Civil War Diary
Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale
Out of the cars just at sunrise. A beautiful morning. Drew one day’s ration which was corn and bacon. Back on cars and 48 miles brought us to Greensboro, North Carolina where we were transferred to a fine grove. The last half of our day’s journey was in North Carolina. The aspect of the country more northern, the villages more enterprising and the dwellings more modern in their outlook. There are near 1100 of us and 70 officers. Passed the afternoon in quiet and had a chance for a good sleep on the bosom of mother earth. Greensboro, is a pretty country town. Roses in bloom were cheering to look upon if not allowed to get at them, and to feel that he who careth for the flowers will care much more for man.
Routed at 2 a.m. and again in box cars and 82 miles brought us to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we were landed in a patch of woodland at near 4 p.m. Our day’s ride was in the main, a pleasant one, the route dotted with many fine farms, all planted with corn and wheat. Saw gangs of slaves at work of all ages and sexes, women holding the plough as well as the men. Passed through fine rice fields. A short allowance of corn bread and bacon was given us on arrival, but owing to want of right management a needless delay was had in serving them so that it was near dark before we got them. Our mess bought 2 1/2 dozen biscuits for $6.00 which, with some tea one of us had managed to hoard, we had a good supper.
A heavy shower at near 11 o’clock last night. It gave us a good outside bath and reminded us that we were without any of U. S. goodly tents. The day opened warm as luck would be, and we soon got dried off. On the cars again-box cars 65 to a car, so crowded that we could scarce move and the air not very pure. Fortunately a good many of us were allowed to ride on top of the cars. 108 miles and at near dark were at Columbia, South Carolina. The aspect of the country along the routes not so thirsty as in North Carolina. Corn and wheat seemed to be nearly all the crops in growth with here and there a vegetable patch. Saw but one field of cotton. Changed cars for Augusta, Georgia. Had better accomodations as we were not so crowded.
A journey of 160 miles and were landed at Augusta, Georgia. The route as we saw it by daylight was mostly half through a swampy patch, and half through a pine forest country with here and there a tract of farm country planted to corn. At Augusta were put into two covered and fenced-in enclosures, evidently built for storing cotton. Drew rations of hard bread and bacon, the best we have had yet, good in quality and quantity. “Home Guards” made up largely from the business men of the city and their clerks over us as guards. Their treatment and bearing towards us quite a pleasing contrast to that we had received from the guards on a good part of the journey.
Had a fine night’s rest, the best since having left Richmond. In fact have had no rest except in cramped positions, in snatches caused by utter weariness. Had a good wash of face, neck, and hands the first since leaving Richmond. Slept a good part of the forenoon. Found Captain Hastings, among the captured officers today. Had a pleasant chat with him about Weymouth friends. Drew rations of corn bread and bacon. Heavy shower just at night followed by a beautiful sunset making one wish for liberty to stroll out and enjoy God’s goodness as displayed in the summer foliage visible outside. Delightful to hear church bells calling up tender memories of loved ones at home.
June 6th. and 7th.
Slept uncomfortably on account of heat. Were allowed to fraternize with citizens who were willing to give us confederate money in exchange for our “greenbacks” if we were lucky enough to have any at the ratio of 10-1, and also to buy all the watches and jewelry we would sell. Pratt was a the only one of our mess who had a watch. This he found he could sell for $100 (Confederate.) We felt a little money in our pocket would not come amiss, so the sale was made and we agreed to share alike in spending the money and in replacing the watch in the happier days we hoped in store for us “When Johnny comes marching home.” Bought some corn bread and splice out our rations. At 2 p.m. were marched through the city about 3/4 of a mile and were soon on the way to Andersonville, Georgia. Augusta, as we saw it seemed beautiful. The citizens treated us civily and kindly, the boys willingly bringing us water. A ride of some 250 miles and at noon of Tuesday, June 7th, were landed on a grassy plot with “Andersonville Stockwall” in our front. Soon a wiry looking officer on a white horse rode along and gave orders “Fall in line.” A squad of “blue jackets” for some reason were not obeying orders when the officer swore at them and ordered them into line. This was our introduction to the prison commandant Captain Henry Wirz. He then displayed a sheet of letter paper and called for a Sergeant. It flashed upon me that this might mean some work to do and my dread of idle hours might be relieved, and I sprang forward to be told to count off 90 men and enroll them upon the paper that they made up the 3rd mess of detachment No. 76 that my duties would be to have supervision of them. A daily roll call, a report, devide the rations, and for this work was to have double rations. Just as the day close we were marched through the gates many of us feeling that the words “Abandon all ye who enter here” might have a real meaning to us. Found it much worse a place than I had expected or that it had been represented to us by the citizens while en route. So crowded that it seemed as if there was no room for us new comers to stretch out upon. Got a ducking and laid down for the night wet but slept soundly. Another shower during the night.
