"Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit"
Lights and Shadows in Confederate Prisons
A Personal Experience 1864-5
Homer B. Sprague, Ph.D. Bvt.-Colonel 13th Conn. Vols.
Sometime Professor in Cornell and President of the University of North Dakota
Author of "History of the 13th Conn. Inf. Vols.," "Right and Wrong in our War between the States," and "The European War, Its Cause and Cure"
G. P. Putnam's Sons New York and London The Knickerbocker Press 1915
COPYRIGHT, 1915 BY HOMER B. SPRAGUE
The Knickerbocker Press, New York
Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note, whilst more significant amendments have been listed at the end of the text. Dialect and archaic spellings have been retained. The letter 'e' with a macron has been transcribed as ē.
TO THE ALUMNI OF THE UNIVERSITIES OF YALE, CORNELL, AND NORTH DAKOTA
IN WHICH RESPECTIVELY THE AUTHOR WAS STUDENT, PROFESSOR, PRESIDENT; TO THOUSANDS OF HIS PUPILS YET LIVING; TO HIS COMPANIONS OF THE LOYAL LEGION, COMRADES OF THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC, ALL SURVIVING OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS UNION OR CONFEDERATE; ALL WHO CHERISH THE MEMORY OF THE PATRIOT DEAD AND ALL WHO HATE WAR, THIS RECORD IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
This narrative of prison life differs from all others that I have seen, in that it is careful to put the best possible construction upon the treatment of Union prisoners by the Confederates, and to state and emphasize kindnesses and courtesies received by us from them.
For the accuracy of the facts stated I am indebted to a diary kept from day to day during the whole of my imprisonment, and to the best obtainable records. The exact language of conversations cannot of course always be remembered, but I aim always to give correctly the substance.
I am aware that the opinions I express in regard to Sheridan's strategy at the Battle of Winchester are not those generally entertained. But I give reasons. His own account of the battle is sadly imperfect. To capture but five guns and nine battle flags at a cost of four thousand six hundred and eighty killed and wounded, and leave almost the entire rebel army in shape to fight two great battles within a month, was not the programme he had planned. Early said "Sheridan should have been cashiered."
I shall be blamed more for venturing to question Lincoln's policy of subjugation. He had proclaimed with great power and in the most unmistakable language in Congress that "any portion of any people had a perfect right to throw off their old government and establish a new one." But now, instead of standing strictly on the defensive, or attempting by diplomacy to settle the conflict which had become virtually international, he entered upon a war of conquest.
I do not blame him for refusing to exchange prisoners, nor President Davis for allowing them to starve and freeze. Both were right, if war is right. It was expedient that thirty, fifty, or a hundred thousand of us should perish, or be rendered physically incapable of bearing arms again. The "deep damnation of the taking off" was due not to individual depravity but to military necessity.
H. B. S. BRIGHTON, MASS., U. S. A., 1915.
PAGE PREFACE v
The First, or Forenoon, Battle of Winchester, Indecisive—Sheridan's and Early's Mistakes—The Capture 1
At Winchester—On the Road thence to Tom's Brook, New Market, and Staunton 17
At Staunton—Thence to Waynesboro, Meacham's, and Richmond 32
At Libby—Thence to Clover, Danville, Greensboro, and Salisbury—Effort to Pledge us not to Attempt Escape 43
At Salisbury—Great Plot to Escape—How Frustrated 60
From Salisbury to Danville—The Forlorn Situation—Effort to "Extract Sunshine from Cucumbers"—The Vermin—The Prison Commandant a Yale Man—Proposed Theatricals—Rules Adopted—Studies—Vote in Prison for Lincoln and McClellan—Killing Time 77
Exact Record of Rations in Danville—Opportunity to Cook—Daily Routine of Proceedings from Early Dawn till Late at Night 93
Continual Hope of Exchange of Prisoners—"Flag-of-Truce Fever!"—Attempted Escape by Tunneling—Repeated Escapes by Members of Water Parties, and how we Made the Roll-Call Sergeant's Count Come Out all Right every Time—Plot to Break Out by Violence, and its Tragic End 106
Kind Clergymen Visit us and Preach Excellent Discourses—Colonel Smith's Personal Good Will to me—His Offer—John F. Ficklin's Charity—My Good Fortune—Supplies of Clothing Distributed—Deaths in Prison 120
Results and Reflections—The Right and the Wrong of it All 138
Lights and Shadows in Confederate Prisons
Lights and Shadows in Confederate Prisons
The First, or Forenoon, Battle of Winchester, Indecisive—Sheridan's and Early's Mistakes—The Capture.
"War is Hell," said our great strategist, General W. T. Sherman. According to its latest code, with few or no exceptions, the end justifies the means, and, if necessary to success, it is right to do wrong.
Fifty years ago one of the fairest regions on earth was that portion of Virginia extending southwesterly about a hundred and twenty miles from Harper's Ferry to the divide beyond Staunton, where rise the headwaters of the James. Walled in by the Blue Ridge on the southeast and parallel ranges of the Alleghanies on the northwest, it takes its name from the beautiful river which winds along its length, and which the Indians poetically christened Shenandoah (Daughter of the Stars!). When some three hundred of us prisoners of war walked wearily a hundred miles from Winchester to Staunton in September, 1864, it was still rich and lovely. A few weeks later, the necessities of war made it a scene of utter desolation.
Grant had rightly concluded [says Sheridan], that it was time to bring the war home to a people engaged in raising crops from a prolific soil to feed the country's enemies, and devoting to the Confederacy its best youth. I endorsed the program in all its parts; for the stores of meat and grain that the valley provided, and the men it furnished for Lee's depleted regiments, were the strongest auxiliaries he possessed.
Accordingly Grant issued orders with increasing emphasis, particularly in August and September, to make the whole region "a barren waste," to
destroy or carry off the crops and animals; do all possible damage to railroads; seize stock of every description; take away all negro laborers so as to prevent further planting; hold as prisoners of war, if sympathizing with the rebellion, all male citizens under fifty years of age capable of bearing arms, etc.
In obedience to these commands, Sheridan engaged with alacrity in the work of destruction. In a few weeks he reported as follows:
I have destroyed 2000 barns filled with wheat, hay, and farming implements; over 70 mills filled with flour and wheat; and driven in front of my army 4000 head of stock.
Said one of his officers who knew whereof he was speaking, "A crow flying through the valley would have to carry his own rations, for he could pick up nothing!"
At Winchester, the principal town in the Shenandoah Valley, one hundred and fifty miles N. N. W. of Richmond, with a population of about four thousand, the 19th of that September was a day of glory but also of sorrow. Four thousand six hundred and eighty of the Union Army, killed and wounded, told how dearly Sheridan's first great victory was gained.
The battle was fought over three, four, or five square miles, east and north from Winchester, for the most part near the Opequon Creek, from which it is sometimes called the "Battle of the Opequon." To reach the field, the bulk of Sheridan's army, starting at three o'clock in the morning from Berryville ten miles east, had to pass through a gorge in which for a considerable distance the turnpike extends towards Winchester. Sheridan's plan at first was to bring his army, except Merritt's and Averell's Divisions of Torbert's Cavalry, through the defile, post the Sixth Corps on the left, the Nineteenth on the right, throw Crook's Army of West Virginia across the Staunton turnpike (leading southwest from Winchester), and so cut off all retreat up the valley. Meanwhile those two cavalry divisions were to make a long detour on our right to the north from Berryville, and close in upon the Confederate left. Sheridan felt sure of victory, for we outnumbered the enemy nearly two to one. Had our army got into position early in the morning, we should have captured or destroyed the whole of them.
At early dawn McIntosh's Brigade of Wilson's Division of Torbert's Cavalry dashed through the ravine, closely followed by Chapman's Brigade and five batteries of horse artillery. Sheridan and his staff followed. They surprised and captured a small earthwork, and, though fiercely assaulted, held it till the van of the Sixth Corps relieved them.
The narrow pass of the Berryville pike was so obstructed by artillery, ambulances, ammunition wagons, etc., that it was nearly eight o'clock before the Sixth Corps, which should have been in position with Wilson's Cavalry at sunrise, began to arrive; and it was fully two hours later when the Nineteenth Corps debouched and deployed. Here was miscalculation or bad management or both.
This long delay, which the quick-moving cavalry leader Sheridan had not foreseen nor provided for, gave time for Early to call in the strong divisions of Generals Gordon, Breckenridge, and Rodes, from the vicinity of Stephenson's Depot several miles away. They left Patton's Brigade of Infantry, and a part of Fitzhugh Lee's Cavalry to oppose Torbert.
Hearing nothing from Torbert, who had now been gone seven or eight hours on his circuitous route, Sheridan suddenly changed his whole plan of action, a perilous maneuver in the face of an active enemy while the battle is already raging intermittently. Instead of flinging Crook's Army of West Virginia, 17 regiments and 3 batteries, across the Staunton pike, to front northeasterly and cut off all possible retreat of the Confederates, he determined to move it to our right and deploy it in line with the Nineteenth. Doubtless this was best under the circumstances, though it left to the enemy the broad smooth highway as a line of retreat up the valley.
Grover's Division (2d of the Nineteenth Corps) in four brigades formed line of battle in front and to the right of the gorge. In touch on the left was Ricketts' Division of the Sixth Corps, and resting on Ricketts' left was Getty's Division of the same corps. Getty had 16 regiments in line; Ricketts, 12 with 6 batteries; Grover, 20 with 3 batteries.
