BATTLE OF FRANKLIN, TENN.;
OF CAMP DOUGLAS.
BY JOHN M. COPLEY.
EUGENE VON BOECKMANN, PRINTER.
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO
MRS. CORRIE M. COPLEY,
BILLINGSLEA), MY WIFE.
"Of earthly goods, the best is a good wife.
Whate'er she does, where'er
her steps she bends,
Grace on each action silently attends."
"So far as what we see with our minds,
"Bears similitude to what we see
with our eyes."
It is my opinion that few persons who possess a liberal education, but what,
if they make the effort, could write some sort of a book; but to write a book and make it interesting, at the same time have
it contain truth and common sense, is no easy task; but to write one and let it contain nothing except plain facts, without
any of the coloring which we would give to fiction, and which adds so much charm to the book and interest for the reader,
is a greater and much more laborious task.
In writing this little book, I have endeavored to keep it clear of all fiction
and romance, and to place only facts before the reader. I have not drawn upon my imagination for any incident contained
in the following pages. Perhaps some of the incidents may appear unreasonable
to those who have grown up within the last decade, and know but little, practically, of the war between the States, and nothing
whatever of the life of a prisoner of war; nevertheless, they are all stubborn facts.
I have not been solicited by any one to write these reminiscences, but do
so through a desire to give my boys, some idea of a few of the painful scenes and terrible consequences of that fearful war
I shall in this brief little history of prison-life passed in the military
prison at Camp Douglas, Illinois, give the unwritten incidents which occurred within the inclosure of the prison walls, at
least, the part in which myself, with a few others participated, and to describe minutely, as near as possible, all the inanimate
objects and some of the animate, together with full particulars of all the occurrences which happened within my observation.
I desire, as it were, to have the reader accompany me within the inclosure of the prison walls and paint the whole as
nearly as possible as it transpired - let him view it with the mind's eye
in its reality, without exaggeration or coloring.
It is my intention to give the reader a faithful and true account of all that
passed before me while I was a prisoner of war, with which I was personally connected; also those of which I was an eye-witness,
at the time and place of which I am writing. Not our meals only shall be fully and particularly described, but our table-ware,
from the oyster-can to the tin plate.
I am not a gentleman of wealth or leisure; hence, I have been unable to devote
a year or two in preparing the manuscript for the publisher, but have been compelled to scratch it off at odd times when I
could do so, without encroaching upon my business.
My attempt has been to use the simplest language, to make my meaning clear,
and the construction accurate. Whenever I have seen proper to quote anything from others, I have indicated the same by quotation
JOHN M. COPLEY.
- CHAPTER I. Mustered into Service - Hospital Experience - The Federals Capture
Nashville - Escape from the Federal Lines - Again Join the Army . . . . .
- CHAPTER II. Hood's Advance on Nashville - Chasing Schofield's Corps, which
is Allowed to Escape - In Hot Pursuit of the Enemy - Description of the Federal Position - The Battle of Franklin - Captured
by the Enemy . . . . .
- CHAPTER III. Prisoners of War - Marched to Nashville to the Accompaniment
of Hood's Cannon - On Exhibition - Placed on Board the Cars for Louisville . . . . .
- CHAPTER IV. Our Jocular Guards - Leave Louisville Packed in Box Cars, and
Arrive at Camp Douglas - Stripped and Searched - Within Prison Walls . . . . .
- CHAPTER V. A Description of the Prison Grounds - The Barracks and their Arrangement
- The Bulletin Board, the Dungeon, and "Morgan's Mule." . . . . .
- CHAPTER VI. The Prison Officials - Capt. Webb Sponable, "Inspector of Rations"
- The Guards and their Duties - The Bugler - The "Big Four" . . . . .
- CHAPTER VII. Prison Life - Companions in Misery - Visitors to the Prison
Camp - Called out of Barracks by a Ruse - Again Searched - An Angry Guard . . . . .
- CHAPTER VIII. The Bill of Fare - Cooks and Cookery - Table-ware - Method
of Serving Meals - Only Two Meals per Day - Rations in Kind Issued to Prisoners of War . . . . .
- CHAPTER IX. Prison Rules and Regulations - Ingenious methods of Punishment
- The most Trivial Offenses severely Punished - The Cruelty of the "Big Four" - Human Ghouls - The Dead Line - The Penalty
for Cooking on the Stoves . . . . .
- CHAPTER X. Favored Classes - Free Masons and "Loyal Men" - Applications to
take the Oath of Allegiance - Probationary Period - "Loyal Row" - Feeling Against the "Loyal Men" . . . . .
- CHAPTER XI. Strict Sanitary Regulations - Cleanliness of the Barracks Required
- Wash Day - Penalties Imposed by the Prisoners for a Failure to Keep Person and Clothing Clean . . . . .
- CHAPTIR XII. Improving the Time - Gambling Among
the Prisoners - The Peculiar Currency used as Stakes - Hungry unfortunates - Letters from Home - Difficulty of Mailing Letters
. . . . .
- CHAPTER XIII. "Necessity the Mother of Invention" - The Trades and Professions
- Musical Instrument Manufacturers and Music - Playing Ball - Standard Currency of the Camp - Fate of Lieut. Fife's Dog -
Prison Cakes and Pies - The Magician of the Camp . . . . .
- CHAPTER XIV. "Fighting Joe" Hooker Reviews the Prisoners - Governors Morton
and Oglesby visit the Camp - Reckless Cruelty of the Guards - A Fatal Accident . . . . .
- CHAPTER XV. "Way Down in Dixie" - The Origin of the Song - Sickness in Camp
- The Prison Hospital - A Change of Quarters . . . . .
- CHAPTER XVI. Gloomy News - The Triumph of the Federal Arms - Great rejoicing
Among the Federal Troops - The Prisoners take the Oath of Allegiance, are Released, and Sent to their Homes . . . . .
THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN;
OF CAMP DOUGLAS.
"Sometimes fair truth in fiction we disguise;
Sometimes present her
naked to men's eyes."
"But he who blends instruction with delight,
Wins every reader, nor in vain shall write."
"But what is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the
future on the past. History is night. In history there is no second tier. That which is no longer on the stage immediately
fades into obscurity. The scene is shifted, and all is at once forgotten. The past has a synonym, the unknown."
In 1861, when the war broke out between the
Northern and Southern States, I was then a boy and had just entered my fifteenth
year; and being caught in the wave of enthusiasm which swept over the land joined a company of Volunteers, was mustered into
the service of what was then called the Confederate States Government, in Company B, Forty-ninth Regiment of Tennessee Infantry.
This regiment when first organized was commanded by Colonel James E. Bailey and Lieutenant Colonel Alford Robb, both of Clarksville,
Tennessee, and numbered near one thousand strong. There were but few men in this regiment over thirty years of age. Company
B was organized at Charlotte, Dickson county, Tennessee, and numbered near one hundred men, rank and file, and was commanded
by Captain Thomas K. Grigsby. This company had more boys, whose ages ranged from fourteen to twenty years old, than any other
in the regiment when first mustered into service.
My first service as a soldier was rendered at Fort Donelson, on Cumberland
river, eighty miles below the city of Nashville, Tennessee. When Fort Donelson fell into the hands of the
Federal troops, I was lying in the hospital at Nashville, sick from a severe
attack of pneumonia. It was a large and commodious brick building, two stories high, situate near and fronting Cumberland
river, and had but recently been converted into what was known as the Ensly Hospital.
My cot on which I was lying was near a window, which commanded a fine view
of the river, as the transports crowded with troops came up the river, within sight of the city. As the transports approached
the city, the troops wearing the blue uniform, with their banners flying, the Stars and Stripes proudly floating in the breeze
from the mast-heads of all the vessels, the bands playing Yankee Doodle, and various national airs, presented quite an imposing
appearance. As the steamers rounded in for the landing, all the bands on board struck up Dixie, and filled the air with music
for several minutes.
As soon as the troops disembarked they took immediate possession of the city,
with, of course, the hospitals and sick included. Everybody fled from the hospitals who were able to do so,
before the Federal troops entered the city. Our army surgeons, prescriptionists,
hospital stewards, nurses, and the attendants of all classes, fled at the approach of the Federal transports, and left us
entirely alone to whatever fate might befall us. We were all too sick to make even an effort to escape, but contented ourselves
the best we could under the circumstances, and remained.
Sentinels were immediately placed inside and around the hospital, one at the
entrance of the stairway, at the foot of the stairs on the ground, another at the top of the stairway on the inside, near
the entrance to my ward. These sentinels were relieved from guard duty every two hours. We were not left long without attention,
for the ladies of Nashville came into the hospital at once, took full charge of the sick, and soon made us feel very comfortable
and as though our own mothers had suddenly appeared in our midst; they soon materially improved our condition in many respects,
and made strenuous efforts to have us removed to their private residences, but the Federal authorities would not allow it,
and we had to remain in the hospital. That grand
old city of Nashville could always boast of its noble southern women. The
ladies of that city have always been particularly noted for their generosity, Christianity, culture and refinement; on no
occasion, before the war or since, has this reputation been found to be only a noiseless fame. The author of the following
lines must have been indebted to women of this character, when he expressed the beautiful sentiment that, "Woman is the sweetest
present that God has given to man. Woman has a smile for every joy, a tear for every sorrow, a consolation for every grief,
an excuse for every fault, a prayer for every misfortune, and an encouragement for every hope."
I remained in the hospital at Nashville for several days after its capture,
more dead than alive, and during all this time these noble women remained near us, doing everything in their power to alleviate
our suffering. A Mrs. Cartwright and a young lady whom I understood to be a relative of hers, waited upon me continually,
one or the other of them was in my ward day and night, and attended to all of my little
peevish whims and wants; they bestowed upon me that motherly kindness which
only a woman knows how to do.
The Federal army surgeons, after taking charge of the hospital, were very
kind to the sick in the ward which I occupied. I never met with better treatment, or had more kindness shown me by our own
army surgeons, than these disciples of Esculapius did during my stay there under their charge and care. One very nice little
fellow closely attended upon me, and manifested considerable interest in my recovery. He was a gentleman, and I am sorry that
I never learned his name. I admired him for his kindness and gentlemanly conduct.
One morning, as I lay on my cot unable to sit up, busy with all manner of
sad and gloomy reflections concerning my present, as well as future condition, I was surprised by the appearance in my ward
of a young man, tall, slender, and rather good looking, who looked to be about twenty-five years of age, dressed in a blue
uniform, and inquired of the two ladies in attendance "If there was any one in that ward who belonged to the
Forty-ninth Regiment of Tennessee Infantry?" Mrs. Cartwright, one of the ladies
present, conducted him to the cot I occupied, and with the first flash of his eyes he recognized me, and exclaimed at once,
"Is that you, John?" I answered, "yes," as that was my name, but failed to recognize him, due, perhaps, to the fact that I
was very sick at the time and able to pay but little attention to anything. After a brief conversation which soon refreshed
my memory, I remembered him as having been an old acquaintance and friend of my earliest boyhood days, although he was several
years my senior. He informed me that he would have me sent home. The reader can better imagine my delight than I can describe
He requested Mrs. Cartwright to obtain a citizen's suit of men's clothing
and to have me dressed in them by 9 o'clock a. m. on the following morning; he enjoined perfect secrecy upon each of us, and
then took his departure. Mrs. Cartwright brought me a full suit of black, including a hat, and at the time appointed she,
with the assistance of another lady, had succeeded
in making the disguise complete. I was now ready to leave, and lay covered
up on my cot patiently waiting for the return of my friend. My military cap I left in the hospital, as a souvenir to the guard,
but I specially avoided calling his attention to it. I do not know that he ever found it, as I failed to return and ask him.
Soon after nine o'clock a. m. the young man appeared at the head of the stairs,
spoke a few words to the sentinel, then came to where I was lying on my cot, carefully examined to see if my disguise would
stand the test; after satisfying himself that nothing more was necessary, and that all was in good shape, he picked me up
in his arms, as though I were nothing more than a small boy, then started for the door. As we passed the sentinels at the
top and bottom of the stairs, he spoke something to each in a low tone; they stood aside and let him pass with me. We soon
reached the side-walk in front of the hospital. Cumberland river was very high, in fact, higher than it had been for several
years; the water covered the street in our front, reaching within two feet of the side-walk. The Federal
gunboats and transports were anchored in the river a short distance from the
street, and there appeared to be nothing facing the hospital but a sea of muddy water and these fierce looking war vessels
with their port-holes, ready to send forth death and destruction over the city. Near the hospital and a little south of it,
a large brick building or block had but recently burned down; all the rubbish still remained. West of this burnt district,
an alley ran east and west; this alley crossed a public street on the west, which ran north and south, continuing until it
intersected an alley still farther west, which ran north and south. This part of Nashville, at this day and time, presents
quite a different appearance, as compared with it then; any one to see it now would not recognize it as the Nashville of 1862.
After landing on the side-walk, the hard rub presented itself in evading the patrol or police guards, who were patrolling
the city. To enter the first alley without discovery, this burnt district had to be crossed, and if we could get into the
rubbish without discovery, then we would be in no danger of coming in contact
with any of the police guards until we reached the public street some distance
from where it was intersected by the alley running north and south. He succeeded in safely landing us over the debris, and
we entered the alley from the west side of the street.
We now traversed several back ways and alleys for some distance, carefully
avoiding all public thoroughfares, when at length we came out into a public street in the main part of the city, and the first
face that greeted us was a police guard, who belonged to the Federal army; he promptly ordered us to halt; fortunately, this
guard was an intimate friend and acquaintance of the gentleman with me. He asked my friend where he was carrying that sick
young man(?); his reply was, that I had been acting as clerk for a business firm in the city, and that I had been unable to
be removed until now, that he was carrying me over to my home, which was only a few blocks off. This satisfied the guard,
or at least appeared to; he stepped aside and permitted us to pass.
We made quite a circuit around and through
the city, and avoided all public streets and places, when finally we came
to a number of teams and wagons; the wagons were being loaded with farmers' supplies. My friend seemed to be very familiar
with the owners of the teams and wagons, but I knew none of them. He, with the assistance of another gentleman, placed me
in one of the wagon beds, covered me up closely and carefully with straw, blankets and sacks, until I was securely hid from
view; all signs of daylight were completely obliterated, except just enough air for ventilation. After this was all finished,
my friend shook my hand and whispered, "that I was now all right, to say nothing and I would be safe." He then left me, and
I saw no more of him. Within an hour or so, this small caravan of teams and wagons started out of the city.
I said nothing and could hear but little, as I was so completely covered up
from the outer world. At the Federal picket lines, on the outskirts of Nashville, the teams were all stopped in the road and
the wagons searched, but not very closely, and the picket guards failed to discover
me; hence, my anxiety was considerably relieved, and I felt that my escape
was an assured success. I now fully realized the fact that there are situations in life when the slightest agreeable sensation
alleviates all our suffering and ills. We traveled until late that evening, and sometime after dark stopped at a road-side
inn, or country tavern, as this class of stopping places on the public highways were generally called by the people of Middle
Tennessee at that day and time.
Several travelers had already stopped at this place for the night, and a few
of them worried me no little with their solicitude concerning my illness, and exposing myself to the bad weather, all of which
I considered none of their business. I was well cared for here during the night, and was made to feel quite at home; being
only a smooth-faced youth, of course, I was never questioned in regard to the army. I appreciated this part of the programme
highly, for on this subject I adopted the better policy, which was to keep silent when anything concerning the war was mentioned.
After an early breakfast the
next morning, our wagons moved on again, and the same precaution was observed
in keeping me closely covered up from view as in Nashville, when we started on the previous day. In the afternoon, the wagon
I occupied stopped in front of a neat and cozy farmhouse on the roadside. The appearance of everything about the house and
farm was indicative of neatness, comfort and refinement, and all seemed to be very inviting to a stranger, who was both sick
I now learned that this place was the home of the friend, in whose wagon I
had been riding all the way from Nashville, and who had been so active and generous in facilitating my escape, had given me
the benefit of his services during the entire trip from Nashville, and that his name was Gillum. A very genial looking matronly
lady, whom I learned was Mr. Gillum's wife, came out to the wagon, and assisted me in getting into the house, and to a nice
and comfortable feather bed. She immediately gave me her special attention, and could hardly do enough for me. Mr. Gillum
informed her who I was, and how I had been taken out of the hospital at Nashville. This
seemed to enlist her sympathetic motherly feelings, and as long as I remained
with them, they acted towards and treated me as though I were their own son. They never, at any time during my visit, failed
to bestow upon me an act of kindness, when it was necessary. I will say that these people were some of the kindest and best
I ever met in my life.
I was near twenty miles from Nashville, and felt tolerably safe and secure,
and had but little to fear from the hands of the Federal troops. My friend in Nashville, who carried me out of the hospital,
wrote to my parents and informed them of my escape, also, as to my whereabouts. After remaining with this excellent family
about fifteen days, my father came for me and carried me home, although, by this time, I had only recovered sufficiently to
sit up a little each day and walk across my room. Mrs. Gillum had done all within her power to improve and better my health.
I would be delighted to meet these good people now, and have an opportunity again of expressing to them my sincerest thanks
and gratitude for the kindness they so voluntarily
bestowed upon me while I was a boy-soldier, away from home, acquaintances
and friends, sick, helpless and worst of all, absolutely penniless.
My regiment was captured at the fall of Fort Donelson, and sent off to a Northern
prison, and I remained at home until it was exchanged and sent back South to Port Hudson, Louisiana, at which place I rejoined
it soon after its arrival. I was never absent from duty again, but served with it in all the battles and skirmishes in which
it was engaged, including that celebrated Georgia campaign, where we were under fire from the enemy's guns for four months
continually day and night. Hood's advance into Tennessee to Franklin, terminated my fighing career
with that battle on the 30th day of November, 1864, when, then and there: -
"Sad regrets from past experience,
Came like gales of chilling breath;
Shadow'd in the forward distance
Lay the land of death."
THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE."Louder than the bolts of heaven,
Far flash'd the red artillery.
And few shall part
where many meet!
The frost shall be their winding-sheet,
And every turf beneath their feet
Shall be a soldier's
It is not my purpose to attempt to give a graphic description of, or to enter
into the minute details of this battle, for the following reasons: First, my incompetency to undertake such an arduous task,
as I have no access to war records, or to any plans of that battle for a guide; and second, the years intervening between
that time and the present, have caused the bloody scene somewhat to fade from memory's view. It was one of those quick and
sanguinary conflicts, into which armies are sometimes hurriedly precipitated, and which are of short duration.
They are fought and terminated without any studied, or carefully matured plans.
I shall only attempt to sketch that portion of it in which the command to which I belonged participated, as well as I can
from memory, after the lapse of more than a quarter of a century.
When General J. B. Hood, at the head of the Confederate army, entered the
State of Tennessee, with a view of taking the city of Nashville, the Federal troops under the command of General Schofield,
were occupying the town of Columbia, where they attempted to check the further advance of Hood and his army, but after some
sharp fighting and considerable skirmishing, they were driven out of the town and across Duck river, and forced to evacuate
the place, falling back in the direction of the town of Franklin. Our corps (Stewart's) arrived in front of Columbia some
time after dark on the 28th of November, 1864, and went into camp in a field. The company to which I belonged occupied that
portion on which had been grown a crop of Irish potatoes, they still being in the ground.
After drawing our rations, which consisted
of small pieces of pork, which had never been salted, we soon had a large
camp-kettle full of potatoes and pork on a blazing fire we had made out of fence rails, and by the time the wee small hours
were drawing near, we were enjoying a delightful supper consisting of Irish potatoes and fat pork, independent of salt. The
ground on which we were camping furnished the potatoes, after hard work grabbling them in the dark. The rations of pork, which
were intended to last us three days, were the most of any kind we had drawn for several days, for during our long and toilsome
march from Lovejoy station in Georgia, we had but little to eat at any time, save and except the juice we could obtain by
chewing sorghum stalks, whenever a crop of that could be found. Sometimes, we were able to secure a little corn; this we would
parch during the night, after going into camp. Many of our soldiers were barefooted, and their clothing very ragged; added
to this, what little money we possessed was worthless; yet, the soldiers were buoyant and hopeful.
