Andersonville, Volume 3
Part 2 out of 3
(milk, rice, vegetables, anti-scorbutics, and nourishing animal and
vegetable soups) was not issued, and could not be procured in sufficient
quantities for the sick prisoners.
Opium allayed pain and checked the bowels temporarily, but the frail dam
was soon swept away, and the patient appears to be but little better,
if not the worse, for this merely palliative treatment. The root of the
difficulty could not be reached by drugs; nothing short of the wanting
elements of nutrition would have tended in any manner to restore the tone
of the digestive system, and of all the wasted and degenerated organs and
tissues. My opinion to this effect was expressed most decidedly to the
medical officers in charge of these unfortunate men. The correctness of
this view was sustained by the healthy and robust condition of the
paroled prisoners, who received an extra ration, and who were able to
make considerable sums by trading, and who supplied themselves with a
liberal and varied diet.
X. The fact that hospital gangrene appeared in the Stockade first, and
originated spontaneously, without any previous contagion, and occurred
sporadically all over the Stockade and Prison Hospital, was proof
positive that this disease will arise whenever the conditions of
crowding, filth, foul air, and bad diet are present.
The exhalations from the Hospital and Stockade appeared to exert their
effects to a considerable distance outside of these localities.
The origin of gangrene among these prisoners appeared clearly to depend
in great measure upon the state of the general system, induced by diet,
exposure, neglect of personal cleanliness; and by various external
noxious influences. The rapidity of the appearance and action of the
gangrene depended upon the powers and state of the constitution, as well
as upon the intensity of the poison in the atmosphere, or upon the direct
application of poisonous matter to the wounded surface. This was further
illustrated by the important fact, that hospital gangrene, or a disease
resembling this form of gangrene, attacked the intestinal canal of
patients laboring under ulceration of the bowels, although there were no
local manifestations of gangrene upon the surface of the body. This mode
of termination in cases of dysentery was quite common in the foul
atmosphere of the Confederate States Military Prison Hospital; and in the
depressed, depraved condition of the system of these Federal prisoners,
death ensued very rapidly after the gangrenous state of the intestines
XI. A scorbutic condition of the system appeared to favor the origin of
foul ulcers, which frequently took on true hospital gangrene.
Scurvy and gangrene frequently existed in the same individual. In such
cases, vegetable diet with vegetable acids would remove the scorbutic
condition without curing the hospital gangrene. . . Scurvy consists
not only in an alteration in the constitution of the blood, which leads
to passive hemorrhages from the bowels, and the effusion into the various
tissues of a deeply-colored fibrinous exudation; but, as we have
conclusively shown by postmortem examination, this state is attended with
consistence of the muscles of the heart, and the mucous membrane of the
alimentary canal, and of solid parts generally. We have, according to
the extent of the deficiency of certain articles of food, every degree of
scorbutic derangement, from the most fearful depravation of the blood
and the perversion of every function subserved by the blood to those
slight derangements which are scarcely distinguishable from a state of
health. We are as yet ignorant of the true nature of the changes of the
blood and tissues in scurvy, and wide field for investigation is open for
the determination the characteristic changes--physical, chemical, and
physiological--of the blood and tissues, and of the secretions and
excretions of scurvy. Such inquiries would be of great value in their
bearing upon the origin of hospital gangrene. Up to the present war,
the results of chemical investigations upon the pathology of the blood in
scurvy were not only contradictory, but meager, and wanting in that
careful detail of the cases from which the blood was abstracted which
would enable us to explain the cause of the apparent discrepancies in
different analyses. Thus it is not yet settled whether the fibrin is
increased or diminished in this disease; and the differences which exist
in the statements of different writers appear to be referable to the
neglect of a critical examination and record of all the symptoms of the
cases from which the blood was abstracted. The true nature of the
changes of the blood in scurvy can be established only by numerous
analyses during different stages of the disease, and followed up by
carefully performed and recorded postmortem examinations. With such data
we could settle such important questions as whether the increase of
fibrin in scurvy was invariably dependent upon some local inflammation.
XII. Gangrenous spots, followed by rapid destruction of tissue, appeared
in some cases in which there had been no previous or existing wound or
abrasion; and without such well established facts, it might be assumed
that the disease was propagated from one patient to another in every
case, either by exhalations from the gangrenous surface or by direct
In such a filthy and crowded hospital as that of the Confederate, States
Military Prison of Camp Sumter, Andersonville, it was impossible to
isolate the wounded from the sources of actual contact of the gangrenous
matter. The flies swarming over the wounds and over filth of every
description; the filthy, imperfectly washed, and scanty rags; the limited
number of sponges and wash-bowls (the same wash-bowl and sponge serving
for a score or more of patients), were one and all sources of such
constant circulation of the gangrenous matter, that the disease might
rapidly be propagated from a single gangrenous wound. While the fact
already considered, that a form of moist gangrene, resembling hospital
gangrene, was quite common in this foul atmosphere in cases of dysentery,
both with and without the existence of hospital gangrene upon the
surface, demonstrates the dependence of the disease upon the state of the
constitution, and proves in a clear manner that neither the contact of
the poisonous matter of gangrene, nor the direct action of the poisoned
atmosphere upon the ulcerated surface, is necessary to the development of
the disease; on the other hand, it is equally well-established that the
disease may be communicated by the various ways just mentioned. It is
impossible to determine the length of time which rags and clothing
saturated with gangrenous matter will retain the power of reproducing the
disease when applied to healthy wounds. Professor Brugmans, as quoted by
Guthrie in his commentaries on the surgery of the war in Portugal, Spain,
France, and the Netherlands, says that in 1797, in Holland, 'charpie,'
composed of linen threads cut of different lengths, which, on inquiry, it
was found had been already used in the great hospitals in France, and had
been subsequently washed and bleached, caused every ulcer to which it was
applied to be affected by hospital gangrene. Guthrie affirms in the same
work, that the fact that this disease was readily communicated by the
application of instruments, lint, or bandages which had been in contact
with infected parts, was too firmly established by the experience of
every one in Portugal and Spain to be a matter of doubt. There are facts
to show that flies may be the means of communicating malignant pustules.
Dr. Wagner, who has related several cases of malignant pustule produced
in man and beasts, both by contact and by eating the flesh of diseased
animals, which happened in the village of Striessa in Saxony, in 1834,
gives two very remarkable cases which occurred eight days after any beast
had been affected with the disease. Both were women, one of twenty-six
and the other of fifty years, and in them the pustules were well marked,
and the general symptoms similar to the other cases. The latter patient
said she had been bitten by a fly upon the back d the neck, at which part
the carbuncle appeared; and the former, that she had also been bitten
upon the right upper arm by a gnat. Upon inquiry, Wagner found that the
skin of one of the infected beasts had been hung on a neighboring wall,
and thought it very possible that the insects might have been attracted
to them by the smell, and had thence conveyed the poison.
[End of Dr. Stevenson's Statement]
The old adage says that "Hunger is the best sauce for poor food," but
hunger failed to render this detestable stuff palatable, and it became so
loathsome that very many actually starved to death because unable to
force their organs of deglutition to receive the nauseous dose and pass
it to the stomach. I was always much healthier than the average of the
boys, and my appetite consequently much better, yet for the last month
that I was in Andersonville, it required all my determination to crowd
the bread down my throat, and, as I have stated before, I could only do
this by breaking off small bits at a time, and forcing each down as I
would a pill.
A large part of this repulsiveness was due to the coarseness and foulness
of the meal, the wretched cooking, and the lack of salt, but there was a
still more potent reason than all these. Nature does not intend that man
shall live by bread alone, nor by any one kind of food. She indicates
this by the varying tastes and longings that she gives him. If his body
needs one kind of constituents, his tastes lead him to desire the food
that is richest in those constituents. When he has taken as much as his
system requires, the sense of satiety supervenes, and he "becomes tired"
of that particular food. If tastes are not perverted, but allowed a free
but temperate exercise, they are the surest indicators of the way to
preserve health and strength by a judicious selection of alimentation.
In this case Nature was protesting by a rebellion of the tastes against
any further use of that species of food. She was saying, as plainly as
she ever spoke, that death could only be averted by a change of diet,
which would supply our bodies with the constituents they so sadly needed,
and which could not be supplied by corn meal.
How needless was this confinement of our rations to corn meal, and
especially to such wretchedly prepared meal, is conclusively shown by the
Rebel testimony heretofore given. It would have been very little extra
trouble to the Rebels to have had our meal sifted; we would gladly have
done it ourselves if allowed the utensils and opportunity. It would have
been as little trouble to have varied our rations with green corn and
sweet potatos, of which the country was then full.
A few wagon loads of roasting ears and sweet potatos would have banished
every trace of scurvy from the camp, healed up the wasting dysentery,
and saved thousands of lives. Any day that the Rebels had chosen they
could have gotten a thousand volunteers who would have given their solemn
parole not to escape, and gone any distance into the country, to gather
the potatos and corn, and such other vegetables as were readily
obtainable, and bring, them into the camp.
Whatever else may be said in defense of the Southern management of
military prisons, the permitting seven thousand men to die of the scurvy
in the Summer time, in the midst of an agricultural region, filled with
all manner of green vegetation, must forever remain impossible of
SOLICITUDE AS TO THE FATE OF ATLANTA AND SHERMAN'S ARMY--PAUCITY OF NEWS
--HOW WE HEARD THAT ATLANTA HAD FALLEN--ANNOUNCEMENT OF A GENERAL
EXCHANGE--WE LEAVE ANDERSONVILLE.
We again began to be exceedingly solicitous over the fate of Atlanta and
Sherman's Army: we had heard but little directly from that front for
several weeks. Few prisoners had come in since those captured in the
bloody engagements of the 20th, 22d, and 28th of July. In spite of their
confident tones, and our own sanguine hopes, the outlook admitted of very
grave doubts. The battles of the last week of July had been looked at it
in the best light possible--indecisive. Our men had held their own,
it is true, but an invading army can not afford to simply hold its own.
Anything short of an absolute success is to it disguised defeat. Then we
knew that the cavalry column sent out under Stoneman had been so badly
handled by that inefficient commander that it had failed ridiculously in
its object, being beaten in detail, and suffering the loss of its
commander and a considerable portion of its numbers. This had been
followed by a defeat of our infantry at Etowah Creek, and then came a
long interval in which we received no news save what the Rebel papers
contained, and they pretended no doubt that Sherman's failure was already
demonstrated. Next came well-authenticated news that Sherman had raised
the siege and fallen back to the Chattahoochee, and we felt something of
the bitterness of despair. For days thereafter we heard nothing, though
the hot, close Summer air seemed surcharged with the premonitions of a
war storm about to burst, even as nature heralds in the same way a
concentration of the mighty force of the elements for the grand crash of
the thunderstorm. We waited in tense expectancy for the decision of the
fates whether final victory or defeat should end the long and arduous
At night the guards in the perches around the Stockade called out every
half hour, so as to show the officers that they were awake and attending
to their duty. The formula for this ran thus:
"Post numbah 1; half-past eight o'clock, and a-l-l 's w-e-l-l!"
Post No. 2 repeated this cry, and so it went around.
One evening when our anxiety as to Atlanta was wrought to the highest
pitch, one of the guards sang out:
"Post numbah foah--half past eight o'clock--and Atlanta's--gone--t-o
The heart of every man within hearing leaped to his mouth. We looked
toward each other, almost speechless with glad surprise, and then gasped
"Did 'you hear THAT?"
The next instant such a ringing cheer burst out as wells spontaneously
from the throats and hearts of men, in the first ecstatic moments of
victory--a cheer to which our saddened hearts and enfeebled lungs had
long been strangers. It was the genuine, honest, manly Northern cheer,
as different from the shrill Rebel yell as the honest mastiff's
deep-voiced welcome is from the howl of the prowling wolf.
