COLOR CORPORAL GEORGE FARR, COMPANY D, 15the REGIMENT MASSACHESTTS VOLUNTEERS, 1st BRIGADE, 2nd DIVISION, 2nd ARMY CORP.
Broke camp at Cole’s Hill near Stevensburg Virginia, May 3rd 1864. At 10 PM marched at a very slow pace all night. Early next morning the 4th, crossed the Rapidan River on a canvas pontoon. Marched as far as Chancellorsville and bivouacked for the night.
Early on the morning of the 5th took up our line of march and moved cautiously six or eight miles westward. Halted near a farm house and some cross roads and formed a line of battle but remained in line only a short time, when we moved a short distance into a piece of woods where we were again in line for an hour or so. Moved out and again halted in a field near the house.
About noon received orders to move towards the Wilderness. We moved very slowly, going but a few rods and there halting. After going two or three miles in this way, it was known by everyone that something must be ahead of us which we were going to run into before long.
After going along in that unsteady manner for some time, we heard firing ahead of us. We then started on the double quick and all that could kept it for two or three miles and were on the road in the Wilderness just in season to fall behind a line of hastily constructed works as the enemy appeared at the edge of the woods. A sharp engagement of musketry was kept up for about an hour when the rebels disappeared in the woods. It was then quite still for an hour or so when the enemy again appeared and another hour was occupied in shooting at one another. Darkness coming on, the firing ceased and after fortifying our position, so as to be a little more safe, we laid down and got a few hours sleep.
On the morning of the 6th was up early and a very heavy infantry fight had already commenced in the dense wood in front of us. Was ordered in to the support of troops already engaged. We moved up the road which we came up on the day before until we reached the Cross Roads then, took the left hand road and went up it a few rods and then turned into the Wilderness and formed a line of battle and marched in line until we met the enemy. In the meantime passing over three of four lines of our own troops either laying down or falling back.
After firing in almost every direction for the greater part of the forenoon. Both sides ceased firing and everything was quiet for an hour or two. At this place the trees and underbrush were so thick that it was impossible to see anyone more than ten or fifteen rods off. A great deal of the time no men were to be seen at all. The smoke from their guns was all the mark we had to fire at.
As we were trying to get a little rest under some shady trees, hearing but an occasional shot now and then. We were surprised by a strong force which seemed to be all around us. As the most of our officers were at the time holding a consultation, we had no one to look to for orders and as it was not very pleasant to be among the enemy and not know what to do, we commenced a retreat, not in very good order but, each man for himself.
The color of the Reb’s clothing was such that they could approach very near to us under cover of the thick underbrush without being seen, while our clothes being dark could be seen at a distance. After a half hour’s run through water, mud, swamps and briers, we brought up at the Cross Roads where we halted and formed a line. The men at this time were much scattered, some of them not finding their commands for a day or two. Those of our regiment that were together were placed in front on picket. The only artillery used there was two brass pieces at the Cross Roads which kept up their fire down the road through the Wilderness across which the Rebs were seen to be moving. All was now quiet until nearly dark when they thought to surprise us again and come down upon us in full force. As soon as they appeared at the edge of the woods, we opened upon them and a hot fire was kept up for about an hour when they fell back.
Our own men through their carelessness and excitement, set fire to our line of works which was a frail affair, being nothing but dead logs, such as could be picked up about the woods and piled one upon the other, to the height of about four feet. During the night a more substantial line was built by the Pioneers.
7th Nothing of note occurred today. There was skirmishing all day but, no general engagement. The Rebs left here tonight. Our forces are moving off in the direction of Fredericksburgh. Our division laid by the roadside all night. Could hear the Rebels cheering occasionally.
8th, Moved towards the left this morning. Have been moving about all day, changing position.
9th, Was in line early this morning occupied different positions this forenoon, without seeing any enemy. This afternoon our regiment covered the crossing of part of our troops over Corbin’s Branch of the river Po. Laid at the ford tonight.
10th, Crossed the Branch this morning and took position upon a hill in sight of Rebel works. Our batteries kept up a hot fire upon them for some time. When we moved to the left and took a position in rear of troops already engaged. Was kept here for some time in an open lot under a heavy artillery fire. Many were killed while in this place. At last we were relieved by being ordered to go forward into the woods which order we at once obeyed. On arriving there we were told that we had got to charge the works in front of us until they were taken.
At a given signal the whole line advanced and as we got to the edge of the woods, the enemy opened on us so hot that we had to fall back into the woods again.
The Reb works were situated in a corn field between the patch of woods which we occupied and another in the rear. In a short time another charge was made but with no better success than at first. A third charge was ordered and as the cheer came down the line from one command to another, we knew that it must be tried again but, their position was too strong for us.
During this afternoon we lost heavily. Many of our men were shot by their own comrades. When the order to advance is given, many instead of going forward as they should, hang back and during their excitement, shoot their friends who are in front. The man at my left (Corpl HOWE) was shot in the knee and as I was trying to dress his wound, one of those crazy and excited fellows drew up his gun and without knowing hardly what he was doing, shot him through the back. If such men could be got to the front, they would do some good, for when they once get to firing, it is as hard to stop them as it is to get them started.
11th, Threw up works this morning and remained behind them all day. No general engagement but, skirmishing nearly all day.
12th, About twelve o’clock last night we left the position that we had held for the past two days and moved to the left towards Spotsylvania Court House wading in mud and water a good part of the way. We supposed we were going somewhere to halt for a few days but, just at daylight we found ourselves just in rear of a line of battle and had hardly halted when the order was given to charge but, what at, or what into, we know not, as there was no enemy to be seen or heard.
On we went over walls and ditches, through briars and woods until we found something. Upon coming in sight of the enemy’s works, we opened fire and in a short time they surrendered and came flocking into our lines like sheep.
After the first line of works was taken, we advanced to the second but, our men were scattered so much that we had to fall back to the first line being closely followed by the Rebs. We were told by our Regimental Commander to stay here until he gave us further orders as the position must be held as long as possible. He in the meantime went to the rear as he said, for orders. We held the place as long as we could which was rather too long for our own good, as the enemy at that time rallied and came down upon us and took what few of us were there prisoners. We were then taken back under guard about three miles to General Lee’s Headquarters where our sufferings as prisoners first began.
