heavens above us seemed as brass, with no star of hope on which to fix our gaze, to keep alive the waning courage so necessary in the preservation of life in Andersonville.
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July 27 1904 Morris Chronicle
Now another misfortune comes to me (at least at the time it seemed such). We had drawn our rations in a company of which a sergeant by the name of Stephen Racker had charge. By some means he had been enabled early to obtain his release on parole, and had been given outside charge of the burying squad, and needing a couple more men he obtained on the same terms release for his assistance Henry Bishop and George Foster. The men employed in this work received additional rations and had better accommodations in every way, thereby increasing their chance of existence, and while of course I rejoiced at the good fortune which had come to them, I fear that I had to whistle again over my loss of comrade and friend; but a young man who had witnessed our parting, came to me almost immediately and wished to share my company, he said his name was Edward Van Conner, and was a Pennsylvanian. He had a good blanket he would share with me. I liked his straight-forward frankness, looked him over briefly, and the bargain was made. I never had any cause to regret our meeting. We remained together during the whole time of our imprisonment, until we reached Parole Camp, Maryland, six months later.
A thought of all this remaining time reminds me events must be hastened. Incidents and descriptions must be abbreviated, sentiment eliminated, else I fear patience and interest will be worn threadbare long before we shall escaped the Confederacy.
I will tell one more little incident connected with my own experience. While we were both sleeping one night with our cup in which we cooked our rations, resting as we supposed safely between us, it was stolen, leaving us nothing in which to draw or cook our rations except a battered half canteen which had already seen far too much service. Something must be done. Of course I could not bring myself to attempt replacing it. We could not eat the raw material or cook it without a dish. Neither of us had one cent of money or aught to part with that would bring it. All that remained was to trade our rations could we find the wealthy owner of a kettle to part with and willing to barter. This was finally accomplished, and a bargain was made for the insignificant sum of two day’s rations I should receive an old two quart pail, of which the original bottom had been burned out and replaced by an artist in camp with a piece of old tin, doubtless from the side of some other burned out dish. The work was quite well done without solder by locking the edges together. I was to give him one ration then and after two days give the other. I will say the debt was honestly paid, myself bearing the whole expense, necessitating two fasts of forty-eight hours each, In which I had not a mouthful, and strange to say I did not suffer or miss the food more than I would to-day one of the three meals to which I am accustomed. I have wondered many times why this is so, and yet am unable to give satisfactory answer to myself.
The transfer of prisoners from Andersonville must have commenced, I think, early in October and by the close of the month the prison was nearly emptied. The main portion was rushed our probably as fast as facilities would permit until only four or five thousand remained. Our party was of this number. At the time I think none were aware of the object or destination and we thought it very hard lines that our comrades should all be paroled or exchanged perhaps, and we still be compelled to remain. Later when we learned it was simply the exchange of one pen for another we did not feel so badly. Finally the gates were opened for us and without tears or lamenting (as we thought) we shook the dust of Andersonville from our feet forever, and boarded a north-bound train. (Ah, how ignorant and shortsighted we were.) It was but a brief ride and we were ordered from the train and marched inside a stockade near Macon, Georgia. This prison had been devoted to the confinement of Union officers. It was built in the same manner as Andersonville though not as large and did not bear evidence of dense packing which had existed there. A fine stream of water ran through one corner, affording convenience for drinking and washing sufficient for our number.
There were some trees remaining near the stream, but the season of sun and heat were passed even for this southern climate. It must have been about the first of November when we were brought here. There were cold nights, cold winds and cold rains; without clothing and shelter our suffering had not ceased. It would have been a comfortable camp with shelter, food and clothing, but our stay here was brief.
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August 3 1904 Morris Chronicle
No incident comes to my recollection while at this place, worth relating, except it be perhaps a laugh, yes a laugh, at the ludicrous appearance of Lewis Bryany at the stream one morning when, after partaking of his wash, the poor fellow turned to me as the mirror which should reveal to him the result as to cleanliness obtained. It is on record, “The little dog laughed,” etc, but here was a sight that would have made him howl with mirth, or terror, I hardly know which. A Commanche buck would have scalped himself for envy; or he might have made a fortune in New York or Paris, posing as a model for his Satanic Majesty, the devil. He had rubbed the smoke and grim into all the seams and cavities of a rather marked and rugged feature, his eyes gleamed forth like the headlights of an approaching locomotive on a dark night, his nose rose up like the apex of a bald mountain above the murky shadows which surrounded its base lines, converging and diverging, concentrating in pools of murky blackness, or strayed away and were lost in luxuriant forests of whiskers or hair; a sight to be seen to be appreciated, impossible of description. Yet I know he varied but little in appearance from the rest of us.
