Andersonville


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His legs were so bowed dat he couldn't lie still.
An' he had no nails on his toes;

His neck was so crooked dot he couldn't take a pill,
So he had to take a pill through his nose.

CHORUS.

One cold frosty morning old Uncle Ned died,
An' de tears ran down massa's cheek like rain,
For he knew when Uncle Ned was laid in de groun',
He would never see poor Uncle Ned again,

CHORUS.

In the hands of this artist the song became--

There was an aged and indigent African whose cognomen was Uncle Edward,
But he is deceased since a remote period, a very remote period;
He possessed no capillary substance on the summit of his cranium,
The place designated by kind Nature for the capillary substance to
vegetate.

CHORUS.
Then let the agricultural implements rest recumbent upon the ground;
And suspend the musical instruments in peace neon the wall,
For there's no more physical energy to be displayed by our Indigent Uncle
Edward
He has departed to that place set apart by a beneficent Providence for
the reception of the better class of Africans.

And so on. These rare flashes of fun only served to throw the underlying
misery out in greater relief. It was like lightning playing across the
surface of a dreary morass.

I have before alluded several times to the general inability of Rebels to
count accurately, even in low numbers. One continually met phases of
this that seemed simply incomprehensible to us, who had taken in the
multiplication table almost with our mother's milk, and knew the Rule of
Three as well as a Presbyterian boy does the Shorter Catechism.
A cadet--an undergraduate of the South Carolina Military Institute--
called our roll at Florence, and though an inborn young aristocrat, who
believed himself made of finer clay than most mortals, he was not a bad
fellow at all. He thought South Carolina aristocracy the finest gentry,
and the South Carolina Military Institute the greatest institution of
learning in the world; but that is common with all South Carolinians.

One day he came in so full of some matter of rare importance that we
became somewhat excited as to its nature. Dismissing our hundred after
roll-call, he unburdened his mind:

"Now you fellers are all so d---d peart on mathematics, and such things,
that you want to snap me up on every opportunity, but I guess I've got
something this time that'll settle you. Its something that a fellow gave
out yesterday, and Colonel Iverson, and all the officers out there have
been figuring on it ever since, and none have got the right answer, and
I'm powerful sure that none of you, smart as you think you are, can do
it."

"Heavens, and earth, let's hear this wonderful problem," said we all.

"Well," said he, "what is the length of a pole standing in a river, one-
fifth of which is in the mud, two-thirds in the water, and one-eighth
above the water, while one foot and three inches of the top is broken
off?"

In a minute a dozen answered, "One hundred and fifty feet."

The cadet could only look his amazement at the possession of such an
amount of learning by a crowd of mudsills, and one of our fellows said
contemptuously:

"Why, if you South Carolina Institute fellows couldn't answer such
questions as that they wouldn't allow you in the infant class up North."

Lieutenant Barrett, our red-headed tormentor, could not, for the life of
him, count those inside in hundreds and thousands in such a manner as to
be reasonably certain of correctness. As it would have cankered his soul
to feel that he was being beaten out of a half-dozen rations by the
superior cunning of the Yankees, he adopted a plan which he must have
learned at some period of his life when he was a hog or sheep drover.
Every Sunday morning all in the camp were driven across the Creek to the
East Side, and then made to file slowly back--one at a time--between two
guards stationed on the little bridge that spanned the Creek. By this
means, if he was able to count up to one hundred, he could get our number
correctly.

The first time this was done after our arrival he gave us a display of
his wanton malevolence. We were nearly all assembled on the East Side,
and were standing in ranks, at the edge of the swamp, facing the west.
Barrett was walking along the opposite edge of the swamp, and, coming to
a little gully jumped, it. He was very awkward, and came near falling
into the mud. We all yelled derisively. He turned toward us in a fury,
shook his fist, and shouted curses and imprecations. We yelled still
louder. He snatched out his revolver, and began firing at our line. The
distance was considerable--say four or five hundred feet--and the bullets
struck in the mud in advance of the line. We still yelled. Then he
jerked a gun from a guard and fired, but his aim was still bad, and the
bullet sang over our heads, striking in the bank above us. He posted of
to get another gun, but his fit subsided before he obtained it.

CHAPTER LXXIII.

CHRISTMAS--AND THE WAY THE WAS PASSED--THE DAILY ROUTINE OF RATION
DRAWING--SOME PECULIARITIES OF LIVING AND DYING.

Christmas, with its swelling flood of happy memories,--memories now
bitter because they marked the high tide whence our fortunes had receded
to this despicable state--came, but brought no change to mark its coming.
It is true that we had expected no change; we had not looked forward to
the day, and hardly knew when it arrived, so indifferent were we to the
lapse of time.

