A ludicrous contrast to this took place a few nights later. The rains
had ceased, the weather had become warmer, and our spirits rising with
this increase in the comfort of our surroundings, a number of us were
sitting around "Nosey"--a boy with a superb tenor voice--who was singing
patriotic songs. We were coming in strong on the chorus, in a way that
spoke vastly more for our enthusiasm for the Union than our musical
knowledge. "Nosey" sang the "Star Spangled Banner," "The Battle Cry of
Freedom," "Brave Boys are They," etc., capitally, and we threw our whole
lungs into the chorus. It was quite dark, and while our noise was going
on the guards changed, new men coming on duty. Suddenly, bang! went the
gun of the guard in the box about fifty feet away from us. We knew it
was a Fifty-Fifth Georgian, and supposed that, irritated at our singing,
he was trying to kill some of us for spite. At the sound of the gun we
jumped up and scattered. As no one gave the usual agonized yell of a
prisoner when shot, we supposed the ball had not taken effect. We could
hear the sentinel ramming down another cartridge, hear him "return
rammer," and cock his rifle. Again the gun cracked, and again there was
no sound of anybody being hit. Again we could hear the sentry churning
down another cartridge. The drums began beating the long roll in the
camps, and officers could be heard turning the men out. The thing was
becoming exciting, and one of us sang out to the guard:
"S-a-y! What the are you shooting at, any how?"
"I'm a shootin' at that ---- ---- Yank thar by the Dead Line, and by ---
if you'uns don't take him in I'll blow the whole head offn him."
"What Yank? Where's any Yank?"
"Why, thar--right thar--a-standin' agin the Ded Line."
"Why, you Rebel fool, that's a chunk of wood. You can't get any furlough
for shooting that!"
At this there was a general roar from the rest of the camp, which the
other guards took up, and as the Reserves came double-quicking up, and
learned the occasion of the alarm, they gave the rascal who had been so
anxious to kill somebody a torrent of abuse for having disturbed them.
A part of our crowd had been out after wood during the day, and secured a
piece of a log as large as two of them could carry, and bringing it in,
stood it up near the Dead Line. When the guard mounted to his post he
was sure he saw a temerarious Yankee in front of him, and hastened to
It was an unusual good fortune that nobody was struck. It was very rare
that the guards fired into the prison without hitting at least one
person. The Georgia Reserves, who formed our guards later in the season,
were armed with an old gun called a Queen Anne musket, altered to
percussion. It carried a bullet as big as a large marble, and three or
four buckshot. When fired into a group of men it was sure to bring
I was standing one day in the line at the gate, waiting for a chance to
go out after wood. A Fifty-Fifth Georgian was the gate guard, and he
drew a line in the sand with his bayonet which we should not cross.
The crowd behind pushed one man till he put his foot a few inches over
the line, to save himself from falling; the guard sank a bayonet through
the foot as quick as a flash.
End of Andersonville, v1
by John McElroy
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A STORY OF REBEL MILITARY PRISONS
FIFTEEN MONTHS A GUEST OF THE SO-CALLED
A PRIVATE SOLDIERS EXPERIENCE
RICHMOND, ANDERSONVILLE, SAVANNAH, MILLEN
BLACKSHEAR AND FLORENCE
BY JOHN McELROY
Late of Co. L. 16th Ill Cav.
A NEW LOT OF PRISONERS--THE BATTLE OF OOLUSTEE--MEN SACRIFICED TO A
GENERAL'S INCOMPETENCY--A HOODLUM REINFORCEMENT--A QUEER CROWD--
MISTREATMENT OF AN OFFICER OF A COLORED REGIMENT--KILLING THE SERGEANT OF
A NEGRO SQUAD.
So far only old prisoners--those taken at Gettysburg, Chicamauga and Mine
Run--had been brought in. The armies had been very quiet during the
Winter, preparing for the death grapple in the Spring. There had been
nothing done, save a few cavalry raids, such as our own, and Averill's
attempt to gain and break up the Rebel salt works at Wytheville, and
Saltville. Consequently none but a few cavalry prisoners were added to
the number already in the hands of the Rebels.