“Had but some heavenly power gi’ us to see ourselves as ithers see us.” To quote the Scotch poet. It was an impossible effort to obtain cleanliness of appearance. Our fuel consisted of a small ration of yellow pine wood, just sufficient for cooking. It burned like pitch and emitted a cloud of oily black smoke which penetrated the very pores, that without soap or warm water was impossible to remove. No laughing matter perhaps, yet subject to call a smile to the face of a clothes dummy. Lewis Bryant and Ed. Hargrave here began to succumb rapidly; cold increasing without sufficient protection of clothing, food or shelter, kills in the end, though these two escaped death. One day toward the last of November we were again put aboard the train and that night, a bitter one, the wind blowing a gale, we were dumped beside the railroad track near Savannah. I thought surely we must all perish there and at once, but human indurance is great, tho’ some were chilled to almost helplessness. Early next morning the strongest of us were again put on board the train, about a thousand remaining too feeble for farther transportation, of these Bryant and Hargrave were of the number. Lewis Bryant told me afterwards that soon after we were gone a Rebel officer came among them and expressed much feeling, even to tears, at their pitiable condition. He said. “Men, we can do nothing for you, we have nothing, we are poor, we are going to put you on board a transport and turn you over to your own people off the harbor,” which was done.
The main body of us, some four or five thousand, were run off south to Blackshire, the then terminus of the coast line, and again dumped. This time right in the pine woods. On the way thither I had some opportunity of seeing something of the country. I recollect crossing the Savannah river and of seeing the alligators at home in the pools and bayous we slowly passed. They lay apparently sleeping in the sun on the sandy beaches of the streams, the upper jaw thrown back as though attached on hinges. It was said a kind of mucous very attractive to flies and insects was thus exposed. A fatal hour, for when a satisfactory number had gathered the trap was suddenly sprung and with a blink of satisfaction he gulped down the simple collection. After resetting his trap he dozes off into a bit of slumber, awaiting in confident assurance the advent of the future.
We passed through large fields devoted to the cultivation of rice, at this time of year bare and brown as oat or wheat stubble. The fields were terraced in levels, some of large extent. A vast amount of labor and money must have been expended in their preparation. The crop is one that at certain stages requires a vast amount of water to develop. Thro’ a system of irrigation with dam and ditch and gateways, it appeared, the fields could be flooded or drained at will. As we progressed southward the country became wilder. We passed through large forests of yellow pine. Principally a country low and level with little of interest to be seen. At frequent little stations we drew up for water and wood, wood constituting the fuel at that time on the railroads. We also saw something of the manufacture of tar, as the train moved through orchards of the boxed pines. The gathering of the rosin in buckets and boiling in huge caldrons, brought to my mind the maple sugar manufacture of this spring season in the old bush at home. That in the old open way was rather a smutty business, but this is beyond comparison. I think the blackness which rested over the face of the deep before the creation must some way have settled here to stay, concentrated on everything I saw, and everybody was black. You people of the thin chest, the dry cough, the bronchitis throat, the filthy catarrh, right here in the smoke is a cure for you. Secure it before it is too late.
But here we are at Blackshire, the road terminates and so does our journey for the present. We are marched from the train a half mile or so back into the woods and encamped under a strong guard without other inclosure. Here we remained for four or five weeks. There were two or three things here to our advantage. The winds were broken from us, and we had more liberal supply of food. I think on the whole the time passed here, in spite of the weather, was the most comfortable period of my imprisonment.
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August 10 1904 Morris Chronicle
IN SOUTHERN GEORGIA
But one incident occurred while here that I recollect worthy of mention. A few mornings after our arrival we saw two or three officers approaching, and after a little consultation one of them stepped forward and calling attention, said: “I want a thousand men to form in line immediately for exchange.” The call was on the opposite side of the camp from where I was, and neither my companion or myself made an effort to get in line, knowing it would be useless, but Andrew Brown of our party did succeed in getting a place where he was counted with the thousand. I went near enough to speak with him before they were marched away, and well recollect the expression of voice and feature of anticipation of freedom, home and friends soon to be obtained, written all over him. I think the shock of the disappointment he met must have killed him. for it was all a cruel joke, we learned afterward, and the exchange was simple from Blackshire to Salsbury, North Carolina. From that day no news that I have heard has ever been obtained of him. He doubtless died there. He was a good soldier, promptly answering to the call of every duty.
