The usual scenes accompanying the departure of first squads were being
acted tumultuously. Every one in the camp wanted to be one of the
supposed-to-be-favored few, and if not selected at first, tried to “flank
in”–that is, slip into the place of some one else who had had better
luck. This one naturally resisted displacement, ‘vi et armis,’ and the
fights would become so general as to cause a resemblance to the famed
Fair of Donnybrook. The cry would go up:
“Look out for flankers!”
The lines of the selected would dress up compactly, and outsiders trying
to force themselves in would get mercilessly pounded.
We finally got out of the pen, and into the cars, which soon rolled away
to the westward. We were packed in too densely to be able to lie down.
We could hardly sit down. Andrews and I took up our position in one
corner, piled our little treasures under us, and trying to lean against
each other in such a way as to afford mutual support and rest, dozed
fitfully through a long, weary night.
When morning came we found ourselves running northwest through a poor,
pine-barren country that strongly resembled that we had traversed in
coming to Savannah. The more we looked at it the more familiar it
became, and soon there was no doubt we were going back to Andersonville.
By noon we had reached Millen–eighty miles from Savannah, and fifty-
three from Augusta. It was the junction of the road leading to Macon and
that running to Augusta. We halted a little while at the “Y,” and to us
the minutes were full of anxiety. If we turned off to the left we were
going back to Andersonville. If we took the right hand road we were on
the way to Charleston or Richmond, with the chances in favor of exchange.
At length we started, and, to our joy, our engine took the right hand
track. We stopped again, after a run of five miles, in the midst of one
of the open, scattering forests of long leaved pine that I have before
described. We were ordered out of the cars, and marching a few rods,
came in sight of another of those hateful Stockades, which seemed to be
as natural products of the Sterile sand of that dreary land as its
desolate woods and its breed of boy murderers and gray-headed assassins.
Again our hearts sank, and death seemed more welcome than incarceration
in those gloomy wooden walls. We marched despondently up to the gates of
the Prison, and halted while a party of Rebel clerks made a list of our
names, rank, companies, and regiments. As they were Rebels it was slow
work. Reading and writing never came by nature, as Dogberry would say,
to any man fighting for Secession. As a rule, he took to them as
reluctantly as if, he thought them cunning inventions of the Northern
Abolitionist to perplex and demoralize him. What a half-dozen boys taken
out of our own ranks would have done with ease in an hour or so, these
Rebels worried over all of the afternoon, and then their register of us
was so imperfect, badly written and misspelled, that the Yankee clerks
afterwards detailed for the purpose, never could succeed in reducing it
We learned that the place at which we had arrived was Camp Lawton, but we
almost always spoke of it as “Millen,” the same as Camp Sumter is
universally known as Andersonville.
Shortly after dark we were turned inside the Stockade. Being the first
that had entered, there was quite a quantity of wood–the offal from the
timber used in constructing the Stockade–lying on the ground. The night
was chilly one we soon had a number of fires blazing. Green pitch pine,
when burned, gives off a peculiar, pungent odor, which is never forgotten
by one who has once smelled it. I first became acquainted with it on
entering Andersonville, and to this day it is the most powerful
remembrance I can have of the opening of that dreadful Iliad of woes.
On my journey to Washington of late years the locomotives are invariably
fed with pitch pine as we near the Capital, and as the well-remembered
smell reaches me, I grow sick at heart with the flood of saddening
recollections indissolubly associated with it.
As our fires blazed up the clinging, penetrating fumes diffused
themselves everywhere. The night was as cool as the one when we arrived
at Andersonville, the earth, meagerly sodded with sparse, hard, wiry
grass, was the same; the same piney breezes blew in from the surrounding
trees, the same dismal owls hooted at us; the same mournful whip-poor-
will lamented, God knows what, in the gathering twilight. What we both
felt in the gloomy recesses of downcast hearts Andrews expressed as he
turned to me with:
“My God, Mc, this looks like Andersonville all over again.”
A cupful of corn meal was issued to each of us. I hunted up some water.
