Part 5 out of 10
"reenforcement," or "ready-made patches," as the infantry called them;
vest, warm, snug-fitting jacket, under and over shirts, heavy overcoat,
and a forage-cap. First my boots fell into cureless ruin, but this was
no special hardship, as the weather had become quite warm, and it was
more pleasant than otherwise to go barefooted. Then part of the
underclothing retired from service. The jacket and vest followed, their
end being hastened by having their best portions taken to patch up the
pantaloons, which kept giving out at the most embarrassing places. Then
the cape of the overcoat was called upon to assist in repairing these
continually-recurring breaches in the nether garments. The same
insatiate demand finally consumed the whole coat, in a vain attempt to
prevent an exposure of person greater than consistent with the usages of
society. The pantaloons--or what, by courtesy, I called such, were a
monument of careful and ingenious, but hopeless, patching, that should
have called forth the admiration of a Florentine artist in mosaic.
I have been shown--in later years--many table tops, ornamented in
marquetry, inlaid with thousands of little bits of wood, cunningly
arranged, and patiently joined together. I always look at them with
interest, for I know the work spent upon them: I remember my
The clothing upon the upper part of my body had been reduced to the
remains of a knit undershirt. It had fallen into so many holes that it
looked like the coarse "riddles" through which ashes and gravel are
sifted. Wherever these holes were the sun had burned my back, breast and
shoulders deeply black. The parts covered by the threads and fragments
forming the boundaries of the holes, were still white. When I pulled my
alleged shirt off, to wash or to free it from some of its teeming
population, my skin showed a fine lace pattern in black and white, that
was very interesting to my comrades, and the subject of countless jokes
They used to descant loudly on the chaste elegance of the design, the
richness of the tracing, etc., and beg me to furnish them with a copy of
it when I got home, for their sisters to work window curtains or tidies
by. They were sure that so striking a novelty in patterns would be very
acceptable. I would reply to their witticisms in the language of
Portia's Prince of Morocco:
Mislike me not for my complexion--
The shadowed livery of the burning sun.
One of the stories told me in my childhood by an old negro nurse, was of
a poverty stricken little girl "who slept on the floor and was covered
with the door," and she once asked--
"Mamma how do poor folks get along who haven't any door?"
In the same spirit I used to wonder how poor fellows got along who hadn't
One common way of keeping up one's clothing was by stealing mealsacks.
The meal furnished as rations was brought in in white cotton sacks.
Sergeants of detachments were required to return these when the rations
were issued the next day. I have before alluded to the general
incapacity of the Rebels to deal accurately with even simple numbers.
It was never very difficult for a shrewd Sergeant to make nine sacks
count as ten. After awhile the Rebels began to see through this sleight
of hand manipulation, and to check it. Then the Sergeants resorted to
the device of tearing the sacks in two, and turning each half in as a
whole one. The cotton cloth gained in this way was used for patching,
or, if a boy could succeed in beating the Rebels out of enough of it,
he would fabricate himself a shirt or a pair of pantaloons. We obtained
all our thread in the same way. A half of a sack, carefully raveled out,
would furnish a couple of handfuls of thread. Had it not been for this
resource all our sewing and mending would have come to a standstill.
Most of our needles were manufactured by ourselves from bones. A piece
of bone, split as near as possible to the required size, was carefully
rubbed down upon a brick, and then had an eye laboriously worked through
it with a bit of wire or something else available for the purpose.
The needles were about the size of ordinary darning needles, and answered
the purpose very well.
These devices gave one some conception of the way savages provide for the
wants of their lives. Time was with them, as with us, of little
importance. It was no loss of time to them, nor to us, to spend a large
portion of the waking hours of a week in fabricating a needle out of a
bone, where a civilized man could purchase a much better one with the
product of three minutes' labor. I do not think any red Indian of the
plains exceeded us in the patience with which we worked away at these
minutia of life's needs.
Of course the most common source of clothing was the dead, and no body
was carried out with any clothing on it that could be of service to the
survivors. The Plymouth Pilgrims, who were so well clothed on coming in,
and were now dying off very rapidly, furnished many good suits to cover
the nakedness of older, prisoners. Most of the prisoners from the Army
of the Potomac were well dressed, and as very many died within a month or
six weeks after their entrance, they left their clothes in pretty good
condition for those who constituted themselves their heirs,
administrators and assigns.
For my own part, I had the greatest aversion to wearing dead men's
clothes, and could only bring myself to it after I had been a year in
prison, and it became a question between doing that and freezing to
Every new batch of prisoners was besieged with anxious inquiries on the
subject which lay closest to all our hearts:
"What are they doing about exchange!"
Nothing in human experience--save the anxious expectancy of a sail by
castaways on a desert island--could equal the intense eagerness with
which this question was asked, and the answer awaited. To thousands now
hanging on the verge of eternity it meant life or death. Between the
first day of July and the first of November over twelve thousand men
died, who would doubtless have lived had they been able to reach our
lines--"get to God's country," as we expressed it.
The new comers brought little reliable news of contemplated exchange.
There was none to bring in the first place, and in the next, soldiers in
active service in the field had other things to busy themselves with than
reading up the details of the negotiations between the Commissioners of
Exchange. They had all heard rumors, however, and by the time they
reached Andersonville, they had crystallized these into actual statements
of fact. A half hour after they entered the Stockade, a report like this
would spread like wildfire:
"An Army of the Potomac man has just come in, who was captured in front
of Petersburg. He says that he read in the New York Herald, the day
before he was taken, that an exchange had been agreed upon, and that our
ships had already started for Savannah to take us home."
Then our hopes would soar up like balloons. We fed ourselves on such
stuff from day to day, and doubtless many lives were greatly prolonged by
the continual encouragement. There was hardly a day when I did not say
to myself that I would much rather die than endure imprisonment another
month, and had I believed that another month would see me still there,
I am pretty certain that I should have ended the matter by crossing the
Dead Line. I was firmly resolved not to die the disgusting, agonizing
death that so many around me were dying.
One of our best purveyors of information was a bright, blue-eyed,
fair-haired little drummer boy, as handsome as a girl, well-bred as a
lady, and evidently the darling of some refined loving mother. He
belonged, I think, to some loyal Virginia regiment, was captured in one
of the actions in the Shenandoa Valley, and had been with us in
Richmond. We called him "Red Cap," from his wearing a jaunty,
gold-laced, crimson cap. Ordinarily, the smaller a drummer boy is the
harder he is, but no amount of attrition with rough men could coarse the
ingrained refinement of Red Cap's manners. He was between thirteen and
fourteen, and it seemed utterly shameful that men, calling themselves
soldier should make war on such a tender boy and drag him off to prison.
But no six-footer had a more soldierly heart than little Red Cap, and
none were more loyal to the cause. It was a pleasure to hear him tell
the story of the fights and movements his regiment had been engaged in.
He was a good observer and told his tale with boyish fervor. Shortly
after Wirz assumed command he took Red Cap into his office as an Orderly.
His bright face and winning manner; fascinated the women visitors at
headquarters, and numbers of them tried to adopt him, but with poor
success. Like the rest of us, he could see few charms in an existence
under the Rebel flag, and turned a deaf ear to their blandishments.
He kept his ears open to the conversation of the Rebel officers around
him, and frequently secured permission to visit the interior of the
Stockade, when he would communicate to us all that he has heard.
He received a flattering reception every time he cams in, and no orator
ever secured a more attentive audience than would gather around him to
listen to what he had to say. He was, beyond a doubt, the best known and
most popular person in the prison, and I know all the survivors of his
old admirer; share my great interest in him, and my curiosity as to
whether he yet lives, and whether his subsequent career has justified the
sanguine hopes we all had as to his future. I hope that if he sees this,
or any one who knows anything about him, he will communicate with me.
There are thousands who will be glad to hear from him.
A most remarkable coincidence occurred in regard to this comrade.
Several days after the above had been written, and "set up," but before
it had yet appeared in the paper, I received the following letter:
Alleghany County, Md., March 24.
To the Editor of the BLADE:
Last evening I saw a copy of your paper, in which was a chapter or two of
a prison life of a soldier during the late war. I was forcibly struck
with the correctness of what he wrote, and the names of several of my old
comrades which he quoted: Hill, Limber Jim, etc., etc. I was a drummer
boy of Company I, Tenth West Virginia Infantry, and was fifteen years of
age a day or two after arriving in Andersonville, which was in the last
of February, 1884. Nineteen of my comrades were there with me, and, poor
fellows, they are there yet. I have no doubt that I would have remained
there, too, had I not been more fortunate.
I do not know who your soldier correspondent is, but assume to say that
from the following description he will remember having seen me in
Andersonville: I was the little boy that for three or four months
officiated as orderly for Captain Wirz. I wore a red cap, and every day
could be seen riding Wirz's gray mare, either at headquarters, or about
the Stockade. I was acting in this capacity when the six raiders
--"Mosby," (proper name Collins) Delaney, Curtis, and--I forget the other
names--were executed. I believe that I was the first that conveyed the
intelligence to them that Confederate General Winder had approved their
sentence. As soon as Wirz received the dispatch to that effect, I ran
down to the stocks and told them.
I visited Hill, of Wauseon, Fulton County, O., since the war, and found
him hale and hearty. I have not heard from him for a number of years
until reading your correspondent's letter last evening. It is the only
letter of the series that I have seen, but after reading that one, I feel
called upon to certify that I have no doubts of the truthfulness of your
correspondent's story. The world will never know or believe the horrors
of Andersonville and other prisons in the South. No living, human being,
in my judgment, will ever be able to properly paint the horrors of those
I formed the acquaintance of several Ohio soldiers whilst in prison.
Among these were O. D. Streeter, of Cleveland, who went to Andersonville
about the same time that I did, and escaped, and was the only man that I
ever knew that escaped and reached our lines. After an absence of
several months he was retaken in one of Sherman's battles before Atlanta,
and brought back. I also knew John L. Richards, of Fostoria, Seneca
County, O. or Eaglesville, Wood County. Also, a man by the name of
Beverly, who was a partner of Charley Aucklebv, of Tennessee. I would
like to hear from all of these parties. They all know me.
Mr. Editor, I will close by wishing all my comrades who shared in the
sufferings and dangers of Confederate prisons, a long and useful life.
RANSOM T. POWELL
SOME FEATURES OF THE MORTALITY--PERCENTAGE OF DEATHS TO THOSE LIVING
--AN AVERAGE MEAN ONLY STANDS THE MISERY THREE MONTHS--DESCRIPTION OF THE
PRISON AND THE CONDITION OF THE MEN THEREIN, BY A LEADING SCIENTIFIC MAN
OF THE SOUTH.
Speaking of the manner in which the Plymouth Pilgrims were now dying,
I am reminded of my theory that the ordinary man's endurance of this
prison life did not average over three months. The Plymouth boys arrived
in May; the bulk of those who died passed away in July and August.