When the sun rose on the following morning,
throwing his gentle rays beneath a cloudless sky causing the cold and misty
frost to vanish, our troops were ready for action, and in high spirits at the prospect of having a brush with Schofield's
army, but in this, we were disappointed. The Federals, instead of giving us battle, simply tried to hold our advance in check
until their wagons and ordnance stores could be removed to a safe distance from capture, while their columns of infantry kept
falling back. The rear guard, who covered their retreat, was closely pressed by a corps of Hood's infantry, while another
portion of his infantry and Forrest's cavalry crossed the river to the right of Columbia, and by a forced march on their flank,
endeavored to intercept their advance guard, in order to cut off their retreat and capture Schofield and his army.
Our corps was also thrown across the river and hurried forward on a run, over
hills and through the woods, to effect a junction with the troops who had been sent forward ahead of us. We moved forward
over rocks, hills, down steep hollows, over stone and rail fences, through thick
underbrush, as fast as possible; frequently the field officers had to dismount
and lead their horses by the bridle through narrow defiles and over steep declivities. Orders were continually being given
along our line to close up and double-quick; wherever the ground would permit, we went on a run. Very often news would be
sent down the line, that the cavalry and infantry ahead of us had succeeded in establishing a line of battle across the road
in front of the Federal army, and then orders were given again to close up, close up, and double-quick.
Having no roads over which to march, only now and then, and the rough, rugged
and broken country, most of the time made it very difficult for our columns of infantry to travel with anything like speed,
and our progress would often be greatly retarded. Some time in the early afternoon, the sound of cannon and discharge of musketry
informed us that our troops were near, if not quite in their front, and officers came down our line hurrying us forward, at
the same time informing us that General Hood had succeeded in throwing Forrest's cavalry and a line of
infantry across the pike in their front near Spring Hill, which was some twelve
or eighteen miles from Columbia, and had checked their advance guard.
We arrived on the scene just after dark, - that is, General Walthall's Division
of Stewart's Corps; this division was on the extreme right of the corps, and was the first infantry to arrive at Spring Hill
that evening. We were halted in a cornfield, ordered to lie down under arms, be ready for action at a moment's notice, and
not to speak above breath. We were informed that this was the field on which our troops, during the afternoon, had a short
engagement with the Federal advance guard, that our columns were within about two hundred yards of the Federal army, which
was near twenty thousand strong, and that they were lying on the turnpike in line of battle; that a line of battle of infantry
and one of our cavalry were across the road in their front, and joined to our right wing. Schofield pushed his wagon trains
out of Columbia in advance of his army, and had kept them all ahead of his infantry during his retreat.
The wagon trains were supported by the advance guard of the Federal army.
We felt confident that on the following day the whole army would be captured,
but during the night, from some cause which I am unable to explain, our lines of battle were withdrawn from their front, leaving
the road clear for their entire army and ordnance to pass. As soon as they discovered no opposition from their front, they
at once resumed their retreat, while we lay under arms all night.
When the dawn of the following morning appeared, and long before the sun had
begun to shed his welcome rays o'er friend and foe alike, not a Federal soldier could be seen, except their rear guard, and
that far beyond the range of our guns. When we discovered their successful escape on the morning of the 30th, our chagrin
and disappointment can be better imagined than described. General Forrest was so enraged that his face turned almost to a
chalky whiteness, and his lips quivered. He cursed out some of the commanding officers, and censured them for allowing the
Federal army to escape. I looked
at him, as he sat in his saddle pouring forth his volumes of wrath, and was
almost thunderstruck to listen to him, and to see no one dare resent it. * Preparations for pursuit were rapidly made, and our corps of infantry was ordered
forward on double-quick time, soon overtaking the Federal rear guard, who were covering the retreat of Schofield's army.
We were quickly engaged in a running skirmish fight, which continued until
reaching a favorable eminence, they formed a line of battle supported by several pieces of cannon that glittered in the rays
of the morning sun, all of which presented quite a formidable front. A few pieces of our light artillery were placed in position,
and the infantry moved forward to charge them off the ridge, but when our line of battle began to advance, they fell back
on a swift retreat, still keeping up a running skirmish fight, until closely pressed, they halted and formed another
* Some time before day, I was detailed for vidette-post guard
duty, and with two other guards and a sergeant, heard the above. - C.
line of battle to check us. These tactics were kept up until they reached
the town of Franklin, some twelve miles from Spring Hill.
We pressed the rear of Schofield's army in hot pursuit; in fact, so hot and
close was the pursuit that every now and then the road would be almost blockaded with horses and mules, which had been sabred,
wagons cut down, caissons destroyed, and piles of camp equipage set on fire. They made good their escape by reaching Franklin
and taking shelter behind their breastworks. Our corps passed to the right of the town, and on the north side of the Columbia
and Franklin pike, halting in a cornfield, within plain view of their works.
The town of Franklin, rendered historic by the battle which was fought on
the 30th day of November, 1864, is the county seat of Williamson county, Tennessee, and situate on the south side of Big Harpeth
river. Prior to the war it was a beautiful little county town. The residences were constructed with that degree of taste and
neatness which indicates a refined and cultured people. The surface of the surrounding
country is dotted with high knolls, which present to view the finest of landscape
scenery. The adjacent hills overlook the town, und from the crest of almost any of them a fine view
can be obtained of the surrounding country. The valleys are rich, and most of them kept in a high state of cultivation and
improvement, the fields generally being enclosed with good, substantial stone fences, although some few were hedged with bois
d'arc. The river runs in a northwesterly direction along the north side of the town and affords delightful sport to those
who are fond of fishing. A line of railroad and turnpike connected the city of Nashville with the towns of Franklin and Columbia,
Franklin being about eighteen miles from Nashville, ten to twelve miles from Spring Hill, and some twenty-eight miles from
After the fall of Nashville into the hands of the Federal troops, Franklin
was continually occupied by soldiers, belonging to first one side and then the other. When Schofield's army arrived at Franklin
from Columbia, the town was well fortified by the Federal troops who were
already there, and by those sent from Nashville by General Thomas to reinforce
The fortification consisted mainly of two lines of breastworks a short distance
from the town, and from three to four hundred yards apart. Northeast of the town, on the north side of the river, on the summit
of two elevated points, were two forts, one on each point. These forts were well mounted with several pieces of heavy cannon
which could play on a line of men at long range, full half a mile off.
The main line of works extended from the river below and southeast, connecting
with the river above and northwest of the town. It was constructed by cutting a broad and deep ditch, throwing the dirt within,
forming a strong line of defense, which would force an attacking column to cross it before scaling the works, subjecting it
to a murderous fire of musketry from the infantry behind the works, even after reaching the ditch; after gaining the ditch
it would be almost impossible to climb over the works without short scaling ladders. The works were high enough to protect
the whole body of a man
standing erect, except the head and neck. Headlogs were placed on top of this
line of fortifications to protect their heads from our minie balls. The logs were large and raised off the works, leaving
a space of some three or four inches between them and the crest of the works to see well how and where to shoot. This line
of breastworks, from its intersection with the river northeast of the town to the left of the Columbia and Franklin pike,
was well mounted with several pieces of cannon bristling from their parapets, all of which were amply supplied with munition.
Situate on the south side of the river, northeast of the town and on the line
of works, a battery of thirty-six pieces of cannon was planted, and so arranged that each gun could enfilade the whole space
between the two lines of breastworks and completely clear it by a raking fire of grapeshot and canister from end to end of
an advancing column of infantry or cavalry on the same side of the river. Some distance, perhaps two hundred yards further
down the line, a battery of six cannon was planted, which showed
their ugly mouths through the embrasures of the parapets; these guns were
also arranged so as to enfilade the lines of a storming column which might succeed in reaching the edge of the ditch on the
outside and before entering it.
A short distance south of the Columbia and Franklin pike, on the line, and
to our left, another battery of twelve guns was planted and so arranged as to enfilade the space between both lines of works
from that direction, thus exposing a line of men to raking fires of grape and canister from both directions. The grape and
canister thrown from all these guns could rake the ground near the edge of the ditch within twenty feet of their mouths, the
whole distance occupied by an attacking column, while their own men were perfectly secure on the inside and behind the line
of works. The whole space in front of the main line of works to the second was exposed to a galling fire of all the batteries
from each way, to say nothing of the exposure to the fire of musketry from the infantry behind the breastworks, which was
as destructive, if not more so, than that from the grape and canister.
North of this line in our front a large cotton gin stood, some twenty or thirty
feet from the works - it may have been a little farther or nearer; some ten feet northeast of the gin two oak trees were standing,
the larger a few feet nearly due north of the smaller; west of the gin and on the south side of the Columbia and Franklin
pike, a large two-story brick residence was standing, which was owned and occupied by a Mr. Carter and his family; south of
this and near the line of works, a small one-story brick house with a frame building attached was standing. These buildings,
at the commencement of the engagement, were occupied by Federal sharpshooters.
Behind this line of works the Federal troops were massed, and the ground seemed
to be covered for a distance of fifty yards from the works with soldiers wearing the blue uniform, their guns and bayonets
shining with a dazzling brightness in the sun. They appeared all the time to be in motion, forming lines of battle, one behind
the other, as indicated by the positions of their blue banners and battle-flags; all their lines of
men could not be seen from our position, while concentrating their forces.
Their torn and perforated regimental colors, as they floated on the breeze, bespoke the story plainer than language can paint
it, of the many fierce encounters they had met with during that long and bloody campaign through which they had just passed,
and which was destined shortly to come to a final close. Courier after courier on their horses could be seen galloping to
and fro, as if carrying orders from one part of the position to another; their sappers and miners, or fatigue parties, seemed
to be hard at work completing the fortifications; their spades and picks could be seen swiftly going up and down, and the
dirt thrown from their spades flying to the top of the parapets; they were as active and industrious as gopher rats and prairie
dogs when they are trying to burrow into the earth. Their main forces of infantry and artillery were well arranged in lines
of battle behind this line of works a short time before the engagement began.
A short distance in front of the works, a line
of cheval-de-frise was placed, extending from near and opposite the
battery of thirty-six cannon west, reaching very near, if not quite to the pike. This cheval-de-frise is a piece
of timber, a long log, or several long logs, for instance, with one end of each placed together, the logs being traversed
with wooden spikes, sometimes pointed with iron, five or six feet long, used to defend a passage, stop a breach, or make a
retrenchment to check the advance of cavalry, but during the late war, was used against the advance of infantry as well. A
few feet in front of this cheval-de-frise, a bois d'arc hedge had been cut down, the tops fronting us, they
were trimmed and sharpened; this brush was very thick, and the points of the limbs being sharpened made it very difficult
to pass over; this hedge formed an abatis - that is, a row of trees and their branches, and laid with the points outward,
in front of a fortification or any other position, to obstruct the approach of assailants. The larger ends of the branches
are secured to the ground by forked pickets. All of these obstructions would check an advancing column of
infantry or cavalry, thus affording the enemy a good opportunity to destroy
it. On the left of the pike a locust thicket had been cut down, their tops being trimmed and sharpened, and this, in connection
with the cheval-de-frise, made a very effective and formidable obstruction in front of that position.
Their second, or front line of works, was from three hundred to four hundred
yards in advance of the former which I have just described. It was simply a line of intrenchments hastily thrown up, or at
least had that appearance, the ditch dug within and the dirt thrown outward, forming a temporary line, and had no head-logs
to protect their heads; this line would only afford protection to the lower part of the body without lying down behind it.
It had no cannon bristling from their embrasures. A line of battle, and also a skirmish line, had been thrown behind it, -
their guns and bayonets, in a threatening attitude, pointed at our lines over the works. These two lines of earth works passed
through an old field, which had been turned out and used as a commons. A dense beech grove
had recently been standing at the edge of this commons on the right of the
pike fronting this position and in our front, but had been cut down, making a thicket of brushwood which was almost impenetrable;
considerable work had to be done in clearing a passage through it before a line of battle could pass through, or over it,
in anything like order.
The cornfield, which we occupied, was directly behind this beech grove. The
field had been cultivated that year, on which had been grown a crop of corn and little white soup beans. The corn had been
gathered, but the beans were left hanging on the vines. We considered ourselves fortunate in being halted in this field on
account of the crop of beans, and the majority of us were anxious to obtain a mess of them. We badly needed them to cook with
the fresh, unsalted pork which we had drawn at Columbia. Many of us were filling our haversacks with these beans when Billy
Mumford, one of General Quarles' aides, came riding down our line, and seeing us busily engaged in gathering the beans, as
a smile went over his genial face, remarked,
"Boys, you need not be gathering those beans, we have to storm those breast-works
over there (he pointing in the direction of them) this afternoon." We had no further interest in gathering beans, the charm
of soup-making vanished as swiftly as did the beans we had gathered - were dashed to the ground. We remained under arms from
the time we arrived within this field, which was ten or eleven o'clock in the forenoon, until near four in the afternoon,
at which time hunger reminded us that we had tasted nothing since before daylight that morning, at Spring Hill, and we were
not permitted to break ranks, in order to prepare our rations.
Our troops had maintained their excellent spirits up to this time, notwithstanding
our sore disappointment in not being allowed to make the attempt to capture Schofield and his army at Spring Hill; but the
cloud of disappointment which had so suddenly enveloped us at Spring Hill, now reappeared more ominous than ever, causing
our patriotic enthusiasm and most sanguine hopes to wane, and ere the dawn of another
day had given place to feelings of bitter despair.
Our division, General Walthall's, was placed on the extreme right of the Columbia
and Franklin pike, and formed the right wing and constituted the front line of battle of that position; this was to be the
assailing column of the Federal works in our front. After this front line was definitely located, the remainder of our infantry
began to form in lines of battle one behind the other. While this was going on the Federal army, who lay behind their main
line of works, mounted on top of it, and stood for several minutes viewing our lines. We had a good view of them standing
on top of their breast-works, their fine blue uniforms shining in the soft and hazy rays of a beautiful November's afternoon.
Our right wing was nearly in front of the battery of thirty-six cannon on the main line of the Federal works, and a little
to the right of the battery of six pieces of cannon on same works. We thoroughly understood that this portion of the line
of battle had to storm the works near the battery of thirty-six guns, and if possible, take it.
As soon as the lines of battle were formed, a number of our field officers
rode out a little in front of the lines, - they were Walthall, Loring, Cheatham, Quarles, Cleburne, Granberry, and perhaps
others; these officers appeared to hold a brief consultation, during which we could see them cast doubting glances in the
direction of the formidable foe in our front; and judging from the appearance of their grave and serious looks, we all knew
that our commanders in some degree realized the depth of that yawning gulf of destruction which awaited them and us, and which
only too soon would engulf us all. These officers separated, each taking his respective place with his command. A profound
silence pervaded the entire army; it was simply awful, reminding one of those sickening lulls which precede a tremendous thunderstorm.
This was but momentary. Orders now rang down our line, shrill and clear, to forward march!
The guns from the redoubts northeast of the town opened on us at long range,
but they were scarcely noticed by us. The artillerymen who were manning these guns had a fine opportunity
|Battle of Franklin
|IN FRONT OF THE FEDERAL WORKS AT FRANKLIN.
of testing their skill at long range. Our progress at first was rather slow,
on account of the obstructions just in our front, which consisted of the beech grove with the tops of the trees fronting us;
but we surmounted this brush and fallen timber, and began to move a little faster. A light skirmish line from our lines of
battle was thrown forward, which was soon met by a similar line from the Federals behind their advance line of intrenchments.
These two lines quickly engaged in a lively skirmish fight, but as our lines of battle advanced, their line retired behind
the line of works which they had recently left. Our line halted, lay down, and fired upon them in this position, until our
lines of battle moved up close enough for them to join us, and become part of the front line.
We were now ordered to fix bayonets, fire, and charge the first line of works.
They received us with a volley of musketry, but all opposition was inadequate to check our columns in the slightest degree,
and with one prolonged and loud cheer we carried the first line of works at the very points of the Federal bayonets. They
stood their ground until we mounted the top of their works, but as we went
over, part of their line of battle broke and fled, while the remainder lay down flat on their faces in the ditch to save themselves,
and were either killed or captured; but few of those who fled succeeded in reaching their main line. Our lines of infantry
swept over their works, annihilating nearly everything before us. This partial victory was quickly won. It appeared as if
our troops had received an electric shock, which aroused their enthusiasm to its highest pitch, and the air resounded with
loud shouts from our whole army, whichalmost made the earth over which we were going quake and tremble.
After taking this line of works, we made a momentary halt in order to reform
our front line, but this was only for an instant; we now pressed closely at the heels of their retiring line, to storm the
second. Their batteries immediately opened upon us with a perfect hailstorm of grape and canister, and when within a short
distance of their main line, we encountered the abatis, or bois d'arc hedge, and also the line of
cheval-de-frise; here the battery of thirty-six guns a little
to our right, and that of twelve guns on our left, all double charged with grape and canister, pointing down our lines from
both directions, thus enfilading them both ways from end to end, sent a tremendous deluge of shot and shell through our ranks,
and these seconded by a murderous sheet of fire and lead from the infantry behind the works, and also another battery of six
guns directly in our front, made the scene of carnage and destruction fearful to behold.
This hurricane of combustibles now burst forth in its height of fury, leaving
ruin and desolation in its pathway, and nothing could be heard above the din of musketry and the roar of cannon, which was
incessant. They fired on friend and foe, for we so closely pressed the retreating line in our front that had they waited for
their own men to enter the works we would have gone over with them, and carried all before us. Whenever the dense smoke, in
some degree, was cleared away by the flash and blaze from the guns, great masses of our infantry could be
seen struggling to get over those ingeniously wrought obstructions, who were
being slain by hundreds and piled in almost countless numbers. In the confusion which here ensued, numbers of our forces were
thrown farther to the left and near the pike, forming a confused body of soldiers who were totally oblivious to all sense
of order, thus giving the battery of thirty-six cannon on our right, the one of six pieces in our front, and that of twelve
to our left, full play upon them. The firing of these guns was so rapid that it was impossible to discover any interval between
The slaughtering of human life could be seen down the line as far as the Columbia
and Franklin pike, and where the works crossed the pike the destruction was indescribable. Along that portion of the works
in front of the batteries on the right, our troops were killed by whole platoons; our front line of battle seemed to have
been cut down by the first discharge, for in many places they were lying on their faces in almost as good order as if they
had lain down on purpose; but no such order prevailed amongst the
dead who fell in making the attempt to surmount the cheval-de-frise,
for hanging on the long spikes of this obstruction could be seen the mangled and torn remains of many of our soldiers who
had been pierced by hundreds of minie balls and grape shot, showing that they, beyond a possible doubt, had been killed simultaneously
with the panic and consternation which happened upon their reaching this obstruction. The remnant of our lines succeeded in
reaching the ditch on the outside of the works, and now became engaged in a hand to hand conflict across the top of the head-logs
at the point of the bayonet. The smoke of battle belched forth from the hideous open mouth of this typical volcanic eruption
cast a deep shade of gloom over that bright and lovely November eve, darkening the ether from earth to heaven, until a gentle
breeze would lift and fan it away. The force and wind of the grape and canister, when fired from the fifty-four pieces of
cannon on the Federal works, aided by that of the minie balls from their infantry behind the works, would lift us clear off
the ground at every discharge. As
the great clouds of smoke had to some extent vanished and I could look around
me, I saw to my surprise I was left alone in the ditch, within a few feet and to the left of the battery of six guns on the
Federal works, which was still pouring forth its messengers of death, and not a living man could be seen standing on my right;
neither could one be seen for some distance on my left. They had all been swept away by that mighty tempest of grape and canister
and rolling waves of fire and lead. A Federal, who was running in my front just before we entered the ditch, and a little
beyond the reach of my bayonet, was shot dead from the works in front, and fell forward into the ditch; in his belt were two
large army pistols, which were loaded and capped. I quickly removed them from his belt, and with one in each hand emptied
them under the head-logs at the mass of men across the works in my front. The more our numbers became reduced the fiercer
the conflict for life, simply too dreadful for pen to describe, and few who entered that portion of the ditch escaped death.
