This is a11. I know I speak for all those still living comrades who went
with me through the scenes that I have attempted to describe, when I say
that we have no revenges to satisfy, no hatreds to appease. We do not
ask that anyone shall be punished. We only desire that the Nation shall
recognize and remember the grand fidelity of our dead comrades, and take
abundant care that they shall not have died in vain.
For the great mass of Southern people we have only the kindliest feeling.
We but hate a vicious social system, the lingering shadow of a darker
age, to which they yield, and which, by elevating bad men to power, has
proved their own and their country’s bane.
The following story does not claim to be in any sense a history of
Southern prisons. It is simply a record of the experience of one
individual–one boy–who staid all the time with his comrades inside the
prison, and had no better opportunities for gaining information than any
other of his 60,000 companions.
The majority of the illustrations in this work are from the skilled
pencil of Captain O. J. Hopkins, of Toledo, who served through the war in
the ranks of the Forty-second Ohio. His army experience has been of
peculiar value to the work, as it has enabled him to furnish a series of
illustrations whose life-like fidelity of action, pose and detail are
Some thirty of the pictures, including the frontispiece, and the
allegorical illustrations of War and Peace, are from the atelier of Mr.
O. Reich, Cincinnati, O.
A word as to the spelling: Having always been an ardent believer in the
reformation of our present preposterous system–or rather, no system–of
orthography, I am anxious to do whatever lies in my power to promote it.
In the following pages the spelling is simplified to the last degree
allowed by Webster. I hope that the time is near when even that advanced
spelling reformer will be left far in the rear by the progress of a
people thoroughly weary of longer slavery to the orthographical
absurdities handed down to us from a remote and grossly unlearned
Toledo, O., Dec. 10, 1879.
We wait beneath the furnace blast
The pangs of transformation;
Not painlessly doth God recast
And mold anew the nation.
Hot burns the fire
Where wrongs expire;
Nor spares the hand
That from the land
Uproots the ancient evil.
The hand-breadth cloud the sages feared
Its bloody rain is dropping;
The poison plant the fathers spared
All else is overtopping.
East, West, South, North,
It curses the earth;
All justice dies,
And fraud and lies
Live only in its shadow.
Then let the selfish lip be dumb
And hushed the breath of sighing;
Before the joy of peace must come
The pains of purifying.
God give us grace
Each in his place
To bear his lot,
And, murmuring not,
Endure and wait and labor!
A STORY OF REBEL MILITARY PRISONS
A STRANGE LAND–THE HEART OF THE APPALACHIANS–THE GATEWAY OF AN EMPIRE
–A SEQUESTERED VALE, AND A PRIMITIVE, ARCADIAN, NON-PROGRESSIVE PEOPLE.
A low, square, plainly-hewn stone, set near the summit of the eastern
approach to the formidable natural fortress of Cumberland Gap, indicates
the boundaries of–the three great States of Virginia, Kentucky and
Tennessee. It is such a place as, remembering the old Greek and Roman
myths and superstitions, one would recognize as fitting to mark the
confines of the territories of great masses of strong, aggressive, and
frequently conflicting peoples. There the god Terminus should have had
one of his chief temples, where his shrine would be shadowed by barriers
rising above the clouds, and his sacred solitude guarded from the rude
invasion of armed hosts by range on range of battlemented rocks, crowning
almost inaccessible mountains, interposed across every approach from the
usual haunts of men.
Roundabout the land is full of strangeness and mystery. The throes of
some great convulsion of Nature are written on the face of the four
thousand square miles of territory, of which Cumberland Gap is the
central point. Miles of granite mountains are thrust up like giant
walls, hundreds of feet high, and as smooth and regular as the side
of a monument.
Huge, fantastically-shaped rocks abound everywhere–sometimes rising into
pinnacles on lofty summits–sometimes hanging over the verge of beetling
cliffs, as if placed there in waiting for a time when they could be
hurled down upon the path of an advancing army, and sweep it away.
Large streams of water burst out in the most unexpected planes,
frequently far up mountain sides, and fall in silver veils upon stones
beaten round by the ceaseless dash for ages. Caves, rich in quaintly
formed stalactites and stalagmites, and their recesses filled with
metallic salts of the most powerful and diverse natures; break the
mountain sides at frequent intervals. Everywhere one is met by surprises
and anomalies. Even the rank vegetation is eccentric, and as prone to
develop into bizarre forms as are the rocks and mountains.