The great increase of prisoners from all sources was in May, June and
July. The greatest mortality among these was in August, September and
Many came in who had been in good health during their service in the
field, but who seemed utterly overwhelmed by the appalling misery they
saw on every hand, and giving way to despondency, died in a few days or
weeks. I do not mean to include them in the above class, as their
sickness was more mental than physical. My idea is that, taking one
hundred ordinarily healthful young soldiers from a regiment in active
service, and putting them into Andersonville, by the end of the third
month at least thirty-three of those weakest and most vulnerable to
disease would have succumbed to the exposure, the pollution of ground and
air, and the insufficiency of the ration of coarse corn meal. After this
the mortality would be somewhat less, say at the end of six months fifty
of them would be dead. The remainder would hang on still more
tenaciously, and at the end of a year there would be fifteen or twenty
still alive. There were sixty-three of my company taken; thirteen lived
through. I believe this was about the usual proportion for those who
were in as long as we. In all there were forty-five thousand six hundred
and thirteen prisoners brought into Andersonville. Of these twelve
thousand nine hundred and twelve died there, to say nothing of thousands
that died in other prisons in Georgia and the Carolinas, immediately
after their removal from Andersonville. One of every three and a-half
men upon whom the gates of the Stockade closed never repassed them alive.
Twenty-nine per cent. of the boys who so much as set foot in
Andersonville died there. Let it be kept in mind all the time, that the
average stay of a prisoner there was not four months. The great majority
came in after the 1st of May, and left before the middle of September.
May 1, 1864, there were ten thousand four hundred and twenty-seven in the
Stockade. August 8 there were thirty-three thousand one hundred and
fourteen; September 30 all these were dead or gone, except eight thousand
two hundred and eighteen, of whom four thousand five hundred and ninety
died inside of the next thirty days. The records of the world can shove
no parallel to this astounding mortality.
Since the above matter was first published in the BLADE, a friend has
sent me a transcript of the evidence at the Wirz trial, of Professor
Joseph Jones, a Surgeon of high rank in the Rebel Army, and who stood at
the head of the medical profession in Georgia. He visited Andersonville
at the instance of the Surgeon-General of the Confederate States' Army,
to make a study, for the benefit of science, of the phenomena of disease
occurring there. His capacity and opportunities for observation, and for
clearly estimating the value of the facts coming under his notice were,
of course, vastly superior to mine, and as he states the case stronger
than I dare to, for fear of being accused of exaggeration and downright
untruth, I reproduce the major part of his testimony--embodying also his
official report to medical headquarters at Richmond--that my readers may
know how the prison appeared to the eyes of one who, though a bitter
Rebel, was still a humane man and a conscientious observer, striving to
learn the truth:
[Transcript from the printed testimony at the Wirz Trial, pages 618 to
OCTOBER 7, 1885.
Dr. Joseph Jones, for the prosecution:
By the Judge Advocate:
Question. Where do you reside
Answer. In Augusta, Georgia.
Q. Are you a graduate of any medical college?
A. Of the University of Pennsylvania.
Q. How long have you been engaged in the practice of medicine?
A. Eight years.
Q. Has your experience been as a practitioner, or rather as an
investigator of medicine as a science?
Q. What position do you hold now?
A. That of Medical Chemist in the Medical College of Georgia, at
Q. How long have you held your position in that college?
A. Since 1858.
Q. How were you employed during the Rebellion?
A. I served six months in the early part of it as a private in the
ranks, and the rest of the time in the medical department.
Q. Under the direction of whom?
A. Under the direction of Dr. Moore, Surgeon General.
Q. Did you, while acting under his direction, visit Andersonville,
A. Yes, Sir.
Q. For the purpose of making investigations there?
A. For the purpose of prosecuting investigations ordered by the Surgeon
Q. You went there in obedience to a letter of instructions?
A. In obedience to orders which I received.
Q. Did you reduce the results of your investigations to the shape of a
A. I was engaged at that work when General Johnston surrendered his
(A document being handed to witness.)
Q. Have you examined this extract from your report and compared it with
A. Yes, Sir; I have.
Q. Is it accurate?
A. So far as my examination extended, it is accurate.'
The document just examined by witness was offered in evidence, and is as
Observations upon the diseases of the Federal prisoners, confined to Camp
Sumter, Andersonville, in Sumter County, Georgia, instituted with a view
to illustrate chiefly the origin and causes of hospital gangrene, the
relations of continued and malarial fevers, and the pathology of camp
diarrhea and dysentery, by Joseph Jones; Surgeon P. A. C. S., Professor
of Medical Chemistry in the Medical College of Georgia, at Augusta,
Hearing of the unusual mortality among the Federal prisoners confined at
Andersonville; Georgia, in the month of August, 1864, during a visit to
Richmond, Va., I expressed to the Surgeon General, S. P. Moore,
Confederate States of America, a desire to visit Camp Sumter, with the
design of instituting a series of inquiries upon the nature and causes of
the prevailing diseases. Smallpox had appeared among the prisoners, and
I believed that this would prove an admirable field for the establishment
of its characteristic lesions. The condition of Peyer's glands in this
disease was considered as worthy of minute investigation. It was
believed that a large body of men from the Northern portion of the United
States, suddenly transported to a warm Southern climate, and confined
upon a small portion of land, would furnish an excellent field for the
investigation of the relations of typhus, typhoid, and malarial fevers.
The Surgeon General of the Confederate States of America furnished me
with the following letter of introduction to the Surgeon in charge of the
Confederate States Military Prison at Andersonville, Ga.:
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA,
SURGEON GENERAL'S OFFICE, RICHMOND, VA.,
August 6, 1864.
SIR:--The field of pathological investigations afforded by the large
collection of Federal prisoners in Georgia, is of great extant and
importance, and it is believed that results of value to the profession
may be obtained by careful investigation of the effects of disease upon
the large body of men subjected to a decided change of climate and those
circumstances peculiar to prison life. The Surgeon in charge of the
hospital for Federal prisoners, together with his assistants, will afford
every facility to Surgeon Joseph Jones, in the prosecution of the labors
ordered by the Surgeon General. Efficient assistance must be rendered
Surgeon Jones by the medical officers, not only in his examinations into
the causes and symptoms of the various diseases, but especially in the
arduous labors of post mortem examinations.
The medical officers will assist in the performance of such post-mortems
as Surgeon Jones may indicate, in order that this great field for
pathological investigation may be explored for the benefit of the Medical
Department of the Confederate Army.
S. P. MOORE, Surgeon General.
Surgeon ISAIAH H. WHITE,
In charge of Hospital for Federal prisoners, Andersonville, Ga.
In compliance with this letter of the Surgeon General, Isaiah H. White,
Chief Surgeon of the post, and R. R. Stevenson, Surgeon in charge of the
Prison Hospital, afforded the necessary facilities for the prosecution of
my investigations among the sick outside of the Stockade. After the
completion of my labors in the military prison hospital, the following
communication was addressed to Brigadier General John H. Winder, in
consequence of the refusal on the part of the commandant of the interior
of the Confederate States Military Prison to admit me within the Stockade
upon the order of the Surgeon General:
CAMP SUMTER, ANDERSONVILLE GA.,
September 16, 1864.
GENERAL:--I respectfully request the commandant of the post of
Andersonville to grant me permission and to furnish the necessary pass
to visit the sick and medical officers within the Stockade of the
Confederate States Prison. I desire to institute certain inquiries
ordered by the Surgeon General. Surgeon Isaiah H. White, Chief Surgeon
of the post, and Surgeon R. R. Stevenson, in charge of the Prison
Hospital, have afforded me every facility for the prosecution of my
labors among the sick outside of the Stockade.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH JONES, Surgeon P. A. C. S.
Brigadier General JOHN H. WINDER,
Commandant, Post Andersonville.
In the absence of General Winder from the post, Captain Winder furnished
the following order:
CAMP SUMTER, ANDERSONVILLE;
September 17, 1864.
CAPTAIN:--You will permit Surgeon Joseph Jones, who has orders from the
Surgeon General, to visit the sick within the Stockade that are under
medical treatment. Surgeon Jones is ordered to make certain
investigations which may prove useful to his profession. By direction of
W. S. WINDER, A. A. G.
Captain H. WIRZ, Commanding Prison.
Description of the Confederate States Military Prison Hospital at
Andersonville. Number of prisoners, physical condition, food,
clothing, habits, moral condition, diseases.
The Confederate Military Prison at Andersonville, Ga., consists of a
strong Stockade, twenty feet in height, enclosing twenty-seven acres.
The Stockade is formed of strong pine logs, firmly planted in the ground.
The main Stockade is surrounded by two other similar rows of pine logs,
the middle Stockade being sixteen feet high, and the outer twelve feet.
These are intended for offense and defense. If the inner Stockade should
at any time be forced by the prisoners, the second forms another line of
defense; while in case of an attempt to deliver the prisoners by a force
operating upon the exterior, the outer line forms an admirable protection
to the Confederate troops, and a most formidable obstacle to cavalry or
infantry. The four angles of the outer line are strengthened by
earthworks upon commanding eminences, from which the cannon, in case of
an outbreak among the prisoners, may sweep the entire enclosure; and it
was designed to connect these works by a line of rifle pits, running
zig-zag, around the outer Stockade; those rifle pits have never been
completed. The ground enclosed by the innermost Stockade lies in the
form of a parallelogram, the larger diameter running almost due north and
south. This space includes the northern and southern opposing sides of
two hills, between which a stream of water runs from west to east.
The surface soil of these hills is composed chiefly of sand with varying
admixtures of clay and oxide of iron. The clay is sufficiently tenacious
to give a considerable degree of consistency to the soil. The internal
structure of the hills, as revealed by the deep wells, is similar to that
already described. The alternate layers of clay and sand, as well as the
oxide of iron, which forms in its various combinations a cement to the
sand, allow of extensive tunneling. The prisoners not only constructed
numerous dirt huts with balls of clay and sand, taken from the wells
which they have excavated all over those hills, but they have also, in
some cases, tunneled extensively from these wells. The lower portions of
these hills, bordering on the stream, are wet and boggy from the constant
oozing of water. The Stockade was built originally to accommodate only
ten thousand prisoners, and included at first seventeen acres. Near the
close of the month of June the area was enlarged by the addition of ten
acres. The ground added was situated on the northern slope of the
The average number of square feet of ground to each prisoner in August
Within the circumscribed area of the Stockade the Federal prisoners were
compelled to perform all the offices of life--cooking, washing, the calls
of nature, exercise, and sleeping. During the month of March the prison
was less crowded than at any subsequent time, and then the average space
of ground to each prisoner was only 98.7 feet, or less than seven square
yards. The Federal prisoners were gathered from all parts of the
Confederate States east of the Mississippi, and crowded into the confined
space, until in the month of June the average number of square feet of
ground to each prisoner was only 33.2 or less than four square yards.