When the pistols were emptied, having
|Battle of Franklin
|THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN.
nothing with which to reload them, I reloaded my gun, and turned towards the
embrasure of the cannon, which was a few feet on my right, and tried my best to shoot the artillerymen who were so skillfully
and effectively manning that destructive battery, and whose gun swabs would whirl in the air after every discharge, but each
time I obtained a glimpse of any of them, and before I could shoot, a cannon would run out and fire, forcing me to take refuge
away from it. After getting my face blistered and eyebrows burned off, I abandoned that dangerous place by getting back away
from the blaze of these guns.
Streams of blood ran here and there over the entire battle ground, in little
branches, and one could have walked upon dead and wounded men from one end of the column to the other; the ditch was full
of dead men and we had to stand and sit upon them, - the bottom of it, from side to side, was covered with blood to the depth
of the shoe soles.
At the ditch we had to encounter an enfilading fire of musketry from both
directions, as well as that in our front across the works under the
head-logs. The enemy directly in our front attempted to shoot us by turning
their backs to the breast works, taking their guns by the breach and raising them above their heads over the head-logs, so
as to point the muzzles downward, firing them at us this way, and having nothing exposed except their arms and hands. We had
to watch this and knock their guns aside with our bayonets, which was done several times; many of their men had both hands
shot off while making these attempts to kill us. While this fearful battle was raging, a Federal officer on his horse, at
the head of a line of infantry, came dashing up to the works in our front, and one of our soldiers in the ditch about ten
feet on my left, raised his gun and fired, shooting him off his horse. Among the first whom I saw in the ditch, upon their
feet and unhurt, were General Geo. W. Gordon, Lieutenant Colonel Atkins, commander of our regiment, and Captain Williams,
of an Alabama regiment; they were only a few feet on my left. These men appeared to be undaunted, and a look of stoic
determination had settled upon their weather-beaten faces.
South of the Columbia and Franklin pike our troops were in some degree successful
in capturing part of the line of works; the Federals who survived this onslaught took refuge behind the works on the north
side of the pike, in our front. Our numbers were too weak on that portion of the line to charge the position in our front
with any hope of success; however, they succeeded in reaching the brick houses I have described. At the residence and in the
yard of Mr. Carter his son was killed dead. He had not been at home for two or three years, and as he passed through the yard
and stopped at the door his sister ran and caught him by the hand and attempted to throw her arms around his neck, when a
Federal soldier, who had taken refuge in the house, ran up and shot him through the body, killing him dead in the arms of
General Quarles and Adjutant General Cowley, of our brigade, fell near the
main line of the Federal works, the former wounded and the latter killed. General Pat Cleburne and his horse
were killed while attempting to cross the works, the horse falling on top
of the breast works and General Cleburne on the outside of the ditch; both rider and horse seemed to have received a missile
of death at one and the same instant.
The color-bearer and color-guard of our regiment were all killed near the
edge of the ditch; the last man of the color-guard was shot while waving the regimental colors at the breast-works, and fell
forward, the flag reaching over within the Federal works, the staff resting across the head-logs. Some brave soldier of our
little remnant quickly seized the staff, recovered the flag and carried it off the field. I regret never having learned his
name. This deadly strife was destined to be of short duration; as our attacking columns were destroyed and repulsed, the firing
became less frequent, except from our batteries in the rear, which were kept active by the fearless and solitary few who survived
this bloody encounter.
The carnage and destruction was so dreadful that the sun, as if loath to longer
gaze on this
terrific scene, slowly sunk behind the western horizon and hid from view his
smiling face; but the stars, more pitying, came forth to keep vigil o'er the silent and sleeping dead.
As the firing from the enemy in our front began somewhat to abate, sixteen
of our soldiers, who were in the ditch some twenty or thirty feet on my left, sprang up and ran out of the ditch, attempting
to escape; a whole volley of musketry was fired at them, killing the last one to a man. When they started I raised in a stooping
posture, thinking I would run also; but they being killed so quickly caused me to abandon the idea of escape. The few of us
who were alive at the ditch were in considerable danger from our own batteries and stray minie balls. We tried to lie down
in the ditch; it afforded scant protection, being almost full of dead men.
We now fully realized our critical situation, and saw that we had but one
choice, if any, left, and that to surrender. Lieutenant Colonel Atkins was requested to surrender the little crowd, but declined,
stating that he would rather die in
the ditch than to surrender us. Some few of our soldiers, a little further
on our left, raised their caps on ramrods, but they were fired upon and riddled with bullets, the Federals refusing to recognize
this. Captain Williams then requested some one to hand him a white handkerchief, but not one could be found. One of our soldiers
who was fortunate enough to have on a white shirt, tore off a large piece and handed it to him. The captain tied this on the
end of a ramrod, and hoisted it over our heads so it could be seen by the Federals. A Federal officer ordered the troops in
our front to cease firing, which they did. He came up to the works, looked over and said: "Throw down your arms, boys, and
come over." I threw my gun and the two pistols as far back toward our lines as I could send them, and as I passed over the
works glanced around at my fallen comrades who lay on the ground wrapped in the winding sheet of death, and drew a sigh of
regret as I gave them a last sad look, knowing they never again would be aroused by the sound of the reveille from their deep
sleep, but would remain in death's cold embrace until the last great trump
shall sound and call forth the dead from the armies of both friend and foe.
"The conflict o'er, many a valiant in his grave,
The wretched remnant
dwindled into worse than slaves
Condemned in pestilential cells to pine."
As this eventful day was slowly fading into twilight, and the booming of cannon
and rattle of small arms ceased to silence the living, six hundred of us marched over the Federal breast-works, under a white
flag waving over our heads, and were immediately surrounded by an escort of Federal troops, armed with Springfield rifles,
upon the end of which was a long sharp-pointed bayonet. The ground on the inside of the works was strewn with dead and wounded
Federals, most of whom had been shot in the neck and head. Near the oak tree which was standing close to the cotton gin, D.
S. Majors, a member of our regiment, was wounded by a stray minie ball coming from the direction of our own men. He fell against
the tree, and as he fell, called me
to come to him. I turned and started, but a Federal soldier presented his
cocked gun at my head, at the same time ordering me to march onward with the other prisoners.
Not an exulting shout went up from the Federal army after the battle terminated.
On all former occasions, after an engagement, a victorious shout from the winning side would rend the air. We were marched
back into the town, out of range of the cannon shot and shell which were still being fired at the Federal lines by the vanquished
remnant of Gen. Hood's army. A double chain-guard of infantry was now thrown around us with orders to shoot any one who attempted
an escape. I now, for the first time, discovered that my left arm, from the shoulder to the hand, was covered with the blood
and brains of some one; my haversack and canteen had been shot away; my clothing well perforated with minie balls, but my
Night now spread its sombre mantle over both friend and foe, and found fifty
officers, with five hundred and fifty privates of our army, in the hands of and at the mercy of the Federal army.
Many of us were very hungry and thirsty, as we had not eaten anything since
early that morning at Spring Hill. But several of the Federals divided their rations with us. A friendly disposed old soldier
gave me part of his rations, which consisted of pickled pork and crackers, and also a drink of water from his canteen, for
which I kindly thanked him. Soon a conversation arose between the officers of both sides, relative to the length of time the
engagement lasted. Some one of the Federal officers, who stated that he had timed it, informed us that from the time our front
line of battle began to advance until the firing ceased, was one hour and forty minutes, but the destructive part of it -
that is, from the time our infantry carried their advance line of intrenchments, lasted only forty minutes. This handful of
prisoners presented a ghastly and powder-burnt appearance; the clothing was badly stained with blood, the faces blackened
and blistered by the streams of fire from the enemy's guns during the engagement; the hair on many of their heads was somewhat
singed and the eye-brows burned off. On this eve of sadness, this
night of gloom, I found myself contemplating the utter folly of all those
four long years of hardships and privations, which truly tried men's souls, and which to my mind, on this particular night,
seemed as fruitless as if we had been scaling mountains of melting mist and traversing fields with weird apparitions. The
classic hand of the poet never painted a sadder vision to human eye than passed before me at this particular time. There was,
however, one thought more heart-rending than all these scenes combined, which filled our souls with greater misgivings than
everything else we had been compelled to endure in the past. It framed itself in these words - What shall our fature
be? In losing this battle we felt that our beautiful Sunny South, which was already dear to our boyish heart by the ties of
home and kindred, and which had grown doubly dear during all these long years in which we had done our very best to serve
her, had received a blow from which it never could recover; our armies had been cut down and destroyed, until they were overwhelmingly
outnumbered, and we knew that the torn and shattered
remnant would soon succumb to the inevitable. While we were pondering over
our recent misfortune, our captors reminded us that we were prisoners of war, under their commands, and at the disposal of
President Lincoln and the War Department; that we had no time for that refreshing rest and sleep which our tired and worn-out
bodies so much needed.
We were now informed that we must take up our line of march to Nashville,
Tennessee, it being the nearest place from which transportation could be obtained to any point in the North; hence, some time
during the latter part of the night of the 30th, we started on quick time for the city of Nashville, surrounded by a guard,
consisting of Schofield's army. On the road between Franklin and Nashville, while Gen. Schofield's army and the prisoners
were splashing the mud and water in crossing a creek, I tried to effect my escape, but in this I made an utter failure, and
with this attempt I was satisfied.
General Hood's cannon frequently hurried us on the road from quick time to
a swift run; in fact, we were almost constantly under the necessity
of running very fast to keep beyond their range. We knew the calibre of Hood's
guns, for we had been supporting them, on active duty in the field, for nearly three years prior to this. Our escort manifested
greater interest in keeping out of the reach of those big guns than we did; they had often been forced to feel the effects
of them upon several battle-fields, and were anxious to place themselves at a safe distance out of the range of these guns.
We believed that Hood's remnant of our army would make an effort to recapture
us before we could reach Nashville, but alas, we were doomed to bitter disappointment. We arrived at Nashville before noon
on the first day of December, both hungry and tired. Many of the prisoners were barefooted and could have been easily tracked
by the marks of blood behind them. We were ragged, dirty and blood-bespattered. The appearance of this little squad of prisoners
told the sad tale of the terrible conflict from which they had just emerged, and to the casual observer it was an easy matter
to distinguish the victors from the vanquished as we were paraded
on the capitol grounds. We were kept on public exhibition for five or six
hours, and near five thousand people came out to view us. Amongst the number of whom I should make mention, was the noted
Andrew Johnson, afterwards President of the United States, who greeted this little handful of half-starved, unarmed and defenceless men with a volume of abuse and vituperation; of course, he could afford to do this and be in
no danger while we were enclosed by a wall of fifty thousand bayonets. This was our birth-place and around which clustered
the fondest recollections of our earliest boyhood days. A majority of the citizens who came to look at us were ladies, whose
sympathetic countenances, so saddened by grief, sent a deeper thrill of sorrow through our hearts than all we had witnessed
besides. They were not allowed to approach nearer than the bayonet's point of the double chain-guard of Federal troops who
were between us and them, nor permitted to exchange any words with us. But we saw their looks of tenderness and affection
as the wife sought a glimpse of her long absent husband, the mother her cherished brave
|Battle of Franklin
|THE PRISONERS IN THE CAPITOL SQUARE AT NASHVILLE.
boy, the sister her ideal soldier-brother, the daughter her scarred and weather-beaten
fond father, - which were returned with despairing looks and quivering lips upon faces coursed with tears and countenances
pale with grief. We were now ordered away from this sorrowful and grief-stricken crowd, to take up our temporary abode within
the inclosure of the outer dismal walls of the State penitentiary.
The Federal authorities now issued rations of pickled pork and crackers to
us, the first we had drawn since the night before we left Columbia. While we were preparing our meals, the Federal army surgeons
came in to examine those who had been slightly wounded in the battle at Franklin. One of our soldiers, a mere boy, had been
shot in the right foot; the ball hitting him on the instep, passed through the foot and came out at the point of the heel.
We were impressed with the heroic fortitude this young man displayed in hopping on this wounded foot all the way from Franklin
to Nashville, a distance of eighteen miles, as we never heard one impatient murmur
or complaint escape his lips. An army surgeon, while examining his foot, good-naturedly
asked him, "if he had been shot while his back was fronting the enemy?" The soldier replied, "that during the entire campaign
he had never turned his back to the - Yankees." The surgeon, who appeared to be a gentleman, looked at him and remarked, "That
is right; you are a brave boy and an American. Never disgrace the cause you espouse." Several others had been slightly wounded
in the conflict at Franklin and their wounds were promptly attended to.
Hood, with the surviving remnant of his army, pushed on for Nashville, and
the occasional firing of his heavy artillery kept the Federal troops who were occupying the city continually moving, and the
citizens in a strain of fear and doubt. Every discharge of Hood's cannon was greeted by us with loud shouts, which rent the
air and made the earth tremble. Sleep was not to be thought of upon this eventful night. The great excitement through which
we had just passed, our anxiety to learn who of our freinds were
numbered with the dead and wounded, coupled with the cherished hope that our
army might be successful in an attempt to take the city and recapture us, made the desire for sleep impossible. This state
of feeling lasted until near the hour of three on the following morning, when we were ordered to march out to the Nashville
and Louisville depot. The last frail hope which we had entertained of being recaptured, now vanished as completely as the
dew before the rays of the morning sun.
We were ordered to board a train of box cars, at the same time being informed
that the city of Louisville, Kentucky, was our next place of interest, at which place we arrived in due time, and marched
into quarters which were regular soldiers' barracks. The officers were separated from the privates. It appeared that they
were destined for a different place from that in store for us, and we were informed they were soon started for Johnson's Island.
The soldiers who were our guards from Nashville, now turned us over to a very hilarious set of troops, who seemed
to know very little by experience of the realities of the front, and from
their levity we all knew they had smelt no gunpowder as our former guards had.
"Mirth out of season is a grievous ill."
In dress, manner and conversation, these guards presented a different appearance
from any soldiers we had met during the war. They made the impression upon us that they had just popped out of a band-box,
instead of having been on active duty facing gun-powder and lead at the front, bedecked as they were in their fine uniforms,
white shirts and standing paper collars. This jocular set of dandies, as we called them then, but now would call them dudes,
informed us in a sarcastic manner, that they held in their pockets a very pressing invitation from President Lincoln and the
War Department for us to visit some place of special interest in the North for our health and recreation. That for a time,
we would not be permitted to return to our different homes, as we so much desired to do. That we belonged to that particular
class who were always furnished free transportation; that we would not be
lonesome after our arrival, as there were a numerous lot of our particular sort of folk who were already partaking of the
hospitalities of the Federal government.
That President Lincoln and the War Department had selected one of the most
beautiful, romantic and delightful cities in the United States for our special benefit, at which place we were to spend a
few weeks and perhaps months. That this city was located and built near one of the prettiest fresh-water lakes in this country,
and named Chicago, which is of Indian origin, signifying "wild onion." That this was the city of cities, to enjoy ourselves
with sight-seeing, and at that time could boast of containing the grandest and most sublime objects and views to be met with
in the whole United States, situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, where every day we could cast our eyes over the beautiful
blue waters of the lake, and view its thousand fine large ocean steamers with their tall masts standing out on the deep blue
sea, like dead trees
in a forest. They also assured us that good, secure, and sufficient quarters,
as well as ample provision of various kinds and descriptions, had already been prepared for our reception.
Their intended sarcasm was promptly answered with very expressive sarcastic
language, highly seasoned with a few pointed oaths, which readily gave them to understand that plenty of fight was left in
After spending one night in the city of Louisville, we were marched to the
proper depot and ordered on board a train of box cars, and were packed in them like beef cattle for shipment, after which,
two large engines pulled us out of the city. We were soon carried far beyond the reach of Hood, or the sound of his cannon,
steaming away for the place of our destination, where about daylight on the morning of the 5th of December, 1864, we found
ourselves landed on the shores of Lake Michigan, and near a place called "Camp Douglas." "As we came on the borders of the
lake, its waves lay dark and voiceless; only at intervals the surf fretting along the pebbles,
made a low and dreary sound." "Then all became
"An atmosphere without a breath,
A silent sleeping there."
The beach and grounds were covered with snow and ice nearly twenty inches
deep. The beautiful white snow, the pure azure-colored waters of the lake, and the appearance and feelings of this little
handful of ragged, half-starved, wornout prisoners, presented a sorrowful and pitiable contrast. We were now placed in charge
of a different set of guards, who were United States regulars, many of whom were of foreign extraction,
Our jocular dandies now bid us a final adieu. The guards now ordered us to march out of the box cars upon the deep
snow and ice, form in open ranks, take off our outside clothing, including our shoes and boots - in other words, undress.
But few of this little crowd wore shoes or boots, the majority of them being barefooted, and had been for some time previous,
and not many of us wore anything except outside clothing. In the warm climate of the South,
|Battle of Franklin
|PRISONERS STRIPPED AND SEARCHED IN THE SNOW AT CAMP DOUGLAS.
some two years prior to this, the army of Tennessee had dispensed with such
unnecessary luxuries, for the reason that the Confederate States Government was financially unable to furnish that class of
clothing to its soldiers. We were required to stand upon this deep snow and ice, facing an icy breeze of mist, which was flying
from the lake propelled by a strong gale of wind, for several hours, without fire or anything to eat, for the purpose of undergoing
an examination, a close and rigorous search for all arms of offense or defense, which might be found on our persons or in
I shall use the term "arms" in this connection, as it was practically used
at Chicago, which is altogether different from that applied to it at the present day. This word arms, among these guards,
meant all articles of value, such as gold and silver watches, lockets, rings, pocket knives; in fact, all trinkets of any
value whatever, but of course, our little gold and silver pocket change was not overlooked. The most of our wealth consisted
in what little Confederate money we
possessed, but this they returned to us. They failed to return anything of
value. We subsequently learned that many of the guards could be easily bribed with these articles to turn a prisoner out,
and several prisoners by this means had succeeded in making their escape. Guards were on the market for sale cheap.
When the search was finished, we donned our clothing, were ordered to form
in two ranks and face to the front. We can see a plank wall in which there is a large gate, on the inside of which, we understand,
our quarters are located. The gate is called "a prison-gate," over which our imaginations can see plainly written in bold
type, these words:
"Through me you pass into the City of Woe;
Through me you pass into eternal
This gate is closely guarded by a soldier wearing the uniform of a private
of the Federal army. He stands on the outside near the gate, armed with a Springfield rifle loaded with a cartridge containing
powder and a fifty-four calibre minie ball, upon the end of his gun is a long sharp spear or bayonet, from his looks and
appearance one would judge him to be an old regular who had seen considerable
active sevice at the front, and would shoot any one attempting to pass through this gate-way from either
side without the proper authority; that the orders and instructions he has will be executed to the strictest letter in every
particular. He also knows what military law is, in regard to his duties and obligations as a soldier, and he will take no
risk of being court-martialed by his superiors, as he knows that a court-martial means nothing more nor less than punishment
to the one brought before it.
We are now ordered forward in two ranks toward this big gate, and as we approach,
a military officer steps forward and shows the guard an instrument of writing, which we suppose to be an order from the commander
of the post to admit us within the inclosure of the prison walls. The gate is now thrown open, swinging back on its creaking
hinges, and we march through to the inside, and,
"When we had passed the threshold of the gate,
We heard its closing sound."