Had Sheridan been able to strike Early by half-past eight with the Sixth and Nineteenth, he would have crushed him in detail. Had Early massed the divisions of Gordon, Breckenridge, and Rodes, and hurled them at the mouth of the canyon at ten o'clock while half of the Nineteenth was still entangled in it, he would probably have split our army into three parts, and destroyed those already arrived.
It was now eleven o'clock, and the Army of West Virginia at last emerged from the defile. To make room for its movement in our rear behind Grover's Division, and to hold the enemy in play until it should have taken its place on the right of the Nineteenth, and perhaps to await there the appearance of Torbert's Cavalry, it was desirable that Grover should advance. Sheridan of course meant the whole front of the Sixth and Nineteenth to keep in a continuous line. At first it seemed to me that the regiments of the Nineteenth overlapped; but the lines of advance were slightly divergent, and wide breaks began to appear between battalions. Especially on the left of the Nineteenth a large and widening gap appeared; for Ricketts had been instructed to guide on the Berryville pike, and that bore away to the left and south.
My battalion, the veteran Thirteenth Conn. Infantry, should have been led by my Colonel, C. D. Blinn: but he was sick the night before, and in the morning, at the crossing of the Opequon, he fell out, and left the command to me. He had no part in the battle. Our Thirteenth deserves a passing notice. It was the favorite regiment of General Birge, its first colonel. When he was made brigadier, the regiment entered the brigade commanded by Colonel E. L. Molineux. Birge was never so happy as when riding into action, and Molineux, who had been severely wounded in the same battle with me, was not over-cautious. My regiment and both brigades, the first and second of Grover's Division, had caught the spirit of those two commanders. Quite generally they mistook the forward movement for an immediate charge.
We had been under an intermittent fire for some time, but now the advance intensified the conflict. The chief anxiety of good soldiers at such a time, as I often noticed, is to get at the enemy as soon as possible, and cease to be mere targets. Their enthusiasm now accelerated their pace to a double-quick, and was carrying them too far to the front. Birge and Molineux endeavored in vain to check their rapidity. My battalion, I think, was nearest the rebel line.
Between eleven and twelve the divisions of Getty, Ricketts, and Grover, forty-eight regiments in all, to which were attached eight light batteries with reserve artillery, began to move forward. It was a grand spectacle. At first the movement was steady, and we thought of Scott's lines,
The host moves like a deep-sea wave, Where rise no rocks its pride to brave, High-swelling, dark, and slow.
But all is quickly changed.
Looking back upon that scene after the lapse of more than fifty years, its magnificence has not yet faded. I see as in a dream our long bending wave of blue rolling slowly at first but with increasing speed, foam-tipped with flags here and there and steel-crested with Birge's bayonets yonder; glimpses of cavalry in the distance moving as if on wings with the lightness of innumerable twinkling feet; numberless jets of smoke across the fields marking the first line of Confederate infantry, their musketry rattling precisely like exploding bunches of firecrackers; batteries galloping to position, the thunder of a dozen smiting the ear more rapidly than one could count; the buzz, hiss, whistle, shriek, crash, hurricane of projectiles; the big shot from batteries in front and from Braxton's artillery on our right ripping up the ground and bounding away to the rear and the left; horses and riders disappearing in the smoke of exploding shells; the constant shouting of our officers indistinctly heard, and now and then the peculiar well-known "rebel yell"; and finally the command, HALT! LIE DOWN! Molineux and Birge were too far to the front, and the line must be rectified. Ricketts, as we pressed forward, had thrown Keifer's Brigade (2d of Third Division, Sixth Corps), seven regiments, into the broadening interval directly in front of the mouth of the gorge; but it was not sufficient.
It was now Early's opportunity; but he was hours too late, just as Sheridan had been. He had seen our Sixth Corps and Nineteenth emerge and deploy, had beheld our rapid and somewhat disorderly approach, had noted the widening spaces between our battalions and divisions, had observed the havoc wrought by his artillery and musketry, ten thousand of our soldiers seeming to sink under it; had had time to mass his forces; and now it was "up to him" to hurl them against our centre. It was the strategy inaugurated by Epaminondas at Leuctra and perfected by Napoleon in many a hard battle, breaking the enemy's centre by an irresistible charge, dividing and conquering. Rodes had been killed at a battery in front of our brigade. His veterans and Gordon's, six thousand strong constituted the charging column. Neither Sheridan nor any other Federal historian appears to have done justice to this charge. Pickett's at Gettysburg was not more brilliant.
With yells distinctly heard above the roar they advanced. The batteries on each side redoubled their discharges. From our irregular line of infantry extending more than a mile blazed incessant sheets and spurts of flame, the smoke at times hiding the combatants. Gordon was heading toward the now nearly empty ravine. My horse had just been shot under me. I lost two in that fight. Dismounted I walked from the right of my battalion to the left, cautioning my men against wasting their ammunition, bidding them take sure aim, pick out the rebel officers, and not fire too high. They were shooting from a recumbent position, or resting on one knee; lying flat on their backs to reload. As I reached the left, I glanced to the right and saw several of them starting to their feet, and a little further on, two or three began to run back. I rushed to the spot shouting, "Back to your places!" I saw the cause: the regiments on our right were retreating. I was astounded, for we were expecting an order to advance instantly. At that moment Lieutenant Handy, an aide of our brigade commander, rode up, pale, excited, his hands flung up as if in despair. My men were springing to their feet.
"What are those orders?" I demanded.
"Retreat, retreat! get to the rear as fast as possible," he replied.
"Battalion, rise up; shoulder arms—" I commanded. Before I could finish the order, one of Sheridan's staff came on a swift gallop, his horse white with foam.
"For God's sake, what does this mean?" said he; "this retreat must be stopped!"
"Battalion, lie down," I shouted; "our brigade commander ordered retreat!"
"It's all wrong. If this position's lost, all's lost. Here you have some cover. Hold it to the last. I'll bring supports immediately." Striking spurs into his steed, he vanished in the direction of the retreating regiments.
Except the few who had heard my command and remained in position, perhaps seventy-five or a hundred, who kept blazing away at the Confederates, rising a little to kneel and fire, Grover's Division, and all we could see of that of Ricketts, had gone to pieces, swept away like chaff before a whirlwind. Not a Union flag now in sight, but plenty of the "Stars and Bars!" Our sputtering fire checked some directly in front; but most of the on-rushing masses were deflected by the nature of the ground.
Out of our view and about half a mile in our rear was Dwight's Division, the First of the Nineteenth Corps. It had been left in reserve. It was in line of battle and ready for the onset. The confused fragments of Grover were rallied behind it. Had the ground been favorable, and had no unexpected opposition been encountered, Gordon would have crushed Dwight.
But in fewer minutes than we have occupied in describing this charge, a tremendous and prolonged roar and rattle told us that the battle was on behind us more than in front. Amid the din arose a quick succession of deafening crashes, and shot and shell came singing and howling over us from the left. Russell's Division (First of the Sixth Corps) comprising eleven infantry regiments and one of heavy artillery, behind which the broken battalions of Ricketts had been reassembling, was now smiting the right flank of Gordon's six thousand. Although the charge came too late we cannot but admire the strategy that directed it, and the bravery of the infantry of Gordon, Rodes, and Ramseur, as well as that of the cavalry of Lomax, Jackson, and Johnson, and of Fitzhugh Lee who fell severely wounded. But they had not foreseen the terrible cross-fire from Russell, who died at the head of his division, a bullet piercing his breast and a piece of shell tearing through his heart. Nor had they calculated on confronting the long line of Dwight, nine regiments with the Fifth New York Battery, all of which stood like a stone breakwater. Against it Gordon's masses, broken by the irregularities of the ground, dashed in vain. Under the ceaseless fire of iron and lead the refluent waves came pouring back. Our army was saved.
But we few, who, in obedience to explicit orders from headquarters, had held our position stiffly farthest to the front when all the rest of Grover's and Ricketts' thousands had retreated—we were lost. A column behind a rebel flag was advancing straight upon us unchecked by our vigorous fire. Seeing that they meant business, I commanded, "Fix Bayonets!" At that instant the gray surges converged upon us right and left and especially in our rear. We seemed in the middle of the rebel army. In the crater of such a volcano, fine-spun theories, poetic resolves to die rather than be captured—these are point-lace in a furnace. A Union officer, Capt. W. Frank Tiemann of the 159th N. Y., Molineux's Brigade, was showing fight, and half a dozen Confederates with clubbed muskets were rushing upon him. I leaped to the spot, sword in hand, and shouted with all the semblance I could assume of fierce authority,
"Down with those muskets! Stop! I command you." They lowered them.
"Who the hell are you?" they asked.
"I'll let you know." Turning instantly to four or five Confederate officers, I demanded: "Do you mean to massacre my men?"
Two or three replied: "No. By G—! You've shown yourselves brave, and you shall be respected. Yes, you fought d—d well, seein' you had the d—dest brigade to fight against in the whole Confederate Army."
"What brigade are you?" I asked.
"Ramseur's old brigade; and there's nothin' this side o' hell can lick it."
"You're brave enough," said another; "but damn you, you've killed our best general."
"Who's that?" I asked.
"Rodes; killed right in front of you."
"I thought Early was your best General."
"Not by a d— sight. Old Jubal's drunk—drunk as a fool."