The shout was taken up all over the prison. Even those who had not heard
the guard understood that it meant that "Atlanta was ours and fairly
won," and they took up the acclamation with as much enthusiasm as we had
begun it. All thoughts of sleep were put to flight: we would have a
season of rejoicing. Little knots gathered together, debated the news,
and indulged in the most sanguine hopes as to the effect upon the Rebels.
In some parts of the Stockade stump speeches were made. I believe that
Boston Corbett and his party organized a prayer and praise meeting.
In our corner we stirred up our tuneful friend "Nosey," who sang again
the grand old patriotic hymns that set our thin blood to bounding,
and made us remember that we were still Union soldiers, with higher hopes
than that of starving and dying in Andersonville. He sang the
ever-glorious Star Spangled Banner, as he used to sing it around the
camp fire in happier days, when we were in the field. He sang the
rousing "Rally Round the Flag," with its wealth of patriotic fire and
martial vigor, and we, with throats hoarse from shouting; joined in the
chorus until the welkin rang again.
The Rebels became excited, lest our exaltation of spirits would lead to
an assault upon the Stockade. They got under arms, and remained so until
the enthusiasm became less demonstrative.
A few days later--on the evening of the 6th of September--the Rebel
Sergeants who called the roll entered the Stockade, and each assembling
his squads, addressed them as follows:
"PRISONERS: I am instructed by General Winder to inform you that a
general exchange has been agreed upon. Twenty thousand men will be
exchanged immediately at Savannah, where your vessels are now waiting for
you. Detachments from One to Ten will prepare to leave early to-morrow
The excitement that this news produced was simply indescribable. I have
seen men in every possible exigency that can confront men, and a large
proportion viewed that which impended over them with at least outward
composure. The boys around me had endured all that we suffered with
stoical firmness. Groans from pain-racked bodies could not be repressed,
and bitter curses and maledictions against the Rebels leaped unbidden to
the lips at the slightest occasion, but there was no murmuring or
whining. There was not a day--hardly an hour--in which one did not see
such exhibitions of manly fortitude as made him proud of belonging to a
race of which every individual was a hero.
But the emotion which pain and suffering and danger could not develop,
joy could, and boys sang, and shouted and cried, and danced as if in a
delirium. "God's country," fairer than the sweet promised land of Canaan
appeared to the rapt vision of the Hebrew poet prophet, spread out in
glad vista before the mind's eye of every one. It had come--at last it
had come that which we had so longed for, wished for, prayed for, dreamed
of; schemed, planned, toiled for, and for which went up the last earnest,
dying wish of the thousands of our comrades who would now know no
exchange save into that eternal "God's country" where
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more.
Our "preparations," for leaving were few and simple. When the morning
came, and shortly after the order to move, Andrews and I picked our
well-worn blanket, our tattered overcoat, our rude chessmen, and no less
rude board, our little black can, and the spoon made of hoop-iron, and
bade farewell to the hole-in-the-ground that had been our home for
nearly seven long months.
My feet were still in miserable condition from the lacerations received
in the attempt to escape, but I took one of our tent poles as a staff and
hobbled away. We re-passed the gates which we had entered on that
February night, ages since, it seemed, and crawled slowly over to the
I had come to regard the Rebels around us as such measureless liars that
my first impulse was to believe the reverse of anything they said to us;
and even now, while I hoped for the best, my old habit of mind was so
strongly upon me that I had some doubts of our going to be exchanged,
simply because it was a Rebel who had said so. But in the crowd of
Rebels who stood close to the road upon which we were walking was a young
Second Lieutenant, who said to a Colonel as I passed:
"Weil, those fellows can sing 'Homeward Bound,' can't they?"
This set my last misgiving at rest. Now I was certain that we were going
to be exchanged, and my spirits soared to the skies.
Entering the cars we thumped and pounded toilsomely along, after the
manner of Southern railroads, at the rate of six or eight miles an hour.
Savannah was two hundred and forty miles away, and to our impatient minds
it seemed as if we would never get there. The route lay the whole
distance through the cheerless pine barrens which cover the greater part
of Georgia. The only considerable town on the way was Macon, which had
then a population of five thousand or thereabouts. For scores of miles
there would not be a sign of a human habitation, and in the one hundred
and eighty miles between Macon and Savannah there were only three
insignificant villages. There was a station every ten miles, at which
the only building was an open shed, to shelter from sun and rain a casual
passenger, or a bit of goods.
The occasional specimens of the poor white "cracker" population that we
saw, seemed indigenous products of the starved soil. They suited their
poverty-stricken surroundings as well as the gnarled and scrubby
vegetation suited the sterile sand. Thin-chested, round-shouldered,
scraggy-bearded, dull-eyed and open-mouthed, they all looked alike--all
looked as ignorant, as stupid, and as lazy as they were poor and weak.
They were "low-downers" in every respect, and made our rough and simple.
minded East Tennesseans look like models of elegant and cultured
gentlemen in contrast.
We looked on the poverty-stricken land with good-natured contempt, for we
thought we were leaving it forever, and would soon be in one which,
compared to it, was as the fatness at Egypt to the leanness of the desert
The second day after leaving Andersonville our train struggled across the
swamps into Savannah, and rolled slowly down the live oak shaded streets
into the center of the City. It seemed like another Deserted Village,
so vacant and noiseless the streets, and the buildings everywhere so
overgrown with luxuriant vegetation: The limbs of the shade trees crashed
along and broke, upon the tops of our cars, as if no train had passed
that way for years. Through the interstices between the trees and clumps
of foliage could be seen the gleaming white marble of the monuments
erected to Greene and Pulaski, looking like giant tombstones in a City of
the Dead. The unbroken stillness--so different from what we expected on
entering the metropolis of Georgia, and a City that was an important port
in Revolutionary days--became absolutely oppressive. We could not
understand it, but our thoughts were more intent upon the coming transfer
to our flag than upon any speculation as to the cause of the remarkable
somnolence of Savannah.
Finally some little boys straggled out to where our car was standing, and
we opened up a conversation with them:
"Say, boys, are our vessels down in the harbor yet?"
The reply came in that piercing treble shriek in which a boy of ten or
twelve makes even his most confidential communications:
"I don't know."
"Well," (with our confidence in exchange somewhat dashed,) "they intend
to exchange us here, don't they?"
Another falsetto scream, "I don't know."
"Well," (with something of a quaver in the questioner's voice,) "what are
they going to do, with us, any way?"
"O," (the treble shriek became almost demoniac) "they are fixing up a
place over by the old jail for you."
What a sinking of hearts was there then! Andrews and I would not give up
hope so speedily as some others did, and resolved to believe, for awhile
at least, that we were going to be exchanged.
Ordered out of the cars, we were marched along the street. A crowd of
small boys, full of the curiosity of the animal, gathered around us as we
marched. Suddenly a door in a rather nice house opened; an angry-faced
woman appeared on the steps and shouted out:
"Boys! BOYS! What are you doin' there! Come up on the steps immejitely!
Come away from them n-a-s-t-y things!"
I will admit that we were not prepossessing in appearance; nor were we as
cleanly as young gentlemen should habitually be; in fact, I may as well
confess that I would not now, if I could help it, allow a tramp, as
dilapidated in raiment, as unwashed, unshorn, uncombed, and populous with
insects as we were, to come within several rods of me. Nevertheless,
it was not pleasant to hear so accurate a description of our personal
appearance sent forth on the wings of the wind by a shrill-voiced Rebel
A short march brought us to the place "they were fixing for us by the old
jail." It was another pen, with high walls of thick pine plank, which
told us only too plainly how vain were our expectations of exchange.
When we were turned inside, and I realized that the gates of another
prison had closed upon me, hope forsook me. I flung our odious little
possessions-our can, chess-board, overcoat, and blanket-upon the ground,
and, sitting down beside them, gave way to the bitterest despair.
I wanted to die, O, so badly. Never in all my life had I desired
anything in the world so much as I did now to get out of it. Had I had
pistol, knife, rope, or poison, I would have ended my prison life then
and there, and departed with the unceremoniousness of a French leave.
I remembered that I could get a quietus from a guard with very little
trouble, but I would not give one of the bitterly hated Rebels the
triumph of shooting me. I longed to be another Samson, with the whole
Southern Confederacy gathered in another Temple of Dagon, that I might
pull down the supporting pillars, and die happy in slaying thousands of
While I was thus sinking deeper and deeper in the Slough of Despond, the
firing of a musket, and the shriek of the man who was struck, attracted
my attention. Looking towards the opposite end of the, pen I saw a guard
bringing his still smoking musket to a "recover arms," and, not fifteen
feet from him, a prisoner lying on the ground in the agonies of death.
The latter had a pipe in his mouth when he was shot, and his teeth still
clenched its stem. His legs and arms were drawn up convulsively, and he
was rocking backward and forward on his back. The charge had struck him
just above the hip-bone.
The Rebel officer in command of the guard was sitting on his horse inside
the pen at the time, and rode forward to see what the matter was.
Lieutenant Davis, who had come with us from Andersonville, was also
sitting on a horse inside the prison, and he called out in his usual
harsh, disagreeable voice:
"That's all right, Cunnel; the man's done just as I awdahed him to."
I found that lying around inside were a number of bits of plank--each
about five feet long, which had been sawed off by the carpenters engaged
in building the prison. The ground being a bare common, was destitute of
all shelter, and the pieces looked as if they would be quite useful in
building a tent. There may have been an order issued forbidding the
prisoners to touch them, but if so, I had not heard it, and I imagine the
first intimation to the prisoner just killed that the boards were not to
be taken was the bullet which penetrated his vitals. Twenty-five cents
would be a liberal appraisement of the value of the lumber for which the
boy lost his life.
Half an hour afterward we thought we saw all the guards march out of the
front gate. There was still another pile of these same kind of pieces of
board lying at the further side of the prison. The crowd around me
noticed it, and we all made a rush for it. In spite of my lame feet I
outstripped the rest, and was just in the act of stooping down to pick
the boards up when a loud yell from those behind startled me. Glancing
to my left I saw a guard cocking his gun and bringing it up to shoot me.
With one frightened spring, as quick as a flash, and before he could
cover me, I landed fully a rod back in the crowd, and mixed with it.
The fellow tried hard to draw a bead on me, but I was too quick for him,
and he finally lowered his gun with an oath expressive of disappointment
in not being able to kill a Yankee.
Walking back to my place the full ludicrousness of the thing dawned upon
me so forcibly that I forgot all about my excitement and scare, and
laughed aloud. Here, not an hour age I was murmuring because I could
find no way to die; I sighed for death as a bridegroom for the coming of
his bride, an yet, when a Rebel had pointed his gun at me, it had nearly
scared me out of a year's growth, and made me jump farther than I could
possibly do when my feet were well, and I was in good condition
SAVANNAH--DEVICES TO OBTAIN MATERIALS FOR A TENT--THEIR ULTIMATE SUCCESS
--RESUMPTION OF TUNNELING--ESCAPING BY WHOLESALE AND BEING RECAPTURED EN
MASSE--THE OBSTACLES THAT LAY BETWEEN US AND OUR LINES.
Andrews and I did not let the fate of the boy who was killed, nor my own
narrow escape from losing the top of my head, deter us from farther
efforts to secure possession of those coveted boards. My readers
remember the story of the boy who, digging vigorously at a hole, replied
to the remark of a passing traveler that there was probably no ground-hog
there, and, even if there was, "ground-hog was mighty poor eatin', any
"Mister, there's got to be a ground-hog there; our family's out o' meat!"