Here I fell in with two more of my Regiment (John TRIPP and Walter STETSON) and Darius Starr of Berdan’s Sharp Shooters. We agreed to mess together and be companions.
We were put under double guard in the daytime and tribble guard at night. The first first thing that drew my attention was the eagerness of the Johnnies for trade. Anything which a Yankee might have, they wanted and would pay almost any price in Confederate money. They commenced by asking all kinds of questions.
I say Yank, what yer got to trade? Got a jackknife? Yes! Says Yank. What’l yer take fort?
At last a bargain is struck for ten, twenty, or thirty dollars, according to the value of the article sold. Got any pocket books, or letter paper? What’l yer take for that watch? Want to sell the chain? I’d like that ring of yourn. Howl yer swap yer boots for my shoes? I’ll give yer hundred dollars to boot. Say Yank, I want your hat and he takes it from your head and leaves and as you cannot get past the guard. You have got to give up the chase and let him go.
13th, This morning we fell into line to get our first Confederate ration which consisted of one pint of poor flour and a piece of slab bacon which could have been disposed of at one swallow. Add to these as much salt as could be taken between thumb and forefinger and our twenty-four hours ration was complete. Now we had the flour, what could we do with it, no fire and nothing to cook in. A tin cup comprised all of our cooking utensils. All that we could make in that was paste which without salt was rather a tough dish to swallow.
Getting the good will of one of the guards by a trifling gift, I was permitted to go into the woods between two bayonets to collect some brush. Now I had the fire, in what manner should I cook my flour. Stirring it up in water, I boiled it and tried to think that unsalted paste was good but, it was no go although, I eat it a great many times after that. Another mode must be adopted so the next day I took the flour and made some dough and after peeling the bark from a round stick, pressed the dough onto it and held it over the blaze until it was baked or smoked enough so that it could be pulled off and eaten.
On the afternoon of the 15th we fell into line and were counted and about twelve hundred of us started as we supposed for Richmond. We passed through Spottsylvania Court House and halted about ten miles beyond there for the night. It rained hard all day and the roads were in an awful condition, the mud in many places being knee deep.
Our guards were mounted and they could get through the mud well enough but, if one of the prisoners tried to pick his way, he was driven back into the road. Many of the small streams were swollen so as to be almost impossible but, they compelled us to wade through them. At one place the guard shot two of the prisoners for going two or three rods out of the road for the purpose of crossing on a log.
At daybreak on the 16th we started again and marched all day in the mud and rain, going but fifteen miles. In the afternoon of the 17th we arrived at Gordonsville and were left under guard in a lot near the depot. As soon as we reached there we were urged by the guards to sell everything that we had as it would be taken from us when we were searched. I sold my rubber blanket for five dollars and some trinkets for eight dollars.
Towards evening our names were taken and our persons searched. As I passed into the building I gave my shelter tent to a friend who kept it for me until I came out. My comrades, thinking to be successful in another way tore theirs apart, intending to sew them up again when they should need them but, the inspector took away pieces as well as whole tents. After being examined we were turned into another lot nearer the depot where we slept or tried to sleep aided by the comfort of mud and a drenching rain.
Wednesday morning we were supplied with another pint of flour which was the first we had had since Sunday. After remaining all day in the rain we were packed into freight cars like so many cattle and to all appearances. The cars had just been vacated by a drove of cattle. Rode all night and arrived in Lynchburgh about ten o’clock Thursday morning.
19th Was there put under charge of the Home Guard and marched through the town and quartered in a deep ravine besides a brook, there got bacon and crackers. Had another comfortable night’s rest in the mud.
At five o’clock next morning 20th was again piled into freight cars and after passing through Concord, Farmville and other places of which I could not learn the names. We reached Burkville Junction which place we left again at five and rode all night. Crowding seventy five men into a small freight car, leaves but little room to spare. It was almost impossible to sit up and where one laid down he compelled others to sit up. When the sitters got tired they claimed a chance to lay down and then the jaw commenced which lasted until morning. After enjoying a few hours in cat napping with two or three pair of legs thrown across me in different ways, I awoke to find myself in Danville. After leaving the cars, we were marched to an old tobacco factory called prison number four, where we were supplied with a small piece of corn bread and about a pint of bean soup or bean water, as there was no beans to be found. This was the second meal we had had in five days.
We were hardly inside of the building before one of the prisoners was shot dead. A man who had hung his haversack up beside the window, reached to take it down without intending to look out of the window, when one of the guards shot him through the head. They kept their guns cocked all the time and they were so eager to shoot a Yank, that they crept around the windows slyly to get a shot at some of us.
On Monday afternoon, 23rd took the cars at Danville Va and reached Greensboro N.C. about midnight. Slept on top of the cars until morning and then changed cars and started again. Passed through High Point, Thomasville, Salisbury, China Grove, Concord Station and other places and arrived at Charlotte at six P.M. Here we were put into an open field where we passed the night with mud for a bed and rain for covering. The most uneven and muddy ground was picked out for our place. Not being allowed to go after water, we were obliged to use that which collected in the mud holes, sometimes making an impression in the mud with our boots and waiting for the rain to fill it.
Here we were generously supplied with four pieces of poor hard bread. No back rations were given if we had been there two or three days without anything and stopped at some place where rations were issued. It was always called tomorrow’s ration.
Wednesday 24th 7:30 am, again took passage on a freight train. [ We ] reached Winnsboro S.C. at 3 P.M. An accident [occur]red here which kept us over night. By [the car]elessness of a nigger fireman an engine ran into our train, killing two of our prisoners, wounding several others and smashed several cars. When the engine was seen coming, many jumped but, thinking of my scanty wardrobe, I made free with one of the guard’s blankets while he was jumping over a fence and running across a garden. This blanket proved to be a blessing to us as it, with my piece of shelter, which I had kept with me was all the tent we had during our prison life.