Andrews made a stiff dough, and spread it about half an inch thick on the
back of our chessboard. He propped this up before the fire, and when the
surface was neatly browned over, slipped it off the board and turned it
over to brown the other side similarly. This done, we divided it
carefully between us, swallowed it in silence, spread our old overcoat on
the ground, tucked chess-board, can, and spoon under far enough to be out
of the reach of thieves, adjusted the thin blanket so as to get the most
possible warmth out of it, crawled in close together, and went to sleep.
This, thank Heaven, we could do; we could still sleep, and Nature had
some opportunity to repair the waste of the day. We slept, and forgot
where we were.
OUR NEW QUARTERS AT CAMP LAWTON–BUILDING A HUT–AN EXCEPTIONAL
COMMANDANT–HE IS a GOOD MAN, BUT WILL TAKE BRIBES–RATIONS.
In the morning we took a survey of our new quarters, and found that we
were in a Stockade resembling very much in construction and dimensions
that at Andersonville. The principal difference was that the upright
logs were in their rough state, whereas they were hewed at Andersonville,
and the brook running through the camp was not bordered by a swamp, but
had clean, firm banks.
Our next move was to make the best of the situation. We were divided
into hundreds, each commanded by a Sergeant. Ten hundreds constituted a
division, the head of which was also a Sergeant. I was elected by my
comrades to the Sergeantcy of the Second Hundred of the First Division.
As soon as we were assigned to our ground, we began constructing shelter.
For the first and only time in my prison experience, we found a full
supply of material for this purpose, and the use we made of it showed how
infinitely better we would have fared if in each prison the Rebels had
done even so slight a thing as to bring in a few logs from the
surrounding woods and distribute them to us. A hundred or so of these
would probably have saved thousands of lives at Andersonville and
A large tree lay on the ground assigned to our hundred. Andrews and I
took possession of one side of the ten feet nearest the butt. Other boys
occupied the rest in a similar manner. One of our boys had succeeded in
smuggling an ax in with him, and we kept it in constant use day and
night, each group borrowing it for an hour or so at a time. It was as
dull as a hoe, and we were very weak, so that it was slow work “niggering
off”–(as the boys termed it) a cut of the log. It seemed as if beavers
could have gnawed it off easier and more quickly. We only cut an inch or
so at a time, and then passed the ax to the next users. Making little
wedges with a dull knife, we drove them into the log with clubs, and
split off long, thin strips, like the weatherboards of a house, and by
the time we had split off our share of the log in this slow and laborious
way, we had a fine lot of these strips. We were lucky enough to find
four forked sticks, of which we made the corners of our dwelling, and
roofed it carefully with our strips, held in place by sods torn up from
the edge of the creek bank. The sides and ends were enclosed; we
gathered enough pine tops to cover the ground to a depth of several
inches; we banked up the outside, and ditched around it, and then had the
most comfortable abode we had during our prison career. It was truly a
house builded with our own hands, for we had no tools whatever save the
occasional use of the aforementioned dull axe and equally dull knife.
The rude little hut represented as much actual hard, manual labor as
would be required to build a comfortable little cottage in the North,
but we gladly performed it, as we would have done any other work to
better our condition.
For a while wood was quite plentiful, and we had the luxury daily of warm
fires, which the increasing coolness of the weather made important
accessories to our comfort.
Other prisoners kept coming in. Those we left behind at Savannah
followed us, and the prison there was broken up. Quite a number also
came in from–Andersonville, so that in a little while we had between six
and seven thousand in the Stockade. The last comers found all the
material for tents and all the fuel used up, and consequently did not
fare so well as the earlier arrivals.
The commandant of the prison–one Captain Bowes–was the best of his
class it was my fortune to meet. Compared with the senseless brutality
of Wirz, the reckless deviltry of Davis, or the stupid malignance of
Barrett, at Florence, his administration was mildness and wisdom itself.