That was what actuated us: we were out of material for a tent. Our
solitary blanket had rotted and worn full of holes by its long double
duty, as bed-clothes and tent at Andersonville, and there was an
imperative call for a substitute.
Andrews and I flattered ourselves that when we matched our collective or
individual wits against those of a Johnny his defeat was pretty certain,
and with this cheerful estimate of our own powers to animate us, we set
to work to steal the boards from under the guard's nose. The Johnny had
malice in his heart and buck-and-ball in his musket, but his eyes were
not sufficiently numerous to adequately discharge all the duties laid
upon him. He had too many different things to watch at the same time.
I would approach a gap in the fence not yet closed as if I intended
making a dash through it for liberty, and when the Johnny had
concentrated all his attention on letting me have the contents of his gun
just as soon as he could have a reasonable excuse for doing so, Andrews
would pick u a couple of boards and slip away with them. Then I would
fall back in pretended (and some real) alarm, and--Andrew would come up
and draw his attention by a similar feint, while I made off with a couple
more pieces. After a few hours c this strategy, we found ourselves the
possessors of some dozen planks, with which we made a lean-to, that
formed a tolerable shelter for our heads and the upper portion of our
bodies. As the boards were not over five feet long, and the slope reduce
the sheltered space to about four-and-one-half feet, it left the lower
part of our naked feet and legs to project out-of-doors. Andrews used to
lament very touchingly the sunburning his toe-nails were receiving.
He knew that his complexion was being ruined for life, and all the Balm
of a Thousand Flowers in the world would not restore his comely ankles to
that condition of pristine loveliness which would admit of their
introduction into good society again. Another defect was that, like the
fun in a practical joke, it was all on one side; there was not enough of
it to go clear round. It was very unpleasant, when a storm came up in a
direction different from that we had calculated upon, to be compelled to
get out in the midst of it, and build our house over to face the other
Still we had a tent, and were that much better off than three-fourths of
our comrades who had no shelter at all. We were owners of a brown stone
front on Fifth Avenue compared to the other fellows.
Our tent erected, we began a general survey of our new abiding place.
The ground was a sandy common in the outskirts of Savannah. The sand was
covered with a light sod. The Rebels, who knew nothing of our burrowing
propensities, had neglected to make the plank forming the walls of the
Prison project any distance below the surface of the ground, and had put
up no Dead Line around the inside; so that it looked as if everything was
arranged expressly to invite us to tunnel out. We were not the boys to
neglect such an invitation. By night about three thousand had been
received from Andersonville, and placed inside. When morning came it
looked as if a colony of gigantic rats had been at work. There was a
tunnel every ten or fifteen feet, and at least twelve hundred of us had
gone out through them during the night. I never understood why all in
the pen did not follow our example, and leave the guards watching a
forsaken Prison. There was nothing to prevent it. An hour's industrious
work with a half-canteen would take any one outside, or if a boy was too
lazy to dig his own tunnel, he could have the use of one of the hundred
others that had been dug.
But escaping was only begun when the Stockade was passed. The site of
Savannah is virtually an island. On the north is the Savannah River; to
the east, southeast and south, are the two Ogeechee rivers, and a chain
of sounds and lagoons connecting with the Atlantic Ocean. To the west is
a canal connecting the Savannah and Big Ogeechee Rivers. We found
ourselves headed off by water whichever way we went. All the bridges
were guarded, and all the boats destroyed. Early in the morning the
Rebels discovered our absence, and the whole garrison of Savannah was
sent out on patrol after us. They picked up the boys in squads of from
ten to thirty, lurking around the shores of the streams waiting for night
to come, to get across, or engaged in building rafts for transportation.
By evening the whole mob of us were back in the pen again. As nobody was
punished for running away, we treated the whole affair as a lark, and
those brought back first stood around the gate and yelled derisively as
the others came in.
That night big fires were built all around the Stockade, and a line of
guards placed on the ground inside of these. In spite of this
precaution, quite a number escaped. The next day a Dead Line was put up
inside of the Prison, twenty feet from the Stockade. This only increased
the labor of burrowing, by making us go farther. Instead of being able
to tunnel out in an hour, it now took three or four hours. That night
several hundred of us, rested from our previous performance, and hopeful
of better luck, brought our faithful half canteens--now scoured very
bright by constant use-into requisition again, and before the morning.
dawned we had gained the high reeds of the swamps, where we lay concealed
In this way we managed to evade the recapture that came to most of those
who went out, but it was a fearful experience. Having been raised in a
country where venomous snakes abounded, I had that fear and horror of
them that inhabitants of those districts feel, and of which people living
in sections free from such a scourge know little. I fancied that the
Southern swamps were filled with all forms of loathsome and poisonous
reptiles, and it required all my courage to venture into them barefooted.
Besides, the snags and roots hurt our feet fearfully. Our hope was to
find a boat somewhere, in which we could float out to sea, and trust to
being picked up by some of the blockading fleet. But no boat could we
find, with all our painful and diligent search. We learned afterward
that the Rebels made a practice of breaking up all the boats along the
shore to prevent negros and their own deserters from escaping to the
blockading fleet. We thought of making a raft of logs, but had we had
the strength to do this, we would doubtless have thought it too risky,
since we dreaded missing the vessels, and being carried out to sea to
perish of hunger. During the night we came to the railroad bridge
across the Ogeechee. We had some slender hope that, if we could reach
this we might perhaps get across the river, and find better opportunities
for escape. But these last expectations were blasted by the discovery
that it was guarded. There was a post and a fire on the shore next us,
and a single guard with a lantern was stationed on one of the middle
spans. Almost famished with hunger, and so weary and footsore that we
could scarcely move another step, we went back to a cleared place on the
high ground, and laid down to sleep, entirely reckless as to what became
of us. Late in the morning we were awakened by the Rebel patrol and
taken back to the prison. Lieutenant Davis, disgusted with the perpetual
attempts to escape, moved the Dead Line out forty feet from the Stockade;
but this restricted our room greatly, since the number of prisoners in
the pen had now risen to about six thousand, and, besides, it offered
little additional protection against tunneling.
It was not much more difficult to dig fifty feet than it had been to dig
thirty feet. Davis soon realized this, and put the Dead Line back to
twenty feet. His next device was a much more sensible one. A crowd of
one hundred and fifty negros dug a trench twenty feet wide and five feet
deep around the whole prison on the outside, and this ditch was filled
with water from the City Water Works. No one could cross this without
attracting the attention of the guards.
Still we were not discouraged, and Andrews and I joined a crowd that was
constructing a large tunnel from near our quarters on the east side of
the pen. We finished the burrow to within a few inches of the edge of
the ditch, and then ceased operations, to await some stormy night, when
we could hope to get across the ditch unnoticed.
Orders were issued to guards to fire without warning on men who were
observed to be digging or carrying out dirt after nightfall. They
occasionally did so, but the risk did not keep anyone from tunneling.
Our tunnel ran directly under a sentry box. When carrying dirt away the
bearer of the bucket had to turn his back on the guard and walk directly
down the street in front of him, two hundred or three hundred feet, to
the center of the camp, where he scattered the sand around--so as to give
no indication of where it came from. Though we always waited till the
moon went down, it seemed as if, unless the guard were a fool, both by
nature and training, he could not help taking notice of what was going on
under his eyes. I do not recall any more nervous promenades in my life,
than those when, taking my turn, I received my bucket of sand at the
mouth of the tunnel, and walked slowly away with it. The most
disagreeable part was in turning my back to the guard. Could I have
faced him, I had sufficient confidence in my quickness of perception,
and talents as a dodger, to imagine that I could make it difficult for
him to hit me. But in walling with my back to him I was wholly at his
mercy. Fortune, however, favored us, and we were allowed to go on with
our work--night after night--without a shot.
In the meanwhile another happy thought slowly gestated in Davis's alleged
intellect. How he came to give birth to two ideas with no more than a
week between them, puzzled all who knew him, and still more that he
survived this extraordinary strain upon the gray matter of the cerebrum.
His new idea was to have driven a heavily-laden mule cart around the
inside of the Dead Line at least once a day. The wheels or the mule's
feet broke through the thin sod covering the tunnels and exposed them.
Our tunnel went with the rest, and those of our crowd who wore shoes had
humiliation added to sorrow by being compelled to go in and spade the
hole full of dirt. This put an end to subterranean engineering.
One day one of the boys watched his opportunity, got under the ration
wagon, and clinging close to the coupling pole with hands and feet, was
carried outside. He was detected, however, as he came from under the
wagon, and brought back.
FRANK REVERSTOCK'S ATTEMPT AT ESCAPE--PASSING OFF AS REBEL BOY HE REACHES
GRISWOLDVILLE BY RAIL, AND THEN STRIKES ACROSS THE COUNTRY FOR SHERMAN,
BUT IS CAUGHT WITHIN TWENTY MILES OF OUR LINES.
One of the shrewdest and nearest successful attempts to escape that came
under my notice was that of my friend Sergeant Frank Reverstock, of the
Third West Virginia Cavalry, of whom I have before spoken. Frank, who
was quite small, with a smooth boyish face, had converted to his own use
a citizen's coat, belonging to a young boy, a Sutler's assistant, who had
died in Andersonville. He had made himself a pair of bag pantaloons and
a shirt from pieces of meal sacks which he had appropriated from day to
day. He had also the Sutler's assistant's shoes, and, to crown all, he
wore on his head one of those hideous looking hats of quilted calico
which the Rebels had taken to wearing in the lack of felt hats, which
they could neither make nor buy. Altogether Frank looked enough like a
Rebel to be dangerous to trust near a country store or a stable full of
horses. When we first arrived in the prison quite a crowd of the
Savannahians rushed in to inspect us. The guards had some difficulty in
keeping them and us separate. While perplexed with this annoyance, one
of them saw Frank standing in our crowd, and, touching him with his
bayonet, said, with some sharpness:
"See heah; you must stand back; you musn't crowd on them prisoners so."
Frank stood back. He did it promptly but calmly, and then, as if his
curiosity as to Yankees was fully satisfied, he walked slowly away up the
street, deliberating as he went on a plan for getting out of the City.
He hit upon an excellent one. Going to the engineer of a freight train
making ready to start back to Macon, he told him that his father was
working in the Confederate machine shops at Griswoldville, near Macon;
that he himself was also one of the machinists employed there, and
desired to go thither but lacked the necessary means to pay his passage.
If the engineer would let him ride up on the engine he would do work
enough to pay the fare. Frank told the story ingeniously, the engineer
and firemen were won over, and gave their consent.
No more zealous assistant ever climbed upon a tender than Frank proved to
be. He loaded wood with a nervous industry, that stood him in place of
great strength. He kept the tender in perfect order, and anticipated,
as far as possible, every want of the engineer and his assistant. They
were delighted with him, and treated him with the greatest kindness,
dividing their food with him, and insisting that he should share their
bed when they "laid by" for the night. Frank would have gladly declined
this latter kindness with thanks, as he was conscious that the quantity
of "graybacks" his clothing contained did not make him a very desirable
sleeping companion for any one, but his friends were so pressing that he
was compelled to accede.
His greatest trouble was a fear of recognition by some one of the
prisoners that were continually passing by the train load, on their way
from Andersonville to other prisons. He was one of the best known of the
prisoners in Andersonville; bright, active, always cheerful, and forever
in motion during waking hours,--every one in the Prison speedily became
familiar with him, and all addressed him as "Sergeant Frankie." If any
one on the passing trains had caught a glimpse of him, that glimpse would
have been followed almost inevitably with a shout of:
"Hello, Sergeant Frankie! What are you doing there?"