Left Winnsboro Thursday morning at 9:30. Reached Columbia at one o’clock. Changed cars and left again, riding all night. Arrived in Augusta Ga. At 8 a.m. Friday. In the afternoon we got some corn bread and bacon which was with exception of the four hard bread, which we got at Charlotte, the only food we had had since Sunday. We were kept in the cars until Saturday afternoon when we again started and rode all night.
Our guard from Danville to Augusta was nothing but a company of boys from twelve to eighteen years of age, commanded by a captain about seventeen and a lieutenant about fifty. They thought it mighty fine sport to shoot a Yank, so we had to keep close and obey their orders, they being strongly armed and we having nothing for our defense. The guards haversacks were always well filled with biscuits which they could buy at the different stations. Whenever they became a little sleepy or careless, their biscuits would soon disappear among the prisoners.
The employees of the train live on board of the cars. A car is attached to the train, fitted up in one end with berths and in the other end, a nigger has his kitchen. At mealtimes the train stops wherever it happens to be. Six minutes for the conductor to eat his meal.
Arrived at Andersonville at 11a.m.
Sunday 29th. Was marched to Capt Wirtz Headquarters. Had our names taken, was counted and turned into the stockade like so many cattle. Wirtz told us if one man was absent from roll call, the next morning the whole squad should go without their rations for the day. We afterwards found this to be of frequent occurrence. When prisoners are turned into the stockade the whole Rebel force is turned out under arms, the artillery is manned and the infantry brought up in front of the gates. Before the gate is opened, Wirtz or the Dutch Captain as he was often called, gives orders to the guards to bring their pieces to a ready and if any attempt is made to break out as the gate is opened, to shoot into the crowd. This was afterwards remedied by building a double gate, so that when one was open, the other was shut. On entering we found ourselves among about fifteen thousand prisoners, some of whom had passed the winter on Belle Isle.
The stockade is built of logs hewn on two sides so as to make them fit close. They are set in the ground so as to be firm and are from fifteen to twenty feet above ground. Some fifteen feet from the stockade, all the way around is a slight railing called the Dead Line. Anyone going over this line so as to be between it and the stockade is shot without any warning. Prisoners are turned into the stockade without being told any of the rules. A number of our party were shot the first day.
At first, there was an attempt to lay out the camp with some regularity but, the prisoners came in so fast that places left for streets had to be taken for places to lay down upon. Our first night was passed in the principal thoroughfare.
The next morning I took account of stock and found myself worth two dollars and twenty cents which was the only there was between four of us. I paid one dollar and twenty cents for three sticks to spread our blanket upon for a shelter from the hot sun. Fifty cents I expended for soap and the remaining fifty for wood and then we commenced house keeping with two quart cups and one tin plate to do the cooking for four.
The duties for the day were not very hard, roll call at nine, cook breakfast, if lucky enough to have anything, draw rations in the afternoon and make a pot of mush for supper and retire to a bed of mud.
New prisoners arrived everyday until there was from thirty to thirty five thousand inside the stockade. It was so crowded that there was no roll call for over two weeks. If the men got out from under their shelter, there was not room enough for them to stand up.
The first twenty two days in June, it rained every day and as many had no shelter they were compelled to be out in the whole of the rain. The days were warm and the nights chilly, the effects of which would be noticed every morning by the number of dead laying around the camp.
The food was of the worst kind. The meal was coarse oftentimes being corn and cob together. Sour mush was often brought in which stuff we had to eat or go without. Beans or stock peas as they were called, were cooked in the filthiest manner being put into the kettle just as they brought from the field. Beans, pods and dirt altogether but, even in this condition they were too precious to be thrown away and often times after being dropped by some careless person were scrapped from the ground and eaten. Nothing was given us to get rations in so we had to get them the best way we could, in our dirty blankets, on a board and often times in our hands or hats.
On July 1st, an addition to the stockade was finished which gave some more room but, new comers soon filled it as full as before.
The camp at this time was full of robbers or raiders as they were called. They were our own men who had got so depraved as to rob their fellow prisoners of their watches, money and clothes. This business was carried on in the day time as well as at night but, no one felt disposed to do anything unless personally wronged. Until they got so far as to murder when the whole camp arose armed themselves with clubs and knowing where the raiders quartered, arrested about two hundred of them and turned them over to the guard.
Wirtz said we should have no rations until the raiders were all delivered to him. So in consequence, we got nothing to eat for a day or two. After all were arrested, a judge and jury were chosen from among the latest arrivals at the stockade and they were tried and sentenced. Six were found guilty of murder and robbery and were sentenced to be hung. Some of the others were acquitted and the rest were sentenced to different punishments, some to be put in the stocks, wear ball and chain, have their heads chained together &c. The Rebs had nothing to do with the affair, only to guard the raiders and furnish the timber to make the scaffold.
On Monday afternoon, July 11th, a scaffold was erected inside of the stockade and the raiders were brought in by Wirtz and his guards and delivered to the prisoners inside, who put the nooses about the necks, arranged the drop and swung the whole six off at the same time.
Raiding after this was not so frequent. A police force was organized with it’s judge, Chief of Police, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Corporals and Privates. Police with their short clubs patrolled the camp day and night. For pay they received an extra ration. Any person caught stealing was arrested, taken before the chief or judge and subjected to some punishment, such as having his head shaved, or receiving a certain number of lashes on the bare back.
All kinds of trade were carried on inside of the pen. Anyone possessed with a razor would set himself up for a barber. A needle full of thread would answer for a tailor shop. As money was scarce among most of the men, rations were always taken as pay. Anyone having money could live. A man with a few dollars could set up in business by building a mud oven, buying flour of the rebels, sutter and baking biscuits. Cries could be heard equal to the streets of New York.
Prices were very high. Biscuits plain, twenty five cents, with a piece of butter the size of a pea, thirty cents. Eggs thirty five cents a piece, butter one dollar a spoonful, onions from seventy five cents to one dollar and a quarter a piece. Potatoes fifty cents a piece, apples twenty five cents, soda twenty five cents a teaspoonful, salt ten cents a teaspoonful and other things in the same proportion. Gamblers lined every street with their sweat boards and other implements for gambling.