Five days rations, and is five days since writing. Partly from want of time but more from want of disposition. For the first three days was getting my ninety reduced to order. Find much more work than I anticipated. Takes an hour and often more to get them together for roll call, get the names of the sick, and those who are to go for wood. Another hour to go with sick and get medicines for them, another to get the wood squad together, and go for wood and near two hours to divide the rations.
The prison was one mass of human beings, crowded together, many without shelter from the sun and rain-those having shelter good enough to protect from rain are few. Most have made them shelters with wool blankets, overcoats, brush and twigs and dried mud, many have made caves and dug outs in the clayey soil. Through the center runs a slugish stream about three feet wide and about half knee deep. On each side for about two rods in width is a sort of swamp hole which in wet weather is sort of slimey mud. This is used for a dumping ground for the camp refuse. It is never cleaned up and is a good deal of the time one seething mass of maggots. The stream is often full from before daylight until dark with bathers or others trying to wash their clothes in its muddy fluid. The camp contains some fifteen acres inclusive of the swamp. Is surrounded by a stockade made of fine pine logs about twenty feet high. In sentry booths at intervals are stationedsentinels overlooking the camp. Just outside is a battery of six guns so placed as to overlook the prison. There is a hospital outside, but those who have seen it scarce deserves the name of hospital. Find that many have been here near a year. The upper part of the stream for about 12 or 15 feet is reserved for drinking water and most part of the day its banks are crowded with water seekers. Nearby, our camp spot a party of a dozen or more have been digging a well and have just come to good drinking water, but how to get it was a problem to them as none of them had any kind of pail. Fortunately one of us four had a 3 pint tin pail to which a rope made of pieces of string and sundry old rags was soon tied. For the use of the same we four were added to the gang of well diggers and had the priveledge with them of free use of the well. About 15 feet from the stockade was the “dead line” made of 3 by 4 joices placed upon posts made of the same, standing about 3 feet high. This we were not allowed to touch, and quite often the sharp call of the sentinel “hands off”, or occasionally the crack of the rifle and whiz of a bullet would greet the disobedient “Yanks.” Were told there was a rebel sutler on the other side of the prison and soon ten dollars of our hoarded hundred was exchanged for a bar of soap about 12 in. long by 1 1/2 in. square.
A sad thing had happened the other day. Going down to bathe, Pratt left his clothes upon the bank, and on resuming them he found that his pocketbook and our ninety dollars was gone. He sat upon the bank and cried like a child saying, “I don’t care about the money if they had only left me the picture of my wife and child.” This was our first introduction to a class of prisoners teemed “Raiders.” Talking over the matter with one of the older prisoners, he said there was a regular organized band of them who made it a business to rob and plunder each new arrival.
Find the north side of the prison to be honey combed with burrows and dugouts, some of them large enough to contain 20 men. Going over the prison and coming in contact with its inmates, one’s eyes fill with tears and the heart shrinks in horror at the scenes around him-men most skeletons from lack of food, from diarrhea, and chills, and fever. Others are racked with rheumatism or bloated with scurvy; more than half clothed in rags.
The rations are brought in the afternoon meat and rice in fifty pound sacks. Corn bread in sheets about 18x24 in. and two or three inches thick and sometimes half cooked, or cooked so hard so as to endanger our teeth. Bacon sides form our meat rations, and no vegetables so that scurvy runs riot among the older prisoners. Some of my ninety already on the sick list. Yesterday went with two of them to sick call. The gathering place was at a place between the two stockades, with two or three surgeons in attendance. Near two thousand reported sick. It was the most heart rendering sight I ever saw. Men brought in blankets by scores weak and wan from diarrhea or bloated, and loathsome from scurvy or scarce able to hobble from rheumatism. They beg to be sent to the hospital or that some kind of shelter might be given them from the sun or rain. Have drawn raw rations of corn meal and bacon the past four days. When raw rations are given out, six men from each ninety are allowed to go out under guard for wood. Have to go some half a mile and lug it in on our backs thus one man has to lug enough for fifteen. Have managed to lug in some pine bought to carpet our tent which is made of two wool blankets, with one overcoat for our bed covering. The weather hot with a shower in the afternoon so far each day. Have felt dull and stupid today, I think it is from the heat and change of food. Scarce any change from our week-day routine of prison life. Came across my old townsman and christian brother today. He has been a prisoner seven months. Daniel F. Nichols, of the 18th Mass. Regiment. Six men sick with diarrhea today in my vicinity.
Rain most of the night. Cold and drizzly all day. Hundreds of poor fellows soaked from last night’s shower, are shivering about the camp. God pity and help them for none of us can do anything for them. Have reports that a portion of us are to be parolled soon.