He enforced discipline better than any of those named, but has what they
all lacked–executive ability–and he secured results that they could not
possibly attain, and without anything, like the friction that attended
their efforts. I do not remember that any one was shot during our six
weeks’ stay at Millen–a circumstance simply remarkable, since I do not
recall a single week passed anywhere else without at least one murder by
One instance will illustrate the difference of his administration from
that of other prison commandants. He came upon the grounds of our
division one morning, accompanied by a pleasant-faced, intelligent-
appearing lad of about fifteen or sixteen. He said to us:
“Gentlemen: (The only instance during our imprisonment when we received
so polite a designation.) This is my son, who will hereafter call your
roll. He will treat you as gentlemen, and I know you will do the same to
This understanding was observed to the letter on both sides. Young Bowes
invariably spoke civilly to us, and we obeyed his orders with a prompt
cheerfulness that left him nothing to complain of.
The only charge I have to make against Bowes is made more in detail in
another chapter, and that is, that he took money from well prisoners for
giving them the first chance to go through on the Sick Exchange.
How culpable this was I must leave each reader to decide for himself.
I thought it very wrong at the time, but possibly my views might have
been colored highly by my not having any money wherewith to procure my
own inclusion in the happy lot of the exchanged.
Of one thing I am certain: that his acceptance of money to bias his
official action was not singular on his part. I am convinced that every
commandant we had over us–except Wirz–was habitually in the receipt of
bribes from prisoners. I never heard that any one succeeded in bribing
Wirz, and this is the sole good thing I can say of that fellow. Against
this it may be said, however, that he plundered the boys so effectually
on entering the prison as to leave them little of the wherewithal to
Davis was probably the most unscrupulous bribe-taker of the lot.
He actually received money for permitting prisoners to escape to our
lines, and got down to as low a figure as one hundred dollars for this
sort of service. I never heard that any of the other commandants went
The rations issued to us were somewhat better than those of
Andersonville, as the meal was finer and better, though it was absurdedly
insufficient in quantity, and we received no salt. On several occasions
fresh beef was dealt out to us, and each time the excitement created
among those who had not tasted fresh meat for weeks and months was
wonderful. On the first occasion the meat was simply the heads of the
cattle killed for the use of the guards. Several wagon loads of these
were brought in and distributed. We broke them up so that every man got
a piece of the bone, which was boiled and reboiled, as long as a single
bubble of grease would rise to the surface of the water; every vestige of
meat was gnawed and scraped from the surface and then the bone was
charred until it crumbled, when it was eaten. No one who has not
experienced it can imagine the inordinate hunger for animal food of those
who had eaten little else than corn bread for so long. Our exhausted
bodies were perishing for lack of proper sustenance. Nature indicated
fresh beef as the best medium to repair the great damage already done,
and our longing for it became beyond description.
THE RAIDERS REAPPEAR ON THE SCENE–THE ATTEMPT TO ASSASSINATE THOSE WHO
WERE CONCERNED IN THE EXECUTION–A COUPLE OF LIVELY FIGHTS, IN WHICH THE
RAIDERS ARE DEFEATED–HOLDING AN ELECTION.
Our old antagonists–the Raiders–were present in strong force in Millen.
Like ourselves, they had imagined the departure from Andersonville was
for exchange, and their relations to the Rebels were such that they were
all given a chance to go with the first squads. A number had been
allowed to go with the sailors on the Special Naval Exchange from
Savannah, in the place of sailors and marines who had died. On the way
to Charleston a fight had taken place between them and the real sailors,
during which one of their number–a curly-headed Irishman named Dailey,
who was in such high favor with the Rebels that he was given the place of
driving the ration wagon that came in the North Side at Andersonville–
was killed, and thrown under the wheels of the moving train, which passed
After things began to settle into shape at Millen, they seemed to believe
that they were in such ascendancy as to numbers and organization that
they could put into execution their schemes of vengeance against those of
us who had been active participants in the execution of their
confederates at Andersonville.
After some little preliminaries they settled upon Corporal “Wat” Payne,
of my company, as their first victim. The reader will remember Payne as
one of the two Corporals who pulled the trigger to the scaffold at the
time of the execution.
Payne was a very good man physically, and was yet in fair condition.
The Raiders came up one day with their best man–Pete Donnelly–and
provoked a fight, intending, in the course of it, to kill Payne. We,
who knew Payee, felt reasonably confident of his ability to handle even
so redoubtable a pugilist as Donnelly, and we gathered together a little
squad of our friends to see fair play.
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