When reminded that the day was one that in all Christendom was sacred to
good cheer and joyful meetings; that wherever the upraised cross
proclaimed followers of Him who preached "Peace on Earth and good will to
men," parents and children, brothers and sisters, long-time friends, and
all congenial spirits were gathering around hospitable boards to delight
in each other's society, and strengthen the bonds of unity between them,
we listened as to a tale told of some foreign land from which we had
parted forever more.

It seemed years since we had known anything of the kind. The experience
we had had of it belonged to the dim and irrevocable past. It could not
come to us again, nor we go to it. Squalor, hunger, cold and wasting
disease had become the ordinary conditions of existence, from which there
was little hope that we would ever be exempt.

Perhaps it was well, to a certain degree, that we felt so. It softened
the poignancy of our reflections over the difference in the condition of
ourselves and our happier comrades who were elsewhere.

The weather was in harmony with our feelings. The dull, gray, leaden sky
was as sharp a contrast with the crisp, bracing sharpness of a Northern
Christmas morning, as our beggarly little ration of saltless corn meal
was to the sumptuous cheer that loaded the dinner-tables of our Northern
homes.

We turned out languidly in the morning to roll-call, endured silently the
raving abuse of the cowardly brute Barrett, hung stupidly over the
flickering little fires, until the gates opened to admit the rations.
For an hour there was bustle and animation. All stood around and counted
each sack of meal, to get an idea of the rations we were likely to
receive.

This was a daily custom. The number intended for the day's issue were
all brought in and piled up in the street. Then there was a division of
the sacks to the thousands, the Sergeant of each being called up in turn,
and allowed to pick out and carry away one, until all were taken. When
we entered the prison each thousand received, on an average, ten or
eleven sacks a day. Every week saw a reduction in the number, until by
midwinter the daily issue to a thousand averaged four sacks. Let us say
that one of these sacks held two bushels, or the four, eight bushels.
As there are thirty-two quarts in a bushel, one thousand men received two
hundred and fifty-six quarts, or less than a half pint each.

We thought we had sounded the depths of misery at Andersonville, but
Florence showed us a much lower depth. Bad as was parching under the
burning sun whose fiery rays bred miasma and putrefaction, it was still
not so bad as having one's life chilled out by exposure in nakedness upon
the frozen ground to biting winds and freezing sleet. Wretched as the
rusty bacon and coarse, maggot-filled bread of Andersonville was, it
would still go much farther towards supporting life than the handful of
saltless meal at Florence.

While I believe it possible for any young man, with the forces of life
strong within him, and healthy in every way, to survive, by taking due
precautions, such treatment as we received in Andersonville, I cannot
understand how anybody could live through a month of Florence. That many
did live is only an astonishing illustration of the tenacity of life in
some individuals.

Let the reader imagine--anywhere he likes--a fifteen-acre field, with a
stream running through the center. Let him imagine this inclosed by a
Stockade eighteen feet high, made by standing logs on end. Let him
conceive of ten thousand feeble men, debilitated by months of
imprisonment, turned inside this inclosure, without a yard of covering
given them, and told to make their homes there. One quarter of them--two
thousand five hundred--pick up brush, pieces of rail, splits from logs,
etc., sufficient to make huts that will turn the rain tolerably. The
huts are in no case as good shelter as an ordinarily careful farmer
provides for his swine. Half of the prisoners--five thousand--who cannot
do so well, work the mud up into rude bricks, with which they build
shelters that wash down at every hard rain. The remaining two thousand
five hundred do not do even this, but lie around on the ground, on old
blankets and overcoats, and in day-time prop these up on sticks, as
shelter from the rain and wind. Let them be given not to exceed a pint
of corn meal a day, and a piece of wood about the size of an ordinary
stick for a cooking stove to cook it with. Then let such weather prevail
as we ordinarily have in the North in November--freezing cold rains, with
frequent days and nights when the ice forms as thick as a pane of glass.
How long does he think men could live through that? He will probably say
that a week, or at most a fortnight, would see the last and strongest of
these ten thousand lying dead in the frozen mire where he wallowed. He
will be astonished to learn that probably not more than four or five
thousand of those who underwent this in Florence died there. How many
died after release--in Washington, on the vessels coming to Annapolis, in
hospital and camp at Annapolis, or after they reached home, none but the
Recording Angel can tell. All that I know is we left a trail of dead
behind us, wherever we moved, so long as I was with the doleful caravan.