Today the third of a cold drizzly rain. It has made sad havoc with the poor fellows who have no shelter. We four have taken down our blankets the past two night to keep warm preferring wetting to freezing. Further acquaintance with the prison and its inmates makes it more sad and sickening. The sick miserably cared for. The commanding officials show no sense of humanity, seem to have little executive ability to keep the camp clean and orderly. Prisoners are constantly trying to escape when let out for wood etc. Seven escaped from the bakery yesterday and night before last eighteen tunneled out under the stockade. Not one in a hundred get to the land of liberty for the pack of blood hounds are ever ready for duty and some of the runaways find they have sharp teeth. Drew rations of rice and molasses. Exchanged some of them for some beans and bit of onion and so made soup. It was refreshing to have a bit of vegetable. At the sutlers quarters, eggs can be bought at $1.00 a dozen, potatoes $1.60, a dozen beans 50¢, a quart, cucumbers at 60¢ each, onions $1.50 per dozen, salt, 25¢ gill etc. Those prisoners who have been fortunate to get through with money and have not been robbed by the “raiders” are willing purchasers of the above. All sorts of methods of hiding money while en route are resorted to such as between the soles of shoes, under the tongue when the inspectors are around, sewing into underclothing etc.
Had trying time drawing rations last night. We did not get them until after 9 p.m., then getting uncooked rice and meat. This makes two days we have received raw rations and have not been allowed to go out for wood. It seems as if there must be some shameful neglect somewhere. Got one of my ninety out to the hospital. Has good courage. Wrote letter for him to his family in Michigan.
Some 1100 more “Yanks” come in last night. They brought all sorts of reports about matters outside, some encouraging and some quite the contrary. Wrote letter to mother. Studied in Genesis. Find that daily study of the word of God, helps to cheerfulness and throws often a stream of sunshine amid the surrounding gloom.
Heavy rain form 4 to near 12 o’clock last night. Got well soaked drawing rations. This continued rainey weather is telling terribly upon those prisoners who are more or less shelterless. Many a mud hut crumbles to pieces and many a dugout is flooded while the would be occupants stand without in mute despair. Took bath and did some washing. Got another of my ninety to the hospital sick with scurvy.
Sun out today, first time nearly a week. Studied in Psalms, Gen. and Luke. Felt real peace in the thought that all my ways are ordered of the Lord and that some day I shall see all has been for my best good. One poor fellow killed last night in attempting to tunnel out the earth giving upon him. Two nearly finished tunnels discovered by the rebel guard today.
Did some mending. Heavy rain in afternoon and evening. Got well soaked drawing rations.
Diarhea the past two days. Passed a poor night and feel weak and cranky today. Made some tea from white oak bark as a remedy. “Raiders” about last night robbing the newly arrived prisoners. Their doings show phases of humanity hard to believe possible.
Felt weak all day. Had trying time to get the wood squad together.
First day for a week have felt really well. Thank God for returning health. Weather scalding hot. Got another man to the hospital. No medicines for the sick today.
Have drawn fresh meat the past three days, a welcome change from fat bacon and corn meal. Took bath at night. Soup of bones and meal for dinner.
Got another man to hospital. 800 more prisoners today. Heavy thunder shower just at night. A busy week having had to draw rations for the whole detachment. Thank God for having plenty to do and for the extra rations coming to us sergeants on account of the increasing number of the sick so that on some days have a good lot of extras to divide with the needy. Made some vinegar today by soaking meal in the sun so that a palatable drink, valuable as a preventive of scurvy was made. Stirring scenes in camp just at dusk. A Rebel lieutenant and guard came in, and proceeded with fixed bayonets to arrest some of the raiders. Their doings the past week have become so heartless as to enlist the aid of the prison authorities to clear them out and punish the ringleaders. Often the quiet of the night has been broken with the cry of some helpless one “thieves robbers, murder.” The past week they have come and carried on their operations in broad daylight. Noticing a crowd gathered in the main street, pressing through it found a young cavalryman had been robbed of his watch and pocketbook. He was begging with tears for the watch saying it was a present from his dead brother. But in vain and more than one of us felt like pitching in to the rescue, but the ugly looks of dozen or more raiders who encircle him cowered us-perhaps to our shame. But now a rebel guard behind us, the tables were turned and from one end of the camp to the other rang the cries “Here’s your raider, here’s one”, and soon fifty or more taken to the guard house. Of these fifteen of the most notorious were retained and the rest sent into the camp, but only to meet the long pent up vengeance of their fellow prisoners who obliged them to run a gauntlet of clubs and switches not over tenderly applied. The contents of their tents were confiscated. Knives, billies, and other murderous weapons, watches by the dozens and trinkets of various kinds, and many of which were identified by their owners.
More of the raiders cleared out. Near a hundred in all. Report about the camp that money to the value of two or three thousand dollars was found in their possession. In one of their tents a dead body with cut throat showed that murder had been committed. Wrote letter to Nellie.
Sunday. The past three days have brought to many of us a pleasing change. For the past month the rebels have been building an addition of about ten acres to our domain. All detachment above No 48, had the privelege removal. One can hardly express the comfort of moving about without tumbling into or over someone’s dugout or some other domicil or treading on someone’s toes. The removal was made in a bungling manner as are all the doings of the rebel officials. Instead of marching each detachment in order, all were ordered to move at once, so there ensued a pell mell rush to secure best positions and to crowd through a space hardly wide enough for two abreast loaded down with our belonging to all of which we clung as a miser to his gold. Once on the new ground then ensued a grand scramble to get all one could of the refuse tree tops so that for a while pandemonium reigned and not a few free fight. Managed to get my ninety together and some of the refuse wood. Fell into the mud yesterday while crossing the swamp so had to walk with muddy shoes and all, and then had to wash clothes and all. Got another man into the hospital. Busy a good part of the day looking after the sick. No rations given out today on account of some of the detachments not accounting for all their men at roll call. Our mess have been scrimping and have saved extras enough which has netted a fund of $2.70.
