My Experience While a Prisoner of War.*
By Livingstone Saylor-Read Before the Historical Society of Schuylkill County
September 30, 1908.
On February 1st, 1864, I was mustered into the United States service—a member of Company "H," 20th Regiment, Penna. Cavalry, for three years. The regiment assembled at Harrisburg, where we were equipped and uniformed. We received our horses at Martinsburg, Va., and immediately joined General Sigel's command, then operating in the Shenandoah Valley.
Nothing of importance occurred during my connection with the army excepting several attempts to advance up the valley, and always with the same result.
After a hard fight at New Market, Va., in which we were thrashed, and which was the cause of General Siegel being relieved and General Hunter taking command, we proceeded up the valley to Harrisonburg, and after going into camp for the night, a detail from our company was made to do safe guard duty about two miles from camp and outside the picket lines, our duty being to protect the property from all trespassers. After a few days of this duty, we were suddenly surprised, surrounded by Confederate cavalrymen and' captured. This occurred at daybreak, and had our officers furnished us with the papers setting forth our duties, we would not have been molested, as a rule, always recognized by both sides, was not to interfere with Safe Guards.
My capture occurred on the 4th of June, 1864, and our captors proved to belong to General Mosby's command; and during all my experience as a prisoner of war. it was never my good fortune to come in contact with a more generous and hospitable set of men than our captors proved to be, although their reputation was quite to the contrary. Mosby's was an independent command, and after reaching General Imboden's pickets, we were turned over to them, excepting our arms and horses, which our captors retained, and after furnishing us with lots of tobacco, and with all they had to eat, they bade us "Good Bye" and departed.
We were taken to General Imboden's headquarters, and, with a number of other prisoners, started, by rail, for Lynchburg. Va. On arrival there we joined a number of other prisoners encamped just outside the city. After several days in this camp, several hundred prisoners had accumulated, and arrangements were made to take us south.
We were loaded in box-cars, with 60 or 70 men to the car, and guarded by sentinels at the doors, as well as a force kept on the tops of the cars. In these lily ventilated pens we started on our journey south without the slightest knowledge of our destination, and no rations excepting- what little we could provide for ourselves before leaving Lynchburg. Water was extremely scarce. On arriving at Augusta, Ga., a number of charitable people endeavored to give us something to eat. but the guards positively refused to allow them to have any intercourse with us whatever.
On the morning of the 15th of June we were relieved of our curiosity as to our destination. In full view from our cars was "Andersonville Prison," which then held thousands of other unfortunates.
We were marched to headquarters, our names and regiments taken, and, after being searched, we were taken through the south gate and became inmates of the foulest camp in which human beings could be incarcerated. Before entering the enclosure, however, we were assigned to detachments of 270 men ; each detachment in charge of a Sergeant, selected from among our own men. whose duty it was to see that rations were properly distributed. Each detachment was divided into three squads of 90 men, and each 94 men with a comrade in charge, so far as rations was concerned. This was the only classification we received on entering the stockade.
At this time J was not yet 18 years of age, and, fortunately for me, the Sergeant of our detachment seemed to take more than ordinary interest in my welfare.
A few days after our entrance within the old stockade, the new addition was opened by the removal of the stockade line between the old and new, making the enclosure again as large, and containing about 28 acres. Sergeant McDonnel secured a spot in the new enclosure for the headquarters of our detachment
After the trees had been cut down from which the stockading had been built, there was considerable off-fall timber scattered over the place, and we were fortunate enough to secure slabs enough to construct a shed, under which to sleep and protect us in a manner from the scorching sun. Only one single tree was left standing within this entire enclosure, and it being a long yellow pine with scarcely any branches, it was useless for shade. It was impossible to cut it down for firewood, as the camp was so densely populated that in falling it would certainly have killed and crippled many within its reach.
Our rudely constructed shed afforded us no protection from the heavy rains, peculiar to that country, on account of the roof being covered with sand, making it untenantable during rainy weather.