BACK TO ANDERSONVILLE
About the 20th of December we were again mustered in line and the column was marched away westward. At first none of us knew our destination, but finally it was whispered down the ranks, “Home to Andersonville.” At this news you can imagine the feelings of rejoicing which we experienced. I will not attempt to describe it. We were to go by way of Albany. The distance from Blackshire to Albany is something over 100 miles, where we were to be freighted the remaining distance, some 50 or 60 miles, by rail. The highway we followed was a passable one enough of the Southern type of that day, did not have the appearance of being much used for wagon purposes. It lay all the way thro’ the pine forest. The streams we crossed were all small, and only the unfordable ones were bridged. Any water below the knees or even of greater depth in flood seasons was fordable. We saw but one or two houses in the whole journey, and these were of the cracker type, miserable huts, in which the comforts of life must have consisted of the numerous progeny with which they were stocked. But I must relate to you a bit of experience of my own connected with this long winter’s journey, which although not that of the Northern latitude was not lacking in a degree of cold. When captured in June it chanced that I was in government shoes, which though easy to the feet were not the most enduring foot gear, consequently the six months or more of constant wear had been too much for them. The stitching had given away which connected sole and upper some time before this and I had been compelled to preserve connection by tying with leather strings, holes being bored with a penknife blade, and a fine artistic job was accomplished. But alas, they were no longer water or sand proof, as I found to my sorrow before three miles of our journey had been accomplished. Sand first found its way in, then water and a grinding commenced which threatened to skin my poor feet completely. It was not to be endured and I was compelled to use the only remedy, throwing them away and going barefooted, and in this manner all my future travels in the Confederacy were accomplished.
The streams were high and cold and the nights often frosty, but we had plenty of wood and privilege to build comfortable fires, besides I obtained some old rags and swathed my swollen feet in them nights. I was by no means the only one who made this long December march in bare feet. It drew towards its close however and we emerged from the forest near Albany, and when a mile or two from that place and a half mile from the Flint river, which flowed between, we came to one of the world’s famous springs, called Crystal, I suppose on account of its perpetual clearness. I should think this bubble must be about twenty or thirty feet in diameter and it boils up with great force. It would be impossible for a body to sink in it. One could look down into its clear depths for many feet. Sometime earlier a resort had existed there apparently, which had long since fallen in ruins. A stream of water larger than the Unadilla river at New Berlin flowed from it. As I gazed at this wonderful river fountain I wondered if it was not the one to which the Indians led the old Spaniard Don Ponce de Leon in his search for the fountain of youth.
But we loiter. It is forward over the Flint river to Albany, board train and December 24th we are once more, some 4,000 poor wretches, marched inside the gates of Andersonville for the second time. A dreary and barren welcome the old prison presented us; only something of the evidence remained of the dense throng which had filled it, in the useless wells and numerous little burrows and excavations which existed on the faces of the slopes where some poor wretches had sought protection by half burrowing in the sand and clay, which had often proved a treacherous wall of safety when the floods poured down upon them dissolving the clay and burying the occupants in mud and mire. Deep furrows were now plowed where the heavy fall rains had washed the light and sandy soil from the hillsides into beds of yellow deposit along the edge of the morass which seemed half filled with the wash, and from the dammed up overflow of the little stream at the exit beneath the eastern wall of the stockade the rains and frosts had partially purified this late hot bed of filth. Still the katydids hovered over it for the crumbs which might yet be found remaining of the feasts of earlier days.
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August 17 1904 Morris Chronicle
Do you wonder if after all the deprivation and experience we had met and passed through, having once, as we supposed, escaped this earthly hell, we felt a little despondent at the prospect before us? How could we survive the winter three months destitute as we were; was there any ground for hope? I did not see Captain Wirtz when we came in this time, but some said the old man shed tears at our reception again, our appearance and the prospect that awaited us. A few blankets had been distributed to the men, gifts from the Sanitary Commission late in the fall. They were flimsy affairs, far inferior to the Government blanket in size and texture, yet far better than nothing. I doubt if there were four dozen of them in the camp; none I think in our party.
The rations of food were of same kind and quantity as on our first visit. But a new arrangement was instituted in regard to wood. Squads were allowed to go out every day under guard to bring in what they were able on their backs. Opportunity was afforded each individual once in about every three days. It had to be brought half a mile or more and consisted of what we could pick up in the woods without saw or ax and were able to carry. This, though a hard task for some, afforded us far more fuel that we had received by the old method, so we were able to afford a little for warmth above the requirements for cooking.