I was never more highly complimented than at this moment; but the stunning consciousness of being a prisoner, the bitterest experience of my life, the unspeakable disappointment, the intense mortification—these are even to this day poorly mitigated, much less compensated, by the excessive praises heaped upon me by those Confederate officers for my supposed bravery. That they were sincere I cannot doubt; for it was customary on the battle-field for the rebels to strip prisoners of all valuables, but no one of the fifty or one hundred near me was robbed. Tiemann, whose life I had perhaps saved, was even privileged to keep his canteen of whiskey, of which he gave me a drink by and by to keep me in good spirits! I realized the truth of Burns's lines:
Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! What dangers thou canst make us scorn! Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil; Wi' usquebaugh, we'll face the devil!
 Personal Memoirs, vol. i., p. 487.
 In New Orleans it was known as "Butler's Dandy Regiment"; for it was then better dressed than any other. It wore dark blue, which Birge had procured through his uncle, Buckingham, the war governor of Connecticut. At the siege of Port Hudson it had distinguished itself above all other regiments by furnishing as volunteers nearly one-fourth of the celebrated "Storming Column" of one thousand men called for by General N. P. Banks the second day after the disastrous assault on that fortress (June 14, 1863). Birge was selected by Banks to lead the forlorn hope.
 Six thousand is Gordon's statement in his Reminiscences, page 320.
At Winchester—On the Road thence to Tom's Brook, New Market, and Staunton.
There were two battles that Monday between Sheridan and Early, the first indecisive, though bloody, a drawn game; the second, after a comparative lull of several hours, a fierce struggle in which the whole front of the Sixth, Nineteenth, and Crook's Corps simultaneously advanced, and Torbert's Cavalry, arriving at last after their unaccountable delay upon our extreme right, made a magnificent charge crumpling up all the enemy's left. The victory was real, but not so complete as it should have been. Sheridan ought to have captured or destroyed the whole of Early's army. Instead, he had left them an open line of retreat. He took only five pieces of artillery, nine battle-flags, and some twelve or fifteen hundred prisoners; and, to use his own words, "sent the Confederates whirling up the valley."
In the recoil of Gordon's brilliant charge of six thousand about noon, we prisoners were swept along into Winchester, and then locked in the old Masonic Hall. The sociable guards took pains to emphasize the statement that George Washington, "glorious rebel" they called him, had presided as Grand Master in that very room!
After several hours we heard a great noise in the streets. Looking out we saw men, women, children, moving rapidly hither and thither, the current for the most part setting toward the southwest. The din increased; the panic became general; the Union Army was advancing on Winchester!
We were hustled into the street now filled with retreating hundreds, and were marched rapidly along the turnpike toward the setting sun. The road crowded with artillery, army wagons, common carriages, all pouring along in the stampede; a formidable provost guard enclosing us prisoners in a sort of hollow column; cavalry in front, flank, and rear; the fields on either side swarming with infantry, the whole of Early's army in retreat, we apparently in the middle of it; Sheridan's guns still booming in our rear—such was the scene as we two or three hundred prisoners were driven on. Our mingled emotions can be better imagined than described. The bitter regret that we had not been slain; the consciousness that we had done our whole duty in facing unflinchingly the storm of shot and shell, never retreating an inch; the evident respect and even courtesy with which I was personally treated; the inspiring certainty that our army was victorious, the unspeakable mortification of being ourselves prisoners of war!—we sorely needed all our philosophy and all our religion to sustain us.
Marching moodily along I was aroused from a sort of reverie by an experience far too common in those days. I had been sick the night before, and had worn my overcoat into battle. My horse was shot. The blood was spurting from him. As he seemed likely to fall, I leaped down. We were in the midst of a rapid advance and I had not time to throw off my overcoat. I was now carrying it swung over my arm. It was growing dark. A mounted soldier, whom I took to be an officer, rode up to my side and seized hold of the coat. He said, "I want that overcoat." I replied, "You can't have it." "I must have it." "You shan't have it." He tugged and I tugged, and as I was on foot and sober I nearly dragged him from his horse before he let go. During the tussle I repeatedly shouted, "Captain of the Guard—Help! Help!" The provost captain instantly came riding to the spot. "What's the matter?" he asked. "That rascal has tried to rob me of my overcoat," I answered, pointing to the villain who was beginning to slink away. The captain appeared to recognize him, said not a word to him, but whispered to me a moment later, "You are entitled to keep your overcoat."
We had had little breakfast and no dinner nor supper, but we suffered more from thirst than hunger. Can we ever forget it? Will the long flight never end? On through Kerrstown without halting we march, with promise of rest and water at Newtown; no rest nor water there. On from Newtown with assurance of water at Middletown. Five minutes at Middletown, and a little muddy water that seems to aggravate our thirst. Farther on we cross a bridge under which the water is dashing as if in mockery, and the cry "Water! water!" rises from a hundred lips, the guard joining, for they are suffering like ourselves. Some comfort in that! Past midnight we reach Strasburg and are halted around an old wooden pump. It is broken! No water there. Still on and on at a snail-pace, up and over the almost interminable stretch of Fisher's Hill. At three o'clock in the morning we arrive at a place known by the classical name of Tom's Brook about twenty-five miles from Winchester. Never was nectar more delicious than the water of this stream, nor downy pillow more welcome than the sod on its banks. Without blankets or covering we sank in each other's arms for mutual warmth on the dew-drenched grass; and blistered feet and aching limbs and hunger and thirst and suffocating despair are all forgotten!
Morning came unnoticed, except by those whom the keen cold permitted to sleep no longer. Towards noon we rose, washed without soap or towel, were made to form line, had our names taken, and received as rations a pint of flour per man, with a little salt, nothing else. How to cook or prepare the flour? We learned of the rebel guards a process not laid down in the cook-books. Mixing with water they made a stiff paste or dough. This they put around the end of a stick about the size and half the length of a walking cane. The end thus thickly coated they hold over a little fire till the smoke and flame have sufficiently hardened it. Then pull out your stick and you have a thick chunk or cylinder of bread, not quite so tough as a gun-barrel, but substantial!
I contrived to keep a little memorandum book. In it I noted down that there were three hundred and eleven of us prisoners; two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, four captains, nine lieutenants, and two hundred and ninety-four enlisted men. These were in the march from Winchester. A few may have been added to our number at Tom's Brook.
I have stated how it happened that none of those near me were robbed when captured. Those at a distance were not so fortunate; for, if circumstances permitted, the Confederates, being themselves sadly in want, often improved the opportunity to grab every article of value. At Tom's Brook I noted in my diary the following:
Major A. W. Wakefield, 49th Pa. Cav., was robbed of hat, blanket, and $100 in money. Adjt. J. A. Clark, 17th Pa. Cav., was robbed of cap, boots, mug, pocket-book and money. Lieut. Harrison, 2d Regular Cav., was robbed of gold watch and money. Capt. John R. Rouzer, 6th Md. Inf., was robbed by an officer of hat and $20 in money. Lieut. Wesley C. Howe, 2d Mass. Cav., who recently died at Kansas City, Mo., was robbed by Lieut. Housel of the 6th Va. Cav., of silver watch, spurs, gloves, and $10 in money. Major August Haurand, 4th N. Y. Cav., was robbed of a watch and $60 in money.
It was a common practice to snatch from a Union prisoner his cap, and clap on in lieu of it a worn-out slouched hat; pull off his boots, and substitute a pair of clumsy old shoes. The plundering was so thoroughly done that it was poetically termed "going through" a captive!
As I was the senior officer among the prisoners, and we seemed likely to remain a long time there, I went to the Confederate commander and besought him to allow our three hundred prisoners to occupy a barn near by. He refused. I then asked that we be allowed to build wigwams for shelter, as there was abundant material at hand. This too was not permitted. I also begged in vain that a surgeon should be got to dress the wounds of some of the prisoners.
The second morning after our arrival, the sleeping men were aroused by the loud voice of Lieutenant Sargent of the 14th New Hampshire Regiment exclaiming: "If you give me any more of your lip, I'll annihilate you! I've but one arm" (his right arm was disabled by a shot), "but even with one arm I'll annihilate you on the spot, if you give me any more of your lip!" This was exceedingly gratifying, for it proved that at least two of us were not yet "annihilated!"
During our sojourn at Tom's Brook the Confederates labored hard to induce us to exchange our greenbacks for their paper currency. Our own was sadly depreciated, one dollar of silver or gold being equal to two of greenbacks; but one in United States paper was equal in purchasing power to eight of theirs. They argued that our money would certainly be forcibly taken from us by rapacious guards farther south, and kindly offered us four for one. Sergeant Reed of the Provost Guard was quite a character. Like Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, he talked loud and long, speaking "an infinite deal of nothing." He had a mania for watches. He told me he now had twenty-seven which he had obtained from Yankee prisoners, always paying them in good Confederate money. He set his heart upon a little silver watch of mine, which he said he wished to buy and present to one of his lady admirers. I asked:
"Why do they admire you?"
"Because of my bravery," he replied; "none but the brave deserve the fair."
"If you are so brave, why are you back here? Why are you not at the front?"
"Colonel, I've been in the forefront of the hottest battles. I've been fearfully wounded. I'll be hanged if I haven't been one of the bravest of the brave. Twice, Colonel, I was shot all into inch pieces; and so now I'm put on light duty!"
On Thursday, the third day after our arrival, two "india-rubber men," circus performers, of the 22d Indiana Regiment, gave an exhibition of "ground and lofty tumbling" for the entertainment of their fellow prisoners. They had somehow contrived to retain the gaudy costume of the ring. They were really skillful. While we were watching with interest the acrobatic performance, a squadron of the Confederate General Imboden's Cavalry dashed past us. Sergeant Reed, who had just made me an offer for my watch, sprang to his feet, exclaiming: "I swear! there must be a battle going on in front, for there goes Jimboden's Cavalry to the rear! Sure sign! I'll be hanged if we ain't gettin' licked again!" We had heard the cannonading in the distance, but paid little attention to it. The Richmond papers, announcing that Fisher's Hill was impregnable to the whole Yankee army, were said to have been received about an hour before the heights were actually carried by storm. Again Early's army was not captured, but sent "whirling up the valley."