These figures represent the condition of the Stockade in a better light
even than it really was; for a considerable breadth of land along the
stream, flowing from west to east between the hills, was low and boggy,
and was covered with the excrement of the men, and thus rendered wholly
uninhabitable, and in fact useless for every purpose except that of
defecation. The pines and other small trees and shrubs, which originally
were scattered sparsely over these hills, were in a short time cut down
and consumed by the prisoners for firewood, and no shade tree was left in
the entire enclosure of the stockade. With their characteristic industry
and ingenuity, the Federals constructed for themselves small huts and
caves, and attempted to shield themselves from the rain and sun and night
damps and dew. But few tents were distributed to the prisoners,
and those were in most cases torn and rotten. In the location and
arrangement of these tents and huts no order appears to have been
followed; in fact, regular streets appear to be out of the question in so
crowded an area; especially too, as large bodies of prisoners were from
time to time added suddenly without any previous preparations.
The irregular arrangement of the huts and imperfect shelters was very
unfavorable for the maintenance of a proper system of police.
The police and internal economy of the prison was left almost entirely in
the hands of the prisoners themselves; the duties of the Confederate
soldiers acting as guards being limited to the occupation of the boxes
or lookouts ranged around the stockade at regular intervals, and to the
manning of the batteries at the angles of the prison. Even judicial
matters pertaining to themselves, as the detection and punishment of such
crimes as theft and murder appear to have been in a great measure
abandoned to the prisoners. A striking instance of this occurred in the
month of July, when the Federal prisoners within the Stockade tried,
condemned, and hanged six (6) of their own number, who had been convicted
of stealing and of robbing and murdering their fellow-prisoners. They
were all hung upon the same day, and thousands of the prisoners gathered
around to witness the execution. The Confederate authorities are said
not to have interfered with these proceedings. In this collection of men
from all parts of the world, every phase of human character was
represented; the stronger preyed upon the weaker, and even the sick who
were unable to defend themselves were robbed of their scanty supplies of
food and clothing. Dark stories were afloat, of men, both sick and well,
who were murdered at night, strangled to death by their comrades for
scant supplies of clothing or money. I heard a sick and wounded Federal
prisoner accuse his nurse, a fellow-prisoner of the United States Army,
of having stealthily, during his sleep inoculated his wounded arm with
gangrene, that he might destroy his life and fall heir to his clothing.
The large number of men confined within the Stockade soon, under a
defective system of police, and with imperfect arrangements, covered the
surface of the low grounds with excrements. The sinks over the lower
portions of the stream were imperfect in their plan and structure, and
the excrements were in large measure deposited so near the borders of the
stream as not to be washed away, or else accumulated upon the low boggy
ground. The volume of water was not sufficient to wash away the feces,
and they accumulated in such quantities in the lower portion of the
stream as to form a mass of liquid excrement heavy rains caused the water
of the stream to rise, and as the arrangements for the passage of the
increased amounts of water out of the Stockade were insufficient, the
liquid feces overflowed the low grounds and covered them several inches,
after the subsidence of the waters. The action of the sun upon this
putrefying mass of excrements and fragments of bread and meat and bones
excited most rapid fermentation and developed a horrible stench.
Improvements were projected for the removal of the filth and for the
prevention of its accumulation, but they were only partially and
imperfectly carried out. As the forces of the prisoners were reduced by
confinement, want of exercise, improper diet, and by scurvy, diarrhea,
and dysentery, they were unable to evacuate their bowels within the
stream or along its banks, and the excrements were deposited at the very
doors of their tents. The vast majority appeared to lose all repulsion
to filth, and both sick and well disregarded all the laws of hygiene and
personal cleanliness. The accommodations for the sick were imperfect and
insufficient. From the organization of the prison, February 24, 1864, to
May 22, the sick were treated within the Stockade. In the crowded
condition of the Stockade, and with the tents and huts clustered thickly
around the hospital, it was impossible to secure proper ventilation or to
maintain the necessary police. The Federal prisoners also made frequent
forays upon the hospital stores and carried off the food and clothing of
the sick. The hospital was, on the 22d of May, removed to its present
site without the Stockade, and five acres of ground covered with oaks and
pines appropriated to the use of the sick.
The supply of medical officers has been insufficient from the foundation
of the prison.
The nurses and attendants upon the sick have been most generally Federal
prisoners, who in too many cases appear to have been devoid of moral
principle, and who not only neglected their duties, but were also engaged
in extensive robbing of the sick.
From the want of proper police and hygienic regulations alone it is not
wonderful that from February 24 to September 21, 1864, nine thousand four
hundred and seventy-nine deaths, nearly one-third the entire number of
prisoners, should have been recorded. I found the Stockade and hospital
in the following condition during my pathological investigations,
instituted in the month of September, 1864:
STOCKADE, CONFEDERATE STATES MILITARY PRISON.
At the time of my visit to Andersonville a large number of Federal
prisoners had been removed to Millen, Savannah; Charleston, and other
parts of, the Confederacy, in anticipation of an advance of General
Sherman's forces from Atlanta, with the design of liberating their
captive brethren; however, about fifteen thousand prisoners remained
confined within the limits of the Stockade and Confederate States
Military Prison Hospital.
In the Stockade, with the exception of the damp lowlands bordering the
small stream, the surface was covered with huts, and small ragged tents
and parts of blankets and fragments of oil-cloth, coats, and blankets
stretched upon stacks. The tents and huts were not arranged according to
any order, and there was in most parts of the enclosure scarcely room for
two men to walk abreast between the tents and huts.
If one might judge from the large pieces of corn-bread scattered about in
every direction on the ground the prisoners were either very lavishly
supplied with this article of diet, or else this kind of food was not
relished by them.
Each day the dead from the Stockade were carried out by their
fellow-prisoners and deposited upon the ground under a bush arbor, just
outside of the Southwestern Gate. From thence they were carried in
carts to the burying ground, one-quarter of a mile northwest, of the
Prison. The dead were buried without coffins, side by side, in trenches
four feet deep.
The low grounds bordering the stream were covered with human excrements
and filth of all kinds, which in many places appeared to be alive with
working maggots. An indescribable sickening stench arose from these
fermenting masses of human filth.
There were near five thousand seriously ill Federals in the Stockade and
Confederate States Military Prison Hospital, and the deaths exceeded one
hundred per day, and large numbers of the prisoners who were walking
about, and who had not been entered upon the sick reports, were suffering
from severe and incurable diarrhea, dysentery, and scurvy. The sick were
attended almost entirely by their fellow-prisoners, appointed as nurses,
and as they received but little attention, they were compelled to exert
themselves at all times to attend to the calls of nature, and hence they
retained the power of moving about to within a comparatively short period
of the close of life. Owing to the slow progress of the diseases most
prevalent, diarrhea, and chronic dysentery, the corpses were as a general
I visited two thousand sick within the Stockade, lying under some long
sheds which had been built at the northern portion for themselves. At
this time only one medical officer was in attendance, whereas at least
twenty medical officers should have been employed.
Died in the Stockade from its organization, February 24, 186l to
September 2l ....................................................3,254
Died in Hospital during same time ...............................6,225
Total deaths in Hospital and Stockade ...........................9,479
Scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery, and hospital gangrene were the prevailing
diseases. I was surprised to find but few cases of malarial fever, and
no well-marked cases either of typhus or typhoid fever. The absence of
the different forms of malarial fever may be accounted for in the
supposition that the artificial atmosphere of the Stockade, crowded
densely with human beings and loaded with animal exhalations,
was unfavorable to the existence and action of the malarial poison.
The absence of typhoid and typhus fevers amongst all the causes which are
supposed to generate these diseases, appeared to be due to the fact that
the great majority of these prisoners had been in captivity in Virginia,
at Belle Island, and in other parts of the Confederacy for months, and
even as long as two years, and during this time they had been subjected
to the same bad influences, and those who had not had these fevers before
either had them during their confinement in Confederate prisons or else
their systems, from long exposure, were proof against their action.
The effects of scurvy were manifested on every hand, and in all its
various stages, from the muddy, pale complexion, pale gums, feeble,
languid muscular motions, lowness of spirits, and fetid breath, to the
dusky, dirty, leaden complexion, swollen features, spongy, purple, livid,
fungoid, bleeding gums, loose teeth, oedematous limbs, covered with livid
vibices, and petechiae spasmodically flexed, painful and hardened
extremities, spontaneous hemorrhages from mucous canals, and large,
ill-conditioned, spreading ulcers covered with a dark purplish fungus
growth. I observed that in some of the cases of scurvy the parotid
glands were greatly swollen, and in some instances to such an extent as
to preclude entirely the power to articulate. In several cases of
dropsy of the abdomen and lower extremities supervening upon scurvy, the
patients affirmed that previously to the appearance of the dropsy they
had suffered with profuse and obstinate diarrhea, and that when this was
checked by a change of diet, from Indian corn-bread baked with the husk,
to boiled rice, the dropsy appeared. The severe pains and livid patches
were frequently associated with swellings in various parts, and
especially in the lower extremities, accompanied with stiffness and
contractions of the knee joints and ankles, and often with a brawny feel
of the parts, as if lymph had been effused between the integuments and
apeneuroses, preventing the motion of the skin over the swollen parts.
Many of the prisoners believed that the scurvy was contagious, and I saw
men guarding their wells and springs, fearing lest some man suffering
with the scurvy might use the water and thus poison them.
I observed also numerous cases of hospital gangrene, and of spreading
scorbutic ulcers, which had supervened upon slight injuries. The
scorbutic ulcers presented a dark, purple fungoid, elevated surface, with
livid swollen edges, and exuded a thin; fetid, sanious fluid, instead of
pus. Many ulcers which originated from the scorbutic condition of the
system appeared to become truly gangrenous, assuming all the
characteristics of hospital gangrene. From the crowded condition, filthy
habits, bad diet, and dejected, depressed condition of the prisoners,
their systems had become so disordered that the smallest abrasion of the
skin, from the rubbing of a shoe, or from the effects of the sun, or from
the prick of a splinter, or from scratching, or a musketo bite, in some
cases, took on rapid and frightful ulceration and gangrene. The long use
of salt meat, ofttimes imperfectly cured, as well as the most total
deprivation of vegetables and fruit, appeared to be the chief causes of
the scurvy. I carefully examined the bakery and the bread furnished the
prisoners, and found that they were supplied almost entirely with
corn-bread from which the husk had not been separated. This husk acted
as an irritant to the alimentary canal, without adding any nutriment to
the bread. As far as my examination extended no fault could be found
with the mode in which the bread was baked; the difficulty lay in the
failure to separate the husk from the corn-meal. I strongly urged the
preparation of large quantities of soup made from the cow and calves'
heads with the brains and tongues, to which a liberal supply of sweet
potatos and vegetables might have been advantageously added. The
material existed in abundance for the preparation of such soup in large
quantities with but little additional expense. Such aliment would have
been not only highly nutritious, but it would also have acted as an
efficient remedial agent for the removal of the scorbutic condition. The
sick within the Stockade lay under several long sheds which were
originally built for barracks. These sheds covered two floors which
were open on all sides. The sick lay upon the bare boards, or upon such
ragged blankets as they possessed, without, as far as I observed, any
bedding or even straw.