On our return to Andersonville my comrade and myself went to work moulding brick of the clay, fashioned by hand and sun-dried, with which, when we had sufficient quantity, we built a brick house some seven feet long by four or five feet in width, covered with the piece of canvas previously mentioned, which finally proved inadequate, and one night we were compelled to vacate in haste, to witness our artistic mansion dissolve itself beneath a heavy downpour into the mass of mud from which it had been erected. Had it been completely covered so no water could have come in contact with the clay it would have been quite comfortable.
Later we joined company with three others for economy’s sake, warmth being the consideration. By this means one or two of us had privilege to go out every day for wood. On coming to the stockade this time we had chosen a location on the south side of the stream. After our connection with the others we excavated a place about seven or eight feet square to the depth of about eighteen inches and when one of our number was permitted to go out he took a blanket and filed it with leaves and twigs with which we lined our nest.
We had in the party beside the piece of canvas which we spread over the feathers now three blankets which we used for covering in case of storm, two of these had to form the watershed in tent fashion, to protect us from the rain. Fortunately these were not frequent during the winter, and no snow of any amount, though on one or two occasions there were flurries in the air. We had cold weather nights in which the ground froze quite hard and ice would form over the standing water in pools to considerable thickness.
When we retired, as we did habitually every night, and much of the time on clod days, we were packed in bed like sardines in a box. If one wished to turn over he was compelled to suffer until the feeling had extended to the whole party, when it was “presto change,” and the spoon was shifted to the other side. On pleasant days of course we aired ourselves and stirred up and aired the nest, and in this way all of us passed the winter in comparative health. I think I must tell you of my Christmas cake.
On the day of our coming into the stockade, Dec. 24th, I saved a portion of my meal, which added to my Christmas allowance, afforded me about a pint for the requirement. This I wet up with cold water, and without salt or any other addition pour ed the precious batter in a half canteen basin and baked it all the earlier part of the day over and under a pine wood fire. A respectable crust was formed on the top, a little darker perhaps than fastidious housewives would approve. It was also tainted a little with pitch smoke, but it was the best I could do, and lack of toothsomeness the dainty might have experienced in eating it was completely overcome in my case by an appetite which devoured it and pronounced it good, that which only a starving dog could have eaten. Ah, you people to whom nothing tastes good, whose pampered appetites have been lost in the eating of good things, let me prescribe for you. Build a little Andersonville out on the sidehill, get the best blanket the house affords, let some friend supply you with two-thirds of a pint of unbolted corn meal, half a pint of stock peas, every kernel of which is perforated by worms, a little piece of meat the size of your fingers, or in lieu a half gill of something called molassas. This to be your allowance every twenty-four hours until a cure is effected. How long before it will revive the taste, think you?
I have seen numerous instances of individuals picking up a bone some wasteful person had thrown away, heat the end in the fire and suck the oozing grease and gnaw the charred and blackened end, repeating until every particle of fat was extracted.
Starvation is a remedy that cures all daintiness and sweetens to the taste the roughest and coarsest fare.
Although, as I have stated before, by the method we adopted we were able to endure the cold, there were others who were not,and very many who suffered greatly. On several of the most extremely cold nights men were chilled or frozen to death.
August 24 1904 Morris Chronicle
I recollect well one night a man running near us moaning bitterly and whipping himself with his arms and hands. This he kept up for a long time, until his strength must have been exhausted, when with a loud cry he fell on the frozen ground like a log. He was taken up still alive but consciousness, I think, was never recovered. Others in different parts of the camp were found chilled or frozen the same morning. Time passes; numerous events of minor interest occur which I will not attempt to relate, but one event happened that was so dampening to my pride in its effect that the remembrance is still prominent in my mind. It was the result of a little accident. One extremely cold night it was agreed among us that we might afford a little fire for a while. It was kindled and we all hovered over it for some time, that we might absorb as much as possible of the precious warmth. I having smoked sufficiently a little earlier than the others decided I would retire for the night. This was a very simple process, requiring no ceremony of undressing or nightdress or anything else. We crept under the blankets, cap, boots and all, if one had them (you will recollect I was shoeless). I still swathed my feet in old rags, which had been and still was a great humiliation to me. And now another blow to vanity. It seems I must have fallen immediately asleep, and by some carelessness the others later in following me must have whisked away my cap from my head to the bed of dying embers, where just fire enough remained to burn the crown completely away and a part of the leather front piece. The loss of course was insignificant in other circumstances, but here where no possibility of replacing it existed, of course, it ment more. Just the rim of a crownless cap, henceforth for how long; shoeless, shirtless and now almost capless. Ever since I came home my people have insisted there seemed to be an unusual lack of pride in my make-up some way as relating to my dress and personal appearance. Is it any wonder, after one has been reduced to such low and humiliating condition?