We prisoners thoroughly enjoyed the changed aspect of affairs. At first they marched us directly back a short distance up the slope towards the advancing Yankees; but they seemed suddenly to discover their mistake; they halted, faced about, and marched down. Hilarious and saucy, our boys struck up the song and three hundred voices swelled the chorus:
Rally round the flag, boys, rally once again, Shouting the battle-cry of Freedom— The Union forever! hurrah, boys, hurrah! Down with the traitor! up with the star! etc.
till Captain Haslett of the provost guard came riding into the midst with savage oaths shouting, "Silence! SILENCE! SILENCE!"
Twenty-seven miles, first through stifling dust and then through pelting rain, past Hawkinstown, Woodstock, Edenburg, Mount Jackson, brought us to New Market. On the march Colonel Brinton of a Pennsylvania regiment, a new arrival, planned with me an escape. He had campaigned through the valley, was familiar with the lay of the land, and said he had friends among the inhabitants. Our plan was to run past the guards in the darkness. As a preliminary step I cut off my shoulder-straps which were very bright. Within half an hour Sergeant Reed came up to me and asked, "Colonel, where's your shoulder-straps?" I replied, "I don't wear shoulder-straps now I'm a prisoner." "But, Colonel," he answered, "I've been lookin' at them shoulder-straps since we left Tom's Brook. I wanted to buy 'em of you for a present to one of my girls. I'll be hanged if I don't believe you're goin' to try to escape, and so you've cut off your bright shoulder-straps. But, Colonel, it's impossible. I'll be hanged if I hadn't rather lose any six of the others than to lose you." The fellow stuck closer to me than a brother all the rest of that night; so close that he lost sight of Colonel Brinton, who actually escaped about midnight at a place called Edenburg! Almost immediately Sergeant Reed came to me and asked, "Colonel, where's that other Colonel?" I answered: "You ought to know; I don't!"—"I'll be hanged," said he, "if I haven't lost him, a-watchin' you!"
At New Market they put us into a dilapidated church building. "The wicked flea, when no man pursueth but the righteous, is bold as a lion," was repeatedly misquoted from the Book of Proverbs, and not without reason. We concluded if that interpretation was correct, we had reason enough for obeying the injunction in Ecclesiastes, "Be not righteous overmuch"; for the little jumpers were fearless and countless. They were reinforced by a Confederate deacon, who recommended two things: Confederate paper and "gospel piety"; the one would carry us safely through this world; the other through the next. He would be only too happy to furnish us the currency in exchange for our greenbacks. "Confederate treasury bills and true religion" was the burden of his song, till one of our literary officers, it was said, squelched him: "Deacon, your recipe of happiness, rebel paper and godliness—Confederate money and a Christian spirit!—reminds me of what Byron says in one of his wicked poems:
'Beyond all doubt there's nought the spirit cheers Like rum and true religion!'"
We left New Market at noon, Saturday, September 24th, and marched all the afternoon and all night, past Harrisonburg, Mount Crawford, Mount Sidney, and Willow Springs, reaching Staunton, Va., about nine in the morning. On the march, forty-three miles in twenty-one hours, we were hungry; for the morning ration at New Market was scanty, and they gave us nothing more, except a small loaf of wheat bread. Some of the guard were kind to us. One of them, private John Crew, Co. E, 11th Alabama Regiment, unsolicited by us, and, so far as I am aware, without hope of any reward, would endeavor to bring us apples or other food, whenever we halted. I was careful to write his name in my diary.
As we trudged along, a lively discussion of slavery ensued. Lieutenant Howard of the provost guard was a learned champion of the "peculiar institution," and I was a pronounced abolitionist. He was an ardent "fire-eater," to use the term then in vogue, and I, who had lost my position as principal of the Worcester High School by my defense of John Brown, was equally intense. Both were pretty well "posted" on the subject. He seemed to be familiar with the Bible and the proslavery arguments, including drunken Noah's "Cursed Canaan!" Moses Stuart's Conscience and the Constitution, Nehemiah Adams's Southside View of Slavery, and Rev. Dr. —— (the name is gone from me) of Baltimore's Sermons. I was fresh from reading the arguments of George B. Cheever, Horace Bushnell, Henry Ward Beecher, Garrison, Phillips, and the rest. He proved that slavery among the Hebrews was a divine institution. I answered they were commanded to "undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke." He said Paul sent back the fugitive slave Onesimus to his master Philemon; I rejoined, "Paul said, 'I send him back, not as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved; receive him as myself.'" He quoted the Constitution of the United States, the article commanding that fugitive slaves should be delivered back to their masters; in reply I quoted from Deuteronomy the "Higher Law," "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee." He quoted from the great speech of the magnificent Webster in the Senate, March 7, 1850, in which he urged all good citizens to obey the Fugitive Slave Law "with alacrity." Waxing hot, I quoted from Beecher:
As to those provisions which concern aid to fugitive slaves, may God do so to us, yea and more also, if we do not spurn them as we would any other mandate of Satan! If in God's providence fugitives ask bread or shelter, raiment or conveyance at my hands, my own children shall lack bread ere they; my own flesh shall sting with cold ere they shall lack raiment. And whatsoever defense I would put forth for mine own children, that shall these poor, despised, persecuted creatures have at my hands and on the road. The man that would do otherwise, that would obey this law to the peril of his soul and the loss of his manhood, were he brother, son, or father, shall never pollute my hand with grasp of hideous friendship, nor cast his swarthy shadow athwart my threshold!
The lieutenant finally cited the examples of "those glorious southern patriots who led the rebellion against England during the first American Confederacy," Washington, Patrick Henry, Madison, Jefferson, "every one a slaveholder," he proudly exclaimed. I happened to be cognizant of their views, and responded with some vehemence: "But Washington's hands were tied so that he could not free slaves till his death. He said it was among his first wishes to see some plan adopted for putting an end to slavery. Patrick Henry declared, 'I will not, I cannot justify it.' Madison expressed strongly his unwillingness to admit in the national Constitution 'the idea that can hold property in man.'" In a rather loud voice I quoted Jefferson, who, in view of our inconsistency in violating the "self-evident truth" that "all men are created equal," solemnly affirmed, "I tremble for my country, when I remember that God is just, and that his justice cannot sleep forever!" I had some reputation as an elocutionist in those days, and Sergeant Reed, who was listening with open mouth, broke in with, "I'll be hanged, Colonel, if you warn't cut out for a preacher! By— I should like to hear you preach." The best reply I could make was: "You'll undoubtedly be hanged sometime; and if I were a minister, nothing would give me more satisfaction than to be present at your execution and preach your funeral sermon." He replied: "Now, Colonel, you don't mean that. You don't think I'll ever be hanged!"—"Indeed I do, if you don't stop your profanity and general cussedness."—"I'll be hanged, if I will," was his last word to me.
At Staunton—Thence to Waynesboro, Meacham's, and Richmond.
At Staunton we got a little more light on the value of Confederate paper. A chivalrous surgeon who accompanied the provost guard (Fontleroy, I think, was his name) politely invited Captain Dickerman of the 26th Massachusetts and myself to take breakfast with him in a restaurant. We needed no urging. The Provost Marshal gave consent. The saloon was kept by a negro named Jackson. His entire stock of provisions consisted of nine eggs, the toughest kind of neck beef, bread and salt, coffee very weak, butter very strong. As we sat waiting, the doctor remarked with a lordly air that under ordinary circumstances he would not deign to eat with Yankees. I answered good-naturedly: "I'm as much ashamed as you can be; and if you'll never tell of it, I won't!" The food, notwithstanding its toughness, rapidly disappeared. Near the last mouthful the doctor said: "You two will have to pay for this breakfast, for I've no money." I had fifteen Confederate dollars remaining of twenty which I had received for a five-dollar greenback at Tom's Brook, and I answered: "Give yourself no anxiety; I'll foot the bill."—"Well, Jackson," said I to the sable proprietor, "what's the damage?" He replied, "I shan't charge you-ones full price. Let's see! Beef, seven; eggs, two—nine; coffee, three—twelve; bread and butter, three—fifteen; three of you—forty-five. I'll call it only thirty-six dollars!" I paid my fifteen; Captain Dickerman pleaded poverty; and the dignified doctor, who had so cordially invited us to partake of his hospitality, promised the disappointed Jackson that he would pay the balance at some future day ("the futurest kind of a day," was added in an undertone).
Rejoining the three or four hundred prisoners, we found, besides the Confederate guards, a great crowd of spectators swarming around us. One of them, a fine-looking young man, wearing the blue uniform of a United States captain, made his way through the group, and handed me a twenty-dollar Confederate bill! The following dialogue ensued:
"Here, Colonel, take that."
"I thank you much. Who are you, so kind to a stranger and an enemy?"
"I'm one whom you Yanks would hang, if you could catch me."
"Why so? Who are you?"
"I'm one of Morgan's guerrillas; wouldn't you hang me?"
"I think I should, if you had much of this stuff about you" (holding up the twenty-dollar bill); "I've just paid fifteen Confederate dollars for an imaginary breakfast."