We now bid a sad adieu to the outside world, for we fully realized
the fact that we had landed within the frightful inclosure of the prison walls of Camp Douglas. We were informed that this
place derived its name from a man, and was first used as a camp of instruction for troops, but later was converted into a
military prison, in which to keep prisoners of war confined. We were divided into squads, each containing a certain number
of men and were assigned to different barracks. The squad to which I belonged was sent to barrack No. 53, where I drew the
first rations since leaving the city of Nashville, Tennessee.
"How fleet is a glance of the mind;
Compared with the speed of its
The tempest itself lags behind,
And the swift-winged arrows of light.
When I think of my own native land,
In a moment I seem to be there;
But alas! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair."
After taking in all the surroundings of this prison, and judging from the
appearance of everything, the methods of security adopted to make the prison secure, and our safe-keeping a certainty, this
compulsory visit of state bid fair to last indefinitely; hence, we settled ourselves down as contentedly as the nature of
things would permit, with a determination to make the best of life we could under the surrounding circumstances. I fully realized
the scope of this visit. In my imagination, could plainly see the realities connected with it. I well remembered the
dismal sound of that ponderous prison gate, as it grated on my ears, when
it opened back on its creaking hinges for us to pass inside. I felt that it revealed a story which was unmistakable, and with
which we would soon become familiar.
We will now take a bird's-eye view of all within this inclosure, and see if
we can find anything to admire, or strike the fancy, and note that which is most novel and interesting. Well, if our admiration
of everything is to be judged by our silence and sullen looks, we admire everything. First, let's see of what this institution
consists, or rather, what constitutes the prison. Here are near twenty acres of ground inclosed by a plank wall sixteen feet
high, upon the top of which a walk or parapet has been constructed four feet wide for the chain-guard, or sentinels, to walk.
Near the ground, within ten feet of the plank wall, a strip of plank one inch
thick by three inches wide, has been tacked upon the top of little posts about one foot high, the entire circumference of
the prison grounds; this line is named and called the "Dead Line;" it means and signifies
death to every living prisoner who attempts to cross it.
There is only one place of egress or ingress to this inclosure, and that through
the aperture of the big gate, through which we have just entered. This gateway is large enough to admit easily a line of soldiers
four ranks deep - that is, four abreast. Two guards are kept at this gate, one on the inside of the inclosure, the other outside.
The ground is nearly level, perhaps it sloped towards the lake just enough
to discover it with the natural eye and to make it drain very well. Our quarters consist of barracks, one story high and four
feet off the ground upon posts. They were originally flat on the ground. While they were flat on the ground, every few days,
one or more of the prisoners would escape from the prison, and after an examination it was discovered that the prisoners tunneled
out under the barracks; this caused the Federal authorities to raise them off the ground, so that no one could tunnel out
without being caught in the act, and before any success had been obtained. They
were built of boxing plank, one inch thick by twelve inches wide, and twelve
feet long. The barracks were not ceiled overhead; the cracks were stripped with pieces of plank one inch thick by three broad.
There are fifteen rows of barracks with four to each row, and number from one to sixty. Two hundred men are assigned to each
barrack. The reader can see at once, that although there were so few barracks, they could afford quarters for quite a little
army. Each barrack had a kitchen attached to one end, generally the north end, in which our beef and other meats were cooked.
The main door or place of entrance to the barrack was near the center in one side, and so arranged that any one could enter
or leave at any time during the day or night, and never be heard, and after night without being seen. The barracks had but
one place of entrance to each, except that from the kitchens, which were not passable for the men. This entrance to the barracks
had no shutter, and remained open; there were no windows in the barracks through which light could enter; sometimes the prisoners
whittled out small
light-holes between the planks of the walls large enough to admit some light,
which enabled them to read such literature and books as could be obtained. These little apertures, or light-holes, sometimes
were dangerous places to sit by, as when discovered by the Federal guards on the parapets, they possessed an attraction for
minie balls. A frame structure was erected on the inside, from the floor to the roof, in tiers or rows above each other the
entire circumference of the barrack, divided by narrow strips of plank; on these structures we slept; they were called "bunks."
Each bunk would contain two men comfortably; upon these we spread our bedclothing, and also kept many little trinkets of small
value hid under our blankets. Everything here was not in season, but we dreamed at large and woke in prison. The barracks
were supplied with heating stoves, two to each barrack, one placed at each end; that is, one stove to every hundred men.
The kitchen was separated from the sleeping apartment of the barrack by a
partition wall, which extended from one side of the barrack to
the other. The main entrance to the kitchen was at the rear or north end,
which had a door with a shutter. The entrance into the barrack was through a square hole made in the partition wall, which
cut off the kitchen from the barrack. This opening was about the size of the cashier's window in the National banks of the
present day, perhaps it may have been a trifle larger, and was named and called the "Crumb Hole," from this fact, nothing
except our rations ever passed through it, which were handed by the cooks through this for distribution, and we could obtain
them through no other.
This crumb hole was closed by a slide door. When it slid back and left the
aperture open, there would be a general rush to it by all the men in the barrack. After our rations were handed through from
the kitchen to the inside of the barrack, this door would be closed and remain closed until the next meal. Stepping up to
the cashier's window in a National bank to cash a check very forcibly reminds one of going up to these crumb holes at Camp
Douglas, to receive our kitchen hash or slop; the cashier when
he counts out the cash and pushes it through from the inside, reminds one
of the head cook when he shoved our rations through the crumb hole to the sergeant of the barrack.
I have a perfect horror for these openings or windows, and I dislike the very
thought of stepping up in front of these seeming crumb holes in National banks, they so forcibly recall the recollections
of the crumb holes in our barracks at Camp Douglas, and to see them in the banks makes me feel like I am back within that
prison barrack every time I enter a bank. I have a suspicion that the pattern and model for making these particular windows
in the National banks at this day had their origin at Camp Douglas, were patterned after, and modeled from the crumb holes
in our barracks at that place, they bear such a close resemblance to, and have such a similarity in workmanship. If I am correct
in my surmises, the ingenious Yankee who invented those at Camp Douglas could make a fortune, if living, by prosecuting the
National banks for an infringement of his patent. The kitchens were supplied with large pots or kettles for cooking
purposes. They held from forty to sixty gallons of water each.
There were streets, between the rows of barracks, which were near twenty feet
wide, and thrown up in the middle from each side to make them drain.
At the north end of the streets, the waterclosets, more familiarly known to
soldiers by the name of sinks, were located. The water was conveyed within the prison square by pipes leading from the lake
to the reservoir, and from that to the prison. A sewer conveyed the filth from the sinks to the outside of the prison walls,
the water being conveyed by hydrants into the sewers to wash off the filth from the prison. Wash-houses were conveniently
located on different parts of the prison grounds. They were box houses, the cracks being stripped same as the barracks, and
one story high. These were supplied with hydrants, which conveyed the water to the inside, and also with tubs, buckets and
soap, but minus towels.
Coal sheds had been erected on the inside of the inclosure of the prison walls,
and under these
the coal we used for fuel was deposited. It was hauled from the outside by
the Federals; sometimes a detail of prisoners would be sent out under guard to assist in hauling it. Near, and a little east
of the entrance gate to the prison, a small barrack or office was located. This was comfortably arranged on the inside, and
used by the officers of the guard, and occupied by them day and night. It was the headquarters of Lieutenant Fife, commandant
of the police guard on the inside of the prison square. Not far from the officers' quarters a store-house had been erected,
which was called a "Sutler's store," from the fact that the man who conducted and carried on the business there was a sutler.
A sutler is one who follows an army, but keeps himself far in the rear whenever there is a prospect for a battle. He never
shows himself near the front unless the enemy is known to be two or three hundred miles off. He sells provisions and various
flashy and trashy articles of merchandise, which will generally catch all the small change soldiers carry in their pockets.
Whenever he can do so on the sly, he will slip a soldier a little
bust-head whisky, and at the same time swear it is a genuine article of old
rye or bourbon, and charge one dollar for about two teaspoonfuls. Here he was far in the rear, and had no fears of the enemy
on the front. He sold us some provisions and various articles of clothing, but no whisky or intoxicating drinks of any kind;
at least, I never knew of him doing it.
A short distance from the sutler's store, a post about four feet high was
firmly set in the ground, on which were written little notices, advertisements and such general news as were allowed to come
within the prison square. This post was called the bulletin board, and the news posted on it, grape-vine dispatches or grape-vine
telegrams. News in our favor, or which they thought we would appreciate, never appeared on this bulletin board. Within a short
distance of the entrance gate, across the street and west of the officers' quarters, there was still another institution,
which was one of the horrors of the prison, and more interesting than all the other institutions within the inclosure of the
prison walls. It was an underground room or
place about ten feet deep, covered with plank and dirt, the top just above
the surface of the ground. This institution was named and known as the dungeon, which meant and signified midnight darkness.
It had the right name. We dreaded this underground abode equally as bad as some so-called Christians do a cyclone. Nothing
within this gloomy cell could ever feel the gentle rays of the sun. It was all darkness, - black-darkness to both soul and
body of the poor victim who was so unfortunate as to be doomed to it. There was but one door or place of entrance, and it
rather small. The furniture of this institution was very scarce, consisting mostly of a chain and two cannon balls chained
together. The inhabitant of this room had to wear the chain and balls to his ankles while an inmate thereof. We often called
this the doghouse.
Before completing the description of all of the inanimate objects of interest
on the inside of the prison grounds, I met with another, entirely different from anything within the inclosure of the prison
walls. This was a perfect
monstrosity, and called by the name of a familiarly known animal. Wherever
I may have occasion to refer to it I shall designate it as one. History furnishes no record of this peculiarly constructed
animal, although there has always existed from the very earliest times to the present, an animal bearing the same name, and
with which we are all very familiar. The nobility of ancient kings used them as beasts of burden, in preference to all other
animals. This particular animal at Camp Douglas had become one of the most remarkable in use at this place, and of all, the
most dreaded by the prisoners. Not that it was at all ferocious, or possessed teeth with which to bite, or claws with which
to scratch; but there was associated with it a nameless horror, which caused those who had ever come in contact with it, to
do their very best to shun it, and made us all anxious to give it as wide a berth as possible.
In this little world of ours this wonderful animal had gained so much notoriety
among the prisoners, and was of so much importance to, and held in such high esteem by the officers and
prison guards, that we believed it ought to go down in the long channel and
stream of history like the mastodon, and be placed among the most noted of the animals in the national museums of different
nations, to remain a perpetual monument to the ingenuity of the past ages. It was perfectly blind and deaf. Either end could
be used for its head, so it mattered not which you faced while riding. The sweat of this animal was inclined to be sticky,
possessing many medicinal properties, and had a suspicious smell of turpentine and rosin. During a very warm day it would
perspire freely, and the quantity of its perspiration was equal to the sweat of blood of the great Behemoth of the Bible.
It was destitute of hair, and its skin was the color of that often seen on the inside of a large pine tree. I was never able
to obtain the exact dimensions of this animal, as the penalty for being near it was a two hours ride on its razor back.
This so-called animal was composed of backbone, ribs and legs, all constructed
from pure pine lumber. The backbone was a piece about four inches thick by eight inches wide, and near
thirty feet long; the top of this was planed off to a sharp edge the whole
length; upon this the prisoners sat man-fashion, and rode without saddles or blankets. The ribs were numerous and so arranged
as to be used the same way and for the same purpose, as the backbone - that is, to be rode upon. It had from six to twelve
legs, all securely nailed and fastened to the backbone and ribs; they were sixteen feet long, so this animal was thirty feet
long and sixteen feet high. It remained stationary and stood a little east of the entrance gate and on the inside of the prison
square, not far from Lieutenant Fife's office. It was peculiar only to John Morgan, from whom it derived the name, "Morgan's
Mule." I believe this completes the description of all the inanimate objects within the inclosure of the prison walls.
"Men and their manners I describe."
Brevet Brigadier General B. J. Sweet commanded the troops at Camp Douglas
while I was there. There were two regiments, the 8th and 15th United States regulars, under his command. It was on very rare
occasions that he favored the prisoners with a visit. With the limited acquaintance the prisoners had with him, he impressed
them as being an affable and courteous officer. I will not attempt to give a minute description of him. In stature he was
a little over the average, and possessed rather a commanding appearance. His headquarters were on the outside of the prison
The second officer who was interested in the safe-keeping of the prisoners,
was Lieut. Fife. He had charge of the prison guards on the inside of the prison square. Fife appeared to be very distant and
reserved, and avoided all familiarity
with the prisoners. We kept aloof from his quarters. I saw him but very few
times during my entire stay in prison, and then only at a considerable distance. Judging from what I was able to see of him,
he appeared to be rather good looking and pleasant. Morgan's Mule was in such close proximity to his quarters that there was
but little incentive for us to frequent that place; hence, we kept as far away as possible.
There was a third officer, who formed the keystone to the arch of this trio,
one so-called Captain Webb Sponable, Inspector of Prisons, but more particularly Inspector of Rations, especially when he
became a little short of cash. His name really should not be associated with the former officers whom I have described, but
it cannot well be avoided. He was of medium stature: figure grotesque and ugly in the extreme; features coarse; face resembling
a well-grown artichoke, covered over as it was with large bumps; hair stood straight up, when not kept saturated with grease
or oil; forehead very low, with the eye-brows joined together above the bridge of the nose; eyes set far back in the head;
nose very large and always carried upon it a strawberry hue; ears of ordinary
size, very thin and lay close to the head; jaws and chin very large and unsightly; neck short and bullish; teeth stood out
prominently and never presented a neat or clean appearance and seemed to be coated with a yellow substance of some kind; his
expression and countenance appeared to be dark and cloudy most of the time; the legs were so frightened at each other that
no amount of persuasion could induce them to come close together; suspended at the extremities of the legs were a pair of
large feet, like those of a negro. The swift and irregular step, the unmeasured and harsh cadence of his accentuation, the
wandering and far away look which took about ten times as long as another's to arrive at its object; all this was in admirable
keeping with his unsightly person, big nose, ugly chin and knotty skin, which betrayed not the slightest symptoms that any
principles inclined to be humane and generous circulated or passed through or beneath its cellular texture; these gave him
quite a ludicrous appearance, whenever he perambulated the
prison square, trying to favorably impress every one with his peacock looks.
This Captain Webb Sponable will be long remembered by all the inmates of Camp Douglas.
The troops stationed at Camp Douglas were used for provost-guards of the city,
and also as prison guards, more particularly for the prison. A portion of them were kept outside of the enclosure of the prison
walls, and used mostly for sentinels on the parapet on top of the plank wall which inclosed the prison; they were scarcely
ever used as police guards within the prison square. Those upon the parapet were stationed at intervals from fifty to one
hundred feet apart the entire circumference of the prison wall, forming what is well known to soldiers, a chain-guard, around
the prison. The distance on the parapet the sentinels had to walk, from one to the other, was called their "beat." This is
a familiar term to soldiers. The sentinels were armed with Springfield rifles loaded, and upon the end of each gun was a long
sharp spear or bayonet. Each sentinel also wore in his belt a large army pistol.
They were relieved from guard duty every two hours by another relief, consisting
of the same number of men - that is, one guard for each post or beat. In extreme cold weather, such as it was the latter part
of 1864 and beginning of 1865, they were relieved every half hour and frequently oftener. While on guard duty on the parapet
they were compelled to walk their beats from end to end continually, not being allowed to sit down or stand still and rest
on their arms; they were required, during all hours of the night, to halloo loud enough to be heard by the officers of the
guard, "All is well," or "All is right." This would be repeated by each guard around the line on the parapet. The object of
this was to inform the officers that each sentinel was at his post and wide awake, and that nothing had gone wrong on the
line. We could distinctly hear them repeat this at all hours of the night, which often caused sad and gloomy thoughts to pass
through our brains.
Guard-mounting - that is, relieving the old guard, who had been on duty eight
hours out of twenty-four, with another detailed guard,
occurred every morning at 8 o'clock. Then we had music, but it was all on
the outside of our prison wall. The bands on the parade ground made the air ring with music, reminding us of the melodious
sounds of our bands in our far away Sunny South. One set of guards, composing the entire chain-guard upon the parapet, were
kept on guard duty eight hours out of twenty-four. Their orders and instructions were to shoot every prisoner who attempted
an escape from the prison, or crossed the dead line; to shoot out all lights which might be seen in the barracks at night;
to fire upon all squads of three or four prisoners who might congregate on the streets in a group during the day. At least,
the parapet guards claimed to have such instructions, and the manner in which they acted, indicated it. They rarely, if ever,
entered the prison square on guard duty, as their duties were confined more particularly to the parapet and on the outside
of the prison walls. The police guards within the inclosure of the prison were armed with large army pistols, loaded. The
authority of each was absolute, and from it
there was no appeal, at least, an appeal made by any of us would not have
been heard by higher authority. Their duties were to patrol the prison grounds and barracks at all hours during the day and
night; to see that all the rules and regulations of the prison were strictly carried out; that no plots or conspiracies were
planned or organized among the prisoners to escape, and that the sanitary rules and regulations were rigidly executed. Quite
a number of them were within the inclosure of the prison walls day and night. The sergeants of the guard called the roll every
morning at 7 o'clock. Sometimes there would be one to each barrack, but generally one to each row,
As a rule they were very gentlemanly men.
The next person of importance was the bugler. This personage is generally
designated and called "the little bugler," but I shall simply call him "the bugler." He made his appearance inside the prison
square, at the headquarters of the prison guard, twice each day, at 6:30 a. m. and at 6 p. m., for the purpose of giving the
signals for roll call and to retire to bunk. At 6:30
a. m., when he sounded that bugle, we had to fall into line, fronting our
barrack, and remain in line until the roll was called; and at 6 p. m. when we heard its shrill blast, every living prisoner
within the prison square had to immediately retire to bunk. I only knew the bugler from the sound of his instrument - that
is, I knew there was one on hand, as we rarely ever saw him, for his bugle would ring out before we thought of his presence
at headquarters, then we had no time to look at him, our bunks being of much more importance. This was the only duty we knew
of his having to perform on the inside of the prison square.
Some few of the prison guards made themselves very conspicuous and vigilant
all the time while within the prison square, whether on duty or off. There were four of whom I desire particularly to note,
as they are special exceptions. During my school-boy days, when I studied at English grammar, the exceptions to the general
rules gave me more trouble than all the remainder of the book, and since then I have been very particular to note the exceptions
With these four guards we came in direct contact nearly every day and night,
or with one or more of them anyhow. The first of them was nicknamed "Old Red." His proper name was O'Hara. From his name and
dialect he would be pronounced a native of and an inhabitant of the Emerald Isle. He derived the name "Old Red" from being
red-headed, the hair being a fiery red. In stature he was larger than the average man, and possessed an enormous parallelogram-shaped
head, which presented a low forehead, and which indicated the opposite of all culture and refinement. This oblong head was
surmounted with a forest of coarse, red and bushy hair; a nose fashioned more for use than ornament, and the centre of attraction
between two prominent cheek bones; across this and below the nose nature had placed a tremendous horizontal aperture, which
his two large ears prevented from making the entire tour of the head, and contained a score or more of ugly, ill-shaped teeth,
which must have been very useful in devouring large quantities of pickled beef and hard-tack. His body, arms, legs and feet
large, though his general make-up and form were by no means symmetrical. His
complexion was red, face ornamented with large red pimples or bumps to such an extent that it constantly reminded one of the
chicken-pox or big red measles; in fact, his entire oily skin appeared to be infected with vermin. His rough, brawny hand were better fitted for the plow-handles than for anything else, and certainly an artist would never
have selected his long bony fingers for models of beauty. The large, ill-shaped nose, the two dull gray eyes placed in the
midst of a pair of unsightly cheeks, gave to his countenance a most hideous and semi-comic appearance and expression. Two
ponderous ears stood out in bold relief, one on each side of his head, somewhat resembling the side lamps of a carriage. In
addition to all this came the comical arrangement of his hair, which stood out in bold defiance of all efforts of discipline
of the hand or comb; every hair stood out straight, separate and alone, and seemed to be afraid each of the other. I am confident
that this head of hair never succumbed to the arts of civilization. He wore a
number twelve shoe or boot, and sometimes wore socks; whenever he wore shoes,
which was most of the time, he could often be seen without socks on those monstrous feet. The legs of his pants were large
and always too short, lacking about an inch of reaching to and making close connection with the top of his socks - that is,
whenever he wore socks. It appeared to the boys in prison that when his measure was taken for clothing, he certainly stood
in the water ankle deep at least. The skin of his ankles very much, in color, resembled the rind of a pumpkin at ripening
time. The pale blue pants and his skin, as shown on his ankles, presented quite a contrast. His address was repulsive in the
extreme. When in his presence, one would know it without seeing him, for the cold chills would at once run up and down the
back. One would feel that he was in the presence of or near some monstrous, hideous and slimy serpent. Such were the feelings
the atmosphere would inspire one with when he was near at hand. His sense was that of the meanest type, and his composition
contained nothing save that of the blackest and
worst character. In appearance, he resembled one of those terrible and frightful
beings whom Pollock describes that he saw writhing in the Lake of Fire, while he stood near the brink of the abyss of eternity
sketching its inmates.