Then the whole game would have been up. Frank escaped this by persistent
watchfulness, and by busying himself on the opposite side of the engine,
with his back turned to the other trains.
At last when nearing Griswoldville, Frank, pointing to a large white
house at some distance across the fields, said:
"Now, right over there is where my uncle lives, and I believe I'll just
run over and see him, and then walk into Griswoldville."
He thanked his friends fervently for their kindness, promised to call and
see them frequently, bade them good by, and jumped off the train.
He walked towards the white house as long as he thought he could be seen,
and then entered a large corn field and concealed himself in a thicket in
the center of it until dark, when he made his way to the neighboring
woods, and began journeying northward as fast as his legs could carry
him. When morning broke he had made good progress, but was terribly
tired. It was not prudent to travel by daylight, so he gathered himself
some ears of corn and some berries, of which he made his breakfast, and
finding a suitable thicket he crawled into it, fell asleep, and did not
wake up until late in the afternoon.
After another meal of raw corn and berries he resumed his journey, and
that night made still better progress.
He repeated this for several days and nights--lying in the woods in the
day time, traveling by night through woods, fields, and by-paths avoiding
all the fords, bridges and main roads, and living on what he could glean
from the fields, that he might not take even so much risk as was involved
in going to the negro cabins for food.
But there are always flaws in every man's armor of caution--even in so
perfect a one as Frank's. His complete success so far had the natural
effect of inducing a growing carelessness, which wrought his ruin.
One evening he started off briskly, after a refreshing rest and sleep.
He knew that he must be very near Sherman's lines, and hope cheered him
up with the belief that his freedom would soon be won.
Descending from the hill, in whose dense brushwood he had made his bed
all day, he entered a large field full of standing corn, and made his way
between the rows until he reached, on the other side, the fence that
separated it from the main road, across which was another corn-field,
that Frank intended entering.
But he neglected his usual precautions on approaching a road, and instead
of coming up cautiously and carefully reconnoitering in all directions
before he left cover, he sprang boldly over the fence and strode out for
the other side. As he reached the middle of the road, his ears were
assailed with the sharp click of a musket being cocked, and the harsh
"Halt! halt, dah, I say!"
Turning with a start to his left he saw not ten feet from him, a mounted
patrol, the sound of whose approach had been masked by the deep dust of
the road, into which his horse's hoofs sank noiselessly.
Frank, of course, yielded without a word, and when sent to the officer in
command he told the old story about his being an employee of the
Griswoldville shops, off on a leave of absence to make a visit to sick
relatives. But, unfortunately, his captors belonged to that section
themselves, and speedily caught him in a maze of cross-questioning from
which he could not extricate himself. It also became apparent from his
language that he was a Yankee, and it was not far from this to the
conclusion that he was a spy--a conclusion to which the proximity of
Sherman's lines, then less than twenty miles distant-greatly assisted.
By the next morning this belief had become so firmly fixed in the minds
of the Rebels that Frank saw a halter dangling alarmingly near, and he
concluded the wisest plan was to confess who he really was.
It was not the smallest of his griefs to realize by how slight a chance
he had failed. Had he looked down the road before he climbed the fence,
or had he been ten minutes earlier or later, the patrol would not have
been there, he could have gained the next field unperceived, and two more
nights of successful progress would have taken him into Sherman's lines
at Sand Mountain. The patrol which caught him was on the look-out for
deserters and shirking conscripts, who had become unusually numerous
since the fall of Atlanta.
He was sent back to us at Savannah. As he came into the prison gate
Lieutenant Davis was standing near. He looked sternly at Frank and his
Rebel garments, and muttering,
"By God, I'll stop this!" caught the coat by the tails, tore it to the
collar, and took it and his hat away from Frank.
There was a strange sequel to this episode. A few weeks afterward a
special exchange for ten thousand was made, and Frank succeeded in being
included in this. He was given the usual furlough from the paroled camp
at Annapolis, and went to his home in a little town near Mansfield, O.
One day while on the cars going--I think to Newark, O., he saw Lieutenant
Davis on the train, in citizens' clothes. He had been sent by the Rebel
Government to Canada with dispatches relating to some of the raids then
harassing our Northern borders. Davis was the last man in the world to
successfully disguise himself. He had a large, coarse mouth, that made
him remembered by all who had ever seen him. Frank recognized him
instantly and said:
"You are Lieutenant Davis?"
"You are totally mistaken, sah, I am -----"
Frank insisted that he was right. Davis fumed and blustered, but though
Frank was small, he was as game as a bantam rooster, and he gave Davis to
understand that there had been a vast change in their relative positions;
that the one, while still the same insolent swaggerer, had not regiments
of infantry or batteries of artillery to emphasize his insolence, and the
other was no longer embarrassed in the discussion by the immense odds in
favor of his jailor opponent.
After a stormy scene Frank called in the assistance of some other
soldiers in the car, arrested Davis, and took him to Camp Chase--near
Columbus, O.,--where he was fully identified by a number of paroled
prisoners. He was searched, and documents showing the nature of his
mission beyond a doubt, were found upon his person.
A court martial was immediately convened for his trial.
This found him guilty, and sentenced him to be hanged as a spy.
At the conclusion of the trial Frank stepped up to the prisoner and said:
"Mr. Davis, I believe we're even on that coat, now."
Davis was sent to Johnson's Island for execution, but influences were
immediately set at work to secure Executive clemency. What they were
I know not, but I am informed by the Rev. Robert McCune, who was then
Chaplain of the One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Ohio Infantry and the Post
of Johnson's Island and who was the spiritual adviser appointed to
prepare Davis for execution, that the sentence was hardly pronounced
before Davis was visited by an emissary, who told him to dismiss his
fears, that he should not suffer the punishment.
It is likely that leading Baltimore Unionists were enlisted in his behalf
through family connections, and as the Border State Unionists were then
potent at Washington, they readily secured a commutation of his sentence
to imprisonment during the war.
It seems that the justice of this world is very unevenly dispensed when
so much solicitude is shown for the life of such a man, and none at all
for the much better men whom he assisted to destroy.
The official notice of the commutation of the sentence was not published
until the day set for the execution, but the certain knowledge that it
would be forthcoming enabled Davis to display a great deal of bravado on
approaching what was supposed to be his end. As the reader can readily
imagine, from what I have heretofore said of him, Davis was the man to
improve to the utmost every opportunity to strut his little hour, and he
did it in this instance. He posed, attitudinized and vapored, so that
the camp and the country were filled with stories of the wonderful
coolness with which he contemplated his approaching fate.
Among other things he said to his guard, as he washed himself elaborately
the night before the day announced for the execution:
"Well, you can be sure of one thing; to-morrow night there will certainly
be one clean corpse on this Island."
Unfortunately for his braggadocio, he let it leak out in some way that he
had been well aware all the time that he would not be executed.
He was taken to Fort Delaware for confinement, and died there some time
Frank Beverstock went back to his regiment, and served with it until the
close of the war. He then returned home, and, after awhile became a
banker at Bowling Green, O. He was a fine business man and became very
prosperous. But though naturally healthy and vigorous, his system
carried in it the seeds of death, sown there by the hardships of
captivity. He had been one of the victims of the Rebels' vaccination;
the virus injected into his blood had caused a large part of his right
temple to slough off, and when it healed it left a ghastly cicatrix.
Two years ago he was taken suddenly ill, and died before his friends had
any idea that his condition was serious.
SAVANNAH PROVES TO BE A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER--ESCAPE FROM THE BRATS OF
GUARDS--COMPARISON BETWEEN WIRZ AND DAVIS--A BRIEF INTERVAL OF GOOD
RATIONS--WINDER, THE MAN WITH THE EVIL EYE
--THE DISLOYAL WORK OF A SHYSTER.
After all Savannah was a wonderful improvement on Andersonville.
We got away from the pestilential Swamp and that poisonous ground.
Every mouthful of air was not laden with disease germs, nor every cup of
water polluted with the seeds of death. The earth did not breed
gangrene, nor the atmosphere promote fever. As only the more vigorous
had come away, we were freed from the depressing spectacle of every third
man dying. The keen disappointment prostrated very many who had been of
average health, and I imagine, several hundred died, but there were
hospital arrangements of some kind, and the sick were taken away from
among us. Those of us who tunneled out had an opportunity of stretching
our legs, which we had not had for months in the overcrowded Stockade we
had left. The attempts to escape did all engaged in them good, even
though they failed, since they aroused new ideas and hopes, set the blood
into more rapid circulation, and toned up the mind and system both.
I had come away from Andersonville with considerable scurvy manifesting
itself in my gums and feet. Soon these signs almost wholly disappeared.
We also got away from those murderous little brats of Reserves,
who guarded us at Andersonville, and shot men down as they would stone
apples out of a tree. Our guards now were mostly, sailors, from the
Rebel fleet in the harbor--Irishmen, Englishmen and Scandinavians, as
free hearted and kindly as sailors always are. I do not think they ever
fired a shot at one of us. The only trouble we had was with that portion
of the guard drawn from the infantry of the garrison. They had the same
rattlesnake venom of the Home Guard crowd wherever we met it, and shot us
down at the least provocation. Fortunately they only formed a small part
of the sentinels.
Best of all, we escaped for a while from the upas-like shadow of Winder
and Wirz, in whose presence strong men sickened and died, as when near
some malign genii of an Eastern story. The peasantry of Italy believed
firmly in the evil eye. Did they ever know any such men as Winder and
his satellite, I could comprehend how much foundation they could have for
such a belief.
Lieutenant Davis had many faults, but there was no comparison between him
and the Andersonville commandant. He was a typical young Southern man;
ignorant and bumptious as to the most common matters of school-boy
knowledge, inordinately vain of himself and his family, coarse in tastes
and thoughts, violent in his prejudices, but after all with some streaks
of honor and generosity that made the widest possible difference between
him and Wirz, who never had any. As one of my chums said to me:
"Wirz is the most even-tempered man I ever knew; he's always foaming
This was nearly the truth. I never saw Wirz when he was not angry;
if not violently abusive, he was cynical and sardonic. Never, in my
little experience with him did I detect a glint of kindly, generous
humanity; if he ever was moved by any sight of suffering its exhibition
in his face escaped my eye. If he ever had even a wish to mitigate the
pain or hardship of any man the expression of such wish never fell on my
ear. How a man could move daily through such misery as he encountered,
and never be moved by it except to scorn and mocking is beyond my limited
Davis vapored a great deal, swearing big round oaths in the broadest of
Southern patois; he was perpetually threatening to:
"Open on ye wid de ahtillery," but the only death that I knew him to
directly cause or sanction was that I have described in the previous
chapter. He would not put himself out of the way to annoy and oppress
prisoners, as Wirz would, but frequently showed even a disposition to
humor them in some little thing, when it could be done without danger or
trouble to himself.
By-and-by, however, he got an idea that there was some money to be made
out of the prisoners, and he set his wits to work in this direction.
One day, standing at the gate, he gave one of his peculiar yells that he
used to attract the attention of the camp with:
We all came to "attention," and he announced:
"Yesterday, while I wuz in the camps (a Rebel always says camps,) some of
you prisoners picked my pockets of seventy-five dollars in greenbacks.
Now, I give you notice that I'll not send in any moah rations till the
money's returned to me."
This was a very stupid method of extortion, since no one believed that he
had lost the money, and at all events he had no business to have the
greenbacks, as the Rebel laws imposed severe penalties upon any citizen,
and still more upon any soldier dealing with, or having in his possession
any of "the money of the enemy." We did without rations until night,
when they were sent in. There was a story that some of the boys in the
prison had contributed to make up part of the sum, and Davis took it and
was satisfied. I do not know how true the story was. At another time
some of the boys stole the bridle and halter off an old horse that was
driven in with a cart. The things were worth, at a liberal estimate,
one dollar. Davis cut off the rations of the whole six thousand of us
for one day for this. We always imagined that the proceeds went into his
A special exchange was arranged between our Navy Department and that of
the Rebels, by which all seamen and marines among us were exchanged.