"Good for you, Colonel. Here, take another twenty. Now you've forty. That'll pay for an imaginary dinner. Good-bye, Colonel! I have an engagement—to meet some of your cavalry. Remember, Morgan's guerrillas are not rascals, but gentlemen. Good-bye!" He vanished.
About noon those of us who appeared unable to march farther were put on top of freight cars, and carried about a dozen miles east to Waynesboro. Here the railway crosses a stream, which encircles a little island just north of the bridge. The majority had to walk. At dusk that Sunday evening all had come. They put us on the island carefully guarded on all sides. Never was I more thankful. I had had something good to eat at Staunton; had got rested riding on the roof of the car; and I had my overcoat. Davy Crockett preferred a heap of chestnut burs for a pillow; but I followed the patriarch's example and chose a flat stone. People never allowed me to sing; but I dropped asleep repeating the stanza in Mrs. Adams's exquisite hymn.
Though, like the wanderer, The sun gone down, Darkness be over me, My rest a stone, Yet in my dreams I'd be Nearer, my God, to thee!
Towards midnight the cold became so keen that I rose and went to the side of a flickering fire. Here excessive misery was for a moment hardening the hearts it should have softened. Several prisoners were quarreling for a position nearest the embers, each angrily claiming that he had brought the fagots that were burning! Two or three hours later several of us attempted to slip past the sentries in the darkness, but were stopped before we reached the water.
At earliest streak of dawn we were marched away. About two miles brought us to the Blue Ridge where the railroad tunnel pierces its foundations. We toiled up and on in time to see the sun rise. An ocean of fog lay around us. Never shall we forget how royally the King of Day scaled the great wall that seemed to hem in on every side the wide valley, and how the sea of mist and cloud visibly fled before the inrolling flood of light, unveiling green and yellow fields, flocks and herds, dark woodlands, dwellings yet asleep in peace and plenty, here and there the silver thread of a winding stream with lakes that mirrored the sky, and yonder the long stretches of those titanic fortifications encompassing all. We were reminded of Shakespeare's sunrise:
Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy.
At that instant a train of cars from Charlottesville came sliding along, and shot
Into the tunnel, like a lightning wedge By great Thor hammers driven through the rock!
The scene startled us by its sublimity, and for a few minutes the hungry forgot their craving, the footsore their pain, the hopeless their despair.
That day's march, though not so long was as severe as any; we were exhausted. Private Dolan, Co. K, 159th N. Y., was barefoot. His feet were blistered and bleeding. I begged the commander of the provost guard, Captain Haslett, to allow him to get into an ambulance. My request was not granted. But we soon afterwards passed a large mansion in front of which were several girls and women apparently making fun of the unwashed "Yank" and evidently enjoying the spectacle. We were halted just as Dolan came limping along supported on one side by a stronger comrade. They saw his miserable plight, his distress, his swollen feet, and they heard of the stern command to shoot any prisoner who fell out or lagged behind. Their faces changed. With tears one or two implored the Captain to let him ride in the ambulance. He yielded to their entreaties. Southern ladies almost always seemed handsome to us, but these in my memory have the fairest faces. I thought of Lady Clare in Marmion, and the words still recur:
O Woman! in our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please, And variable as the shade By the light quivering aspen made; When pain and anguish wring the brow, A ministering angel thou!
Two miles before we reached our temporary destination, Meacham's Station, my own strength utterly failed. I had borne up so long, partly to set an example of cheerful endurance, and partly from something like Mark Tapley's pride at coming out strong and jolly under the most depressing circumstances. I lay beside the road, remarking to Captain Haslett, who immediately came riding to the spot, "Captain, here's a fine chance to try your marksmanship; I can't march any further; shan't try to."—"Colonel," he replied with something of pity in his tone and manner, "I'm sorry to see you so used up. I'm sorry to be obliged to march you prisoners so hard. I have to keep out of the way of your damned cavalry. You may get into the ambulance." So into the ambulance I climbed with some difficulty, and immediately commenced my freemasonry on the driver. He responded to the signs. He proved to be an acquaintance of the Redwoods, a family in Mobile, one of whom had been a classmate of mine at Yale. He gave me some nice milk and some fine wheat bread. "As a Mason," said he, "I'll feed you; share the last crumb with you; but as a Confederate soldier I'll fight you till the last drop of blood and the last ditch."—"I hardly know which to admire most, your spunk or your milk," I replied. Thereupon he gave me another drink, and insisted on my imbibing a little of what he called "apple-jack." I was a "teetotaler"; but thinking the occasion warranted, I "smiled" upon it, "strictly as a medicine!" "Apple-jack" seemed to me the same thing as "Jersey lightning." He became quite friendly, but was horribly profane. "Look here," said he, "you seem to be a sort of Christian; cuss me if you don't! What in h—l are you Yanks all comin' down here for?"—"You have a gift at swearing," I said; "did you, among your other oaths, ever swear to support the Constitution of the United States?"—"Well, yes."—"That's what's the matter with us," I said, "we're keeping our oaths and you are breaking yours."—"To h—l with the Constitution of the United States! Our first duty is to our own State. We've a right to be an independent nation, and we will. I'm a guerrilla. If our armies are defeated, I'll fight you on my own hook. I'll fire on you from behind every tree and every rock. I'll assassinate every invader. I want you to remember that I'm a guerrilla."—"I like your spirits," I said. "They are worthy of a better cause."—"Take another swallow of 'em," he replied, handing me the canteen. I toasted him: "Here's hoping you gorillas will outlive the Southern Confederacy!"—"A d—d equivocal sentiment," observed my fire-eating, fire-drinking Masonic brother; "but here we are at Meacham's Station. Good-bye, Yank!"
After our nineteen miles' march it was a most welcome relief to be placed on platform cars, though packed so closely that we could hardly stir. We objected that the cars had no tops. "All the better opportunity to study astronomy," they replied.—"The cars have no sides to keep off the wind."—"The scenery is magnificent," they rejoined, "and they'll answer for 'observation cars'; you have an unobstructed view."—"But the nights are growing cold."—"You'll keep warm by contact with each other." Mad at this mockery, hungry, half-frozen, squeezed like fish in a basket, we took little note of scenery or stars; but it was a comfort to believe that our discomfort was caused by the rapid advance of Sheridan's cavalry.
More dead than alive, though hardly dead enough to bury, having been jolted along all the afternoon and all night, we reached Richmond about sunrise, Tuesday, September 27th. Numbering now nearly four hundred we were escorted through the streets to the notorious Libby prison and halted in front. The Union officers inside thronged the windows to see us come. On every face was a sad, despondent, pitying look, the most discouraging sight I ever saw. No smiles there nor among us. Conspicuous among them was the sorrowful countenance of Lieut.-Col. Charles H. Hooper of the 24th Massachusetts Infantry, with his long handsome auburn beard. Some one inside whispered loud enough for several of our "Four Hundred" to hear, "Hide your greenbacks!" We passed the word down the column, "Hide your greenbacks!"
A few minutes revealed its significance. We were taken in a body in upon the lower floor. There Major Nat. Turner, prison inspector, cousin of the celebrated Dick Turner of unlovely reputation, made us a speech.
You will empty your pockets of all valuables. Such as are not contraband of war, you will be allowed to retain. You will deliver up all your Federal money. An equivalent amount in Confederate money will be given you in instalments from time to time, or the whole will be returned to you when you are exchanged. You will turn pockets inside out. If you attempt to conceal anything, it will be confiscated.
We were made to step forward singly, and were searched. Our coats and vests were taken off, also our boots and shoes; and a Confederate officer felt very carefully of all our clothing to make sure that nothing was hidden. I "remembered to forget" that I had two ten-dollar greenbacks compressed into a little wad in one corner of my watch fob; and that corner escaped inspection. Dick Turpin never was the richer for that money. They examined suspiciously a pocket edition of the New Testament in the original Greek; but I assured them it was not some diabolical Yankee cipher, and they allowed me to keep it. I made the most of my freemasonry, and they permitted me to retain my overcoat. One of our prisoners, it was whispered, had secretly stuffed $1300 in greenbacks into his canteen, but all canteens were taken from us as contraband of war, and nobody but "Uncle Sam" profited by the concealment.
Having "gone through" us, they incarcerated the officers in one room, the enlisted men in another.
 Dr. Fontleroy was a brother of Mrs. Major Whittlesey, one of my fellow professors, instructor in military tactics, at Cornell University. Whittlesey was a graduate of West Point, and, while there, had had cadet U. S. Grant under his command!
At Libby—Thence to Clover, Danville, Greensboro, and Salisbury—Effort to Pledge us not to Attempt Escape.
The two rooms at Libby adjoined each other on the second floor, but a solid brick wall was between them. When we entered, about a hundred and fifty officers were already there. The first thing that attracted my attention was an officer putting a loaf of bread through a small hole in the partition where one or two bricks were removable. He was feeding a hungry prisoner. A cap or hat nicely concealed the perforation.
Libby has a hard name, but it was the most comfortable of the six Confederate prisons of which I saw the interior. With all his alleged brutal severity, of which I saw no manifestation, and his ravenous appetite for greenbacks, for which we could not blame him, Dick Turner seemed an excellent disciplinarian. Everything went like clockwork. We knew what to expect or rather what not to expect, and when! My diary for Wednesday, September 28, 1864, the day after our arrival, reads as follows:
The issue to us daily is One gill of boiled beans, One quarter gill of bean broth, One half loaf of soft bread, (Four ounces meat) and A little salt.
There was one inestimable boon, a copious supply of pure water.
