Aaron Eugene Bachman is my 2nd Great Grandfather
He was born on January 30, 1843 in Litiz Pennsylvania and died at the age of 73 in 1916. So he lived roughly a century before me and of course I never knew him.
Fortunately, toward the end of his life, he wrote an autobiography, which touches on his early life, his time as a cavalryman in the Union Army and as a POW at Belle Island and Andersonville.
A portion of this memoir, originally written in German, is reproduced below in English translation
ENLISTMENT AND ARMY LIFE
On July 17, 1861, C. H. Lichtenthaler of Reading, Pennsylvania came to Lititz as a recruiting officer for the United States Army. His, purpose was to recruit an old organization known as the Reading City Troop. Host of our young men had already gone to war and I had decided to stay at home; but I got the “war fever” like the rest of the boys and when Mr. Lichtenthaler came, dressed in a cavalry uniform, the beauty of the uniform captured me and I went with him to Reading.
It was the purpose of the Reading City Troop to recruit the full quota of one hundred and one men to carry dispatches. On July 50th we had the full number of men and were mustered into the United States service for three years, if not discharged sooner. The same day we left for Baltimore, via Lebanon and Harrisburg, and arrived at our destination about dusk. We lay all night in the Calvert Street Station yard. It was rather warm before midnight but from then until morning it was quite cool, we had neither beds nor blankets and received our first experience in exposure, which was mild compared with what we endured later even though we had neither supper, breakfast nor dinner the next day. Toward evening we got an apology for a meal which was really not fit to eat, but we helped ourselves as best we could. We were not discouraged however and soon we had all we could eat; but we slept on the soft side of a board for some time. It seemed hard at first but soon we got used to it and slept better on a hard than a soft bed.
The next day after our experience in the Station yard we marched out to Camp Hoffenditz, which was located about one mile east of Calvert Street Station. The camp was known as “the cattle show ground”, and the camp was named after our captain. We broke camp on December 28th and marched to Washington, D.C.. Here we camped until the following March and then started on our summer campaign.
Our food at first was mainly army crackers about four inches square, one half inch thick, and as hard as poplar boards. We could neither break nor chew them so we nibbled them, like mice. We soon learned to soften them by soaking them in cold water over night. Some of the boys used them for wheels on toy wagons. Our beef came in barrels and was very course and rank. Some said the barrels were stamped “1843”. I cannot vouch for that, but I know that the beef seemed historic. The food was better later on, but it had a laxative effect and cathartics were not in demand. Our food finally improved, both in quality and quantity, until we could not eat all that was given us. There were very few soldiers who could eat the full ration. Our commissary sergeant ordered the loaves of bread reduced from twenty-two ounces to sixteen ounces. We became quite fat before we were there very long. We drilled on foot before we had our horses. In the forenoon we had squad drill and in the afternoon we had-company drill, whenever the ground was in good condition. After a long time of waiting we were given our horses and then we felt more like real cavalrymen and wished for active military service, my horse was a Canadian pony and suited me in every way. It was not so big standing, but quite large lying down. It was as tame as a pet dog, sure-footed and feared nothing.
Near Mount Vernon, the historic home of George Washington, there was a large tract of very level land containing about three hundred acres, with only one tree in the middle of the tract. This was a splendid drill ground and we used it for that purpose. There was another company of cavalry camping with us, so both companies drilled together and fought sham battles. The companies took opposite sides of the drill grounds and charged with sabers drawn, and horses running at full speed. When we came together the command was given by bugle, “by fours right about wheel, march”, and we returned to our respective sides. Some days we drilled single file and charged each other; first trotting, then galloping, and then in-full charge, with our sabers drawn and making all kinds of cuts and parries. It is needless to say that we enjoyed the drilling much more than the real fighting later on.
A squad of our cavalry, of which I was one, was detailed to serve as orderlies for General Dick at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. This gave us a splendid opportunity to get acquainted with the city. While at the Fort we saw a soldier being drummed out of the service for striking a drunken officer. The soldier was on camp guard duty and the officer wanted to take away the guard’s musket. The guard protested and said, “I have no right to give away my gun”, but the officer insisted and had to be knocked down before he gave up. The guard was found guilty of assaulting an officer and was sentenced to be drummed out of the service. They shaved off his hair, tied a strip of red flannel around his head, stuck turkey feathers under the flannel and tied his hands behind his back. He was then ordered to follow a regiment of infantry and a drum corps that played the Rogue’s March. The infantry carried their muskets with reverse charge bayonets and sixteen infantry-men followed with charge bayonets. They marched the poor fellow all through the camp and out towards the gate between two regiments of infantry with charge bayonets; then he was turned out and freed.
He remained at a hotel in Baltimore until his hair was grown out again and then went to his home in New Jersey. We often marched out the Baltimore and York pike on fair days and covered every part of the neighborhood. While we were orderlies for General Dick we took our dinners at the Sanitary Commission Building where we had splendid meals and much fun. We often spent half days in the city buying things we needed in camp. Our company horse shoer was an expert race-horse shoer before the war and it was here that I learned that part of my trade while assisting in shoeing. The work was done to perfection. We kept our camp clean by sweeping it with brushes cut from a woods where there was much undergrowth. This was very necessary where there were so many horses.
There was a general fellowship among the boys which one occasion I remember well will illustrate. Our commissary sergeant, H.H. Brownmiller, had a brother in the United States Band in California whom he had not seen for fifteen years. When the war broke out the band was ordered to the East and the young musician came to visit his brother. The joy of that meeting was contagious and everyone was as happy over Brownmiller’s pleasure as if it had been his own.
We bad two buglers in our company, one a master musician while the other played by ear. The latter was to play the tattoo at one time and had forgotten how to play it, so he came to me and asked me to whistle it for him. I did so and he was then able to sound the call. The bugler had a very high-spirited horse that was hard to ride and to control. One day while returning from water, the horse made a dash and jumped over an old man and his little grandson. Neither of them was hurt but the horse fell on the bugler’s leg and broke his ankle. That put him out of commission and we got a new bugler from Carlisle Barracks. This bugler was not afraid of the vicious horse and performed all kinds of tricks on its back without being thrown. The boys decided however, to run the horse to death since everybody was afraid of it. They kept it running for eighteen miles at one time; but the only effect was to make the horse stiff for a few days.
Some of our boys would sample too much old rye and have to be punished for drunkenness. One of the men had both of his hands and one foot tied together and was compelled to lie on his stomach, At another time he had a thirty pound ball and a ten pound chain riveted to his leg for one month. This cured him. Another of the boys got drunk and stole a horse and buggy. He was compelled to carry fifty pounds of bricks in his knapsack for three days – two hours on and four hours off. He walked in a circle twenty feet in diameter and was under guard day and night. He walked very fast at first but soon came to a slow gait. After his punishment he deserted and was never heard of again.
We now went into winter quarters and were ordered to build twelve shanties, each to accommodate eight men. We made four bunks, a table and benches to seat the eight men. Each had a small cook stove and we lived quite contented. We even had mattresses for our bunks which was better then boards. A friendly neighbor kept us supplied with apples whenever we came for them. Twenty years later I visited Baltimore and went out to see the old camp site. On my way I met a man who looked familiar, I asked him the way to the old cattle show grounds; he directed me and in the course of our conversation I learned that he was the man who used to give us the apples. We had a hearty handshake and talk over bygone days. I came to the old camp ground and found that it was being laid out in lots and streets. A family that had showed us many favors when we camped there was still living at the old homestead.
One day an elderly Irishman came into camp with a load of crabs. He expected to sell them to us, but when no one bought them he dumped the whole load into the camp. We soon had two ten-gallon boilers ready to make crab soup and had all we could eat without cost. A middle-aged German Catholic woman came to our camp with her two sons and with a small hand wagon to sell produce to the boys. She looked very much like my mother and gave me very excellent motherly advice which was a great help to-me in all my life in the army.
Sometimes the boys would become dissatisfied with the branch of the service they had chosen, thinking that some other branch would be easier. On one occasion I saw a company of artillery on dress parade; their cannon were polished and everything looked so fine that I wished I had chosen artillery instead of cavalry service. I saw the same company a year later in Virginia while on a heavy march after a rain. I was very glad then that I had a horse to carry me and was well satisfied with my choice of service.
On Wednesday morning, December 28th, 1861, we broke camp at Hoffenditz and marched to camp Pierpont in Virginia. The weather was clear in the morning, but before noon it began to snow and by night the snow was eight inches deep. It was so cold that the water froze as it fell on our clothes and we could hardly get our supper. We camped for the night at a hotel about half way between Baltimore and Washington. The proprietor of the place, who was a Confederate, at first refused to keep our officers over night, and would not give us any wood to build our fires, but after we threatened to break down his fences and use them for kindling, he ordered his slaves to get out the oxen and cart and bring us some wood; which, by the way, was so green that we could, scarcely burn it. We used rails to help burn the green wood, much to the displeasure of the proprietor. He entertained our officers over night because he knew it was best for his health to do so; but his bill for entertaining six commissioned officers and furnishing us some green wood was thirty-eight dollars.
I was on guard two hours before midnight, to protect our horses, and was supposed to be on again from two to four in the morning. The cold was so extreme that I did not venture out. I was afraid of freezing to death, so I went to the barn and crept into the straw; but I soon found that I could not keep warm there, so I came out and ran to keep warm. The night seemed very long, but it finally passed and we got our breakfast; after which we started on our march to Washington.
Upon arriving at Washington we marched up Washington Avenue, crossed the chain bridge about ten miles above the city and arrived at Gamp Pierpont about 4:00 P.M. There we fed ourselves and our horses. Military rules forbade us taking our horses to water when saddled, but we had not been told of this, up to this time. Our sixth sergeant, Joseph Suck, had saddled his horse to take it to water when the Colonel came along in fatigue dress and ordered Suck to unsaddle his horse. Buck didn’t know it was the Colonel and told him to go to a hotter climate than Virginia; the Colonel repeated the order and the sergeant used still more uncultured language, familiar to soldiers, and took his horse to water with the saddle on. The next morning we got orders, in no uncertain terms, not to take our horses to water while saddled. That day we settled down to real camp life. We had a company cook who did his best to keep down our appetites.
We had two ten-gallon kettles in which to do our cooking. In these we boiled our coffee and our soup, which was mainly bean soup with some pork to give it flavor. We drew baker’s bread, which was not very substantial at times. I usually ate my loaf at one meal, to make sure that no one would steal it, we had very excellent coffee; in fact coffee never tasted so good before nor since.
We were now in a regimental camp and began regimental drill, which was harder than company drill. Since it was winter and often rainy, we were obliged to drill in the mud. This gave us plenty to do to keep ourselves and our horses in the required condition. We were also drilled for picket duty. For the sake of those who do not know, I will tell what it is like. The guards are placed about fifty yards apart and are given a word, such as “Washington”, which must be kept a strict secret. All persons going beyond the picket line are given this word, called the “countersign”; when they return and are about thirty feet away from the picket guard, he calls out, “Halt, who comes there?” The man answers, “A friend”. The guard keeps him covered with his carbine or saber and asks him to advance and give the countersign. He then advances to within a step of the guard, halts again and gives the countersign. If it is correct he is allowed to pass within the lines, but if he does not know the password or if he gives it incorrectly he is held under guard until the Corporal’s guard comes and takes him in charge.
When the patrol or relief comes, the guard halts him and says, “Corporal of the patrol (or Sergeant of the relief) advance and give the countersign”. The officer leaves his men behind, advances and gives the password, and then repeats the act with the next picket guard, ^hen the picket is out on a dangerous post the countersign must be given in a whisper, and if on an outpost the guard fires without asking for the password. Picket duty is a great deal more dangerous at night than in the daytime and the guard must be more cautious and alert. Infantry pickets two hours on and four hours off duty; while cavalry and artillery served four hours on and eight hours off. Many of our experiences in camp were laughable. It was against the rules to burn fence rails and anyone caught with rails was arrested. One day one of the boys was arrested with five rails tied together, and taken to General McCall’s headquarters. The General asked, “Where did you get those rails and what do you want with them?” The soldier said, “I want to keep warm and cook my food.” “Just leave those rails here and go and get another load for yourself. We need wood too,” was the commander’s reply; and the soldier was glad to get off that easy.
Just before breaking camp for open field duty our Colonel took us out and formed us in a hollow square. He took a position in the middle of the square and gave us a fine address. Among the things he said was, “Men, I am going to take you into battle, but I will bring you out again.” He did so many times, but he was killed in General Burnside’s campaign before Fredericksburg. In the morning of the day on which he was wounded he seemed to have a foreboding of his death. He said, “I was a Captain in the regular army and wore two bars. Now I wear one star. I would rather wear the bars.” Shortly after that, Colonel Baird, with a number of other officers, was standing near a tree within range of the rebel artillery fire. A shell from their guns took away the Colonel’s hip and he died seven hours later, lamented by all his men.
INCIDENTS OF 1862 and HOSPITAL EXPERIENCES
We broke camp and went to Leesburg and Hunters Hill and scoured all that country, When the “Johnnies” heard that the “Yanks” were coming they left the place, so we did not get into a fight with them. From Hunters Hill we marched all day to Falls Church. Unfortunately for us, it rained all day and wound up with a thunder storm. I rode a very hard-mouthed horse that was wiry and hard to control. It became frightened at a large mud hole and fell, carrying me along into the water. The horse got away from me, but was caught by one of the boys who held it until I came after it. My clothes were soaked with mud and water, and until night, I was obliged to keep in ranks in this condition. My clothing was so heavy that I could not mount alone. That night we camped in a large woods, and it was remarkable how soon we had our fires, going and had our meals cooked. We were hungry after the day’s experience and were not very particular how things were served. After supper a comrade and I went about a mile to where we found several stacks of wheat. We took all we could carry for our horses and reached camp in safety; in spite of the pitch darkness, thunder and lightning. On our return to camp we met a teamster who had upset his wagon, but we felt too weary to help him out of his dilemma. That night I slept on two rails by a large fire. With fence rails for a mattress, my rubber coat and poncho for a covering and my haversack for a pillow, I spent a comfortable night through the rain and storm.
In the morning we resumed our march to Falls Church, where we stayed for some time. Here we witnessed a great Cavalry review of seventy-five thousand men. It was an imposing sight and gave us much inspiration. I assisted in shoeing horses while here. One day I chastised a vicious horse with a hammer. The major came up to me and said, “Young man, hereafter take something softer than a hammer when you punish a horse.”
I became ill and was sent to the Georgetown Hospital for seven days. Here I lost track of my regiment. A comrade and I went to Alexandria and to Manassas but failed to find it after a whole day’s hunt. Finally we were told that our regiment had gone to Fortress Monroe, so we took a freight train and returned to Alexandria. From there the Provost Marshall sent us to Catlet Station and we arrived there just as our regiment was going out on a wild goose chase. I remained in the woods until they returned. During my hunt for my regiment I went three days and three nights without food. To say that I was hungry is putting it mildly, but I learned more about hunger when I came to Andersonville.
We went to Falmouth next and stayed there quite a while. While here I again assisted in shoeing horses. I was not required to do this but wanted to do all I could. One day I gave my horse to one of the boys to use in regimental drill, while I was shoeing his horse. My horse broke away with his rider, ran around a three hundred acre tract three times and then returned to ranks and drilled all forenoon.
We left Falmouth and crossed the Rappahannock River and went towards Richmond via Fredericksburg. When we came into Spotsylvania County our regiment and four companies of “Bucktails” received orders to join General McDowell’s division and check Stonewall” Jackson who was coming down the Shenandoah Valley. We came up by way of Fredericksburg, Bull Run, Mannasas Junction, Thoroughfare Gap and Front Royal, I was shoeing horses all along our raid, and whenever a horse lost a shoe I stopped to put it on, and then caught up with my company. After several days of this extra work my horse gave out and I was obliged to stay “behind my command.
I finally came to Front Royal and saw a company of our artillery unlimbered, supported-by infantry. A number of stragglers came running in, badly frightened, and it looked as though we were to be driven back, but it was only a scare, I saw that it was not safe to go forward, so three of us cavalrymen went back to the city. One of our men was terribly frightened. We called this the skedaddle” fever and he surely had a bad case of it. We stabled our horses and the frightened soldier crept under the manger. I routed him out and compelled him to come along and be a real soldier. Whenever he saw a hiding place he made a dash for it, but I got him out every time. At last he saw an empty Negro shanty about fifty yards from the road and made for that at full speed, saying as he ran, “Now I will listen to you no longer.” I never heard what became of him, but he certainly was no help to the service. I went back to the wagon train and remained with them two weeks until we reached our command.
After lying near Front Royal about a week we got orders to go forward, but soon got orders to return. We crossed the Shenandoah River twice; the first time near where the old bridge had been shot from its pillars. The second time we crossed the river, we went in a flat-bottomed boat that came near upsetting. We then went north toward Millersburg, turned up the pike to Mount Jackson and crossed the south branch of the Shenandoah. We had about a dozen steers to furnish us with a supply of beef and had to drive these through the river. The river was swift and deep and the steers were afraid of the water, but after much persuasion one of the animals ventured in and was carried down the stream quite a distance before it landed on the other side. We had quite a time getting all those frightened steers across the river, but when it was our turn to cross we were about as much afraid as the steers had been. I took the lead, and kneeling on my saddle, urged my horse to go in. It swam across and when I landed on the other side I waved my cap and invited the boys to follow. We camped that night on a neck of land where the river makes a horseshoe bend, but were ordered back in the morning because of high water, caused by a heavy rain in the night. Near us was a large wooden bridge that was greatly damaged by the flood and was just at the point of falling. When one of our men on the other side tried to cross over to us. We persuaded him to desist, and just then the bridge went down and left him on the other side. We never heard what became of him.
We broke camp and crossed the river on a wooden railroad bridge east of the camp. When all had crossed safely we took the steers across and had more fun than can be furnished by a circus. The bridge was without railing and the animals were afraid to go on the bridge. Finally we blind-folded one and led it on the bridge and the others then followed; but the real fun began when the steers looked down about fifteen feet into the water. They jumped first to one side and then to the other, bellowing with fear. About fifteen minutes after the steers were over, the bridge was carried downstream by the flood and we were very thankful that we got over safely. We went up the pike as far as Harrisonburg when we met our forces coming back from chasing Stonewall Jackson up towards Richmond. We came back as far as Woodstock where we laid three days. Our horses were nearly all barefooted so I had to start shoeing again. We had twelve smiths on one forge and often had more shoes in the fire than coal. After we had completed the shoeing we returned over the same route that we had come. It was harvest time and we saw the prettiest wheat we had ever seen. The first night after we left Woodstock we stopped at a farm, the owner of which was a rebel. He asked our Colonel to protect his property and the Colonel placed guards all around his place; but when for this favor, the Colonel asked permission for himself and Staff to stay in the farmer’s house over night, the farmer refused. The Colonel then withdrew all the guards and told the boys to help themselves, so we had a picnic for a while. There were cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens, smoked meats, vegetables and grain for us to eat. Yes, we helped ourselves and the whole staff of officers stayed all night, too. After twelve hundred of us helped ourselves there wasn’t much left for the farmer. I was too late in arriving, so my share of the forage was only one onion.
On our way back a number of us slept in a graveyard, near Front Royal, My bed was an old sunken grave, covered with thick grass. It was a splendid bed and not a ghost disturbed me, so I had a good sound sleep. While here I had a narrow escape from being killed. One of our smiths tried to take the breach out of a rebel musket that was loaded. The weapon discharged and the ball passed through the body of one of the smiths. He died of mortification later. The lead might have hit me, but my time had not yet come.
One day an old Negro came to our camp and inquired who owned all this outfit. We told him that Uncle Sam owned it, “Dat mus be a mighty rich uncle you got”, was his reply. Our outpost had a dispute with the “rebs” about a fishing boat and our Colonel took two hundred and forty men with carbines down the river to settle the trouble. When we came to the place we found an entire regiment of Confederates lined up waiting for us. Our Colonel saw the odds against us and told us that he had nothing for us to do here. We were disappointed for we expected to fight, but we returned without firing a shot.
While reconnoitering in the vicinity of Orange Court House we were granted special liberty, which meant “help yourselves to whatever you can get”. We raided a country general store and got plenty of good things to eat and a barrel of applejack to drink. The boys filled their canteens with it and had a gay time. The officers came along and emptied the barrel on the grass; but the boys dipped up the applejack with their hands and got as “full as a little wagon”.
I suffered from a severe attack of ivy-poison at this time, I had slept in a fence corner that was full of poison and had to have a doctor’s care to get me over it. After that I examined the fence corners before sleeping in them.
