All at once it struck me that with all our progress the hounds sounded as
near as when we started. I shivered at the thought, and though nearly
ready to drop with fatigue, urged myself and Harney on.
An instant later their baying rang out on the still night air right
behind us, and with fearful distinctness. There was no mistake now; they
had found our trail, and were running us down. The change from fearful
apprehension to the crushing reality stopped us stock-still in our
At the next breath the hounds came bursting through the woods in plain
sight, and in full cry. We obeyed our first impulse; rushed back into
the swamp, forced our way for a few yards through the flesh-tearing
impediments, until we gained a large cypress, upon whose great knees we
climbed–thoroughly exhausted–just as the yelping pack reached the edge
of the water, and stopped there and bayed at us. It was a physical
impossibility for us to go another step.
In a moment the low-browed villain who had charge of the hounds came
galloping up on his mule, tooting signals to his dogs as he came, on the
cow-horn slung from his shoulders.
He immediately discovered us, covered us with his revolver, and yelled
“Come ashore, there, quick: you—- —- —- —-s!”
There was no help for it. We climbed down off the knees and started
towards the land. As we neared it, the hounds became almost frantic,
and it seemed as if we would be torn to pieces the moment they could
reach us. But the master dismounted and drove them back. He was surly-
even savage–to us, but seemed in too much hurry to get back to waste any
time annoying us with the dogs. He ordered us to get around in front of
the mule, and start back to camp. We moved as rapidly as our fatigue and
our lacerated feet would allow us, and before midnight were again in the
hospital, fatigued, filthy, torn, bruised and wretched beyond description
The next morning we were turned back into the Stockade as punishment.
AUGUST–GOOD LUCK IN NOT MEETING CAPTAIN WIRZ–THAT WORTHY’S TREATMENT OF
RECAPTURED PRISONERS–SECRET SOCIETIES IN PRISON–SINGULAR MEETING AND
ITS RESULT–DISCOVERY AND REMOVAL OF THE OFFICERS AMONG THE ENLISTED MEN.
Harney and I were specially fortunate in being turned back into the
Stockade without being brought before Captain Wirz.
We subsequently learned that we owed this good luck to Wirz’s absence on
sick leave–his place being supplied by Lieutenant Davis, a moderate
brained Baltimorean, and one of that horde of Marylanders in the Rebel
Army, whose principal service to the Confederacy consisted in working
themselves into “bomb-proof” places, and forcing those whom they
displaced into the field. Winder was the illustrious head of this crowd
of bomb-proof Rebels from “Maryland, My Maryland!” whose enthusiasm for
the Southern cause and consistency in serving it only in such places as
were out of range of the Yankee artillery, was the subject of many bitter
jibes by the Rebels–especially by those whose secure berths they
possessed themselves of.
Lieutenant Davis went into the war with great brashness. He was one of
the mob which attacked the Sixth Massachusetts in its passage through
Baltimore, but, like all of that class of roughs, he got his stomach full
of war as soon as the real business of fighting began, and he retired to
where the chances of attaining a ripe old age were better than in front
of the Army of the Potomac’s muskets. We shall hear of Davis again.
Encountering Captain Wirz was one of the terrors of an abortive attempt
to escape. When recaptured prisoners were brought before him he would
frequently give way to paroxysms of screaming rage, so violent as to
closely verge on insanity. Brandishing the fearful and wonderful
revolver–of which I have spoken in such a manner as to threaten the
luckless captives with instant death, he would shriek out imprecations,
curses; and foul epithets in French, German and English, until he fairly
frothed at the mouth. There were plenty of stories current in camp of his
having several times given away to his rage so far as to actually shoot
men down in these interviews, and still more of his knocking boys down
and jumping upon them, until he inflicted injuries that soon resulted in
death. How true these rumors were I am unable to say of my own personal
knowledge, since I never saw him kill any one, nor have I talked with any
one who did. There were a number of cases of this kind testified to upon
his trial, but they all happened among “paroles” outside the Stockade,
or among the prisoners inside after we left, so I knew nothing of them.
One of the Old Switzer’s favorite ways of ending these seances was to
inform the boys that he would have them shot in an hour or so, and bid
them prepare for death. After keeping them in fearful suspense for hours
he would order them to be punished with the stocks, the ball-and-chain,
the chain-gang, or–if his fierce mood had burned itself entirely out–
as was quite likely with a man of his shallop’ brain and vacillating
temper–to be simply returned to the stockade.