The haggard, distressed countenances of these miserable, complaining,
dejected, living skeletons, crying for medical aid and food, and cursing
their Government for its refusal to exchange prisoners, and the ghastly
corpses, with their glazed eye balls staring up into vacant space, with
the flies swarming down their open and grinning mouths, and over their
ragged clothes, infested with numerous lice, as they lay amongst the sick
and dying, formed a picture of helpless, hopeless misery which it would
be impossible to portray bywords or by the brush. A feeling of
disappointment and even resentment on account of the United States
Government upon the subject of the exchange of prisoners, appeared to be
widespread, and the apparent hopeless nature of the negotiations for some
general exchange of prisoners appeared to be a cause of universal regret
and deep and injurious despondency. I heard some of the prisoners go so
far as to exonerate the Confederate Government from any charge of
intentionally subjecting them to a protracted confinement, with its
necessary and unavoidable sufferings, in a country cut off from all
intercourse with foreign nations, and sorely pressed on all sides, whilst
on the other hand they charged their prolonged captivity upon their own
Government, which was attempting to make the negro equal to the white
man. Some hundred or more of the prisoners had been released from
confinement in the Stockade on parole, and filled various offices as
clerks, druggists, and carpenters, etc., in the various departments.
These men were well clothed, and presented a stout and healthy
appearance, and as a general rule they presented a much more robust and
healthy appearance than the Confederate troops guarding the prisoners.
The entire grounds are surrounded by a frail board fence, and are
strictly guarded by Confederate soldiers, and no prisoner except the
paroled attendants is allowed to leave the grounds except by a special
permit from the Commandant of the Interior of the Prison.
The patients and attendants, near two thousand in number, are crowded
into this confined space and are but poorly supplied with old and ragged
tents. Large numbers of them were without any bunks in the tents, and
lay upon the ground, oft-times without even a blanket. No beds or straw
appeared to have been furnished. The tents extend to within a few yards
of the small stream, the eastern portion of which, as we have before
said, is used as a privy and is loaded with excrements; and I observed a
large pile of corn-bread, bones, and filth of all kinds, thirty feet in
diameter and several feet in hight, swarming with myriads of flies, in a
vacant space near the pots used for cooking. Millions of flies swarmed
over everything, and covered the faces of the sleeping patients, and
crawled down their open mouths, and deposited their maggots in the
gangrenous wounds of the living, and in the mouths of the dead. Musketos
in great numbers also infested the tents, and many of the patients were
so stung by these pestiferous insects, that they resembled those
suffering from a slight attack of the measles.
The police and hygiene of the hospital were defective in the extreme;
the attendants, who appeared in almost every instance to have been
selected from the prisoners, seemed to have in many cases but little
interest in the welfare of their fellow-captives. The accusation was
made that the nurses in many cases robbed the sick of their clothing,
money, and rations, and carried on a clandestine trade with the paroled
prisoners and Confederate guards without the hospital enclosure, in the
clothing, effects of the sick, dying, and dead Federals. They certainly
appeared to neglect the comfort and cleanliness of the sick intrusted to
their care in a most shameful manner, even after making due allowances
for the difficulties of the situation. Many of the sick were literally
encrusted with dirt and filth and covered with vermin. When a gangrenous
wound needed washing, the limb was thrust out a little from the blanket,
or board, or rags upon which the patient was lying, and water poured over
it, and all the putrescent matter allowed to soak into the ground floor
of the tent. The supply of rags for dressing wounds was said to be very
scant, and I saw the most filthy rags which had been applied several
times, and imperfectly washed, used in dressing wounds. Where hospital
gangrene was prevailing, it was impossible for any wound to escape
contagion under these circumstances. The results of the treatment of
wounds in the hospital were of the most unsatisfactory character, from
this neglect of cleanliness, in the dressings and wounds themselves, as
well as from various other causes which will be more fully considered.
I saw several gangrenous wounds filled with maggots. I have frequently
seen neglected wounds amongst the Confederate soldiers similarly
affected; and as far as my experience extends, these worms destroy only
the dead tissues and do not injure specially the well parts. I have even
heard surgeons affirm that a gangrenous wound which had been thoroughly
cleansed by maggots, healed more rapidly than if it had been left to
itself. This want of cleanliness on the part of the nurses appeared to
be the result of carelessness and inattention, rather than of malignant
design, and the whole trouble can be traced to the want of the proper
police and sanitary regulations, and to the absence of intelligent
organization and division of labor. The abuses were in a large measure
due to the almost total absence of system, government, and rigid, but
wholesome sanitary regulations. In extenuation of these abuses it was
alleged by the medical officers that the Confederate troops were barely
sufficient to guard the prisoners, and that it was impossible to obtain
any number of experienced nurses from the Confederate forces. In fact
the guard appeared to be too small, even for the regulation of the
internal hygiene and police of the hospital.
The manner of disposing of the dead was also calculated to depress the
already desponding spirits of these men, many of whom have been confined
for months, and even for nearly two years in Richmond and other places,
and whose strength had been wasted by bad air, bad food, and neglect of
personal cleanliness. The dead-house is merely a frame covered with old
tent cloth and a few bushes, situated in the southwestern corner of the
hospital grounds. When a patient dies, he is simply laid in the narrow
street in front of his tent, until he is removed by Federal negros
detailed to carry off the dead; if a patient dies during the night, he
lies there until the morning, and during the day even the dead were
frequently allowed to remain for hours in these walks. In the dead-house
the corpses lie upon the bare ground, and were in most cases covered with
filth and vermin.
The cooking arrangements are of the most defective character. Five large
iron pots similar to those used for boiling sugar cane, appeared to be
the only cooking utensils furnished by the hospital for the cooking of
nearly two thousand men; and the patients were dependent in great measure
upon their own miserable utensils. They were allowed to cook in the tent
doors and in the lanes, and this was another source of filth, and another
favorable condition for the generation and multiplication of flies and
The air of the tents was foul and disagreeable in the extreme, and in
fact the entire grounds emitted a most nauseous and disgusting smell.
I entered nearly all the tents and carefully examined the cases of
interest, and especially the cases of gangrene, upon numerous occasions,
during the prosecution of my pathological inquiries at Andersonville, and
therefore enjoyed every opportunity to judge correctly of the hygiene and
police of the hospital.
There appeared to be almost absolute indifference and neglect on the part
of the patients of personal cleanliness; their persons and clothing
inmost instances, and especially of those suffering with gangrene and
scorbutic ulcers, were filthy in the extreme and covered with vermin.
It was too often the case that patients were received from the Stockade
in a most deplorable condition. I have seen men brought in from the
Stockade in a dying condition, begrimed from head to foot with their own
excrements, and so black from smoke and filth that they, resembled negros
rather than white men. That this description of the Stockade and
hospital has not been overdrawn, will appear from the reports of the
surgeons in charge, appended to this report.
We will examine first the consolidated report of the sick and wounded
Federal prisoners. During six months, from the 1st of March to the 31st
of August, forty-two thousand six hundred and eighty-six cases of
diseases and wounds were reported. No classified record of the sick in
the Stockade was kept after the establishment of the hospital without the
Prison. This fact, in conjunction with those already presented relating
to the insufficiency of medical officers and the extreme illness and even
death of many prisoners in the tents in the Stockade, without any medical
attention or record beyond the bare number of the dead, demonstrate that
these figures, large as they, appear to be, are far below the truth.
As the number of prisoners varied greatly at different periods, the
relations between those reported sick and well, as far as those
statistics extend, can best be determined by a comparison of the
statistics of each month.
During this period of six months no less than five hundred and sixty-five
deaths are recorded under the head of 'morbi vanie.' In other words,
those men died without having received sufficient medical attention for
the determination of even the name of the disease causing death.
During the month of August fifty-three cases and fifty-three deaths are
recorded as due to marasmus. Surely this large number of deaths must
have been due to some other morbid state than slow wasting. If they were
due to improper and insufficient food, they should have been classed
accordingly, and if to diarrhea or dysentery or scurvy, the
classification should in like manner have been explicit.
We observe a progressive increase of the rate of mortality, from 3.11 per
cent. in March to 9.09 per cent. of mean strength, sick and well, in
August. The ratio of mortality continued to increase during September,
for notwithstanding the removal of one-half of the entire number of
prisoners during the early portion of the month, one thousand seven
hundred and sixty-seven (1,767) deaths are registered from September 1 to
21, and the largest number of deaths upon any one day occurred during
this month, on the 16th, viz. one hundred and nineteen.
The entire number of Federal prisoners confined at Andersonville was
about forty thousand six hundred and eleven; and during the period of
near seven months, from February 24 to September 21, nine thousand four
hundred and seventy-nine (9,479) deaths were recorded; that is, during
this period near one-fourth, or more, exactly one in 4.2, or 13.3 per
cent., terminated fatally. This increase of mortality was due in great
measure to the accumulation of the sources of disease, as the increase of
excrements and filth of all kinds, and the concentration of noxious
effluvia, and also to the progressive effects of salt diet, crowding, and
the hot climate.
1st. The great mortality among the Federal prisoners confined in the
military prison at Andersonville was not referable to climatic causes, or
to the nature of the soil and waters.
2d. The chief causes of death were scurvy and its results and bowel
affections-chronic and acute diarrhea and dysentery. The bowel
affections appear to have been due to the diet, the habits of the
patients, the depressed, dejected state of the nervous system and moral
and intellectual powers, and to the effluvia arising from the decomposing
animal and vegetable filth. The effects of salt meat, and an unvarying
diet of cornmeal, with but few vegetables, and imperfect supplies of
vinegar and syrup, were manifested in the great prevalence of scurvy.
This disease, without doubt, was also influenced to an important extent
in its origin and course by the foul animal emanations.
3d. From the sameness of the food and form, the action of the poisonous
gases in the densely crowded and filthy Stockade and hospital, the blood
was altered in its constitution, even before the manifestation of actual
disease. In both the well and the sick the red corpuscles were
diminished; and in all diseases uncomplicated with inflammation,
the fibrous element was deficient. In cases of ulceration of the mucous
membrane of the intestinal canal, the fibrous element of the blood was
increased; while in simple diarrhea, uncomplicated with ulceration,
it was either diminished or else remained stationary. Heart clots were
very common, if not universally present, in cases of ulceration of the
intestinal mucous membrane, while in the uncomplicated cases of diarrhea
and scurvy, the blood was fluid and did not coagulate readily, and the
heart clots and fibrous concretions were almost universally absent.
From the watery condition of the blood, there resulted various serous
effusions into the pericardium, ventricles of the brain, and into the
abdomen. In almost all the cases which I examined after death, even the
most emaciated, there was more or less serous effusion into the abdominal
cavity. In cases of hospital gangrene of the extremities, and in cases
of gangrene of the intestines, heart clots and fibrous coagula were
universally present. The presence of those clots in the cases of
hospital gangrene, while they were absent in the cases in which there was
no inflammatory symptoms, sustains the conclusion that hospital gangrene
is a species of inflammation, imperfect and irregular though it may be in
its progress, in which the fibrous element and coagulation of the blood
are increased, even in those who are suffering from such a condition of
the blood, and from such diseases as are naturally accompanied with a
decrease in the fibrous constituent.