There were at this time no panes of glass, in fact no sashes, in the windows, and the wind swept freely through. The nights were becoming cold. Confederate sentries were on the lower floor and outside. They kept up a custom rather unusual, I think, during the war, of calling out in sing-song tones every hour the number of the post and the time, with occasional variations; e. g.: "Post number fourteen, two o'clock, and all's well." Then the next sentinel would sing out, "Post number fifteen, two o'clock, and all's well." Then the melodious voice of the next, farther away and sadly unorthodox, "Post number sixteen, two o'clock, and cold as h—l!"
Except one or two rickety tables and two or three old chairs, there was no furniture in the prison. Some of the officers had contrived to save a little money when searched, and with money it was possible to procure small articles slyly smuggled in contrary to orders; but most of us were disposed to sing with old Isaac Watts,
Dear Lord, and shall we ever live At this poor dying rate?
From the rear windows we were occasionally entertained with the sight of exploding shells, which the indefatigable Grant was daily projecting towards Richmond. Particularly was this the case on the thirtieth of the month, when the boys in blue captured Fort Harrison, and the next day when the Confederates made several gallant but unsuccessful attempts to retake it. At such times we could see some of the steeples or high roofs in Richmond thronged with non-combatants gazing anxiously towards Petersburg. The belief that our prison was undermined, a vast quantity of gunpowder stored in the cellar, and that Dick Turner had threatened and was desperate enough to blow us all into eternity in case of a sudden dash of our cavalry into Richmond, somewhat marred the satisfaction with which we contemplated the evident progress of the siege. We could sympathize with the Philadelphia Friend, who said to his wife on the introduction of gun-cotton, "What comfort can thee take, even when sitting in thy easy chair, when thee knows not but the very cushion underneath thee is an enormous bomb-shell, ready upon the slightest concussion to blow thee to everlasting glory?"
At three o'clock, Sunday morning, October 2d, we were roused by the entry of armed men with lanterns. They furnished each of us with a dirty haversack containing what they called two days' rations of corn bread and meat. Then they moved us single-file down stairs. As we passed, they took from each his blanket, even those the officers had just bought and paid for. If we expostulated, we were told we were going to a place where we should not need blankets! For my freemasonry or some other unexpressed reason, they allowed me to pass, wearing my overcoat. Then they took us by bridge across the James River, packed us in box-cars on the railway, forty to sixty in each car, and started the train southwest towards Danville.
The road-bed was bad and the fences on either side were gone. We made but four or five miles an hour. One of our officers declared that they kept a boy running ahead of the engine with hammer and nails to repair the track! also that they put the cow-catcher on behind the last car to prevent cattle from running over the train! At nine o'clock in the evening we reached a place called Clover. We passed the night in Clover! on the bank beside the railroad, where we studied astronomy! and meditated!
Next morning they repacked us, and we were transported seventy miles farther to Danville. My memorandum book mentions a conversation I had on the way with a very young and handsome rebel, one of the guard. He was evidently ingenuous and sincere, pious and lovable. After a few pleasant remarks he suddenly asked:
"What are you Northerners fighting for?"
"In defense of the Constitution and the Union. What are you fighting for?"
"Every right that is sacred and dear to man."
"What right that is sacred and dear to man had the United States ever violated before you fired on Fort Sumter?"
Of course he fell back on the Declaration of American Independence, that "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed"; also on the doctrine so emphatically expressed by Abraham Lincoln in his speech in Congress in 1846; viz.:
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to raise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize and make their own of as much territory as they inhabit.
We arrived at Danville at noon. A heavy rain began to fall. Having been two days without opportunity to wash, we were drenched for an hour or two by the sweet shower that seemed to pour from the open windows of heaven. When our thoughtful guards concluded that we were sufficiently cleansed and bleached, they sheltered us by putting us into coal cars, where the black dust was an inch deep. That dust was fine! but the thought seemed to strike them that our nicely laundered garments might get soiled. So in half an hour they took us out and placed us in corn cars. It rather went against the grain, but finally I sat down with the other kernels on the floor. The weather being inclement, they felt it their duty to keep us in doors, lest we should catch cold!
In these elegant and commodious vehicles we were transported next day till we reached Greensboro, North Carolina, about fifty miles southwest from Danville. Disgorged like poor old Jonah after three days' living burial, we were placed in the beautiful open square, and never before did air, earth, trees, and skies seem lovelier. Here they gave each of us three horny crackers, "rebel hardtack," out of which some of us carved finger rings that might have passed for bone.
In those days I was too much addicted to making public speeches, a habit which I had contracted in Yale College. On the edge of the public green, backed by a hundred prisoners, I was haranguing a crowd of curious spectators, telling them how abominably we were treated, exhibiting to them our single ration of flinty biscuit, and consigning them all to everlasting perdition, when a well-dressed young man elbowed his way to me at the fence. He had a large black shiny haversack swung under his left arm. Patting it with his right hand, he asked:
"Will you have a snack?"
"A what?" I answered.
"A snack, a snack," he said.
"I don't know what a 'snack' is, unless it's a snake. Yes, I think I could eat a copperhead—cooked. Snake for one, if you please; well done."
He thrust his hand into his haversack; took out and gave me the most delicious sandwich I ever tasted. Seeing how I enjoyed it, he emptied the satchel, giving all his food to my hungry fellow prisoners. He told me he was just starting on a long journey, and had laid in a good stock of provisions. I took pains to write in my journal his name and residence—"George W. Swepson, Alamance, North Carolina. Lives near the Court House." To which I added "Vir et Amicus."—"The blessing of him that was ready to perish" was upon George W. Swepson.
That night we slept again on the ground and without covering under the open sky; and again several prisoners, Captain Howe and myself among them, attempted in vain to slip past the sentinels.
Next morning we reentered the freight cars. A twelve hours' ride brought us at nine o'clock, Wednesday evening, October 5th, to our destination, Salisbury, North Carolina. As the "Four Hundred" passed into the dark enclosure, we were greeted with the cry, "Fresh fish! Fresh fish!" which in those days announced the arrival of a new lot of prisoners. We field officers were quartered that night in a brick building near the entrance, where we passed an hour of horrors. We were attacked by what appeared to be an organized gang of desperadoes, made up of thieves, robbers, Yankee deserters, rebel deserters, and villains generally, maddened by hunger, or bent on plunder, who rejoiced in the euphonious appellation of Muggers! We had been warned against them by kindly disposed guards, and were not wholly unprepared. They attacked us with clubs, fists, and knives, but were repeatedly driven off, pitched headlong downstairs. "Muggers!"
Salisbury prison, then commonly called "Salisbury penitentiary," was in the general form of a right-angled triangle with base of thirty or forty rods, perpendicular eighty or ninety. In a row parallel to the base and four or five rods from it were four empty log houses with a space of about four rods between each two. These, a story and a half high, had formerly been negro quarters. On each side of the great triangle was a stout tight board fence twelve or fifteen feet high. Some two or three feet from the top of this, but out of our sight because on the other side, there was evidently a board walk, on which sentinels, four or five rods apart, perpetually paced their beats, each being able to see the whole inside of the enclosure. At each angle of the base was a shotted field-piece pointing through the narrow opening. We could see that behind each cannon there was a number of muskets stacked and vigilant soldiers watching every movement inside. Close to the fence outside there were three camps of Confederates, variously estimated to contain from seven hundred to two thousand in all.
The number of Union officers in prison after our arrival was about three hundred and twenty; the number of non-commissioned officers and privates was suddenly increased from about two thousand to some eight thousand. Among these were non-combatants, refugees, lighthouse keepers, and other government employees. Albert D. Richardson, then well-known as a correspondent of the New York Tribune, whose romantic marriage to Abby Sage by Henry Ward Beecher and whose tragic death created a sensation in the newspaper world, had been held as a prisoner there for several months. He told us he had found Salisbury a comfortable place. It immediately ceased to be such.
There stood the empty log houses. We besought the rebel commandant, Major Gee, to allow us officers to occupy those buildings. He said he would permit it on condition that we should sign a stringent parole, binding us on our honor not to attempt to escape! We objected to it as a preposterous requirement that, remaining under strict guard and wholly cut off from communication with the outside world, we should sign such a pledge as the only condition on which we could receive decent shelter. I asked Major Gee if the rigor of our confinement would be in any way relaxed. He answered bluntly, "No."—"Well, where's the reciprocity?" I demanded; "what are you giving up?"—"Well," he replied, "if you don't choose to sign the parole, you can't have the buildings. Other Federal officers have not objected to signing it." He showed us the signature of Gen. Michael Corcoran, who had been colonel of the 69th New York, was captured at the first battle of Bull Run, was promoted to be brigadier, and who raised the so-called "Corcoran Legion." Our senior officer, Brig.-Gen. Joseph Hayes of the Fifth Corps, now called a meeting of the field officers, and submitted the question, "Shall we sign the parole, and so obtain shelter? Or shall we hold ourselves free to escape if we can, and so share the privations of our enlisted men, who have no bed but the ground and no covering but the sky?" I spoke strongly against making any promise. We voted almost unanimously against it.
General Hayes and others then urged upon the commandant the absurdity and meanness of requiring it. It was clear to us and must have been so to him that it was for his interest to separate the three or four hundred officers from the thousands of prisoners accustomed to obey our orders. He finally consented that we should occupy the houses without imposing any conditions.
Parallel to the front of these buildings, about five rods from them and extending across the enclosure, was a so-called "dead line," on which nine sentinels paced their beats. Another "dead line" about four rods from the high fence paralleled the whole length of each side of the prison. It was death to come near these.