The second specimen of these was called "Little Red." I had his full name
but cannot at present recall it, although time can never erase his personal description from memory's tablet. He differed
materially in his personal physique from the former I have described. In stature he was smaller, head a little above medium
size, very irregular in shape and covered with sandy-colored hair, and many of the prisoners called him red-headed; hence,
the origin of the name, "Little Red." His eyes were of a steel-gray color, giving to his countenance a cold and hard expression;
the nose, of medium size and a little inclined to be sharp at the point, was almost hid from view by two round and bloated
cheeks; the mouth large and filled with a set of unsightly and disgusting teeth; it was a perfect harbinger of filth, the
stench emitted therefrom when it opened, would permeate the atmosphere
for a distance of several feet. The most striking attribute of his chin was
length. He was stoutly built and possessed large feet, which were minus an instep, the heels of which were straight like those
of a negro. His countenance and expression sadly lacked all which indicates anything amiable or intelligent. He somewhat resembled
the "Fool's Pope," described by Victor Hugo. He appeared to occupy about the same relation to the others which a general roustabout
on a steamboat does to the officers who command it.
A third prominent personage and important factor was in the shape and person
of Billy McDermott. He was better and more familiarly known to the prisoners, as "Old Billy Hell." Old Billy was rather small
in stature, as well as in every thing else. An oval-shaped, rough, hard and knotty cornfield cymling would make a fine photograph
and an excellent representation of his head, which was covered with thick, dark hair; shaggy eyebrows hung over two small,
squint eyes, which resembled those of a hog; the nose was small and long, the end always pointing
to the left; his mouth large, but kept somewhat in the background by a pair
of large, thick lips; a short neck, which appeared to be swallowed up by the shoulders; the knees were perfect strangers to
each other, and no sort of enticement could bring them together; the feet were large and flat; his expression was anything
to look upon but pleasant.
The finishing touch and crowning capstone of this quartette, presented itself
in the person of "Prairie Bull." He was indebted to the Texas troops for this beautiful sobriquet. His head was straight from
the back of the neck to the crown, and covered with very thick, dark hair, which he parted in the middle at the back of the
head, and in front, like a woman parts hers; the ears were large and thin, but not the kind which indicate generosity; his
eyes were small and of a cold lead color, and shaded with heavy eye-brows, which embraced each other above the bridge of the
nose; the nose was large, and the nostrils always expanded; his big mouth contained a set of long teeth very much resembling
the incisors; the lips were thick, and continually
kept in such a strain of fear and terror of each other that they could never
be induced to touch; his jaws were those of a monster in size; the neck short and thick; his arms, legs and feet were patterned
after those of a gorilla more than from any other animal; the skin was the color of that often seen when yellow jaundice makes
its first appearance - that is, when in its first stage; he was tall, and a little hump-shouldered, and possessed the frame
of a giant, and generally went in a stooping posture, and very fast, so much so that the tail of his blue blouse was constantly
trying to play leap-frog with the back of his neck. Nature, it seems, had stamped the atrocity of his character on his countenance.
His hideous features, coupled with a demoniacal expression, revolted every living thing near him. He carried the expression
of a demon wherever he went, and the photographed impressions made upon one's brain will forever stand out on memory's wall
in bold relief. This gives the finishing touch to the most important of the guards within the inclosure of the prison walls.
There were many others, but none so interesting
and conspicuous as the special "big four," as we called these whom I have
just described. The majority of the others, if not all, were much better men in every respect than these favorites. We never
had to avoid and shun the presence of the others, like we did these; in fact, when these four were on the inside of the prison
square, we felt like we were in the midst of and at the mercy of a lot of wild animals which had just made their escape from
"Endure the hardships of your present state,
Live and reserve yourselves
for better fate."
We now began to realize the full extent and meaning of the term "prisoner
of war," and are being thoroughly initiated into prison life. There are near twelve thousand of us within the inclosure of
the prison walls, and one would suppose that owing to there being so many men confined within so small a space, there would
exist the greatest amount of sociability. In a general way, we were very sociable with each other, but we had our rings and
cliques like other people in the great world outside. Those who had been associated together in arms as soldiers, of course,
were more intimately acquainted with and entertained a more friendly feeling for each other than with others of a different
command; consequently, this caused them to form little associations of their own, and as near together as possible.
For instance, members of the Forty-ninth Tennessee infantry felt more attachment
for each other than for others belonging to a different regiment, hence the reason for our rings and cliques.
I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the same barrack with three old comrades,
viz., Archie Sainsing, Buck Forsythe and Polk Goodrich. A brief sketch of each of these three, perhaps, will not
be out of place here. In stature, Archie was taller than either of us, and red-headed. His nose, in length and size, was considerably
over the average; in fact, he was not as handsome as some few persons I have met, but was one of those quiet, good natured
young men who, I do not suppose, ever made use of an ugly word in his life; at least, during my intimacy with him for nearly
four years, I never heard such fall from his lips.
Buck Forsythe was small in stature, but could use the biggest language of
any one in prison. The king's English suffered whenever Buck strung out in the use of it. My friend Polk Goodrich was one
of the strangest and most
singular personages and specimens of humanity that could have been found.
There has never been but one Polk Goodrich of his exact makeup and composition. He was perhaps older than either of us, and
of medium height. He had black hair, eyes and whiskers; features finer than are usually seen on a person with jet black hair
and fair skin; mouth was very small, and hid from view by his mustache and whiskers; the eyes were as small as buck-shot,
and performed vidette guard duty on each side of a nasal appendage which was noted for its length, the end of which looked
closely after the extremity of the chin. When we were down South with the army and the bomb-shells were flying in the air,
the boys frequently advised him to place this ornament in his pocket. He was a splendid soldier, and always on hand for duty,
no matter how dangerous the performance of duty might be. While at Camp Douglas, he reminded us of one of those unlucky men
who appeared to have been born on Friday, or on some other unlucky day, for he was almost continually having some trouble
with our nocturnal visitors.
His first experience with them occurred with Old Billy, within three or four
days after our admittance inside the prison, and in the shape of a two hours ride on Morgan's Mule during a real cold night.
Polk had an idea that he could get up and warm by the stove, but Old Billy came in the barracks at once, and marched him off
to the Mule. He never could be induced after night to make another attempt to warm.
While occupying this barrack we had but little to occupy our time and attention,
except to look at and study the people who came in from the city in great crowds to take a view of the last arrival of Confederate
prisoners. These crowds were generally composed of women, who were sometimes escorted by plug hats and swallow-tail coats.
Some few of the women greeted us with such epithets as "vile rebels," "who should have been hung instead of being brought
there, and they were sorry we were not all killed at Franklin." They generally spent an hour or two promenading the prison
square. After entering the inclosure, an officer would sometimes accompany them over the prison grounds.
These inquisitive and silly visitors would look at us with as much amazement
as the average country people do at a first class menagerie when it enters a town. A few of the women would take up handfuls
of snow, and ask the prisoners "if they had ever seen anything like that down South." We were not subject to such close scrutiny
every day, as the better class sometimes visited the prison, and from them we never had to reply to any such unkind or disrespectful
One morning just after breakfast, the police guards came up the street and
shouted in loud, clear, shrill tones which pealed over the entire prison, "All who desire to go South to be exchanged fall
into line in front of your barracks, with all your baggage." The Franklin prisoners were all "fresh fish," as the others,
who had been there for sone time, called us. Had a ton of dynamite suddenly been thrown into our midst,
the excitement, bustle and stir would not have been greater. Many of our associates, who had been in prison for a long time,
understood the programme, and tried to remain on their bunks
engaged in a game at cards. We thought strange of them appearing so cool and
not caring to go with us, preferring to remain in prison. Several of them good humoredly remarked to us "that our trip would
soon be over, as we had but a very short distance to go." Our guards failed to excuse them, but came into the barracks and
marched every one of them out in line with the balance of us. We then had the laugh on them. With all the "fresh fish" it
was a general rush and push to see who could be the first to get in line. Each seemed to feel that if he was not the first
to get in line, he would be left. Soon we were all in line fronting our barracks, many of us having everything with us which
we possessed - that is, all little valuables. We were at once surrounded by the police guards, who began rigidly to search
us. This time we were not required to undress. They searched us closely, and spared nothing of value which could be found
on our person or about our clothing. The Confederate money failed to escape this search, at least, all which could be found.
Many of the prisoners dropped little trinkets and articles
of small value on the ground, covered them up in the sand with their feet,
and stood upon them. My soldier friend, Polk Goodrich, saved a great many little trinkets by placing them under his nose.
After completing the search, we were ordered to break ranks, return to our quarters and wait for further instructions and
We learned that the cause of this search was on account of some of the prisoners,
who had bribed one of the guards on the parapet, and he had allowed two or three of them to escape. Their object now was to
deprive us of all means which would effect an escape; in other words, prevent us from buying our way out of the prison. This
bribing business was often attempted by the prisoners, and sometimes attended with success; but the prisoner after reaching
the outside world rarely ever made his final escape a success. A great many of the prisoners kept their money and watches,
in spite of all the rigid searching and efforts made by the guards to capture everything of value. I went back into my barracks
some wiser than when I started
on exchange that morning. I called up three others and borrowed an old greasy
pack of cards, and we four were soon engaged in a lively game of euchre. We spent the remainder of the day at this, and thought
no more of going South on exchange; at least, if we thought of such we never expressed it. Our first visitor was Old Billy,
who came into our barrack and gave us all a general cursing for not giving up all we possessed. He ransacked our bunks, but
found nothing; that made him madder than ever, and we expected trouble with the old thief, but after exhausting the English
language in the way of abuse, he left. The boys made many sarcastic remarks at him on account of his ugly feet, but he returned
this with only volumes of abuse. His thievish and greedy soul seemed to crave nothing but valuables.
"Here each may, as his means afford,
Dine like a pauper or a lord,
And those who can't the cost defray
May live to dine another day."
The most important feature of a man's life is the manner in which he lives
in regard to his bill of fare; what we eat, the manner and style in which it is prepared and cooked, enter as important factors
into our every day life. We are as much interested in this, if not more, than any other. We were not as superstitious and
particular concerning our bill of fare at Camp Douglas, as Madame Victoire was in regard to her's on a certain occasion. I
do not think it out of place here to state it, as given by a noted French authoress: Madame Victoire was a French Princess
and daughter of Louis XV. of France. On one occasion she became exceedingly tormented and troubled about a certain
water fowl, which was often served up to her during Lent. On one occasion
the question to be irrevocably settled and determined was whether it was fish or flesh. She consulted a worthy bishop who
happened to be one of the party; the good prelate immediately assumed a decided tone of voice, and the grave attitude of a
judge in the highest tribunal of last resort, and answered the princess that it had been resolved that in a similar case of
doubt, after dressing the bird it should be pricked over a very cold silver dish; that if the gravy of the animal congealed
within a quarter of an hour, the creature was to be accounted flesh, but if the gravy remained in an oily state, it might
be eaten at all times without scruple. Madame Victoire immediately made the experiment; the gravy did not congeal, and this
was a source of great joy to the princess, who was very partial to that sort of game.
Ours materially differed from that of Madame Victoire, besides we had no silver
dishes, either cold or hot, over which to prick our meats, but we had quite a different kind of vessel, which
answered all practical purposes fully as well as the finest quality of silver
ware. I shall endeavor to show the kind of cook-vessels we had, the rations we had to cook, how they were cooked and who cooked
them - that is, all which was cooked on the inside of the inclosure of the prison walls. The cooks within the inclosure of
the prison walls were prisoners, and selected from the barracks. Each kitchen had a sergeant, who was called the kitchen commissary
sergeant. He was also one of the cooks. The kitchen sergeant drew all the rations from the Federal commissary sergeants for
the men in his barrack. Three or four men to each kitchen constituted the cooking force. Our cooks only had meat to cook,
and sometimes a few beans or potatoes, which were all boiled together in the large pots or kettles. Our bread was cooked on
the outside of the prison. It was flour, baked in loaves, and called soft bread. It reminded us of the material in quality
of which hornets make their cone shaped houses, and the bread possessed about as much substance. Rations were drawn in bulk
according to the number of men in a barrack,
that is to say, ours contained two hundred men, and the sergeant drew two
hundred rations, which was one meal for each man. The loaves of bread were presumed to weigh about one pound each before they
were cooked; after being cooked, of course they were not so heavy. One loaf of bread was issued to every three men for one
meal. It was divided into three equal parts, and each part was called one-third of a loaf. Each man at each meal received
one-third of a loaf, and two-thirds of a loaf per day. Only on very rare occasions we drew any crackers, which was called
hard bread. Corn-meal was never issued to us. Our meat was green beef, except once a week, on Sunday morning, we drew a little
bacon. The beef weighed about eight ounces raw, and the bacon about five. When our meat was cooked and passed through the
crumb hole the beef would weigh from four to four and a half ounces, and the bacon from two to two and a half ounces - that
is, per ration. I weighed my rations of meat upon the scales at the sutler's store, on several different occasions, and they
never exceeded the amount stated. Soup was
made from the beef or bacon water, and once in a great while this water or
soup would be spiked with a few beans or a potato, just enough to let us know or believe that a bean or potato had made its
appearance somewhere near the kitchen, and perhaps had entered it. This soup contained one eye of grease to every quart of
water, in other words, to every oyster can full. Sunday was the long looked-for day of all days; with it came our little ration
of bacon. We considered this day as the Feast of the Passover, for we had passed over a long week of hunger and starvation.
Our table-ware consisted of tin plates, cups and saucers, tin pans, all made
from what few old rusty cans and pieces of tin we could obtain within the prison square; sometimes we could find an old rusty
fruit can, which had been thrown away down at the sutler's store. Knives and forks, table and teaspoons we made from pine
plank. Some few had carried their tin cups with them into the prison, and they were very useful. With us "necessity was the
mother of invention," and our ingenuity in a measure,
supplied our dire necessities in the way of dishes, and other table-ware.
We were divided into messes numbering from eight to fourteen in a mess. Each
mess had its head man, who attended to the drawing of the rations at the crumb hole for his mess. He divided the rations into
as many little bulks as there were men in the mess; then some one of the mess would turn his back to the rations, and the
head man would take a pointer and touch each bulk and say, "Who has this?" The one with his back turned would say, "Mr. A.
takes that." This would continue until all the rations had been taken. Most of us when we were boys learned this method of
division in dividing fish we caught in the creeks on Saturdays.
The soup or beef water was handed through the crumb hole in tubs and buckets
promiscuously, and each received his share in his oyster can. We dined twice each day. Breakfast was served about 8 o'clock
a. m., and consisted of our one-third of a loaf and a little pittance of meat, which had been boiled to shreds until it contained
no more substance than an old dish-rag would
after it had been thoroughly washed. This completed the morning meal. Dinner
came on about 1 o'clock p. m. It consisted of the remaining third of a loaf and the beef water or soup.
We prepared this meal by pouring our beef water into our oyster can, then
added more cold water and thickened this with our last third of a loaf. When the boys would empty their last third of bread
into the can, the remark would often be heard, "There goes my last third." We would boil this on the heating stoves, and when
thoroughly boiled, we had a first-rate meal of thickened hot water. This finished all the meals for the day, as we were not
allowed but two each day.
Ever since I made this national visit of state, while being a national guest
and having to live on two meals per day, I have been disgusted with that custom. When I know of people adopting it, I certainly
feel sorry for them, because I know they will die indebted to their stomachs; and of all deaths which I most desire to avoid,
is that of dying indebted to my stomach. We drew perhaps as much soap as was necessary for our
practical purpose; and also a little salt, but no extra amount. Candles were
not allowed at all under any circumstances.
As to the amount of rations allowed to prisoners of war by the Federal government,
I will in this connection give the official statement of the Honorable L. A. Grant, Assistant Secretary of War, relative to
the ration in kind, which was allowed to prisoners of war, for the periods therein named, with his letter to me, all of which
are as follows:
SUBJECT: RATIONS TO PRISONERS OF WAR.
WASHINGTON, D. C., Oct. 27, 1891.
SIR: In response to your request of the 9th instant, which was favorably commended
to the Department by Honorable Silas Hare, I beg to inclose a tabulated statement showing the ration in kind allowed prisoners
of war, as per circulars from the Commissary General of Prisoners, of dates therein named.
L. A. GRANT,
Assistant Secretary of
John M. Copley, Esq., Denton, Texas.
A TABULATED STATEMENT SHOWING THE RATION IN KIND
TO PRISONERS OF WAR AS PER CIRCULARS
FROM COMMISSARY GENERAL OF PRISONERS OF
DATES THEREIN NAMED.
|Battle of Franklin
|THE RATION IN KIND ALLOWED TO PRISONERS OF WAR.
* To each 100 rations.
** Sugar and coffee or tea
issued to sick and wounded only, every other day, on recommendation of surgeon in charge, at the rate of 12 pounds sugar,
5 pounds ground or 7 pounds green coffee, or 1 pound tea to every 100 rations.
can readily be seen by the above tabulated statement, that had we received all the rations
allowed by the Commissary General of Prisoners, then our supply would have
been very scant. When the rations are divided between one hundred men, each man's share is but small.
rules be fix'd that may every rage contain,
punish faults with proportion'd pain;
do not flay him who deserves alone
whipping for the fault that he hath done."
The rules and regulations
of the prison, which had been adopted by the military authorities, were strict, and rigidly enforced. No excuse would be received
or heard in extenuation, unless an extreme case of sickness interfered. The slightest infringement of any rule or regulation
would insure the violator the severest punishment. Many of the rules and regulations of the prison were such as army regulations
require to be enforced when soldiers are lying up in camp, and even in the field on active duty, and which almost any government
would adopt to control and keep its prisoners of war. We expected nothing better than the enforcement of strict rules in regard
to our safe-keeping and all sanitary
measures and regulations. The strict enforcement of these appeared to be all
that was required by the commanders of the post; but some few of the police guards adopted, or at least enforced some of the
most silly and frivolous rules which could have been thought of, and made the prisoners pay the penalties for their violation
by the most villainous and inhuman methods of punishment.
After the signal given at
6 p. m. for the prisoners to retire, we had to do so without delay, and were not allowed to speak or whisper to each other
under any circumstances, but had to go to sleep, and then be very careful as to how loud we slept. When any of the prisoners
were heard by the guard to whisper or talk, he would call for the one who did the whispering or talking, and if the right
one could not be definitely located, all the prisoners occupying the barrack would be marched out to Morgan's Mule, forced
to mount and ride from two hours to half a night, barefooted, and with no covering on them save their thin and ragged clothing.
Many of the prisoners were so thinly clad they could
scarcely hide their nakedness. The latter part of the winter of 1864 and first
part of 1865, were extremely cold, and the Federals complained of its severity, and stated that the weather was the coldest
which had been known for several years.