Occasionally a tailor’s sign could be seen. Anyone having money could buy meal bags and have them made into pants. Shoemakers were numerous, mending boots with pieces of old knapsacks, or any piece of leather which could be found. A man with a case knife and two railroad spikes would start in business as a tinker. More than one half the dishes used in the stockade, were made from old pieces of tin, in many cases stolen from the tops of freight cars. The supply of wood was very small, often times using what was given for three days to cook one meal.
Nearly every day one half of our rations would have to be traded off for wood enough to cook the other half. If a man own an axe, he had a fortune. Everyone using it had to leave a piece of wood for toll. No axes were issued to the prisoners. The wood was issued in cord wood sticks, one load of about half a cord, being distributed among ten detachments or about twenty seven hundred men. One stick generally being divided among twenty five. Knives were in great demand, as all of our wood had to be split with them and every little chip was saved as though it was gold. The supply of wood was so small that we had to dig up the ground to get roots which were dried to burn.
The brook where we got all of our water to drink and cook with ran under the stockade. All the slops, from the cook house outside were poured into this brook. Grease floated on the water in quantities sufficient to grease boots, if lucky enough to possess them. In this water we were obliged to wash without soap.
Sometime in August, a spring broke out inside of the dead line but, as that was on forbidden ground we could not get to it. A pole with a string and cup attached like a fish pole was used for awhile, until a trough was constructed so as to run the water inside of the stockade and then the rush was so great, that a line was formed and each man got water in his turn, there sometimes being a line ten or twenty rods long.
The camp was so crowded that it was necessary to have more room. Several Negro prisoners were set to work to build an addition which was finished about the first of July. My detachment moved into it and for a time we made ourselves much more comfortable. As it was some distance to the brook, many wells were dug in order if possible to get better water, oftentimes going as deep as sixty and seventy feet before finding water. I with others started one but, in a different direction from those usually dug.
In order to blind the guard, a well was commenced but at the same time, a hole was dug in a tent within two feet of the well and from that, we started a tunnel. The digging was done with a common knife such as is issued to the soldiers at some of the camps. The hole was about the size of a barrel and only admitted of a man’s working upon his hands and knees. One man dug and poked the dirt back between his legs to No. 2 who put it into a haversack and dragged it back to No. 3 who carefully shoved it through a small hole made into the well.
Just before daylight all digging was stopped and everything covered up, as usual. In the daytime, the dirt which we had dug out and thrown into the well during the night was drawn up in a water pail and to all appearances, we were at work upon the well.
After working nights for about two weeks it was thought we must be under the stockade and we set one dark night to go out but, too many who from some cause had found out what was going on, crowded around our tent, eager for a chance to escape. As such a crowd looked suspicious, we thought best to give it up until the next. The next day was employed in making some parts of the tunnel a little larger and getting everything ready.
We were so near the surface on the outside that a small stick was run up through the ground. Some fellow thinking more of a piece of corn bread or a piece of tobacco than he did of escaping, told the Quartermaster what was going on. When he came up and discovered the tunnel, with four men at work in it at the time, the sweet potatoes that we were going to get from the secesh gardens when we escaped we did not have the good luck to get. The tunnel was at once filled up by the Quartermaster’s workmen.
A second and third one was commenced but, were both discovered before finished. The well which we had commenced was finally finished, getting water at a depth of sixty five feet. There was so much tunneling going on that we were enclosed by a second stockade, afterwards by a third and finally by a fourth which was never quite finished.
During July and August the Rebs were much afraid of Sherman’s army for they would come and release us. Forts and batteries on each corner and side of the stockade and a deep and wide entrenchment surrounded the whole.
Capt. Wirtz Head Quarters was surrounded by an earthwork and mounted fourteen guns all pointing into the stockade. He said several times if there was any attempt made to break open the gates, he would throw grape and canister into the stockade until there was not a damned Yankee left alive.
On the ninth of August there was a very heavy thunder storm. The stockade was washed away in six different places. During the hardest of the storm, two shots were fired from the artillery, at headquarters which was their signal to turn out in case of danger. Their whole force was immediately under arms and placed at the openings to prevent us from escaping. Artillery was planted and men with guns cocked and bayonets fixed, stood there until the niggers repaired the damage. Everyone of the prisoners was drenched to the skin. The next morning hundreds were found who had died during the night. The only way to dry clothes after a rain was by the sun or the heat of the body, wood not being plenty enough to afford a fire for the purpose. An account of the excitement occasioned by the storm, no rations were issued that day, every such occasion being taken advantage of to deprive us our meal.
The average number of deaths during the month of August was said to be one hundred and fifty daily. One morning after a hard storm, it was reported that one hundred and eighty were found dead in the stockade and fifty in the hospital.
If one could get outside, he could pick up dead wood, enough to last several days. 21 was considered a great privilege to carry a dead man out to the dead house, so as to get wood on returning. One day in August, a man died in front of my caboose and fifteen or twenty men stood over him for several hours waiting for him to die. When he was gone, they had a fight among themselves as to which four should carry him out. Similar instances occurred every day.
All kinds of rumors were afloat in the camp in regard to an exchange of prisoners. At first we were all to be exchanged between the seventh and seventeenth of July. Somebody saw someone that knew of somebody who had a friend that had read it in the papers which had been smuggled in by some of the newly arrived prisoners. When the seventeenth passed, then it was to be the first of August and so it went from one date to another until it got to be too old a story to believe. The Rebs would tell us all kinds of favorable stories about exchanging but, all for the purpose of keeping us quiet.
Every morning about nine o’clock, the sick call was sounded and from one to five thousand would attend the call. Sometimes the surgeons were there and sometimes not. Some would hobble along themselves but, the greater part was carried by their comrades in blankets, astride a pole on their shoulders, or in any way to get to the doctor. As but some fifty or sixty were generally admitted to the hospital daily, it was necessary to go in good season, so as to get a good chance. At daylight the crowd would begin to assemble at the gate, each one being anxious to get out as soon as the gate should be unfastened. Many times the call would be announced as closed, leaving perhaps two thousand who had not been able to see the surgeon at all. Men have been there every morning for a week or more without being able to get as far as the doctor’s stand on account of the great crowd.