One more incident and the Andersonville stories are ended. It must have been about the first of March, there came a call for me to come down to the gate, which wondering very much, I immediately answered. There I found Henry Bishop waiting to see me. He had in his hands a small sack containing three or four quarts of meal. He told me he had saved this from his extra rations, and others had added some, and he had with some difficulty obtained a pass to bring it to me. I was much effected by this evidence of friendship. Since our leaving the prison the first time and previous I had not seen him or heard one word, whether he was still here or had been transferred, dead or alive. But he by some means had known of my return, and of course knew I must still be living, as I had not been brought for burial to the cemetery. We had but a few minutes to talk. I was much reduced in flesh and quite feeble. I told him I tho’t his chance of seeing home better than mine, and asked him to take some keep sakes, which I had preserved, to my friends. He accepted them and we shook hands, and again bade each other good bye at the prison gates. Afterwards he told me, at the time he knew they were to be exchanged, but refrained from telling me, thinking it might cause me to feel bad to again be left behind. Not all people who thought they knew Henry Bishop, did so. To those whom he gave his friendship no more staunch or true man ever lived than he. He would brave anything, endure anything to aid a friend. Whatever of value my life has been to myself or to others, is now or will be in the future, I sincerely believe I owe to him.
LEAVE ANDERSONVILLE FOR GOOD
About the 10th or 12th of April, 1865, the gates were again opened to us to pass out, the remnant of the little party which had first entered them a little less that nine months before, twelve in number, now reduced to four ragged, filthy skeletons, yet hanging on to life with a new hope which inspired in them strength to keep up, to press on. It was very early in the morning when we boarded the train, and as we moved out southward toward Albany we passed through a farming section, and I saw already in the field at sunrise a company of twenty or more slaves hoeing corn, which was at this season nearly a foot in height. The slaves were of both sexes, the overseer whip in hand present, and I noticed there was no resting on the hoe to watch the train of Yankee prisoners pass by. I wonder how long before that overseer’s whip was broken and those black men and women knew that they were free?
At Albany we left the train and resumed the march, and as we passed through the town many of the people came out to see us, and there were many expressions of sympathy, and some of the ladies brought out every piece of provision the home contained and distributed it among us. Again we crossed the Flint river and recognized we were retracing our journey of December. We halted for a brief rest again by the Crystal spring. Then we were led on once more through the wilderness. I cannot state just how long a time we were in making this journey. We reached some station on the Savannah and Southern road, I think, on the third or fourth day, and were again put aboard train and halted at a place called Lake City, which I have been unable to find on the map. It was across the Florida line; here we were once more corraled in the woods, though we recognized in a careless and less rigid manner. Our ration too was somewhat increased.
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August 31 1904 Morris Chronicle
While at Lake City we obtained our water at the edge of a swampy morass which was half choked up with luxuriant growth of wild grass or reeds. Here one day one of our guards shot an alligator some seven or eight feet long. We drew the trophy into camp and examined him at our leasure, and I must say he had not one redeeming feature, but was ugly looking viewed from every quarter.
I think our stay here was but for a week or ten days, when we for the last time were put aboard train and rolled south. Although no news had been given us we began to feel that something had occurred or was about to do so. The domineering attitude was changed. Our captors could hardly look at us in the face. They manifested the bearing of people who almost expected to receive orders rather than give them. The Johnnies were plainly down in the mouth. The run was a brief one, and about noon the train was brought to a stand and we clambered down on the track. There was no threatening or swearing. It was as quiet as a Sunday morning in summer. Most of the guards clambered back on the train. Some of them mingled with us, and the order was go ahead home. No other so welcome to hear could have been framed from the letters of the English alphabet, and none so gladly or promptly executed.
The iron track opened before us for twenty miles to Jacksonville, Florida. Helter, skelter the struggling column pushed forward, the strong far outstripping the weaker ones in the race, until miles must have intervened between its head and rear. With my smoky hair sticking up through the crownless cap, in a dirty and ragged military dress coat worn under the suspenders, supporting a faded, darned and patched pair of pants which for a year had done service night and day without relief, filled with samples of Southern soil from Virginia to Florida, until they more resembled mottled felt than any other variety of cloth; in bare brown feet I skipped over the ties or sand beside the track. The sand hurt them cruelly and they were blistered almost with the wear and tear of the rough ties, but still I pressed forward, every step was toward home.