The dreaded panther ranges through the primeval, rarely trodden forests;
every crevice in the rocks has for tenants rattlesnakes or stealthy
copperheads, while long, wonderfully swift “blue racers” haunt the edges
of the woods, and linger around the fields to chill his blood who catches
a glimpse of their upreared heads, with their great, balefully bright
eyes, and “white-collar” encircled throats.
The human events happening here have been in harmony with the natural
ones. It has always been a land of conflict. In 1540–339 years ago–
De Soto, in that energetic but fruitless search for gold which occupied
his later years, penetrated to this region, and found it the fastness of
the Xualans, a bold, aggressive race, continually warring with its
neighbors. When next the white man reached the country–a century and a
half later–he found the Xualans had been swept away by the conquering
Cherokees, and he witnessed there the most sanguinary contest between
Indians of which our annals give any account–a pitched battle two days
in duration, between the invading Shawnees, who lorded it over what is
now Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana–and the Cherokees, who dominated the
country the southeast of the Cumberland range. Again the Cherokees were
victorious, and the discomfited Shawnees retired north of the Gap.
Then the white man delivered battle for the possession the land, and
bought it with the lives of many gallant adventurers. Half a century
later Boone and his hardy companion followed, and forced their way into
Another half century saw the Gap the favorite haunt of the greatest of
American bandits–the noted John A. Murrell–and his gang. They
infested the country for years, now waylaying the trader or drover
threading his toilsome way over the lone mountains, now descending upon
some little town, to plunder its stores and houses.
At length Murrell and his band were driven out, and sought a new field of
operations on the Lower Mississippi. They left germs behind them,
however, that developed into horse thieve counterfeiters, and later into
guerrillas and bushwhackers.
When the Rebellion broke out the region at once became the theater of
military operations. Twice Cumberland Gap was seized by the Rebels, and
twice was it wrested away from them. In 1861 it was the point whence
Zollicoffer launched out with his legions to “liberate Kentucky,” and it
was whither they fled, beaten and shattered, after the disasters of Wild
Cat and Mill Springs. In 1862 Kirby Smith led his army through the Gap
on his way to overrun Kentucky and invade the North. Three months later
his beaten forces sought refuge from their pursuers behind its
impregnable fortifications. Another year saw Burnside burst through the
Gap with a conquering force and redeem loyal East Tennessee from its
Had the South ever been able to separate from the North the boundary
would have been established along this line.
Between the main ridge upon which Cumberland Gap is situated, and the
next range on the southeast which runs parallel with it, is a narrow,
long, very fruitful valley, walled in on either side for a hundred miles
by tall mountains as a City street is by high buildings. It is called
Powell’s Valley. In it dwell a simple, primitive people, shut out from
the world almost as much as if they lived in New Zealand, and with the
speech, manners and ideas that their fathers brought into the Valley when
they settled it a century ago. There has been but little change since
then. The young men who have annually driven cattle to the distant
markets in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, have brought back occasional
stray bits of finery for the “women folks,” and the latest improved fire-
arms for themselves, but this is about all the innovations the progress
of the world has been allowed to make. Wheeled vehicles are almost
unknown; men and women travel on horseback as they did a century ago,
the clothing is the product of the farm and the busy looms of the women,
and life is as rural and Arcadian as any ever described in a pastoral.
The people are rich in cattle, hogs, horses, sheep and the products of
the field. The fat soil brings forth the substantials of life in opulent
plenty. Having this there seems to be little care for more. Ambition
nor avarice, nor yet craving after luxury, disturb their contented souls
or drag them away from the non-progressive round of simple life
bequeathed them by their fathers.
SCARCITY OF FOOD FOR THE ARMY–RAID FOR FORAGE–ENCOUNTER WIT THE REBELS
–SHARP CAVALRY FIGHT–DEFEAT OF THE “JOHNNIES”–POWELL’S VALLEY OPENED
As the Autumn of 1863 advanced towards Winter the difficulty of supplying
the forces concentrated around Cumberland Gap–as well as the rest of
Burnside’s army in East Tennessee–became greater and greater. The base
of supplies was at Camp Nelson, near Lexington, Ky., one hundred and
eighty miles from the Gap, and all that the Army used had to be hauled
that distance by mule teams over roads that, in their best state were
wretched, and which the copious rains and heavy traffic had rendered
well-nigh impassable. All the country to our possession had been drained
of its stock of whatever would contribute to the support of man or beast.