After being examined, if thought fit for admittance to the hospital, a label with the wood, admitted was pinned onto the clothes of the patient and there he must lay in the hot sun until afternoon before being carried to the hospital. Many died in this situation. Living skeletons could be seen at any time.
The principal sickness was scurvy, diarrhea, gangrene, sores and home sickness. The amount of medicine received at the hospital for a month’s supply, would not last more than four or five days. For the remainder of the month, nothing could be got but decoctions of such roots and herbs as could be found in the woods near the stockade.
While trying to get one of my messmates admitted to the hospital, I was told by one of the surgeons who appeared to be a very nice man, that he was not allowed to admit a prisoner to the hospital until he was nearly dead. If he could have admitted men when they were first taken sick, many could have been cured and their lives saved. He had plenty of fruit and vegetables on his plantation which he would have been glad to have given us but, he was forbidden to do so by the officers at head quarters.
In the latter part of August, a dead house or rather a row of sheds, resembling horse sheds in rear of a country meeting house, was built near the gate. This was often filled with from eighty to one hundred bodies that were often times allowed to remain until the guards were obliged to hold their noses when passing. The dead were piled into an open wagon in the same manner as a farmer piles cord wood, one upon the other as long as they would stay on, with their arms and legs dangling over the sides of the wagon, the mouth and eyes being wide open. The bodies oftentimes being naked. In this manner they were conveyed to the burying ground, where they were buried in long trenches, as thick as they could be laid.
Before leaving the stockade, the dead were oftentimes stripped by their comrades of what good clothes they had and were carried out with nothing on but shirt and drawers. Such means had to be resorted to, to get clothes. If not done by friends, it would have been done by the Rebs.
The water from the brook caused a great deal of sickness. On both sides of the brook was swampy ground and in many places, a foot deep with maggots, worms and all kinds of filth. Every time that it rained, all the filth was washed into the stream.
In getting water, it was best to get as far up as possible and often times men were shot for merely running their arm under the dead line for the purpose of getting clearer water. The guilty were not the only ones that suffered, the shot generally being fired into the crowd.
The Reb force at one time had a festival on a piece of ground near the railroad station and in plain view of the stockade. A sentinel told us afterwards that their tables at that time were loaded with delicacies taken from boxes sent to the prisoners by their friends. Occasionally some would receive a box from home but, in almost every case the best of everything had been taken out.
About the first of September, fresh rumors of an exchange began to circulate through the camp. Early in the evening of the sixth, eighteen detachments had orders to be ready to leave the stockade when called upon. The next morning they took the cars and as we supposed went to be exchanged. All the Rebel officers said upon their honor that it was a general exchange. Some of the prisoners said they had seen a Rebel at the gate who had just come from our lines, exchanged and had on a new suit of clothes which he purchased before leaving Almira N. York. Two trains left every day loaded with prisoners.
On the morning of the thirteenth, it came my turn and after being counted and having several cripples knocked down by the Dutch Captain and some of his guards for not keeping up with the rest while going to the depot, we got into the cars and started as we supposed for home. Reached Macon at noon and left again at three o’clock, arriving in Augusta at seven o’clock the next morning.
Making inquiries here of people who pretended to be our friends, we learned that there was no exchange going on, we were only being moved to prevent our being recaptured by General Sherman, who at the time was getting very near us.
Early on the morning of the fifteenth we entered Charleston S.C. and were marched to the race course, where we were guarded by the Charleston Militia. A line was made with a plow which served for a dead line over which if anyone stepped, he was shot without any warning. I think we were treated better here than in any other place with the exception of Augusta. Ladies were visiting the hospital all day long with baskets full of delicacies for the sick.
The Sisters of Charity visited the camp several times a day and distributed clothing, cooking utensils, medicine, etc. Anyone having money could send into the city by them for anything they wanted. Water was plenty here at the depth of six or eight feet. One half of a canteen was generally the one instrument used in digging a well. After being washed it also served as a plate and fry pan. Here we got for rations, meal, flour, grit rice, salt, soap, beef beans and pork. The quality being good but, the quantity so small as to be dealt out by the spoonful. The whole had to be cooked together to make enough for one meal. This was the first time that we had had soap issued to us since being prisoners.
All along the rail road between Macon and Charleston was to be seen some of the first families living in freight and passenger cars. At some places there was a small village living, or rather staying in this way. Turnout tracks were laid from the main one and the cars were run onto them, in some places by hundreds. All members of the family, beds, sofas, stoves and other articles were stuffed into a car and moved about to suit convenience. A car served for parlor, dining room, bed room and kitchen. All entered by one common stairway, a ladder placed at the door.
When our forces were getting too near for their safety, an engine was coupled on and their moveable houses drawn off to a safer place.
Prisoners on leaving Andersonville were sent in different directions. Some to Charleston, Florrence, Savannah, Millern, Blackshire, some into Florida and other places. During the Fall and Winter, many of them were transferred back to Andersonville where they were kept during the next winter. In some cases, squads were removed and taken back four different times. They were much afraid of General Sherman’s forces.
Every day during our stay in Charleston shells from General Gilmore’s batteries could plainly be seen bursting over the city and setting fire to the buildings. The fire bells of the city were ringing at all times of the day and night. For two or three days, the supply of medicine was stopped in the hospital on account of a shell bursting in the building used as a laboratory.
A great many tried to escape from here but, they were either brought back or shot in the attempt. One man who had on Rebel clothes, crawled out between two guards one dark night, went into the city and stayed nearly a week with some friends whom he found there. He hired a nigger to row him down to our fleet but, was picked up by the harbor patrol and brought back. The nigger was put in prison. One or two were shot every night while trying to escape.