4th. 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
hospital gangrene among these prisoners appeared clearly to depend in
great measure upon the state of the general system induced by diet, and
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 it in all essential respects,
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 Hospital, in the depressed, depraved condition of the system of
these Federal prisoners.
5th. A scorbutic condition of the system appeared to favor the origin of
foul ulcers, which frequently took on true hospital gangrene. Scurvy and
hospital 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. From the results of the
existing war for the establishment of the independence of the Confederate
States, as well as from the published observations of Dr. Trotter, Sir
Gilbert Blane, and others of the English navy and army, it is evident
that the scorbutic condition of the system, especially in crowded ships
and camps, is most favorable to the origin and spread of foul ulcers and
hospital gangrene. As in the present case of Andersonville, so also in
past times when medical hygiene was almost entirely neglected, those two
diseases were almost universally associated in crowded ships. In many
cases it was very difficult to decide at first whether the ulcer was a
simple result of scurvy or of the action of the prison or hospital
gangrene, for there was great similarity in the appearance of the ulcers
in the two diseases. So commonly have those two diseases been combined
in their origin and action, that the description of scorbutic ulcers, by
many authors, evidently includes also many of the prominent
characteristics of hospital gangrene. This will be rendered evident by
an examination of the observations of Dr. Lind and Sir Gilbert Blane upon
6th. Gangrenous spots followed by rapid destruction of tissue appeared
in some cases where there had been no known wound. Without such
well-established facts, it might be assumed that the disease was
propagated from one patient to another. In such a filthy and crowded
hospital as that of the Confederate States Military Prison at
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 kind, the filthy, imperfectly washed and
scanty supplies of rags, and the limited supply of washing utensils, the
same wash-bowl serving for scores of patients, were sources of such
constant circulation of the gangrenous matter that the disease might
rapidly spread from a single gangrenous wound. The fact already stated,
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 the disease upon the entire surface, not only
demonstrates the dependence of the disease upon the state of the
constitution, but proves in the clearest manner that neither the contact
of the poisonous matter of gangrene, nor the direct action of the
poisonous atmosphere upon the ulcerated surfaces is necessary to the
development of the disease.
7th. In this foul atmosphere amputation did not arrest hospital
gangrene; the disease almost invariably returned. Almost every
amputation was followed finally by death, either from the effects of
gangrene or from the prevailing diarrhea and dysentery. Nitric acid and
escharotics generally in this crowded atmosphere, loaded with noxious
effluvia, exerted only temporary effects; after their application to the
diseased surfaces, the gangrene would frequently return with redoubled
energy; and even after the gangrene had been completely removed by local
and constitutional treatment, it would frequently return and destroy the
patient. As far as my observation extended, very few of the cases of
amputation for gangrene recovered. The progress of these cases was
frequently very deceptive. I have observed after death the most
extensive disorganization of the structures of the stump, when during
life there was but little swelling of the part, and the patient was
apparently doing well. I endeavored to impress upon the medical officers
the view that in this disease treatment was almost useless, without an
abundant supply of pure, fresh air, nutritious food, and tonics and
stimulants. Such changes, however, as would allow of the isolation of
the cases of hospital gangrene appeared to be out of the power of the
8th. The gangrenous mass was without true pus, and consisted chiefly of
broken-down, disorganized structures. The reaction of the gangrenous
matter in certain stages was alkaline.
9th. The best, and in truth the only means of protecting large armies
and navies, as well as prisoners, from the ravages of hospital gangrene,
is to furnish liberal supplies of well-cured meat, together with fresh
beef and vegetables, and to enforce a rigid system of hygiene.
10th. Finally, this gigantic mass of human misery calls loudly for
relief, not only for the sake of suffering humanity, but also on account
of our own brave soldiers now captives in the hands of the Federal
Government. Strict justice to the gallant men of the Confederate Armies,
who have been or who may be, so unfortunate as to be compelled to
surrender in battle, demands that the Confederate Government should adopt
that course which will best secure their health and comfort in captivity;
or at least leave their enemies without a shadow of an excuse for any
violation of the rules of civilized warfare in the treatment of
[End of the Witness's Testimony.]
The variation--from month to month--of the proportion of deaths to the
whole number living is singular and interesting. It supports the theory
I have advanced above, as the following facts, taken from the official
report, will show:
In April one in every sixteen died.
In May one in every twenty-six died.
In June one in every twenty-two died.
In July one in every eighteen died.
In August one in every eleven died.
In September one in every three died.
In October one in every two died.
In November one in every three died.
Does the reader fully understand that in September one-third of those in
the pen died, that in October one-half of the remainder perished, and in
November one-third of those who still survived, died? Let him pause for
a moment and read this over carefully again; because its startling
magnitude will hardly dawn upon him at first reading. It is true that
the fearfully disproportionate mortality of those months was largely due
to the fact that it was mostly the sick that remained behind, but even
this diminishes but little the frightfulness of the showing. Did any one
ever hear of an epidemic so fatal that one-third of those attacked by it
in one month died; one-half of the remnant the next month, and one-third
of the feeble remainder the next month? If he did, his reading has been
much more extensive than mine.
The greatest number of deaths in one day is reported to have occurred on
the 23d of August, when one hundred and twenty-seven died, or one man
every eleven minutes.
The greatest number of prisoners in the Stockade is stated to have been
August 8, when there were thirty-three thousand one hundred and fourteen.
I have always imagined both these statements to be short of the truth,
because my remembrance is that one day in August I counted over two
hundred dead lying in a row. As for the greatest number of prisoners,
I remember quite distinctly standing by the ration wagon during the whole
time of the delivery of rations, to see how many prisoners there really
were inside. That day the One Hundred and Thirty-Third Detachment was
called, and its Sergeant came up and drew rations for a full detachment.
All the other detachments were habitually kept full by replacing those
who died with new comers. As each detachment consisted of two hundred
and seventy men, one hundred and thirty-three detachments would make
thirty-five thousand nine hundred and ten, exclusive of those in the
hospital, and those detailed outside as cooks, clerks, hospital
attendants and various other employments--say from one to two thousand
DIFFICULTY OF EXERCISING--EMBARRASSMENTS OF A MORNING WALK--THE RIALTO
OF THE PRISON--CURSING THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY--THE STORY OF THE BATTLE
OF SPOTTSYLVANIA COURTHOUSE.
Certainly, in no other great community, that ever existed upon the face
of the globe was there so little daily ebb and flow as in this. Dull as
an ordinary Town or City may be; however monotonous, eventless, even
stupid the lives of its citizens, there is yet, nevertheless, a flow
every day of its life-blood--its population towards its heart, and an ebb
of the same, every evening towards its extremities. These recurring
tides mingle all classes together and promote the general healthfulness,
as the constant motion hither and yon of the ocean's waters purify and
The lack of these helped vastly to make the living mass inside the
Stockade a human Dead Sea--or rather a Dying Sea--a putrefying, stinking
lake, resolving itself into phosphorescent corruption, like those rotting
southern seas, whose seething filth burns in hideous reds, and ghastly
greens and yellows.
Being little call for motion of any kind, and no room to exercise
whatever wish there might be in that direction, very many succumbed
unresistingly to the apathy which was so strongly favored by despondency
and the weakness induced by continual hunger, and lying supinely on the
hot sand, day in and day out, speedily brought themselves into such a
condition as invited the attacks of disease.
It required both determination and effort to take a little walking
exercise. The ground was so densely crowded with holes and other devices
for shelter that it took one at least ten minutes to pick his way through
the narrow and tortuous labyrinth which served as paths for communication
between different parts of the Camp. Still further, there was nothing to
see anywhere or to form sufficient inducement for any one to make so
laborious a journey. One simply encountered at every new step the same
unwelcome sights that he had just left; there was a monotony in the
misery as in everything else, and consequently the temptation to sit or
lie still in one's own quarters became very great.
I used to make it a point to go to some of the remoter parts of the
Stockade once every day, simply for exercise. One can gain some idea of
the crowd, and the difficulty of making one's way through it, when I say
that no point in the prison could be more than fifteen hundred feet from
where I staid, and, had the way been clear, I could have walked thither
and back in at most a half an hour, yet it usually took me from two to
three hours to make one of these journeys.
This daily trip, a few visits to the Creek to wash all over, a few games
of chess, attendance upon roll call, drawing rations, cooking and eating
the same, "lousing" my fragments of clothes, and doing some little duties
for my sick and helpless comrades, constituted the daily routine for
myself, as for most of the active youths in the prison.
The Creek was the great meeting point for all inside the Stockade.
All able to walk were certain to be there at least once during the day,
and we made it a rendezvous, a place to exchange gossip, discuss the
latest news, canvass the prospects of exchange, and, most of all,
to curse the Rebels. Indeed no conversation ever progressed very far
without both speaker and listener taking frequent rests to say bitter
things as to the Rebels generally, and Wirz, Winder and Davis in
A conversation between two boys--strangers to each other who came to the
Creek to wash themselves or their clothes, or for some other purpose,
would progress thus:
First Boy--"I belong to the Second Corps,--Hancock's, [the Army of the
Potomac boys always mentioned what Corps they belonged to, where the
Western boys stated their Regiment.] They got me at Spottsylvania, when
they were butting their heads against our breast-works, trying to get
even with us for gobbling up Johnson in the morning,"--He stops suddenly
and changes tone to say: "I hope to God, that when our folks get
Richmond, they will put old Ben Butler in command of it, with orders to
limb, skin and jayhawk it worse than he did New Orleans."
Second Boy, (fervently :) "I wish to God he would, and that he'd catch
old Jeff., and that grayheaded devil, Winder, and the old Dutch Captain,
strip 'em just as we were, put 'em in this pen, with just the rations
they are givin' us, and set a guard of plantation niggers over 'em, with
orders to blow their whole infernal heads off, if they dared so much as
to look at the dead line."
First Boy--(returning to the story of his capture.) "Old Hancock caught
the Johnnies that morning the neatest you ever saw anything in your life.
After the two armies had murdered each other for four or five days in the
Wilderness, by fighting so close together that much of the time you could
almost shake hands with the Graybacks, both hauled off a little, and lay
and glowered at each other. Each side had lost about twenty thousand men
in learning that if it attacked the other it would get mashed fine.
So each built a line of works and lay behind them, and tried to nag the
other into coming out and attacking. At Spottsylvania our lines and
those of the Johnnies weren't twelve hundred yards apart. The ground was
clear and clean between them, and any force that attempted to cross it to
attack would be cut to pieces, as sure as anything. We laid there three
or four days watching each other--just like boys at school, who shake
fists and dare each other. At one place the Rebel line ran out towards
us like the top of a great letter 'A.' The night of the 11th of May it
rained very hard, and then came a fog so thick that you couldn't see the
length of a company. Hancock thought he'd take advantage of this.