Two of the boys had a fallout about a horse and were challenging each other when one of the officers ordered them to quit or to go to the woods and fight it out. They chose to fight and went to the woods. It was a regular prize fight and ended in a draw. They bathed their faces in cold water all day to get rid of their bruises.
We were on picket duty between the chain bridge and the Jackson House. The Jackson who owned this house was a brother of the one who owned the Jackson Hotel in Alexandria where Colonel Ellsworth was killed while taking down the Confederate flag on top of the hotel. Colonel Ellsworth had said when he took his regiment of zouaves out of Philadelphia that he would personally take down the first rebel flag that he saw. The flag on the Jackson Hotel was the first and the Colonel took it down as he said he would. When he came to the third from the last step, Jackson fired and killed him. A zouave then shot and killed Jackson and his body was afterward carried around the city on a stretcher as a warning to others. Between two and four o’clock in the morning, while I was on picket duty near the Jackson House, I witnessed a pretty sight; two gray foxes played so near to me that I could almost touch them with my saber. It is remarkable how these little things make an impression on one’s memory.
Towards fall I became ill with swamp fever and had to see our surgeon. He gave me ten or fifteen grains of quinine and a lump of bluemass as big as a cherry and required me to take it in his presence. The intense heat, the fever and the doctor’s dope fixed me completely; so I gave my blacksmith’s tools away and was taken to the hospital some thirty miles away, in company with a comrade named R.F. Irvin. We were almost dead from the long drive and the exposure when we reached the hospital. We were put in a new hospital tent in the woods, but before we could get rested they took us away to the rear, near Warrington, where they kept us for two weeks. This was at the time when General Pope was retreating and we had to keep out of his way.
Prom Warrington we were taken by train to a place near Palls Church, where there were about six hundred sick and wounded soldiers. We remained here six weeks and were then taken to Falls Church. On our way to this place the car in which I rode left the rails and we had a rough ride for a while, this was not much enjoyed by sick folks. The second battle of Bull Run was fought while we were at Palls Church. One day during the battle a large number of stragglers passed on their way to Washington, The Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry came in from this battle in bad order; almost every soldier had lost something that goes to make up a cavalryman’s outfit,
We were now ordered to break camp and put all our belongings in rolls; quite a few of us packed ours in boxes, but never saw them again. General Pope and his array made for Washington, defeated by the Confederates, General Fitz John Porter got credit for Pope’s defeat. He was but fifteen miles away with an army of two thousand men who were doing nothing. Had he come to Pope’s aid, the day would have been won for the Union army. We were sent to Washington, where we saw many wounded brought in. I well remember an Irishman who had both arms and part of the lower jaw shot off. He was strong in his denunciation of the rebels and said he would whip them when he got well again; but his days of fighting were over.
At Washington five thousand of us were loaded on freight cars and shipped to Philadelphia. The authorities had wired to Williamstown to have food ready for a lot of hungry men and we certainly were well fed when we got there. Thousands were there to welcome us and we had all kinds of food. When we came to Philadelphia I was assigned to the Christian Street Hospital. Here I had a relapse and a general breakdown. I was so sick I thought my end had come. One morning the doctor came around and asked, Bachman, how are you? I said, “Better”. He looked grave, said, “Yes I see”, and went on. He left nothing for me, as he thought that I could not live long; but my sickness changed for the better that day. When I got stronger I was asked to help do the sweeping, but I was so weak I could hardly hold a broom. Before I was completely well I took jaundice and was sick three months more.
When I was convalescing they gave me the privilege of going all over the city and I passed most of my time sight-seeing. My aunt Helen and my oldest brother, Francis, came to visit me while here and their visit was a great help to me in breaking my loneliness.
Among the inmates of the hospital was an Irishman, supposedly afflicted with rheumatism, who walked on crutches. Every two weeks he got a pass to go downtown, and each time he got “gloriously drunk” and came back carrying his crutches on his shoulders. He was put on the black list for two weeks and then he would repeat the act and forget his rheumatism while drunk. Another Irish inmate claimed to have an injured spine and went on crutches. He finally got his discharge because of his supposed incapacity for doing military duty. After he got his discharge however, he went out into the yard, performed all kinds of acrobatic stunts and said, “I know how to get a discharge. I was a member of the hospital guard and had some very trying duties to perform; such as burying the dead and bringing the boys home from the saloons at night.
On January 28, 1863, I received a special permit to go home on a seven days leave of absence, but I had a hard time getting out of Philadelphia. I went to the ticket office at two o’clock in the afternoon to buy a ticket for Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There I was stopped by two guards who asked for my discharge or furlough. I handed them my permit but they said they had no right to respect that, so they took me to the provost marshal’s office. The provost sent me to the hospital and the hospital officer sent me back to the provost with special papers. The guards then allowed me to pass and at four o’clock I left for home with an anxious heart.
I reached Lancaster at 8:00 P.M. and started to walk to Lititz, a distance of eight miles, through a deep snow that had begun to fall before I left Philadelphia. I arrived at Lititz at 1:00 A.M., tired and cold. I stayed at the home of John Sounders for several days and visited my grandmother, aunt and friends, who were very glad to see me. Prom here I went to Fredericksburg by way of Lancaster, Harrisburg and Lebanon, walking nine miles from Lebanon to Fredericksburg, where I visited my brother. Prom here I walked four miles to see my parents and remained with them several days. Father took me to Lebanon where I boarded a train for Philadelphia. At Sinking Springs I was arrested by a guard who demanded my furlough. I showed him my special permit, but he too refused to honor it, only after much explanation was I allowed to go, on upon promising that I would return to the hospital.
SOME NARROW ESCAPES AND EXCHANGE VISITS ON THE FIRING LINE
Early in February a squad of recuperated soldiers was ordered to the front, I among them. We passed through Wilmington and, crossing the river at Havre De Grass, went on to Washington via Baltimore. We crossed the Potomac and came to General Burnside’s miscellaneous corps, where we stayed a few days. There we hoarded a skipper and went down the river to Belle Plain. Our regiment lay out seven miles from this place, and after walking the entire distance I reached my company and was glad to get back into real service again. Soon after I arrived a part of our command was sent out on picket duty. I was one of the pickets. Several inches of snow fell while we were out and filled our tent which had been torn down by a lot of toughs who had a rough-and-tumble fight. We were obliged to sleep in this wet tent all night and I took a severe cold as a result. Had it not been for the kindness of several of the boys, who took me into their tent and nursed me, I would have had to go to the hospital again. I preferred the firing line to the hospital.
We were short of food while at Belle Plain, so about forty of us were detailed to go to the landing to bring oats and provisions to camp. They gave us green mules to use in bringing the stuff and we had the time of our lives getting the mules to carry the loads. Each mule was to carry three sacks, and such bucking you never saw in a Wild West show. Some of the boys lost their sacks before they got to camp. At one time while we were here some of our men started a fire to do some washing. The fire spread and got beyond their control, so two of us were sent as firemen to extinguish the flames, which threatened to burn our camp. My partner played off and left me to fight the fire alone, but I won the victory just the same.
We were now taken thirty-five miles below Fredericksburg to do some picket duty and remained there about a month. My beat was a mile long, inland from the river. One night I heard a noise like a child crying, but could find nothing. The next day I found a big owl sitting in the grass and was told by the man owning the place that owls frequently play such tricks. On another night I was frightened by what seemed to be a man kneeling and leveling a musket at me. I dismounted and advanced to find that my enemy was a stump. I asked the owner of this farm why so many hog skins were hanging on the fence. He said, “Last winter when your men were here they killed all my hogs, skinned them and hung the skins on the fence; so they are there still”. My picket post was now changed to the river, which was a mile and a half wide at that point. Across the river from us the Fifty-second Virginia Cavalry was stationed and we frequently talked together, even at that great distance we had to talk in a loud monotone in order to make our voices carry. They would wave a newspaper above their heads and sing out, “Hello there! Have you any papers to exchange?” We would say, “Yes”. They would then ask, “What have you?” and we would answer, “The Philadelphia Inquirer, what do you have?” “The Richmond Clipper,” they would reply. “Will you let us come back if we come over?” “Yes, we are old soldiers, we’ll let you go back.” On one occasion a major, a captain, a lieutenant and two privates came in a little boat to the middle of the river and repeated the above question and we gave them the same answer, When they came to within about a hundred feet of the river bank they again asked if they would be permitted to return, We reassured them and helped them to land. We had a hearty handshake, talked over various subjects, exchanged papers and tobacco, and told stories. After the visit we shook hands again, wished each other well, and they returned to their camp. We had similar exchange visits three or four times while I was on duty at that post.
One day we were sent about thirty miles down the river to Port Conway, and then to Maple Grove where there are five forks in the road. The Rebels saw us move and sent three hundred men down the river in a flat-bottomed boat to destroy us. They didn’t get close to us until we came to Maple Grove, where they lay in ambush for us on both sides of the road. They burned the large bridge on the road leading northeast from the town to prevent our escape that way, but the boys repaired it with some new planks that lay nearby and we crossed safely. We bought corn for our horses and while they were eating, one of our first corporals, named John Johnson, went ahead a short distance to an old negro shanty. The old darkie warned the corporal not to take the middle road, which we had planned to take, saying, “Don’t go up dat way boss; dem Rebs is up dar in ambush on bof sides de road an dey kill ebery one of yez sure.” Had it not been for Johnson’s inquisitiveness and the pile of new planks along the road, no doubt all of us would have been killed or captured.
The next, day after our raid, the same five Confederates, mentioned previously, came over again to exchange papers. During the conversation they asked us where we had been yesterday. I said that we hadn’t been anywhere. One of them said, “We saw you going and followed, but we failed to find you.” I told them that we went down to Maple Grove, but I didn’t tell them how nicely we slipped away from them. The strange part of it is the men who were so friendly the day before and the day after, would have killed us had they caught us that day in ambush. During that day the Colonel, with seven men, came to see us. He was waylaid by a lot of Rebs in the woods close to the road. They halted the Colonel and he raised his cap to halt his men; but the men mistook it for an order to charge and escape. As they fled, the Rebs fired and killed two of our men, all the rest escaped. The next day a squad of us went down, brought back the dead and buried them.
A captain of the Fifty-second Virginia Cavalry said to me, “Two years ago I would have shot any man who would say anything against the United States flag, but today I would do the contrary.” I said to him, “Just wait two years longer and you will again be under the same flag.” He replied, “No, never.”
We had a crazy German in our camp who performed all kinds of antics. At sick call he would tell the doctor that he was afraid he might shoot somebody, The doctor told him that was what the government expected him to do. He was finally discharged because he was of no use in the service.
One night several hundred of our men crossed the river on flat-bottomed boats to make the Confederates believe that our army wanted to cross at that place, We placed six farm wagons with logs on them, to look like cannon, on top of a hill not far from us. Later, we saw some of the Rebels and they told us they were not afraid of farm wagons with logs on them.
The citizens had a color signal code and would signal to each other across the river, but we did not understand them. Soon the planters came to us and wanted guards, claiming they were not safe. We were now, however, relieved from duty at this place and were sent North to do reconnoitering. The command that relieved us was soon captured, so we considered ourselves lucky to get away.
I was on picket duty one night on the bank of a river where there was some talk of the Rebs crossing. I had talked with the rebel guards during the day and was suspicious of them. During the night I heard a strange noise on their side of the river, which sounded like a trumpet. It continued for quite a distance along the river, when suddenly there was a splash which was repeated a number of times. I took this to be the splashing of the oars on their boats. The next picket guard had a fire close to the river and this drew my supposed enemy to the shore. It was an otter. It looked at the guard, whose heart ached to shoot it, but he was forbidden to shoot while on duty, so he had to forbear. I was glad it was an otter instead of the Confederates.
We had a great deal of marching to do after we left this place, One day, while out on a reconnoitering expedition, we spied a tall Rebel riding a small lean horse, quite a distance ahead of us. As soon as he saw us he made for shelter; but we gained on him and so he dismounted and went to the east side of the road to hide. About twenty of us also dismounted and followed him into the woods. John Algeigher and I were the last to come up. The fellow had crouched behind a fallen tree near the edge of the woods and had leveled his gun at me when Algeigher ordered him to surrender or die. He came out and surrendered. I was certainly grateful for the presence of mind that was shown that time by my friend John, for it undoubtedly saved my life.
Our regiment crossed the river at Black Oak Church and went westward to scout out the enemy. We found them and drove back their pickets until we came up to their main command in a big woods. They tried to draw us into the woods and then surround us with their cavalry but we saw them coming in on both sides, trying to get to our rear and cut us off; and, knowing that we were too weak to fight them, we made our escape back to the river.
The First Pennsylvania Cavalry and the First Massachusetts Cavalry went out on a reconnoitering expedition one evening, led by the Colonel-sergeant of the Massachusetts regiment. We crossed the Rapidan River soon after dark and were out all night. The leader had a white handkerchief on his cap so we could see where to follow. At eleven-o’clock we got orders to dismount and lay down to sleep. After awhile we were ordered to go forward again, and had not gone more than two hundred yards when we came onto the outpost of the enemy. There were six pickets on duty and they fired on us, but without hitting anyone. Our Colonel ordered us to return the fire but we also failed to hit anyone. We followed them to the edge of the woods where they fired again without any damage to us. Twelve of us then dismounted and followed them for two miles until we came to their camp. Our horses were brought up to us and we returned to the river and had to wait there two and a half hours, We could not sleep because of the mosquitoes, It was not until years after the war closed that I learned the mission of our wait there. Two of our companies were down the river on picket duty and we waited until two other companies went after them to bring them back.
On June eighth we were on a forced march all day and bivouacked that night on the east side of the Rappahannock River. A few days prior to this some of General Hooker’s spies had come in and reported that General Lee intended to invade Pennsylvania. General Hooker said, “I will spoil his game somewhat before he goes.” The Confederates had eighty thousand cavalry and we had one hundred thousand, but we had only sixty-eight thousand men engaged. The officers decided that General Pleasanton should attack the enemy at the Rappahannock railroad station on the morning of June 9,1863, and pretend that he was going to cross the river at that place. While he was making this move we had time to cross the river below, and get to the rear of the “Johnnies”. This gave General Gregg, with thirty thousand men, time to attack them. We crossed at the United States Ford, and General Beaufort, with thirty-two thousand men, crossed at the next ford below.
I well remember the time and incidents. A cannon was to be fired at sunrise as a signal to start. All our regiments were in line of battle, each regiment by itself. We were in the rear and could hear the command given by bugle to each regiment. We crossed the river and f^ went into a large woods. When we were about half way into the woods we were ordered to halt and our commander gave the order, “Dismount and buckle your saddles tight”. This order was of great importance because everything must be firm when going into battle. After tightening our saddles we mounted, but had gone only a short distance when we received the command, “Advance carbine”. That meant get ready for action. After going a little farther, our advance came upon the enemy’s pickets, fired a number of shots in quick succession, and soon six of the pickets were brought in as prisoners.
As we came out of the woods we saw their artillery on the hill opposite us, supported by cavalry in the rear and on both sides. There was only a narrow ravine between us and them and we could easily see all that was going on. We supported our artillery, which was just ahead of us. At first they shot grape and canister at us but they soon saw that they could not reach us with that shot, so they fired solid shot and shell. We could see them load, and hear the command to fire. We saw the smoke rise from the prime hole, then from the mouth of the cannon, and next we heard the awful noise of the ball as it passed over us. The balls turn in the air every four feet and make a noise which the boys said sounded like mad devils. Our battery fired as well as theirs and things were pretty hot for awhile. No one of our men was hurt seriously, however Charles Lichtenthaler had a piece of his stirrup cut off by a piece of bursted shell. He smiled and said, “There boys is a mark”.
We now got the command, “By fours, break from the right to the rear, and march left”. We got back into the woods and formed battalions; this placed me in the rear rank of the middle platoon. Next, we got the order to go forward, first walk, then trot, and then gallop. We came to a ravine full of sprouts, so we could not cross in line of battle and were obliged to go single file. After crossing we again formed in line of battle and I was then the fourth man in the front line, with the Rebel cavalry two hundred yards ahead and outnumbering us three to one, We drew our sabers to a front cut position, stood in our stirrups, went at full charge, and yelled like wild demons. The enemy were drawn up in line of battle, with sabers drawn, ready to meet us. When we were within fifty yards of them, they received the command, “Men, return your sabers, draw your pistols and fire like gentlemen.” They fired “like gentlemen”, for not one of our men was hit while we charged, When we were within a few yards of them, they got the command to retreat; and a few more jumps of our horses brought us right in among them, mixed up like two droves of cattle.
The real picnic was on then. The cutting and slashing; the firing from pistol, carbine and cannon; the neighing of horses; the yelling of men; the falling of dead and wounded men and horses, made a scene that beggars description. The enemy’s battery fired grape and canister into us, and the smoke was so thick that we could see only a few feet ahead, I fired seven shots out of my carbine and pistol. Men and horses fell in every direction; some forwards, some backwards, others sideways; some horses reared and fell, others plunged forward and rolled over, carrying their riders with them. Surely these were the jaws of death.
Our bugle sounded retreat and we went back to reform our lines, which were badly disorganized and cut up, and to get ready for another charge. One of our boys, John Kouder, captured General Lee’s Adjutant-General. John Algeigher came along and, not knowing that the Adjutant was captured, he pointed his revolver at the prisoner’s head and called on him to surrender in language that was not very complimentary but very common with soldiers. The Adjutant said, “For God!s sake don’t shoot me; I have surrendered.”
On our way back one of our boys named Ben Hull plunged his horse into the mire up to his body and couldn’t get out; I heard him call for help and I suppose someone helped him out eventually. I load to cross a creek which was too wide for my horse to jump. The horse fell and threw me on the front roll of my saddle packing and injured my stomach, I suffered from this for some time, but I did not go to the hospital. I lost my pistol and returned to find it, on the way I was cursed by our men but I thought a soldier is not of much use without weapons, so I went back a few rods and found it. On our way to the rear I saw all kinds of wrecked instruments of war. Many of the men who returned were wounded. Some had their heads bandaged, others had their arms in slings, and many were bloody, I came to an Irishman who was badly wounded and he asked me for water, but my canteen was empty and I could not help him. Captain Thomas of Company M asked me for a round of pistol cartridges and I gave him the last I had. Our company rallied around the flag but I was injured so severely when my horse fell that I was unable to take part in the second charge. I stopped my horse to fix my saddle blanket while the shells were bursting all around me. Some of the men who passed me urged me to go on and said, “Come on, this is no place to stop.” I fixed my saddle, however, and went back through a large woods to a place of safety.
Major Falls was under arrest for shooting a squirrel a few days before the battle. He had no weapons when he went into the battle but he was, fully equipped when he came out and did some brave fighting. He kept his men together and urged them to bring back all the good weapons they could find and carry, for future use.
The reason we had to retreat was that General Beaufort who was to come to our relief was misdirected by his guide arid could not reach us to give the aid we needed. The General was one hour late and this gave the enemy time to reform their scattered ranks. When Beaufort came on the scene with his thirty-two thousand men he scattered the “Johnnies” again in all directions. He had a better chance than we had because we had to fight them when they were fresh and in good order, while he met them scared and disorganized, and so he had an easy job of it. We defeated them so severely that they never attacked us again during the war. We did just as General Hooker said; we spoiled their game before they started for Pennsylvania. Our Company lost thirty-four men; two killed and thirty-two captured. We captured thirty-eight Rebels, including General Lee’s Adjutant. Percy Windom, ex-Colonel of the First Maryland Cavalry, was wounded in the calf of the leg by a musket ball; which disabled him so that he could not ride on horseback afterwards. This cavalry fight did not deter General Lee from going to Pennsylvania. He went just the same, but to his sorrow and our gain. From Brandy Station we went directly north-east, through Maryland, into Pennsylvania. On June 18, 1863, we had a skirmish with the Rebels at Middleburg, and on the 19th we had an all day fight at Uperville, The rebels army went north of the Blue Ridge mountains, while our army passed on the south side. At Ashby’s Gap a portion of the enemy came over and wanted to pass on the south side. we drove them back and compelled them to keep to the north. After we had driven them back some of them followed us, and we had to fight them all day. We had to protect our wagon train, and every now and then we had to make a, stand and hold them back until our train had moved on some distance; then we fell back, took another stand and held them again. The enemy used two cannons to harass us; one of these exploded and killed two of their men. This we learned from one of their men whom we captured.