Nothing, I am sure, since the days of the Inquisition–or still later,
since the terrible punishments visited upon the insurgents of 1848 by the
Austrian aristocrats–has been so diabolical as the stocks and chain-
gangs, as used by Wirz. At one time seven men, sitting in the stocks
near the Star Fort–in plain view of the camp–became objects of interest
to everybody inside. They were never relieved from their painful
position, but were kept there until all of them died. I think it was
nearly two weeks before the last one succumbed. What they endured in
that time even imagination cannot conceive–I do not think that an Indian
tribe ever devised keener torture for its captives.
The chain-gang consisted of a number of men–varying from twelve to
twenty-five, all chained to one sixty-four pound ball. They were also
stationed near the Star Fort, standing out in the hot sun, without a
particle of shade over them. When one moved they all had to move.
They were scourged with the dysentery, and the necessities of some one
of their number kept them constantly in motion. I can see them
distinctly yet, tramping laboriously and painfully back and forward over
that burning hillside, every moment of the long, weary Summer days.
A comrade writes to remind me of the beneficent work of the Masonic
Order. I mention it most gladly, as it was the sole recognition on the
part of any of our foes of our claims to human kinship. The churches of
all denominations–except the solitary Catholic priest, Father Hamilton,
–ignored us as wholly as if we were dumb beasts. Lay humanitarians were
equally indifferent, and the only interest manifested by any Rebel in the
welfare of any prisoner was by the Masonic brotherhood. The Rebel Masons
interested themselves in securing details outside the Stockade in the
cookhouse, the commissary, and elsewhere, for the brethren among the
prisoners who would accept such favors. Such as did not feel inclined to
go outside on parole received frequent presents in the way of food, and
especially of vegetables, which were literally beyond price. Materials
were sent inside to build tents for the Masons, and I think such as made
themselves known before death, received burial according to the rites of
the Order. Doctor White, and perhaps other Surgeons, belonged to the
fraternity, and the wearing of a Masonic emblem by a new prisoner was
pretty sure to catch their eyes, and be the means of securing for the
wearer the tender of their good offices, such as a detail into the
Hospital as nurse, ward-master, etc.
I was not fortunate enough to be one of the mystic brethren, and so
missed all share in any of these benefits, as well as in any others,
and I take special pride in one thing: that during my whole imprisonment
I was not beholden to a Rebel for a single favor of any kind. The Rebel
does not live who can say that he ever gave me so much as a handful of
meal, a spoonful of salt, an inch of thread, or a stick of wood.
From first to last I received nothing but my rations, except occasional
trifles that I succeeded in stealing from the stupid officers charged
with issuing rations. I owe no man in the Southern Confederacy gratitude
for anything–not even for a kind word.
Speaking of secret society pins recalls a noteworthy story which has been
told me since the war, of boys whom I knew. At the breaking out of
hostilities there existed in Toledo a festive little secret society,
such as lurking boys frequently organize, with no other object than fun
and the usual adolescent love of mystery. There were a dozen or so
members in it who called themselves “The Royal Reubens,” and were headed
by a bookbinder named Ned Hopkins. Some one started a branch of the
Order in Napoleon, O., and among the members was Charles E. Reynolds,
of that town. The badge of the society was a peculiarly shaped gold pin.
Reynolds and Hopkins never met, and had no acquaintance with each other.
When the war broke out, Hopkins enlisted in Battery H, First Ohio
Artillery, and was sent to the Army of the Potomac, where he was
captured, in the Fall of 1863, while scouting, in the neighborhood of
Richmond. Reynolds entered the Sixty-Eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry,
and was taken in the neighborhood of Jackson, Miss.,–two thousand miles
from the place of Hopkins’s capture. At Andersonville Hopkins became one
of the officers in charge of the Hospital. One day a Rebel Sergeant, who
called the roll in the Stockade, after studying Hopkins’s pin a minute,
“I seed a Yank in the Stockade to-day a-wearing a pin egzackly like that
This aroused Hopkins’s interest, and he went inside in search of the
other “feller.” Having his squad and detachment there was little
difficulty in finding him. He recognized the pin, spoke to its wearer,
gave him the “grand hailing sign” of the “Royal Reubens,” and it was duly
responded to. The upshot of the matter was that he took Reynolds out
with him as clerk, and saved his life, as the latter was going down hill
very rapidly. Reynolds, in turn, secured the detail of a comrade of the
Sixty-Eighth who was failing fast, and succeeded in saving his life–all
of which happy results were directly attributable to that insignificant
boyish society, and its equally unimportant badge of membership.