Often the guards would tie,
or cause to be tied, a heavy weight of some kind to each ankle of the prisoners. The weights would weigh from twenty to one
hundred pounds, and generally consisted of bags of sand, but if these were not convenient some other heavy substance would
be substituted. The cords which held these weights often cut through the skin of the ankle. After being mounted on the Mule,
the "big four" would turn the prisoners over to the sentinel on the parapet, at the same time instructing him for what length
of time to keep them, and when the time expired to allow the prisoners to return to their barrack, but to shoot any one who
attempted to dismount before the time was out. Several of the prisoners were badly frostbitten, and were nearly frozen to
death while on this frame. The sentinels on the parapet were
often relieved every ten minutes, and rarely had to stand longer than half
an hour during the extreme cold weather, and even then we were informed that some few of them froze to death and fell off
the parapet. Very often the whispering would simply be one prisoner asking another for a chew of tobacco. I have seen half
a dozen men of my barrack taken out and made to ride the Mule simply for talking about trading rations for tobacco, after
they had retired.
If either of the "big four"
were standing inside the barrack and heard some one spit on the floor, that insured a ride for an hour anyhow. The first thing
we looked for after the bugle blowed for roll call, as we were not allowed to stir from our bunks until then, was to see how
many were on Morgan's Mule. I do not remember one solitary morning during my stay within the inclosure of the prison walls,
that Morgan's Mule was not covered with men, and some one was on it at all hours during the day.
We were not allowed to huddle
together around our heating stoves, and if caught by the guard we were sure not to escape punishment of
some sort. Whenever any one would announce the approach of a guard, the stoves
could be seen standing alone and solitary, and the prisoners either on their bunks or a considerable distance from the stoves.
It would often be laughable to see what effect the approach of one of these fellows with a blue coat or blouse on his back
would have on the prisoners.
Another favorite method of
punishment was this: Every man in a barrack would be marched out on the snow in front of the barrack, formed in a line of
one rank, and then told by the guards "that under the snow and ice could be found plenty of corn for them to parch and eat,
that they must reach for it," which was done in the following manner: The guards would point their pistols, cocked, at the
heads of the prisoners, make them bend their bodies over in a stooping posture, until the tips of their fingers would touch
the ground under the snow and ice, the knees having to remain perfectly stiff and straight and not bend in any manner. They
would be compelled to stand in this position from half an hour to four hours, and never for a
shorter time than half an hour, the snow and ice being very deep all winter,
often twenty inches. This was called, by the guards, "reaching for corn," or "reaching for grub." Frequently many of those
who were being punished in this way would become so exhausted and fatigued they would fall over in the snow in an almost insensible
condition; these were apt to receive a flogging with a pistol belt, administered by the guard, or receive several severe kicks
and blows. Often these men would stand in that position until the blood would run from the nose and mouth; the guard would
stand by and laugh at it.
Another mode was to make the
prisoners sit down on the snow and remain sitting for two hours, without rising or changing positions. On one occasion, for
some little, trivial and frivolous offense, all the prisoners occupying barrack No. 1 were marched out in front of their barrack,
formed in a line of one rank, and made to sit down on the snow and ice for two hours. I visited that barrack soon after the
men had been released, and the indentures made by them in the
snow told what they had been doing all that time, as their shapes were plainly
impressed in the snow. P. E. Lively and Dick Litsey, of Texas, were two of the crowd who had to sit on the snow.
There was still another method
of punishment, bordering on and a little akin to the former I have named. The guards would make all the men in a barrack march
out and stand erect on the snow from two to four hours, and not allow them to stir or move their feet to keep warm. The guards
would leave them in that position and go off to other parts of the prison, but in a short time return, and examine the snow
to see if it had been displaced by the movement of any of their feet. If there were any, it would be fortunate for the prisoner
if he escaped with only a flogging with a pistol belt on the naked back, which would amount to all the way from forty to one
hundred lashes. Sometimes the prisoner would be beaten over the head with the butt end of a large army pistol, or a piece
Another favorite method was
to tie prisoners
up by the thumbs. This was accomplished by tying a strong cord around each
thumb, then throwing one end over a scantling or beam above the head, drawing the cord until the arms and body were stretched
until the toes would just touch the ground or floor. Prisoners tied up in this manner frequently had to remain suspended until
life was almost extinct, before the guards would cut them down. I have seen the blood run from the nose and mouth of some
who were thus punished. This punishment often compelled those upon whom it was inflicted to lie in bed for several days, unable
There was still another favorite
mode of gratifying their insatiate thirst for punishment. They would procure half of a barrel or large box, have a hole made
in it large enough for the prisoner's head to slip through, and so as to let the barrel or box rest on the shoulders; when
this ornament was placed over the prisoner's head he was forced to walk from one end of the street to the other, from half
a day to a whole week every day continually. This was very severe punishment. The barrel or box was very
heavy, and all the time pressed on the shoulders with nothing to protect them,
which made the carrying of either very painful and annoying.
Still there was another mode,
differing from all the others, but fully as harsh and severe, if not worse. The guards would procure a ladder long enough
to reach from the ground to the top of the plank wall which inclosed the prison grounds, the upper end of the ladder resting
against the side of the parapet and the lower end on the ground just over the dead line. The prisoner would be compelled to
climb up and down the ladder from morning till night, every day for a whole week, and sometimes longer; he was not allowed
to stop and rest at all. One prisoner had to climb and descend this ladder for nearly a whole month. The only time that any
rest could be obtained would be during meal time and at night. He was in charge of the sentinel on the parapet, and if he
stopped to rest would have been shot. This tried men's souls, as well as their constitutions.
Often if only one man was
taken out to be punished, he would be stripped naked to the
waist and given from fifty to one hundred lashes with a broad pistol belt
on the naked back, so severe that the blood would trickle down the back to the heels. If a barrel was convenient, the prisoner
would be stretched across it; if not convenient, then he would be stretched across the foot of a bottom bunk and whipped.
These different punishments
would be administered for the most frivolous and insignificant offenses which could be imagined, and the prisoners would hardly
ever know, or have any idea what offense had been committed. Most of these different punishments would be inflicted after
night, in the barracks, and sometimes during the day. Old Red, Prairie Bull, Little Red and Old Bill McDermott were the prime
Who were these men? Probably
night could tell more about them than day. They were the unsightly, hideous, midnight ghouls in human shape, who prowled over
the prison square after night for no other purpose save to find some frivolous excuse to exercise their assumed authority.
They were the ghastly and hungry hyenas digging into the prison barracks for little,
trivial violations of some foolish and insignificant rule of their own manufacture,
and of which the prisoners knew nothing until marched out for punishment; then these guards would hardly ever let them know
what rule or regulation had been violated, or the offense which had been committed.
The water-closets were several
feet from the barracks, and the rules and regulations in regard to going to and returning from them were very strict and severe.
No excuse for failing to go to them when a prisoner was sick, would be accepted, but men with a scorching fever were compelled
to go out of the barrack in cold, freezing wind and blinding snow at any and all times, either day or night. When necessity
forced any one to visit the water-closets, he had to go directly there and return without stopping between them and his barrack,
no matter how sick and weak he might be; if he stopped on the way and any of the police guards of the "big four" saw him,
he was sure to receive a severe flogging with a leather belt. Their belts all had a large
brass buckle on them, and frequently the buckle would be used in administering
Just outside the kitchens,
slop barrels were always kept for the purpose of depositing beef bones, and such other scraps and refuse as came from the
kitchens; these would often remain until late in the afternoon without being removed and emptied. The hungry prisoners often
resorted to these barrels in search of a beef bone from which to make soup, or bake by the heating stoves in order to obtain
the grease. Whenever either or all of the "big four" caught any of the prisoners near the barrels, or would see any prisoner
with a bone, they would make him take it in his mouth, get down on his hands and feet, go up and down the street from one
end to the other, and bark like a dog, or imitate it as near as possible, the guard all the time laughing at the prisoner
and keeping a pistol cocked at his head ready to fire. The "big four" called this the dog performance, or barking like a dog.
Sometimes the "big four" would allow the prisoner to stand up and walk erect from one end of the street to the other, carrying
the bone in
his mouth; at the same time they would take their stand at some convenient
place within range of the prisoner, in the event that an army pistol became necessary to be used as a persuasive means to
enforce this method of punishment.
They were as avaricious to
punish prisoners as the hyenas of Mexico were for human flesh during the war of the United States with that country, for on
the morning after a battle these unsightly animals could be seen scratching up the dead soldiers who had been killed and buried
on the previous day. I think that these men were four whom Dante saw the spirits of in hell, and from whom he sketched some
of the inmates of that place, and the representatives, anyhow, of these men must have been there when his guide conducted
him through the inner chambers of that dreadful abode. I am confident that had Dante been living, and visited Camp Douglas
at this time, he could have had living subjects from whom to paint his descriptions and illustrations of the inmates of the
infernal regions. He could have drawn his pictures
from original material, and not had to strain his imagination for imaginary
and mythical subjects from whom to describe the companions of the devil in hell. When these four beasts in human shape would
enter the prison square, the sulphurous flames and the forked lightning encircled by the dark, blue and red prismatic colors
of the rainbow of hell would hover over the prison, and had Dante stood on the parapet of the wall which inclosed the prison
and looked over into this pen, he could have seen the full and complete illustration of the whole, from the first circle to
the eighth of his poem. I feel confident that these were the four beasts with "seven heads and ten horns" whom John saw in
his vision on the Isle of Patmos.
There were many of the guards
and non-commissioned officers who were disposed to treat us as strictly prisoners of war, and as humane as their instructions
and orders from their superiors would permit. I cannot call to mind an instance wherein we were personally ill-treated either
by an officer or guard, except by those whom I have particularly named and designated.
It was death to cross the
dead line. This dead line was placed around the walls of the prison, for the purpose of keeping any one from approaching the
walls. A prisoner after reaching the plank wall could easily tunnel out and escape, and while tunneling could not be seen
by the guard on the parapet, hence the object of the dead line. If a prisoner approached near the dead line, or stepped over
it, either by accident or on purpose, he would be fired upon sure, and quickly reminded that he was on forbidden ground by
the sharp crack of a Springfield rifle and the dull thud of a minie ball piercing his body through. If the sentinel on the
parapet failed to fire at him, some one or more of the "big four" would do so, and they rarely missed their aim.
It was death for three or
more of the prisoners to congregate on the streets and engage in conversation. The sentinels on the parapet would shoot at
them, and they never failed to kill or mortally wound some one of the crowd. We had to be very cautious in every act, for
the simplest and most innocent mistake would cost
a man his life, or a severe wound. During extreme cold weather the guards
would detail two prisoners every night to each stove, in order to keep fires burning all night. One man to each stove would
sit up and keep fires until midnight, and the other until daylight. This kept the barracks very comfortable and warm. We were
not allowed to get up and sit by them after night, or to stop and warm on returning from the hydrants.
Cooking on the stoves was
prohibited, and cans were not allowed on them under any circumstances; if one was caught on a stove, the owner of it, if he
could be found, was sure to be punished, his can with the contents destroyed, even if it contained the owner's entire rations.
Many times the owner would disclaim all knowledge of ownership of the can, and of course the others would not give him away;
but the can and contents would not escape destruction. Oyster cans and tin plates were as valuable to us as money, for the
purposes we used them, and when destroyed the loss was felt. One day two of the guards stole into our barrack before we knew
and caught two of the prisoners cooking on the stoves and using two large
cans which they had but recently obtained. The guards destroyed the cans with their contents, then marched the owners out
of the barrack on the street and made them pat and dance alternately in the snow for half an hour. Generally, when we wanted
to cook, we would post a vidette at the door to watch for these gentlemen wearing the blue, and whenever any of them made
their appearance our vidette gave us his peculiar signal, and then all signs of cooking would be obliterated. Often they came
inside the barracks and carefully examined the stove anyhow, and while doing so would look at us very suspiciously, but if
no vessels were found about the stove they would leave the barrack, when our cooking would be resumed as usual. Once in a
great while a prisoner would accidentally and unintentionally get into the dungeon. Whenever a prisoner took up his abode
inside of that doleful place, he would be held in there by a cannon ball and chain fastened around each ankle. Sometimes in
addition to this, his hands would be tied behind his back. The bill
of fare at this boarding place consisted of bread and water - a very stale
article of each. The prisoners were by no means fond of this place, and during my stay in prison I think that only one had
to board there.
has no quickening spirit here,
no charms, and man no dwelling."
Within a few weeks after being
domiciled, and were becoming accustomed to our new mode of living, we were notified that this barrack must be vacated, and
that we must be transferred to other barracks, to make room for those who had somewhat grown in favor with the Federal authorities,
and were known to the rest of us as two classes, - one class was known as gentlemen of the "White Apron," more familiarly,
as Free Masons; the other as "Loyal Men;" that is, those who petitioned for the oath of allegiance and to join the Federal
army, to fight against their own blood kin and their already desolated homes. These favored loyal gentlemen were removed to
and located in the barracks which the authorities had us to vacate. All the Free Masons were stored away in barracks to themselves.
were as good Confederates as any of us, but were more highly favored on account
of the order to which they belonged, and we were informed that they received much better treatment at the hands of the officials,
in every particular, than the remainder of us. I did not belong to that order then; hence, I had to take the storm as it came,
let it be heavy or light.
When I heard this term "loyal
men" used, I took a retrospect of my history knowledge, gained from reading during my school-boy days, and this was the conclusion
at which I arrived, viz.: A good loyal man among the Confederate prisoners would have made a genuine Tory during
the flrst war between the Colonies and Great Britain. A Tory at that time was an American by birth
or citizenship, but who was in sympathy with and aided His Grace, King George III., in attempting to conquer his own countrymen.
These Tories, whom we had with us, desired to take the oath of allegiance to the United States government and join the Federal
army, after having fought them for nearly three years. At this particular time news from the front, which
we would receive through the newspapers, concerning the success of the cause
for which we had been fighting, was by no means flattering to us, but there was an element in this prison who were composed
of material to remain, and were determined to rot in prison before they would leave it in a dishonorable way or by disgracing
the cause which they had espoused, let it be right or wrong. The majority of the prisoners were of the right metal. They determined
never to give up the ship until the last spar of the vessel went to the bottom to rise no more, and firmly resolved to see
it all go down before abandoning the rigging.
So the two hundred men occupying
barrack No. 53 were scattered and in small squads assigned to different parts of the prison. The little squad to which I belonged
was sent to barrack No. 8, near the upper side of the prison square.
An application to take the
oath of allegiance and to join the Federal army had to be made in writing and at the office of Lieutenant Fife. Whenever we
saw a prisoner enter that office we
easily divined his purpose and the object of his visit. The applicant tried
to keep a visit of that character a secret from the remainder of the prisoners, until he was ready to leave his barrack and
take up his abode at the loyal row of barracks. Three barracks in same row were set apart for this class of Tories, and the
Federals gave it the name of "Tory barracks," or "loyal row." Of course, we looked down on that row as much or more so than
the Federals did.
The Federals informed us that
this element of "loyal men" must be separated and removed from our barracks and be placed in a row of barracks to themselves,
where they could be carefully looked after and closely watched, as President Lincoln, the War Department, and all real true
and honorable Federal soldiers looked upon and regarded this class of men with rather a suspicious eye, and who could not
be trusted very far in anything. That these men were considered and looked upon by the Federal soldiers as black sheep, which
had strayed and crept into the genuine and blooded flock of whites, and that we must not be contaminated with their influence,
that is, in case any of them possessed any influence.
This element of "loyal men"
embraced those who, after they entered the prison, had recanted, and now desired to change sides, don the blue uniform and
be mustered into the service of the United States government, to serve in cavalry or infantry for the remainder of the war.
Before President Lincoln and
the War Department would allow them to make the change, they were required to undergo a state of probation similar to that
required by the Methodist Episcopal church of a new convert, when he presents himself to that church for membership. You see,
they took him on trial. I feel confident that President Lincoln and the war department borrowed this idea from that church.
In addition to his probationary period, there was a penance attached, somewhat similar to that required by the Roman Catholic
church of its members when they get a little off, although the penance was differently imposed and executed. There was some
difference in receiving the applicant on probation and in receiving his penance and
confessions; instead of the applicant being received on probation by a preacher,
and having his hands squeezed out of shape by the good sisters, his confessions received by a worthy prelate, and all received
verbally, President Lincoln and the war department constituted themseves, for that particular purpose,
into a committee of preachers and priests, assumed the office and duties of all these worthy personages, required all applications
for pardon and all confessions to be reduced to writing, signed and sworn to by the applicant. There was this difference -
these self-constituted divines required no quarterage, penance money or Peter's pence to be paid them; they did all this free
of charge. What a difference 'twixt now and then. Colonel Sweet and Lieutenant Fife were rather sub-preachers and priests
for this particular purpose.
The applicant for the oath
would slip off secretly and alone, appear in person at the door of Lieut. Fife's office, and after taking off his hat, was
allowed to enter the office in an humble attitude. The application would be filled out and read over to him. It also contained
oath. He would signify his willingness to take it and join the Federal army,
by signing his name and swearing to it. After this was accomplished, the applicant would generally call on two of the police
guards to accompany him to his barrack to obtain his blankets and clothing - that is, if he was ready to vacate the barrack
and enter a "loyal" barrack. Generally, the first notice which we would have of anything of this kind, would be when he entered
the barrack with one or two blue-coated gentlemen, who accompanied him for protection. It was well for such men to have an
escort of that character, as the remainder of us did not stand on very nice scruples in regard to our conduct toward this
class of men, and we cared but little as to what kind of treatment they received at our hands. These fellows looked like they
had stolen something and been caught with it; the ground had a special attraction for their eyes.
When removed to the "loyal
row" they were kept out among the other scrubs and black sheep of that class. We rarely ever saw anything more of them, as
it was much healthier and the
atmosphere more agreeable for them at the "loyal row," than elsewhere on the
inside of this prison. We would not tolerate any Tories amongst us, if we knew it. On a certain occasion a member of our barrack
(No. 8) slipped into Lieut. Fife's office to make an application to join the Federal army, and some one came at once and notified
us. When the applicant came into the barrack we caught him and pitched him out into the street with all his baggage we could
find, at the same time ordering him not to return. He did return, and not alone, but with two police guards. They all came
into the barrack; the guards cocked their pistols on us, cursed out the business, while the fellow gathered up his luggage.
As they were leaving the barrack the boys discovered that part of his things had been left. We ran to the door and threw them
after him, and instead of them hitting the ground, one of the guards caught the full force on the back of his head; he immediately
turned and fired his pistol at the crowd, and the top of my cap passed off with the force of the ball. I did not give him
a chance for a second shot, but
quickly found myself on my bunk, as did the others. The guard returned and
ordered all the prisoners to "Morgan's Mule." I gave them the slip at the door and went off down to barrack No. 15. About
the time three others and myself were becoming deeply interested in a game of euchre, the guard came in and ordered them out
in line to "reach for eorn" for some frivolous offense they had committed. Here I got caught again,
but knowing the sergeant of the guard, who happened to be on hand, I spoke to him, telling him that I did not belong to that
barrack, but was a member of barrack No. 8. He ordered me out of the line and to go to my barrack. I went, but not to my barrack,
as all the members of it, except myself were on the "Mule," I kept entirely aloof from it. I quickly left the line that was
"reaching for corn." I went to another barrack and soon engaged in another game of euchre, this time being more successful
than before, and was not interrupted.