The first lot of new ones came in about the middle of March. There were
about seven hundred of them, who had been captured at the battle of
Oolustee, Fla., on the 20th of February. About five hundred of them were
white, and belonged to the Seventh Connecticut, the Seventh New
Hampshire, Forty Seventh, Forty-Eighth and One Hundred and Fifteenth New
York, and Sherman's regular battery. The rest were colored, and belonged
to the Eighth United States, and Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts. The story
they told of the battle was one which had many shameful reiterations
during the war. It was the story told whenever Banks, Sturgis, Butler,
or one of a host of similar smaller failures were trusted with commands.
It was a senseless waste of the lives of private soldiers, and the
property of the United States by pretentious blunderers, who, in some
inscrutable manner, had attained to responsible commands. In this
instance, a bungling Brigadier named Seymore had marched his forces
across the State of Florida, to do he hardly knew what, and in the
neighborhood of an enemy of whose numbers, disposition, location, and
intentions he was profoundly ignorant. The Rebels, under General
Finnegan, waited till he had strung his command along through swamps
and cane brakes, scores of miles from his supports, and then fell
unexpectedly upon his advance. The regiment was overpowered, and another
regiment that hurried up to its support, suffered the same fate. The
balance of the regiments were sent in in the same manner--each arriving
on the field just after its predecessor had been thoroughly whipped by
the concentrated force of the Rebels. The men fought gallantly, but the
stupidity of a Commanding General is a thing that the gods themselves
strive against in vain. We suffered a humiliating defeat, with a loss of
two thousand men and a fine rifled battery, which was brought to
Andersonville and placed in position to command the prison.
The majority of the Seventh New Hampshire were an unwelcome addition to
our numbers. They were N'Yaarkers--old time colleagues of those already
in with us--veteran bounty jumpers, that had been drawn to New Hampshire
by the size of the bounty offered there, and had been assigned to fill up
the wasted ranks of the veteran Seventh regiment. They had tried to
desert as soon as they received their bounty, but the Government clung to
them literally with hooks of steel, sending many of them to the regiment
in irons. Thus foiled, they deserted to the Rebels during the retreat
from the battlefield. They were quite an accession to the force of our
N'Yaarkers, and helped much to establish the hoodlum reign which was
shortly inaugurated over the whole prison.
The Forty-Eighth New Yorkers who came in were a set of chaps so odd in
every way as to be a source of never-failing interest. The name of their
regiment was 'L'Enfants Perdu' (the Lost Children), which we anglicized
into "The Lost Ducks." It was believed that every nation in Europe was
represented in their ranks, and it used to be said jocularly, that no two
of them spoke the same language. As near as I could find out they were
all or nearly all South Europeans, Italians, Spaniards; Portuguese,
Levantines, with a predominance of the French element. They wore a
little cap with an upturned brim, and a strap resting on the chin, a coat
with funny little tales about two inches long, and a brass chain across
the breast; and for pantaloons they had a sort of a petticoat reaching to
the knees, and sewed together down the middle. They were just as
singular otherwise as in their looks, speech and uniform. On one
occasion the whole mob of us went over in a mass to their squad to see
them cook and eat a large water snake, which two of them had succeeded in
capturing in the swamps, and carried off to their mess, jabbering in high
glee over their treasure trove. Any of us were ready to eat a piece of
dog, cat, horse or mule, if we could get it, but, it was generally
agreed, as Dawson, of my company expressed it, that "Nobody but one of
them darned queer Lost Ducks would eat a varmint like a water snake."
Major Albert Bogle, of the Eighth United States, (colored) had fallen
into the hands of the rebels by reason of a severe wound in the leg,
which left him helpless upon the field at Oolustee. The Rebels treated
him with studied indignity. They utterly refused to recognize him as an
officer, or even as a man. Instead of being sent to Macon or Columbia,
where the other officers were, he was sent to Andersonville, the same as
an enlisted man. No care was given his wound, no surgeon would examine
it or dress it. He was thrown into a stock car, without a bed or
blanket, and hauled over the rough, jolting road to Andersonville.
Once a Rebel officer rode up and fired several shots at him, as he lay
helpless on the car floor. Fortunately the Rebel's marksmanship was as
bad as his intentions, and none of the shots took effect. He was placed
in a squad near me, and compelled to get up and hobble into line when the
rest were mustered for roll-call. No opportunity to insult, "the nigger
officer," was neglected, and the N'Yaarkers vied with the Rebels in
heaping abuse upon him. He was a fine, intelligent young man, and bore
it all with dignified self-possession, until after a lapse of some weeks
the Rebels changed their policy and took him from the prison to send to
where the other officers were.