They brought up six pieces of artillery to fight us. We were on one side of a ravine and they on the other, so close together that we could hear them give the command to fire. Our men were a little to the left of the pike, while on a slope northeast of us was a strip of woods that was not occupied by us. The enemy however, thought we were in the woods, and shelled it for us. When they discovered that we were in the open field they turned their guns upon us but fired too high, While they were shelling the woods our boys called out to them and said, “No use firing over there, Johnnie, we are over here.” When they got our range they still fired too high and our boys said, “A little lower, Johnnie, you are shooting too high.” They soon got the proper level and fired their shell right among us, but not a man was hurt. We then moved down a few hundred yards, out of range of their cannon, but they kept on firing at the old place; so our boys called out again, “Shoot this way, Johnnie.” They soon got our range again and fired right into us; then the boys said, “Now you have us, Johnnie, give us all you can.” We moved back to where we were at first, but they kept on firing into empty space. We had a doctor with us who used too much opium paid became reckless, when a shell burst he would ride over to where the pieces were buried and dig them out with his saber; then he would smell the pieces and bring some to the officers to let them small also, we had one shower of shells after another; and at one time while we were retreating I thought I felt a shell strike me; but it was all imagination . I took shelter under a big white oak tree, but soon a shell burst in the top of the tree and threw the top limbs down on the limbs above me. Another shell struck a tree nearby, glanced off and buried itself in the ground near me. We again changed position and they kept on shelling us, but no harm was done. At this place H.H.Brownmiller was on picket duty with a number of other soldiers. The enemy kept up a musket fire on our pickets. Whenever a ball came close to Brownmiller he would yell out, “Hold you hold.” As often as he yelled we knew the balls came very close, but he made fun of them. We retreated quite a distance and our regiment made the last stand on the south side of the road. On the north side of the road was a large woods that the enemy kept shelling until dark. We could easily see the fire of the shells as they passed through the air. They looked like large fireflies. The enemy attempted to make a charge on us, so we dismounted and went forward five hundred yards and took a position to meet them. They fired shot and shell at us, but were afraid to charge us. We were ready for them. Their cannonading all day did us no harm, except the last shell which killed one man. It struck him in the middle of the body and cut him in two. We buried him in a fence corner and that ended the day’s work.
GRAND GUARD DUTY; SMALL SKIRMISHES AND A DANGEROUS PICKET
We crossed the Potomac River on a pontoon bridge and came into Maryland. Once here, we headed for Frederic City. The wagon train had to be guarded by us, so we were obliged to go slowly. We had to go day and night and did not get any sleep for five days and five nights, only as we slept on our horses, and that was not very much. One morning, within a day’s march of Frederic City, we stopped in a meadow covered thickly with grass. Here we had orders to unsaddle and unbridle our horses and let them eat grass. We were to eat, rest and sleep; and I was, the first one to do so. Just as I was about asleep, a caisson full of shells exploded about a hundred yards away. I was so frightened that I jumped up, my heart beating so strongly that I could see the pulsations on my breast. I asked what was going on, and someone said, “Only a caisson bursted.” I said, “Oh pshaw! If that is all, I’ll go to sleep again.”
Toward the close of the day we resumed our march to Frederic City. Upon arriving at that town we were placed on picket duty and told to be careful about snipers; but that would have done no good had they chosen to kill us, for there were one hundred windows from which they might have fired. I was relieved from picket duty at 4:00 A.M., and taken down the square in front of a tavern, where I hitched my horse to a post and lay down to sleep. At 9:00 A.M.. I awoke and found myself lying in front of my horse.
Our regiment now started for the Northeast. We .got as far as Taneytovm when Company K and Company L were ordered back to Frederic City to carry dispatches to Gettysburg. The distance was forty-two miles and one horse had to make the entire trip. Very few horses could endure the trip which took four hours, so when a horse gave out the messenger had orders to take any horse he could find and give the owner an order on the government for the value of the horse. Only lightweight men were chosen for the trip, therefore I was left in camp to shoe horses. We had a number of new horses before the battle was over. We could hear the cannonading at Gettysburg, forty-two miles away, by placing our ears close to the ground. We learned the proceedings of the battle every day during that terrible three days fight.
On the eleventh of July we left Frederic City for Virginia. We crossed the Potomac on a pontoon bridge, below Harpers Perry and Watersford, worked down toward Warrenton, and marched over that whole territory. We did much picket duty, mostly against the Mosby’s, who were a gang of “guerillas” or “bush-whackers”, numbering from seventy-five to three hundred men. They gave us more trouble than a whole brigade of regular Confederate soldiers.
Our brigade of cavalry, one battery of artillery, some ammunition wagons and a lot of ambulances, started out on a reconnoitering expedition. We marched all day and at night we came to a small strip of woods with, a road running through it. Here we camped for the night, and a number of us were placed on picket duty. There was so much underbrush and briars that we could hardly place our pickets. I was placed about fifty yards in from the road, and a comrade named Henry was placed on the road, with orders to halt but once and then fire. After we had been at our posts about an hour we heard a horse coming from the north on the road to the woods. When he was a hundred yards away Derrick called out, “Halt”, and then fired. The rider turned back and we heard nothing more of him.
The next morning we went north to the pike and then turned west, where we met the Rebels in large numbers, We afterwards learned, from a man whom we captured, that they had seen us but were afraid to attack us because we had carbines while they had only revolvers. We now turned south toward our main army and came to a narrow strip of woods and a stone wall running parallel with the road. After we left the pike we were called back to the stone wall and were ordered to get ready for action. We made holes through the wall so that we could fire and be protected. Our artillery then came up and unlimbered on a knoll behind us. The enemy were afraid of us, however, so there was no fighting at that time, but the guerillas kept after us, and at times came so close that the bullets they fired struck the ground close behind us. We got back to camp before dark.
We were often called out on grand guard duty. Each orderly sergeant would pick eight reliable men out of his company, so we had about ninety men. Our sabers had to be clean and so sharp that we could cut wood with them. We could cut off a pine top as thick as an arm with one stroke. Our revolvers and carbines also had to be in perfect working order; our haversacks were filled with three days rations; and our saddle bags carried enough food to feed out horses for three days. The sergeants brought their men outside of camp and all were formed in line of battle. Each sergeant then took a position several steps behind his men in the line as the officer who was to take the men out, came and inspected his command.
When the officer was fully satisfied that our weapons were in perfect order and that our provisions had been secured, he took us out six, eight or ten miles, to a location which was assigned to him. He then would find a place where he could leave one third of his men so protected that one man could guard himself against three. Then he would take the other sixty men, making a trip over the surrounding country, noting all the streams and bridges. We noted the material of which the bridges were made, whether the stream was fordable, and if so, where; and whether cavalry, infantry or artillery could maneuver in the country. He made note of the number and size of the towns; and whether the enemy could hold them to advantage. He also had to find out whether there were any of the enemy in the town and if so, how many; and if he was able to drive them out he must do so. If there were any farms in his district he was to find out who lived on them, and make himself as well acquainted as possible.
Next he found places for his thirty men. In daytime he placed them on hills in such relation that each could see his neighbor; the posts so arranged that communication could be carried to the camp through this line of men. If there were clumps of bushes or trees, the men were placed in them so that they could not be seen by the enemy but were enabled to see out and tell where the enemy might be. These pickets on duty would give signals to show what the enemy was doing. If the enemy walked, the picket walked his horse in a circle; if the enemy trotted or galloped, the picket would do the same, always riding to the right. If the enemy would turn and leave, the picket turned to the left and again moved as the enemy moved.
In this way the soldiers in camp always knew what the enemy was doing arid could prepare for trouble if any should come. While the first thirty men were on post, the second thirty ate and cared for their horses, and got ready to relieve the first thirty; when the first thirty were in, they rested, cared for their horses and got ready to relieve the third thirty. Each group was on duty four hours and had eight hours rest. The men that were off duty had to keep themselves in readiness to fight in case the enemy should attack the picket line or the men in camp. Grand guard duty requires brave men with cool heads who understand their work.
One night we were on grand guard and another company was out at the same time. They were short of men and sent over to our company for help. The orderly had to send two men; but I told him that I was too sick to go. He then went to J. Gromlich, who consented to go, When comrade Gromlich saddled his horse, which, he called Bonaparte, he said, “Bonaparte, this is the last time I’ll saddle you.” Then he loaded his carbine and said, “This is the last cartridge I’ll put in you, this will kill someone or someone will kill me.” Then he said, “Tomorrow morning I will bury someone or someone will bury me,” With these words he left camp for his post of duty. Before he was out one hour the Mosby’s made a raid and shot him through the abdomen, and he died the next day. I saw him the next morning when they carried him over to our camp on a stretcher. I must confess that he took my place on duty and my place in death, although we neither of us thought that he was doing so at the time. This is the second time that my life was saved by others. None of the men who saved me from death were conscious of saving me, so I believe that it was the Divine hand of a merciful Father that saved me.
The night on which comrade Gromlich was killed, the Mosby’s killed three and captured six men and a number of horses. Among the killed were Lieutenant Lyons and his Orderly-Sergeant. They had a fire close to the road and lay beside it to sleep. The fire drew the attention of the Mosby’s, who came in so suddenly that Lyons and his Orderly had no time to get away. Later we learned, through some of our men who were captured by the Mosby!s, that they went some six or eight miles north to a town called Graceham, where they lay all the next day. We could have captured them had we known their hiding place. We scoured the whole country but did not suspect that they were at that place. The next day I took a walk to the north side of the hill and saw six or eight of the Rebel cavalry ride into a peach orchard and help themselves. They came out so quickly that I had no time to go and tell our commander about it. From there we went on a march and stayed in the woods all night.
We received orders in the evening not to shoot nor throw cartridges in the fire. In the morning Corporal Johnson threw a cartridge into the fire where I did my cooking; and after we were in ranks, ready to start, Lieutenant Buxton came riding along the line and asked each one of us if we knew who threw the cartridge. Everyone denied knowing anything about, it, and I did not say anything. When Buxton was on the left of the column I whispered to the man next to me that I knew who threw the cartridge. The Lieutenant heard me and came to me insisting that I tell him who did it. I told him I said I knew just for fun, so he asked me no more questions. The penalty for throwing a cartridge or refusing to report it was to walk all day. I didn’t want to walk so I didn’t tell that I knew.
After souring around for a time we took up another grand guard duty not far from Warrenton, We had our headquarters on a wooded hill north of the camp and our field of observation was a woods of large trees on the north slope of the ridge. Here the leaves and rubbish had been burned, so we could pass through without making any noise, There was a crossroad west of our post, one road leading north to the Warrenton pike. A narrow meadow was on the east and west, and a woods on the north and south of the meadow and road.
One time when we were on picket duty at this place, George Wannerwalt and I were at the crossroad, while two more men were in the corner of the woods. We were on post from eight to twelve in the evening, and when we came back to camp it was our privilege to lie down and sleep. I had been fast asleep for a little while, with my weapons on my body, but my belt unfastened so that I could rest better, when our commander came along and asked for two volunteers to go to the Warrento pike, which was about half a mile north of our camp. I said I would be one. We passed the first two sentries and went up to the other two at a stone wall by the woods; then through some chestnut sprouts to the pike. George said to me, “Now Bachman, you stay here and keep quiet while I go down the pike and see if there is anybody moving. If you hear anything, let me know and I will come back.” All I heard was a cowbell far to the east, but sometimes the enemy would take a cowbell and advance upon a picket until he was within reach and then fire; so I was uneasy about the cowbell.
When George came back we talked over the situation and started for our camp, which was about five hundred yards away. The chestnut sprouts on both sides of the road were about fifteen feet high and when we started back, a man on foot started with us, partly concealed by these sprouts. He seemed to be about fifteen or twenty feet away, but as we went on he came nearer to us until he was quite close. We didn’t care much about him but we could not tell how many more there might be, waiting to fire on us or to take us prisoners. At last the man stopped and left us. George said to me, “Keep your pistol cocked; do not ask any questions, but fire on the first object you see.” After we had gone safely for about fifty yards, however, we were halted by our own guard. John Stultz was one of the guards and he asked us to dismount and give the countersign. George said, “Never mind, John, it is we,” and John said, “Alright, come on.” So we got back into camp without any accident.
At another time, at the same place, the Rebels captured two of our sentries. One patrolling the beat was in a field lane running east and west; the picket was placed on the extreme east end about five hundred yards from the crossroads. The two men that were captured were taken from this post, and on the third night after this, I was placed at the same place. When we Left the camp at 7:30 the boys laughed and said, “Bachman, you will be the lucky boy tonight.” You will surely “be taken tonight.’ Goodbye I give us a lock of your hair. This is the last time we will see you” and we all had a hearty laugh. When I reached my post I studied the situation carefully. There was a mud hole about twenty steps west of me, so large that it covered the whole road between me and the inner picket at the camp. The first plan was to patrol that beat between the extreme east and the crossroad. I saw at once that it was to my advantage to stay at the east end, and asked the sergeant for permission to do so, which he granted.
I kept very quiet and in about half an hour, at the upper part of the west end of the field where George and I were, the two other sentries passed. Next I heard a whistle northeast of me, then a whistle very close east, both whistles were long drawn out. Then I thought, if that’s the game you are going to play, I will beat you at it. I heard a man riding over the stone wall where the last two sentries used to be; then I heard him coming down the woods between me and the west sentry. I rode over the mud hole so that my horse would not fall in case I had to leave in haste. My intention was to halt the rider coming through the woods, but when I rode over the mud hole my horse made a noise that was heard by my would-be captor and he stopped. I could not halt him then, for you cannot halt a man unless he is moving; so. I waited for developments, and presently heard a short, sharp whistle close behind me.. I knew now that I was in a very dangerous place and decided that the best thing to do was to go to the other sentry, which I did. When I came he halted me, but let me come on when he knew who I was. We talked the matter over and he said that he had heard the whole transaction.
We remained together the remainder of the time. I headed my horse east, the direction I came from, while he headed his horse south, toward our camp. The enemy often came on us from our rear, so we had to watch in all directions. We held our reins and our revolvers in our right hands, with revolvers cocked, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. The enemy were not sure of us, however, and we were not attacked that night. Then the patrol came at ten o’clock we told them what had happened and they-remained with us until the relief came. The patrol was composed of three men, so there were five of us the rest of the time. Then the relief came, they sent one man back to report; and a large number of men, under the leadership of David Buxton, was sent to help us. Another man was placed at my post, while the rest of us scoured the surrounding country to find the fellows who tried to capture me; but we did not succeed. The man who was placed on my post was so much afraid that he shook like a leaf. The boys in camp were agreeably disappointed, for they all expected me to be captured that night.
One day we were out reconnoitering and passed a town about half a mile to our left. we heard another portion of our cavalry charging through that town, yelling like mad men, but we never heard what the excitement was about. We spent another three days on picket duty out nothing worthy of note happened. This was the time when persimmons were ripe, and I went out after persimmons. It happened that our command left hurriedly; and I came in late, taking things easy and thinking there was no danger. As I came in the camp I saw the rear of our column about six hundred yards ahead, and the orderly beckoning me to come. I started after them on a gallop, and just as I reached our column the Rebels charged into our old camp. Had I been a few minutes later I would have been shot or captured. They followed us all day and fired on us whenever they had a chance. Sometimes the bullets would pick the ground behind us.
One time we were on a three days march while it rained very heavily. Nothing of note happened, but all the boys who were not protected with rubber coats and hats were drenched to the skin, I had a rubber coat that reached to my knees, a rubber cap with a frill that covered my shoulders, and boots that reached to my knees; so I really kept dry all the time. I frequently relieved men on picket duty who did not have the protection I had, and when not doing that, I slept in a brush pile during those rainy nights. After it quit raining the wind blew hard and it turned cold. While on picket duty one night I was stationed close to a woods and thought I heard an extraordinary noise in the woods, I heard a peculiar pounding on a dead tree, which I interpreted to be signals of a Rebel for his men to come on. I yelled out, “Halt, who comes there?”, but the noise continued just the same. I fired and still the noise continued as before. The next day I went to the place where I had heard the disturbance and found a broken limb beating against the tree.
At another time we surrounded the enemy and drove them together until they could go no farther; then our infantry and artillery came to relieve us and we went back. They gave the Johnnies “Hail Columbia” until they skedaddled. One time we drove them to the south side of the Rapidan River, where their infantry and artillery were ready for a fight. Our cavalry held them there for twenty-four hours until our infantry and artillery came, in three columns; then the ball began, They kept on cannonading until the enemy had to flee. That night two of us were sent out about two hundred yards ahead of the line as videttes. After we were out at the front we saw things differently from what we did back in line. We lay close together upon the ground and we thought we saw objects coming towards us. We could not make out what they were, so I fired but nothing happened.
THE BATTLE OF CULPEPPER AND MY CAPTURE;
A PRISONER ON BELLE ISLAND
We met the enemy several miles west of Culpepper where we had a hard fight. We had cavalry and artillery. They had infantry placed behind two stone fences, forming a line of battle, their cavalry some distance behind them as a support, and their artillery to their right. Our first orders were to charge their infantry; then we received orders to deploy and dismount and fight them on foot. We had to take the open field, we lay down to load, then raised up on one knee and one foot to fire, then fell down again to load. We kept this up for a long time. The man next to me, on my left, was hit by a musket ball on the tip of his nose and the ball came out back of his ear. Strange to say, it did not kill him. Another was shot through the abdomen, and he too survived; another had a niece of flesh shot out of his forearm, and the elbow of the other arm was shot away. All this happened close to me.
The bullets came very close, going “Zip, zip. zip” as they cut the wild wheat all around us. Our artillery, six pieces, was close to our right. They fired so fast and the report was so deafening that it made a singing in my ears for two weeks. My left ear is alright now, but there is still a singing in my right ear. We fired at their heads as they raised up over the stone wall. Their commander jumped his horse over the stone wall and ordered a charge, but one of our men saw it and shot his horse dead under him; thus spoiling their charge. Then we charged on them. I did not go along in the charge because I had no cartridges for my, carbine. I had forty rounds in my saddle bag and wanted to go for my horse, but before I got away a shell hit the ground a little above me, and when it came out of the ground it came twisting toward me. It would have hit me but I stooped and let it pass over. Farther down the line another man saw the shell coming and stepped back and let it pass; it exploded a little farther down. I made another attempt to get my horse when a shell burst close behind me. I jumped forward, but I can’t tell how far I jumped, for just as I touched the ground another shell burst in front of Me, so close that I felt the heat of the fire. It is needless to say that the last shell turned my course. Finally I saw my horse and that of the orderly at the corner of the woods. I ran over to get the cartridges, but Lieutenant Wright had already taken them, so I found only seven. I took these and went back into battle, telling the orderly to bring our horses. The Rebels shelled the woods where we had been, so we were not hurt. I saw our artillery throw shells into the Rebel cavalry as they marched over a hill in a solid square. The shells burst right in their columns, and not a man was left on the field. They carried their wounded with them.
One man in Company H was behind a tree on the skirmish line in the woods. He poked his head out from behind the tree when a Rebel bullet hit him square in the forehead and killed him instantly. One of our new recruits did not understand the order to dismount and remained on his horse until the fight was over. His carbine got dry after shooting awhile and he opened the grease box and cleaned the parts that got dry, then he resumed firing and escaped without a scratch. His horse was hit behind the saddle, yet was not killed.
Our artillery drove out their cavalry support; then their infantry had to fall back, and our men followed. I thought it was of no use for me to follow, as I was out of ammunition. We had only Several hundred men in the fight, but three were killed and fifteen wounded in about a fifteen minutes engagement. I went with the line of battle until nearly night, when we were relieved. A tremendous thunder storm came up that night; the thunder was so heavy that the earth trembled, When we camped for the night I went out for water to cook our coffee. After walking a mile I failed to find water and came back. We wanted coffee though, so we dipped some muddy water out of the ditch and made coffee with that. That night the Chaplin of the First Maryland Cavalry stayed with us, and took supper and breakfast with us. All three of us slept in a brush pile. Our coffee was white like the muddy water we used to make it and the Chaplin said, “We need no milk for our coffee, for it is white already.”
We resumed our march and had another brush with the enemy at Mine Run, Virginia on November 26, 1863. This battle was started by another command and we were brought up to reinforce them. Colonel Jones was accused of being cowardly, but this time he proved to all that he was not afraid. He took up a position close to a company of artillery which was being shelled by a Rebel battery. His horse reared straight up when the cannon was fired, but the Colonel did not flinch. We were first taken into a woods to the right of the road, which was so full of green briars that we could hardly get through. Then they took us out of the woods, advanced us a few hundred yards, and ordered us to dismount and advance on foot. Before we dismounted we could hear the spent balls singing a peculiar song. The air was full of them. One of these balls struck Henry Derrick on his carbine belt which lay on his left shoulder. He was not hurt at all, but thought he was. He turned pale and was about to fall off his horse when two of his comrades caught and held him. When it was all over we had a hearty laugh at his expense.