The same fault existed here as in other places as to the supply of wood. There was plenty of it if they would have let us had it. What was issued for three days was hardly sufficient to cook two meals. It was impossible to eat more than once a day. Twenty or thirty loads of wood in one pile looked like a large lot but, when cut up and divided among several thousand, it was but, a small pile to each man.
On the morning of Oct. sixth, we left for Florrence, a place one hundred miles northeast from Charleston. We now felt quite sure that we were going to another pen and after a consultation with my mess mates, we concluded to take the first opportunity to escape on our way up.
On entering a car we placed ourselves near a hole where the boards had been knocked off and as soon as it was dark, tried to crawl out but, the guards who were placed on top of the cars were too watchful. As soon as an arm or a leg showed itself through the hole we were reminded of danger by the aiming of a musket at us. Many jumped from the cars in the day time while in motion but, if lucky enough to escape the shots fired at them, the cars were stopped and the hounds put on their track.
Arriving at Florrence, or within one mile of the town, we laid down for the night in a corn field in the mud and drenching rain. The next morning we were counted and turned into the stockade which was at the time hardly finished. It contained then but about five thousand prisoners but, the number afterwards increased to ten or twelve thousand. The situation of the place was about the same as at Andersonville. A creek of good clear water, better than that at Andersonville ran through the camp with swampy unoccupied ground on either side. In many respects, this was a much better place. At Andersonville the gates were kept closed and chained all the time, while here, they stood open all day, guarded by two sentinels and a piece of artillery. One piece of artillery was mounted and pointed at us on each corner of the stockade.
Before leaving Andersonville, I was getting crippled by scurvy. One leg was drawn up about ten or twelve inches from the ground, so that at times it was impossible to get along only by crawling on hands and knees.
About the time that we reached Florrence, sweet potatoes were getting plenty, being only ten dollars a bushel in Confederate money or one dollar and a half in green backs. As I had neither kind, I sold my meat nearly every day and bought potatoes until the scurvy entirely disappeared.
The stockade was built in the woods and the trees in the inside were left standing but, men owning axes monopolized the whole, chopping them down to build shanties with. Any man giving half a dollar could hire an axe for one hour. No axes were issued to the prisoners and if a good one was seen in camp which perhaps had been purchased from some trading Reb, it would be taken away. All of the wood had to be split with such knives as we happened to be in possession of. After they commenced to issue wood, the supply was sufficient. Here it was plenty of wood with nothing to cook, while at Andersonville it was plenty of meal with no wood to cook it with.
No wood was given us for one month. After picking up the dry trigs and leaves, we had to dig up roots and dry them to burn. At first the tree was cut down, leaving a stump three or four feet high. But as wood grew scarce, the stump was cut off close to the ground and next time, the stump and roots were dug out, cut up and dried for use. Then rain prevented roots from being dried. We sometimes had to fast for twenty four hours or more until the sun came out.
The weather at this time began to be quite cool. We had nothing to cover over us until Oct. 12th, when another member of our Regiment joined us, Samuel Armington, who had a blanket.
Our rations were very small. Salt was not issued at times for several days, then every third day and finally about half a teaspoonful every day. In the summer salt was sold in camp for twenty five cents a spoonful, but it gradually came down to five cents. Oct. 15th, 17th and 23rd, no rations were issued to the camp. Every little excuse was taken advantage of to deprive us of a days ration.
As the cold weather came on, many who had no shelter and poor clothing were induced to take the oath of allegiance and join the Rebel army, with the promise of plenty of clothes, rations, bounty money etc. Many took the oath with the intention of escaping into our lines the first time they should be placed on picket. So many of them ran away and strolled around the country stealing chickens and clothing that finally the whole of them were sent back into the stockade again.
Lieut. Barrett had charge of the inside of the prison and in him if possible we found a worse man than Captain Wirtz. He was a perfect tyrant, never coming into the camp without a stick in his hand and hitting whoever happened to be in his way. At two different times, I saw him draw his pistol and shoot into a crowd that was standing together talking over the news brought in by some new prisoners. Whenever new prisoners were coming in, there was generally a crowd at the gate to see if we could see any of our comrades. If he told us to leave the gate and we did not disappear as quick as though the earth had dropped from under us, he would take a gun from out the hands of a sentry and threaten and several times did fire into the crowd. We being unarmed could make no resistance and if we had had the means, two men out of every three were hardly able to move faster than a walk.
Men not having any shelter were at times allowed to go out under guard and collect sticks and pine boughs to build shelters with. Some dug holes in the ground and lived in them all winter without anything over or under them but the frozen ground. Men that were intelligent and active when taken prisoners, after being there a while, lost all ambition, became careless, got idiotic and crazy and roamed about the camp night and day, oftentimes naked. If asked a question, they would not answer unless to ask for something to eat. Could not tell where they belonged or what their names were.
A great many men passed the winter laying on the ground with nothing on but an old pair of pants which had been patched for a year or more and a few pieces of a once good shirt tied together with string or pinned with bits of sticks, at the same time being both bare footed and bare headed. The winter was a very severe one and seemed colder to us than it would if we had had proper food.
Soap was served to us but once in this place. Sweet potatoes were issued several times but in such small quantities that a whole weeks ration had to be saved in order to get one good meal. Fresh beef in small quantities was issued a few times and molasses was given in place of it.
As the Rebs say (them molasses). Occasionally a few beans were brought in but after a while it got to be nothing but meal, one and a half pint of cob meal for the day. At last it got to be so small that only one good or two half meals could be had in twenty four hours. Rations were issued in the afternoon and oftentimes we would cook the whole for supper and then lay down and sleep or try to until nearly time for rations the next day. At one time five days rations of meal were issued without any salt.
About the middle of Oct. a number of boxes of clothing for the prisoners was received from the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Enough was supposed to have been received to supply nearly the whole camp. Five blankets were distributed among every one hundred men in the following manner. Anyone applying for one had to take his oath that he had no blanket, no shelter nor did not mess with anyone who had. Forty of fifty men out of each hundred would have to draw lots for the five blankets. As my comrades and myself possessed one blanket between us, we could make no claim.