About eighty officers were assigned to each of the four houses. In each an officer was elected to serve as house-commissary. His duty was to receive the rations from Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, already mentioned, acting as commissary-general, to whom the Confederate authorities delivered them in bulk. The house-commissary distributed the food and acted as agent representing the house in all communications with Confederate headquarters. Col. Gilbert G. Prey of the 104th N. Y. Vols. was elected commissary of house number one; Capt. D. Tarbell, of Groton, N. Y., commissary of house number two; Lieutenant Reilly of Philadelphia, of house number three; and I of house four.
Each house contained but two rooms, a lower and an upper, both empty, for the most part without glass windows or even sashes; the spaces between the crooked logs not stopped up; a single fireplace in each house, but not half enough wood to keep a blaze; without tables, benches, or chairs; without cooking utensils; without table, knife, fork, spoon, or plate; often without cup or dish; without blankets, or any clothing but the scantiest summer outfit; without books or papers; without water sufficient for washing, or soap, if we could possibly get water; we were in a sorry plight as the nights grew colder. And if the prospect was bad for us, how much worse for our soldiers across the "dead line," who had no shelter, hardly a scrap of blanket! Every rain made their beds a pool or mass of mire. It is not pleasant, but it is a duty to record some of the shadows of our prison life, "lest we forget."
On the open ground outside of what was called the "hospital," October 8th, a sergeant-major was found dead; October 9th, two private soldiers; October 13th, five; October 14th, two; October 16th, eleven; October 17th, seven; October 18th, nine. We could tell how severe the weather had been at night by the number found dead in the morning.
Not far from the prison enclosure was an abundance of growing timber. More than once I besought Major Gee to allow our men to go, under guard on parole, to get wood for fires and for barracks. He refused. He said he was intending to build barracks for the prisoners as soon as he could procure lumber. I presume that he was sincere in this. I asked in vain for blankets for the men; for tents, but none came till December, and then but one "Sibley" tent and one "A" tent per hundred prisoners, not enough for one-third of them.
We procured water from a deep well on the grounds. The supply was so scanty for the thousands of prisoners that it was always exhausted before sunrise. Soon after we came the Confederates commenced digging two new wells. At their rate of progress we reckoned it would take several months to finish either.
My memorandum book shows that the issue of food daily at Salisbury, though sometimes partly withheld, was for each prisoner "one half loaf of soft bread; two, three, four, or five ounces of meat; a gill of boiled rice, and a little salt." I have no doubt that Major Gee meant to deal fairly with us; but he was unprepared for the avalanche that had descended upon him. We are too much in the habit of blaming individual combatants for severities and cruelties that are inherent in the whole business of war, either civil or international, and inseparable from it. Said our Lieut.-Gen. S. M. B. Young at a banquet in Philadelphia, "War is necessarily cruel; it is kill and burn, and burn and kill, and again kill and burn." The truth was more bluntly expressed by the British Rear-Admiral Lord Fisher, now the first sea lord of the British Admiralty:
Humanizing war? [said he]; you might as well talk of humanizing hell! When a silly ass got up at the first Hague Peace Conference in 1899, and talked about the "amenities of warfare" and putting your prisoners' feet in warm water and giving them gruel, my reply, I regret to say, was considered brutally unfit for publication. As if war could be "civilized"! If I am in command when war breaks out, I shall issue as my orders, "The essence of war is violence. Moderation is imbecility. Hit first, hit hard, hit everywhere."
In this light we may view more charitably the slaying, on the 16th of October at Salisbury, of Second Lieutenant John Davis of the 155th N. Y. It was a Sunday morning about half-past ten o'clock. One of our fellow prisoners, Rev. Mr. Emerson, chaplain of a Vermont regiment, had circulated notice that he would conduct religious services in the open air between houses number three and four. The officers were beginning to assemble when the sharp report of a musket near by was heard. Rushing to the spot, we found the lieutenant lying on his back dying at the "dead line." The sentinel on the fence, a mere boy, had fired upon him, and was now reloading. One of our number, Captain William Cook, unable to restrain his anger, hurled a large stone at him. But the hundreds of Confederates in the camps just beyond the fence had sprung to arms at the sound of the firing; the top of the fence was being lined with soldiers; and the vigilant cannoneers at the angles were training their artillery upon our dense mass of officers. We prisoners regarded the shooting as a brutal murder. The religious exercises were turned into a funeral service. Chaplain Emerson prayed, "O God! our only refuge in this dark hour, avenge the atrocious murder of our beloved comrade; protect that widow so cruelly robbed of one dearer to her than life; and especially grant that this accursed Confederacy may speedily sink into its native hell!" His text was from Isaiah viii, 12: "Say ye not a Confederacy!" Next day I asked the officer of the guard if any punishment was to be inflicted upon the sentinel. He answered: "No; we don't punish men for doing their duty."
So vitally important is the point of view in deciding upon the right or wrong of an act.
At Salisbury—Great Plot to Escape—How Frustrated.
When we arrived at Salisbury early in October, we found there a brave and sagacious officer, Lieut. Wm. C. Manning of the 2d Massachusetts Cavalry. He told us he had been held as a hostage in solitary confinement, and would have starved but for the rats he caught and ate. He had been notified that his own life depended upon the fate of a person held in federal hands as a spy. He determined to attempt an escape. He was assigned to my house. Taking up a part of the floor, he commenced digging a tunnel. He wrote a solemn pledge which all the officers in the house signed, binding them not to divulge the scheme. The tunnel would have had to be about eight rods long, and its outlet would necessarily have been near a group of rebel tents. Of course it would have been discovered on the morning after its completion, and not all could hope to find egress that way. But he believed that his life was still in special danger, and he at once began excavating. The house had no cellar, but there was plenty of room under it for stowing away the loose earth. The ground was not hard, yet it was quite firm, and on the whole favorable for such operations. The work was progressing finely, till the officers were suddenly removed from Salisbury in consequence of the discovery of a great plot.
I had become a good deal interested in Manning and his tunnel plan, and on the morning of Wednesday, October 12th, I introduced him to General Hayes, our senior officer. He told us he had for several days been considering the possibility of organizing the three or four hundred officers, and the five to ten thousand soldiers. He believed that by a simultaneous assault at many points we could seize the artillery, break the fence, capture the three rebel camps, then arm and ration this extemporized army, and march away. He showed us a good map of North Carolina. He invited all of the field officers to meet that evening in the garret of house number two. All of them accordingly, about thirty in number, were present. Posting sentinels to keep out intruders, and stopping the open windows so that the faint light of a tallow candle might not betray us or create suspicion, we sat down in the gloom.
The general had modestly absented himself, in order that we might be uninfluenced by him in reaching a decision; but our first step was to send for him, and then insist on his taking the chair—the chair, for we had but one! As he had made a careful study of the subject, we pressed him to give his views. He proceeded to state the grounds of his belief that it was practicable to strike an effective blow for our liberation. He told us that he had communicated with a Union man outside, and had learned the number and location of the Confederate troops we should be likely to encounter on our march to East Tennessee. He explained at some length the details of his plan, the obstacles we should encounter, and how to overcome them. I shall never forget the conclusion of his speech. These were almost exactly his words:
We must organize; organize victory. The sooner we act the better, provided we have a well-arranged plan. We can capture this town, ration our men, provide them with shoes, clothing, and muskets, and have a formidable army right here at once. It need not take more than half a day. Certainly we can march off within twenty-four hours after the first blow is struck, if we begin right. The enemy have a few guns on the hill, but they are not "in battery". We can take these and take the artillery here right along with us. The principal obstacle is here; make the beginning right; master these prisons and these camps, and we are safe. Organize is the word; organize. If any one shall betray us, or aid the rebels, or be guilty of robbery or other outrage, I am in favor of a drumhead court martial and a summary execution. Now, gentlemen, I am ready to serve in any capacity, whether to lead or to follow.
Colonel Ralston of the 24th N. Y. "dismounted cavalry," as they were called, spoke next. He was an energetic and dashing officer who fell near me in an attempt to break out of Danville prison on the tenth of the following December. He entered into the particulars of a plan of action, showing how easy it would be, with the probable loss of but few lives, to capture the three camps with the Salisbury arsenal and the artillery. As his particular share in the work, he said he would undertake with a small company to disarm the twenty or thirty sentinels inside the enclosure, and instantly thereupon to capture the headquarters of Major Gee.
Other officers gave valuable suggestions. Being called upon for my opinion, I spoke of the duty we owed our enlisted men to extricate them from their shocking condition, for they were beginning to die every night on the bare ground, and would soon be perishing by scores. I urged the effect the escape of some eight thousand prisoners would have upon the nation, being equivalent to a great victory; and, better than victory, it would add so many thousands of trained soldiers at once to our armies in the field. I insisted that this success would be cheaply bought, even if it cost, as it probably would, a hundred lives.
Of all our thirty field officers, only one opposed the scheme (Lieut.-Col. G——). He was acknowledged to be brave, but seemingly lacking in enterprise. He said in substance, "I have carefully examined the situation, and have come to the conclusion that it is utterly useless to attempt to escape by force. It can't be done at present. We should be slaughtered by the hundred. If you all vote to try it, I will join you; but in my opinion it is perfect madness."