We advanced and soon met the enemy in great force. We drove them back, then they were reinforced and drove us back, then we drove them back again. I happened to come to the wing of the firing line. Several of us were at a railroad bank about six feet high. There was woods all around us and a level meadow below; and their pickets and sharp-shooters were close to us in the woods, though the undergrowth was so thick that we could not see them. We were firing for some time, when we received orders to retreat and join our command. I was the last man there. Both sides used their artillery and fired as fast as they could. When I left, the artillery had ceased firing and there was a lull in the fight; but still their sharp-shooters were picking off our men and officers.
Just before I left, one of our men risked himself too far and stood on the railroad bank. Instantly a bullet struck him in the head and he fell dead. There was a gap in the railroad bank and our Lieutenant stood in this gap while the shells burst all around him. By some premonition he threw himself forward just as a shell burst and the pieces struck the ground where he had stood. Back of the gap stood a tree which I had to pass in going back. The men called to me and said, “Don’t pass that tree; they will kill you.” I ran behind the tree but the bullets whistled all around me, so I left and ran for another bank. I was warned not to leave the tree as the sharp-shooters were ready for me, but I got away. Then I walked along the bank some distance, and when I came to the top I saw our infantry lying flat on the ground on the other side. They yelled at me to get off the bank, saying, “They will kill you.” I looked over toward them and said, “They can’t hit a fellow here.” They did not even shoot at me.
I went up to the artillery and the Captain asked me if the “Johnnies” were still there. We had a short talk and then I went back to my command; and in a short time both sides began firing as fast as they could. This lasted for an hour, and then they stopped for the night. The next morning the artillery duel began again and kept up for two and a half hours. The Rebels then retreated, for they could not stand out fire. We captured one of their men and kept him on the firing line with us for awhile, then took him to the rear into our line. He said that a shell of ours burst on the front tire of one of their batteries and killed six horses; then they cut the traces and took the battery away.
While we were fighting at Culpepper we saw another cavalry and artillery fight about a mile south of us. It was a beautiful sight to see, if we may use that word in this connection. We could see how they shelled each other, and how the cavalry support was placed. We saw the smoke rising from both firing lines, and also the smoke of the shells as they flew from side to side.
We did some more hard marching and maneuvering, and were then called to cover a retreat. The day before this we had been on a forced march, and in the evening we rode over a corduroy culvert on a gallop. There my horse lost a front shoe, which disabled it for active duty but we went only a short distance before we camped for the night. In the evening I asked the commander to be excused the next day, as my horse had lost a shoe. He cursed, and swore that he wanted every in ranks the next day. That night I didn’t sleep a wink. It seemed as though I were close to a large woods where all was dark, but at the other end I could see a light. I thought that might mean that something hard was going to happen to me, but that I would live to get home.
In the morning we drew our rations as usual. Comrade Shiffler and I always drew our rations together, but that morning I felt that I should draw my rations alone, so that each would have his own. When we went into ranks, I went into the middle of the column so that if men were taken off on either end, I could stay with the column. My horse became very lame, so I wrapped an old oats bag around its foot; but that came off very soon. They took some men off from the right, then, from the left, then cut the column in two; which left me the last man in the front ranks. The Lieutenant said, “I want the last two men to go to that big mansion over on the bluff southeast of us.”
We had to pass a ravine that was full of infantry stragglers; but we thought that as long as the infantry is about, the rear guard is coming up to take the stragglers along, so we did not look for the Rebels advance guards. We had orders to go around the mansion to see whether any Rebels were coming from that angle to cut us off. My partner stayed on the side of the house toward our column, while I went around to the other side. Here I saw a piano which our soldiers had taken out of the house and cut to pieces. I did not like the idea of destroying private property. I then. went down the road where my horse had lost his shoe the day before, but I could not find it. While I was there my comrade, John Brown, called to me to come to him, thinking I was still behind the house; but I was nearer to our column than he was. When I came almost up to him he called to me, “The Rebels! The Rebels!” and I saw six or seven of them coming down the other side of the ravine. Brown had a good surefooted horse, and since he was a light man his horse could carry him very easily. He had been a soldier in the German army and was well trained; so he slipped to the side of the horse and caught his left spur under the left saddlebag and his right hand on the side of the horse, leaving only his left leg exposed. The Rebels fired but failed to hit him, and he got safely into camp.
Before I had gone two rods with my lame horse the Rebels were right on me. I could have shot the first one but all the rest were close to him, ready for action, so the best thing for me was to surrender and I handed my carbine to my captor. He threw it on the ground, took my pistol and cocked it, pointing it at me. I said, “Don’t point that pistol at me, it goes off easily.” Then he held it away from me and took me to the road leading to our columns, which was full of infantry stragglers. The Rebels called them to come to them, and our men called to the Rebels to come up where they belonged. While we were there in the road our men fired a valley at us, the bullets picking the ground a little ahead, I said to my guard, “Take me away from here, I don’t want to be shot by our own men!” so he took me farther away. Then he said to me, “Now take what you want from your horse.” I took all my effects along and we came to their artillery.
A Lieutenant came three times for my overcoat but I begged and prayed him to let me have it. I told him that I would be taken to Belle Island, where I would need it very much. I said that I had helped to capture three thousand of their men just a few days before, who had nothing to eat for three days; that we had just drawn three days rations and so we gave them half of ours.
The day I was captured, two hundred and two were taken, only two were captured while on duty, however; one of these an orderly and the other, myself, captured while on vidette duty. The first day they marched us a long distance, and that night we slept in the woods The next day we had another long march, that night we slept in a church that stood in the woods. The next day we were taken to-Orange Courthouse where they put us in the basement of a large building.
A Rebel who was head and shoulders taller than the tallest of us had very much to say. He denounced us fiercely and talked in a very insulting way. I made up my mind to give him something to think about if he came to me. and he finally did come over and became very impudent. Then I said, “See here my friend, it is of no use for you to abuse me, or I to abuse you because you are from the South and I am from the North. We can’t help it that we are here together. Our leaders use us just as they see fit. When we do the fighting for Jeff Davis and Abe Lincoln we are pretty good fellows; but when they have no further use for us we can go; and it is “Root hog or die.” Why ‘Yank’,” he said, “I never looked at it in that light before”, and he stopped his impudent talk. Later in the day they took us out into a field and kept us there until a freight train was ready to take us; then they loaded us on the cars and took us to Richmond. We stood all the way. The side doors were open, and there were Rebels at each station. They made all sorts of fun of us and said, “Hello, Yanks, where are you going?” I answered in a loud voice, “We came from the land of good living and are going to a state of starvation.” Our “boys said to me, “Bachman, you had better keep quiet or they will shoot you.” I told them I was not afraid, and they didn’t shoot.
We came to Libby prison about l0:00 P.M. but Libby was full, so they took us to Belle Island where they kept us three months and ten days. The first night there, someone stole part of my food but let me have the rest of my belongings. I had two sleeping blankets, one overcoat, one dress jacket, one blouse, one pair of trousers, two pairs of drawers, two shirts, two pairs of woolen, homemade stockings, one forage cap, one pair of boots, one poncho, one rubber cap with long frill, one canteen, a sewing outfit, one tin cup, a knife, fork, and a number of other small things.
We were confined on the island where there was no chance to escape. There were five thousand soldiers on about ten acres of sand; and it seemed as though every grain of sand had a louse. We had no stockade; there was only a bank of sand about four feet high around the island. The guards were on the outside of this bank and we were on the inside. Our food consisted of one-third of a loaf of corn bread Per day; the loaf being about the size of a brick. We had a little meat for one day, and on alternate days we had bean soup. An ordinary wooden bucket full was the allowance for twenty men; and the soup was composed of four quarts of beans, some bugs and dead worms, and the rest was James River water. Those of us who had vessels to carry the soup got some, those who had nothing had to do without or put it in their shoes.
Sometimes they gave us raw rutabaga, which we ate raw, for we had nothing in which to cook it, They gave us pine wood and axes with which to split the wood, so we could burn it, I lost weight and flesh rapidly; and soon felt my knees give way when I walked; while when I washed myself I found my eyes sunken into my head, A great many of our two hundred and two men that were captured with me died inside of three months. The most deadly bodily enemy that we had was lice. All of our clothes and our blankets, even our tents, and the sand, were full of these bloodsuckers; and it was no use to clean ourselves, for overnight we were covered with, them again. When the sun shone in warm weather we could see that the sand between the tents was full of crawling lice.
Some of our boys learned to catch the officer’s poodle dogs; seven of these little fellows were caught there. The last one was roped in the last morning we were there. We were to be taken away that day; but the man who owned the dog was the manager of the camp and he said, “You are to be taken out today, but not a ‘Yank’ can go until the man is found who killed my dog,” He was found and brought up in a hurry, and for his punishment he was compelled to eat one pound of raw dog meat in his presence. The man had been stuffed that morning with dog meat, so an extra pound of raw meat was a rather severe punishment.
The Rebels punished our men very severely for every trifling offense. One morning some of our boys came to our tent and said, “Go outside and look,” I went and saw a man, tied and gagged, lying on a store box, about three and a half feet square. The box was on the edge of the James River and was leaning toward the water. Had the prisoner made the slightest move he would have rolled off into the water and drowned. I don’t know how long they kept him on that box. Some days later they had another man on a wooden horse; they took boards one inch thick and twelve inches wide and nailed legs of the same lumber to the board. The legs were about eight feet long and they drove stakes into the ground, about eight feet apart. They sat the man astride this trestle, with his feet tied to the stakes, and his arms tied together behind his back. He was compelled to sit there without moving himself in the least. We never learned how long they kept him there, but a short time of such punishment was enough to kill him.
Here the “Johnnies” began to belie us through their newspapers, from month to month they would have a report in their papers that on the first of the next month they would begin to exchange prisoners; but when that time came-there would be nothing said about it. Then in about a week another report would appear, saying that the exchange would take place on the fifteenth of the month, that the commissioners of the exchange were meeting together and everything was ready to commence on the day appointed. When the day came and nothing happened the newcomers were fooled, but we older one.SN knew that it was only another Rebel lie.
Our tent was about eight feet square and eight of us were assigned to one tent. At night we lay with our heads outward and our legs lapping over each other to our knees. We slept warm enough, although we had no stove and it was very cold there on the island. On March the tenth they took us over to Richmond to Pemberton’s tobacco house, where we stayed seven days. While there we had quite an experience. All the windows were taken out, and yet we were not allowed to look out of the windows. The guards below would shoot at anyone who poked his head out of the window. They shot seven of our number ignorantly got too close to the window. They fell down on the pavement after they were shot, and had they not been killed by the shot they would have been by the fall. The enemy’s bakery was behind the tobacco house, but the bakers were not allowed to talk with our men. It so happened however, that one of the bakers and one of our men could talk by sign language, with their hands and fingers. The baker told our men that we were not to be exchanged, but we were to be taken to Andersonville, Georgia.
LIFE AT ANDERSOHVILLE
RATIONS: THE DEAD HOUSE
DISEASE; PROVIDENCE SPRING
On the sixteenth day of March they took three thousand of us to Andersonville, Georgia. They placed seventy-five of us in one small boxcar with no accommodations except the floor; here we rode seven days and seven nights. It was enough to kill half our number, but only seven of the three thousand died before we reached our destination. The morning we started from Richmond we saw two things that I never saw before nor since; they were: thin ice on the water, with blossoms on the peach trees.
With the exception of our seven dead, nothing else of a serious nature happened to us while enroute. We stopped for water at one place and a number of us went to a house where there was an old-fashioned well. When we gathered around the well to draw water, the woman of the house came out with a pistol in her hand and tried to kill a “Yank”. She fired at one of our men, but one of the guards pulled down her hand and the bullet she fired went into the ground between his feet. The guards told her that she was not allowed to hurt any of the men. At another place where we stopped, a woman came out with a large cake about half an inch thick and twelve inches in diameter, made of wheat flour. One of our men bought it, and then tried to break it in the middle; he bent it forward and backward for awhile and then looked up at the woman and asked, “Lady, is this sewed or pegged?” The woman didn’t know what to say, then one of our boys said, “She put the shortening in lengthwise.”
We had one accident just before we came to a large trestle work. The car in front of ours left the rail, then our car and the car following followed suit. The coupling in the middle of the train broke and the rear part came to a standstill. Before I knew that the cars had left the rails I thought that I had never experienced such a rough car-ride before. They telegraphed for three other cars and after a long wait the wreck-train came and cleared the track and put on the new cars. ¥e reloaded the cars and all then went well, We reached Andersonville at 4;00 P.M. on the twenty-second day of March, 1864. It was snowing and raining when we arrived.
The camp at Andersonville was an enclosure containing about twenty-three acres, and was located about a quarter of a mile east of the railroad. It was longer from north to south than from east to west. There was a brook of water running from west to east through the middle of the camp. Along the brook was a strip of mucky swamp containing about three acres, which could not be used for camping purposes; so we had only twenty acres fit for camp use. The camp was enclosed by a stockade made of pitch-pine logs twenty-six feet long, hewed square so as to fit close together without any intervening space. These logs were put six feet into the ground, which left a wall twenty feet high. On the outside, near the top, they had spiked pitch-pine rails, two by four inches, and twenty feet long, to keep the posts in line.
Sentry boxes were placed on top of the stockade in such a way that the sentry was from his hips up, above the stockade wall. These boxes were about a hundred feet apart all around the camp, in such a position that the sentry could see all that was going on inside. They used ladders to get to and from the sentry boxes. The sentries were on duty day and night, in shifts of two hours on and four hours off. At night they were ordered to call out each hour. They called out something like this, “Post number one, nine o’clock and all is well.” “Post number two, nine o’clock and tight asleep.” “Post number three, nine o’clock and wide awake.” They kept this up until every post had reported. On the inside of the stockade they had a deadline which was twenty feet from the wall. It was composed of two by four pitch-pine rails, twenty feet long, nailed on stakes about three feet high; the $ stakes were made of the same lumber and were about ten feet apart. Ho one was permitted to put even his head over the rail of the deadline; to do so was instant death.
There were two double gates on the west side of the stockade; one on the north and the other on the south side of the brook. These gates were known as the north and south gates, and opened on to a team road that led to the middle of the camp. Our food was brought in and dead were taken out over these roads. A battery of artillery was placed on both the east and west corners of the camp, so elevated that they could sweep the whole camp should the prisoners make a break for liberty. On the west side, close to the creek, was the cook house; and about a mile north of the camp, was the cemetery. They had two-horse teams to bring the supplies from the railroad station to the camp, and to take the dead out of, the camp to the cemetery. The hospital was on the southeast corner of the camp. Later on, when the camp was full, they moved the hospital outside, south of the camp. I was never in the hospital, and I heard so many bad reports about it that I never went in.
We got our water supply from the creek at first, but later we dug wells which were from five or six feet to a hundred feet deep, depending upon the location. Some of these wells on the north side of the stream were over a hundred feet deep but none of them had water. About midway of the camp from east to west was a sutler shop, owned by the Confederates, where all kinds of provisions could be bought by those who had money. The camp was well chosen for drainage; the creek was about in the middle and the land sloped north and south from the creek. When the camp became full of men the Confederates had seventeen acres which they added at the north end, and this gave us room enough. The camp site had been covered with pitch-pine, fire oak and sweet gum before it was cleared for camp purposes. There were about ten thousand prisoners there from all parts of our array. When we arrived we met some of our- old comrades whom we had known at Belle Island; but we could hardly recognize them at first, for they were smoked as black as negroes with the pitch-pine smoke, which was black and greasy and could not be washed off without soap, an unknown article in our camp.
We were divided into companies of ninety men each, for the convenience of roll call and the supplying of food. I was chosen sergeant of twenty men, and my duty was to see that the food was brought from the wagon and divided equally among the men. The men were afraid that some might be favored more than others, so I had to divide the food into twenty shares and lay them all out on the sand so that each share could be seen by the twenty men, I would order one man to turn his back so that he could not see the shares of food; then I would take a knife or a stick, point to a share and ask, “Who gets this share?” Then he would name someone by his first name and he would take the share; and thus all the shares were given out and all were satisfied. When we first came there, we received a loaf of corn-bread about the size of a brick, which was a day’s ration for three men.
We got ash-cured pork sometimes, and we, also got beef which was of a very poor quality. We often got our beef raw, but as we had nothing to boil or fry it in we cut it up into small pieces, and put a piece on the point of a stick, held it over the fire, and partly broiled it. So we prepared it by the mouthful. If they couldn’t get the beef to us before it spoiled, they cooked it first and then we could smell it long before we saw it. They brought us cornmeal mush, boiled by steam, in a store box about three and a half feet square and about three feet deep. This mush was so rank and strong that many could not eat it at all. When I brought it to my men they would turn and say, “Oh, I can’t eat it; it smells so strong, it makes me sick, you may have my share, or give it to someone else.” So I frequently got an extra ration of mush, but it made me shake to eat it. We never got any salt or pepper with which to season our food. Once in a while we got a piece of hard soap about the size of a man’s finger.
Every forenoon for about four months Captain Wirz came in our camp to call the roll. One morning as he called the roll one of our ninety men was missing. A small Irish sailor was the first man in the fourth line in the rear. He wore a cap without a peak, and so could easily be recognized. The sergeant and this Irishman agreed that after Captain Wirz had counted about half of the men, the sergeant should call the Captain’s attention to several boys who lay in a tent near us. While the Captain looked away to the tent, the Irishman ran to the other end of the column so that he would be counted a second time, thus hiding the fact that one of our men was missing. When the Captain saw the little Irishman, at the other end of the line, however, he caught on to the trick and pulling out his revolver he pointed it at him and said, “You blank little Irishman, if you don’t go back to your place I’ll shoot your blank brains out.” The Irishman went back and never tried the trick again. We could not find the missing man so the whole camp of thirty thousand men had to go all day without food as a punishment. We never learned what became of the man, he may have been in camp, or he may have died; but we were punished just the same.
During my stay at Andersonville we were deprived of food all day on four different occasions when a man was missing. The men often dug tunnels out under the stockade in order to escape, but frequently they were caught in the act of escaping. I was ready one night with a number of others to make my escape through one of these tunnels; but only two of the number had got out when the guards saw them and called for the Corporal of the Guards, who came and had the hole closed. The two men who got away were recaptured the next day.
At another time the men dug a large tunnel and were ready to go out when a one-legged man betrayed us. He told the Captain that if he would take him out and give him enough to eat he would tell where the tunnel was; and the Captain agreed and took him out. The Rebels then brought in a large number of men and closed up the hole so there was no escape that way. At two different times afterward the men dug wells about forty-five feet deep, and then started a tunnel from the bottom of the well, to come out on the other side of the stockade. They completed the tunnel and a few got away, but they were shot or recaptured before they got very far.
The dead house was on the outside of the camp at first, just outside the south gate. This morgue was covered with pine brandies in a semi-circle, to make it look more respectable. Here we carried our dead who had starved during the day, and the next day the Rebels hauled them out and buried them. One afternoon I saw four men carry out a man on a blanket and place him with the dead. They covered his face with a white cloth, seemingly as a last act of respect. The man, however, was not dead as the Rebels supposed, so after dark he got up and left. He did not get away very far though before he was spied and brought back. They gave him double rations for two weeks for teaching them a new trick, but they riveted a ball and chain to his leg for a long time as punishment. The Rebels said, “These darned Yanks are so tricky that even after they are dead they get up and run away.” After that we had to lay our dead inside the gate. The number of dead increased, from a few a day at first, to about three hundred a day. This number was reached on several hot days in August. They died from different causes; some from the heat, some from scurvy, some from diarrhea and fever; most were overcome by the heat, but many died from pure starvation. Some died very easy, seeming to be only falling asleep. One of my neighbors went to the well to bring two small buckets of water about nine o’clock in the morning. He set down the pails, lay down to sleep, and never woke again. There were two neighbors in a tent west of me; one morning one was found dead, arid the other did not know that his comrade was dead until the carriers took him out of the tent. Before they left with the dead man the other said, “Tomorrow morning you can carry me out too.” Sure enough, the next morning they came and carried him out.
I did not name all the diseases above with which our boys were afflicted. Some had yellow fever, others had smallpox, and others got moon blindness, which affected them very strangely; they could see nothing but fire after night, but felt no bad effects during the daytime. Those who died from diarrhea had a hard time of it. The disease was brought on by eating cornbread made of unsifted meal, by drinking impure water, and also by the great southern heat. The bran of the cornmeal was so sharp that it irritated the bowels until they bled, and the pain was so great that it caused big drops of cold sweat to roll down over the body. There was great thirst with this, and the more you drank the worse you got; so the boys drank and suffered until nature could endure it no longer, and they lay down and died in great agony.