We were all turned out very quietly about four o'clock in the morning.
Not a bit of noise was allowed. We even had to take off our canteens and
tin cups, that they might not rattle against our bayonets. The ground
was so wet that our footsteps couldn't be heard. It was one of those
deathly, still movements, when you think your heart is making as much
noise as a bass drum.
"The Johnnies didn't seem to have the faintest suspicion of what was
coming, though they ought, because we would have expected such an attack
from them if we hadn't made it ourselves. Their pickets were out just a
little ways from their works, and we were almost on to them before they
discovered us. They fired and ran back. At this we raised a yell and
dashed forward at a charge. As we poured over the works, the Rebels came
double-quicking up to defend them. We flanked Johnson's Division
quicker'n you could say 'Jack Robinson,' and had four thousand of 'em in
our grip just as nice as you please. We sent them to the rear under
guard, and started for the next line of Rebel works about a half a mile
away. But we had now waked up the whole of Lee's army, and they all came
straight for us, like packs of mad wolves. Ewell struck us in the
center; Longstreet let drive at our left flank, and Hill tackled our
right. We fell back to the works we had taken, Warren and Wright came up
to help us, and we had it hot and heavy for the rest of the day and part
of the night. The Johnnies seemed so mad over what we'd done that they
were half crazy. They charged us five times, coming up every time just
as if they were going to lift us right out of the works with the bayonet.
About midnight, after they'd lost over ten thousand men, they seemed to
understand that we had pre-empted that piece of real estate, and didn't
propose to allow anybody to jump our claim, so they fell back sullen like
to their main works. When they came on the last charge, our Brigadier
walked behind each of our regiments and said:
"Boys, we'll send 'em back this time for keeps. Give it to 'em by the
acre, and when they begin to waver, we'll all jump over the works and go
for them with the bayonet.'
"We did it just that way. We poured such a fire on them that the bullets
knocked up the ground in front just like you have seen the deep dust in a
road in the middle of Summer fly up when the first great big drops of a
rain storm strike it. But they came on, yelling and swearing, officers
in front waving swords, and shouting--all that business, you know. When
they got to about one hundred yards from us, they did not seem to be
coming so fast, and there was a good deal of confusion among them. The
brigade bugle sounded
"We all ceased instantly. The rebels looked up in astonishment. Our
General sang out:
"Fix bayonets!' but we knew what was coming, and were already executing
the order. You can imagine the crash that ran down the line, as every
fellow snatched his bayonet out and slapped it on the muzzle of his gun.
Then the General's voice rang out like a bugle:
"We cheered till everything seemed to split, and jumped over the works,
almost every man at the same minute. The Johnnies seemed to have been
puzzled at the stoppage of our fire. When we all came sailing over the
works, with guns brought right, down where they meant business, they were
so astonished for a minute that they stood stock still, not knowing
whether to come for us, or run. We did not allow them long to debate,
but went right towards them on the double quick, with the bayonets
looking awful savage and hungry. It was too much for Mr. Johnny Reb's
nerves. They all seemed to about face' at once, and they lit out of
there as if they had been sent for in a hurry. We chased after 'em as
fast as we could, and picked up just lots of 'em. Finally it began to be
real funny. A Johnny's wind would begin to give out he'd fall behind his
comrades; he'd hear us yell and think that we were right behind him,
ready to sink a bayonet through him'; he'd turn around, throw up his
hands, and sing out:
"I surrender, mister! I surrender!' and find that we were a hundred feet
off, and would have to have a bayonet as long as one of McClellan's
general orders to touch him.
"Well, my company was the left of our regiment, and our regiment was the
left of the brigade, and we swung out ahead of all the rest of the boys.
In our excitement of chasing the Johnnies, we didn't see that we had
passed an angle of their works. About thirty of us had become separated
from the company and were chasing a squad of about seventy-five or one
hundred. We had got up so close to them that we hollered:
"'Halt there, now, or we'll blow your heads off.'
"They turned round with, 'halt yourselves; you ---- Yankee ---- ----'
"We looked around at this, and saw that we were not one hundred feet away
from the angle of the works, which were filled with Rebels waiting for
our fellows to get to where they could have a good flank fire upon them.
There was nothing to do but to throw down our guns and surrender, and we
had hardly gone inside of the works, until the Johnnies opened on our
brigade and drove it back. This ended the battle at Spottsylvania Court
Second Boy (irrelevantly.) "Some day the underpinning will fly out from
under the South, and let it sink right into the middle kittle o' hell."
First Boy (savagely.) "I only wish the whole Southern Confederacy was
hanging over hell by a single string, and I had a knife."
REBEL MUSIC--SINGULAR LACK OF THE CREATIVE POWER AMONG THE SOUTHERNERS
--CONTRAST WITH SIMILAR PEOPLE ELSEWHERE--THEIR FAVORITE MUSIC, AND WHERE
IT WAS BORROWED FROM--A FIFER WITH ONE TUNE.
I have before mentioned as among the things that grew upon one with
increasing acquaintance with the Rebels on their native heath, was
astonishment at their lack of mechanical skill and at their inability to
grapple with numbers and the simpler processes of arithmetic. Another
characteristic of the same nature was their wonderful lack of musical
ability, or of any kind of tuneful creativeness.
Elsewhere, all over the world, people living under similar conditions to
the Southerners are exceedingly musical, and we owe the great majority of
the sweetest compositions which delight the ear and subdue the senses to
unlettered song-makers of the Swiss mountains, the Tyrolese valleys, the
Bavarian Highlands, and the minstrels of Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
The music of English-speaking people is very largely made up of these
contributions from the folk-songs of dwellers in the wilder and more
mountainous parts of the British Isles. One rarely goes far out of the
way in attributing to this source any air that he may hear that
captivates him with its seductive opulence of harmony. Exquisite
melodies, limpid and unstrained as the carol of a bird in Spring-time,
and as plaintive as the cooing of a turtle-dove seems as natural products
of the Scottish Highlands as the gorse which blazons on their hillsides
in August. Debarred from expressing their aspirations as people of
broader culture do--in painting, in sculpture, in poetry and prose, these
mountaineers make song the flexible and ready instrument for the
communication of every emotion that sweeps across their souls.
Love, hatred, grief, revenge, anger, and especially war seems to tune
their minds to harmony, and awake the voice of song in them hearts. The
battles which the Scotch and Irish fought to replace the luckless Stuarts
upon the British throne--the bloody rebellions of 1715 and 1745, left a
rich legacy of sweet song, the outpouring of loving, passionate loyalty
to a wretched cause; songs which are today esteemed and sung wherever the
English language is spoken, by people who have long since forgotten what
burning feelings gave birth to their favorite melodies.
For a century the bones of both the Pretenders have moldered in alien
soil; the names of James Edward, and Charles Edward, which were once
trumpet blasts to rouse armed men, mean as little to the multitude of
today as those of the Saxon Ethelbert, and Danish Hardicanute, yet the
world goes on singing--and will probably as long as the English language
is spoken--"Wha'll be King but Charlie?" "When Jamie Come Hame," "Over
the Water to Charlie," "Charlie is my Darling," "The Bonny Blue Bonnets
are Over the Border," "Saddle Your Steeds and Awa," and a myriad others
whose infinite tenderness and melody no modern composer can equal.
Yet these same Scotch and Irish, the same Jacobite English, transplanted
on account of their chronic rebelliousness to the mountains of Virginia,
the Carolinas, and Georgia, seem to have lost their tunefulness, as some
fine singing birds do when carried from their native shores.
The descendants of those who drew swords for James and Charles at Preston
Pans and Culloden dwell to-day in the dales and valleys of the
Alleganies, as their fathers did in the dales and valleys of the
Grampians, but their voices are mute.
As a rule the Southerners are fond of music. They are fond of singing
and listening to old-fashioned ballads, most of which have never been
printed, but handed down from one generation to the other, like the
'Volklieder' of Germany. They sing these with the wild, fervid
impressiveness characteristic of the ballad singing of unlettered people.
Very many play tolerably on the violin and banjo, and occasionally one is
found whose instrumentation may be called good. But above this hight
they never soar. The only musician produced by the South of whom the
rest of the country has ever heard, is Blind Tom, the negro idiot. No
composer, no song writer of any kind has appeared within the borders of
It was a disappointment to me that even the stress of the war, the
passion and fierceness with which the Rebels felt and fought, could not
stimulate any adherent of the Stars and Bars into the production of a
single lyric worthy in the remotest degree of the magnitude of the
struggle, and the depth of the popular feeling. Where two million
Scotch, fighting to restore the fallen fortunes of the worse than
worthless Stuarts, filled the world with immortal music, eleven million
of Southerners, fighting for what they claimed to be individual freedom
and national life, did not produce any original verse, or a bar of music
that the world could recognize as such. This is the fact; and an
undeniable one. Its explanation I must leave to abler analysts
than I am.
Searching for peculiar causes we find but two that make the South differ
from the ancestral home of these people. These two were Climate and
Slavery. Climatic effects will not account for the phenomenon, because
we see that the peasantry of the mountains of Spain and the South of
France as ignorant as these people, and dwellers in a still more
enervating atmosphere-are very fertile in musical composition, and their
songs are to the Romanic languages what the Scotch and Irish ballads are
to the English.
Then it must be ascribed to the incubus of Slavery upon the intellect,
which has repressed this as it has all other healthy growths in the
South. Slavery seems to benumb all the faculties except the passions.
The fact that the mountaineers had but few or no slaves, does not seem to
be of importance in the case. They lived under the deadly shadow of the
upas tree, and suffered the consequences of its stunting their
development in all directions, as the ague-smitten inhabitant of the
Roman Campana finds every sense and every muscle clogged by the filtering
in of the insidious miasma. They did not compose songs and music,
because they did not have the intellectual energy for that work.
The negros displayed all the musical creativeness of that section.
Their wonderful prolificness in wild, rude songs, with strangely
melodious airs that burned themselves into the memory, was one of the
salient characteristics of that down-trodden race. Like the Russian
serfs, and the bondmen of all ages and lands, the songs they made and
sang all had an undertone of touching plaintiveness, born of ages of dumb
suffering. The themes were exceedingly simple, and the range of subjects
limited. The joys, and sorrows, hopes and despairs of love's
gratification or disappointment, of struggles for freedom, contests with
malign persons and influences, of rage, hatred, jealousy, revenge, such
as form the motifs for the majority of the poetry of free and strong
races, were wholly absent from their lyrics. Religion, hunger and toil
were their main inspiration. They sang of the pleasures of idling in the
genial sunshine; the delights of abundance of food; the eternal happiness
that awaited them in the heavenly future, where the slave-driver ceased
from troubling and the weary were at rest; where Time rolled around in
endless cycles of days spent in basking, harp in hand, and silken clad,
in golden streets, under the soft effulgence of cloudless skies, glowing
with warmth and kindness emanating from the Creator himself. Had their
masters condescended to borrow the music of the slaves, they would have
found none whose sentiments were suitable for the ode of a people
undergoing the pangs of what was hoped to be the birth of a new nation.