During the months of July and August it rained for 27 consecutive days, either during the day or night, and during the entire time I was at Andersonville. It was the misfortune of the five men who occupied our shed that whenever it rained we were obliged to get out into the rain, rather than stay in the shed and get the rain and sand that would necessarily wash through the roof. The only redeeming feature of this state of affairs was the candy condition of the soil, which absorbed the rain as fast as it fell, so that almost immediately after a rain we could occupy our shed without the fear of being waterlogged.
During my confinement at Andersonville it was never my good fortune to have any clothing excepting that which I possessed when I went into this prison, consisting of my uniform, a suit of underclothing, a pair of cavalry boots, and my cap, also a woolen shirt. This outfit I wore continually, day and night, as it was far from safe to remove any part of it and turn your back on it for a moment, for fear of its being stolen.
During my entire prison life, I never slept on anything but the ground, with a stick of wood and my cap for a pillow; no covering except two corn meal bags fastened together with wooden pins. There were few whose condition was better, and thousands whose clothing and quarters were much worse.
32.800 prisoners were confined in this prison during the month of August, 1864.
Our first duty in the morning was to face in line and answer roll-call, which was conducted by Confederate Sergeants, each one having a certain number of detachments to attend to. This over, we were at liberty to amuse ourselves as best we could, but most of the day we would protect ourselves from the hot sun.
My general routine after roll-call was to proceed to the creek and go through the form of washing, although 1 never was the possessor of a particle of soap, nor did I ever see any one else have any—such a thing as a towel was equally as scarce as soap. After completing this so-called "wash."' I would go to the south gate, where it was the custom of the detachment Sergeants to have all who had died since the morning previous brought there and laid inside the "dead line" side by side just north of the south gate. I have counted 164 bodies, all of whom had died within twenty-four hours.
During the morning a squad of negro prisoners was brought in, under guard, (with the same dilapidated wagons that during the afternoon would bring in our rations), and after the bodies of the dead soldiers were thrown into the wagons, as you would cord wood, they were carted to the grave yard and put in ditches, dug for the purpose, without even a board box: and they were fortunate if they were covered with the clothes they had on when they died, as the ghouls on the outside generally stripped them of anything that might be of the least value.
Rations, generally, would be served during the afternoon, and was the occasion for quite a stir in camp, as it happened only once a day. They were brought in on wagons through both gates, and equal quantities served to all Sergeants, who, with details of their respective detachments, would immediately proceed to their quarters, where three piles were made, and each squad of 90 men received one of these piles; and in an incredibly short time every man would have his equal share, and my experience taught me to eat mine all at once, that being the safest disposition of it. This was easily done, as the quantity was in no way apt to gorge you. Their system of issuing rations was to alternate week about with cooked and raw. (The creek being the line between the North and South side.) The cooked rations consisted of corn bread baked in blocks 16 in. x 24 in. x 4 in. thick, boiled rice and cow peas alternately, and occasionally a taste of salt pork. The raw rations were corn meal, (cobs and corn ground together"), cow peas and rice alternating, with an occasional issue of what they called fresh beef, but which, by the time it reached us, had changed its color considerably; about a half teaspoonful of salt, and no wood to cook with, made the cooked rations preferable. With thousands of acres of pine forests on all four sides. I never knew them to furnish the camp with wood. The stumps, off-falls, and even the small roots that were left inside, were utilized when finally, rather than furnish us with wood, they ceased furnishing raw rations.
The streets leading in from both gates constituted the market places, and all trading was generally done there. The principal feature was trading rations cooked for raw, and vice versa.
One of the worst features of this camp was the water. I do not hesitate to say that 75 per cent, of the diseases at Andersonville came from this cause. The creek which passed directly through the stockade was our only source of supply. Above us on its banks were situated the immense cook-houses, and all the filth from these houses and the entire command of guards, was dumped into this stream, and. polluted as it was, we were obliged to use it. In order to somewhat purify it. mud dams were built on the sides of the creek within the enclosure, and an effort made to filter the water: it kept getting worse, however, and several efforts were made to dig wells. A few were successful, and the parties in interest sold the water. The soil being sandy, and no rocks, not much trouble was experienced in digging them with half canteens and sticks, which were the only implements that could be procured. This condition of affairs continued until during August, when a spring was discovered within the "dead line" between the two gates. Through the influence of some of the more charitable guards a few boards were furnished to clean the spring, and with a board trough the water was conveyed to the dead line limit, where it served to supply all the drinking water, pure and clean, for the entire mass of persons; and when it was my good fortune to leave AndersonVille, it was still running.
