In the detailed statement prepared for Congress dated March 1, 1869, the
whole number of deaths given as shown by Prisoner of War records was
twenty-six thousand three hundred and twenty-eight, but since that date
evidence of three thousand six hundred and twenty-eight additional deaths
has been obtained from the captured Confederate records, making a total
of twenty-nine thousand nine hundred and fifty-six as above shown. This
is believed to be many thousands less than the actual number of Federal
prisoners who died in Confederate prisons, as we have no records from
those at Montgomery Ala., Mobile, Ala., Millen, Ga., Marietta, Ga.,
Atlanta, Ga., Charleston, S. C., and others. The records of Florence,
S. C., and Salisbury, N. C., are very incomplete. It also appears from
Confederate inspection reports of Confederate prisons, that large
percentage of the deaths occurred in prison quarter without the care or
knowledge of the Surgeon. For the month of December, 1864 alone, the
Confederate “burial report”; Salisbury, N. C., show that out, of eleven
hundred and fifty deaths, two hundred and twenty-three, or twenty per
cent., died in prison quarters and are not accounted for in the report of
the Surgeon, and therefore not taken into consideration in the above
report, as the only records of said prisons on file (with one exception)
are the Hospital records. Calculating the percentage of deaths on this
basis would give the number of deaths at thirty-seven thousand four
hundred and forty-five and percentage of deaths at 20.023.
If we assume that the Government’s records of Florence as correct, it
will be apparent that one man in every three die there, since, while
there might have been as high as fifty thousand at one time in the
prison, during the last three months of its existence I am quite sure
that the number did not exceed seven thousand. This would make the
mortality much greater than at Andersonville, which it undoubtedly was,
since the physical condition of the prisoners confined there had been
greatly depressed by their long confinement, while the bulk c the
prisoners at Andersonville were those who had been brought thither
directly from the field. I think also that all who experienced
confinement in the two places are united in pronouncing Florence to be,
on the whole, much the worse place and more fatal to life.
The medicines furnished the sick were quite simple in nature and mainly
composed of indigenous substances. For diarrhea red pepper and
decoctions of blackberry root and of pine leave were given. For coughs
and lung diseases, a decoction of wild cherry bark was administered.
Chills and fever were treated with decoctions of dogwood bark, and fever
patients who craved something sour, were given a weak acid drink, made by
fermenting a small quantity of meal in a barrel of water. All these
remedies were quite good in their way, and would have benefitted the
patients had they been accompanied by proper shelter, food and clothing.
But it was idle to attempt to arrest with blackberry root the diarrhea,
or with wild cherry bark the consumption of a man lying in a cold, damp,
mud hovel, devoured by vermin, and struggling to maintain life upon less
than a pint of unsalted corn meal per diem.
Finding that the doctors issued red pepper for diarrhea, and an imitation
of sweet oil made from peanuts, for the gangrenous sores above described,
I reported to them an imaginary comrade in my tent, whose symptoms
indicated those remedies, and succeeded in drawing a small quantity of
each, two or three times a week. The red pepper I used to warm up our
bread and mush, and give some different taste to the corn meal, which had
now become so loathsome to us. The peanut oil served to give a hint of
the animal food we hungered for. It was greasy, and as we did not have
any meat for three months, even this flimsy substitute was inexpressibly
grateful to palate and stomach. But one morning the Hospital Steward
made a mistake, and gave me castor oil instead, and the consequences were
A more agreeable remembrance is that of two small apples, about the size
of walnuts, given me by a boy named Henry Clay Montague Porter, of the
Sixteenth Connecticut. He had relatives living in North Carolina, who
sent him a small packs of eatables, out of which, in the fulness of his
generous heart he gave me this share–enough to make me always remember
him with kindness.
Speaking of eatables reminds me of an incident. Joe Darling, of the
First Maine, our Chief of Police, had a sister living at Augusta, Ga.,
who occasionally came to Florence with basket of food and other
necessaries for her brother. On one of these journeys, while sitting in
Colonel Iverson’s tent, waiting for her brother to be brought out of
prison, she picked out of her basket a nicely browned doughnut and handed
it to the guard pacing in front of the tent, with:
“Here, guard, wouldn’t you like a genuine Yankee doughnut?”