Many died of scurvy. The gums between the teeth blackened at first, and then it spread until the whole inside of the mouth was black. The flesh simply decayed, but there was no pain. I saw men pull out their teeth, one after the other, until all were out. The tongue also got black and decayed; and I have seen men pick pieces out of their tongues and throw them away. These all died. Another disease affected the feet and the lower part of the body; the feet, legs and hands swelled to frightful proportions. At first there was an awful pain in the legs, then they swelled until the skin would burst above the ankles while the men were walking. We had nothing with which to bind and protect these open sores, so the flies laid their eggs and maggots developed in this rotten flesh. Then gangrene would set in and the feet fall off. I saw two men at Charleston, South Carolina who had both feet off; the stumps were black and swollen and both died a very painful death.
Another complaint that killed the boys began with a very painful and cutting swelling of the legs; there was a sensation as if knives were run through the flesh; and the legs were cramped close to the body and turned purple. Later they turned to the color of an eggplant, then the abdomen swelled until it affected the heart and killed them. These also died in great agony. One artilleryman from Rhode Island became insane from the awful sights and misery that surrounded him. He was not dangerous, but inactive and wouldn’t eat unless forced to do so. All the clothing he had was a torn shirt and a pair of trousers. The torn shirt exposed his body over the shoulders for about three inches and the sun burned the skin to a blister. This burst, and then the flies got in and maggots filled the wound. I saw him lying on the sand when it rained. He, like all of us, was wet to the skin; the rainwater entering his shirt at the collar and coming out at his feet. There was none to pity and none to help, so the poor man died. This was a hard case, but there were many that seemed just as hard.
The one-legged man who told Captain Wirz about the tunnel did not behave himself well, so he was put back in the stockade. The prisoner begged the Captain not to put him in again. He said, “Those men will tear me to pieces if you put me in here. If you put me back I will cross the deadline and be shot by the guards rather than to fall into the hands of the prisoners.” The Captain put him in, however, and he went right to the deadline and asked the guard to shoot him. The guard took the cap off his musket and snapped the hammer. Then the man said, “Put on the cap and shoot; hit me in the head or the heart,” So the guard put on the cap and fired a ball through his heart. The bullet came out of his back, below the left shoulder blade and the fellow fell over and died.
One of our men of Company H took sick with a bloody flux. He lay for a number of days on the bank of the creek, and all he had was a small tin cup with which he dipped water from the creek. All he could do was to dip and drink, and the more he drank the worse he got. He was helpless and could not move from the creek, although flies and maggots almost ate him up. Several of his comrades found him and cared for him as best they could, but he soon died and was relieved of his great misery. It was awful to hear the moaning and the cursing and to see these horrible sights; some prayed and sang, some laughed, some were deranged and performed crazy tricks. Some of those who died had wives and children at home, but said very little about them. Some would, however, call for their mothers before they died. I often thought that if my mother could see or know my condition she would lose her mind.
One of the things that made it very hard for us, especially at night, was vermin. They would not let us sleep and we kept scratching all night. We scratched until the skin was open, then a blister would form, followed by a scab. When we scratched again we would pull off the scab and a larger one would be formed, so we became scabby all over. It was utterly impossible to keep clean from these pests for they were everywhere; the sand was literally full of them. We often said that every grain of sand had a louse. There were four kinds of them; the big red, the small red, the big gray and the small gray, The large variety were not so hard on us, but the little ones were awful. I remember one morning my shirt was so full that I could not pick them off, so I took a table knife and scraped them off. We often followed the seams of our clothing and crushed them between our thumb nails. Some men did not try to keep themselves clean and they were a miserable sight. I always kept myself clean and as tidy as possible, so I did not suffer as much as some of the rest. My aunt had sent me two pairs of long woolen stockings; and after the feet were worn out I unraveled the stockings and used the yarn to mend my clothes. I was determined that they should not bury my bones in that place if I could prevent it.
Many had no pillows and no covers, and nothing to lie on but the ground. These did not live very long. A large number of us were allowed to take all our belongings into camp, but during the Sumner of 1864 nearly all of the prisoners were robbed of nearly everything they had. Many were allowed to have only a shirt and a pair of pantaloons. Surely theirs was a hard lot. Sometimes a number of the boys would get together and tell how their mothers could cook and bake and fry and stew; they would talk of the good cakes they used to bake and of their stewed chicken and turkey and oyster soup and sauerkraut, and all the good things that could be imagined. This made us so hungry that we could hardly stand it; then someone would get up and say, “Now that’s enough. If you don’t shut up I’ll knock you as flat as a pancake.” We would much rather not hear anything about our good living at home, for it only seemed to increase our misery. The poorest people up North lived like Kings and Queens compared with us. I often wished I could get up North to some of our farmers’ swill barrels. I could have made a good meal from many of the swill barrels that I have seen.
We were so hungry all the time that we didn’t know what to do. When we got the small amount of rations that was allowed us, it only stirred up our ravenous hunger and we had to suffer until we got our mite the next day. We felt our strength leaving us each day, and there was nothing left but skin and bones and shrunken muscles. I could take my ribs and reach around them with my fingers, and shake them. My flesh was so wasted that I could span my thigh above my knees, the same as I used to span my wrist; my arms above my elbows were only an inch and a half in diameter and I could stretch the skin of my limbs like rubber; my eyes were so fallen in that I could hardly find them when I washed. Many of the men had nothing with which to trim their finger and toe nails, and they grew long like the claws of birds or some old animals. It was a pitiful sight and can never be erased from my memory. The people of the North had not the slightest conception of what we endured. We had nothing but the lousy sand on which to lay our starved bodies, and we took the rain, hail or sunshine all alike.
Sometimes the rebels would try to stir up some excitement by having sham battles, but they never amounted to much. These sham battles brought quite a number of people from the country together and created quite an excitement. I remember that in one of these sham battles one of the men forgot to withdraw his ramrod from the musket and fired it at the opposite side. The captain yelled out, “Hello there, keep your ramrods at home.” Fortunately no one was hurt.
Before I was in the army I often saw dogs lying on the ground, gnawing at a bone for hours. I could not understand what good they found in a bone, but I learned after I was a prisoner, when we received meat we not only ate the meat, but we chewed and sucked the bone and received a great deal of nourishment from it. After we chewed the raw bone all we could, we held it over the fire until it became brittle and the oil oozed out; so we got all the nourishment that we possibly could out of the bone. Some of the boys who chewed tobacco would sell their bones to get money to get tobacco. They would go into camp and call out, “A good soup bone with plenty of marrow in it” then some hungry comrade would buy it and gnaw at it for hours. We often got cornmeal for our day’s ration but we had nothing in which to cook or bake it, so we mixed it with water and made a cold mush out of it. This we smeared on the side of a large chip or board; and without salt, pepper or fat, we dried it by the fire and ate it with more relish than we used to eat our sponge cake at home.
We never got any onions, potatoes or vegetables of any kind; salt was a rare delicacy. For want of salt or vegetables many took scurvy and died by hundreds. It was a common occurrence for the morning light to reveal the pallid faces of three or four more prisoners who had lain down side by side, showing that death had claimed them all during the night. These sights were heart-rending to the most unfeeling and stoical prisoner. We were doomed to these things, however, and there was no alternative but to look upon them however sad and revolting they might be. We had to harden ourselves against that which once would have aroused the deepest sympathy in our souls. It is remarkable how soon the fountain of pity can run dry; had we given way to our emotions, the very life would have been crushed out by these uncontrollable forces.
Sometimes laughable things happened. The Rebels were very fond of our United States regulation buttons, but the New York State buttons they liked best. One day an officer came along with a dozen New York State buttons sewed on his coat tails. He was soon surrounded by our men, and wanted to buy more of the buttons. One of our boys slipped behind him and with a sharp knife cut all the buttons off his coat tail. He then wrapped them in an old rag and asked the officer whether he could use these buttons. “Yes,” he said eagerly, “they are just the kind I want.” He paid our man a good price for his own buttons and went on his way rejoicing, elated over his new purchase.
There was a bad thunder storm one afternoon and very soon the little brook that ran through the prison became a rushing torrent and over-flowed the whole swamp; tearing through the camp with great force. The stockade was soon undermined and fell over on the camp. The alarm was at once given and two of the guns in the fort at the headquarters of Captain Wirz were discharged as a signal for the men to fall in. Instantly their whole force fell in and took position in front of these gaps to keep the Yankees in. We felt consoled to see them standing in the pouring rain, and we didn’t care if they had to stay there all night.
The large timbers which composed the stockade came floating down the stream and our men, who were in great need of wood, plunged into the rushing waters to secure, if possible, the much prized wood even at the risk of their lives. After they had gone to all this risk and trouble, and had secured a large number of the logs, they were not allowed to cut them up under penalty of the whole camp’s losing rations for five days. We could not afford to go without our ordinary fare if we expected to keep alive, even though our menu was nothing more than a few boiled beans cooked without salt and full of dirt; so we lost the logs. The Rebels -worked hard until morning to close the gaps that the flood had made, and things were replaced to appear as before.
Best of all, a spring of pure water burst out that night on the slope of the northern hill, and was sufficient to supply most of the camp with good water. We were much in need of good food, but we were very much more in need of good water. We called this the Providential Spring. It was nearly under the deadline, so the boys took the bark of a tree, about ten feet long, and made a trough to lead the water out to where it was safe to get it, for no one dared to get near the deadline. The water flowed through this trough in a stream as thick as a man’s thumb and was always taken as fast as it came. All day long the men were waiting in line in large numbers for their turn to get some of the coveted water. It was a long wait, but the men were glad to wait their turn for a refreshing drink.
I visited the old camp site in 1905 and was greatly impressed by what I saw. A sadness came over my heart as I viewed the cemetery and recalled the destitute condition, the wasted forms, the haggard looks of distress and sorrow and the pale faces of the thousands of brave boys who were carried there forty years before. The United States government has built a fine marble house over the spring; a large lion’s head of marble is placed in the wall, and the water from the spring comes running out over its tongue. What a contrast to the bark of the tree that was used to carry the water away from the deadline when we were guests in Jeff Davis boarding house. The water is pure but it does not have a very good taste. In front of this spring house stands a post with a board nailed to it in the form of a cross; on which is the following inscription, “A thunder bolt burst a ring, and forth burst the Providence Spring.” It was a providential supply of water but it came through natural causes, which is the way God usually works. The water had at first come from many points on the hillside, but the boys had covered these places over with the sand taken from the wells that they dug. So all this water was pent up, waiting for a chance to escape, which the heavy thunder storm gave to it.
In the Spring of the year we had a great craving for something green to eat, and every two weeks we were allowed to go out for wood and also bring back with us anything green that was at all eatable. Two of the men brought in some water cress, but both died from the effects of eating it. I brought in some of the tops of sassafras and ate them raw, and they did not hurt me.
THE PUNISHMENT OF SIX THIEVES
THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER
A VAIN HOPE OF PAROLE; THE PRISON AT FLORENCE S.C.
One of the strangest chapters in the history of Andersonville prison is the one relating to the hanging of six thieves by their own comrades. It is hard for people who have no conception of the condition at Andersonville to imagine what we had to endure, even from our own comrades. One would naturally suppose that the sympathy and love that the boys had for each other because of their suffering for a common cause would not permit them to harm each other in any way. But we must remember that where there were so many thousands together from all parts of the country there were necessarily a great diversity in character and disposition. Many of the boys who were there in captivity entered the military service with patriotic motives, and most of these men were good citizens; but there were others who entered the army from inferior motives, and some of these were in Andersonville prison.
This latter class came from the large cities, and were generally not native born. When these men became prisoners and were compelled to endure such privation, it was quite natural that they should help themselves at the expense of others. Even when not in prison men will go to great extremes to secure their own comfort and ease. There is an old adage which says, “Birds of a feather will flock together,” and this was true of the Andersonville prisoners. Some would congregate for prayer and worship, while others gathered to make plans to rob their comrades. These robbers congregated themselves close around the southwest end of the prison. They became very bold and daring and soon were a terror to the entire prison; in fact it looked at one time as if they ruled the prison. The death of one poor fellow was traced to these Mosby marauders, as they were called by the rest of the prisoners, while another was frightfully beaten because he did not yield to their demand. They never dreamed that they were paving their way to an untimely death on the gallows, and that those whom they terrified would be their judges.
Things were in a horrible condition before the prison grounds were enlarged, when we were literally packed into less than twenty acres. These men who were starving and exposed to all kinds of weather, with no bed but mother earth, were not in a mood to endure piracy from those who should have been their friends. So the prisoners organized a company of regulators to enforce law and order; the leader was a man by the name of Key from the state of Illinois. He was a large man, of great strength, and well fitted for leadership. ?or some time the robbers appeared to have things all their own way, but the organization that was formed to rid the camp of them was busy making plans to accomplish its purpose.
Very little progress was made in suppressing these outlaws until at length the proper time came for definite action. This man Key, or “Limber Jim”, as he was called in camp, with sixteen Rebels as guards, took out such men as were known to be more or less guilty of robbery and murder. After they had taken out about three hundred, they chose a jury of twelve men, taken from the new arrivals, to try them; and after a fair trial seven of the men were found guilty of murder and robbery and were sentenced to death. All the rest were sent in again, but these seven were kept in stocks. These stocks were made as follows: two posts were set in the ground about fifteen feet apart; these posts were slotted so as to receive two planks endwise, one on top of the other. Along the edge of the planks they had fourteen half-round holes, so arranged that when the edges of the planks were put together there were fourteen completely round holes, large enough to hold the legs of the men just above the ankles.
These seven convicts were held here in these stocks until a petition could be sent to Abraham Lincoln and to Jeff Davis, asking their permission to hang the convicted men. Both presidents gave sanction and the eleventh day of July was set for the hanging. One of the seven cut his throat the day before the hanging was to take place, as he said he was not born to be hung. The other six were brought in on the day appointed and were taken to the gallows that had been erected on the south side of the prison. At half past four in the afternoon Captain Wirz came riding in on his gray horse, followed by the six convicts and a Rebel guard. He turned the men over to the vigilance committee to be hung by the neck until they were dead. After he turned the men over he made the following remark, “These men have been tried and convicted by their fellows, and I now return them to you in as good condition as I received them. You can now do with them as your reason, justice and mercy dictates; and may God protect both you and them.”
The Catholic priest begged hard that their lives might be spared, “but finding himself unsuccessful in this he turned his attention to their spiritual condition and spent a season in prayer for them. The prisoners themselves seemed strangely unconcerned; apparently thinking it was simply an affair set up to frighten them. They held to this idea until they ascended the platform erected for their execution. As they were about to mount the scaffold one of them broke away and ran through the crowd toward the east side of the stockade, hoping to be shot by the guard as he crossed the deadline. He was headed off and turned to the swamp, where he stuck fast in the mud. They pulled him out and brought him back, and then the prisoners began to realize that their doom was at hand, They were walked up on the gallows and the ropes were placed around their necks. It is impossible to describe the forlorn, wretched and miserable hopelessness that was visible on their faces.
They were given an opportunity to speak before the fatal trap was sprung; and they said a few words, bidding their comrades take warning from their fate. One of the men thought of his relatives and asked a friend to call upon them in New York City, if he should live to get home, and tell them of his fate. When these words were ended their bodies quivered with fear; the fatal ropes were adjusted, meal sacks were drawn over their heads and the drop fell. The rope around the neck of the leader of- the gang broke, thus letting him fall to the ground below. “Limber Jim” went after and brought him up, and after knotting the rope he pushed him off to die with his companions. It was a sad spectacle to see the bodies of these six men swinging in the air; but we felt it to be just, and another illustration of the truth that “the way of the transgressor is hard.” The following are the names of those who were hanged: P. Delaney, Curtis, W. Collins, Mosby, J. Sarifield and W. Pickson. These names were not given out in Andersonville but while I was visiting there in 1905 I saw the names printed on a board that was nailed to a post not far from the place where the men were hanged. I was within thirty steps of the gallows and saw the whole affair.
One of the things that helped to make our lives miserable at Andersonville was the continuous lying about our being paroled. The Confederate papers would come out with big headlines saying that we would be paroled on the first of the month; but when that day came nothing was ever said about it. The newcomers were greatly elated and excited over these rumors at first but, like the rest of us, their hearts soon failed when they learned that they all were fabrications.
On the fourth of July we had great excitement. One of our boys began to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and soon was joined by another; the spirit of the singers became contagious and soon hundreds of starving men were singing this grand patriotic song. It seemed as if the whole camp had a revival of patriotism that would not be starved out. It is said that General Gordon was giving an address to the soldiers and citizens outside of the stockade at this time, but that the singing of the national anthem by these starving men so impressed the General that he ceased speaking until the prisoners had finished their song.
A number of the Christian soldiers started prayer meetings and we had quite a number of good spiritual meetings. We held them close to the stockade so that the guards could hear what the nature of our gathering was, and thus not molest us.. Our preaching services were always held in the evening. I well remember a very good sermon that I heard there one evening. The text was taken from the twenty-third chapter of Numbers, and his theme was, “God must be with these people.”
In the beginning of September the Confederates called for ten thousand of our men to serve in their army. I saw our men go out and heard many of them give fictitious names. When Captain Wirz called the roll and they would not answer to their old names he said, “I don’t want your new names; I want your old names.” Those who went out were fed, given new clothing, and drilled by a Confederate officer until they were fit for service. Then one night they mutinied; and taking all the officers prisoners, except two whom they shot, they started out for our line. Fifty of our men were unable to march; so they had to leave them behind to the mercy of the Rebels, who shot them to retaliate for the two officers who were shot by our men.
Our men were only about thirty miles from our line which had been attacked several times during the night; so the nine thousand nine hundred and fifty, with all the Rebel officers, arrived there in safety at eight o’clock in the morning, and were highly complimented for their strategy and bravery. The report of this came to us through the Confederates, Later three thousand more went out on the same terms but we never heard what became of them. The last we heard was that they were seen at Macon, Georgia in good condition.
During the latter part of the existence of the Andersonville stockade the Confederates built three fine, large barracks in the northeast corner of the new addition to the camp grounds. These barracks were about eight feet high and contained two rows of bunks. Still later they put up seven more of these barracks; which gave the poor, starved boys better protection.
During my stay at Andersonville I was afflicted with a number of the diseases the other boys had, but by taking care of myself I managed to get rid of them, I used sweet guru bark tea to cure the diarrhea and I fought off the pain and swelling in my legs by exercising daily, I kicked, twisted, jumped and stamped with what little strength I had left, and thus kept down the swelling to a large extent; although they were swollen so much, up to the knees, that they would have burst had they become any larger, My hands were also swollen so that I could not close them, I had scurvy also, but I cured myself of that, I was so weakened by starvation, which killed most of us, that I suppose that I should have died with the thousands of others, had I not been determined that they shouldn’t bury my bones in that place, I learned that much could be endured and resisted by exercising strong will power. I believe that many could have been saved had they not lost heart, but they simply gave up all hope and made no effort to live.
Hearing of the awful starvation of our boys, friends from the North shipped in about three hundred boxes of food to satisfy, for a time at least, the awful suffering. The Rebels opened the boxes, took out what they liked, and brought the rest into camp; but it was all more or less spoiled, but it tasted good because it came from home. One young man got a boxful of excellent food from home, and he was almost overjoyed. He began to eat and could not quit; and when he was so full that he could scarcely swallow another bite he said, “Well, I will try just one bite more.” Those standing around him told him to stop or he would kill himself, but he said, “Well, I must die anyhow, and I might just as well die eating as die starving,” so he kept on eating until he died very suddenly. Some think he ruptured his stomach by the overeating.
In June we had rain every day except two, and we were pretty well soaked. One time I went fishing and caught one little fish about an inch and a half long, and one small crab. I took them to my tent and boiled them without salt, pepper or lard. The crab was good but the fish was bitter. One man caught a small toad and boiled it; he said it tasted good.
Not all was peace within the camp, for every now and then several of these starved wretches would engage in a fist fight; but they could not draw blood because they were too weak to strike hard and besides, there was very little blood to draw. We were allowed to write letters home but we were not allowed to seal them, because the Rebels would read them first, and if they contained anything that revealed the condition of the camp, or told of the horror and suffering, they were destroyed. I wrote two letters to my friends, but they did not receive them, nor did I get any letter from home.
It was very hot during the day; in fact it was so hot that some said you could melt lead on an axe. I know that the sand was so hot that our bare feet could hardly stand it. The nights were cold, however, and it was extremely cold after midnight all through the summer months.