The clothes were given out in another way. Each hundred was formed in line and a Rebel Sergeant would examine the clothes on our backs and give it to whoever he saw fit. A man with good clothes on would sometimes get a new suit while a man almost naked would get nothing. A foreigner was favored while a Yankee was treated as mean as possible. In November another lot of clothing was received and disposed of in the same way as the first.
Supposing that Nov. 24the would be Thanksgiving Day at home, my three tent mates and myself thought to celebrate it as such and wished to get three meals if possible. About two weeks beforehand, we commenced to save a little extra meal by taking a spoonful from each man’s allowance every night and putting it into an extra bag which we laid away until the day should come.
About the 20th Lieut. Barrett said he had been informed that some one was digging a tunnel and he should issue no more rations to us until some one told him where it was and he kept his word, not issuing rations for three days. The extra meal which we had been saving for Thanksgiving came very handy during those three days. When the 24th arrived, an officer came into camp to buy what Yankee notions he could find and I sold him an old port folio for five dollars which sum I expended for sweet potatoes and with the meal which we got for that days ration, we made our Thanksgiving feast. This three days fasting with the cold weather killed many of the men.
All kinds of trades were carried on by the prisoners inside of the stockade. Bakers would build mud ovens, buy meal and bake corn cakes, or bake a man’s ration for a certain portion of it as pay. Some rather than be bothered with cooking would give their meal for one half the quantity in bread. The price of meal varied from five to twenty five cents a quart.
Prisoners raised money by selling little articles which they might have about them such as knives, pocket books, buttons, watches, rings, photographs, pencils, and other little things which one generally carries.
Rebel officers would come into camp and buy almost anything that was offered for sale. There first enquiry was for watches and rings. They wanted to convert their Confederate money into something that would be valuable after the close of the war. From twenty to forty dollars was often giving for a gold pen. Lieut. Barrett with other officers frequently came in and robbed the traders of their greenbacks under the pretense of taking them for safe keeping.
Reports were made every morning of the numbers of prisoners in camp by the officers who called the rolls but, they could not rely upon figures, so every Sunday morning during the winter we were compelled to cross onto one side of the brook and then be counted as we passed to the other side. This oftentimes occupied two hours or more and during that time, men were compelled to stand upon frozen ground with bare feet and heads and hardly any clothing.
All cooking was done with fat pine wood which made smoke as black as tar. Men cooking over this smoke would get so black that at times it was hard to tell whether a man was originally black or white.
The guards were old men from forty five to sixty five and boys from ten to eighteen years of age. They had orders not to converse with the prisoners and to shoot any one who spoke to them. At one time a prisoner asked a sentry for a chew of tobacco and he raised his gun and shot him dead. Someone was shot nearly every day.
There was more attention paid to cleaning this place than at Andersonville. A force was organized by the prisoners who acted as policemen and with club in hand would patrol the camp every morning to see that the ground was properly swept and cleaned. If the grounds belonging to any certain squad was left uncleaned, the whole party had to go without rations for all day. All policemen and others doing any work were allowed an extra ration, which coming from the amount allowed to the whole camp, made the individual rations rather small.
Saturday Nov. 26th, exchange rumors were started again and this time with some foundation. On Sunday the whole camp was examined and several hundred were turned outside the stockade to be paroled. Each thousand was drawn up in line and every man examined by the Rebel surgeon. None were allowed to go except the sick. If any one had money or a watch, or anything valuable, he could purchase sickness. All kinds of tricks were practiced by the prisoners. Some would rub their eyes until sore, bandage their arm, walk lame and try every way to deceive the surgeon. On Monday the examination was continued and about a thousand were sent off that day for Savannah, which was the place of exchange. It was then thought that we should all go in a few days.
On the 20th of December, a part of the paroled were brought back into the stockade. It was said that many of them were recaptured by our men as they neared Savannah. After that city was taken by General Sherman, the point of exchange was at Charleston.
During the month several thousand were paroled. At one of these times, one of my mates, Sam Armington had the good luck to get away. The surgeon was about to pass him without saying anything but, noticing his hair which had been gray for several years asked him the cause of it and on being told that it was in consequence of scurvy and long confinement as a prisoner, wished to see his legs and when he saw the spindles that was shown him, he told him he reckoned he never would be of any more service to the army and he might go home.
Their point was to exchange men that would never again be able to enter the army but, many a cripple swore to go back, if only to meet those men who had had charge of them while prisoners.
Not having very good success with the surgeons, I thought I would try the Lieut. Col. Commanding. I told him I wished to get home. That I had been prisoner a long time, my time had expired, I had been sick most of the time and would like to with the sick squad as nurse. Not succeeding in this, I told him that the most of my friends had died since I entered the service and told him a long pitiful story to which he coolly replied, that I must be a damn fool to want to go home if my friends were all dead. Having at different times made so many unsuccessful attempts to get away, I then made up my mind to stay and make myself as comfortable as possible until they chose to let me go.
It, at that time began to be quite cold. Many times during the winter when lucky enough to have wood, we had to get up and build a fire and sit huddled around it until morning. One thin blanket which had seen hard service one winter on Belle Island and one summer in Andersonville, served three and sometimes four of us for bed clothes. It was so thin that it could be looked through like a sieve and we tore the lining from our clothes to sew on to it to make it large enough to cover us.
My clothing at this time was getting very thin. At first I cut off the bottoms of my pants to reinforce the seat and afterwards served on a knapsack which lasted for some time. For thread we used yarn unraveled from old stockings picked up about the camp. Trades were carried on in the winter as well as the summer. One could get shaved or hair cut, clothes made or mended, boots repaired or any kind of work done for a certain quantity of meal.
Men went through the camp begging for the job of going to the brook for a pail of water, receiving a chew of tobacco as pay for the service. Briar roots were dug up and formed into pipes and those not having the means to buy tobacco, followed the monied men about until they spit out an old chew, which they would pick up, dry and smoke. A good smoke was oftentimes a substitute for something to eat.
