Andersonville


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Captain Bowes, who was overlooking the prison from an elevation outside,
had, however, divined the trouble at the outset, an was preparing to meet
it. The gunners, who had shotted the pieces and trained them upon us
when we came out to listen t the speech, had again covered us with them,
and were ready to sweep the prison with grape and canister at the instant
of command. The long roll was summoning the infantry regiments back into
line, and some of the cooler-headed among us pointed these facts out and
succeeded in getting the line to dissolve again into groups of muttering,
sullen-faced men. When this was done, the guards marched out, by a
cautious indirect maneuver, so as not to turn their backs to us.

It was believed that we had some among us who would like to avail
themselves of the offer of the Rebels, and that they would try to inform
the Rebels of their desires by going to the gate during the night and
speaking to the Officer-of-the-Guard. A squad armed themselves with
clubs and laid in wait for these. They succeeded in catching several--
snatching some of then back even after they had told the guard their
wishes in a tone so loud that all near could hear distinctly. The
Officer-of-the-Guard rushed in two or three times in a vain attempt to
save the would be deserter from the cruel hands that clutched him and
bore him away to where he had a lesson in loyalty impressed upon the
fleshiest part of his person by a long, flexible strip of pine wielded by
very willing hands.

After this was kept up for several nights different ideas began I to
prevail. It was felt that if a man wanted to join the Rebels, the best
way was to let him go and get rid of him. He was of no benefit to the
Government, and would be of none to the Rebels. After this no
restriction was put upon any one who desired to go outside and take the
oath. But very few did so, however, and these were wholly confined to
the Raider crowd.

End of v3
by John McElroy

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ANDERSONVILLE
A STORY OF REBEL MILITARY PRISONS

FIFTEEN MONTHS A GUEST OF THE SO-CALLED
SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY

A PRIVATE SOLDIERS EXPERIENCE
IN
RICHMOND, ANDERSONVILLE, SAVANNAH, MILLEN
BLACKSHEAR AND FLORENCE

BY JOHN McELROY
Late of Co. L. 16th Ill Cav.
1879

VOLUME 4.

CHAPTER LXII.

SERGEANT LEROY L. KEY--HIS ADVENTURES SUBSEQUENT TO THE EXECUTIONS--
HE GOES OUTSIDE AT ANDERSONVILLE ON PAROLE--LABORS IN THE COOK-HOUSE--
ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE--IS RECAPTURED AND TAKEN TO MACON--ESCAPES FROM THERE,
BUT IS COMPELLED TO RETURN--IS FINALLY EXCHANGED AT SAVANNAH.

Leroy L. Key, the heroic Sergeant of Company M, Sixteenth Illinois
Cavalry, who organized and led the Regulators at Andersonville in their
successful conflict with and defeat of the Raiders, and who presided at
the execution of the six condemned men on the 11th of July, furnishes,
at the request of the author, the following story of his prison career
subsequent to that event:

On the 12th day of July, 1864, the day after the hanging of the six
Raiders, by the urgent request of my many friends (of whom you were one),
I sought and obtained from Wirz a parole for myself and the six brave men
who assisted as executioners of those desperados. It seemed that you
were all fearful that we might, after what had been done, be assassinated
if we remained in the Stockade; and that we might be overpowered,
perhaps, by the friends of the Raiders we had hanged, at a time possibly,
when you would not be on hand to give us assistance, and thus lose our
lives for rendering the help we did in getting rid of the worst
pestilence we had to contend with.