We soon discvered why the train had bourn us no further on the way. Long sections of the track had been destroyed by one force or another. The way lay through almost unbroken forest and swamp, so dense that the eye could not penetrate. It seemed in many places one would be compelled to open the way for entrance with a knife or hatchet, tree and vine and reed were so woven together. Miles of our way lay over a trestle on which the track had been lifted from the swamp. I could hardly imagine why a road had ever been built here through such uninhabited and uninhabitable country. Most of the few clearings we saw were neglected or deserted. As we approached Jacksonville the country became more broken and the clearings indicated earlier habitation and cultivation, but war had interrupted everything and banished the inhabitants.
Some three or four miles out from the city we came upon a picket outpost Three colored soldiers in blue uniform were doing duty in guarding the approach by the roadway. They were fine looking fellows, in bright clean uniforms, a most cheering and welcome sight to us. Speaking for myself, I was so much pleased at the meeting I could have fallen on their necks and kissed them, had it not been for a kind of awful glad to see you but please don’t come any nearer expression they seemed to wear which, prevented me. That sort o’ kind o’ dampened the effusive feeling which possessed me, and caused me to turn away sorrowful like and ponder on the low condition in life to which I had fallen.
For two or three miles outside the town the timber, consisting of yellow pine principally, had been felled and lay in broken tangle of dead limbs and trunk, disfiguring the landscape. This was undoubtedly to prevent its affording cover to aid the approach of a surprising force of the enemy.
As we drew near the city we were met by an officer who led us to a little glade on the north side through which a stream of considerable size ran, which too was a body of the felled timber, and told us to make ourselves comfortable as possible. It was almost evening and I was footsore and tired, and for a time threw myself on the grass to rest, thinking I could do no more that night, but soon hunger reminded me that sweeter rest might be found were the demands at least partially satisfied and I remembered that I had a part of my days’ ration still, so I got up and collected a few dry sticks, got some fire from a neighbor and soon had a blaze, when it had burned down somewhat I poured my meal in the half canteen basin and scorched it, and made a cup of strong coffee. It was 9 o’clock perhaps by this time, and hearing a mule wagon come in the vicinity I sat the coffee to cool, and went to investigate. It proved to be a load of bread. It was quite a dark night and the men had surrounded it in a regular mob without order, and three or four men stood in the box and scattered the loaves out over the crowd. I kept near the outside of the crowd and soon saw a flying loaf coming my way; two of us sprang for it and both caught hold of it and divided it. I put mine out of sight and fell in the current which was pressing toward the wagon, and soon to prevent being crushed against it I was compelled to step upon the hub of one of the wheels. One of those who was distributing gave me another, and as soon as I could discover in which direction the current was flowing out, I fell in and was carried out as forcibly as I had been brought in. I returned to my fire, which I had scarcely reached when I heard Amos Atwell calling my name. He had just got into camp, early enough to obtain a loaf. We rekindled the blaze, ate a satisfying portion of bread, drank our meal coffee and laid ourselves down on the greensward beneath the Southern skies in sanguine, happy thoughts, to pleasant dreams.
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September 7 1904 Morris Chronicle
LEAVING JACKSONVILLE FOR HOME
It was the 28th day of April we reached Jacksonville, where we remained ten days perhaps, until new clothing could be shipped to us from the Government store at Hiltonhead and transport be obtained for our shipment north. When suits did arrive and had been distributed, a grand bonfire was kindled and the old prison relics were cremated to the last rag.
The first news we had heard on reaching Jacksonville was that of the assassination of our honored President and the surrender of Lee. Could greater heights or depths of feeling been touched affecting our whole company? The surrender of Lee spoke to us of the triumphant issue of the war, the death knell of human slavery, the preservation of an undivided union. The assassination, the cruel and untimely end of a man whose unfaltering courage and unswerving purpose and perseverance had done most to accomplish it. But I must not linger.