Many people wonder how it was possible for the Confederacy to hold in captivity so vast an army of men, without riot or insurrection and the answer can best be gleaned from a description of the construction of the prison, and their system of governing us. The enclosure was a rectangular, and was surrounded on its four sides by three lines of stockading, made of roughly hewn logs, standing on end and set as close together as possible. They were let into the ground sufficiently deep to keep them rigid, ten or twelve feet projected out of the ground, and on the inner line, at intervals of about 150 yards, sentinels were posted. In order to prevent us from getting to the fence, a "dead line,'' about 15 feet on all four sides, was crudely constructed by driving stakes into the ground and nailing wood strips on them. These sentinels had positive orders to shoot any one who might trespass within this line, and with few exceptions, we gave it a wide, berth. A number were shot where the creek entered the stockade, in their effort to obtain water by dipping it from inside of the dead line.
Two batteries of artillery, continually manned and pointing their belching mouths within the enclosure, had orders to fire on us if we gathered in crowds. Occasionally a blank shot would be fired to advise us that they still existed. On several occasions efforts were made to swear the prisoners that at a certain time and signal a rush would be made for the gates; but these efforts always failed, as some half starved and possibly half clad prisoner would turn traitor. and for his own protection the authorities would take him out and parole him. An order would immediately be posted on the gates that no rations would be issued until the ring-leaders surrendered themselves, which was promptly accomplished, as hunger will very materially assist in driving men to do anything. These ring-leaders would then be taken out, put in the stocks and would probably serve several days in the ball and chain gang, and be again returned to the enclosure. Numerous efforts were made to tunnel out by digging wells, and using them for a receptacle for the material taken from the tunnel. Some were successful in reaching the outside, but their liberty was of short duration. A pack of hounds kept expressly for this purpose would circle outside the stockade every morning, and having been taught to run human trails, it took but a short time to overhaul any one who had wasted his strength in digging out. Upon any evidence of the existence of a tunnel, the inevitable notice would be posted, regarding the suspension of rations, and a very short time would elapse before a squad of colored prisoners, under guard, would appear and fill up the tunnel. I have never heard of any prisoners making successful escapes from Andersonville prison. Continuous promises of exchange, and their barbarous rule of governing us through our stomachs tended more to keep us under subjection than all their soldiers and munitions of war. Had we ever succeeded in gaining our liberty. I think we would have been worse off. as the country in that section was destitute of anything but pine forests and swamps.
After the concentration of this vast army of men. so closely huddled together, depredations of all kinds were being committed, and for our own protection a police organization was formed. A Chief of Police was selected and a sufficient force of men to keep something like order. A man caught stealing would be taken to Police Headquarters, thrashed and half of his head shaved and beard, if he had any. and with a placard on his back indicating him to be a "thief." he would be marched through the camp. This had a tendency to do away with most of the thieving, but some of the more desperate characters persisted in their nefarious work of plundering new prisoners and robbing them of everything, including their clothes.