Lists of these were sent to the different prisons and the men called for.
About three-fourths of them were dead, but many soldiers divining, the
situation of affairs, answered to the dead men's names, went away with
the squad and were exchanged. Much of this was through the connivance of
the Rebel officers, who favored those who had ingratiated themselves with
them. In many instances money was paid to secure this privilege, and I
have been informed on good authority that Jack Huckleby, of the Eighth
Tennessee, and Ira Beverly, of the One Hundredth Ohio, who kept the big
sutler shop on the North Side at Andersonville, paid Davis five hundred
dollars each to be allowed to go with the sailors. As for Andrews and
me, we had no friends among the Rebels, nor money to bribe with, so we
stood no show.
The rations issued to us for some time after our arrival seemed riotous
luxury to what we had been getting at Andersonville. Each of us received
daily a half-dozen rude and coarse imitations of our fondly-remembered
hard tack, and with these a small piece of meat or a few spoonfuls of
molasses, and a quart or so of vinegar, and several plugs of tobacco for
each "hundred." How exquisite was the taste of the crackers and
It was the first wheat bread I had eaten since my entry into Richmond
--nine months before--and molasses had been a stranger to me for years.
After the corn bread we had so long lived upon, this was manna. It seems
that the Commissary at Savannah labored under the delusion that he must
issue to us the same rations as were served out to the Rebel soldiers and
sailors. It was some little time before the fearful mistake came to the
knowledge of Winder. I fancy that the news almost threw him into an
apoplectic fit. Nothing, save his being ordered to the front, could have
caused him such poignant sorrow as the information that so much good food
had been worse than wasted in undoing his work by building up the bodies
of his hated enemies.
Without being told, we knew that he had been heard from when the tobacco,
vinegar and molasses failed to come in, and the crackers gave way to corn
meal. Still this was a vast improvement on Andersonville, as the meal
was fine and sweet, and we each had a spoonful of salt issued to us
I am quite sure that I cannot make the reader who has not had an
experience similar to ours comprehend the wonderful importance to us of
that spoonful of salt. Whether or not the appetite for salt be, as some
scientists claim, a purely artificial want, one thing is certain, and
that is, that either the habit of countless generations or some other
cause, has so deeply ingrained it into our common nature, that it has
come to be nearly as essential as food itself, and no amount of
deprivation can accustom us to its absence. Rather, it seemed that the
longer we did without it the more overpowering became our craving.
I could get along to-day and to-morrow, perhaps the whole week, without
salt in my food, since the lack would be supplied from the excess I had
already swallowed, but at the end of that time Nature would begin to
demand that I renew the supply of saline constituent of my tissues, and
she would become more clamorous with every day that I neglected her
bidding, and finally summon Nausea to aid Longing.
The light artillery of the garrison of Savannah--four batteries,
twenty-four pieces--was stationed around three sides of the prison, the
guns unlimbered, planted at convenient distance, and trained upon us,
ready for instant use. We could see all the grinning mouths through the
cracks in the fence. There were enough of them to send us as high as
the traditional kite flown by Gilderoy. The having at his beck this
array of frowning metal lent Lieutenant Davis such an importance in his
own eyes that his demeanor swelled to the grandiose. It became very
amusing to see him puff up and vaunt over it, as he did on every
possible occasion. For instance, finding a crowd of several hundred
lounging around the gate, he would throw open the wicket, stalk in with
the air of a Jove threatening a rebellious world with the dread thunders
of heaven, and shout:
"W-h-a-a y-e-e! Prisoners, I give you jist two minutes to cleah away
from this gate, aw I'll open on ye wid de ahtillery!"
One of the buglers of the artillery was a superb musician--evidently some
old "regular" whom the Confederacy had seduced into its service, and his
instrument was so sweet toned that we imagined that it was made of
silver. The calls he played were nearly the same as we used in the
cavalry, and for the first few days we became bitterly homesick every
time he sent ringing out the old familiar signals, that to us were so
closely associated with what now seemed the bright and happy days when we
were in the field with our battalion. If we were only back in the
valleys of Tennessee with what alacrity we would respond to that
"assembly;" no Orderly's patience would be worn out in getting laggards
and lazy ones to "fall in for roll-call;" how eagerly we would attend to
"stable duty;" how gladly mount our faithful horses and ride away to
"water," and what bareback races ride, going and coming. We would be
even glad to hear "guard" and "drill" sounded; and there would be music
in the disconsolate "surgeon's call:"
"Come-get-your-q-n-i-n-i-n-e; come, get your quinine; It'll make you
sad: It'll make you sick. Come, come."
O, if we were only back, what admirable soldiers we would be!
One morning, about three or four o'clock, we were awakened by the ground
shaking and a series of heavy, dull thumps sounding oft seaward.
Our silver-voiced bugler seemed to be awakened, too. He set the echoes
ringing with a vigorously played "reveille;" a minute later came an
equally earnest "assembly," and when "boots and saddles" followed, we
knew that all was not well in Denmark; the thumping and shaking now had
a significance. It meant heavy Yankee guns somewhere near. We heard the
gunners hitching up; the bugle signal "forward," the wheels roll off,
and for a half hour afterwards we caught the receding sound of the bugle
commanding "right turn," "left turn," etc., as the batteries marched
away. Of course, we became considerably wrought up over the matter,
as we fancied that, knowing we were in Savannah, our vessels were trying
to pass up to the City and take it. The thumping and shaking continued
until late in the afternoon.
We subsequently learned that some of our blockaders, finding time banging
heavy upon their hands, had essayed a little diversion by knocking Forts
Jackson and Bledsoe--two small forts defending the passage of the
Savannah--about their defenders' ears. After capturing the forts our
folks desisted and came no farther.
Quite a number of the old Raider crowd had come with us from
Andersonville. Among these was the shyster, Peter Bradley. They kept up
their old tactics of hanging around the gates, and currying favor with
the Rebels in every possible way, in hopes to get paroles outside or
other favors. The great mass of the prisoners were so bitter against the
Rebels as to feel that they would rather die than ask or accept a favor
from their hands, and they had little else than contempt for these
trucklers. The raider crowd's favorite theme of conversation with the
Rebels was the strong discontent of the boys with the manner of their
treatment by our Government. The assertion that there was any such
widespread feeling was utterly false. We all had confidence--as we
continue to have to this day--that our Government would do everything for
us possible, consistent with its honor, and the success of military
operations, and outside of the little squad of which I speak, not an
admission could be extracted from anybody that blame could be attached to
any one, except the Rebels. It was regarded as unmanly and
unsoldier-like to the last degree, as well as senseless, to revile our
Government for the crimes committed by its foes.
But the Rebels were led to believe that we were ripe for revolt against
our flag, and to side with them. Imagine, if possible, the stupidity
that would mistake our bitter hatred of those who were our deadly
enemies, for any feeling that would lead us to join hands with those
enemies. One day we were surprised to see the carpenters erect a rude
stand in the center of the camp. When it was finished, Bradley appeared
upon it, in company with some Rebel officers and guards. We gathered
around in curiosity, and Bradley began making a speech.
He said that it had now become apparent to all of us that our Government
had abandoned us; that it cared little or nothing for us, since it could
hire as many more quite readily, by offering a bounty equal to the pay
which would be due us now; that it cost only a few hundred dollars to
bring over a shipload of Irish, "Dutch," and French, who were only too
glad to agree to fight or do anything else to get to this country. [The
peculiar impudence of this consisted in Bradley himself being a
foreigner, and one who had only come out under one of the later calls,
and the influence of a big bounty.]
Continuing in this strain he repeated and dwelt upon the old lie, always
in the mouths of his crowd, that Secretary Stanton and General Halleck
had positively refused to enter upon negotiations for exchange, because
those in prison were "only a miserable lot of 'coffee-boilers' and
'blackberry pickers,' whom the Army was better off without."
The terms "coffee-boiler," and "blackberry-pickers" were considered the
worst terms of opprobrium we had in prison. They were applied to that
class of stragglers and skulkers, who were only too ready to give
themselves up to the enemy, and who, on coming in, told some gauzy story
about "just having stopped to boil a cup of coffee," or to do something
else which they should not have done, when they were gobbled up. It is
not risking much to affirm the probability of Bradley and most of his
crowd having belonged to this dishonorable class.
The assertion that either the great Chief-of-Staff or the still greater
War-Secretary were even capable of applying such epithets to the mass of
prisoners is too preposterous to need refutation, or even denial.
No person outside the raider crowd ever gave the silly lie a moment's
Bradley concluded his speech in some such language as this:
"And now, fellow prisoners, I propose to you this: that we unite in
informing our Government that unless we are exchanged in thirty days, we
will be forced by self-preservation to join the Confederate army."
For an instant his hearers seemed stunned at the fellow's audacity, and
then there went up such a roar of denunciation and execration that the
air trembled. The Rebels thought that the whole camp was going to rush
on Bradley and tear him to pieces, and they drew revolvers and leveled
muskets to defend him. The uproar only ceased when Bradley was hurried
out of the prisons but for hours everybody was savage and sullen, and
full of threatenings against him, when opportunity served. We never saw
Angry as I was, I could not help being amused at the tempestuous rage of
a tall, fine-looking and well educated Irish Sergeant of an Illinois
regiment. He poured forth denunciations of the traitor and the Rebels,
with the vivid fluency of his Hibernian nature, vowed he'd "give a year
of me life, be J---s, to have the handling of the dirty spalpeen for ten
minutes; be G-d," and finally in his rage, tore off his own shirt and
threw it on the ground and trampled on it.
Imagine my astonishment, some time after getting out of prison, to find
the Southern papers publishing as a defense against the charges in regard
to Andersonville, the following document, which they claimed to have been
adopted by "a mass meeting of the prisoners:"
"At a mass meeting held September 28th, 1864, by the Federal prisoners
confined at Savannah, Ga., it was unanimously agreed that the following
resolutions be sent to the President of the United States, in the hope
that he might thereby take such steps as in his wisdom he may think
necessary for our speedy exchange or parole:
"Resolved, That while we would declare our unbounded love for the Union,
for the home of our fathers, and for the graves of those we venerate, we
would beg most respectfully that our situation as prisoners be diligently
inquired into, and every obstacle consistent with the honor and dignity
of the Government at once removed.
"Resolved, That while allowing the Confederate authorities all due praise
for the attention paid to prisoners, numbers of our men are daily
consigned to early graves, in the prime of manhood, far from home and
kindred, and this is not caused intentionally by the Confederate
Government, but by force of circumstances; the prisoners are forced to go
without shelter, and, in a great portion of cases, without medicine.
"Resolved, That, whereas, ten thousand of our brave comrades have
descended into an untimely grave within the last six months, and as we
believe their death was caused by the difference of climate, the peculiar
kind and insufficiency of food, and lack of proper medical treatment;
and, whereas, those difficulties still remain, we would declare as our
firm belief, that unless we are speedily exchanged, we have no
alternative but to share the lamentable fate of our comrades. Must this
thing still go on! Is there no hope?
"Resolved, That, whereas, the cold and inclement season of the year is
fast approaching, we hold it to be our duty as soldiers and citizens of
the United States, to inform our Government that the majority of our
prisoners ate without proper clothing, in some cases being almost naked,
and are without blankets to protect us from the scorching sun by day or
the heavy dews by night, and we would most respectfully request the
Government to make some arrangement whereby we can be supplied with
these, to us, necessary articles.