Conveyance at length arriving we were put on board a transport and our voyage homeward commenced. We passed slowly down the river toward the Atlantic with plenty of opportunity to witness all that the bordering shores had to present, a flat, low-lying country it seemed; enormous swamps constituting the principal feature. Still we saw verdant fields with fine southern homes, now and then, surrounded with groves or orange and here and there with the palmetto palm adorning the landscape. After some twenty or thirty miles I should judge of river scenery and then we opened out into the blue Atlantic. The prow of our faithful ship was set to northward and the journey home had commenced in earnest. Soon now the terrible sea sickness attacked us; woebegone looks were followed by drunkenness of motion, an awful nausea; retchings and moanings were on every hand. I lay prone on my back on the deck scarcely able to lift my dizzy head and not daring to do so if I could, by finally after a day or two the sickness departed and I began to look about me. It was my first and only sea voyage and the novelty and curiosity afforded me much entertainment and interest most of the time. Away on our left could be dimly seen and low line of dark blue which the sailors told us was the Carolina coast, but to the right eastward stretched the endless waters of the ocean, always unbroken except occasionally by passing ships. We were stopped on two or three occasions by patrolling Government war vessels to give an account of our business, destination, etc., this was done by sending a cannon shot skipping over the water in front of us. Then our engines would immediately cease to throb, the screws stop their revolutions and the ship rest upon the water until investigations were satisfied. Every one who looks upon the ocean for the first time must be impressed with a kind of awe at contemplation of its might vastness. It seemed almost like Eternity itself as I would stand for hours by the deck rail and gave upon it. The fathomless blue above, two thousand miles of restless, briney waters stretching around, what wonder the great steamer seemed but an atom though one of humanity’s mightiest works, a bubble in the hand that had the power to carry and uphold or swallow up eternally, as but a pebble cast upon the surface.
We made a short stop at Hilton Head for some reason, then continued our voyage to Annapolis, Maryland. There a stay of a week or more was made and we were paid for the rations we had not received from the government. I think I received about $70.00. Here I parted company with Edward VanConover, my Pennsylvania comrade, for the last time, and have never since met or heard from him, although I wrote to him shortly after my arrival home. At the time we parted company he was in very poor health. It is possible he may have died there, for I cannot help believing he would have answered my letter had he been living and received it. His home was in Erie county, Pa.
I cannot give the exact date of our departure from Annapolis. It must I think have been about June fist, by transport for New York. It was about three days journey and made without any unusual incident. This time I did not experience sea sickness in the least. Through the day I roamed about the ship almost at will and at night slept on deck near the boiler house where the heat from within counter-balanced the chill from without, and so preserved comparative comfort. At any hour I would hear the stokers’ shovels as they steadily supplied the monstrous furnaces whose throbbing engines caused this great steamer to quiver and vibrate like a living monster as she plowed through the briney waters toward the north star bearing me home.
As we drew near the narrows we ran into dense fog; one could see but a little distance; the speed of the vessel was slackened, lookouts were stationed and the ship’s bell rang steadily. Previously a pilot had bee taken on board, who now had charge of the ship. I conclude we were right in the midst of the highway of navigation, perhaps approaching the narrows, by the prevention that was adopted to avoid possible collision. Occasionally an answering bell would approach out of the fog and a glimpse of a ghostly ship would appear for a minute to be swallowed up again almost immediately by the fog. We finally emerged from it however before entering the harbor, which was safely accomplished at last. Some delay was made in our landing. A partial coming home to me was now accomplished when once more my feet pressed the soil of my native State. We were quartered at police headquarters located I think at the corner of Mercer and Mulberry streets, where we waited as patiently as might be for our discharge from the government service, which we heard we were to receive. Edward Hammond, James Lewis, Amos Atwell and myself were the remnant from Morris of our company to obtain their freedom from southern prison. Henry Bishop and Edward Hargrave having received theirs earlier.
September 14 1904 Morris Chronicle
WAITING FOR OUR DISCHARGE
My waiting at New York as nearly as I can remember, was about three weeks. No restriction was put upon our movements and I roamed at will in whatever direction fancy lead me, determined to improve the last opportunity I might have of seeing the sights the city afforded. I visited Central Park several times, the Battery, where at the time of the riot had been quartered for some time, to view the shipping, the furled sails of which gave the harbor the appearance of a dead spruce swamp with its bare masts and spars in the winter season, the close reefed sails having the appearance of frozen lines of snow resting upon them. I visited the best churches and theaters, and listened to some of the most eloquent ministers and singers of the day. Most of the time I went about alone, but occasionally with some comrade accompanying me. No one ever interfered with or molested in any way with us. I still wore the plain uniform of a private infantryman, which received neither consideration or attracted attention.
But I am not going to attempt a description of the sights or incidents. I am in a hurry to get home. Settlement and discharge were obtained at an office in some other street, the name of which I have forgotten. The business hours of every day, which consisted of four to six with the hard working officials, we passed within the vicinity so as to catch our names when they should be reached on the rolls, and as one after another of our names were called we stepped forward and our discharge was made out and together with the amount due was passed to us and the contract between the government and man was closed.