Matters continued for a time in this way until the police located about twenty-four of these raiders, and their punishment was to run a gauntlet formed from the south
gate through the street to the opposite side of the stockade. The police, with the assistance of the officers in command, placed the raiders in the corridor, formed as above stated, at the gate, and with the street lined on both sides with fellow prisoners, who, armed with clubs and sticks, and lots of them with nothing but their hands and feet, were ready for the reception. At a signal from the Chief they were sent through the gauntlet one at a time. Some were pretty well used up, while others succeeded in evading punishment by breaking through the ranks. This punishment, however, failed to put a stop to their work, and in addition to their robberies, they added murder to their heinous crimes, the bodies of their victms having been found buried beneath where they slept. They were again hunted down, and, with the assistance of those in command, were taken outside, where arrangements were made for a jury trial. This jury was selected from newly arrived prisoners; witnesses from the prison were taken out and paroled and, after an impartial trial, six of them were found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hanged. The authorities, at our request, furnished the lumber necessary to build a scaffold, which was erected a short distance inside the south gate. Pending the day of execution, the Confederate authorities carefully guarded the condemned men, and on the day and time set for the execution they were marched into the enclosure, where our police assumed control, and with a priest at their head slowly marched to the scaffold. After the six condemned men were assisted to the trap the ceremony of the Roman Catholic Church was completed and an opportunity given them to speak. All pleaded innocence. Meal bags were placed over their heads and at a signal the trap was pulled. To the utter astonishment of the many thousands of eyes that were beholding this spectacle, one of the number in his fall broke his rope. He made a dash through the double cordon of police encircling the scaffold and succeeded in getting as far as the creek, but was overpowered and taken again to the scaffold, and while the other five were still hanging the trap was again adjusted and he assisted to it and the second and last effort made to take his life. They were cut down after life was extinct, and immediately carted to the cemetery. The Confederate authorities had no hand in the execution of these five men,- excepting that, at our request, they rendered us the necessary assistance to carry out the sentence, which I have never for a moment considered anything but just, and, without a doubt, all who were present would proclaim' the same opinion.
The police force after this hanging were fully capable of maintaining order.
The many sad scenes we were called upon to witness and that were of nearly every day occurrence, served to while away many dreary hours. Prize fights were not an uncommon thing, and after sundown groups of prisoners could be seen gathered at various places throughout the camp holding prayer meetings.
Both streets leading inside from both gates were not occupied, and when not used by teams delivering rations, were used for markets, the principal business being the trading of rations, cooked for raw and vice versa. I never followed the trading business to any great extent, as it was generally my misfortune to get the short end of a bargain. I was the possessor of a good pair of cavalry boots, and concluded that shoes would answer my purpose just as well. Quite a lot of trading was being done between the sentinels and the prisoners, and after several unsuccessful efforts I made a deal with a young soldier while on guard. He, of course, desired to see the boots, and this could only be accomplished by my crossing the "dead line." This would have been a dangerous operation for me, without his arranging with the guards to his right and left. He agreed to give me six dozen sweet potatoes and a pair of shoes, if the boots were as I represented, and would be at his post when he came on duty again, and that he would inform the other guards so that they would not shoot. At the appointed hour, after dark, (for they were strictly forbidden having any communication with us whatever) I was on hand and ready for the trade. I was somewhat suspicious that he might get the boots and refuse to fulfill his part of the agreement. He assured me, however, that-he had the potatoes and shoes and, being so anxious for something outside the usual run of rations, I took the chances, stepped across the "dead line" to the fence and tied the boots to a string and waited. It seemed an awful long time standing on this forbidden ground, \\ith very little faith in him or the other guards, it made me feel quite shaky. He was pleased with the boots and, true to his promise, let down the bag containing the potatoes and shoes. A comrade from our shed accompanied me, and in a very short time we had the potatoes at our quarters and found the full number bargained for in the bag; the shoes, however, were nearly worn out. They served me a while, after which I went barefooted and remained so during the rest of my captivity.
The weather was beginning to get cold and, wood being as scarce as ever, instead of hauling it into the stockade, they became charitable enough to take us out in small squads and let us gather whatever wood we could carry in. Many undertook too much of a load, and before they reached the stockade were obliged to drop it; there was no such a thing as assistance, and they were therefore obliged to go back empty-handed.
Many details were being made from among the prisoners under the pretense of exchange, but they had deceived us so often that little attention was paid to their promises. Among the many whose names were called was that of one of the ninety Sergeants of our detachment. He belonged to an Indiana Regiment. I gave him my father's address; neither of us having a paper or pencil, it was a matter of memory with him. I requested that if he was so fortunate as to be exchanged, he should write to my father, telling him where I was, that I was well and that he should not attempt to send me anything, as it would never reach me. He was exchanged and wrote to my parents, which was the first news they had heard of my whereabouts, and of my still being alive, as I had been reported dead.