Along in the last of August the Rebels learned that there were between
two and three hundred Captains and Lieutenants in the Stockade, passing
themselves off as enlisted men. The motive of these officers was two-
fold: first, a chivalrous wish to share the fortunes and fate of their
boys, and second, disinclination to gratify the Rebels by the knowledge
of the rank of their captives. The secret was so well kept that none of
us suspected it until the fact was announced by the Rebels themselves.
They were taken out immediately, and sent to Macon, where the
commissioned officers’ prison was. It would not do to trust such
possible leaders with us another day.
FOOD–THE MEAGERNESS, INFERIOR QUALITY, AND TERRIBLE SAMENESS–
REBEL TESTIMONY ON THE SUBJECT–FUTILITY OF SUCCESSFUL EXPLANATION.
I have in other places dwelt upon the insufficiency and the nauseousness
of the food. No words that I can use, no insistence upon this theme, can
give the reader any idea of its mortal importance to us.
Let the reader consider for a moment the quantity, quality, and variety
of food that he now holds to be necessary for the maintenance of life and
health. I trust that every one who peruses this book–that every one in
fact over whom the Stars and Stripes wave–has his cup of coffee, his
biscuits and his beefsteak for breakfast–a substantial dinner of roast
or boiled–and a lighter, but still sufficient meal in the evening.
In all, certainly not less than fifty different articles are set before
him during the day, for his choice as elements of nourishment. Let him
scan this extended bill-of-fare, which long custom has made so common-
place as to be uninteresting–perhaps even wearisome to think about–
and see what he could omit from it, if necessity compelled him. After a
reluctant farewell to fish, butter, eggs, milk, sugar, green and
preserved fruits, etc., he thinks that perhaps under extraordinary
circumstances he might be able to merely sustain life for a limited
period on a diet of bread and meat three times a day, washed down with
creamless, unsweetened coffee, and varied occasionally with additions of
potatos, onions, beans, etc. It would astonish the Innocent to have one
of our veterans inform him that this was not even the first stage of
destitution; that a soldier who had these was expected to be on the
summit level of contentment. Any of the boys who followed Grant to
Appomattox Court House, Sherman to the Sea, or “Pap” Thomas till his
glorious career culminated with the annihilation of Hood, will tell him
of many weeks when a slice of fat pork on a piece of “hard tack” had to
do duty for the breakfast of beefsteak and biscuits; when another slice
of fat pork and another cracker served for the dinner of roast beef and
vegetables, and a third cracker and slice of pork was a substitute for
the supper of toast and chops.
I say to these veterans in turn that they did not arrive at the first
stages of destitution compared with the depths to which we were dragged.
The restriction for a few weeks to a diet of crackers and fat pork was
certainly a hardship, but the crackers alone, chemists tell us, contain
all the elements necessary to support life, and in our Army they were
always well made and very palatable. I believe I risk nothing in saying
that one of the ordinary square crackers of our Commissary Department
contained much more real nutriment than the whole of our average ration.
I have before compared the size, shape and appearance of the daily half
loaf of corn bread issued to us to a half-brick, and I do not yet know of
a more fitting comparison. At first we got a small piece of rusty bacon
along with this; but the size of this diminished steadily until at last
it faded away entirely, and during the last six months of our
imprisonment I do not believe that we received rations of meat above a
To this smallness was added ineffable badness. The meal was ground very
coarsely, by dull, weakly propelled stones, that imperfectly crushed the
grains, and left the tough, hard coating of the kernels in large, sharp,
mica-like scales, which cut and inflamed the stomach and intestines,
like handfuls of pounded glass. The alimentary canals of all compelled
to eat it were kept in a continual state of irritation that usually
terminated in incurable dysentery.
That I have not over-stated this evil can be seen by reference to the
testimony of so competent a scientific observer as Professor Jones, and I
add to that unimpeachable testimony the following extract from the
statement made in an attempted defense of Andersonville by Doctor R.
Randolph Stevenson, who styles himself, formerly Surgeon in the Army of
the Confederate States of America, Chief Surgeon of the Confederate
States Military Prison Hospitals, Andersonville, Ga.:
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