Woke with thoughts of dear ones at home. Of the holiday gathering or brothers and sisters. Of the house, garden etc. We invested our $2.70 at the sutlers getting 2 onions, 6 potatoes, 1 pepper, 1 1/2 pts. beans, 2 1/2 table spoons of flour, and bit of pork which with our rations made us quite a 4th of July dinner for prison life. Heavy shower at night. Read over some old home letters as being the nearest to seeing them.
Another week or our pine log prison. Busy from 6 to 10 hours a day, drawing and dividing rations, and looking after the sick and “skirmishing” for the “greybacks” are ever ready to find a dwelling place in our clothing and a daily skirmish drill is a necessity. Have felt weak from the heat and slight attacks of diarhea. God has been merciful to me in comparison to thousands scattered through the prison. Several lots of new prisoners in. Have sad and trying time with the sick of my ninety. Two have died and ten more are in a bad way. A few surgeons have visited us, but have had no medicines to give us. Have had none for the hospital for 9 days. This is crowded to overflowing, and many a poor comrade has to lie and waste away with nothing done for them. Yesterday was first for five days that any have been taken to the hospital. It is amazing to see the lack of humanity on the part of the rebel officials, for many of us think that the “Dutch Captain” is not the only one to blame. It seems to us that with a little energy on their part, shelter from the blazing sun could be provided from the surrounding forests.
Yesterday was the first time for five days that the sick call has been sounded. It brought together the saddest sight I have yet seen in the prison. Between four and five hundred crowded into the streets and by paths leading to the gate. More than half assisted by their comrades, scores lugged in blankets, and exposed to the blazing sun. Some of them died on the way, and many were sunstruck. The process of inspection by the surgeons was slow and when about there was three fourths examined, word came that no more could be attended to. Back to quarters under the noonday sun. They had to hobble, crawl, or were borne the rest of the way with their hopes of relief dashed from them.
Yesterday witnessed the strangest sad scenes, of the hanging of six of the ringleaders of the “raiders.” They were found guilty of murder and robbery and condemned to death on the gallows. From the moment of the appearance of the rebel guard with lumber for the gallows until their bodies swung cold in death and were removed, the camp presented a scene of unnatural and solemn quiet. The day was one of the few when the sun seemed to abate its intense heat. On the way one broke away and rushing across the swamp tried to escape but in vain. A solemn stillness was once more over the camp and with meal sacks over their heads at half past four they met their doom. Not a few debates have been had as to the justice of the affair, but with a few exceptions made by their fellow conspirators the judgment has been that it was but their just deserts and that life here in prison was but a continuation of a life of blackness and crime centered upon before the war. Following the arrest of the raiders, an organized police force from our own men was put on duty and have done good service in keeping good order and promoting cleanliness about the camp. Sent two more to the hospital today. The remaining nine of the raiders have been sentenced to the stocks for a season.
Up to the addition of our new quarters, no attempt has been made to note the sabbath from our week-day routine, but with space to gather together, today many gatherings for worship prayer and conference have been held about the camp. Very touching have been prayers offered, mainly for loved ones at home. The only noteworthy events of the past week, was the calling of us sergeants of detachments before Captain Henry Wirz, who in language anything but courteous informed us of the discovery of an organized attempt to break out of the stockade. He warned us against the attempt saying that if we tried it he should open fire with grape and canister, and the slaughter of the feeble and sick would be laid to our charge. Many of us think no such plan has been really planned, but that the above was a ruse to frighten us from an attempt to do so. As our guards are raw recruits, and conscripts, many of us feel that were it not for the sick and feeble an escape on a grand scale could be easily affected. Feel like trying a hand at tunnelling rather than remain here for the winter.
Two years since enlistment. Little did I think that the lot of being a prisoner of war would be a part of the “three years.” Two months of prison life and health and strength in good measure remain. The past week has brought in many recruits and brought to our ranks. The new ground is all taken and in fact we are beginning to be crowded for room again. Reports say we now number some 35,000. The number of sick and weak is on the increase and the rebel surgeons report they are kept on short allowance of medicines. What little they do have seem to give but little relief to diseases springing from constant warfare with hunger, nakedness, bad water, and lack of vegetable food.