Nearly, or quite half of the prisoners had been removed before my turn came, and with four or five hundred others I was loaded in a house-car, under the pretense of exchange. We were naturally in high spirits at the thought of once more getting into God's country. Our destination, they told us, was Savannah, Ga. We moved in that direction, and, when we reached Millen Junction, were ordered from the cars, and, to our horror, were marched into another stockade. This camp was entirely new, and as it was, it far excelled Andersonville. It was clear, with a good supply of wood and water. The rations were of the same quality, but the quantity was somewhat increased. While here we had a sham election for President, on the same day that Lincoln and McClellan were being voted for throughout the North. The polls were kept open all day. and every prisoner, whether of age or not, was entitled to a vote. The result was the election of Lincoln, and after the announcement quite a lot of cheering was indulged in, and it was the first demonstration I heard while a prisoner. Our stay here was of short duration. We were again "dumped" into freight cars, and by way of Savannah were carted over the Gulf Railroad to Thomasville, Ga., always hoping that their promises might prove true. We arrived at Thomasville and were ordered from the cars, and there being no stockade, or other buildings large enough to hold us, we were marched to the woods close by and surrounded by guards. It was late in the evening, and the prospects for rations looked gloomy. We were hungry, and had nothing since leaving Million Junction. I decided, if an opportunity presented itself, to give the guards the slip, if for no other purpose than to get something to eat. The guards looked about as tired and worn out as we did, and after a few hours watching, when facing in opposite directions, I crawled on hands and knees through their beats successfully, and, after reaching a safe distance, rested a while, and then started in a direction away from camp. I approached the first house I came to, which proved to be occupied by Negroes. I told them I was a prisoner, and asked for something to eat. While there two more of the prisoners came on the same errand, and, after sharing with us what they had to eat. The Negroes advised us to make an effort to reach the Gulf of Mexico, as our gun boats were protecting the Light Houses along the coast. The distance was about one hundred miles, and gladly, with lots of hope, we started on our journey, doing our tramping entirely by dark and keeping in the woods during the day, depending entirely upon the Negroes for what we ate. We found them, almost without exception, willing to divide, and in some cases to give us all they had; and all information as to the best route, where we would!>e likely to rind soldiers, and how to avoid them. We plodded on in this way, generally covering twelve to fifteen miles during a night, and eventually came in sight of Tallahassee, which was garrisoned, and, after making quite a tour of the city, we arrived about daybreak at the foot of the Six Mile pond, where we turned into the woods for rest. Our hopes were increasing as the distance became shorter, and the next night we fully expected to reach the coast, as we had but twelve more miles to travel.
Being tired from tramping through the woods and swamp, we went to sleep without a fire. About the middle of the day we were terrified by several hounds coming within a few hundred yards of where we lay, and barking; and shortly four mounted men rode within speaking distance and compelled us to stand out from the trees and hold up our hands. After satisfying themselves that we were not armed they started with us for Tallahassee, where we were placed in a fish house, under guard, until the next morning, when we were informed that we would have to retrace our steps to Thomasville. During our short stay in the fish house quite a number of people came there to see "Live Yankees." We were treated with all sorts of epithets; some expressed a desire to hang us, while others would have gladly provided us with something more palatable than the raw salt fish and corn-pone furnished us by our captors. We started, under guard, next morning on our long and weary tramp to rejoin the body of prisoners we left at Thomasville. On reaching there, however, we found they had started on foot for Albany, Ga. From information we could gather, it dawned upon us that we were being taken back to Andersonville. Reaching Albany, we found that quite a number of the prisoners had already been loaded on cars and taken back to the old "Hull-pen," and those of us who were left were only awaiting means of transportation. Christmas morning dawned upon us with a cold, drizzling rain, without shelter or food, and wet to the skin, many of us without clothing enough to fully cover our nakedness. Imagine the Christmas cheer among such a lot of half starved men in a Christian and free country, and draw your own conclusion as to who was responsible for the deaths of from thirteen to fifteen thousand prisoners that he buried in the cemetery at Andersonville. who died there within a year; and the condition of