"Resolved, That, whereas, the term of service of many of our comrades
having expired, they, having served truly and faithfully for the term of
their several enlistments, would most respectfully ask their Government,
are they to be forgotten? Are past services to be ignored? Not having
seen their wives and little ones for over three years, they would most
respectfully, but firmly, request the Government to make some
arrangements whereby they can be exchanged or paroled.
"Resolved, That, whereas, in the fortune of war, it was our lot to become
prisoners, we have suffered patiently, and are still willing to suffer,
if by so doing we can benefit the country; but we must most respectfully
beg to say, that we are not willing to suffer to further the ends of any
party or clique to the detriment of our honor, our families, and our
country, and we beg that this affair be explained to us, that we may
continue to hold the Government in that respect which is necessary to
make a good citizen and soldier.
"Chairman of Committee in behalf of Prisoners."
In regard to the above I will simply say this, that while I cannot
pretend to know or even much that went on around me, I do not think it
was possible for a mass meeting of prisoners to have been held without
my knowing it, and its essential features. Still less was it possible
for a mass meeting to have been held which would have adopted any such
a document as the above, or anything else that a Rebel would have found
the least pleasure in republishing. The whole thing is a brazen
WHY WE WERE HURRIED OUT OF ANDERSONVILLE--THE OF THE FALL OF ATLANTA
--OUR LONGING TO HEAR THE NEWS--ARRIVAL OF SOME FRESH FISH--HOW WE KNEW
THEY WERE WESTERN BOYS--DIFFERENCE IN THE APPEARANCE OF THE SOLDIERS OF
THE TWO ARMIES.
The reason of our being hurried out of Andersonville under the false
pretext of exchange dawned on us before we had been in Savannah long.
If the reader will consult the map of Georgia he will understand this,
too. Let him remember that several of the railroads which now appear
were not built then. The road upon which Andersonville is situated was
about one hundred and twenty miles long, reaching from Macon to Americus,
Andersonville being about midway between these two. It had no
connections anywhere except at Macon, and it was hundreds of miles across
the country from Andersonville to any other road. When Atlanta fell it
brought our folks to within sixty miles of Macon, and any day they were
liable to make a forward movement, which would capture that place, and
have us where we could be retaken with ease.
There was nothing left undone to rouse the apprehensions of the Rebels in
that direction. The humiliating surrender of General Stoneman at Macon
in July, showed them what our, folks were thinking of, and awakened their
minds to the disastrous consequences of such a movement when executed by
a bolder and abler commander. Two days of one of Kilpatrick's swift,
silent marches would carry his hard-riding troopers around Hood's right
flank, and into the streets of Macon, where a half hour's work with the
torch on the bridges across the Ocmulgee and the creeks that enter it at
that point, would have cut all of the Confederate Army of the Tennessee's
communications. Another day and night of easy marching would bring his
guidons fluttering through the woods about the Stockade at Andersonville,
and give him a reinforcement of twelve or fifteen thousand able-bodied
soldiers, with whom he could have held the whole Valley of the
Chattahoochie, and become the nether millstone, against which Sherman
could have ground Hood's army to powder.
Such a thing was not only possible, but very probable, and doubtless
would have occurred had we remained in Andersonville another week.
Hence the haste to get us away, and hence the lie about exchange, for,
had it not been for this, one-quarter at least of those taken on the cars
would have succeeded in getting off and attempted to have reached
The removal went on with such rapidity that by the end of September only
eight thousand two hundred and eighteen remained at Andersonville, and
these were mostly too sick to be moved; two thousand seven hundred died
in September, fifteen hundred and sixty in October, and four hundred and
eighty-five in November, so that at the beginning of December there were
only thirteen hundred and fifty-nine remaining. The larger part of those
taken out were sent on to Charleston, and subsequently to Florence and
Salisbury. About six or seven thousand of us, as near as I remember,
were brought to Savannah.
We were all exceedingly anxious to know how the Atlanta campaign had
ended. So far our information only comprised the facts that a sharp
battle had been fought, and the result was the complete possession of our
great objective point. The manner of accomplishing this glorious end,
the magnitude of the engagement, the regiments, brigades and corps
participating, the loss on both sides, the completeness of the victories,
etc., were all matters that we knew nothing of, and thirsted to learn.
The Rebel papers said as little as possible about the capture, and the
facts in that little were so largely diluted with fiction as to convey no
real information. But few new, prisoners were coming in, and none of
these were from Sherman. However, toward the last of September, a
handful of "fresh fish" were turned inside, whom our experienced eyes
instantly told us were Western boys.
There was never any difficulty in telling, as far as he could be seen,
whether a boy belonged to the East or the west. First, no one from the
Army of the Potomac was ever without his corps badge worn conspicuously;
it was rare to see such a thing on one of Sherman's men. Then there was
a dressy air about the Army of the Potomac that was wholly wanting in the
soldiers serving west of the Alleghanies.
The Army, of the Potomac was always near to its base of supplies, always
had its stores accessible, and the care of the clothing and equipments of
the men was an essential part of its discipline. A ragged or shabbily
dressed man was a rarity. Dress coats, paper collars, fresh woolen
shirts, neat-fitting pantaloons, good comfortable shoes, and trim caps or
hats, with all the blazing brass of company letters an inch long,
regimental number, bugle and eagle, according to the Regulations, were as
common to Eastern boys as they were rare among the Westerners.
The latter usually wore blouses, instead of dress coats, and as a rule
their clothing had not been renewed since the opening, of the campaign
--and it showed this. Those who wore good boots or shoes generally had to
submit to forcible exchanges by their, captors, and the same was true of
head gear. The Rebels were badly off in regard to hats. They did not
have skill and ingenuity enough to make these out of felt or straw, and
the make-shifts they contrived of quilted calico and long-leaved pine,
were ugly enough to frighten horned cattle.
I never blamed them much for wanting to get rid of these, even if they
did have to commit a sort of highway robbery upon defenseless prisoners
to do so. To be a traitor in arms was bad certainly, but one never
appreciated the entire magnitude of the crime until he saw a Rebel
wearing a calico or a pine-leaf hat. Then one felt as if it would be a
great mistake to ever show such a man mercy.
The Army of Northern Virginia seemed to have supplied themselves with
head-gear of Yankee manufacture of previous years, and they then quit
taking the hats of their prisoners. Johnston's Army did not have such
good luck, and had to keep plundering to the end of the war.
Another thing about the Army of the Potomac was the variety of the
uniforms. There were members of Zouave regiments, wearing baggy breeches
of various hues, gaiters, crimson fezes, and profusely braided jackets.
I have before mentioned the queer garb of the "Lost Ducks." (Les Enfants
Perdu, Forty-eighth New York.)
One of the most striking uniforms was that of the "Fourteenth Brooklyn."
They wore scarlet pantaloons, a blue jacket handsomely braided, and a red
fez, with a white cloth wrapped around the head, turban-fashion.
As a large number of them were captured, they formed quite a picturesque
feature of every crowd. They were generally good fellows and gallant
Another uniform that attracted much, though not so favorable, attention
was that of the Third New Jersey Cavalry, or First New Jersey Hussars,
as they preferred to call themselves. The designer of the uniform must
have had an interest in a curcuma plantation, or else he was a fanatical
Orangeman. Each uniform would furnish occasion enough for a dozen New
York riots on the 12th of July. Never was such an eruption of the
yellows seen outside of the jaundiced livery of some Eastern potentate.
Down each leg of the pantaloons ran a stripe of yellow braid one and
one-half inches wide. The jacket had enormous gilt buttons, and was
embellished with yellow braid until it was difficult to tell whether it
was blue cloth trimmed with yellow, or yellow adorned with blue. From
the shoulders swung a little, false hussar jacket, lined with the same
flaring yellow. The vizor-less cap was similarly warmed up with the hue
of the perfected sunflower. Their saffron magnificence was like the
gorgeous gold of the lilies of the field, and Solomon in all his glory
could not have beau arrayed like one of them. I hope he was not. I want
to retain my respect for him. We dubbed these daffodil cavaliers
"Butterflies," and the name stuck to them like a poor relation.
Still another distinction that was always noticeable between the two
armies was in the bodily bearing of the men. The Army of the Potomac was
drilled more rigidly than the Western men, and had comparatively few long
marches. Its members had something of the stiffness and precision of
English and German soldiery, while the Western boys had the long,
"reachy" stride, and easy swing that made forty miles a day a rather
commonplace march for an infantry regiment.
This was why we knew the new prisoners to be Sherman's boys as soon as
they came inside, and we started for them to hear the news. Inviting
them over to our lean-to, we told them our anxiety for the story of the
decisive blow that gave us the Central Gate of the Confederacy, and asked
them to give it to us.
WHAT CAUSED THE FALL OF ATLANTA--A DISSERTATION UPON AN IMPORTANT
PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM--THE BATTLE OF JONESBORO--WHY IT WAS FOUGHT
--HOW SHERMAN DECEIVED HOOD--A DESPERATE BAYONET CHARGE, AND THE ONLY
SUCCESSFUL ONE IN THE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN--A GALLANT COLONEL AND HOW HE
DIED--THE HEROISM OF SOME ENLISTED MEN--GOING CALMLY INTO CERTAIN DEATH.
An intelligent, quick-eyed, sunburned boy, without an ounce of surplus
flesh on face or limbs, which had been reduced to gray-hound condition by
the labors and anxieties of the months of battling between Chattanooga
and Atlanta, seemed to be the accepted talker of the crowd, since all the
rest looked at him, as if expecting him to answer for them. He did so:
"You want to know about how we got Atlanta at last, do you? Well, if you
don't know, I should think you would want to. If I didn't, I'd want
somebody to tell me all about it just as soon as he could get to me, for
it was one of the neatest little bits of work that 'old Billy' and his
boys ever did, and it got away with Hood so bad that he hardly knew what
"Well, first, I'll tell you that we belong to the old Fourteenth Ohio
Volunteers, which, if you know anything about the Army of the Cumberland,
you'll remember has just about as good a record as any that trains around
old Pap Thomas--and he don't 'low no slouches of any kind near him,
either--you can bet $500 to a cent on that, and offer to give back the
cent if you win. Ours is Jim Steedman's old regiment--you've all heard
of old Chickamauga Jim, who slashed his division of 7,000 fresh men into
the Rebel flank on the second day at Chickamauga, in a way that made
Longstreet wish he'd staid on the Rappahannock, and never tried to get up
any little sociable with the Westerners. If I do say it myself, I
believe we've got as good a crowd of square, stand-up, trust'em-every-
minute-in-your-life boys, as ever thawed hard-tack and sowbelly. We got
all the grunters and weak sisters fanned out the first year, and since
then we've been on a business basis, all the time. We're in a mighty
good brigade, too. Most of the regiments have been with us since we
formed the first brigade Pap Thomas ever commanded, and waded with him
through the mud of Kentucky, from Wild Cat to Mill Springs, where he gave
Zollicoffer just a little the awfulest thrashing that a Rebel General
ever got. That, you know, was in January, 1862, and was the first
victory gained by the Western Army, and our people felt so rejoiced over
"Yes, yes; we've read all about that," we broke in, "and we'd like to
hear it again, some other time; but tell us now about Atlanta."
"All right. Let's see: where was I? O, yes, talking about our brigade.
It is the Third Brigade, of the Third Division, of the Fourteenth Corps,
and is made up of the Fourteenth Ohio, Thirty-eighth Ohio, Tenth
Kentucky, and Seventy-fourth Indiana. Our old Colonel--George P. Este
--commands it. We never liked him very well in camp, but I tell you
he's a whole team in a fight, and he'd do so well there that all would
take to him again, and he'd be real popular for a while."