The application for the oath
and to join the Federal army had to go to Washington City, be placed before the President and his cabinet
for their careful examination and consideration, to see whether or not the
applicant could be trusted and relied upon as meaning what he had sworn and subscribed. He had to swear that he would submit
to all the terms and conditions of the iron-clad oath, be baptized over again for the remission of his former sins, then publicly
declare his belief in the saving power of President Lincoln and the War Department by a long confession of faith, and last
but not least, to commune with their soldiers by eating pickled beef and hard tack. After all this had been carefully done,
if the application was found to be correct in every particular, if he had minutely complied with all the minutić called "red
tape," had been on probation as long as they thought necessary, and done penance enough for all past offenses, after a time
the application was returned, the applicant was released from prison and marched out of his prison quarters, a pure, white-washed
Yankee. He was then entirely beyond our reach, as securely and completely as though he possessed an evil spirit or had a case
of leprosy like the
Jews frequently had under the leadership of the great law-giver Moses, in
As to where they were sent
after taking the oath and being mustered into the service, I cannot say. However, I can say that I do not know of ever meeting
one of them since; if any of them were sent back South to fight, I am confident that a Confederate bullet would be sure to
hunt for these men and be most likely to find them. On either side, a bullet would go farther to kill one of this class of
men than any other. These men were in fully and equally as bad a shape as the Israelites were in the Wilderness of Sin, for
I do not think that any of this class of white-washed Yankees at Camp Douglas ever again saw or entered the promised land.
I never heard of or knew anything of them again, except one, and he committed suicide soon after taking the iron-clad oath
is next to godliness."
The sanitary regulations were
very strict, and the authorities had them rigidly enforced. They required us to keep the streets clear of all trash of every
description. We were prohibited from emptying any vessel containing dirty water on the streets. They made it our duty to scour
the floors of the barracks once a week, or twice each month, anyhow, and to sweep them clean once each day. The barrack sergeant
(who was a prisoner) made an alphabetical list of the names of all the members of his barrack, and as their names came on
the list, were detailed accordingly, until all had scoured the barrack. Spitting on the floors or inside the barracks was
strictly prohibited. If the police guard discovered any filth or spittle on the floor, it would insure all the members of
a barrack a two hours ride on Morgan's Mule. The most important regulation was
in regard to cleanliness of the person and clothing of the prisoners. The
great majority of us were only two glad to avail ourselves of the means placed at our command for preserving
cleanliness of our person and clothing; but there were those with us who were very careless and indifferent concerning their
person and clothing, and sometimes such persons paid very dearly for their neglect.
Friday of each week was the
regular wash day, in order that our clothing would be in good shape for inspection at roll call on the following Sunday morning;
but we were at liberty to do any extra washing on any other day we might see proper. There were a few of the prisoners who
followed washing for others as a regular business, and for which they charged a small compensation - that is, from two and
a half cents to five cents per garment. Those who were financially able to hire their washing, did so, but the great majority
of us were unable to hire anything done; hence, we had to wash our own clothing, and wear it without starch or ironing. But
very few of the prisoners had an extra
change of clothing, and when wash day came we washed our shirts during the
forenoon, and in case our pants required washing, we did that in the afternoon. We allowed no filthy person to remain in his
filth, and when we discovered one, he would be immediately taken charge of by the others and forced to wash himself and clothing
up in good shape. If any one failed to wash his clothes, or have it done, we at once organized a court, composed of a judge,
clerk, lawyers, sheriff and jury, then tried the prisoner for uncleanliness and uncleanly habits. He was sure to meet with
a conviction, but never an acquittal. The penalty was generally very severe, especially if he was a stout and healthy man.
The sentence of the court, after the jury found him guilty as charged, would be that he be taken by the sheriff to the wash
house, there stripped, and two men thoroughly scrub him with soap and rags, until the skin was red. One dose of this was sufficient;
it never had to be repeated upon the same person. He was then compelled to wash his clothing. Scarcity of clothing shielded
no one from the pains and penalties of the wash
house. The accused had to pay the court costs, all of which could be settled
up and paid with "thirds of bread" or "chews of tobacco." If the party was too poor to pay the costs, the court would remit
all except the penalty. All the property a man owned was on record in his own name, and not hid behind his wife; hence, we
all knew the exact amount of property owned by each man in a barrack.
all the scenes through life - how few
those we would repeat;
yet, for all the ills we have,
life is passing sweet."
While lying up in our prison
barracks we had nothing to occupy our time except to talk over incidents and campaigns through which we had passed during
the previous three years, and our little simple games of amusement, all of which soon grew very monotonous to me; hence, I
found that I had ample time to reflect, and also to have some concern for the future as regarded my prospects and success
in life hereafter. I began somewhat to realize my great loss in being deprived of the privilege of attending school, and having
but little idea as to how long this cruel war would last, and being assured that my term of imprisonment bid fair to last
for an indefinite period; and feeling too that the war would
eventually terminate, and that I would then stand in great need of something
learned from books; and also knowing that all I had learned as a soldier would avail but little and not carry me through life,
and be of service during a time of peace, I now resolved to devote the most of my time over such books as I might be able
to obtain, if any at all could be procured without having to pay money for them, as I had none just at this time. Of course
books were very scarce, and but few of any kind could be found among the prisoners, and more especially the kind which I most
needed. I succeeded in obtaining an arithmetic, algebra and a few others. I was not capable of mastering these mathematical
works alone, and the next important step was to find an instructor who would give a little voluntary assistance. I soon found
him in the person of Pat O'Larry, a messmate of mine. Pat was educated at Edinburg, in Scotland, and was an accomplished mathematician.
Some time before the war, he came to the United States and located at Vicksburg, Mississippi. When the war broke out, he joined
the Fortieth Mississippi
regiment of volunteer infantry. He was large, raw-boned and stood full six
feet clear of everything, weighed nearly two hundred pounds, hair, eyes and skin dark, whiskers thin, walked and stood perfectly
erect, form and general make up symmetrical. He was a high-toned Scotch gentleman. I am indebted to Pat for the thorough mastering
of the principles of mathematics, and my success in learning the entire contents of these two mathematical books while in
prison. I soon became a great favorite with Pat, and he never failed to aid me in the prosecution of my studies. He was very
good natured, his temper seldom being ruffled except over a game of euchre. We sometimes engaged in a social game of euchre.
Our clique was composed of Pat O'Larry, Brit Nichols, Jake Pool and myself. Jake and I were always partners against the former.
We played to see who should carry the water from the hydrant for the whole mess. I will not say who were the best players,
but Jake and I never had any of the water to carry. We were mere novices at playing, as compared with them, but experts at
points, especially when not entitled to them. Frequently I would turn up two
or three points, and when noticed by either of the others a squabble at once would be raised, and Pat would become so angry
that down went his cards on the floor, and then he would offer to fight both of us at once; but we were too sharp to come
in contact with an angry two hundred pound Scotchman, and would compromise on one or two points, laugh him into a good humor,
and resume our game. Our qualifications for counting euchre points saved us from carrying the water. This was the only species
of gambling in which we ever engaged during our imprisonment. A great many of the prisoners played cards for their rations
and tobacco. These articles were as current in this little secluded world as gold and silver were in the other world outside.
It was amusing and laughable to see the little chews of tobacco, about the size of buck-shot, and thirds of bread, all stacked
up in a game of draw-poker.
The prisoners would be as
deeply interested in this employment as though chews of tobacco
and thirds of bread were as many gold dollars. Many of them would go without
a meal or two, in order to play cards for what little rations they had. This species of gambling, with many of the prisoners,
was generally the order of the day, and carried on continually. Numbers of men were mere skeletons and living shadows, walking
spectres, and complained all the time of extreme hunger; some appeared to be starved almost to death; in fact, our rations
were enough to keep us tolerably hungry all the time. The majority of the prisoners used the most rigid and strict economy
in taking care of their rations, but with that were continually hungry. As for myself, I valued my grub too highly to fool
it away on a game of cards. I ate it all, and from my feelings after eating it, I had some doubt as to whether I had received
the full benefit of it.
Men appeared to crave tobacco
fully as bad as something to eat. It would be amusing in the extreme to see those who had tobacco slip off to one side, or
cover up head and ears in a bunk, to take a chew. Most every means was adopted to
prevent the exposure of a piece of that favorite weed. Camp Douglas was one
place where no living prisoner was ever caught by any other prisoner taking a chew of tobacco. Had any one shown a plug, or
even a small piece, a thousand men would at once have surrounded him, and he could not have kept it for a moment. Those whose
homes were in the extreme Southern States had but little communication with kindred and friends, consequently they had no
chance to obtain money, and many of them suffered considerably for lack of many little necessaries which others could obtain.
However, several of us shared our tobacco with them whenever we could do so without cutting our own supply too short.
Many of the prisoners whose
homes were on the inside of the Federal main lines, could obtain money and various articles from home and friends. Money was
directed to the prisoner, but stopped at headquarters. The one to whom it was directed would receive a notice of its arrival.
The notice would state that so much money had been received at headquarters for him, and had been placed to his credit. Accompanying
this notice would be a coupon or ticket showing the amount. With this coupon
we could buy anything which was kept on sale at the sutler's store, such as meal, flour, tobacco, sugar, coffee, canned fruits,
and various articles of clothing. A barrel of flour weighed about one hundred and ninety-six pounds, and sold for sixteen
dollars; one of meal two hundred pounds, and sold for twelve dollars. All other things were equally as high in proportion
to quantity. We clubbed together and bought a barrel of flour or meal, and then divided it according to the amount each paid.
Whatever amount was spent with the sutler would be credited by him on the coupon, and a smaller one detached which showed
the same credit; this latter one the sutler would carry to headquarters and draw the amount in money. This was done until
the entire amount which the coupon called for would be exhausted. I received the full benefit of my coupon, which called for
ten dollars, and I used it all before I left the prison. We baked our bread on the heating stoves, whenever this could be
done on the sly and without letting the guards know
it. This meal and flour often wonderfully assisted our last "third of bread"
in keeping us alive to dine another day.
We were allowed to write letters
to our parents and friends at home once every ten days or two weeks. Our letters had to be very brief, as each had to be examined
at headquarters before they were sent off in the mails. We could only mail them as our turn came, and then only one letter.
We had to stand in line of one rank - that is, one behind the other, Indian fashion. Every day the line contained from fifty
to five hundred men. I had to stand in line two whole days to get half a dozen lines and an envelope mailed. The prisoners
would nearly freeze while waiting for their turn to mail a letter. I mailed two while there, and this experience satisfied
me with freezing. When letters for prisoners arrived, they would generally be brought in by the sergeant at roll call, or
the prisoners would obtain them at the sutler's store. And
paper-messengers of friends
absence almost made amends."
together profit and delight."
Necessity is said to be the
mother of invention, and this coupled with idleness and restlessness which could not be avoided, certainly would exercise
the ingenious faculties of man in seeking such employment as his surroundings would indicate. There were near twelve thousand
prisoners of war in Camp Douglas, with nothing to keep them employed except that which they engaged in from necessity or choice.
We had men with us of all
sorts of trades and professions, but a greater number of manufacturers and mechanics than any others. There were lawyers,
doctors, preachers, and school-teachers, but these particular classes indefinitely suspended the practice of their professions.
There were watch-tinkers, shoe-cobblers, finger-ring and breast-pin makers by the hundreds. There were few real shoe-makers,
but plenty of
cobblers; they patched and mended the old shoes for the prisoners. Enough
leather could not be obtained to make a full pair of shoes, as the market for that commodity had closed against us. Consignors
withheld all consignments of leather and closed the port of entry here with our sort of folk. Gold and silver were in great
demand, but the mines and mints stopped all shipments of the precious metals to our ports.
Gutta-percha was more plentiful
than anything else; from this rings and various kinds of breast-pins were made. They most always found a ready market. Rings
and brooches were ornamented with beautiful sets and all sorts of fancy designs of a number of varieties; the manner in which
they were finished showed superior artistic skill and workmanship. The prisoners often sold fancy rings and brooches to the
Federal officers and soldiers for quite a little sum, but this had to be done very secretly, as money would be taken from
them if the guards could possibly capture it.
Musical instruments with us
were very scarce, but good musicians were numerous, and they
soon manufactured their own, such as violins, guitars and banjoes, and which
answered our purposes quite as well as if they had been imported at fabulous prices. Strings for these sometimes could be
obtained at the sutler's store, and when they could not be purchased at this store, a friendly guard would often bring a bunch
from the city to the prisoners. Throughout the prison square, at all hours of the day, beautiful strains of music were wafted
on the breeze. This enchanting music was executed by the manufacturer of, and on, his own instrument. Occasionally, we indulged
in a dance, if such a performance as we indulged in could be called a "dance," being deprived as we were of lady partners.
We only engaged in them for a change of sport and to while away the time. We all danced promiscuously and without distinction
- that is, all who felt inclined to do so. We entertained no scruples as to the propriety of it, and we had no fears of a
committee of strict church members waiting upon and threatening to "church" us for dancing.
Those who furnished the music
for us were
compensated by a "chew of tobacco" or "thirds of bread," all of which were
voluntary donations. These were the only occasions on which we were called upon to make a free-will offering - as we had no
churches to build and keep in repair, no Sunday-schools to furnish with literature, no preachers to pay and their families
to look after, and best of all, no missionary money to raise to equip and send off to heathen lands some over-zealous and
misguided crank of a man, who imagines and believes that with plenty of money he can take the whole population of China and
Japan and send them to paradise by whole platoons. and who leaves the poor and ignorant of his own
kind and country to work out their own salvation as best they can, or die and be lost.
We played the old-fashioned
game of ball - with a ball and bats, but no base-ball, that game not being popular with us on account of our disinclination
to don the scant garb of circus clowns and monkeys. In knocking our ball it would sometimes fall over the dead line, which
was forbidden ground to us under all circumstances;
in that event we had to call in the assistance of some friendly disposed guard
to recover it.
The oyster-can was an important
factor and figured quite conspicuously as an article of merchandise with us. Its current price was a "third of bread," which
was all the time its standard value when to be paid for with that commodity; when not sold for that, chews of tobacco were
the next best consideration - three chews would fetch one of these cans. Thirds of bread and chews of tobacco were the standard
units of currency within this little secluded world. There was no chance for counterfeiting. The professional counterfeiter
had no show whatever to debase our currency; hence, we were never troubled with anything of that character. These articles
always passed current at their par value, and we had nothing to fear or dread in regard to the rise or fall of the market
value of our commercial currency. We had no gigantic moneyed corporations to contract the currency and keep the market fluctuating.
We had provision vendors who
trafficked in all
kinds of provisions which could be obtained within the inclosure of the prison
wall. Vendors of rats, cats and dogs were very scarce. They notified us that orders from the prisoners who preceded us had
exhausted the market.
Perhaps it will not be out
of place here to relate an incident which occurred previous to my introduction into the prison. I give it on the authority
of the other prisoners, some of whom were the instigators and participants of the occurrence. Lieutenant Fife owned and kept
a beautiful black terrier dog with him on the inside of the prison. This dog was a great favorite and pet with the prisoners,
but one day the cooks in one of the barracks enticed the dog into their kitchen, killed and dressed it nicely, and cooked
it; then invited quite a number of the other prisoners to dine with them, as they had a rare dish for dinner - they ate the
dog and drank the soup. Soon after this Fife wanted to find his dog, but could learn nothing of it whatever. He posted a notice
on the bulletin board, offering ten dollars for the return of his dog.
The prisoners read this notice, and some one wrote under Fife's notice the
lack of bread the dog is dead,
want of meat the dog was eat."
This led to the discovery
of the barrack in which the dog was killed and cooked. Of course, this somewhat aroused a little anger at headquarters, and
the rations for that barrack were suspended for two or three days. An order was issued and circulated over the prison square
like the Pope's bull, when it thundered forth from the Vatican of Rome against Henry VIII., of England, "that if any one on
the inside of the prison was known to furnish rations to any of the members of this barrack, he should have a ball chained
to his ankle and be sent to the dungeon, there to reflect over the mistakes and follies of life for a period of ten days,
and during that time be allowed only bread and water to eat." The prisoners who engaged in this dog-eating affair scattered
over the prison and were fed by others as long as this military bull was in force. After the bull expired, nothing more was
ever said or done concerning the eating of the dog.
This military prison camp
was one place we had no hypocrisy to deal with; perhaps that principle was not altogether wanting, but we had no motive for
practicing it. We had been cut off from the moral and religious influences of home, churches and religious societies, and
had lived the rough life of a soldier for three long years; yet, notwithstanding, the morals were good, and we had not forgotten
our early training. When the Sabbath appeared, in our imaginations we would picture some lone and solitary church house, which,
as if by a miracle, had escaped the fire-brands and destruction of an invading army, and in that picture see gathered together
the dear old ladies, whose true piety, in those soul-stirring times, enabled them to bear with such wonderful fortitude the
great calamity which enveloped all that was near and dear to them, with the remnant of men and their little children, the
former of whom were too much enfeebled, by age and disease, to aid in fighting the battles of their country; all imploring
Divine help and protection in this, their hour of need. These pleasant thoughts with us somewhat
atoned for the lack of the presence of these good people, and the practice
of religion with them.
Some few of the prisoners,
who were fortunate enough to possess the means with which to purchase the necessary ingredients and who had a fancy for the
culinary art, baked and sold cakes and pies to the rest of us; whether from the materials of which they were composed, or
the surroundings under which they were cooked, I have never been able to decide, but anyhow I have been unable to wholly overcome
my aversion for cakes and pies ever since. These cake and pie bakers had to be very careful to prevent any of the guards from
knowing anything of their cooking on the stoves, for had they been caught their cook-vessels and contents would have been
confiscated and the owners made to pay the penalty for it on Morgan's Mule. There could be found in almost every barrack one
or more humorists and comic songsters, who would keep the members of his barrack in a state of mirth and laughter nearly all
the time, and could spin their
yarns, occasionally, equal to the Great Magician spinning his ribbons.
We could also boast of one
ventriloquist, who could perform many tricks which at the time were considered marvelous, but now very common. The only name
by which he was ever known among the boys was that of "Pig." We suppose that he obtained this name on account of being so
diminutive in stature. This little "Pig" belonged to the Forty-second regiment of Tennessee infantry. We had been familiar
with him and his tricks from the beginning of the war, and had never grown tired of him, as he was such a jolly little fellow.
He was captured with us at Franklin, Tennessee. For some time his ventriloquism was a great annoyance to some few of the guard
at Camp Douglas. "Pig" would watch for them on the street, and the first thing they knew or heard would be a lot of chickens
squalling in their pockets, or some unusual noise under their caps. They would grab their pockets or snatch off their caps
in utter amazement and confusion, and finding nothing, together with the uproarious laughter of the prisoners,
caused them to become more confused then ever, but generally they would laugh
it off. When they definitely learned the originator of these jokes, he was compelled to desist. He was often called upon by
the guards to perform tricks for their amusement. His favored performance, and the one he seemed proudest of, was to place
a small piece of silver money between his feet, then double himself backwards and with his mouth pick it up. The pieces of
money were five cents pieces and dimes, which the guard furnished and allowed him to keep after the performance of his trick.
He disappeared from the prison some time before any of us were released, and we were informed that the authorities released
him on parole.
chief is this that comes from far,
gallant mien bespeaks him train'd for war?"
One morning the police guards
notified us that during the afternoon General Joseph Hooker would enter the prison square for the purpose of inspecting the
prison, and to review the prisoners. That we must be dressed in our best clothes and present the most favorable appearance
possible. That we would be formed in lines of eight ranks - that is, eight deep, on the streets nearest the entrance gate
to the prison. We knew "fighting Joe," as he was familiarly called, by reputation. But few of us, if any, had ever seen him
to know him. On that Georgia campaign we had frequently encountered Hooker's corps in battle; consequently, we were very anxious
to see him at close range, and obtain a good view of the commander, whose corps we had so often faced in conflict. Early
in the afternoon our guards returned and ordered us all into line. We formed
in lines of eight ranks deep - that is, eight abreast, on the streets nearest the prison gate. After we had formed, a shrill
blast of the bugle announced the approach of General Hooker on the inside of the Federal square. The prison gate was now thrown
open and the military chief, accompanied by an escort of officers, entered the prison square, all well mounted upon fine horses.
He entered first, about ten spaces in advance of his escort. The uniforms of these officers were fine and all trimmed with
gold lace, and their shoulders mounted with epaulettes. General Hooker presented quite an imposing appearance. His military
dress showed off his figure to quite an advantage. They all carried the appearance of hard service on the front.