those whose fortune it was to get out alive. Late in the afternoon of this memorable Christmas day. those of us who had not yet been transported to Andersonville were ordered to face in, and. after a short march to the railroad, were loaded in box-cars preparatory to making a start early next morning. From fifty to sixty men were packed into each car. and sentinels were placed on the outside. The officers in charge ordered fires built on the outside, and a few of us at a time were permitted to come to the fires and dry what little clothing we had on. I then arranged with a fellow prisoner. Charles Ochenstein, from Lancaster. Pa., to again make an effort to escape, and whichever one succeeded first was to wait for the other at a white-washed fence, a short distance from and in sight of the cars we were in. We watched very closely for an opportunity, and from the fact of the night being dark and rainy the guards were probably not as vigilant as they would have been under other circumstances. My comrade succeeded in getting out first, and morning was fast approaching and, I suppose from lack of nerve. I was still a prisoner. The guards were sitting by the fire with several of their prisoners standing around. A colored servant of one of the officers in command came up to the fire and started a conversation with those present: and he having, as I thought, attracted the attention of the guards. I deliberately walked out. They evidently did not see me. or if they did. They kept quiet. 1 started immediately for the white-washed fence, but failed to find my comrade, nor have I seen or heard of him (after repeated efforts) since. As it was nearly daylight. \ took the first road I came to and concluded to ask at the first house T reached for something to eat. This happened to be a plantation, and going to the drive-way beckoned an old colored man. He slowly sauntered up. And, telling him who I was, asked him to kindly give me something to eat. After "sizing" me up. he asked me if I had any money: on telling him I hadn't seen any for a year, he turned and walked away. Just before reaching this plantation. I had passed a fire by the roadside, and I retraced my steps, thinking I could at least warm up at this fire. Reaching it, I made myself as comfortable as possible, and very soon fell asleep. During the morning I awoke and found standing near by two colored women, dressed in white duck with white turbans about their heads. They said they had brought me something to eat (no doubt the old man had told them of seeking me). I heartily thanked them, and, after enjoying the corn bread and bacon, commenced to debate with myself what I would do. Home-sick and disheartened, I concluded to wait until dark, go back to Albany and surrender myself and take my chances with the boys at Andersonville, thinking my chances there would be better from the fact that many of the prisoners had been exchanged and large numbers taken to other prisons. Our number being greatly reduced would make our quarters much better. During the afternoon my colored friends, who had so kindly remembered me in the morning, called again with more to eat. At dusk I started for Albany, fully determined to rejoin my fellow prisoners. After reaching the suburbs of town and feeling hungry, I made a break for the first house I came to, and rapped on the door. An elderly lady answered, and, after telling her 1 was one of the prisoners, she invited me in. The lady and her daughter, the only occupants of the house, were partaking of their supper. I was invited to a seat at the table and very much enjoyed their frugal meal, and for the first time drank the substitute for coffee made from burnt rye. I had at least a great satisfaction in eating this meal, even though I parted its company shortly afterwards. Mrs. Whitney (the hostess) informed me that her son-in-law, Mr. Cody, was living in Albany, an employee of the Confederate government, and seemed very anxious to have him see me. She sent the daughter for him, and during her absence, which was probably an hour, I fully concluded that the scheme was to have Mr. Cody recapture me, and himself deliver me to the authorities; however, I did not care the snap of a finger, for I was on my way back and would let him take me. He presently made his appearance, and, to my surprise, heartily shook my hand and, seated before an old open hearth with a good sized back log, we talked until quite late. After deciding that I was to remain there for a day or two, he left, having arranged to see me next day. Mrs. Whitney, before retiring, fixed me a very comfortable place to sleep by the hearth with comfortable and a pillow. The house contained but two rooms, and after bidding me "good night," Mrs. Whitney and her daughter. I looked at the snow white pillow and the very enticing bed she so kindly made for me. My condition, however, was such that I concluded not to use it. I folded it nicely and placed on a chair, and with a stick of wood and my cap for a pillow, and the soft side of the floor to lie on, had a splendid night's rest When I awoke in the early morning, much to my surprise, I found myself nicely covered with one of the covers I had taken so much