Twelve of our men served in the cook house and were well fed. They mutinied one day however, and each one with a revolver and with as much food as he could easily take along, they left for the Union line. They had not gone far before old man Don with his eighteen bloodhounds was after them. The twelve men were good marksmen and shot and killed all of Don’s bloodhounds before they were caught; but caught they were, and brought back. They were then chained together, and known as the chain gang. They were placed in three lines of four men each and chained together at their necks and ankles; while each one had a thirty pound ball and chain riveted to his arm and another to his leg. They were put on starvation rations and died very soon, so there was none to tell of this horrible punishment. The last time I saw them there were only three left and one of these was insane. He used the thirty pound ball that was riveted to his leg as a toy, and one could hardly imagine that he had strength enough to handle that ball in the manner he did.
Dear reader, I have told you only a part of the awful things that I saw and experienced at Andersonville. Is it any wonder that in the face of all this so many died, and others were so reduced in health and vitality that they never recovered, but died long before their time? Or that many were so overcome by the sights they saw and the groans, the cursing and swearing, the singing and praying, and the weeping and lamenting of the sick and crippled that they became unbalanced in mind? Is it not rather a wonder that any could return to tell the tale of this hell on earth? Those of us who were fortunate enough to escape and return feel certain that we cannot fully describe the awful horrors of Andersonville, When we have said all that we can remember we must say, like the queen of Sheba, “The half has not been told.” I have often been afraid to tell all I knew for fear that people would not believe me. No wonder that General Sherman said, “War is hell”
It was on the afternoon of- September 17, 1864 that our ninety men, with another ninety, had orders to leave camp to be taken to Savannah to be exchanged. We left at eleven o’clock at night and I well remember the last sentry call I heard at Andersonville. It was, “Post number forty-three; eleven and here’s your mule.” It is needless to say that all of us were glad to leave this chamber of horrors even though we did not believe that we were to be exchanged. We thought that we would likely be taken to a place worse than Andersonville, if such a place could be found on this earth. We were loaded on freight cars, and by mistake We received rations twice. I assure you that we were not sorry that the mistake had been made. We had a long wait before the cars got started and our anxiety and weariness could not be described.
Instead of being exchanged at Savannah, they showed us the city from the cars and then took us to Charleston, South Carolina, where they said we would be exchanged. When we got there they ordered us from the cars and marched us through the city, the streets of which were so nearly grown over with grass that there was only a footpath in the middle of the streets. As we came near to the water front we, heard our big guns on Morris Island fire at Fort Sumpter, and many of the shells came into the city. They placed us in a prison yard where we were under fire of our shells, but it seemed as if our gunners knew where we were, for not a shell was thrown into our place, although they fell all around us. The only exchange that took place, that we learned of, was that some of our men exchanged time for eternity. We were in the prison yard three days; then they took us to the old race track, which was sixty feet wide and two miles in diameter, as level as a floor, and with no grass growing on it. They were doing some racing when we came there and it was an interesting sight to see them moving on this long track, When the horses were opposite us they looked as small as dogs, and you could hardly recognize that the track was circular.
Our food at Charleston was better than at Andersonville. We left Charleston at midnight for Florence, South Carolina where we arrived about 5:00 P.M., and were camped in a large field over night. When we left Savannah on the twenty-sixth we received a piece of beef and one pint of cornmeal for that day’s rations; but on the two following days, the twenty-seventh and the twenty-eighth, we did not get anything; so that when we got to our new prison we were suffering terribly from hunger and expected that perhaps we would now get a pretty good allowance. We had to suffer another disappointment however, for when the rations came it consisted of one pint of wheat flour, only that and nothing more. We were utterly unable to prepare this flour, for eating, so it was the most miserable that had yet been furnished us. The most of us could do nothing but mix it with cold water and eat the paste. The reader can form an opinion as to how palatable such a dish without salt would be.
At eight O’clock we were commanded to fall into line and parched to the prison pen. As we came near the gate a prisoner, who had become weak-minded and evidently clung to the hope that we Were going home, commenced to weep bitterly and exclaimed, “Another bull pen! I thought we were paroled and going home.” Poor fellow, he was rapidly nearing his eternal home for, in a few days his body was carried through the gates for burial. After our entrance to this prison we, as usual, first located our ground and then made a survey of our new quarters.
The prison was constructed on the same principle as the one at Andersonville, and resembled it in a great many respects. It was a stockade built of logs that shut us in from the outer world, while a small stream of impure water, with, a swamp on either side, ran through the prison. Such characteristics marked most of these prisons. The ground enclosed contained about twelve acres, of which four or more bordering on the stream were so swampy that they could not be ^occupied. The deadline at this place was marked by a small, narrow ditch and the same deadly significance attached to it as in the other prisons; it being certain death to cross it. Unlike the other prisons, no sentry boxes were erected on the top of the stockade. The guards stood on a lot of ground which had been thrown against the stockade from the outside. No shelter was furnished to the inmates but, as at Andersonville, a considerable amount of brush and limbs from the trees that had been cut to build the stockade was left on the inside, and this furnished the first inmates with material to build shelter. This did not help the later arrivals much however, as on our arrival we found the prison densely packed, and all the wood gathered up by the earlier prisoners. My comrade and I dug a hole about three feet wide and fifteen inches deep and erected a shelter over it, so that we were not completely exposed to the open air. This was good enough in dry weather but when it rained the water soaked through and made it a very unhealthy place.
It would be utterly impossible for me to try to describe our feeling as we marched into this prison. We were broken down in body and almost in spirit, and the thought would be continually coming into our minds; “how can we expect to live over winter in this place.” Quite a number of men, in order to escape the horrors of prison, were enlisting in the Rebel army; not of course in the expectation of doing the enemy any real service, but for the purpose of saving themselves by getting food and shelter, and in the hope that some chance might present itself by which they might escape to the Union lines.
We did not see any meat of any kind while in this prison and sometimes we got wheat flour instead of cornmeal. This was the worst diet of any we received in prison, as we had no way to prepare it. No medicine was issued to the sick inside the prison. A hospital department was connected with the prison but comparatively few of the sick could be admitted and consequently the mortality in the prison was very great. As at Andersonville, the dead were carried to the gate and then hauled away to the “burial ground, which was located on a wealthy Union man’s farm, a short distance from the prison. The officer in charge of this prison was Lieutenant Barrett, one of the most cowardly and brutal wretches that ever lived, and a fit companion for the brutal Captain Wirz and cowardly Davis. This brute frequently came into camp and fired his pistol over the heads of the prisoners to see them dodge; their fright appearing to give him intense delight.
It was about this time that we witnessed one of the saddest and most brutal acts we had yet seen in our prison life. It was a rule of the prison that all inmates in obeying the calls of nature must go to a certain part of the prison which had been set apart for a water closet. This was of course right and proper so far as it applied to men who could go there, but in the following case the attempt to enforce the law was as senseless as it was brutal. Among the inmates of our prison was a young, delicate looking drummer boy, about thirteen years old. He had been a prisoner but a short time, but his health soon gave way and he commenced to suffer from diarrhea. Weak and faint, he got up and started to go to the water closet of the prison, and had proceeded but a short distance when he found that he could go no farther, A brutal guard, with a malignant spirit that would have disgraced an imp from the Infernal region, and who it is hard to believe was human, deliberately raised his rifle and fired at the child. The bullet passed through the body of the little victim and he fell dead on the ground. A cry of horror rang out from those who had witnessed it, and the poor little corpse was tenderly lifted from the ground and borne to a tent. It would be impossible to describe the scene that followed; the strongest men wept like children, others raved and swore vengeance, and all expressed it as the most dastardly, cowardly outrage they had yet witnessed.
A CHANGE PROM PRISON LIFE
BLACKSMITHING AT MACON, GEORGIA
A BREAK FOR LIBERTY; MY CAPTURE AND ESCAPE
It was about the eleventh of October when the Rebels tried another game on the Yanks by taking out men born in other countries, to court their favor and to show them that they respected those men and would not let them die for the want of proper food and care. A good many men went out under these conditions, nearly all of them American born however, and among these was the writer of this book. I debated the proposition for some days and looked at it from all angles. The Confederate papers stated that they could keep up the war for twenty years with the aid of England. So I thought what was the use of lying there to die worse than a beast and be of no service to anyone. I saw that I could not live longer than a few more weeks at the most, for I could not walk more than fifty yards at a time and could not raise a leg more than six inches without using both hands to assist. I could encircle my thighs above the knees with my hand, and my arms above the elbow were no more than an inch and a half in diameter. When I lay down I could hardly get up alone, and I saw that my end was close at hand. Looking on the other side I reasoned that if I saved myself I could enlist again and serve my country.
One afternoon the Rebels took out some more of our men and my chum came and told me about it. He said, “They are taking out more men again and if you want to go out, now is your time.” I went up to the place and saw that there were about two hundred ready to go out, although the number to be taken was limited to forty. I thought there was no chance for me to get out that day, but I went forward to see and hear what they were doing. I heard the questions that were asked, and while I was standing there those in the rear of the line pushed so hard that the ranks broke and all were mixed up. When they reformed the line, I took my place in the ranks and found myself to be the seventh man from the front. This looked good to me, and I had new hopes that I should not starve to death in a Rebel prison.
When I came to the officers I was asked my name, which I gave as John Smith. I was then asked where I was born, and I said Germany. They asked me when I came to this country and I told them I came in when I was young. Then they asked me what my trade was and I told them I was a blacksmith. They wanted to know how long I had worked at the trade and I told them a little over five years. The officer said, “Alright, you will do.” I felt happy for I now saw my way clear to escape death by starvation. I would rather have died instantly with a bullet through my head or heart than to die by inches in that awful prison. Several hundred were taken out at various times; some were taken away some distance. We were compelled to take an oath of honor not to run away or to give them any trouble until properly paroled or exchanged. They took out forty-two mechanics that day. After we had been out about a week they gave all of us a new suit of English clothes, including shoes and caps, as our clothing was all worn out.
They took us down to Macon, Georgia, and after two weeks of recuperation they put us to work. I was so starved and wasted away in flesh and in strength that I could not work at first. The first day my helper and I made nine and a half horse shoes, while a good mechanic was supposed to make one hundred in seven hours. I was so weak that I could not raise my one and a half pound hammer above my head. When I was captured I weighed one hundred and ninety-two pounds; and eleven months later, after I had been out of the stockade for three weeks, I weighed one hundred pounds. The winter was half over before I could earn my board, but every day it went a little better until after a few months I could make fifty shoes a day. I got six dollars a day in Confederate money. Some got less and. some more.
Many of our number left at the first opportunity to go to our lines. We went into the war for the Union cause and not to work for the Rebels, but we did all we could to keep from starving and made for home as soon as we could see our way clear. When I left, there were only six or eight remaining out of the forty-two. Some got married to the girls working in the cotton factory, some were put into their civil prisons, and some were put back into the stockade. Some tried to get to our lines and were recaptured and put back into the bull pen. The Rebels gained very little from the Yanks by taking them out to work.
When General Sherman marched from Atlanta to the sea, the Rebels feared that he would come to Macon and capture everything, so they took all the tools and finished stock to Savannah, but when they heard that Sherman was headed for Savannah they brought everything back to Macon again. Our soldiers came to Macon however, and captured all that we had made and everything else that was there, so the work that we had been compelled to do was no help to them. There was a small camp at Macon where a small number of our men were confined, and some of the men that came out with us and didn’t behave were put into it. Our food allowance at Macon was twenty pounds of cornmeal, three and a half pounds of bacon, twenty pounds of fresh beef, and a little salt, per month. With the money that was paid us in wages we could buy a few extras. We would go to the butcher shop and buy steers heads at one dollar a head, which was five cents in our money. There was not much meat on a beef head however, for the tongue and the brain had been taken out, and the cheeks were cut off before we got them. We had large dutch ovens and we would put a whole head in a dutch oven and boil it without pepper or salt; and often we ate all of the head before we went to sleep.
One Saturday evening I went to the butcher shop and bought the liver of a good sized steer, and ate it all over Sunday. My stomach was so full that I didn’t know-what to do with myself. I had such a pain that I thought I would die, but in spite of all my stuffing and feasting, I was as hungry as a wolf, and I learned by bitter experience that the hunger continued until I had regained my normal weight. Some of the other men fared about as badly as I did. It is true that we had more to eat than we had in the prison, but now we had to stand their impudence and brutality, as they did not treat us very well while we were working for them. After we had been out awhile and had regained our flesh, our skin came off in rolls. We shed our skins like snakes. It seems as though we were made over and had become new again.
We had snow twice that winter and it became so cold that we had ice a half inch thick, yet we had to sleep in an open shed without a stove. My comrade and I each had one piece of homemade carpet to lie on and another for a cover. This gave us very poor protection and on several nights we came near freezing t6 death. The white people in that vicinity seemed very poorly informed. One man asked me whether it was true that Pennsylvania was in Philadelphia.
One Sunday afternoon my comrade and I took a walk to the western end of town; we came to a place where a public road led out to the west and was straight as far as the eye could reach. At the square was a large house, and on the curbstone sat an old darkey. I asked him, “Sambo, can you tell me how far it is five miles straight out this way?” He looked at me and then down the road, then at the ground in front of him, then down the road, and then at me again. Finally he said, “Massa, I ain’t never been asked such a question in all my life, Massa, indeed I can’t tell you.” We had a hearty laugh at his expense. One of the Rebel boys came into the shop as a helper. He couldn’t strike very well, so one of the men said, “No wonder you can’t strike right; you are left-handed and you have a right-handed sledge. We have a left-handed sledge here some place, and you had better go and get it.” The stupid boy went all over the shop hunting a left-handed sledge, and knew no better until one of the men told him of the joke.
Everything was high priced. A suit of homemade clothes cost seventy-five dollars; a horse brought thirty-five hundred dollars; poor quality beef shoulders brought fourteen dollars a pound; oranges one dollar apiece, and potatoes eighty dollars per bushel, in Confederate money.
When Sherman left Atlanta for the sea the southern politicians said, “Just let him come down here and we will give him ‘Hail Columbia’.” Sherman came, but the Rebels could not stop him. They said, “This Sherman is one of the queerest men we ever heard of; he goes just where he pleases; but let him come down here to Savannah and we will fix him when he gets into the swamps.” They had all their highways well fortified but Sherman threw out flankers, flanked them out of their fortified places, and went on and gained his point with very little fighting. Then they said: “We can’t do anything with the coon, he just goes anywhere.”
Some, bad reports came to Macon when Daddy Thomas whipped General Hood so badly that they were compelled to retreat even to Macon. One morning seven of Hood’s men who had retreated reached Macon, and one of our officers who was out on parole learned of them. He was dressed in a Confederate uniform and could imitate their southern speech so they took him to be a southern man. He walked up to them and said, “Well comrades, we got whipped pretty badly up there.” They said, “Whipped is no name for it. It was a regular skedaddle. We were so badly whipped that we scattered all over the country; and we were so mixed up that men didn’t know their companies, the companies didn’t know their regiments, the regiments didn’t know their brigades, and the brigades didn’t know their division. It was the worst mix-up we ever experienced.”
Two weeks before Sherman passed through Milledgeville two of our spies came to us and stayed all night. They told us all about Sherman’s plans and that he would pass through Milledgeville, but not through Macon, as it lay too much south of his route. These spies were dressed in black broadcloth and appeared to be preachers. They gave us more real good news than we got all summer. They came in an unexpected way and left, the same way.
One Sunday morning a troop of Rebel cavalry crossed over the Ocmulgee river. There was a railroad track in the middle of the bridge and a footpath on each side, about four feet wide. There was no floor between the tracks, so the men had to lead their horses over the bridge. At each pillar was a heavy brace that extended from the frame to the outside of the rail. The horses had to step over these braces, which was a dangerous undertaking. One man’s horse made a misstep and fell down with her hindquarters on the butt of the bridge and her front legs hanging to the rail. In vain the owner tried to get the animal out of this perilous position; the horse slipped down until she hung over the pillar. The man took off the saddle and bridle and it seemed as if the poor brute were debating what to do, Finally she slid off the pillar and plunged into the turbulent water below. She didn’t come up until she was about fifty yards below the bridge, when her head appeared above the water; she shook her head, blew the water out of her nostrils, and then made for shore where she landed safely.
That same Sunday I crossed the bridge to dine with an elderly Irishman who was working with us, and who had invited me to come and dine with them some time before. When I reached their home I found them well contented, although their surroundings and their food were such that I am satisfied in my mind that the poorest of the poor in our country would not be content to live in that way. The house was large enough but there was no carpet on the floor, no paint on the walls, no ornaments, no pictures, no curtains, no table cloth, no trees in their yard, no flowers, no grass; nothing of any kind to show taste or refinement.
It was after Sherman’s army had passed Milledgeville that our rear guards threw out a brigade of infantry over towards Macon to keep the Macon home guards from our wagon train. On Saturday about three hundred Rebels went out to make a raid on the Yankee wagon train. They met the Yankee infantry situated on a raised field with a small breastwork for protection. The Rebels charged our force and came up in good style. Our men held their fire, until the enemy were in close range, then they fired volley after volley into them; and they wavered, broke and ran to the rear. They again formed in line of battle and charged our breastworks a second time, but our boys did not let them get as close as they did the first time before they forced them to retreat. They went back and formed a third time, but this time they were completely defeated and gave up the attempt to route the Yanks. Later when our men had moved after their train, the Rebels went up to bury their dead. On Sunday a negro went out to see what had been done, and brought back the news that the Rebels had one hundred dead, that he had counted that many graves, but there was only one grave on the Yankee side. On Monday the Rebels reported that it was the hardest fought battle during the war. We knew that it was the hardest on their side.
It was at noon on the fourteenth of April that James Dick and I quit work. In the afternoon we went to town and bought a shoulder of beef that weighed seven pounds, for which we paid fourteen dollars a pound. We also bought a lot of crackers made of rye flour, with these provisions we decided to make a. break for liberty, and started for our lines at Huntsville, Alabama, nearly four hundred miles distant. Two Southerners, who were good Union men and didn’t want to fight for the South, went with us. They believed that they were in danger of being shot, so they decided to steal their way out of the country of Rebeldom. It was after sunset when we started out on the Macon & Atlanta railroad, not on cars but on foot.
We marched all night and at daylight we saw by a signboard that we were only fourteen miles from Macon; then we wished we had not started. We had one musket which we carried by turns. When it was my turn to carry it I fell and struck the hammer of the gun on a railroad rail and discharged it. The next day being Sunday, we lay in the woods all day. I took the musket apart, bent the barrel around a tree, and threw it away, so we had nothing with which to defend ourselves, when it was time for us to resume our march in the evening, my comrade and I decided to return to Macon, as we thought we could get back into the shop by morning if we marched all night, and the boss of the shop would not know that we had tried to run away. The two men from the South prevailed on us to go on with them, however, One of the Southerners was a locomotive engineer before the war and had a run from Atlanta to Macon, a distance of one hundred and one miles. The other man had been a postman in Arkansas.
As long as we four were together we walked by night and slept in the woods in daytime. We finally concluded that it was not safe for four of us to be together in our strike for liberty. If we should be captured all four of us would be killed; the two southern men for piloting us, and we for following them. One night we came to a river that had to be crossed on a ferry boat which was on the other side and would not return until the next morning. We went up the river a short distance when one of the men proposed to make a raft of old rails and cross the river on that. I objected to that plan because we had no nails nor anything with which to keep the rails together; and a raft such as we could make would not be safe. The others agreed with me so we slept on the river bank until morning. Then the two Southerners went down the river to the landing, crossed over, and we never heard of them again.
My comrade and I went down and crossed the river on the next trip. The ferry boat was worked by a negro and I saw that he had a suspicious laugh. I said to my comrade, Dick, in German, “Der schwartz weis etwas. Yemand hat im gesagt wer wir sind. Da ist etwas los.” (This darkey knows something. Somebody told him who we are. There is something wrong.) Dick accused me of being over-cautious and said the darkey’s actions didn’t mean anything. After we were over the river we went about half a mile and lay in the woods all day. During the afternoon we heard the cracking of dead limbs that were lying on the ground and we suspected that someone was after us. I told Dick that someone had located us, but he seemed to think that I was mistaken. Future developments proved that my suspicions were well founded.
I expected to be captured or killed right there in the woods at any moment, so I thought it best that we should have an agreement in case one or the other of us should escape. I asked Dick that in the event that I should be killed before we got home and he should escape, if he would go to my home in Lititz, Pennsylvania and tell John Souder what happened to me, where and how I had been killed. He promised to do this and asked me to perform a similar duty in case he should be killed. His home was at Terre Hill, Pennsylvania, which was about twenty miles from my home at Lititz. I gave him my word that I would carry out his wishes, and that evening we started out again on our journey to the Union line. We had not gone more than half a mile before we lost the right road. We went on another half mile and came to the bars of a field, through which there was only a foot path. We knew there was no use in following that, so we went back to the place where we lost the road. We came to a negro hut where a lot of darkies were having a dance. It was my turn to go in and ask for information and they told me very kindly which way to go, but they had that suspicious laugh that told me that all was not right. I came back and told Dick what happened and we went on for some miles.