Have been very busy with work incident to the increasing number of sick in the ninety. Many of the worst cases have been taken to the hospital. On the morning of the fourth, word came that all the worst cases in camp were to be brought to the gate, and that from them a large number would be transferred to the hospital. On the strength of this, thousands crowded in a dense mass in the street and by paths leading to the gate, some hobbling, some literally crawling on hands and knees, and hundreds too weak to hobble or crawl were carried in blankets by their comrades. but all in vain for ten a.m. word came that no more were to be taken out today. Next morning came the word again and those able were again in waiting many with glad and expectant faces, feeling that whatever the change might bring them, at least it could be to no worse condition. But again came word that no more would be taken out until 2 p.m. At 2 word came that only those in the first eleven detachments would be taken. Pencil cannot picture the despairing faces nor words describe the sad scenes incident to these two day’s gatherings of the sick of Andersonsville. Especially as the last word came and those who were able hobbled or were borne back to their quarters. Many were sunstruck, a dozen or more died while waiting or on the way. Among them one of my ninety. He had been wasting away and was a sad and loathsome spectacle of whom it might be said in truth before death released him, “He was eaten by worms.” The Good Book says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick”, and truly may this be said of scores about the prison, who up to this day have fought a good fight with hunger, nakedness, and disease. They are now hopeless, heartsick, and discouraged. The needless indignation of their fellow prisoners at this cruelty to the sick is intense and many of us feel that were Captain Henry Wirz to enter the camp unattended, he would be torn limb form limb. We see no reason why the proper officials could not visit the camp and get the Sergeant of each ninety to point out the sick under his charge and all the above exposure and suffering saved.
The number of sick is increasing. Have had heavy rains, which with the scorching sun brings increasing suffering. None have been taken to the hospital for a week or more. No medicines given out. Even so simple an article as vinegar is very helpful for scurvy, which has ceased to be dispensed. The ravages of this disease are terrible. Many going about the camp with bleeding mouth and teeth actually dropping out, legs swollen and turning black and blue. One remedy of some help is to sit with legs burried in the ground. The death rate has increased form fifty to seventy five per day. Five out of the ninety the past week making thirteen in our nine-week stay. Have been busy near all the time. Feel I cannot be too thankful for having so much to occupy my time and thoughts. Notice that those who keep busy stand it the best. Many are the devices to keep from idleness, such as tearing down and rebuilding their mud huts, digging for roots for fuel, (every piece of which if no bigger than a pipe stem is split and piled in the sun to dry.) tunnelling, well digging, carving knickknacks out of stray bones that come with our meat rations, and patching clothing. Cards have been made and also checker boards. These are freely lent and from dawn to dark, groups can be seen about the camp, and the merry laugh shows that all is not dark and dreary. Many a well worn bible and testament can be seen in constant use going from one to another. Nearly an hour is required every day in skirmishing for greybacks, and woe be to the comrade who neglects this task. As no hot water is a hand wherewith to scald our clothing, and as cold water will not drown them destruction by fingernails is our only remedy. Occasionally a copy of some rebel newspaper is thrown in by the guard which is read until worn to shreds. Was both glad and sorry to come across my old friend and christian brother, Daniel F. Nichols, from Dedham. He enlisted in ‘61 and has been here nearly a year, and though somewhat weak is battling bravely for life. He has been a help to many in plying his trade as a shoemaker, and has kindly repaired my nearly worn-out shoes. Was surprised one morning to find Pratt, absent from his place; this was explained by his soon putting in an appearance covered from head to foot with red clay which plainly said “tunneling.” He with others, has started a tunnel from the inside of a nearby hut. They have obtained some boards with which they bridge over the opening during the day covering them with earth and pine bought, so that the tunnel-hunting rebels, will see nothing suspicious should they poke their heads into the place.
Weather has been warm the past week, and very trying to sick and well. The death rate holds its own, three out of the ninety have died. Among them Israel Roach, of Company F., of our regiment. It was with tearful eyes we of the 35th, bore his remains to the gate, pinned the scrape of paper denoting his name and regiment upon his breast and delivered him to the stolid rebel guard. Have had many pleasant chats with him during our prison days. He had I think, typhoid fever, and was delirious during his last hours. Two or three times a day can be seen the “dead wagon”-an old wagon rigged with stakes and railing, into which are piled our dead comrades; just as a farmer would pile a load of wood drawn by four mules bearing them to their last resting place. One cannot but feel that no battle field of the war or hospital scene, can show grander examples of patient heroic endurance than is seen all about us day by day. One of the visiting surgeons showed his sympathy for us by asking Captain Henry Wirz for the use of an army wagon, while it was not in use, with which to go out into the country and get vegetables for us but was refused. He was quite free in his expressions of indignation. In one thing Devine Providence, has richly blessed us it seems almost a miracle wrought for our welfare. This is the opening of a copious spring just above the marsh, and between the stockade and the dead line. We noticed it gushing forth just after a heavy shower. The attention of the rebel officials was called to it, and many of us think they must have forgotten themselves, for were furnished some barrels into which the water was conducted just clear of the dead line. Into these the water, flows a steady stream clear and cool and so freely that the barrels are kept full though drawn upon almost constantly. We keep in line as we fill our cups, tin pails, coffee pots, etc. We realize as the weeks go by that our clothing will wear out and that we cannot make a requisition on the quartermaster. Some of us, sergeants, of nineties have found we can do a little stealing from the Confederacy. Our rations of meal, rich, and beans, are brought to us in twilled cotton sacks, and delivered late in the afternoon and we are required to return the sacks the next day. We noticed that often when late or in a pouring rain the rebel commissary, would not always count the sacks as they were thrown up to him. So watching our chance we would keep back one or more. Have succeeded in capturing a half dozen or more. Tried to make a shirt but had to give it up, and content myself with patching my old ones. The other sacks did duty on other comrades. We have not stopped to consider the morality of the transaction. As each new squad of “Yanks” come in they are portioned among the nineties taking place of the dead and these transferred to the hospital. Find on looking over my roster that I have men from every state of the union but two. The tunnel upon which Pratt and his comrades have been laboring, and which they hoped to finish in a few days had come to untimely end. To their dismay the rebel tunnel squad marched directly to the spot and poled their heads into the “shebank”, but were evidently discouraged at finding no hole, but soon one of them said, “This is the place, I know it is”, and getting a club and beating on the spot the hollow sound revealed the secret, and then the order “Pull down that hut” was obeyed and poor Pratt’s toils were ended. Reports are current that the rebels have spies about the camp night and day. Pratt thinks that some fellow has turned informer, for it is asserted that a reward of tobacco or a position as nurse in the hospital is ready for anyone who will tell of tunneling.