pains to steer clear of. I remained at this place for three or four days, during which time I insisted upon staying in the wood-shed, for, if I was to be recaptured, I much preferred not to be taken in the house, as it would have made it very unpleasant for Mrs. Whitney. After several conversations with Mr. Cody, he finally advised that I go to a plantation several miles from Albany, on which there lived no overseer—one of the plantations belonging to a Mrs. Pace—and remain there until an opportunity presented itself for me to get into our lines, when he would advise me. After his supplying me with underclothing and shoes, I started out for the Pace plantation, strictly following his directions. I arrived at the place considerably after daylight, and, seeing a bunch of Negroes talking to each other, I beckoned them to come to the road. They, after some hesitation, motioned me to come in. I started towards them, when one of them started for one of the lower huts, directing me to follow. He drew from his pocket a pad-lock key and unlocked the door. There, to my surprise, stood Erastus Doble, a fellow prisoner and a member of one of the Maine regiments. In one corner of the hut was a pile of sweet potatoes and in the other was a pile of ground nuts. Here we stayed seven weeks, occupying the cotton-gin house during the daytime, and at night we would entertain the colored people of the plantation by reading the Bible for them. During our stay at this place we were frequently visited by three runaway Negroes, who were living in the swamps for two years near Edward McClarin's plantation, and several miles further from Albany. The Overseer began to suspect that the colored people were harboring some one about the place, and made inquiry from several. It began to get warm for us, and we consented to go into the swamps with these desperados until spring. During our sojourn with them we lived well and had everything the country afforded. We strictly confined ourselves lo the swamps during the day, and as soon as darkness made its appearance we would start on our foraging expeditions. Hogs in that country grew wild, and by scattering a little corn we would easily select one of the proper size and. using a club, would knock the selected one down and carry it to our headquarters in the swamp. Our disposition of a hog was in short metre. We would wet it and throw it into a blazing fire, and, after thoroughly singeing it, would clean it, always taking care to bury all offal to prevent the attraction of buzzards, which in that country was generally investigated. Our bread was baked from a batter made from corn meal and put into the hot wood ashes to bake. Everything we ate was stolen, and numerous raids on the smoke houses gave us preserved blackberries and salt meat.
During our stay with these Negroes one of them made me a pair of shoes, which were certainly good as well as convenient shoes, from the fact that I could wear them on either foot, not being rights or lefts. These Negroes had no fire-arms, but were supplied with knives and pieces of scythe blades, and no doubt they would have fought to a finish before being captured, as that would have been certain death.
Spring was fast approaching, and my desire to get away from these Negroes kept continually growing, and several propositions were made to Doble. Without avail, and I finally made up my mind to go without him, as even to go back to Andersonville and end my days there would have been far better than to have died in these swamps. 1 finally decided on a night to start from Albany and ascertain from Mr. Cody what the chances were for getting through to our lines, when Doble concluded to accompany me. It was our intention to give the Negroes the slip, and for nearly the whole of the night we awaited an opportunity to make our start without them. They evidently overheard some of our remarks, and insisted on going with us. Daylight overtook us when within three or four miles of the Pace plantation, and to make doubly sure, we took to the edge of a swamp, decided to remain there during the day and made a fresh start at night we were cold and so built a fire, and, being tired and sleepy, all fell asleep without putting out the lire. The smoke attracted the attention of the whites who occupied the adjoining plantat1on and about 10 o'clock in the morning we saw two horsemen with dogs crossing the fields, not directly towards the fire, but bearing to the right of us. We watched them closely, and when they reached the edge of the swamp they turned toward us. We still were in hopes that they had not seen the smoke from our fire, which was now thoroughly smothered, and we were standing behind trees awaiting developments. When they arrived just opposite us they stopped their horses, and like a flash we made for the swamps with their dogs after us. I succeeded in getting through the mud, water and briars to the other side of the swamp and followed its edge for some distance, meeting a colored man and woman, who were herding some sheep. After telling them who I was, they kindly gave me what they had in their basket to eat. During the melee I let my coat. cap and shoes lie where we were chased from.