On the 27th day of June, 1865, my time came. Just two years and ten months from the day on which I had been sworn into the service I received my discharge and returned to citizenship. I immediately visited the Hudson River railroad station and procured my ticket to Utica, that city and Deposit then being our nearest railway towns, boarded the first outgoing passenger train and in due time was put down at Utica. From there we took the stage for Morris. I do not recollect who was driving at that time. We came the Winfield route reaching Morris about 4 o’clock. As I drew near the old home town my mind was about equally divided with interest in the familiar objects and scenes and anxiety in the thought of what news was in store for me. Were parents, brothers and sisters prosperous, living and well, or had destruction, sickness or death visited them? Almost a year had passed since I had heard from them. A little time and yet what experience it had brought to me what might it possibly have brought to them? We drew up to the grocery store of W.R.B. Wing, where V.J. Hoke is now doing business, to fulfill some errand, and having no baggage to look after I clambered down to the walk where I was soon surrounded by acquaintances and friends, and hand-shakings and congratulations were the order. I saw the aged postmaster, Harley Sargent, approaching, his form was shaking with sadness, and when he took my hand for a time he could scarcely speak from the pressure of feeling that came over him. Stanley Sargent had been my best friend, schoolmate and comrade. When I was taken prisoner I lost sight of him. He was serving in the color guard, carrying the regimental flag. Of course I had heard no word from him. Later I learned he had been taken prisoner in an engagement with the enemy, had probably been taken to Salisbury prison and had died there. We had gone away together and my return alone brought home to the father’s heart a crushing weight of sorrow, while sorrow and sympathy lay heavily upon my own as he told me the story.
Strange is it not than an incident which brought rejoicing to one home should bring sorrow to another? not that Mr. Sargent was not glad at my returning, but it reminded him so forcibly of his son, my friend, who would never come. And how many homes were there from which the loved ones had gone forth never to return. When opportunity permitted I asked after my parents. You can imagine with what anxiety I waited the reply, and the relief I experienced in the answer that all were well. Another came to me saying, “Your father and mother have just driven into town and are at Moore’s store on the corner,” (the building now occupied by the bank), and there I found them, and here I may as well drop the curtain. The meeting of mother with the son who was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found, is not for other eyes to see. Alas that we ever are compelled to part with them, but thus is it willed.
What shall I say in conclusion. Many towns- people who have discovered the authorship of the series of reminiscences have kindly told me they had found information, entertainment and interest in reading them, no only those in years whose memories extend back to the days that witnessed their occurrence and who personally knew the comrades who have been mentioned or of them; but the younger generation as well, even some scarcely more than children have been interested, and thus have my hopes been more than realized. In their writing I have striven to present in simple manner and language some of the incidents and experiences of my own witness or of those associated with me in captivity.
War is a calamity to be dreaded and it seems as though an age of civilization must soon be obtained when it may be dispensed with, and still if we look back in history we may almost believe that the upward steps which mark most prominently the advancement of christianization and civilization are indicated by its wars.
Space will not permit an exhaustive review, but we may briefly examine the history of our own country. In the first place by conquest barbarism was supplanted by Christianity in the subjugation or extermination of the tribe of the Indian race. Again with institutions more free and liberal than the world had ever before seen an independent nation was wrested from monarchical tyranny in the struggle following 1776. In a war with Mexico indemnity was found in barbaric, uncivilized territory. The Civil war redeemed to independence of deed and conscience four millions of bondsmen whose greatest crime is constituted irredeemedly in their color, and now the Spanish- American war presents a spectacle approaching the sublime. A nation making war to liberate downtrodden tributaries from tyrannical misrule, to bestow upon them education, civilization, Christianity and independence. Who shall say the Divine Hand is not. if not in the earlier wars, visible in this? “His word shall not return unto Him void,” and in all these wars is there a question for arbitration? Would the savage dispossess the wilderness, the mother country her colonies, Mexico, Texas and California; would it have settled the slavery question or redeemed the Philippines? While war is a horror to be deplored it is also a scourge in the Divine hand by which nations chastise or are chastised to the accomplishment of His will, the end of which is man’s good. But, forgive the digression, I am not advocating war. I have seen and tasted something of its horrors and they are bitter indeed. I have simply strived to demonstrate they are of Divine origin and in His will are unavoidable, this ennobles even war to him who battles by His side; but I will digress no further.
For the present at least I bid you good bye. At some future season, with the editor’s permission, I may try and present to you some reminiscences of battle scenes and incidents, and until them permit me to subscribe myself sincerely yours,
J. N. Daniels, Morris, N.Y.