Early in the month barracks were erected on the north side. In these the sick have been placed and are thus sheltered from the sun and rain. They suffer much from unfit food as their rations are in the main the same the rest of us. Occasionally they have a little flour and cooked rice-this latter often miserably prepared often were slops or on the other hand scorced to a crisp. Our rations have been cut down a little, and the meal a good deal of the time is the most miserable quality. “Cob meal” we say, and to devour it a little sputtering has to be done to get rid of the bits of husk, silk, and cracked corn mixed with the better portions. Our varying rations are bacon, meal, molasses, and beans, the latter long harvested, and often flavoured with bugs or insects which have found them a good place for tunneling.
Two weeks more of Pine Log prison life. Succeeded in getting all of the sick of my ninety into the barracks. Steele, and Taber, of our regiment among them. Both were sick with scurvy. Patches of this disease have appeared on my legs, but as long as they do not swell and bother me am not worried. Have felt lonesome and depressed off and on the past two weeks. For nearly a month reports that an exchange was near have been of almost weekly occurrance, or that some of us were to be removed to new quarters. We are ready to go anywhere, to get to a worse place is impossible.
Nine days since I wrote in my diary. Were ordered to move and late in the afternoon we started on our foremost journey. The gates swung open and about one thousand of us marched out into what we felt was God’s country. How cheering was the green grass. Felt almost like kissing it for joy at the sight of it. Were crowded into box cars, and just at dark were given rations in the form of sheets of corn bread. The task of dividing the same by the light of pitch pine torches was anything but an agreeable one. Were two nights and one day en route, and on the morning of the seventh were landed just outside of the city of Savannah. On the way we passed a train load of returning rebel prisoners. The contrast between their sleek faces, and seemingly comfortable clothing and our blackened faces and tattered rags we at least could see. Cheers we gave them as they tossed us generously some of their hard tacks, they had received from Uncle Sam. While en route James Lord slipped the guard and made his escape. We think it a vain attempt and expect to see him back. We were ushered into another stockade and given rations of sweet potatoes and fresh meat. Have been divided into detachments of one hundred, over one of which have been placed as sergeant. Our stay here is evidently to be temporary, but the four days of better rations is having a marked effect for good. Was told that eating raw meat was a good cure for scurvy, and have eaten a good sized piece every day, and my legs are already on the mend. Scores of citizens climb to the top of the stockade and look down upon us and express their sympathy by throwing to us second hand clothing, tobacco, etc. With some the need of tobacco seems stronger than for meat, and frequently about the camp can be heard the call, “Who’s got a piece of tobacco for a ration of meat?”
Another change and thus far an agreeable one. On the thirteenth we were moved about eighty miles to a newly built stockade near Millon, Georgia. Thus far we can find no fault with our quarters and but little with our rations which are nearly double the amount we had at Andersonsville. We draw one pint of meal, six ounces of uncooked beef, a teaspoonful of salt, six of rice, each day and also sweet potatoes two or three times a week. Some days the rice changed for beans but the latter is so buggy that we get pretty hungry before we eat them. Our prison contains forty-two acres and as there are but eight thousand of us we have a chance to spread out without hindrance. It is christened, “Camp Lawton”, has a fine stream running through it, several rods of gravelly bottom for bathing, another for our wash tub, and the last section as a sewer, over which are built sanitary facilities in glad contrast to the horribly filthy arrangements of Andersonsville. As we marched about the grounds were divided into thousands, and subdivided into hundreds and located in military order. Ten brick ovens, and ten large iron kettles are set in position on the west side and the cooking for each thousand is done independently. Ten iron kettles holding about two gallons each have been given to each hundred with which to draw rations. The officer in charge seems to be a gentleman as well as a soldier and as far as we can see does all he can for our welfare. Thirty out of each hundred have been permitted to go out for boughs for bedding. A few axes were given us, and out of the debris remaining from the building of the stockade shacks ( or “shebanks” as we call them) are going up all over the camp, for it looks as if we may have to winter here. It is needless to say that the axes are kept busy from dawn to dark. We question why this change of treatment and rations, and think that Jefferson Davis, or General Winder, or somebody has repented of their evil deeds, and are now doing deeds worthy of repentance.