At. dusk I started for Pace's and. reaching the spot where we left the road for our day's rest, started in to where we were chased from, and to my surprise found all my clothing, unmolested. I quickly donned the apparel, and on reaching Pace's found my friend Doble there, but the Negroes had disappeared. Here for the first time we heard of President Lincoln's assassination and that the war was about over.
We disclosed our plans to Pace's negroes, and, getting a few mules from the yard, two of the men rode with us to the outskirts of Albany, leaving us with the understanding that we would come back if there was no chance of getting through to our lines. We carefully went to the residence of Mrs. Whitney, and told her colored man to call Mrs. W. and tell her who we were. She came to the door in her night robe, and being informed who was there, exclaimed: ''My God! Savior, your soldiers arc in town." She barely took time to dress and went to Mr. Cody's house with us. and he took us to General McCall's headquarters.
After conversing with the guards for some time and feeling satisfied that it was real, we returned to Cody's house, and after breakfast reported ourselves. General McCall was on his way to Florida as Military Governor. He gave us transportation to Macon, Ga., and en route our train stopped at Andersonville long enough to give us a parting look at the old pen, and to see Capt. Wurz escorted aboard by a detachment of regulars on his way to Washington, where he was subsequently tried, convicted and hanged.
We arrived at Macon. Ga., and for the first time in nearly a year beheld the Stars and Stripes unfurled from the headquarters of General Wilson. We reported to the Provost Marshal, but owing to all of the railroads being torn up, communication between Macon and Nashville was possible only by ambulance trains.
I learned that the 7th Penna. Cavalry was located there, and applied to the Marshal for permission to visit them, which request was granted me. I looked them up and, after spending a day or two with some Schuylkill Haven boys, who were members, they received marching orders, and having procured an old gray mule for me, I accompanied them on what proved to be the "Jeff Davis" raid. He was captured at daybreak, and I had the pleasure of seeing him, his wife and daughter, before we had breakfast.
We retraced our march to Macon. and, on reporting to the Marshal, learned that my comrade, Doble, had gone through, which was the last I heard of him for twenty years. I visited him a few years ago, since which time he died.
I was one of a party sent through to Nashville by ambulance furnished by General Wilson, with transportation and orders for rations to Parole Camp at Annapolis, Md. At Nashville we were arrested by the Provost Guard, and during our hearing attracted the attention of a number of officers from the fact of our being prisoners. After our hearing they volunteered to conduct us to the Sanitary Commission, where we were supplied with new clothing, from head to foot. Here one of the Captains gave me a $5.00 bill, and among the many things I regret is that I neglected to get his name and address.
We were treated very kindly by our officers, and in no case were we obliged to take Government rations, for whenever we exhibited our transportation papers showing that we had been prisoners, the best in place was none too good for us.
My first intention was to reach home and surprise my family, but when I reached Louisville, concluded to write to my parents.
After reaching Harrisburg I telegraphed to my father for some money, as it was my intention to go direct to Parole Camp. The money was forthcoming, but he insisted on my coming home at once. While at Harrisburg I called to see a relative of my mother's, and after giving me a good, square meal, she gave me a thorough scrubbing and gave me a military coat in place of the linen duster I received from the Sanitary Commission at Nashville, and which had become soiled from travel. A mother could have done no more for her son, and I have often wished she were alive so that I might at least thank her.
I left Harrisburg for home on Sunday morning, and reached there on an early evening train. A great many people were out to meet me, as every one, excepting my mother, had thought I was dead.
After spending a very pleasant week at home, I started for Parole Camp, there having been an order issued to discharge all prisoners. Shortly after my arrival there, and, after sending to my company for my descriptive list, I was appointed Commissary Sergeant of the Penna. Battalion, and after a few weeks was discharged from the service.
I returned home and, after a good rest, started to finish my trade.
Written in the year 1896, at Pottstown, Penna.