By accident we walked on some dry limbs that broke and made a noise and I told Dick that we would be caught before we got very far. He laughed and said I was foolish and that my fear was all for nothing, but we had not gone more than five hundred yards until we came to where a horse was hitched to a fence. Then I said to Dick, “Look at that horsey there is a trap for us.” He assured me that it didn’t mean anything, but we had gone only a short distance farther when we found another horse hitched to a fence, I said, “Now look out for the riders, we are certainly caught,” Again he said that my fears were unfounded, but we had gone only a little farther when we met two men on foot who stopped us and asked a number of questions, one of which being whether we had had our supper. We told them that we were not so fortunate, so they directed us to go up the road about half a mile and there to the right we would come to a house with a negro hut at the west of it; that we should go in there and ask the negro woman to get us something to eat.
We did as directed and found everything as described by the two men. The negress gave us food but had that same suspicious laugh, I told Dick in German, “Our trouble is not yet ended.” He just laughed as before and thought I was too much afraid. After we had our supper and had gone some distance we heard the two men coming after us on a gallop, we didn’t want them to see us, so we went about fifty yards to the side of the road and lay flat on the ground. After they had passed we got up and followed them but we had gone only about a half mile from the house where we took supper when we came out of the woods and walked right to them. It was nearly morning but still dark. They searched Dick first but all he had was a pipe and a little tobacco, which they let him keep. Next they searched me and took the seventy-five dollars in Confederate money that I had. They later offered to give it back, but kept it just the same.
At daylight they took us back to the house where we had supper but they didn’t give us any breakfast. They told us to stay on the front porch of the house, that they had some business back of the house. Two women came out of the house and talked with us until the men returned, while we were on the front porch we heard the two men calling out, “Halt! Halt!, then two shots were fired in quick, succession, and the two men came running to the front porch where we were waiting. They said, “Didn’t you see two prisoners run? We halted them and they wouldn’t stop, so we fired and killed them.” We said nothing for we saw that we were helpless and believed that the shooting was only a scheme to start us to running, and give them a chance to shoot us. They were too cowardly to kill, us outright. If they had killed the prisoners why did they run away from them?
One of the men offered to take us back seven miles to a little town named Fairburn to have us paroled. We walked back with him arid kept up with his horse all the seven miles. On the way we came to a river, on the opposite side of which was a hotel where we stopped for awhile. Here there were seven or eight men who knew that we were Yanks and made all sorts of fun of us. One of these was more savage than the rest and suggested that we be taken out, tied to trees and shot like clogs. If he had had one more man to help him lie would have killed us; but an elderly man got up and said to this brute, “you hush up. You never fought in any battle and you don’t know a thing about war. These are honest, hard-working men and harm no one. Let them alone and keep quiet.” The cowardly brute said no more. I was deeply impressed by the influence of this good man, for had he used his influence against us, no doubt both of us would have been killed.
We went back to Fairburn to be paroled. The town looked very poor, and the house in which we were to be paroled had no furniture, nor much of anything else. Here our captor left us and we continued our journey toward the North. We could never understand why he took us to this place where we had such a good chance for escape, unless it was that he expected to turn us over to someone else, and we got away before the other man came, We went back by way of the hotel where we had suffered so much abuse, but found nobody there. We came to the river and met an old man who was unable to walk; he was a good Union man and begged us to stay and tell him about the war, but we did not feel that it was safe to do so. A man ferried us across the river and we resumed our journey over the same road that we had gone over when we were captured.
When we came within a quarter of a mile of the house where we had been taken, we sat down on a broken fence to rest. A woman came out and told us that the Lieutenant who took us away was back some distance in an old shanty and that his horse was hitched near there. She assured us that she would not harm us. She said that she had two sons in the Confederate army, but she didn’t know whether they were dead or alive. She said she knew nothing of the war until the press gang came around and pressed her two sons into service. While telling us this, the tears came to her eyes. After she left we went on again, passed the old hut where we had eaten, and came to the place where we were captured. We passed quite a few houses, some of which were empty; when we came to one that was occupied and saw smoke coming out of the chimney, Dick said, “Let us go into that house and get fire to light my pipe.” We went in and found an old lady busy with her knitting. While Dick was lighting his pipe she said, “This morning they captured two men here at the crossroads, but I don’t know what they did with them. They usually kill them.” Then I said to Dick in German, “Let us go before they kill us.” Again he thought there was no danger, but we hurried off. “We were the men they had captured in the morning and I am satisfied in my mind that my seventy-five dollars in Confederate money saved our lives.
MY JOURNEY TOWARD THE UNION LINES
SOME STOPS BY THE WAY
A QUEER NOTION ABOUT “YANKS”
Dick and I kept up our march toward the North as long as we could stand up, then we lay down spoon fashion with our faces turned the way we wanted to go, so that when we woke up we would not make a mistake and turn back. We slept until the sun was high and then resumed our weary march. We had gone but a short distance when we met an old darkey and Dick asked him where we could get something to eat. He showed us a house not far from the road where we could get breakfast, but seemed suspicious. We went over to the house and found a middle-aged lady who had the same suspicious laugh, I told Dick again that we should be very careful what we said or did, but he just laughed and said, “There is no danger.” Dick asked the woman for breakfast and she gave us a very good meal. While we were eating her husband came home and he had the sane laugh, so I knew that our trouble was not over.
The man asked Dick where he came from and where he wanted to go. Dick lied to him and said we came from Lebanon County, Alabama; that we had been there a short time before the war and were not well enough acquainted with the place to answer all his questions. The man received all of Dick’s statements with suspicion and said he knew we were Yanks. He asked us what place we wished to go to, and we told him to Big Shanty. He then said that he and his neighbor were going that way and we could go with them. Dick and I and the man smarted out together and met the neighbor at the creek where he was Catering his horse. The man who gave us breakfast and I took the lead and walked together, while Dick and the other man followed some distance behind.
We entered into conversation on various subjects and agreed “right smart.”, as they say down South; but Dick and his man had some sharp words, although I couldn’t understand the trend of the argument. We came into a large woods, and after going about half a mile I failed to hear Dick’s voice; I looked back but could not see them, so I asked the man where my partner was, and he said, “He’s coming; he is just resting himself and will soon catch up with us.” I said, “I will not go another step without my comrade,” and I turned and called his name loud and often but I got no reply. Then I went back to the creek and crossroads where I had met the man on horseback, where we started. I met a little darkey there, and asked him if he had seen my partner corning clown the road, but he told me he had seen no one. At the crossroads was a signboard saying, “Eight miles to Pumpkin Pile”, so I headed for that place and went alone the rest of the journey.
As long as we were together we walked at night and slept in the woods in the daytime, except our last day together. Now that I was alone I changed my program, walked by day and slept at night, and got along much better. When I came to the place called Pumpkin Pile I found nothing but the ruins of a house and a blacksmith shop. The first day of my tramp there was a shower of rain in the afternoon. I came into a small town while it was raining and saw two men coming toward me. It so happened that we met at an empty house which was open and had a table standing in the center of the room. The two men went inside for shelter from the rain and so did I. There was a long table with a bench on each side and I sat on one of these benches, while the two men sat on the other. We had a pleasant conversation while it rained; but asked each other no questions, and when it quit raining we went different ways.
I went westward and came to an old time wagon-maker’s shop. In front of the shop stood a large oak tree that aroused my interest. The man at the shop said that the tree was eight feet in diameter, while the trunk was only ten feet high. The limbs of the tree spread out quite a distance and made a beautiful shady place for the old shop. I told the old wagon-maker that this scene reminded me of home. He asked whether I was a wagon-maker and I told him that I was a blacksmith, but I had helped to make many wagons. He told me that about half a mile up the road, running North, was a smith who wanted a man to help him, and told me to go there. I promised him to go, but changed my mind before I got there and went another way. Toward evening I came into a valley where there was a creek about ten or twelve feet wide and quite deep. I tried five or six times to cross, but each time I found the water too deep. Finally I found a place where I could wade across, but got myself quite wet before I reached the other side. It was now dark and I was tired, sleepy and hungry. I came to a small, old house, but I heard a noise inside as I was passing, so I went on a little farther and saw a big house ahead of me and a new mill to the left; between the house and the mill there was a hill and I was so tired that I didn’t want to climb it, so although I had had nothing to eat that night, I lay down between the rocks and tried to sleep. I could not sleep however, for it was quite cold with my wet clothing, and the mosquitoes were very busy-making a meal upon me. Another thing that kept me awake was the yelling of some men down by the creek, which I couldn’t understand. So I came back to the small house and asked to stay all night. A woman said, “We cannot keep you all night as we have only one bed and there are four of us occupying it. My husband was killed in the army and there is nobody here but myself, my mother and my two children. If you go up to the other house they can keep you, as they have plenty of room,” I thanked then very much and went to the other house.
There were two horses tied in front of the house. I went onto the porch, past the window and came to the door; but in passing the window I had seen a woman standing by the fire, so I rapped and the woman asked, “Who is out?” I answered, “An old soldier.” Then she opened the door and let me in. I told her that I go t wet in crossing the creek and that I was anxious to dry myself. She built a good fire and when I was thoroughly dry she directed me to the bedroom where I could sleep.
Just as I was about to fall asleep I heard four men come into the house, and the woman said, “George, I have a Yank in the house.” The man addressed as George said, “Where is he? I want to see him.” She directed him to the bedroom and he called out, “Hello Yank, come out here, I want to see you and talk with you.” I didn’t come out at once and he called again and said, “If you don’t come out I will kill you,” I didn’t come then, for I thought if I must be killed, I would be killed in his bed. Then one of the men came in and said to me, “Just come out. He’ll not hurt you; he is a first-rate fellow, but he has a little too much whiskey just now. Just come out and show yourself, and he’ll not harm you.” So I got up and came out, and found the woman and the four men sitting there. The man who had called arose and came to me, and stretching out his hand he said, “Yank let us have a shake; anyhow I never shook hands with a Yank before.” After shaking hands he got a bottle of whiskey from the mantle, and taking a drink he handed the bottle to me and said, “Now take a drink; I never drank with a Yank before.” I put the bottle to my mouth and pretended to take a large drink, to satisfy him.
All five asked me all kinds of questions and I answered them as best I could. Had they been sharp-witted, they could have caught me in a number of lies, for I was afraid to tell them the truth, lest I be caught. When they had all satisfied themselves concerning the Yank they told me to go to bed, and two of the men went home. While I was sitting by the fire before the four men came, I had seen two carbines and two revolvers lying on the table; but they evidently belonged to the two men who went home, as they took them along when they left. After the two men had gone the man of the house said, “Now go to bed and sleep. Tomorrow is Sunday and we don’t rise very early. We expect you to stay to breakfast.” I thanked him and went to bed; but after awhile he came in and lay down beside me and said, “Now I will sleep with a Yank.” His wife came in and begged him to come out. She said, “Don’t sleep with this stranger; come into your own bed.” He then went out, and I slept until the sun was up the next morning.
When I awoke they were still sleeping, so I looked around the room in which I was and saw that it was very poorly furnished. But I saw hanging on the wall two complete Yankee uniforms, which aroused my suspicion. I went out and walked up and down their lawn and all at once a voice seemed to say to me, “Get out of this.” I didn’t obey the voice as I thought it was only a notion; then the same voice said again, “Get out of this as soon as possible.” I left then, and came down to the tail race of the mill and waded through. I carried a long hickory stick with which I killed snakes, and with it I killed three fish while crossing the stream. I took the fish along and exchanged them for cornbread later. After I had crossed the stream, at about a quarter of nine in the morning, I heard the blood-hounds come howling down the hill after me. I looked around for a tree that would be easy to climb, for I was determined that the blood-hounds should not tear me to pieces without an effort on my part to save myself. They came down to the creek and there must have lost track of me, for they did not cross the water.
I had gone about half a mile farther when a woman hailed me from a house to my left and asked me if I had seen her son; that he was on his way home. I called back and told her that I didn’t know anything about him, and went on my way, Next I saw a woman come out of her house, which stood about three hundred yards in from the road, and give some feed to her cow. After she had gone back I went up to the house and met her between the main building and the summer-house. I saluted her and said, “Good morning, madam; I am a paroled soldier on my way home, and I have no money, no credit and no friends. I am hungry and nave nothing to eat. I came in to see whether you would give me a little to eat.” She said, “We are poor now. My husband and two of my brothers were killed in the army and there is no one here now but my two single sisters and myself. My husband had forty slaves, but they all ran away. We have seven hundred acres of land and no one to cultivate or oversee it,”
She made a meal for me however, and while I was eating I noticed that she was sizing me up from all sides. Finally she said, “Aren’t you a Yank?”, and I answered, “Yes madam, I am a Yank,” “Good gracious”, she said, “Are you a Yank? Why you look just like other people. I thought the Yanks had horns, and were something between a human being and a cow; and would destroy everything as they go.” I said, “Madam, we are of the same human family as you people are; only we are from the North and you are from the South.” Then she said, ” I must go and tell my two sisters. They are on the porch on the other side of the house.” The two sisters came hurriedly to see this Yank, and asked me all sorts of questions, and had some fun at my expense; but it all ended peacefully. They asked me to stay with them and farm their land, for they didn’t know what to do to make a living. I told them that I would rather be excused as I had not seen my parents for some years, and that the United States owed me a lot of money. I was afraid that if I stayed away too long the Government might classify me as a deserter and I might lose all they owed me. So I bade them “Goodbye” and left.
I was very careful about choosing my stopping places. I walked into some houses as though I were at home there, but felt a restraint at other places and did not go in. One day I met an old man on horseback who carried a small roll of carpet on his horse. After we had passed each other he noticed that I was a Yank and called me back and said, “Come back Yank and let us have your paw anyhow.” I went back and shook hands with the old gentleman, but when he wanted me to go with him and have a longer chat I had to refuse him. This happened on a Sunday afternoon while I was on my way to Jacksonville. I had asked in the morning how far it was to Jacksonville and they told me it was thirty miles. Several times during the day I asked the same question and each time they told me it was thirty miles. I was getting discouraged, although I knew that I was traveling west and that Jacksonville lay in that direction.
Soon I met an old man and his wife and asked them how far it was to Jacksonville. They told me it was eight miles and I felt greatly relieved. I wanted to go northwest, so I asked the man whether I couldn’t cut across and get on the road going north. He advised we to do so and I started. Between the roads I came to a piece of blown down pine woods, about a quarter of a mile wide. Every tree was down, so I walked on the logs and jumped from one log to another until I was over. I came to the other road toward evening and went northward, but hadn’t gone very far when I met seven cavalrymen. The first day Dick had left me I met a young man who stopped me and said, “Hello Yank, where are you going?” I said, “I’m going home if you will let me.” “Of course I will let you go home,” he said, I will tell you how to do it. When you meet any of our men don’t shy off, but keep straight on; and “be bold as a lion, be pleasant, speak kindly and respectfully, and I assure you they will let you go home.” I thanked him very much and went on my way rejoicing that I had not been captured again.
None of the seven cavalrymen whom I met spoke to me except the last one, who asked me a few questions and let me go on. A few miles farther on three more cavalrymen came after me. I didn’t see them until they were close to me. They were very talkative and soon discovered my German brogue. One man asked me, “What kind of a Dutchman are you, a Pennsylvania Dutchman, a Mohawk, or a blank Dutchman?” I told him I was a Pennsylvania Dutchman, and they let me go on. I went on a little farther and came to a large house that stood on the corner where the road turned to the left. I saw a young man and a girl standing and looking at me, and another couple in the garden west of them. The man in front of the house called out to me, when I was about a hundred yards off, “Hello Yank, where are you going?” I said, “Home, if you will let me .ft He answered, “Certainly we will let you go home.” Then he told me, “I said to my girl that you were a Yank and she wouldn’t believe it, now she can hear that you are one,”
I asked him where I could get something to eat and stay all night. He replied, “About three miles west of here lives Lieutenant Newman, he can help you.”
I came to Lieutenant Newman’s house and found him at home. I saluted and asked him for something to eat. He told me that they had very little for themselves, but directed his little daughter to go and bring me some cornbread. She brought me about half a meal and I thanked them very much and bade them goodbye. Very few can appreciate how I relished that piece of cornbread. Before I left I asked him if he knew where I could stay all night. He directed me two «miles west to a Mr. Smith, where I could get supper and lodging. I came to Mr. Smith’s house and met him just as he was going from the main house to the summer-house. I walked up to him and said, “Good evening, Mr. Smith.” He answered, “Good evening, stranger.” I asked him whether I could stay with him all night and he said, “Yes, come in. Supper is nearly ready.” I went in to supper and found a large table spread with plenty of good food. There were quite a few boarders but I was the only Yank.
The old man sat at the end of the table, I sat to his left, and his grown daughter sat opposite me. He asked me quite a number of questions, one of them being whether I was single; and when I answered in the affirmative, he asked me whether I had seen any girls in the South that I liked. I don’t remember what awkward answer I gave him, but it made his daughter blush and laugh so that she left the table and didn’t come into the room again that evening, Mr. Smith was immensely tickled and said, “This time you hit the nail on the head.” They kept me talking most of the time while the rest were eating, so they had finished their meal when I was still eating. Then Mr. Smith said to me: “You put me in mind of a drummer boy who took supper with us last night. He was eating after the rest had finished, and looking up he said, “I have been walking today, I think you have been walking today, too.” I stayed all night there and took breakfast with them. After thanking them I asked them where I could get a pass to take me over to Guntersville, and he directed me to Colonel Newman, who lived in Gadsden.
I came to a house about noon, but there was no one there but a middle-aged lady. I saluted and said, Madam, I’m a paroled soldier on my way home. I am hungry but I have no money, no friends, and no credit. Can I get something to eat?” “Yes,” she said, “I will get you dinner.” She made me a good meal and I helped myself ‘right smart’ as the people of the South say. The lady looked me all over and finally said, “Aren’t you a Yank?” I answered, “Yes, madam I’m a Yank,” Then she turned all colors and said, “If I had known that you were a Yank I would not have made you such a dinner.” I said, “My dear lady, I thank you very much for this dinner. I am from no mean family and live in a small town named Lititz, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. If you or any of your friends ever come to my home, I will give you boarding and lodging for two weeks for this one meal.” Then she cooled down and talked very friendly. I then thanked her heartily and bade her goodbye.
I went on several hundred yards and came to the Coosa river; there was no bridge and no ferry and I was in a great quandary as to how to get across. While I was standing there on the bank of the river a fifteen year old boy with a small boat came down the river and asked me whether I wanted to cross, I said I did, so he took me safely over. I came to Colonel Newman’s office but he was not in, so I walked around the house to the front and found two men sitting some distance apart. I took a seat between them and asked when Colonel Newman would be in his office. They told me that he would not likely be in all afternoon and if I wanted to see him I had better go to his house, they directed me to his home and I found him sitting in front of his house. I saluted and asked him for a pass to Guntersville. he refused to give me a pass but said, if you meet anybody and they ask you for a permit, tell them you are inarching under the orders of Colonel Newman and they will let you go.” I thanked him very much, bade him goodbye, and left.
After going some distance I came to a house in the woods, where lived an old man who had fought in the war of 1812. His grandson had charge of the ferry, and with what little money he earned and the pension the old man was getting, they made a scant living. The old man’s sentiments were strongly against the Rebels. He said, “If the Government would have hanged about fifteen hundred of these hotheads before the war, this great fight would never have occurred. Northern inventions were brought down here to improve the South, but now this cruel war has spoiled it all; the South will be thrown back many years. Please don’t tell on me; for if they know my sentiments they will take the ferry away from me, arid then we could hardly live.” The old man had a long “beard and long, curly hair hanging nearly to his shoulders. As he spoke to me he became very enthusiastic and shook his curly head in a way that made a peculiar impression on me. I bade him goodbye and left for the Midway house, thirty-eight miles to the northwest.
FURTHER EXPERIENCES ON THE WAY TO OUR LINES
UNDER THE STARS AND STRIPES AGAIN
MY DISCHARGE AFTER THE WAR
I left the old man at the ferry at about eleven in the morning and reached the Midway house about sunset. On my way I had to cross a small stream, about fifty yards wide, which I had to wade. I had no shoes but I had wrapped my feet with old canvas sacks which I had to remove to cross the stream. After crossing the stream, while I was wrapping my feet with the canvas, I say a young Rebel on the opposite side ready to come in after me. He hesitated awhile and then, fortunately for me, he changed his mind and let me go. After I left the stream, a farmer who was plowing near the road called to me and asked me to come in and have a chat. Pie somehow knew I was a Yank, It seemed those people could tell a Yank as far off as they could see, I refused to go in arid made my way toward the Midway house.