Our mess has had two busy weeks working in our prison home and have got quite roomy and comfortable quarters. Thanks to our rations of sweet potatoes and fresh meat many of us have been cured of scurvy. No surgeons or medicines, have thus far been given us. The cool weather is telling upon the feeble and those poorly clad. The death rate has increased to four or five per day. An unoccupied part of the camp is used for a ball ground and many games are had these sunny October days. We hear nothing of exchange and many bitter words are spoken against our government, as over again in that direction. Some two hundred and seventy-five have taken the oath to serve the Confederacy, doubtless from varying motives and intentions but to most of us no motive can justify the transaction.
Another week of prison life. Have had two days cold and stormy, which has carried off many a poor shelterless comrade to his last earthly home. Our roof leaked but not so bad but we weathered the storm with no severe drenching. Thank God for continued good health. Smith exchanged some rings for meal sacks with which we have patched our clothes. Not only have coats of many colors, but shirts, trowsers, etc. Find I have fourteen different patches on my pants of almost as many colors. Finished reading book of Job and commenced the book of Proverbs. Never has God’s word been so full of good cheer and uplifting comfort as in these days of prison life. Tried to comfort and cheer the sick in my detachment. Feel I do not do all I might for them. We are hopeful that after the full campaigns as exchange will be effected for some of us at least.
Have had frosty nights and the autumn foliage of the surrounding forests makes one think of his northern home. On election day the rebel officials proposed that we have an election and express our choice for Lincoln, or McLellan. We Lincoln men, felt a doubt of the result as so many were bitter against the government for not effecting an exchange. Different colored beans were used for ballots and at sunset the result was announced 3,014 for Lincoln, and 1,050 for McLellan. Not much comfort for the rebels we thought. An exchange has at last reached us, and two lots of the sick have been sent away, this time indeed and truth to our own lines. It is touching to witness the joy of poor fellows as at last they could feel certain they were going home. Some detestable business was done by some of the rebel surgeons and our men in the matter. The surgeon would examine a sick man and pronounce him a fit subject for exchange, and then go and sell his chance to some nearly well man for money or other gift.
The past eight days have been fruitful in change to our lot. For some days rumors crept into camp that Sherman was near. On the twenty-second, long trains of box cars were in sight from the prison and word came to pack up and be ready to move. Cold, raw, and drizzly without, most of us were in our shelters and the order to turn out was not an agreeable one to us in our rags and tatter, with no hope of exchange to cheer us. Some tried to hide in their quarters by burying themselves in their bedding of pine boughs. This was soon discovered and a rebel bayonet thrust in their faces scattered their hopes of being left to welcome Sherman. Were hastily crowded into the box cars almost at the point of the bayonets for upon some of us protesting that, “this car is full”, we were made to see by a bayonet charge that there was soon room for more. The cold increased as a few scattering snowflakes plainly told us. All night and until ten the next night were getting over the eighty mile to Savannah-now waiting for hours at some siding or barely creeping along at some up grade. Midnight of the twenty-third, found us massed in one of the vacant squares of the city of Savannah chilled to the bone with the cold, weak and faint from hunger. We lay down in heaps to keep warm. Those of us from Massachusetts, talked of the morrow ,Thanksgiving Day, and about its celebration in the old bay state. Went to sleep with mind and heart busy with the thoughts of the great old Thanksgiving days of the past, and “So I dreamed and dreamed.” I was at home, sitting at my mother’s table alone clothed in my prison rages, and before me a large turkey cranberry sauce, etc. I grasped the carving knife to help myself and awoke to find that the grey November clouds had gone, and the stars were glittering overhead, and I was cold and hungry. We remained in the city through the twenty-fourth. Rations of hard tacks given us. A few friendly citizens brought us extras in the shape of cold [victu]als. The guard treated us well. One train load was sent off we were told to Florida. No exchange for us now we felt. Into box cars again on the twenty-fifth, and at 9 p.m. were en route for Charleston, South Carolina. A tedious journey, most of the way through pine forests and dismal swamps. The towns and villages through which we passed spoke plainly of desolation and poverty. We were given rations of bread at Charleston, and the citizens treated us kindly. Here we found our final destination was Florence, South Carolina, to another stockade prison. A ride of one hundred and ten miles, tolerable, but comfortable by day, (as a kindly Providence favored us with bright mild weather) but chilly and dreary at night, and at three a.m. this morning twenty-eighth, we were turned into a field where we piled together on the frosty grass and overcame by intense weariness, forgot hunger and cold and slept until the sun was above the horizon. In the distance we could discern our new prison home-the dim outlines of a stockade overhung with clouds of smoke, through which the morning sun seemed hardly to penetrate. We were soon in our new abode with failing hearts questioning ourselves and each other, “Can we stand it through the winter?” We are determined to try it anyway. We find the prison to be on the same plan as a Andersonsville, of about fifteen acres, five of which is an unhabitable swamp, through the center runs a clear and rapid stream; thank God for this. In the building the rebels were wiser than at Andersonsville, for outside the stockade they have dug a deep trench so that tunneling is not easy. We are divided into thousands subdivided into hundreds. Our mess now reduced to Pratt and myself, and are placed in the fourth-hundred of the fourth thousand. Rations of about one pint of raw meal, one pint of flour and one-half pint of black beans are our average daily amount of which we usually make a grand stew of which we lick the platter clean. Report says there are about twelve thousand in the camp. A squad of police formed from our own men is on duty and good order, and a good measure of cleanliness in the streets and by-ways, prevails quite in contrast by the rebels. Most of the men have built some sort of mud huts the soil being clayey so that with brushwood etc., roofs can be made and chimneys can be built.