The guard-a lank, loose-jointed Georgia cracker–who in all his life seen
very little more inviting food than the his hominy and molasses, upon
which he had been raised, took the cake, turned it over and inspected it
curiously for some time without apparently getting the least idea of what
it was for, and then handed it back to the donor, saying:
“Really, mum, I don’t believe I’ve got any use for it”
DULL WINTER DAYS–TOO WEAK AND TOO STUPID To AMUSE OURSELVES–ATTEMPTS OF
THE REBELS TO RECRUIT US INTO THEIR ARMY–THE CLASS OF MEN THEY OBTAINED
–VENGEANCE ON “THE GALVANIZED”–A SINGULAR EXPERIENCE–RARE GLIMPSES
OF FUN–INABILITY OF THE REBELS TO COUNT.
The Rebels continued their efforts to induce prisoners to enlist in their
army, and with much better success than at any previous time. Many men
had become so desperate that they were reckless as to what they did.
Home, relatives, friends, happiness–all they had remembered or looked
forward to, all that had nerved them up to endure the present and brave
the future–now seemed separated from them forever by a yawning and
impassable chasm. For many weeks no new prisoners had come in to rouse
their drooping courage with news of the progress of our arms towards
final victory, or refresh their remembrances of home, and the
gladsomeness of “God’s Country.” Before them they saw nothing but weeks
of slow and painful progress towards bitter death. The other alternative
was enlistment in the Rebel army.
Another class went out and joined, with no other intention than to escape
at the first opportunity. They justified their bad faith to the Rebels
by recalling the numberless instances of the Rebels’ bad faith to us,
and usually closed their arguments in defense of their course with:
“No oath administered by a Rebel can have any binding obligation. These
men are outlaws who have not only broken their oaths to the Government,
but who have deserted from its service, and turned its arms against it.
They are perjurers and traitors, and in addition, the oath they
administer to us is under compulsion and for that reason is of no
Still another class, mostly made up from the old Raider crowd, enlisted
from natural depravity. They went out more than for anything else
because their hearts were prone to evil and they did that which was wrong
in preference to what was right. By far the largest portion of those the
Rebels obtained were of this class, and a more worthless crowd of
soldiers has not been seen since Falstaff mustered his famous recruits.
After all, however, the number who deserted their flag was astonishingly
small, considering all the circumstances. The official report says three
hundred and twenty-six, but I imaging this is under the truth, since
quite a number were turned back in after their utter uselessness had been
demonstrated. I suppose that five hundred “galvanized,” as we termed it,
but this was very few when the hopelessness of exchange, the despair of
life, and the wretchedness of the condition of the eleven or twelve
thousand inside the Stockade is remembered.
The motives actuating men to desert were not closely analyzed by us,
but we held all who did so as despicable scoundrels, too vile to be
adequately described in words. It was not safe for a man to announce his
intention of “galvanizing,” for he incurred much danger of being beaten
until he was physically unable to reach the gate. Those who went over to
the enemy had to use great discretion in letting the Rebel officer, know
so much of their wishes as would secure their being taker outside. Men
were frequently knocked down and dragged away while telling the officers
they wanted to go out.
On one occasion one hundred or more of the raider crowd who had
galvanized, were stopped for a few hours in some little Town, on their
way to the front. They lost no time in stealing everything they could
lay their hands upon, and the disgusted Rebel commander ordered them to
be returned to the Stockade. They came in in the evening, all well
rigged out in Rebel uniforms, and carrying blankets. We chose to
consider their good clothes and equipments an aggravation of their
offense and an insult to ourselves. We had at that time quite a squad of
negro soldiers inside with us. Among them was a gigantic fellow with a
fist like a wooden beetle. Some of the white boys resolved to use these
to wreak the camp’s displeasure on the Galvanized. The plan was carried
out capitally. The big darky, followed by a crowd of smaller and nimbler
“shades,” would approach one of the leaders among them with:
“Is you a Galvanized?”
The surly reply would be,
“Yes, you —- black —-. What the business is that of yours?”
At that instant the bony fist of the darky, descending like a pile-
driver, would catch the recreant under the ear, and lift him about a rod.