"Now, isn't that strange," broke in Andrews, who was given to fits of
speculation of psychological phenomena: "None of us yearn to die, but the
surest way to gain the affection of the boys is to show zeal in leading
them into scrapes where the chances of getting shot are the best.
Courage in action, like charity, covers a multitude of sins. I have
known it to make the most unpopular man in the battalion, the most
popular inside of half an hour. Now, M.(addressing himself to me,) you
remember Lieutenant H., of our battalion. You know he was a very fancy
young fellow; wore as snipish' clothes as the tailor could make, had gold
lace on his jacket wherever the regulations would allow it, decorated his
shoulders with the stunningest pair of shoulder knots I ever saw, and so
on. Well, he did not stay with us long after we went to the front. He
went back on a detail for a court martial, and staid a good while. When
he rejoined us, he was not in good odor, at all, and the boys weren't at
all careful in saying unpleasant things when he could hear them, A little
while after he came back we made that reconnaissance up on the Virginia
Road. We stirred up the Johnnies with our skirmish line, and while the
firing was going on in front we sat on our horses in line, waiting for
the order to move forward and engage. You know how solemn such moments
are. I looked down the line and saw Lieutenant H. at the right of
Company --, in command of it. I had not seen him since he came back, and
I sung out:
"'Hello, Lieutenant, how do you feel?'
"The reply came back, promptly, and with boyish cheerfulness:
"'Bully, by ----; I'm going to lead seventy men of Company into action
"How his boys did cheer him. When the bugle sounded--'forward, trot,'
his company sailed in as if they meant it, and swept the Johnnies off in
short meter. You never heard anybody say anything against Lieutenant
"You know how it was with Captain G., of our regiment," said one of the
Fourteenth to another. "He was promoted from Orderly Sergeant to a
Second Lieutenant, and assigned to Company D. All the members of Company
D went to headquarters in a body, and protested against his being put in
their company, and he was not. Well, he behaved so well at Chickamauga
that the boys saw that they had done him a great injustice, and all those
that still lived went again to headquarters, and asked to take all back
that they had said, and to have him put into the company."
"Well, that was doing the manly thing, sure; but go on about Atlanta."
"I was telling about our brigade," resumed the narrator. "Of course, we
think our regiment's the best by long odds in the army--every fellow
thinks that of his regiment--but next to it come the other regiments of
our brigade. There's not a cent of discount on any of them.
"Sherman had stretched out his right away to the south and west of
Atlanta. About the middle of August our corps, commanded by Jefferson C.
Davis, was lying in works at Utoy Creek, a couple of miles from Atlanta.
We could see the tall steeples and the high buildings of the City quite
plainly. Things had gone on dull and quiet like for about ten days.
This was longer by a good deal than we had been at rest since we left
Resaca in the Spring. We knew that something was brewing, and that it
must come to a head soon.
"I belong to Company C. Our little mess--now reduced to three by the
loss of two of our best soldiers and cooks, Disbrow and Sulier, killed
behind head-logs in front of Atlanta, by sharpshooters--had one fellow
that we called 'Observer,' because he had such a faculty of picking up
news in his prowling around headquarters. He brought us in so much of
this, and it was generally so reliable that we frequently made up his
absence from duty by taking his place. He was never away from a fight,
though. On the night of the 25th of August, 'Observer' came in with the
news that something was in the wind. Sherman was getting awful restless,
and we had found out that this always meant lots of trouble to our
friends on the other side.
"Sure enough, orders came to get ready to move, and the next night we all
moved to the right and rear, out of sight of the Johnnies. Our well
built works were left in charge of Garrard's Cavalry, who concealed their
horses in the rear, and came up and took our places. The whole army
except the Twentieth Corps moved quietly off, and did it so nicely that
we were gone some time before the enemy suspected it. Then the Twentieth
Corps pulled out towards the North, and fell back to the Chattahoochie,
making quite a shove of retreat. The Rebels snapped up the bait
greedily. They thought the siege was being raised, and they poured over
their works to hurry the Twentieth boys off. The Twentieth fellows let
them know that there was lots of sting in them yet, and the Johnnies were
not long in discovering that it would have been money in their pockets if
they had let that 'moon-and-star' (that's the Twentieth's badge, you
know) crowd alone.
"But the Rebs thought the rest of us were gone for good and that Atlanta
was saved. Naturally they felt mighty happy over it; and resolved to
have a big celebration--a ball, a meeting of jubilee, etc. Extra trains
were run in, with girls and women from the surrounding country, and they
just had a high old time.
"In the meantime we were going through so many different kinds of tactics
that it looked as if Sherman was really crazy this time, sure. Finally
we made a grand left wheel, and then went forward a long way in line of
battle. It puzzled us a good deal, but we knew that Sherman couldn't get
us into any scrape that Pap Thomas couldn't get us out of, and so it was
"Along on the evening of the 31st our right wing seemed to have run
against a hornet's nest, and we could hear the musketry and cannon speak
out real spiteful, but nothing came down our way. We had struck the
railroad leading south from Atlanta to Macon, and began tearing it up.
The jollity at Atlanta was stopped right in the middle by the appalling
news that the Yankees hadn't retreated worth a cent, but had broken out
in a new and much worse spot than ever. Then there was no end of trouble
all around, and Hood started part of his army back after us.
"Part of Hardee's and Pat Cleburne's command went into position in front
of us. We left them alone till Stanley could come up on our left, and
swing around, so as to cut off their retreat, when we would bag every one
of them. But Stanley was as slow as he always was, and did not come up
until it was too late, and the game was gone.
"The sun was just going down on the evening of the 1st of September, when
we began to see we were in for it, sure. The Fourteenth Corps wheeled
into position near the railroad, and the sound of musketry and artillery
became very loud and clear on our front and left. We turned a little and
marched straight toward the racket, becoming more excited every minute.
We saw the Carlin's brigade of regulars, who were some distance ahead of
us, pile knapsacks, form in line, fix bayonets, and dash off with
"The Rebel fire beat upon them like a Summer rain-storm, the ground shook
with the noise, and just as we reached the edge of the cotton field, we
saw the remnant of the brigade come flying back out of the awful,
blasting shower of bullets. The whole slope was covered with dead and
"Yes," interrupts one of the Fourteenth; "and they made that charge
right gamely, too, I can tell you. They were good soldiers, and well
led. When we went over the works, I remember seeing the body of a little
Major of one of the regiments lying right on the top. If he hadn't been
killed he'd been inside in a half-a-dozen steps more. There's no mistake
about it; those regulars will fight."
"When we saw this," resumed the narrator, "it set our fellows fairly
wild; they became just crying mad; I never saw them so before. The order
came to strip for the charge, and our knapsacks were piled in half a
minute. A Lieutenant of our company, who was then on the staff of Gen.
Baird, our division commander, rode slowly down the line and gave us our
instructions to load our guns, fix bayonets, and hold fire until we were
on top of the Rebel works. Then Colonel Este sang out clear and steady
as a bugle signal:
"'Brigade, forward! Guide center! MARCH!!'
"And we started. Heavens, how they did let into us, as we came up into
range. They had ten pieces of artillery, and more men behind the
breastworks than we had in line, and the fire they poured on us was
simply withering. We walked across the hundreds of dead and dying of the
regular brigade, and at every step our own men fell down among them.
General Baud's horse was shot down, and the General thrown far over his
head, but he jumped up and ran alongside of us. Major Wilson, our
regimental commander, fell mortally wounded; Lieutenant Kirk was killed,
and also Captain Stopfard, Adjutant General of the brigade. Lieutenants
Cobb and Mitchell dropped with wounds that proved fatal in a few days.
Captain Ugan lost an arm, one-third of the enlisted men fell, but we went
straight ahead, the grape and the musketry becoming worse every step,
until we gained the edge of the hill, where we were checked a minute by
the brush, which the Rebels had fixed up in the shape of abattis. Just
then a terrible fire from a new direction, our left, swept down the whole
length of our line. The Colonel of the Seventeenth New York--as gallant
a man as ever lived saw the new trouble, took his regiment in on the run,
and relieved us of this, but he was himself mortally wounded. If our
boys were half-crazy before, they were frantic now, and as we got out of
the entanglement of the brush, we raised a fearful yell and ran at the
works. We climbed the sides, fired right down into the defenders, and
then began with the bayonet and sword. For a few minutes it was simply
awful. On both sides men acted like infuriated devils. They dashed each
other's brains out with clubbed muskets; bayonets were driven into men's
bodies up to the muzzle of the gun; officers ran their swords through
their opponents, and revolvers, after being emptied into the faces of the
Rebels, were thrown with desperate force into the ranks. In our regiment
was a stout German butcher named Frank Fleck. He became so excited that
he threw down his sword, and rushed among the Rebels with his bare fists,
knocking down a swath of them. He yelled to the first Rebel he met:
"Py Gott, I've no patience mit you,' and knocked him sprawling.
He caught hold of the commander of the Rebel Brigade, and snatched him
back over the works by main strength. Wonderful to say, he escaped
unhurt, but the boys will probably not soon let him hear the last of
"Py Gott, I've no patience mit you.'
"The Tenth Kentucky, by the queerest luck in the world, was matched
against the Rebel Ninth Kentucky. The commanders of the two regiments
were brothers-in-law, and the men relatives, friends, acquaintances and
schoolmates. They hated each other accordingly, and the fight between
them was more bitter, if possible, than anywhere else on the line.
The Thirty-Eighth Ohio and Seventy-fourth Indiana put in some work that
was just magnificent. We hadn't time to look at it then, but the dead
and wounded piled up after the fight told the story.
"We gradually forced our way over the works, but the Rebels were game to
the last, and we had to make them surrender almost one at a time.
The artillerymen tried to fire on us when we were so close we could lay
our hands on the guns.
"Finally nearly all in the works surrendered, and were disarmed and
marched back. Just then an aid came dashing up with the information that
we must turn the works, and get ready to receive Hardee, who was
advancing to retake the position. We snatched up some shovels lying
near, and began work. We had no time to remove the dead and dying Rebels
on the works, and the dirt we threw covered them up. It proved a false
alarm. Hardee had as much as he could do to save his own hide, and the
affair ended about dark.
"When we came to count up what we had gained, we found that we had
actually taken more prisoners from behind breastworks than there were in
our brigade when we started the charge. We had made the only really
successful bayonet charge of the campaign. Every other time since we
left Chattanooga the party standing on the defensive had been successful.
Here we had taken strong double lines, with ten guns, seven battle flags,
and over two thousand prisoners. We had lost terribly--not less than
one-third of the brigade, and many of our best men. Our regiment went
into the battle with fifteen officers; nine of these were killed or
wounded, and seven of the nine lost either their limbs or lives.
The Thirty-Eighth Ohio, and the other regiments of the brigade lost
equally heavy. We thought Chickamauga awful, but Jonesboro discounted
"Do you know," said another of the Fourteenth, "I heard our Surgeon
telling about how that Colonel Grower, of the Seventeenth New York,
who came in so splendidly on our left, died? They say he was a Wall
Street broker, before the war. He was hit shortly after he led his
regiment in, and after the fight, was carried back to the hospital.
While our Surgeon was going the rounds Colonel Grower called him, and
said quietly, 'When you get through with the men, come and see me,
"The Doctor would have attended to him then, but Grower wouldn't let him.
After he got through he went back to Grower, examined his wound, and told
him that he could only live a few hours. Grower received the news
tranquilly, had the Doctor write a letter to his wife, and gave him his
things to send her, and then grasping the Doctor's hand, he said:
"Doctor, I've just one more favor to ask; will you grant it?'