That portion of Powell’s Valley extending from the Gap into Virginia was
still in the hands of the Rebels; its stock of products was as yet almost
exempt from military contributions. Consequently a raid was projected to
reduce the Valley to our possession, and secure its much needed stores.
It was guarded by the Sixty-fourth Virginia, a mounted regiment, made up
of the young men of the locality, who had then been in the service about
Maj. C. H. Beer’s third Battalion, Sixteenth Illinois Cavalry–four
companies, each about 75 strong–was sent on the errand of driving out
the Rebels and opening up the Valley for our foraging teams. The writer
was invited to attend the excursion. As he held the honorable, but not
very lucrative position of “high, private” in Company L, of the
Battalion, and the invitation came from his Captain, he did not feel at
liberty to decline. He went, as private soldiers have been in the habit
of doing ever since the days of the old Centurion, who said with the
characteristic boastfulness of one of the lower grades of commissioned
officers when he happens to be a snob:
For I am also a man set under authority, having under me soldiers,
and I say unto one, Go; and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he
cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
Rather “airy” talk that for a man who nowadays would take rank with
Captains of infantry.
Three hundred of us responded to the signal of “boots and saddles,”
buckled on three hundred more or less trusty sabers and revolvers,
saddled three hundred more or less gallant steeds, came into line “as
companies” with the automatic listlessness of the old soldiers, “counted
off by fours” in that queer gamut-running style that makes a company of
men “counting off”–each shouting a number in a different voice from his
neighbor–sound like running the scales on some great organ badly out of
tune; something like this:
One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three.
Then, as the bugle sounded “Right forward! fours right!” we moved off at
a walk through the melancholy mist that soaked through the very fiber of
man and horse, and reduced the minds of both to a condition of limp
indifference as to things past, present and future.
Whither we were going we knew not, nor cared. Such matters had long
since ceased to excite any interest. A cavalryman soon recognizes as the
least astonishing thing in his existence the signal to “Fall in!” and
start somewhere. He feels that he is the “Poor Joe” of the Army–under
perpetual orders to “move on.”
Down we wound over the road that zig-tagged through the forts, batteries
and rifle-pits covering the eastern ascent to the Flap-past the wonderful
Murrell Spring–so-called because the robber chief had killed, as he
stooped to drink of its crystal waters, a rich drover, whom he was
pretending to pilot through the mountains–down to where the “Virginia
road” turned off sharply to the left and entered Powell’s Valley. The
mist had become a chill, dreary rain, through, which we plodded silently,
until night closed in around us some ten miles from the Gap. As we
halted to go into camp, an indignant Virginian resented the invasion of
the sacred soil by firing at one of the guards moving out to his place.
The guard looked at the fellow contemptuously, as if he hated to waste
powder on a man who had no better sense than to stay out in such a rain,
when he could go in-doors, and the bushwhacker escaped, without even a
Fires were built, coffee made, horses rubbed, and we laid down with feet
to the fire to get what sleep we could.
Before morning we were awakened by the bitter cold. It had cleared off
during the night and turned so cold that everything was frozen stiff.
This was better than the rain, at all events. A good fire and a hot cup
of coffee would make the cold quite endurable.
At daylight the bugle sounded “Right forward! fours right!” again, and
the 300 of us resumed our onward plod over the rocky, cedar-crowned
In the meantime, other things were taking place elsewhere. Our esteemed
friends of the Sixty-fourth Virginia, who were in camp at the little town
of Jonesville, about 40 miles from the Gap, had learned of our starting
up the Valley to drive them out, and they showed that warm reciprocity
characteristic of the Southern soldier, by mounting and starting down the
Valley to drive us out. Nothing could be more harmonious, it will be
perceived. Barring the trifling divergence of yews as to who was to
drive and who be driven, there was perfect accord in our ideas.
Our numbers were about equal. If I were to say that they considerably
outnumbered us, I would be following the universal precedent.
No soldier-high or low-ever admitted engaging an equal or inferior force
of the enemy.
About 9 o’clock in the morning–Sunday–they rode through the streets of
Jonesville on their way to give us battle. It was here that most of the
members of the Regiment lived. Every man, woman and child in the town
was related in some way to nearly every one of the soldiers.
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