On obtaining my parole I was very careful to have it so arranged and
mutually understood, between Wirz and myself, that at any time that my
squad (meaning the survivors of my comrades, with whom I was originally
captured) was sent away from Andersonville, either to be exchanged or to
go to another prison, that I should be allowed to go with them. This was
agreed to, and so written in my parole which I carried until it
absolutely wore out. I took a position in the cook-house, and the other
boys either went to work there, or at the hospital or grave-yard as
occasion required. I worked here, and did the best I could for the many
starving wretches inside, in the way of preparing their food, until the
eighth day of September, at which time, if you remember, quite a train
load of men were removed, as many of us thought, for the purpose of
exchange; but, as we afterwards discovered, to be taken to another
prison. Among the crowd so removed was my squad, or, at least, a portion
of them, being my intimate mess-mates while in the Stockade. As soon as
I found this to be the case I waited on Wirz at his office, and asked
permission to go with them, which he refused, stating that he was
compelled to have men at the cookhouse to cook for those in the Stockade
until they were all gone or exchanged. I reminded him of the condition
in my parole, but this only had the effect of making him mad, and he
threatened me with the stocks if I did not go back and resume work.
I then and there made up my mind to attempt my escape, considering that
the parole had first been broken by the man that granted it.

On inquiry after my return to the cook-house, I found four other boys who
were also planning an escape, and who were only too glad to get me to
join them and take charge of the affair. Our plans were well laid and
well executed, as the sequel will prove, and in this particular my own
experience in the endeavor to escape from Andersonville is not entirely
dissimilar from yours, though it had different results. I very much
regret that in the attempt I lost my penciled memorandum, in which it was
my habit to chronicle what went on around me daily, and where I had the
names of my brave comrades who made the effort to escape with me.
Unfortunately, I cannot now recall to memory the name of one of them or
remember to what commands they belonged.

I knew that our greatest risk was run in eluding the guards, and that in
the morning we should be compelled to cheat the blood-hounds. The first
we managed to do very well, not without many hairbreadth escapes,
however; but we did succeed in getting through both lines of guards,
and found ourselves in the densest pine forest I ever saw. We traveled,
as nearly as we could judge, due north all night until daylight. From
our fatigue and bruises, and the long hours that had elapsed since 8
o'clock, the time of our starting, we thought we had come not less than
twelve or fifteen miles. Imagine our surprise and mortification, then,
when we could plainly hear the reveille, and almost the Sergeant's voice
calling the roll, while the answers of "Here!" were perfectly distinct.
We could not possibly have been more than a mile, or a mile-and-a-half at
the farthest, from the Stockade.

Our anxiety and mortification were doubled when at the usual hour--as we
supposed--we heard the well-known and long-familiar sound of the hunter's
horn, calling his hounds to their accustomed task of making the circuit
of the Stockade, for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not any
"Yankee" had had the audacity to attempt an escape. The hounds,
anticipating, no doubt, this usual daily work, gave forth glad barks of
joy at being thus called forth to duty. We heard them start, as was
usual, from about the railroad depot (as we imagined), but the sounds
growing fainter and fainter gave us a little hope that our trail had been
missed. Only a short time, however, were we allowed this pleasant
reflection, for ere long--it could not have been more than an hour--we
could plainly see that they were drawing nearer and nearer. They finally
appeared so close that I advised the boys to climb a tree or sapling in
order to keep the dogs from biting them, and to be ready to surrender
when the hunters came up, hoping thus to experience as little misery as
possible, and not dreaming but that we were caught. On, on came the
hounds, nearer and nearer still, till we imagined that we could see the
undergrowth in the forest shaking by coming in contact with their bodies.
Plainer and plainer came the sound of the hunter's voice urging them
forward. Our hearts were in our throats, and in the terrible excitement
we wondered if it could be possible for Providence to so arrange it that
the dogs would pass us. This last thought, by some strange fancy, had
taken possession of me, and I here frankly acknowledge that I believed it
would happen. Why I believed it, God only knows. My excitement was so
great, indeed, that I almost lost sight of our danger, and felt like
shouting to the dogs myself, while I came near losing my hold on the tree
in which I was hidden. By chance I happened to look around at my nearest
neighbor in distress. His expression was sufficient to quell any
enthusiasm I might have had, and I, too, became despondent. In a very
few minutes our suspense was over. The dogs came within not less than
three hundred yards of us, and we could even see one of them, God in
Heaven can only imagine what great joy was then, brought to our aching
hearts, for almost instantly upon coming into sight, the hounds struck
off on a different trail, and passed us. Their voices became fainter and
fainter, until finally we could hear them no longer. About noon,
however, they were called back and taken to camp, but until that time not
one of us left our position in the trees.