As he fell, the smaller darkies would pounce upon him, and in an instant
despoil him of his blanket and perhaps the larger portion of his warm
clothing. The operation was repeated with a dozen or more. The whole
camp enjoyed it as rare fun, and it was the only time that I saw nearly
every body at Florence laugh.
A few prisoners were brought in in December, who had been taken in
Foster’s attempt to cut the Charleston & Savannah Railroad at Pocataligo.
Among them we were astonished to find Charley Hirsch, a member of Company
I’s of our battalion. He had had a strange experience. He was
originally a member of a Texas regiment and was captured at Arkansas
Post. He then took the oath of allegiance and enlisted with us. While
we were at Savannah he approached a guard one day to trade for tobacco.
The moment he spoke to the man he recognized him as a former comrade in
the Texas regiment. The latter knew him also, and sang out,
“I know you; you’re Charley Hirsch, that used to be in my company.”
Charley backed into the crowd as quickly as possible; to elude the
fellow’s eyes, but the latter called for the Corporal of the Guard, had
himself relieved, and in a few minutes came in with an officer in search
of the deserter. He found him with little difficulty, and took him out.
The luckless Charley was tried by court martial, found, guilty, sentenced
to be shot, and while waiting execution was confined in the jail. Before
the sentence could be carried into effect Sherman came so close to the
City that it was thought best to remove the prisoners. In the confusion
Charley managed to make his escape, and at the moment the battle of
Pocataligo opened, was lying concealed between the two lines of battle,
without knowing, of course, that he was in such a dangerous locality.
After the firing opened, he thought it better to lie still than run the
risk from the fire of both sides, especially as he momentarily expected
our folks to advance and drive the Rebels away. But the reverse
happened; the Johnnies drove our fellows, and, finding Charley in his
place of concealment, took him for one of Foster’s men, and sent him to
Florence, where he staid until we went through to our lines.
Our days went by as stupidly and eventless as can be conceived.
We had grown too spiritless and lethargic to dig tunnels or plan escapes.
We had nothing to read, nothing to make or destroy, nothing to work with,
nothing to play with, and even no desire to contrive anything for
amusement. All the cards in the prison were worn out long ago. Some of
the boys had made dominos from bones, and Andrews and I still had our
chessmen, but we were too listless to play. The mind, enfeebled by the
long disuse of it except in a few limited channels, was unfitted for even
so much effort as was involved in a game for pastime.
Nor were there any physical exercises, such as that crowd of young men
would have delighted in under other circumstances. There was no running,
boxing, jumping, wrestling, leaping, etc. All were too weak and hungry
to make any exertion beyond that absolutely necessary. On cold days
everybody seemed totally benumbed. The camp would be silent and still.
Little groups everywhere hovered for hours, moody and sullen, over
diminutive, flickering fires, made with one poor handful of splinters.
When the sun shone, more activity was visible. Boys wandered around,
hunted up their friends, and saw what gaps death–always busiest during
the cold spells–had made in the ranks of their acquaintances. During
the warmest part of the day everybody disrobed, and spent an hour or more
killing the lice that had waxed and multiplied to grievous proportions
during the few days of comparative immunity.
Besides the whipping of the Galvanized by the darkies, I remember but two
other bits of amusement we had while at Florence. One of these was in
hearing the colored soldiers sing patriotic songs, which they did with
great gusto when the weather became mild. The other was the antics of a
circus clown–a member, I believe, of a Connecticut or a New York
regiment, who, on the rare occasions when we were feeling not exactly
well so much as simply better than we had been, would give us an hour or
two of recitations of the drolleries with which he was wont to set the
crowded canvas in a roar. One of his happiest efforts, I remember, was a
stilted paraphrase of “Old Uncle Ned” a song very popular a quarter of a
century ago, and which ran something like this:
There was an old darky, an’ his name was Uncle Ned,
But he died long ago, long ago
He had no wool on de top of his head,
De place whar de wool ought to grouw.
Den lay down de shubel an’ de hoe,
Den hang up de fiddle an’ de bow;
For dere’s no more hard work for poor Uncle Ned
He’s gone whar de good niggahs go.
His fingers war long, like de cane in de brake,
And his eyes war too dim for to see;
He had no teeth to eat de corn cake,
So he had to let de corn cake be.
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