The negro soldiers were also treated as badly as possible. The wounded
were turned into the Stockade without having their hurts attended to.
One stalwart, soldierly Sergeant had received a bullet which had forced
its way under the scalp for some distance, and partially imbedded itself
in the skull, where it still remained. He suffered intense agony, and
would pass the whole night walking up and down the street in front of our
tent, moaning distressingly. The, bullet could be felt plainly with the
fingers, and we were sure that it would not be a minute's work, with a
sharp knife, to remove it and give the man relief. But we could not
prevail upon the Rebel Surgeons even to see the man. Finally
inflammation set in and he died.
The negros were made into a squad by themselves, and taken out every day
to work around the prison. A white Sergeant was placed over them, who
was the object of the contumely of the guards and other Rebels. One day
as he was standing near the gate, waiting his orders to come out, the
gate guard, without any provocation whatever, dropped his gun until the
muzzle rested against the Sergeant's stomach, and fired, killing him
The Sergeantcy was then offered to me, but as I had no accident policy, I
was constrained to decline the honor.
APRIL--LONGING TO GET OUT--THE DEATH RATE--THE PLAGUE OF LICE
--THE SO-CALLED HOSPITAL.
April brought sunny skies and balmy weather. Existence became much more
tolerable. With freedom it would have been enjoyable, even had we been
no better fed, clothed and sheltered. But imprisonment had never seemed
so hard to bear--even in the first few weeks--as now. It was easier to
submit to confinement to a limited area, when cold and rain were aiding
hunger to benumb the faculties and chill the energies than it was now,
when Nature was rousing her slumbering forces to activity, and earth,
and air and sky were filled with stimulus to man to imitate her example.
The yearning to be up and doing something-to turn these golden hours to
good account for self and country--pressed into heart and brain as the
vivifying sap pressed into tree-duct and plant cell, awaking all
vegetation to energetic life.
To be compelled, at such a time, to lie around in vacuous idleness--
to spend days that should be crowded full of action in a monotonous,
objectless routine of hunting lice, gathering at roll-call, and drawing
and cooking our scanty rations, was torturing.
But to many of our number the aspirations for freedom were not, as with
us, the desire for a wider, manlier field of action, so much as an
intense longing to get where care and comforts would arrest their swift
progress to the shadowy hereafter. The cruel rains had sapped away their
stamina, and they could not recover it with the meager and innutritious
diet of coarse meal, and an occasional scrap of salt meat. Quick
consumption, bronchitis, pneumonia, low fever and diarrhea seized upon
these ready victims for their ravages, and bore them off at the rate of
nearly a score a day.
It now became a part of, the day's regular routine to take a walk past
the gates in the morning, inspect and count the dead, and see if any
friends were among them. Clothes having by this time become a very
important consideration with the prisoners, it was the custom of the mess
in which a man died to remove from his person all garments that were of
any account, and so many bodies were carried out nearly naked. The hands
were crossed upon the breast, the big toes tied together with a bit of
string, and a slip of paper containing the man's name, rank, company and
regiment was pinned on the breast of his shirt.
The appearance of the dead was indescribably ghastly. The unclosed eyes
shone with a stony glitter--
An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high:
But, O, more terrible than that,
Is the curse in a dead man's eye.
The lips and nostrils were distorted with pain and hunger, the sallow,
dirt-grimed skin drawn tensely over the facial bones, and the whole
framed with the long, lank, matted hair and beard. Millions of lice
swarmed over the wasted limbs and ridged ribs. These verminous pests had
become so numerous--owing to our lack of changes of clothing, and of
facilities for boiling what we had--that the most a healthy man could
do was to keep the number feeding upon his person down to a reasonable
limit--say a few tablespoonfuls. When a man became so sick as to be
unable to help himself, the parasites speedily increased into millions,
or, to speak more comprehensively, into pints and quarts. It did not
even seem exaggeration when some one declared that lie had seen a dead
man with more than a gallon of lice on him.
There is no doubt that the irritation from the biting of these myriads
materially the days of those who died.
Where a sick man had friends or comrades, of course part of their duty,
in taking care of him, was to "louse" his clothing. One of the most
effectual ways of doing this was to turn the garments wrong side out and
hold the seams as close to the fire as possible, without burning the
cloth. In a short time the lice would swell up and burst open, like pop-
corn. This method was a favorite one for another reason than its
efficacy: it gave one a keener sense of revenge upon his rascally little
tormentors than he could get in any other way.
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