When we were satisfied that we were safe for the present, we descended to
the ground to get what rest we could, in order to be prepared for the
night's march, having previously agreed to travel at night and sleep in
the day time. "Our Father, who art in Heaven," etc., were the first
words that escaped my lips, and the first thoughts that came to my mind
as I landed on terra firma. Never before, or since, had I experienced
such a profound reverence for Almighty God, for I firmly believe that
only through some mighty invisible power were we at that time delivered
from untold tortures. Had we been found, we might have been torn and
mutilated by the dogs, or, taken back to Andersonville, have suffered for
days or perhaps weeks in the stocks or chain gang, as the humor of Wirz
might have dictated at the time--either of which would have been almost
certain death.

It was very fortunate for us that before our escape from Andersonville we
were detailed at the cook-house, for by this means we were enabled to
bring away enough food to live for several days without the necessity of
theft. Each one of us had our haversacks full of such small delicacies
as it was possible for us to get when we started, these consisting of
corn bread and fat bacon--nothing less, nothing more. Yet we managed to
subsist comfortably until our fourth day out, when we happened to come
upon a sweet potato patch, the potatos in which had not been dug. In a
very short space of time we were all well supplied with this article, and
lived on them raw during that day and the next night.

Just at evening, in going through a field, we suddenly came across three
negro men, who at first sight of us showed signs of running, thinking, as
they told us afterward, that we were the "patrols." After explaining to
them who we were and our condition, they took us to a very quiet retreat
in the woods, and two of them went off, stating that they would soon be
back. In a very short time they returned laden with well cooked
provisions, which not only gave us a good supper, but supplied us for the
next day with all that we wanted. They then guided us on our way for
several miles, and left us, after having refused compensation for what
they had done.

We continued to travel in this way for nine long weary nights, and on the
morning of the tenth day, as we were going into the woods to hide as
usual, a little before daylight, we came to a small pond at which there
was a negro boy watering two mules before hitching them to a cane mill,
it then being cane grinding time in Georgia. He saw us at the same time
we did him, and being frightened put whip to the animals and ran off.
We tried every way to stop him, but it was no use. He had the start of
us. We were very fearful of the consequences of this mishap, but had no
remedy, and being very tired, could do nothing else but go into the
woods, go to sleep and trust to luck.

The next thing I remembered was being punched in the ribs by my comrade
nearest to me, and aroused with the remark, "We are gone up." On opening
my eyes, I saw four men, in citizens' dress, each of whom had a shot gun
ready for use. We were ordered to get up. The first question asked us
was:

"Who are you."

This was spoken in so mild a tone as to lead me to believe that we might
possibly be in the hands of gentlemen, if not indeed in those of friends.
It was some time before any one answered. The boys, by their looks and
the expression of their countenances, seemed to appeal to me for a reply
to get them out of their present dilemma, if possible. Before I had time
to collect my thoughts, we were startled by these words, coming from the
same man that had asked the original question:

"You had better not hesitate, for we have an idea who you are, and should
it prove that we are correct, it will be the worse for you."

"'Who do you think we are?' I inquired."

"'Horse thieves and moss-backs,' was the reply."

I jumped at the conclusion instantly that in order to save our lives, we
had better at once own the truth. In a very few words I told them who we
were, where we were from, how long we had been on the road, etc. At this
they withdrew a short distance from us for consultation, leaving us for
the time in terrible suspense as to what our fate might be. Soon, how
ever, they returned and informed us that they would be compelled to take
us to the County Jail, to await further orders from the Military
Commander of the District. While they were talking together, I took a
hasty inventory of what valuables we had on hand. I found in the crowd
four silver watches, about three hundred dollars in Confederate money,
and possibly, about one hundred dollars in greenbacks. Before their
return, I told the boys to be sure not to refuse any request I should
make. Said I:

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