From the National Tribune, 8/29/1895
A SOJOURN IN
What an Illinois Boy Experienced in Rebel Prisons.
EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: Thinking, perhaps, my experience
as a prisoner of war might be interesting, I submit it. I was captured Dec. 18,
1863, and at once sent to Atlanta, Ga., where I found several of our wounded
prisoners from the field of Chickamauga, and among the number a girl, of medium
stature, by the alias of Frank Miller, Co. G, 90th Ill. After a short
sojourn in this camp I was assigned to duty in what was termed the hospital,
where several of our boys were in a sad plight for want of proper treatment. One
of the number having died during the night, I was instructed to place the
remains, after removing the underclothing, in a box for interment.
The order no being in accordance with my ideas of proper
treatment, I refused to obey, which so excited the officer in charge of the
prison that he ordered my rations stopped. Experience soon convinced me that the
demands of nature were stronger than of conscience. Hunger soon caused me to
relent, and the underclothing was removed. I was afterwards informed that the
rebels appropriated these garments to use in their own hospitals.
My stay in Atlanta was brief, owing to the rumors in
circulation relative to a general exchange going on at Richmond. As soon as it
was possible I had my name enrolled to go for exchange.
I omitted to state that during my stay at Atlanta there was
a special exchange, and among the number who were included was the girl referred
to Frank-Miller, as she was called. She wore a complete Yankee uniform suit. On
leaving Atlanta we were crowded into box cars 90 to a car, and started for the
seat of exchange, Richmond. After arriving in the capital we were at once
conducted to Pemberton Prison, and counted in 300’s to each floor.
We remained in this crowded condition for several days,
when the long-expected order for exchange arrived, and with happy hearts we went
forth to Belle Isle.
We had not been on the island long when the report was
circulated that the sick from the hospital were being exchanged. A member of my
company, Charles Godfrey, got the idea that if he could get into the hospital he
could run the gantlet. I made a good-sized pill of hard soap, and he swallowed
the dose. In about one hour he was a fit subject for the doctor, and with the
aid of three or four of the boys he was conveyed outside. It so happened that
the doctor examined him, and he was at once put on the exchange list, and within
two hours was on his way to our lines.
About this time the officers in charge entered the
inclosure, and called the roll of a list of prisoners from some special command.
We were informed that there was to be a special exchange of those whose names
were called. The officer was accompanied by his dog, that during the roll-call
disappeared. This so enraged the rebel that he demanded to know who had stolen
his dog, declaring that unless he was produced not a man should go home. The dog
was found, but in a haversack, partly cooked. This will give some idea of the
condition of the men who found from experience that dog meat was a luxury.
The camp became somewhat excited one day by the firing of
artillery and small-arms. We could not see the parties engaged, there being a
range of hills or highland in the direction of the firing. Everybody from the
city of Richmond seemed to be heading toward the hills.
A battery was soon placed in position commanding the
island, all of which convinced the boys that a portion of the Yankees were
engaging the rebs not far from the city. I was afterwards informed by some
prisoners who were brought in that a raid had been made by our cavalry upon the
fortifications surrounding the city.
After taking our departure from the island we were again
crowded into the close quarters of Scott’s Prison, in the city, preparatory to
another “exchange,” which proved to be Andersonville. Here for seven weary
months we enjoyed the hospitality of that noted landlord, Capt. Wirz, and
[remainder of memoir deals with the writer’s travails in
Andersonville prison, which relates the stock story of cruelty and starvation,
and was not transcribed.]
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