From the National Tribune, 9/13/1883
LIFE AT RICHMOND.
To the Editor
was a member of the Twenty-first Illinois volunteers, and at the battle of
Chickamauga, in company with about one-third of my regiment, fell into the hands
of the rebels. After the battle we were packed in cars like cattle and taken to
Atlanta, where we were confined in the stockade and stripped of everything that
we had except our shirts, pants and shoes. From Atlanta we were taken to
Richmond and thrust into Castle Thunder, where we were again searched for any
loose change that we might have about us. Some of the boys managed to keep their
money by secreting it in the hem of their pants. After we had been in Castle
Thunder for a few weeks, we were removed to a large tobacco factory called the
Royster House. This house had three floors, and 500 prisoners were confined on
each floor. Our rations consisted of a small piece of light bread and a piece of
what we called “mule” bread, issued at 9 o’clock every morning. One of my
mess sold his watch, worth $10, to the guard for some bread – 15 loaves –
and every member of our mess agreed to pay a certain amount to him for their
share if he should live to get back to God’s country. After the war I married
and moved out here to Kansas to make a home for myself, and I had not been here
long before I came across the comrade who sold his watch, and my wife raised and
sold enough chickens to pay off the debt which I owed him. We were almost
starved in this prison, and I was so much reduced that I could barely walk, but
one of the rebel sergeants had me sent to the hospital, and I was lucky enough
to be one of some 250 ex-prisoners who were exchanged from this hospital. On our
way down the James River that night several of the boys died on the boat. Just
as it began to get light we saw the old flag – the stars and stripes –
floating from the boat that was waiting for us, and oh! how the boys did cheer!
When we had been transferred to the exchange steamer we found a hearty meal
waiting for us, and doubtless we would have killed ourselves eating, if we had
been allowed to eat as much as we pleased. We were landed at Camp Parole,
Annapolis, and after I had been there about a week or so and was able to move
around, I got on the scales and found I weighed 125 pounds. My weight when
captured was 195 pounds. So you see I lost seventy pounds, although I was only
three months a prisoner.
should like to hear from some of the comrades of my old regiment.
T. P. SAYRE,
Co. B, 21st Ill. V. I.
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