The number of lice and fleas increased rather than decreased with cold weather. An average of at least one hundred was found on the person daily and oftentimes as many as three or four hundred. In one way they were a blessing to us, for it took from two to three hours a day to examine our rags and that served to pass away the time.
During the winter we were allowed to fix the brook so that in rainy weather it would not be all mud.
The hospital here was inside the stockade and was carried on principally by our own men. The surgeon came in every morning and prescribed for the sick but, no medicine was given of any account except decoctions of such roots and barks as could be collected about the grounds.
The months of December and January were very cold. Not a flake of snow was seen all winter. The number of deaths was larger in proportion to numbers than in the summer. Many were found frozen stiff every morning. Have known men to get up in the morning and after trying for sometime to wake up their comrade, roll him over and find him to be dead.
Men trying to escape were punished by being suspended by the thumbs and at one time Lieut. Barrett threatened to tie a man up by his thumbs and fasten weights to his feet. Another mode of punishment was to be placed in a dungeon which was built for the purpose and be deprived of food and water for twenty four or forty eight hours.
For a New Years breakfast three of us had what gruel we could make out of one pint of meal without any salt. On February 4th I received my first letter from home. One of my friends who was paroled in December informed my father of my situation which was the first intelligence he had had of me for over eight months.
A box filled with clothing, eatables and other necessaries was at once sent to me but, was never received. February 7th, the whole camp was examined to see how many were able to march. We now thought that Sherman was getting so close to us that we were to be moved to another place for better safety. On the 15th, the first squad left the stockade and on the 17th every man was removed. We were assured by the Rebel officers that we were going to be exchanged but, that story had been told us so often that we could place no confidence in it.
We got into freight cars and after being stowed away like so many hogs and riding all night, reached Wilmington, N.C. After being closely guarded until nine o’clock in the evening, we again took the cars and started towards Weldon but, only got as far as Magnolia. When we were again headed for Wilmington, it was said, to be exchanged. Being so crowded together in the cars seemed to affect many of the prisoners. They were like a lot of crazy men, at times walking upon one another, accusing someone of stealing bread which they never had and talking of things which no one knew anything about.
I had a wooden bucket into which I had crowded an iron pot, a cup and a haversack. I feel asleep sitting upon the bucket and the first that I knew afterwards was when I found myself running up the track after the train with the haversack over my shoulder, the kettle in one hand and my bucket in the other and what little clothing I had on, dripping with water. I afterwards learned from my friends that I made some remark, picked up my bucket and jumped from the car into a gutter full of water side of the track.
After being again put on board the cars, we started for Wilmington. Upon arriving there we were quartered in an open field near the Rebel Convalescent Camp, where we stopped until nearly night, when we were marched down to the rail road, where we spent the night on the cold sand. On the morning of the 21st, we were again packed into freight cars and started once more towards Weldon, but went only about fourteen miles, when we unloaded in a piece of woods where we stayed until the next morning, when we once more took passage in cars and started for Goldsboro.
Heavy firing at the time being heard in Wilmington. Our forces were so near us that we were obliged to be moved for safety. We afterwards learned that our forces took the city a few hours after we left.
On reaching Goldsboro, we were marched to a piece of woods where we made ourselves as comfortable as fire and a very little cob meal would make us.
Our moving about so much gave us so little time to cook that meal was often eaten not more than half cooked, in consequence of which, I was getting to be quite sick. We made a home in the woods until the afternoon of the 26th when we signed a parole, took the cars and about dark, started for Wilmington, where we arrived early the next morning. On nearing Northeast River, within ten miles of Wilmington, the cars stopped and there we saw the Exchange Officer with a squad of U.S. soldiers standing in line. Then we knew that we were to be exchanged and as many as were able joined in a good hearty cheer. Hats, kettles and everything movable was thrown in the air. The ground was covered with rotten blankets, old clothes, kettles, pails and all sorts of traps that ten minutes before were considered of the highest value, but which then became worthless.
We were marched by a Confederate guard to a line of our troops, where we were counted as we passed through by the Exchange Officers. After getting among our own men, we were supplied with plenty of bread, meat, soup, coffee and whiskey, things which we had not seen or tasted for several months.
The well men were marched to Wilmington the same night and the sick were taken down in boats the next morning. The agents of the Sanitary Commission were on the dock and as each prisoner stepped from the boat, he was supplied with a brimming mug of milk punch which was drawn from a large hogshead set on wheels. At that time, boats were conveying the men to Annapolis, not being well enough to attempt the voyage.
I entered hospital #5 known as The Wayside Hospital. My tent mate, John TRIPP who had been with me since the day of my capture and had not seen one sick minute during that time, took one of the first boats for Annapolis, but was taken sick on the voyage and died soon after landing.
After laying around on the floors of the hospital for several days, I was stripped, scrubbed and put into a clean bed, with not as much on as a shirt. Our clothes being so ragged and filthy and not fit for further use, were put in a pile and burned up.
After a few days nursing, I was able to walk about, but could not go out. For the want of clothing, the only walk that could be taken was about the building wrapped up in a sheet or bed quilt. So many thousands entered the place at once that it was impossible to clothe them all without some delay. After many appeals to the surgeon, I succeeded in getting a shirt and several days afterwards, a pair of drawers, so that I was then in a passable condition to appear out of doors. So many appeared in the same suit, that it was thought quite respectable. I attended church one afternoon with a suit of shirt and drawers. After begging a pair of pants from one contraband and a jacket from another, I considered myself well clothed.
After four weeks residence in the hospital, one hundred and eighty of us were taken from the different wards and put on board of a small propeller, where we spent the night. Early the next morning we started down the river and passed Fort Fisher, a place which the Rebs had held until the capture of Wilmington. The boat being small rolled a great deal and our stomachs being weak, made nearly every one sick. After a four day passage, we reached Annapolis in the afternoon of the 29th. Was marched to distribution camp where we were again stripped and given a warm bath and supplied with a new and complete suit of army blue. After staying here one night, we were sent up a few miles farther to parole camp. I did not expect to stay there but a few days, but some mistake in my papers….
[Transcriber's note: the final page of this journal is unfortunately missing.]