"The Doctor said, 'Certainly; what is it?'
"You say I can't live but a few hours?'
"Yes; that is true.'
"And that I will likely be in great pain!'
"I am sorry to say so.'
"Well, then, do give me morphia enough to put me to sleep, so that I will
wake up only in another world.'
"The Doctor did so; Colonel Grower thanked him; wrung his hand, bade him
good-by, and went to sleep to wake no more."
"Do you believe in presentiments and superstitions?" said another of the
Fourteenth. There was Fisher Pray, Orderly Sergeant of Company I. He
came from Waterville, O., where his folks are now living. The day before
we started out he had a presentiment that we were going into a fight, and
that he would be killed. He couldn't shake it off. He told the
Lieutenant, and some of the boys about it, and they tried to ridicule him
out of it, but it was no good. When the sharp firing broke out in front
some of the boys said, 'Fisher, I do believe you are right,' and he
nodded his head mournfully. When we were piling knapsacks for the
charge, the Lieutenant, who was a great friend of Fisher's, said:
"Fisher, you stay here and guard the knapsacks.'
"Fisher's face blazed in an instant.
"No, sir,' said he; I never shirked a fight yet, and I won't begin now.'
"So he went into the fight, and was killed, as he knew he would be. Now,
that's what I call nerve."
"The same thing was true of Sergeant Arthur Tarbox, of Company A," said
the narrator; "he had a presentiment, too; he knew he was going to be
killed, if he went in, and he was offered an honorable chance to stay
out, but he would not take it, and went in and was killed."
"Well, we staid there the next day, buried our dead, took care of our
wounded, and gathered up the plunder we had taken from the Johnnies.
The rest of the army went off, 'hot blocks,' after Hardee and the rest of
Hood's army, which it was hoped would be caught outside of entrenchments.
But Hood had too much the start, and got into the works at Lovejoy, ahead
of our fellows. The night before we heard several very loud explosions
up to the north. We guessed what that meant, and so did the Twentieth
Corps, who were lying back at the Chattahoochee, and the next morning the
General commanding--Slocum--sent out a reconnaissance. It was met by the
Mayor of Atlanta, who said that the Rebels had blown up their stores and
retreated. The Twentieth Corps then came in and took 'possession of the
City, and the next day--the 3d--Sherman came in, and issued an order
declaring the campaign at an end, and that we would rest awhile and
"We laid around Atlanta a good while, and things quieted down so that it
seemed almost like peace, after the four months of continual fighting we
had gone through. We had been under a strain so long that now we boys
went in the other direction, and became too careless, and that's how we
got picked up. We went out about five miles one night after a lot of
nice smoked hams that a nigger told us were stored in an old cotton
press, and which we knew would be enough sight better eating for Company
C, than the commissary pork we had lived on so long. We found the cotton
press, and the hams, just as the nigger told us, and we hitched up a team
to take them into camp. As we hadn't seen any Johnny signs anywhere,
we set our guns down to help load the meat, and just as we all came
stringing out to the wagon with as much meat as we could carry, a company
of Ferguson's Cavalry popped out of the woods about one hundred yards in
front of us and were on top of us before we could say I scat. You see
they'd heard of the meat, too."
A FAIR SACRIFICE--THE STORY OF ONE BOY WHO WILLINGLY GAVE HIS YOUNG LIFE
FOR HIS COUNTRY.
Charley Barbour was one of the truest-hearted and best-liked of my
school-boy chums and friends. For several terms we sat together on the
same uncompromisingly uncomfortable bench, worried over the same
boy-maddening problems in "Ray's Arithmetic-Part III.," learned the same
jargon of meaningless rules from "Greene's Grammar," pondered over
"Mitchell's Geography and Atlas," and tried in vain to understand why
Providence made the surface of one State obtrusively pink and another
ultramarine blue; trod slowly and painfully over the rugged road
"Bullion" points out for beginners in Latin, and began to believe we
should hate ourselves and everybody else, if we were gotten up after the
manner shown by "Cutter's Physiology." We were caught together in the
same long series of school-boy scrapes--and were usually ferruled
together by the same strong-armed teacher. We shared nearly everything
--our fun and work; enjoyment and annoyance--all were generally meted out
to us together. We read from the same books the story of the wonderful
world we were going to see in that bright future "when we were men;" we
spent our Saturdays and vacations in the miniature explorations of the
rocky hills and caves, and dark cedar woods around our homes, to gather
ocular helps to a better comprehension of that magical land which we were
convinced began just beyond our horizon, and had in it, visible to the
eye of him who traveled through its enchanted breadth, all that
"Gulliver's Fables," the "Arabian Nights," and a hundred books of travel
and adventure told of.
We imagined that the only dull and commonplace spot on earth was that
where we lived. Everywhere else life was a grand spectacular drama, full
of thrilling effects.
Brave and handsome young men were rescuing distressed damsels, beautiful
as they were wealthy; bloody pirates and swarthy murderers were being
foiled by quaint spoken backwoodsmen, who carried unerring rifles;
gallant but blundering Irishmen, speaking the most delightful brogue,
and making the funniest mistakes, were daily thwarting cool and
determined villains; bold tars were encountering fearful sea perils;
lionhearted adventurers were cowing and quelling whole tribes of
barbarians; magicians were casting spells, misers hoarding gold,
scientists making astonishing discoveries, poor and unknown boys
achieving wealth and fame at a single bound, hidden mysteries coming to
light, and so the world was going on, making reams of history with each
diurnal revolution, and furnishing boundless material for the most
At the age of thirteen a perusal of the lives of Benjamin Franklin and
Horace Greeley precipitated my determination to no longer hesitate in
launching my small bark upon the great ocean. I ran away from home in a
truly romantic way, and placed my foot on what I expected to be the first
round of the ladder of fame, by becoming "devil boy" in a printing office
in a distant large City. Charley's attachment to his mother and his home
was too strong to permit him to take this step, and we parted in sorrow,
mitigated on my side by roseate dreams of the future.
Six years passed. One hot August morning I met an old acquaintance at
the Creek, in Andersonville. He told me to come there the next morning,
after roll-call, and he would take me to see some person who was very
anxious to meet me. I was prompt at the rendezvous, and was soon joined
by the other party. He threaded his way slowly for over half an hour
through the closely-jumbled mass of tents and burrows, and at length
stopped in front of a blanket-tent in the northwestern corner. The
occupant rose and took my hand. For an instant I was puzzled; then the
clear, blue eyes, and well-remembered smile recalled to me my old-time
comrade, Charley Barbour. His story was soon told. He was a Sergeant in
a Western Virginia cavalry regiment--the Fourth, I think. At the time
Hunter was making his retreat from the Valley of Virginia, it was decided
to mislead the enemy by sending out a courier with false dispatches to be
captured. There was a call for a volunteer for this service. Charley
was the first to offer, with that spirit of generous self-sacrifice that
was one of his pleasantest traits when a boy. He knew what he had to
expect. Capture meant imprisonment at Andersonville; our men had now a
pretty clear understanding of what this was. Charley took the dispatches
and rode into the enemy's lines. He was taken, and the false information
produced the desired effect. On his way to Andersonville he was stripped
of all his clothing but his shirt and pantaloons, and turned into the
Stockade in this condition. When I saw him he had been in a week or
more. He told his story quietly--almost diffidently--not seeming aware
that he had done more than his simple duty. I left him with the promise
and expectation of returning the next day, but when I attempted to find
him again, I was lost in the maze of tents and burrows. I had forgotten
to ask the number of his detachment, and after spending several days in
hunting for him, I was forced to give the search up. He knew as little
of my whereabouts, and though we were all the time within seventeen
hundred feet of each other, neither we nor our common acquaintance could
ever manage to meet again. This will give the reader an idea of the
throng compressed within the narrow limits of the Stockade. After
leaving Andersonville, however, I met this man once more, and learned
from him that Charley had sickened and died within a month after his
entrance to prison.
So ended his day-dream of a career in the busy world.
WE LEAVE SAVANNAH--MORE HOPES OF EXCHANGE--SCENES AT DEPARTURE
--"FLANKERS"--ON THE BACK TRACK TOWARD ANDERSONVILLE--ALARM THEREAT
--AT THE PARTING OF TWO WAYS--WE FINALLY BRING UP AT CAMP LAWTON.
On the evening of the 11th of October there came an order for one
thousand prisoners to fall in and march out, for transfer to some other
Of course, Andrews and I "flanked" into this crowd. That was our usual
way of doing. Holding that the chances were strongly in favor of every
movement of prisoners being to our lines, we never failed to be numbered
in the first squad of prisoners that were sent out. The seductive mirage
of "exchange" was always luring us on. It must come some time,
certainly, and it would be most likely to come to those who were most
earnestly searching for it. At all events, we should leave no means
untried to avail ourselves of whatever seeming chances there might be.
There could be no other motive for this move, we argued, than exchange.
The Confederacy was not likely to be at the trouble and expense of
hauling us about the country without some good reason--something better
than a wish to make us acquainted with Southern scenery and topography.
It would hardly take us away from Savannah so soon after bringing us
there for any other purpose than delivery to our people.
The Rebels encouraged this belief with direct assertions of its truth.
They framed a plausible lie about there having arisen some difficulty
concerning the admission of our vessels past the harbor defenses of
Savannah, which made it necessary to take us elsewhere--probably to
Charleston--for delivery to our men.
Wishes are always the most powerful allies of belief. There is little
difficulty in convincing a man of that of which he wants to be convinced.
We forgot the lie told us when we were taken from Andersonville, and
believed the one which was told us now.
Andrews and I hastily snatched our worldly possessions--our overcoat,
blanket, can, spoon, chessboard and men, yelled to some of our neighbors
that they could have our hitherto much-treasured house, and running down
to the gate, forced ourselves well up to the front of the crowd that was
being assembled to go out.
The usual scenes accompanying the departure of first squads were being
acted tumultuously. Every one in the camp wanted to be one of the
supposed-to-be-favored few, and if not selected at first, tried to "flank
in"--that is, slip into the place of some one else who had had better
luck. This one naturally resisted displacement, 'vi et armis,' and the
fights would become so general as to cause a resemblance to the famed
Fair of Donnybrook. The cry would go up:
"Look out for flankers!"
The lines of the selected would dress up compactly, and outsiders trying
to force themselves in would get mercilessly pounded.
We finally got out of the pen, and into the cars, which soon rolled away
to the westward. We were packed in too densely to be able to lie down.
We could hardly sit down. Andrews and I took up our position in one
corner, piled our little treasures under us, and trying to lean against
each other in such a way as to afford mutual support and rest, dozed
fitfully through a long, weary night.
When morning came we found ourselves running northwest through a poor,
pine-barren country that strongly resembled that we had traversed in
coming to Savannah. The more we looked at it the more familiar it
became, and soon there was no doubt we were going back to Andersonville.
By noon we had reached Millen--eighty miles from Savannah, and
fifty-three from Augusta. It was the junction of the road leading to
Macon and that running to Augusta. We halted a little while at the "Y,"
and to us the minutes were full of anxiety. If we turned off to the
left we were going back to Andersonville. If we took the right hand
road we were on the way to Charleston or Richmond, with the chances in
favor of exchange.
At length we started, and, to our joy, our engine took the right hand
track. We stopped again, after a run of five miles, in the midst of one
of the open, scattering forests of long leaved pine that I have before
described. We were ordered out of the cars, and marching a few rods,
came in sight of another of those hateful Stockades, which seemed to be
as natural products of the Sterile sand of that dreary land as its
desolate woods and its breed of boy murderers and gray-headed assassins.
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