The three songs most popular at the South, and generally regarded as
distinctively Southern, were "The Bonnie Blue Flag," "Maryland, My
Maryland," and "Stonewall Jackson Crossing into Maryland." The first of
these was the greatest favorite by long odds. Women sang, men whistled,
and the so-called musicians played it wherever we went. While in the
field before capture, it was the commonest of experiences to have Rebel
women sing it at us tauntingly from the house that we passed or near
which we stopped. If ever near enough a Rebel camp, we were sure to hear
its wailing crescendo rising upon the air from the lips or instruments of
some one more quartered there. At Richmond it rang upon us constantly
from some source or another, and the same was true wherever else we went
in the so-called Confederacy.
All familiar with Scotch songs will readily recognize the name and air as
an old friend, and one of the fierce Jacobite melodies that for a long
time disturbed the tranquility of the Brunswick family on the English
throne. The new words supplied by the Rebels are the merest doggerel,
and fit the music as poorly as the unchanged name of the song fitted to
its new use. The flag of the Rebellion was not a bonnie blue one; but
had quite as much red and white as azure. It did not have a single star,
Near in popularity was "Maryland, My Maryland." The versification of
this was of a much higher Order, being fairly respectable. The air is
old, and a familiar one to all college students, and belongs to one of
the most common of German household songs:
O, Tannenbaum! O, Tannenbaum, wie tru sind deine Blatter!
Da gruenst nicht nur zur Sommerseit,
Nein, auch in Winter, when es Schneit, etc.
which Longfellow has finely translated,
O, hemlock tree! O, hemlock tree! how faithful are thy branches!
Green not alone in Summer time,
But in the Winter's float and rime.
O, hemlock tree O, hemlock tree! how faithful are thy branches. etc.
The Rebel version ran:
The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His touch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Hark to the wand'ring son's appeal,
My mother State, to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Thou wilt not cower in the duet,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust--
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come! with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Comet for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come! to thins own heroic throng,
That stalks with Liberty along,
And give a new Key to thy song,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain--
'Sic semper' 'tis the proud refrain,
That baffles millions back amain,
Arise, in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!
I see the blush upon thy cheek,
But thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek
From hill to hill, from creek to creek--
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Thou wilt not yield the vandal toll.
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll,
Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!
I hear the distant Thunder hem,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum.
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb--
Hnzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes--she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!
"Stonewall Jackson Crossing into Maryland," was another travesty, of
about the same literary merit, or rather demerit, as "The Bonnie Blue
Flag." Its air was that of the well-known and popular negro minstrel
song," Billy Patterson." For all that, it sounded very martial and
stirring when played by a brass band.
We heard these songs with tiresome iteration, daily and nightly, during
our stay in the Southern Confederacy. Some one of the guards seemed to
be perpetually beguiling the weariness of his watch by singing in all
keys, in every sort of a voice, and with the wildest latitude as to air
and time. They became so terribly irritating to us, that to this day the
remembrance of those soul-lacerating lyrics abides with me as one of the
chief of the minor torments of our situation. They were, in fact, nearly
as bad as the lice.
We revenged ourselves as best we could by constructing fearfully wicked,
obscene and insulting parodies on these, and by singing them with
irritating effusiveness in the hearing of the guards who were inflicting
these nuisances upon us.
Of the same nature was the garrison music. One fife, played by an
asthmatic old fellow whose breathings were nearly as audible as his
notes, and one rheumatic drummer, constituted the entire band for the
post. The fifer actually knew but one tune "The Bonnie Blue Flag"
--and did not know that well. But it was all that he had, and he played it
with wearisome monotony for every camp call--five or six times a day,
and seven days in the week. He called us up in the morning with it for a
reveille; he sounded the "roll call" and "drill call," breakfast, dinner
and supper with it, and finally sent us to bed, with the same dreary wail
that had rung in our ears all day. I never hated any piece of music as I
came to hate that threnody of treason. It would have been such a relief
if the, old asthmatic who played it could have been induced to learn
another tune to play on Sundays, and give us one day of rest. He did
not, but desecrated the Lord's Day by playing as vilely as on the rest of
the week. The Rebels were fully conscious of their musical deficiencies,
and made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to induce the musicians among
the prisoners to come outside and form a band.
AUGUST--NEEDLES STUCK IN PUMPKIN SEEDS--SOME PHENOMENA OF STARVATION
--RIOTING IN REMEMBERED LUXURIES.
"Illinoy," said tall, gaunt Jack North, of the One Hundred and Fourteenth
Illinois, to me, one day, as we sat contemplating our naked, and sadly
attenuated underpinning; "what do our legs and feet most look most like?"
"Give it up, Jack," said I.
"Why--darning needles stuck in pumpkin seeds, of course." I never heard
a better comparison for our wasted limbs.
The effects of the great bodily emaciation were sometimes very startling.
Boys of a fleshy habit would change so in a few weeks as to lose all
resemblance to their former selves, and comrades who came into prison
later would utterly fail to recognize them. Most fat men, as most large
men, died in a little while after entering, though there were exceptions.
One of these was a boy of my own company, named George Hillicks. George
had shot up within a few years to over six feet in hight, and then, as
such boys occasionally do, had, after enlisting with us, taken on such a
development of flesh that we nicknamed him the "Giant," and he became a
pretty good load for even the strongest horse. George held his flesh
through Belle Isle, and the earlier weeks in Andersonville, but June,
July, and August "fetched him," as the boys said. He seemed to melt away
like an icicle on a Spring day, and he grew so thin that his hight seemed
preternatural. We called him "Flagstaff," and cracked all sorts of jokes
about putting an insulator on his head, and setting him up for a
telegraph pole, braiding his legs and using him for a whip lash, letting
his hair grow a little longer, and trading him off to the Rebels for a
sponge and staff for the artillery, etc. We all expected him to die,
and looked continually for the development of the fatal scurvy symptoms,
which were to seal his doom. But he worried through, and came out at
last in good shape, a happy result due as much as to anything else to his
having in Chester Hayward, of Prairie City, Ill.,--one of the most
devoted chums I ever knew. Chester nursed and looked out for George with
wife-like fidelity, and had his reward in bringing him safe through our
lines. There were thousands of instances of this generous devotion to
each other by chums in Andersonville, and I know of nothing that reflects
any more credit upon our boy soldiers.
There was little chance for any one to accumulate flesh on the rations we
were receiving. I say it in all soberness that I do not believe that a
healthy hen could have grown fat upon them. I am sure that any
good-sized "shanghai" eats more every day than the meager half loaf that we
had to maintain life upon. Scanty as this was, and hungry as all were,
very many could not eat it. Their stomachs revolted against the trash;
it became so nauseous to them that they could not force it down, even
when famishing, and they died of starvation with the chunks of the
so-called bread under their head. I found myself rapidly approaching this
condition. I had been blessed with a good digestion and a talent for
sleeping under the most discouraging circumstances. These, I have no
doubt, were of the greatest assistance to me in my struggle for
existence. But now the rations became fearfully obnoxious to me, and it
was only with the greatest effort--pulling the bread into little pieces
and swallowing each, of these as one would a pill--that I succeeded in
worrying the stuff down. I had not as yet fallen away very much, but as
I had never, up, to that time, weighed so much as one hundred and
twenty-five pounds, there was no great amount of adipose to lose. It was
evident that unless some change occurred my time was near at hand.
There was not only hunger for more food, but longing with an intensity
beyond expression for alteration of some kind in the rations.
The changeless monotony of the miserable saltless bread, or worse mush,
for days, weeks and months, became unbearable. If those wretched mule
teams had only once a month hauled in something different--if they had
come in loaded with sweet potatos, green corn or wheat flour, there would
be thousands of men still living who now slumber beneath those melancholy
pines. It would have given something to look forward to, and remember
when past. But to know each day that the gates would open to admit the
same distasteful apologies for food took away the appetite and raised
one's gorge, even while famishing for something to eat.
We could for a while forget the stench, the lice, the heat, the maggots,
the dead and dying around us, the insulting malignance of our jailors;
but it was, very hard work to banish thoughts and longings for food from
our minds. Hundreds became actually insane from brooding over it. Crazy
men could be found in all parts of the camp. Numbers of them wandered
around entirely naked. Their babblings and maunderings about something
to eat were painful to hear. I have before mentioned the case of the
Plymouth Pilgrim near me, whose insanity took the form of imagining that
he was sitting at the table with his family, and who would go through the
show of helping them to imaginary viands and delicacies. The cravings
for green food of those afflicted with the scurvy were, agonizing. Large
numbers of watermelons were brought to the prison, and sold to those who
had the money to pay for them at from one to five dollars, greenbacks,
apiece. A boy who had means to buy a piece of these would be followed
about while eating it by a crowd of perhaps twenty-five or thirty
livid-gummed scorbutics, each imploring him for the rind when he was
through with it.
We thought of food all day, and were visited with torturing dreams of it
at night. One of the pleasant recollections of my pre-military life was
a banquet at the "Planter's House," St. Louis, at which I was a boyish
guest. It was, doubtless, an ordinary affair, as banquets go, but to me
then, with all the keen appreciation of youth and first experience, it
was a feast worthy of Lucullus. But now this delightful reminiscence
became a torment. Hundreds of times I dreamed I was again at the
"Planter's." I saw the wide corridors, with their mosaic pavement;
I entered the grand dining-room, keeping timidly near the friend to whose
kindness I owed this wonderful favor; I saw again the mirror-lined walls,
the evergreen decked ceilings, the festoons and mottos, the tables
gleaming with cutglass and silver, the buffets with wines and fruits,
the brigade of sleek, black, white-aproned waiters, headed by one who had
presence enough for a major General. Again I reveled in all the dainties
and dishes on the bill-of-fare; calling for everything that I dared to,
just to see what each was like, and to be able to say afterwards that I
had partaken of it; all these bewildering delights of the first
realization of what a boy has read and wondered much over, and longed
for, would dance their rout and reel through my somnolent brain. Then I
would awake to find myself a half-naked, half-starved, vermin-eaten
wretch, crouching in a hole in the ground, waiting for my keepers to
fling me a chunk of corn bread.
Naturally the boys--and especially the country boys and new prisoners
--talked much of victuals--what they had had, and what they would have
again, when they got out. Take this as a sample of the conversation
which might be heard in any group of boys, sitting together on the sand,
killin lice and talking of exchange:
Tom--"Well, Bill, when we get back to God's country, you and Jim and John
must all come to my house and take dinner with me. I want to give you a
square meal. I want to show you just what good livin' is. You know my
mother is just the best cook in all that section. When she lays herself
out to get up a meal all the other women in the neighborhood just stand
back and admire!"
Bill--"O, that's all right; but I'll bet she can't hold a candle to my
mother, when it comes to good cooking."
Jim--"No, nor to mine."