Looking back, after these lapse of years, the most salient characteristic
seems to be the ease with which men died. There, was little of the
violence of dissolution so common at Andersonville. The machinery of
life in all of us, was running slowly and feebly; it would simply grow
still slower and feebler in some, and then stop without a jar, without a
sensation to manifest it. Nightly one of two or three comrades sleeping
together would die. The survivors would not know it until they tried to
get him to "spoon" over, when they would find him rigid and motionless.
As they could not spare even so little heat as was still contained in his
body, they would not remove this, but lie up the closer to it until
morning. Such a thing as a boy making an outcry when he discovered his
comrade dead, or manifesting any, desire to get away from the corpse, was
unknown.

I remember one who, as Charles II. said of himself, was--
"an unconscionable long time in dying." His name was Bickford; he
belonged to the Twenty-First Ohio Volunteer Infantry, lived, I think,
near Findlay, O., and was in my hundred. His partner and he were both in
a very bad condition, and I was not surprised, on making my rounds, one
morning, to find them apparently quite dead. I called help, and took his
partner away to the gate. When we picked up Bickford we found he still
lived, and had strength enough to gasp out:

"You fellers had better let me alone." We laid him back to die, as we
supposed, in an hour or so.

When the Rebel Surgeon came in on his rounds, I showed him Bickford,
lying there with his eyes closed, and limbs motionless. The Surgeon
said:

"O, that man's dead; why don't you have him taken out?"

I replied: "No, he isn't. Just see." Stooping, I shook the boy
sharply, and said:

"Bickford! Bickford!! How do you feel?"

The eyes did not unclose, but the lips opened slowly, and said with a
painful effort:

"F-i-r-s-t R-a-t-e!"

This scene was repeated every morning for over a week. Every day the
Rebel Surgeon would insist that the man should betaken out, and every
morning Bickford would gasp out with troublesome exertion that he felt:

"F-i-r-s-t R-a-t-e!"

It ended one morning by his inability, to make his usual answer, and then
he was carried out to join the two score others being loaded into the
wagon.

CHAPTER LXXIV.

NEW YEAR'S DAY--DEATH OF JOHN H. WINDER--HE DIES ON HIS WAY TO A DINNER
--SOMETHING AS TO CHARACTER AND CAREER--ONE OF THE WORST MEN THAT EVER
LIVED.

On New Year's Day we were startled by the information that our old-time
enemy--General John H. Winder--was dead. It seemed that the Rebel Sutler
of the Post had prepared in his tent a grand New Year's dinner to which
all the officers were invited. Just as Winder bent his head to enter the
tent he fell, and expired shortly after. The boys said it was a clear
case of Death by Visitation of the Devil, and it was always insisted that
his last words were:

"My faith is in Christ; I expect to be saved. Be sure and cut down the
prisoners' rations."

Thus passed away the chief evil genius of the Prisoners-of-War. American
history has no other character approaching his in vileness. I doubt if
the history of the world can show another man, so insignificant in
abilities and position, at whose door can be laid such a terrible load of
human misery. There have been many great conquerors and warriors who
have

Waded through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

but they were great men, with great objects, with grand plans to carry
out, whose benefits they thought would be more than an equivalent for the
suffering they caused. The misery they inflicted was not the motive of
their schemes, but an unpleasant incident, and usually the sufferers were
men of other races and religions, for whom sympathy had been dulled by
long antagonism.

But Winder was an obscure, dull old man--the commonplace descendant of a
pseudo-aristocrat whose cowardly incompetence had once cost us the loss
of our National Capital. More prudent than his runaway father, he held
himself aloof from the field; his father had lost reputation and almost
his commission, by coming into contact with the enemy; he would take no
such foolish risks, and he did not. When false expectations of the
ultimate triumph of Secession led him to cast his lot with the Southern
Confederacy, he did not solicit a command in the field, but took up his
quarters in Richmond, to become a sort of Informer-General, High-
Inquisitor and Chief Eavesdropper for his intimate friend, Jefferson
Davis. He pried and spied around into every man's bedroom and family
circle, to discover traces of Union sentiment. The wildest tales malice
and vindictiveness could concoct found welcome reception in his ears.
He was only too willing to believe, that he might find excuse for
harrying and persecuting. He arrested, insulted, imprisoned, banished,
and shot people, until the patience even of the citizens of Richmond gave
way, and pressure was brought upon Jefferson Davis to secure the
suppression of his satellite. For a long while Davis resisted, but at
last yielded, and transferred Winder to the office of Commissary General
of Prisoners. The delight of the Richmond people was great. One of the
papers expressed it in an article, the key note of which was:

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