They all dashed around the
prison square, then around the lines of prisoners and out, making their visit very brief. We rather expected a speech from
General Hooker, as we had been informed by the guard he would do so, but it seemed that this was not his day for speech-making.
He was not as social as some others who visited us. We summed it all up in
this, that he much preferred fighting us to making speeches.
Governors Morton and Oglesby,
the former of Indiana, and the latter of Illinois, made us one visit, and each made a speech. They entered the prison grounds
in a fine carriage drawn by a span of black horses. As soon as the object of their visit was made known to us, we gathered
around the carrige and sat on the ground - squat. Governor Morton's speech was one of sense, and worthy
of being delivered before an audience composed of ladies, as well as men. He addressed the crowd of prisoners, as gentlemen.
His first expressions quickly informed us that we were in the presence of and listening to a gentleman, or at least, a man
who knew how to act one. He made us believe that our release, which he stated was soon to be, was entirely and solely due
to his efforts made in our behalf, and the interest he had taken in trying to secure it for us. That he had used his influence
with the President and War Department,
to have us released in the near future, and restored to our former citizenship.
That after he succeeded in obtaining our release, he would have us all sent back to our different homes, clothed with all
the rights and privileges of free American citizens. Whether all or anything he stated was true or not, we failed to know
the difference then, but it served its purpose anyhow, in so far as we were concerned; and his speech gained the good will
and esteem of most, if not all the prisoners, and we believed him to be one of the best men in the government. Had we been
free, and he a candidate for President, every one of us would have cast his vote in favor of Governor Morton for President
of the United States. Governor Morton will be long and kindly remembered by the survivors of Camp Douglas prison, for the
manner in which he acted on this occasion. I have never met one of the survivors yet, who heard that speech, but spoke in
terms of the highest commendation of him. Governor Morton had always borne the reputation of being an extremist in his bitter
feelings for the South, and had on
former occasions publicly expressed himself in that manner; hence, our hearts
and faces were steeled in the expectancy of abuse, but we were very agreeably disappointed, as he avoided everything of that
character. We did not at the time, believe that he entertained any kinder feelings for us than others of his politics, who
had visited us; but it was evident that when his keen eye and scrutinizing gaze penetrated this body of scarred and bronze-faced
prisoners, he was shrewd enough to know that he was not facing a cowardly mob of ignorant hireling soldiers; but on the contrary,
he seemed to fully realize the fact that we were all regular veterans, inured to hard service on the front, honorably captured
in battle, and composed of men from some of the best families that any nation could boast of, and serving a government without
the least prospect of remuneration in dollars and cents, as it was wholly inadequate to meet such demands.
Among the number of noted
personages who visited us, were twelve Indian chiefs, representing as many tribes somewhere in the far West.
All of them were tall and portly, and dressed out and out in full Indian costume.
We appeared to be about as great a curiosity to them, as they were to us. They were on their way to Washington City, to see
and have an interview with the Great Father. Their stay in Camp Douglas was very brief, and after an hour or so we politely
bowed them out.
One preacher, of the Baptist
persuasion, occasionally visited us from the city. He was as fine a specimen of ugliness and ignorance as one could wish to
see. If an artist had desired a model from which to sculpture a statue representing the two characteristics above named, he
could not have found a better one; for the first named characteristic we did not blame him, but for the latter we did, knowing
as we did, that their greater concern for us consisted in the complete and safe-keeping of our persons within the prison walls,
and not in the safety of our souls. Our safety consisted in our inability to get outside of the inclosure of the prison walls;
farther than this, we had but little security of our persons, as nearly every night some sentinel
on the parapet would fire into a barrack - the keen crack of a Springfield
rifle, the sharp whistle and crash of a fifty-four calibre minie ball passing through the wall of our barrack, and often through
some one of the prisoners, which it seldom failed in doing, would forcibly remind us that the sentinel on the parapet from
which it came, was not asleep; and nearly every time this occurred, some one of the prisoners had to be carried out, if not
dead, badly wounded. This was almost a nightly occurrence, kept up as long as we remained within the inclosure of the prison
walls. One night the sentinel on the parapet opposite our barrack (No. 8) fired into it, the ball passing hrough
the wall of the barrack and the railing of the bunk on which I was sleeping, struck my arm, leaving a big red spot, and fell
spent on the blankets; fortunately it did no other harm. In fact, when one retired at night, he had no assurance, and but
little idea of being alive at the dawn of the following morning. A prisoner in our barrack was sick and hardly able to walk,
but started to the hydrant for water; on the steps of the barrack
he met old Prairie Bull, who, without a word, drew his pistol and shot the
prisoner down, breaking his thigh near the groin. The wounded man had to remain where he fell, from the early part of the
night until the following morning, when he was taken out and died during the day. This inhuman wretch, this fiendish slimy
serpent who would have made any one sick to have touched him, refused all aid and assistance to the wounded man; but promptly
informed us that if we touched the wounded prisoner, he would shoot us all down like dogs. A local came out in some of the
newspapers of the city that a prisoner made an attack upon one of the police guards, and he had him to kill; after this there
was nothing more done or said about it. Such deeds as this were of frequent occurrence, and nearly every week some one was
maliciously and wantonly shot by some villainous sentinel on the parapet, or by one of the "big four."
Old Red was a most consummate
coward, as was fully demonstrated one day. He happened to come up our street alone, but armed to the
teeth with two large army pistols; he attempted to assail one of the prisoners
who chanced to be standing near one of the kitchen slop-barrels. The prisoner seized a piece of plank near by, and with it
made a lunge at the old villain, who at once turned and fled for life. It was for dear life that he ran, followed by the prisoner
close at his heels, striking at his head with the plank at every bound. He ran into the officers of the guard's quarters to
save himself and for protection, the prisoner following him to the door. We expected nothing more nor less than for the prisoner
to be riddled with bullets, but we intended that a few more of us would take a hand at the game, regardless of consequences;
but it appeared that the officers and other guards were not disposed to interfere; they only stopped the prisoner at the door
and would not allow him to enter. Old Red wanted the officers to give him permission to take two or three and go up to the
prisoner's barrack and give him a flogging; they refused to do so, but gave him permission to go alone and flog him to his
heart's content, provided he would leave his arms at the quarters.
He postponed the thrashing, and to my knowledge, the prisoner had failed to
receive it up to the time we left the prison, and I am confident that the flogging has never been administered. That same
afternoon we learned that the officers witnessed the beginning of the row, and seeing what they did, accounted for their non-interference.
It was well for him that he failed to come to the barrack, for we all determined to so completely dissect him, that not a
piece of him could be recognized or found by the authorities to bury.
The flag-pole from which floated
the large United States flag, stood inside the Federal square. The cord which worked on the roller at the top of the pole
to raise and lower the flag, broke, letting the flag fall to the ground. A Federal soldier went to the top of the pole to
replace the cord over the roller; just as he had almost repaired the cord so as to raise the flag, he let go everthing
and fell, coming down heels over head like a pair of winding blades through the air, striking the scaffold, which was around
the pole and some ten feet high, he went through
it and struck the ground, senseless. We could plainly see him from the prison
square. Many of us were compelled to turn away from this sad sight; although he was our enemy, we could not witness such without
feelings of pity, and the more so as we had been informed that the motive by which he was actuated to make the attempt to
replace the cord was the promise of a furlough to go home and see his family. We were informed by the guards that he survived
the fall only a few hours. Within a day or two some of the Federal officers came on the inside of the inclosure of the prison
walls, and hired one of the prisoners to climb the flag-pole and replace the cord. He succeeded, and came down all right,
without injury. The guards informed us that he received thirty dollars and his release from prison for this feat.
The sergeant of the guard
of our barrack, and who called our roll, on extremely cold mornings was more lenient than on other occasions. Whether from
the fact that the cold, biting air had about the same effect upon him that it did us, we did not question, as we were only
for him to cut the ceremony short. Instead of the long and tedious calling
of the roll, he would ask if all the members of the barrack were present; of course we would answer in the affirmative, upon
which he would order us to break ranks and return to our barrack. He would then go into the barrack and look up the sick,
in order to make sure that none were missing.
down in Dixie."
The Federals called us "prisoners
from way down in Dixie," and we were known by them as "prisoners from Dixie." They applied the term indiscriminately to everything
from the South, and for that reason I shall give a brief sketch of the origin and use of the term as I find it in different
works. "This country called 'Dixie' is an imaginary place somewhere in the Southern States of America, celebrated in popular
negro melody as a perfect paradise of luxurious ease and enjoyment. This term is often used as a designation of the Southern
States." "Dixie" is an indigenous Northern negro refrain. It was one of the every day allusions of boys eighty or one hundred
years ago in all their out-door sports. And no one ever heard of "Dixie's Land" being other than Manhattan Island until several
years after a man by the name of Dixie
shipped his negroes from that island, when it was erroneously supposed to
refer to the South from its connection with pathetic negro allegory.
When slavery existed in New
York, one Dixie owned a large tract of land on Manhattan Island, and a large number of slaves. The increase of the abolition
sentiment caused an emigration of the slaves to more thorough and secure slave sections, and the negroes who were sent off,
many being born there, naturally looked back to their old homes, where they had lived in clover, with feelings of regret,
as they could not imagine any place like "Dixie's." Hence, it became synonymous with an ideal locality, combining ease, comfort,
and material happiness of every description.
In those days, negro singing
and minstrelsy were in their infancy, and any subject that could be wrought into a ballad was easily picked up. This was the
case with "Dixie." It originated in New York, and one Dan Emmett, a celebrated negro minstrel, was the first singer of "Way
Down in Dixie." It assumed the proportions of a song in New York. In its travels it has been
enlarged, and has gathered moss. It has picked up a "note" here and there.
A "chorus" has been added to it, and from an indistinct "chant" of two or three "notes" it has become an elaborate melody.
But the fact that it is not a Southern song cannot be ruled out. The fallacy became so popular to the country, that a writer
spared no pains to trace up and give the origin of it. The song was popular with both armies during the late war, and it could
be heard from the brass-bands of each almost daily on that celebrated Georgia campaign. Since the war it has been very popular,
but, as shown, the original is entirely of Northern origin.
The parents and relatives
of several of the prisoners visited Camp Douglas for the purpose of seeing their sons and near relatives, but were not allowed
on the inside of the prison walls. They made known the object of their visit to the commanding officer at headquarters, who
would then send for the prisoner whom they desired to see, and there they could see no other. Many of these visits were made
for the purpose of obtaining the release from prison of some one;
and sometimes they succeeded - that is, when the proper conditions were complied
with, which were these: the prisoner was required to take the oath of allegiance, his parents or other relatives were required
to vouch for its faithful observance, in the shape of a large bond. These were classed as another grade of loyal men. But
were released in this way, as the sureties had to be wealthy, and true-blue Northern men who could produce undisputed evidence
as to their loyalty to the Federal government, which sometimes was very hard to do.
Sickness of some kind prevailed
all the time within the inclosure of the prison walls. The diseases most prevalent were fevers and small-pox, the latter especially
so. Those who were sick received very little attention until removed to the hospital, which sometimes was not done until the
patient had grown very sick. The only assistance we could render was to hand them a drink of water, or some other little simple
attention. Their fare was only the regular rations allowed to them while well; they suffered for nourishing food, as their
appetites would refuse
such as we could obtain for them. After being removed to the prison hospital
they fared much better in every respect, and many recovered who would have died had they not been removed to it. Those who
were so unfortunate as to take the small-pox, were removed to the small-pox hospital, which was located somewhere beyond the
The prison hospital was located
just outside of the prison square, in what we called the Federal square, - that is, this square was fenced in with a plank
wall similar to ours, and the troops who were stationed there for guards had their quarters within this inclosure. The prison
hospital was a large building sufficient to contain all the sick who were assigned to it. It was supplied with bunks, cots
and stretchers, mattresses, blankets, sheets, and cotton pillows, all of which were kept ordinarily clean, - in fact, everything
was about as good as could have been expected under the circumstances.
Cases of varioloid, which
is a light form of small-pox, were of frequent occurrence. The army surgeons came inside the prison and vaccinated
all of us twice, while I was there. Those of the boys upon whom the vaccine
matter took effect and caught cold with it, had very sore arms, which would inflame and be very painflul
for several days. I seemed to be proof against all the forms of this dreaded disease, as my bunkmate was sick with the loathsome
affection two weeks before being removed to the hospital, and I was compelled to occupy the same bunk with him every night,
and I was twice vaccinated all of which failed to have any effect upon me. I was never sick in the slightest degree while
there. I never missed a meal or roll-call, and I attribute my remarkable good health to my cleanly habits, together with my
cold bath at the wash house, which I never failed to take every morning before breakfast. Many times when I took my bath the
air was so cold a thin sheet of ice would freeze on my person before I could dress; in that event, I had to crawl back into
the water, thaw it off, and then dress as I came out. The lake water was as warm all the time as spring water, although during
exceedingly cold weather the hydrants where we obtained
our drinking water froze up; then we had to do without water until they thawed
out. We were not allowed to carry water from the wash houses.
One morning, after I had been
within the inclosure of the prison walls something over five months, the sergeant of the guard within our barrack informed
me that he had secured a place for me at the prison hospital, to act in the capacity of prescriptionist; that on the following
morning he would come for me, and I must be ready to vacate my barrack. My feelings of joy were indescribable at this news.
As he had on a former occasion shown me some kindness, I could not believe that he would send me to a worse place than I already
occupied, but on the contrary, I had an idea that there was something better in store for me, hence on the following morning
at roll-call I was ready, and did not wait for breakfast, but gathered up my few not worldly goods, but bads, as they looked
to be in about as dilapidated a condition as our Southern Confederacy at this time, and went with him to the prison hospital,
where he turned me over to
the surgeon in charge, at the same time remarking that all I had to do was
to follow instructions and I would be all right; he then bade me good-bye, and left. I never had the pleasure of meeting this
CHAPTER XVI. "Breakfast
dispatched, I sometimes read
clear the vapors from my head.
flow my morning hours along,
as the numbers of my song:
let me wander as I will,
feel I am a prisoner still."
After partaking of a better
breakfast than I had been favored with for several long months, in which the bill of fare consisted of full rations allowed
prisoners of war by the Federal government, with the additional rations of sugar and coffee, I reported for duty to the surgeon
in charge of the hospital. The first duty he required of me was to roll up each patient's medicine separately, and label it
with the patient's name, the time it was to be given and how, as he dosed it out; he then assigned me to a particular ward
with the medicine for the prisoners who occupied that ward, with instructions to administer the medicine to the sick of that
as labeled or directed. I gave medicine to the sick of this ward twelve hours
out of every twenty-four, - that is, from 12 o'clock (noon) until midnight, at which time I was relieved and had no more duties
to peform for twelve hours. The surgeon had regular hours to visit the sick in the different wards.
Of course, it was not altogether pleasant to be so closely associated with sick men, but my duties were light, and I enjoyed
more liberties than when within the inclosure of the prison walls. Out here I enjoyed another advantage, that of obtaining
newspapers, of which we had been deprived since our capture; from these I could learn something of what was going on in the
Every day, as soon as I completed
my regular duties, I sought some one from whom to borrow a copy of the latest newspaper. Although nearly thirty years have
elapsed, I can vividly recall the eagerness with which I scanned its pages, to find, if possible, where our armies had fought
and won the victory of some decisive battle, but in this I was sadly disappointed and unable to find one single instance wherein
achieved any success. At first I doubted the correctness of the newspaper
reports, but as time wore on facts quite contrary to my fondest wishes began to develop.
The papers began to be filled
with news of all sorts of defeat and capture of our armies, which would be greeted by the Federals with the booming of cannon
firing salutes. Telegrams were also frequently coming in at headquarters, announcing new victories for the Federal armies
on the front, which was made known publicly to the privates of their army stationed at Camp Douglas, upon the receipt of which
they would send up such a yell and shout as would almost shake the earth. Such demonstrations of joy from our enemy proved
to us beyond a doubt that there was some truth in these rumors, and ere long we received more definite news of the surrender
of the Southern armies. The authorities notified us that we would be permitted to take the oath of allegiance to the United
States government, be released and return to our homes; but it was not until the first squad of five hundred prisoners marched
out of the prison square
to headquarters and took the oath, that we could realize the extent of the
The prisoners were released
in squads of five hundred each day; those at the hospital had to remain and go with the last squad who left the prison. Early
on the morning of the 20th of June, 1865, we received orders to vacate the hospital, fall into line, march to headquarters,
to take and subscribe the following oath of allegiance to the United States Government of America, to wit:
"UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. "I,
J. M. Copley, of the county of Dickson, State of Tennessee, do solemnly swear that I will support, protect and defend the
Constitution and Government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign; that I will bear true faith,
allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or laws of any State, convention or legislature to the contrary
notwithstanding; and further, that I will faithfully perform all the duties which may be
required of me by the laws of the United States; and I take this oath freely
and voluntarily, without any mental reservation or evasion whatever.
(Signed), J. M. COPLEY."
"Subscribed and sworn to before me at Camp Douglas, Chicago, Illinois, this
20th day of June, 1865.
E. R. P. SHURLY,
Captain and A. A. A. General."
"The above has fair complexion, light hair, and blue eyes, and is five feet
and nine inches high."
above is a copy of the oath of allegiance, as administered to us at headquarters early on the morning of the 20th of June,
1865, varying only in the name and description of the person taking it.
An officer administered the
oath orally and we had to repeat our names and say after him. When this ceremony was finished, each of us was presented with
a copy of the oath, and also the following general order for transportation to our different homes:
"HEADQUARTERS POST CAMP DOUGLAS,
CHICAGO, ILL., June
"Special Orders, No. 161.
"In pursuance of General Orders
No. 109, A. G. O., dated Washington, D. C., June 6, 1865, the Quartermaster's Department will furnish transportation from
Chicago, Illinois, to Clarksville, Tennessee, for the following named released prisoner of war, J. M. Copley.
"By command of B. J Sweet,
Brevet Brig. Gen. commanding post.
(Signed) E. R. P. SHURLY,
Capt. and A. A. A. General."
We were also furnished with
three days rations, consisting of pickled beef and hard-tack. The guards then discharged us, informing us that we were now
free and could take the train for our homes as soon as we saw proper to do so.
all the joys within that reign,
none - like getting out again!"
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of
availability is included in the text. Edited by Matthew Parker
*John M. Copley, a Tennessee resident, volunteered for the Confederate army
at the beginning of the Civil War, when he was only fifteen years old. He fought in Company B of the 49th Tennessee Infantry,
which was assigned to Fort Donelson, Tennessee. He was taken prisoner twice; first after the fall of Nashville in 1862, and
second after the Battle of Franklin in 1864, when he was incarcerated as a prisoner of war at Camp Douglas, Illinois until
the end of the war. Copley's memoir, A Sketch of the Battle of Franklin,
Tenn.: With Reminiscences of Camp Douglas (1893), is a history of his activities during the Civil War. At the beginning
of the war, Fort Donelson fell to Federal troops in 1862, but Copley was not at this battle because he had been hospitalized
in Nashville for pneumonia. Federal troops soon gained control of Nashville, as well, and Copley became a prisoner in the
hospital. A Union soldier, whom Copley had known in his childhood, learned Copley was sick and helped remove him from federal
control so he could recover from his illness at his home in Tennessee. Copley remained with his family until members of his
regiment, who had been taken prisoners in 1862, were exchanged for Federal prisoners. He and his regiment then rejoined the
Confederate army and fought in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee in 1864. They were captured at that battle and became Union
prisoners again. However, this time they were taken to prison in Camp Douglas, Illinois, where they spent the remainder of
the war. Copley describes prison life and tells of watching Federal troops celebrate the end of the war. He recounts the end
of his Confederate service in a detached manner, without revealing his feelings at the time or in hindsight. He and his fellow
prisoners were released from captivity and they swore an oath of allegiance to the United States.