John--(with patronizing contempt.) "O, shucks! None of you fellers were
ever at our house, even when we had one of our common weekday dinners."
Tom--(unheedful of the counter claims.) I hev teen studyin' up the dinner
I'd like, and the bill-of-fare I'd set out for you fellers when you come
over to see me. First, of course, we'll lay the foundation like with a
nice, juicy loin roast, and some mashed potatos.
Bill--(interrupting.) "Now, do you like mashed potatos with beef? The
way may mother does is to pare the potatos, and lay them in the pan along
with the beef. Then, you know, they come out just as nice and crisp, and
brown; they have soaked up all the beef gravy, and they crinkle between
Jim--"Now, I tell you, mashed Neshannocks with butter on 'em is plenty
good enough for me."
John--"If you'd et some of the new kind of peachblows that we raised in
the old pasture lot the year before I enlisted, you'd never say another
word about your Neshannocks."
Tom--(taking breath and starting in fresh.) "Then we'll hev some fried
Spring chickens, of our dominick breed. Them dominicks of ours have the
nicest, tenderest meat, better'n quail, a darned sight, and the way my
mother can fry Spring chickens----"
Bill--(aside to Jim.) "Every durned woman in the country thinks she can
'spry ching frickens;' but my mother---"
John--"You fellers all know that there's nobody knows half as much about
chicken doin's as these 'tinerant Methodis' preachers. They give 'em
chicken wherever they go, and folks do say that out in the new
settlements they can't get no preachin', no gospel, nor nothin', until
the chickens become so plenty that a preacher is reasonably sure of
havin' one for his dinner wherever he may go. Now, there's old Peter
Cartwright, who has traveled over Illinoy and Indianny since the Year
One, and preached more good sermons than any other man who ever set on
saddle-bags, and has et more chickens than there are birds in a big
pigeon roost. Well, he took dinner at our house when he came up to
dedicate the big, white church at Simpkin's Corners, and when he passed
up his plate the third time for more chicken, he sez, sez he:--I've et
at a great many hundred tables in the fifty years I have labored in the
vineyard of the Redeemer, but I must say, Mrs. Kiggins, that your way of
frying chickens is a leetle the nicest that I ever knew. I only wish
that the sisters generally would get your reseet.' Yes, that's what he
said,--'a leetle the nicest.'"
Tom--"An' then, we'll hev biscuits an' butter. I'll just bet five
hundred dollars to a cent, and give back the cent if I win, that we have
the best butter at our house that there is in Central Illinoy. You can't
never hev good butter onless you have a spring house; there's no use of
talkin'--all the patent churns that lazy men ever invented--all the fancy
milk pans an' coolers, can't make up for a spring house. Locations for a
spring house are scarcer than hen's teeth in Illinoy, but we hev one, and
there ain't a better one in Orange County, New York. Then you'll see
dome of the biscuits my mother makes."
Bill--"Well, now, my mother's a boss biscuit-maker, too."
Jim--"You kin just gamble that mine is."
John--"O, that's the way you fellers ought to think an' talk, but my
Tom--(coming in again with fresh vigor) "They're jest as light an' fluffy
as a dandelion puff, and they melt in your month like a ripe Bartlett
pear. You just pull 'em open--Now you know that I think there's nothin'
that shows a person's raisin' so well as to see him eat biscuits an'
butter. If he's been raised mostly on corn bread, an' common doins,'
an' don't know much about good things to eat, he'll most likely cut his
biscuit open with a case knife, an' make it fall as flat as one o'
yesterday's pancakes. But if he is used to biscuits, has had 'em often
at his house, he'll--just pull 'em open, slow an' easy like, then he'll
lay a little slice of butter inside, and drop a few drops of clear honey
on this, an' stick the two halves back, together again, an--"
"Oh, for God Almighty's sake, stop talking that infernal nonsense," roar
out a half dozen of the surrounding crowd, whose mouths have been
watering over this unctuous recital of the good things of the table.
"You blamed fools, do you want to drive yourselves and everybody else
crazy with such stuff as that. Dry up and try to think of something
SURLY BRITON--THE STOLID COURAGE THAT MAKES THE ENGLISH FLAG A BANNER OF
TRIUMPH--OUR COMPANY BUGLER, HIS CHARACTERISTICS AND HIS DEATH--URGENT
DEMAND FOR MECHANICS--NONE WANT TO GO--TREATMENT OF A REBEL SHOEMAKER
--ENLARGEMENT OF THE STOCKADE--IT IS BROKEN BY A STORM
--THE WONDERFUL SPRING.
Early in August, F. Marriott, our Company Bugler, died. Previous to
coming to America he had been for many years an English soldier, and I
accepted him as a type of that stolid, doggedly brave class, which forms
the bulk of the English armies, and has for centuries carried the British
flag with dauntless courage into every land under the sun. Rough, surly
and unsocial, he did his duty with the unemotional steadiness of a
machine. He knew nothing but to obey orders, and obeyed them under all
circumstances promptly, but with stony impassiveness. With the command
to move forward into action, he moved forward without a word, and with
face as blank as a side of sole leather. He went as far as ordered,
halted at the word, and retired at command as phlegmatically as he
advanced. If he cared a straw whether he advanced or retreated, if it
mattered to the extent of a pinch of salt whether we whipped the Rebels
or they defeated us, he kept that feeling so deeply hidden in the
recesses of his sturdy bosom that no one ever suspected it. In the
excitement of action the rest of the boys shouted, and swore, and
expressed their tense feelings in various ways, but Marriott might as
well have been a graven image, for all the expression that he suffered to
escape. Doubtless, if the Captain had ordered him to shoot one of the
company through the heart, he would have executed the command according
to the manual of arms, brought his carbine to a "recover," and at the
word marched back to his quarters without an inquiry as to the cause of
the proceedings. He made no friends, and though his surliness repelled
us, he made few enemies. Indeed, he was rather a favorite, since he was
a genuine character; his gruffness had no taint of selfish greed in it;
he minded his own business strictly, and wanted others to do the same.
When he first came into the company, it is true, he gained the enmity of
nearly everybody in it, but an incident occurred which turned the tide in
his favor. Some annoying little depredations had been practiced on the
boys, and it needed but a word of suspicion to inflame all their minds
against the surly Englishman as the unknown perpetrator. The feeling
intensified, until about half of the company were in a mood to kill the
Bugler outright. As we were returning from stable duty one evening,
some little occurrence fanned the smoldering anger into a fierce blaze;
a couple of the smaller boys began an attack upon him; others hastened to
their assistance, and soon half the company were engaged in the assault.
He succeeded in disengaging himself from his assailants, and, squaring
himself off, said, defiantly:
"Dom yer cowardly heyes; jest come hat me one hat a time, hand hI'll
wollop the 'ole gang uv ye's."
One of our Sergeants styled himself proudly "a Chicago rough," and was as
vain of his pugilistic abilities as a small boy is of a father who plays
in the band. We all hated him cordially--even more than we did Marriott.
He thought this was a good time to show off, and forcing his way through
the crowd, he said, vauntingly:
"Just fall back and form a ring, boys, and see me polish off the---fool."
The ring was formed, with the Bugler and the Sergeant in the center.
Though the latter was the younger and stronger the first round showed him
that it would have profited him much more to have let Marriott's
challenge pass unheeded. As a rule, it is as well to ignore all
invitations of this kind from Englishmen, and especially from those who,
like Marriott, have served a term in the army, for they are likely to be
so handy with their fists as to make the consequences of an acceptance
more lively than desirable.
So the Sergeant found. "Marriott," as one of the spectators expressed
it, "went around him like a cooper around a barrel." He planted his
blows just where he wished, to the intense delight of the boys, who
yelled enthusiastically whenever he got in "a hot one," and their delight
at seeing the Sergeant drubbed so thoroughly and artistically, worked an
entire revolution in his favor.
Thenceforward we viewed his eccentricities with lenient eyes, and became
rather proud of his bull-dog stolidity and surliness. The whole
battalion soon came to share this feeling, and everybody enjoyed hearing
his deep-toned growl, which mischievous boys would incite by some petty
annoyances deliberately designed for that purpose. I will mention
incidentally, that after his encounter with the Sergeant no one ever
again volunteered to "polish" him off.
Andersonville did not improve either his temper or his communicativeness.
He seemed to want to get as far away from the rest of us as possible,
and took up his quarters in a remote corner of the Stockade, among utter
strangers. Those of us who wandered up in his neighborhood occasionally,
to see how he was getting along, were received with such scant courtesy,
that we did not hasten to repeat the visit. At length, after none of us
had seen him for weeks, we thought that comradeship demanded another
visit. We found him in the last stages of scurvy and diarrhea. Chunks
of uneaten corn bread lay by his head. They were at least a week old.
The rations since then had evidently been stolen from the helpless man by
those around him. The place where he lay was indescribably filthy, and
his body was swarming with vermin. Some good Samaritan had filled his
little black oyster can with water, and placed it within his reach.
For a week, at least, he had not been able to rise from the ground;
he could barely reach for the water near him. He gave us such a glare of
recognition as I remembered to have seen light up the fast-darkening eyes
of a savage old mastiff, that I and my boyish companions once found dying
in the woods of disease and hurts. Had he been able he would have driven
us away, or at least assailed us with biting English epithets. Thus he
had doubtless driven away all those who had attempted to help him.
We did what little we could, and staid with him until the next afternoon,
when he died. We prepared his body, in the customary way: folded the
hands across his breast, tied the toes together, and carried it outside,
not forgetting each of us, to bring back a load of wood.
The scarcity of mechanics of all kinds in the Confederacy, and the urgent
needs of the people for many things which the war and the blockade
prevented their obtaining, led to continual inducements being offered to
the artizans among us to go outside and work at their trade. Shoemakers
seemed most in demand; next to these blacksmiths, machinists, molders and
metal workers generally. Not a week passed during my imprisonment that I
did not see a Rebel emissary of some kind about the prison seeking to
engage skilled workmen for some purpose or another. While in Richmond
the managers of the Tredegar Iron Works were brazen and persistent in
their efforts to seduce what are termed "malleable iron workers," to
enter their employ. A boy who was master of any one of the commoner
trades had but to make his wishes known, and he would be allowed to go
out on parole to work. I was a printer, and I think that at least a
dozen times I was approached by Rebel publishers with offers of a parole,
and work at good prices. One from Columbia, S. C., offered me two
dollars and a half a "thousand" for composition. As the highest price
for such work that I had received before enlisting was thirty cents a
thousand, this seemed a chance to accumulate untold wealth. Since a man
working in day time can set from thirty-five to fifty "thousand" a week,
this would make weekly wages run from eighty-seven dollars and fifty
cents to one hundred and twenty-five dollars--but it was in Confederate
money, then worth from ten to twenty cents on the dollar.
Still better offers were made to iron workers of all kinds,
to shoemakers, tanners, weavers, tailors, hatters, engineers, machinists,
millers, railroad men, and similar tradesmen. Any of these could have
made a handsome thing by accepting the offers made them almost weekly.