Winter has come by the calendar but not yet in reality, for the weather had been delightful, so that we have needed no fire for warmth. Wood squads go out of the prison daily, mainly to cut wood for the camp; some however, work for the rebel officials making tubs, pails, birch brooms, and building log cabins. These squads give the parole word they will not try to escape or go more than one mile from camp and are allowed extra rations. As I am not now in charge of any detachment, miss the extra rations enjoyed in Andersonsville and Milen, and now find myself often hungry and growing weak. Have taken a comrade, Hall, into our mess. He brought with him a good blanket adding to our comfort. We have nearly finished a good mud hut with fire place, and chimney roofed with our blankets so we feel quite well prepared for winter. A few of the sick have been parolled during the week. There is a great rush to get out to work on the wood squads, for in addition to extra rations they have an opportunity to trade with the rebel guards and the negroes. The latter come to our men on the sly while out in the woods, and bring sweet potatoes, beans, etc. which they trade for penknives, pocketbooks, buttons (especially our military ones) combs, and knicknacks carved or twitled out by fellow prisoners. From these extras brought in, quite a trade is carried on inside the stockade. Have determined to try my hand at it, and have sold my quart cup, tin plate, and small kettle for capital. Felt a bit discouraged in trying to mend my clothing, shirts, and pants, and blouse have become literally rags and patches etc. The week closes with Hall out at work on the wood squad, with gives us encouragement. Have tried to get out and also upon the police force but thus far in vain.
The past two weeks have brought winter weather, and a new factor as a cause for suffering. In Andersonsville, it was heat now it is cold; and the past week has seen a dozen or more poor fellows numbered with the dead the verdict being “frozen to death.” The prisoners as a whole are worse off for clothing than at Andersonsville, scores are shoeless and hatless. The wood furnished is mostly green, and almost defers our attempts to get heat from it. The smoke about the camp is suffocating and many of us look more like negroes than white men. We have had some rations of fresh meat which have been a blessing to those having scurvy. Hall has been taken sick and sent to the hospital. We have made four kettles of soup. Hall getting the materials for it from outside. Sold three and with the proceeds bought some pepper and salt. The fourth was a total loss. The iron camp kettles given us at Millen, are of great service here. I found Sergeant Joseph Lunt of Co. A, 35th, here the past week and he has cast in his lot with our mess. Borrowed from comrades a copy of Harper’s Monthly, and Volume VI. of Hun’s History of England, which have helped to cheer some of the dull hours.
The week has brought an agreeable change to our mess and myself. On the 22nd, the rebel quartermaster, came into camp calling for a boss carpenter, and seven assistants. Lunt was chosen and I was fortunate to get on with him as a “striker.” We have now had three days and never did fresh air, fields, and woods seem so rich a blessing. We have been set to work building a log cabin for one of the officials, going out at sunrise into the woods, and through the day cutting logs and riving shingles. Had hard work to swing the ax for the first one or two days, and had the rebel overseer been on hand to watch, fear I would have given out. Our extra rations are liberal and our three days experience begins to make us feel like men again. Pratt, is inside in the hut and acts as cook, and as we come in at sunset with our extras and bundles of firewood upon our shoulders, he greets us with a smiling face and a gallon of hot coffee made from burnt corn meal which with bean soup and baked corn cake, by the light of a pitch pine knot we gratefully devour everything. Every sabbath forenoon we are counted off. A guard comes in and we upon the west side are marched across the creek to the east side and there wait shivering in the cold and some days in rain and mud, while the guard goes through our quarters and takes account of those who are too sick to crawl out. Then the whole is required to cross the bridge by hundreds and by fours between two rebel officers who count us as we pass; it is often very tedious, and takes four hours to complete the count. Busy most of the day patching up my shirt with an old meal sack foraged from outside.