A little farther on I met two men chopping wood and when I was yet fifty yards off they knew me to be a Yank. They abused me in a shameful manner and talked of tying me to a tree and using me for a target, They said that Yanks were not worth more than to. be shot like dogs, I let them talk until they were through, then I commenced to talk, I said, well, my friends, it is true that I am a Yank and that you are from the South; but no one of us is responsible for this war. We men who are doing the fighting for both the North and the South hardly knew anything about it until the call was made for men to go to the front and fight out what couldn’t be settled in Congress. This matter was in dispute forty years before they called on us; now we are to do what they seemingly could not do. We are as tools in the hands of a mechanic, and it is of no use for the hammer to fight with the tongs. Now the war is about over and we must help ourselves.” This little talk changed their attitude and they talked in a more friendly way and wished me a safe journey. When I said goodbye I felt happy that I had made another escape.
That same day I met a large, boyish-looking man who passed me as I was sitting on a log adjusting the canvas on my feet, he didn’t notice me as he passed but I soon caught up with him and he began to denounce us Yanks in great fashion. After he had said all he knew, I talked to him in a friendly manner, and he at last became quite friendly. We walked together for quite a distance and our conversation was very enjoyable. The road to the Midway house was very rough. A few miles before I came to Mr. Cox’s home his team, coming from Gadsden, came up to me. The driver asked me to take a seat in the wagon, which I did. We came to Mr. Cox’s home about sunset.
A son and son-in-law were sitting on some logs about a hundred yards from the house. Both belonged to the regulator gang, ready to go on their night turn. They had a peculiar uniform; their hats were broad brimmed with a heavy cord for a band and large tassels at the ends of the cord; their dress jacket had fringes on the outside of the sleeves, from the shoulders to the hands, and the trousers had fringes from the hips to the knees; while their high-topped boots had fringes on the outside. They wore long beards and had long, curly hair. Their outfit gave them a fierce appearance. I asked them if I night stay al}, night and they sent me to their father who was on the woodpile, splitting kindling for the night. I repeated my request to stay all night, and he took me into his large house through a long hall to the sitting room. He then brought out a tin cup half full of whiskey and, drinking first to show me that there was no poison in it, handed it to me. I pretended to take a good, long drink but I hardly tasted it as I didn’t want to be under the influence of that stuff. Mrs. Cox soon came into the room and invited us out to supper, and we went into the dining room where a splendid meal was set for me. I was very hungry as I had walked thirty-eight miles since eleven o’clock in the morning. After supper we went back to the sitting room where there was a large fireplace and a good fire burning brightly. The chairs were placed in a semi-circle around the fire and old man Cox took the center chair and gave me the one next to him. They asked me all sorts of questions, and wanted to know who I was and where I came from. I told them I belonged to General Johnston’s army, which was southeast of their place, but that I was cut off from the ranks and was then making my way home, which they seemed to believe. He wanted to know how I came into the state and I said I came by ship to Pensacola. Then he asked me how it looked around the place, and I saw that he was a little suspicious. I said it was night when we came there and we marched inland at once, so that I could not tell him anything about it. Then he asked me whether we came through Montgomery, the capitol of the state, and I said it was also night when we passed through there, so that I could not tell much about that place, lie asked ne some more questions and then looked me square in the face and said, “I believe that you are an honest Yank.” I thought, As long as he thinks so, I’m alright.
We spent the evening very pleasantly and at bedtime he gave me water to wash my feet and took me to a room on the first floor, My bed consisted of a feather bed lying on the floor for a mattress and another for a cover. I stayed with the old man three nights and slept well every night. In the morning he gave me a pair of his old shoes that needed a few repairs. he said he had an old darkey shoemaker who could fix them up for me, and at eight o’clock he came around with the shoes in good condition. I cannot tell you how pleased I was to receive those shoes; for I had walked many miles with nothing but old sacks around my feet. They asked me if I was a mechanic, and when I told them I was a “blacksmith they wanted to know whether I could make knives, forks and spoons. When I told them that I could make all those things, they asked me to make my home with them and make these things for them. I told them however, that I wished to go home as I had not seen my people for some years and that the government owed rue some money; also that I was afraid that I would be taken as a deserter if I stayed away too long.
Then the man wanted me to stay only a few months, and when I refused he insisted that I stay several days, which I did. I told him that I had no money to start in business, so he offered to build me a shop and furnish it completely. He said there was no blacksmith within a radius of fifteen or eighteen miles. As a last excuse I said that I wanted to get married and settle down. Then he said, “Well, we have plenty of pretty girls here, and you can get one of them.” By this time I had run out of excuses and had to make a flat refusal. Mr., Cox had a nice little blacksmith shop, fairly well equipped, and during my two days stay I did a little work for him, I shod three horses and made a knife and fork for them. He said he would keep them as a relic by which to remember the Yank. Mrs. Cox gave me some of her husband’s clothing while she washed and mended mine. On the morning when I left she gave me a good lunch to carry in my haversack and five dollars in money with which to buy her a thimble, as she said her children had lost the only one she had.
On the morning of the fourth of May, 1865, I bade the Cox family goodbye and thanked them heartily for their excellent kindness, I started for Guntersville, thirty-eight miles north, with my clothes washed and ironed, my dinner in my haversack, and a five dollar bill in my pocket. After I had gone about five hundred yards I met one of Mr. Cox’s slaves who was a preacher. He asked me whether I would advise him to stay there or to run away. I advised him to stay, and just then Mr. Cox came around the curve. When the preacher saw his master coming he pretended that he was showing me the way, and then disappeared into the woods. Mr. Cox came riding up on his big white horse with a double-barreled gun on his shoulder and a large-sized dog following him, Mr. Cox asked me what the darkey said, so I told him; and also told him that I had advised him to stay and do the best he could. Then he said, “That nigger gives me more trouble than all of the forty-nine put together. He has some education and thinks he is smart.”
We went on up the hill, or rather a sand mountain, for seven miles. Since I was not entirely sure of Mr. Cox’s friendship, I was somewhat fearful because he followed me. I thought he might take me to some precipice and then shoot me and roll me down to be food for turkey buzzards We had not gone very far before we met a man dressed in a uniform such as was worn by Mr. Cox’s son. I saluted him but he did not recognize it, keeping his eye on Mr. Cox. I was a short distance ahead of Mr. Cox and I heard him say to the other man, “There goes a Yank.” I could not hear any more of their conversation but a peculiar sensation went through me, as if I had been shot. Mr. Cox soon caught up with me and we went together until we reached the top of the hill; then he came up to me and held out his hand for a final goodbye, and said that this was the boundary of his land. He said he had ten thousand acres, four thousand of which were cleared and cultivated, and fifty slaves. He cautioned me that if I came to a horse hitched along the road, I should not touch it; “If you do, you’re a dead man,” he said. I thanked him very much, but hadn’t gone very far until .I came to a horse, hitched close to an old shanty. I passed it as quickly as possible, fearing that I might be shot, For seventeen miles I walked over government land on the top of Sandy Mountain; all the land was covered with pitch-pine wood; some of the trees were at least two feet thick and seventy-five feet to the first limb. The ground was covered with wild timothy about two feet high. Here I saw the Jack, his mate and their colts, feeding on this timothy. I came at length, to a house and asked for something to eat, as I had eaten all that Mrs. Cox had given me. The family consisted of a man, his wife and two grown daughters. One of these was married and had a child about three years old; the other was single.,. The married one’s husband had been killed in the army. When I went in she called her little child to her side and said, “This is the man that shot your father.” I said, “It is hard to tell who killed your husband. I shot many bullets at your men, but I don’t know whether I ever hit any or not.” She said no more and got ready to go visiting.
I asked for dinner, and the old lady gave me a meal. When I was through I asked them what I owed them for my dinner, arid they said they would not take anything. I offered the man the five dollars that Mrs. Cox had. given me and he refused to take it; but upon my insisting, he finally consented. As I have said, I was to have bought a thimble for Mrs. Cox with the money but I had forgotten their address. Later I wrote to a land agent in that place and asked for their address, and he wrote me that the old roan Cox had died and that the-family was scattered; so I could never send the thimble. I went on to the top of the mountain where I found a stream of water. I did not expect to find a stream on the mountain top. That afternoon I met two women moving their household effects on an old cart drawn by a heifer. It was a poor looking outfit, but all that they had been able to keep, I suppose, with the men at war.
I now began to descend the mountain, and the road down seemed six or seven miles in length. When near the bottom I killed a green snake with a ring around its neck, with the hickory cane that I had carried all the way. I came to a house occupied by an old roan named William Derrick, his wife and daughter. The daughter had a son in the Rebel army. The man asked me where I was from, and when I told him I was from Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, he raised his hands above his head and said, “Good gracious! that is the very old county I used to drive cattle to. I used to buy a lot of steers here arid drive them all the way up there. I would cross the river at Wrightsville and then come on down through that county.” He asked me about a good many farmers that I knew, and of others whose sons I knew. I felt as if I was almost home when I heard these familiar names.
From here I had to go three and a half miles to our line. I hadn’t gone very far when I met a Rebel cavalryman who came out from a byway. He was well armed and had a bag of feed on his horse. I had to pass close by him, but I went on as bold as a lion. He was talking with another man and when I passed I asked them the way to the river.
They told me and I hurried on, but the cavalryman on horseback soon came after me, I walked very fast and when I came to an angle in the road I cut across to gain on the rider, I came to the creek before he did, and, crossing I came to a house where a woman was washing. I asked her the way to the river and followed her directions, but when I got there I could not see a sign of Union soldiers; although I saw some Rebel cavalry to my left, racing their horses backward and forward. I went on a little farther and came around a big woods. There, to my great joy and surprise, I saw the Stars and Stripes floating from a staff on the bluff on the other side of the river. Our band struck up a familiar tune and I felt like giving three cheers for the good old flag. I cannot describe the feeling that came over me; it seemed as if a great load had fallen off my back. I didn’t know that I had such a load of care and anxiety upon me until I felt the change that came over me when I was in sight of our army, I went down to the river but there I saw a flat bottomed boat, or mud scow, carrying about thirty Rebels, fully armed, and coming down the stream. When I saw this my heart sank within me and I thought, “Is it possible that after I have walked nearly four hundred miles to gain my freedom that I must be captured again right under the shadow of our flag!” I made up my mind to run to the woods and try to escape? “but as I looked again I saw that the boat was manned by bluecoats; so with a thankful heart I waited for the boat to land.
When the men dressed in gray on the boat saw me they said, “There is another Rebel who wants to desert his army.” I said, “I am no Rebel; I am a Yank,” but they insisted that I was a Rebel. They came off the boat, and the sergeant who was the officer of the boat, said to me, if you want to cross the river, get on the boat.” I said, “Certainly I want to go over,” and I stepped on the boat. The officer asked me where I came from and I told him all about my escape, Then he said, “That is right, get away anyway at all, just so you don’t have to die in those awful prisons. If only all could get away somehow.” When we had crossed the river we ascended the bluff and came to the tent of the commanding officer. The sergeant told the officer all I had said and he also commended me for the course I had taken. The commander said to the orderly, “Take him to the cookhouse and give him a good old soldier’s supper.” Another feeling of joy and happiness that I cannot express came over me as I sat down at Uncle Sam’s table and ate the good white bread and drank the good coffee. I had all I could eat, and I declare to you, I thought I had never had such a good meal in all my life.
After I had my supper I was taken back to the commanding officer, who ordered that I should be given a complete cavalry uniform and taken down to the river for a bath. The order was cheerfully obeyed and I returned to the tent of the officer and saluted him. He wanted to know who I was and what my business was. I told him that I was the ragged escapee and had fulfilled his orders to take a bath and put on decent clothing, and I came back to report that his orders had teen obeyed. The officer gave a smile of approval and gave further orders for my stay in camp. This took place on a Thursday evening, and when I tell you that I had walked thirty-eight miles that day before four o’clock in the afternoon, you can imagine how I appreciated my meal, my new clothes, and above all, my safety within the ranks of our array,
I remained here all day Friday, and on Saturday morning a mail boat came up the river and thirty-five of our men took the boat to go to Graytown. On the way they caught two catfish, one of which weighed ninety-six pounds and the other eighty-five pounds. The boat stopped on the way down the river to take on mail and two of General Thomas’ spies who had come in from the country. We came to Graytown in the evening and went to the office of the provost marshal, who made a record of our coming, “Ye then marched ten miles to Huntsville, and were taken to another provost marshal to get our identification papers, It was now night and we were ready for a good supper, We had our choice between sowbelly and herring. Having had no dinner, we had a splendid appetite for supper, and I ate more salty herring than was good for me, We got orders to be ready at five in the morning to start for Nashville, and arrived there before night, We were taken to the Zolicopper house for the night, and then the boys scattered in every direction, so there were only two of us together.
The next day we were sent to the Nashville barracks to stay until further orders. I stayed there for the week and had plenty to eat. The building in which we took our meals had room to feed ten thousand soldiers at once, but there were only about thirty of us there. One morning the head officer came in after breakfast and said, “There has been a man here for about a week that I have no record of, and I want to find him.” He ordered us to fall into line and then proceeded to call the roll. Each man had to take three steps to the front as his name was called. I happened to be the man he was looking for and was left standing three steps behind the rest. The officer then came to rue and asked what business I had here. I told him that I had been sent there from the Zolicopper house for further orders, and that my time of service had expired ten months before, He said, “I will send you this morning to Edgefield, to the dismounted cavalry camp,” I had told him that I was a member of Company L, First regiment, Pennsylvania, Cavalry Reserved.
I came to Edgefield at ten A.M.. I took dinner there and during dinner time the boys asked me all kinds of questions, when they learned that my time had expired they said that I ought to go up to the commanding Colonel, who would send me home. I went up to his tent and saluted, and stated my whole case to him. The Colonel said, “I am surprised. you ought to have been home long ago, I will have you sent home at once; but first you want a new ‘suit of clothing.” He told his clerk to give me an order for a complete uniform. Then he said, “You take this order end go to the other end of this street, about five hundred yards north, to our commissary. Give him the order and he will give you a new suit of clothing; then go up to the creek running through the camp to the dam, where you can take a bath, and then come back to me.”
I came back to his office, according to his orders and saluted him. He looked at me and pretended not to know me, and asked what I wanted, I told him that I had come back after fulfilling his orders for a bath, change of clothing, and to report that his orders were obeyed. He said, “Good gracious, are you the man I sent for a new suit of clothing? Well I declare! I didn’t know you; you have made such a change. Now clerk, write out an order for him to go to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.”
I wanted to start that evening but the Colonel said, “You can’t get a train this evening; you must wait until tomorrow morning and then you can get a train that will take you through without changing.” I waited until the next morning, which was Sunday, and then went to the Colonel who gave me a paper to take me home. He said, When you have crossed the bridge at Nashville, take this paper to a certain street and number and they will give you an order for a railroad ticket to Harrisburg.
I started for Louisville, Kentucky at 8:00 A.M. and arrived at 11:00 P.M. I went to the Soldiers Home and took supper, which I relished very much because I had no dinner. I remained at the Home all night, and after breakfast in the morning I went to a place where I got a ticket to take me across the river. When I came to the ferry the guard asked, me if I had a discharge. I told him I did not, and then he asked me for a furlough. I told him I had no furlough and he said, “Then you can’t cross here,” but when I showed him my pass, he let me go on. After crossing the river, which was two miles wide, we came to Jeffersonville where a man came and got all the soldiers and took them to the Soldiers Home for dinner. There were about forty of us and he had quite a time getting us together. He reminded me of an old hen gathering her chicks. We had a splendid dinner and at one o’clock our guide took us to the railroad station and saw that we all got safely on the train for Indianapolis, Indiana.
We reached that place about sunset, and from there took a train for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where we were taken to the Soldier’s Home, We were very hungry but there was hardly anything to eat there, and what was there was very poor in quality. We decided that the superintendant was defrauding the Government and depriving the soldiers of what belonged to them. We left Pittsburgh at 4:00 P.M. and arrived at Harrisburg the next day toward evening. Here we got plenty to eat. I went to the provost marshal’s office to be discharged, but they told me there that they could not discharge me at Harrisburg because I had been mustered at Reading, and so must go to Philadelphia for my discharge, It was late in the day and the officer told me that I had better remain in Harrisburg all night and go to Philadelphia the next day.
They asked me to hand in my papers in the evening and told me to call for them in the morning, however, the man who had taken them in the evening denied having them. I said, “If you don’t give me my papers I will report you to headquarters.” Then he directed me upstairs where I could get them. When I got upstairs to the office the man there handed me my papers in a very obliging way. I left Harrisburg for Philadelphia at four in the afternoon, and went by way of Columbia and Lancaster. I rode on the rear platform, hoping to see someone that I knew; hut I didn’t know anyone. In going to the rear platform I closed the door behind me, and so locked myself out and had to remain outside until we got to the next station
I reached Philadelphia at 8:00 P.M. and walked from Eleventh Street to the Cooper Institute at the foot of Washington Avenue. There was a fire at Fifth Street and Washington Avenue, and the pavements were crowded with people, so that I could hardly get through. A hook and ladder company were running through the streets to the fire, and I went out and ran along with them and so got past the crowd. After watching the fire for a short time I went to find a place for supper and lodging. I found a place where I got good meals and a good bed. The next day I met a comrade who told me of a Soldiers’ Home near the Baltimore Station, where we went and remained that night The next day we went to a mustering-out office to be discharged; but they told us that they could not discharge us because they did not have our description lists and they must first send to Washington for them. They sent us to the barracks at Spring Hills to await the arrival of our papers.
We stayed there about a week, and while there a comrade and I strolled out to Norristown, where we went to a hotel and got a splendid dinner. When we returned to camp I Met a Mr. Long from Philadelphia whom I had learned to know when I was in the Christian Street Hospital in the winter of 1863 and he asked, me what I intended to do and I told him that I thought of getting a pass to go home for a few weeks and then come back to get my discharge. He advised against this, and said that I might be taken as a deserter and lose the money that was coming to me if I did this. He asked me if I had any money, and when I told him that I had nothing, he handed rue five dollars and said that I could return it when I got my pay from the Government. He volunteered to see the officers the next day and use his influence to hurry up my papers; and sure enough, on Friday my papers came arid I was asked to come to the office on Saturday morning.
I went early and was the third man that morning to get his pay and discharge. After I got my pay I paid Mr. Long the five dollars he had given me, and bought a suit of clothing and a satchel. Mr. Long asked me if my aunt knew of my whereabouts and that I was corning home. I told him that I wanted to take her by surprise but he thought it best to write to her and volunteered to do so as he was well acquainted with her. My aunt and I were very much devoted to each other and she was surprised and overjoyed to learn that I was alive and well, and so near home, I left Philadelphia for Reading on Friday afternoon and arrived there late in the day. I remained there all night and in the morning I boarded the train for Lititz, where I arrived about 9; 00 A.M, I went at once to the home of John Souder and met a number of friends, among whom were Benjamin Ritter, Elias Miller and Ben Nies. All were glad to see me and wished me well.
I worked a few weeks for John Souder and then went with a number Lititz people to Oil City, Pennsylvania, where I stayed from July, 1865 to May, 1866. I then carne back to Lititz and worked for John Souder for some time, then went to Lincoln and worked for Aaron Edneyer for a month. On the twentieth day of September, 1866 I was married to Miss Fannie Ritter, and after my wedding trip I worked for Richard Fetter of Lexington from September until after Christmas, I next worked for Harry Sheark, between Reams town and Denver, for a month, and then started in business for myself at Kissel Kill, where I stayed six years and three months. After that I went to Reading and worked in a locomotive works for three months, and then bought the smith stand and property of Louis Wiendwroth at Farmersville, Pennsylvania. I took possession of the property on the twenty-sixth of March, 1874 and continued the business until the twenty-sixth of March, 1909, when I sold the property to Harry Burkholder and moved to 233 East Main Street, Lititz, Pennsylvania, and continued in business there two years.
On the seventeenth of February, 1911 my wife died. I continued business a year and a half longer and then turned my affairs over to my two sons, John and Jacob, who are carrying on the work. I sold all my furniture except enough to furnish a room at the Brethren home at Neffsville, Pennsylvania. After a six weeks visit with my son, Dr. M.E. Bachman of Des Moines, Iowa, I came to the Brethren Home on January 6, 1513, where I expect to spend the remainder of my days.