With but one dissenting voice it was resolved to go ahead. A committee of five was immediately appointed to prepare and present a plan of action. This committee were Colonel Ralston; Col. W. Ross Hartshorne, 190th Pa. (the famous "Bucktail Regiment," whose first colonel, O'Neil, my Yale classmate, was killed at Antietam); Col. James Carle, 191st Pa.; Major John Byrne, 155th N. Y.; and myself, Lieutenant-Colonel of the 13th Conn. We were supposed to be fighting men, and had all been wounded in battle.
A similar meeting of field officers was held the following evening. For two days the committee was almost continually in consultation with General Hayes. Great pains was taken to have the plans fully understood by all the officers and to secure their hearty cooeperation. By ingenious methods frequent communication was had with the enlisted men across the "dead line"; sometimes by hurling written communications ballasted with stone; several times by Lieutenant Manning and others running swiftly past the sentinels in the dark; best of all, because least liable to discovery, by the use of the deaf-and-dumb alphabet. We were suffering for want of water, and several officers got permission to go outside the enclosure ostensibly to procure it, but really to reconnoitre.
The committee reported the following plan, which was unanimously adopted:
The first object in the movement being to get into a hand-to-hand fight as soon as possible; seven columns, each several hundred strong, were to make simultaneous assaults upon six or seven different points. The fence being the first impediment, every man's haversack and pockets were to be filled with stones to keep down the sentinels who would fire on us from the top. Some got levers to wrench off boards, others logs to serve as rude battering rams, others sharpened stakes which Ralston called "Irish pikes," others clubs, or any possible weapon. I had a rusty old bayonet.
Major David Sadler, 2d Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, with his battalion was to rush and seize the cannon and muskets at the angle on the right; Major John Byrne and his column at the same instant were to pounce upon the big gun and muskets at the angle on our left; simultaneously Colonel Ralston and his men are to dash upon the nine sentinels on the "dead line" in front of the officers' houses, in a moment disarming them and the nine of the relief just arriving; then spring to the assistance of Major August Haurand of the 4th N. Y. Cavalry and his battalion who are capturing Major Gee's headquarters and guards and camp on our right. Col. James Carle, 191st Pa., with his hundreds is breaking through the fence and capturing the rebel camp in rear of the officers' quarters. Colonel, afterwards General, W. Ross Hartshorne and his 330 men of the 190th Pa. are to break the fence just above the main rebel camp which is on our left. My own column of about three hundred men of the Nineteenth Corps are to break the fence just below the rebel camp; then Hartshorne and I are to leap from opposite sides upon this, the main camp. These seven battalions were to some extent organized with field, staff, and company officers. Every officer and soldier was to be on the qui vive a little before five o'clock in the morning, watching intently for the signal. This was to be the waving of a fire-brand by General Hayes in front of house number two.
Quite a number of officers had no faith in the plot, and they regarded it with indifference. A few expressed hostility to it. One captain, who had been a prisoner before and seemed glad to have been captured again, a bloated, overgrown, swaggering, filthy bully, of course a coward, formerly a keeper of a low groggery and said to have been commissioned for political reasons, was repeatedly heard to say in sneering tones in the hearing of rebel sentries, "Some of our officers have got escape on the brain," with other words to the like effect. Colonel Hartshorne finally stopped such traitorous language by saying with tremendous emphasis: "Captain D——, I've heard a good deal of your attempts to discourage officers from escaping, and your loud talk about officers having 'escape on the brain.' Now, sir, I give you notice that if you're again guilty of anything of the sort, I'LL—BREAK—YOUR—HEAD—WITH—A—CLUB!"
The time agreed upon for the seven simultaneous attacks was about an hour before sunrise the morning of October 15th.
As we had feared, the rebel authorities, whether through suspected treachery or otherwise, got wind of our purpose. Towards evening of October 14th extraordinary vigilance on their part became apparent. Troops were paraded, posts strengthened, guards doubled, privileges restricted, and word was passed around in our hearing that a battalion of Confederates had just arrived. Their watchfulness seemed unrelaxed through the night. The shooting of Lieutenant Davis next morning was doubtless in obedience to orders for a more rigorous enforcement of rules.
Our outbreak was countermanded and postponed, but preparations continued. The delay enabled us to perfect our plans, and make our organizations more complete. The early morning of October 20th, the 19th being the anniversary of my birth, was now fixed upon for the "insurrection." We essayed to disarm suspicion by an air of quiet acquiescence in the lazy routine of prison life, or absorption in the simplest and most innocent occupations whenever any Confederate might be looking on.
We recognized united and instantaneous action at the signal on the part of three hundred officers and several thousand men as the most vitally important element of success. It was necessary that this should be thoroughly understood and emphasized, so that every soldier should be in perfect readiness at the critical moment.
Several of us had formed a class for oral instruction in French. Our teacher was Captain Cook of the 9th U. S. colored troops, a graduate of Yale. About ten o'clock in the morning of October 18th, as we were seated on the ground near house number four, loudly imitating Professor Cook's parlez-vous, Lieut. Wm. C. Gardner, adjutant of one of those extemporized battalions of prisoners, brought me a letter he was intending to throw across the "dead line" to Sergt. Wallace W. Smith, requesting him to notify all enlisted men of the battalion when and where to assemble silently next morning in the dark, how to arm themselves, from whom to take orders, what signal to watch for, and other important matters. I glanced through it, and immediately said: "You'd better not entrust the communication to so hazardous a channel; wait an hour till I've done with my French lesson, and I'll cause it to be transmitted by the deaf-and-dumb alphabet." If I recollect rightly, either Lieutenant Tobey or Lieutenant Morton, both of the 58th Massachusetts, was in the class, and promised to convey the contents of the letter safely across to the soldiers by adroit finger manipulation. We were just finishing the French exercise, when Adjutant Gardner came greatly excited, and this conversation followed:
"Good God, Colonel, the rebs have got that letter! I tied it to a stone and flung it a long ways over the 'dead line' to Wallace Smith. He appeared afraid to pick it up. A reb sentinel stepped away from his beat and got it."
"I requested you to wait till I'd done reciting French, and I told you I'd then communicate it by the deaf-and-dumb alphabet."
"Well, Colonel, I ought to have done so; but I was anxious to have the work done promptly, and I thought it was perfectly safe. I've tossed letters over to Smith several times. I'm worried to death about it. What's best to do?"
"Was your name signed to it?"
"No; but my name was on the envelope—an old letter envelope that I had when we came here."
"Well, Gardner, this is a pretty piece of business! That letter of course will go very soon to Major Gee's headquarters, and then—there'll be the devil to pay!"
"The sentinel handed the letter to the officer of the guard. What had I better say, if they send for me?"
"Say you intended the letter to fall into their hands; that you meant it as a practical joke, wanted to get up another scare, and see the Johnnies prick up their ears again."
"But, Colonel, like a fust-class fool I put a ten-dollar Confederate bill in the envelope. I wanted to give it to Sergeant Smith. That don't look as if I meant it to fall into their hands—does it?"
"Gardner, this thing has an ugly look. You've knocked our plans of escape in the head—at least for the present. You've got yourself into a fix. They'll haul you up to headquarters. They'll prove by the letter that you've been deep in a plot that would have cost a good many lives. They're feeling ugly. They may hang or shoot you before sundown, as a warning to the rest of us to stop these plots to escape. They may send for you at any minute."
"What had I better say or do?"
"You'd better make yourself scarce for a while, till you've got a plausible story made up. Better disguise yourself and pass yourself off as somebody else; so gain time."
"I have it, Colonel; I'll pass myself off as Estabrooks."
Estabrooks was an officer of the 26th Mass., who had escaped at the crossing of the river Yadkin two weeks previously when we came from Richmond. Gardner was a handsome man and perhaps the best-dressed officer in prison; but he now disguised himself. The transformation was complete. In half an hour a man came to me wearing a slouched hat and a very ragged suit of Confederate gray. He had been a play-actor before the war and knew how to conceal his identity. By his voice I recognized him as Gardner! "Well, Gardner," said I, "this surpasses His Satanic Majesty; or, as you would say, beats the devil!"—"Colonel," he replied, "I'm not Gardner. Gardner escaped; escaped at the crossing of the Yadkin River. I'm Estabrooks, H. L. Estabrooks, 2d Lieutenant, 26th Mass. Call me Estabrooks if you please."—"All right, Estabrooks it is."
Hardly had we had time to whisper around this change of name, when the Confederate officer of the guard made his appearance with two or three soldiers, inquiring for the commissary of house number four. I was pointed out to him. In substance and almost in the exact words this dialogue ensued:
"Colonel Sprague, are you commissary of this house?"
"I have that honor."
"I want to find Lieutenant Gardner."
"Who's Lieutenant Gardner?"
"I am told he's an officer in house number four; and as you are commissary, you can probably tell me where he is at."
"Where he's what?"
"Where he's at."
This was the first time I had ever heard the word at so used at the end of a sentence; but it expresses the meaning with admirable precision. I had a slight qualm at lying; but I remembered that even George Washington could tell a lie if necessary in war. Pacifying my conscience with the fact that we were outside the house at the time, I said:
"There's no such officer in house four. But I remember an officer of that name at Libby, handsomely dressed, a perfect dandy. I heard that he escaped at the crossing of the Yadkin River two weeks ago. Has he been recaptured, and is he going to be shot or hanged? Or have you a letter for him? What's the good news about Gardner?"
"I only know," he replied, "that he's wanted at Major Gee's office, and he's an officer in house number four."
"Estabrooks," said I to the man at my side, "do you know of a Lieutenant Gardner?"
"I did know slightly such a man at Libby. You have described him well; a fop, a beau, a dandy; just about my size, but he didn't wear rags like I do."