No. 5 MAY 2002
The Journal of Sergeant William. J. McKell
William James McKell, or "Jim" McKell as he was called at home, was a native of Chillicothe, Ohio. He was a first cousin of Lucy Webb Hayes, who was the wife of Rutherford B. Hayes, later the 19th President of the United States. Young McKell's mother was Phoebe Cook McKell, a sister of Maria Cook Webb, the mother of Mrs. Hayes. Young McKell enlisted for three years in the 89th Regiment,Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on August 13, 1862, and became a member of Company D. He was appointed sergeant on August 26, when the company was mustered in at Camp Dennison, near Miamiville, not far from Cincinnati, Ohio. McKell was captured at Chickamauga and eventually imprisoned at Andersonville, where he died July 28, 1864. A comrade imprisoned with McKell at Andersonville completed the journal. Following the war, William McKell's mother carefully copied his journal for her other children. A copy was given to Rutherford B. Hayes, and remains a part of the Rutherford B. Hayes Papers.
Enlisting with William McKell were two first cousins, Edward T. Cook ("Ed") and Isaac S. Cook ("Ike"), both of whom served only about a year before being discharged on October 5, 1863, at Cincinnati, Ohio, on a surgeon's certificate of disability. Another first cousin of William McKell's, Isaac Cook Nelson, became second lieutenant of Company D, the day following the mustering-in; four months later he was promoted to first lieutenant and subsequently to captain of the company.
Our trip [to prison] commenced at Chickamauga, on Sept. 20th, 1863. We left our camp at Rossville, Saturday, the 19th temporarily attached to the Reserve Corps, commanded by Gen. G. Granger, and Div commanded by Gen. Steedman. Our regiment (89th Ohio Vol. Infty.) and the 22nd Michigan, formed a temporary brigade; the colonel of the 22nd Mich. Infty, having command by right of seniority. We reached the scene of action some time before noon, when skirmishing took place between our forces and the rebel cavalry on [Chickamauga] creek our skirmishers falling back under support of the batteries. Here the rebs were checked and here we remained under arms during the night, suffering considerably from a heavy frost, and all of us being more or less wet from having waded the creek on our advance and again on falling back. The woods being in a blaze in our rear, small squads were allowed to go back and warm themselves.
Next morning (Sunday), we advanced, feeling for the rebel skirmishers, but none were to be found. Heavy firing was heard to our right, and Gen. Granger, finding the enemy had left his front, rightly concluded they must have massed on our center and that he was needed in that direction; so without waiting orders he began moving his corps rapidly to their assistance. His arrival was just in time to save the center which was then beginning to fall back. In passing to the right, we were part of the time in full view of the rebels and received several volleys of shot and shells from their batteries, which, however, did us no harm.
Our brigade arrived at the summit of Missionary Ridge, on the "double quick," and as we came up, a regiment in our front was falling back before a charge from a rebel brigade, carrying their wounded with them. We received orders to lie down allowing the regiment to pass over us. The rebels came on, flushed with their success, but were soon checked by a volley from our brigade, for which they were not looking. The lines wavered, broke and fell back, in confusion. We had a few moments then for taking care of the wounded of whom we had a good number. Besides the fire from the front, there were batteries to our right and rear, which poured into us a constant shower of "grape," doing us much injury. In fifteen or twenty minutes after the first charge, we received another; the rebs having to fall back as before; after sustaining our fire from five to ten minutes. They were longer now in coming up, and when they made the next charge it was with the same result. Night was fast coming on and we found ourselves alone, our forces having fallen back and formed a new line around Rossville. We had our orders and while it was possible to hold the position our commander refused to fall back. We were sacrificed, but our army was saved.
While we held the enemy in check, our forces formed a new line and intrenched [sic] themselves at Rossville. Thus they were enabled to check the rebels, and prevent our army being driven back across the "Tennessee." All firing had ceased around us, the sun had set, dusk was coming on, and the air being full of smoke, it was difficult to distinguish objects at a short distance. In our rear we could see a force coming up in line of battle which we first thought to be our own men coming to our relief; soon, however, we discovered our mistake, and at the time felt that our fate was sealed. Troops were coming up on all sides, and no ammunition in the regiment. The rebel force closed around us, their officers giving the order not to fire; then commanding us to "lay down our arms, and surrender." We had surrendered, and were formed to march off the field, when another rebel force came up firing on their own men, and ours, theirs suffering most. This was on account of their taking their own men for us. They now commenced an active trade with our boys for canteens. haversacks, &c, which was kept up all along the road, until we stopped for the night. Our boys and the rebs were immediately on the best of terms recounting to each other their various adventure during the fight. Although hungry, thirsty and tired, we were marched from one headquarters to another until midnight, when we came to Chickamauga creek. Here we were allowed to satisfy our thirst, and wash the caked powder from our lips and faces. Up to this time it would have been hard to tell whether we were not some of "Uncle Sam's" contrabands
After marching on about a half mile, we camped for the night, ate our suppers from scanty supply in our haversacks, and soon lost all consciousness of our situation in deep and dreamless sleep. The sun was high in the Heavens when we awoke next morning. After getting our breakfasts, as we had our suppers, we started on our weary march for Ringgold, at which place our names were registered by regiments and companies.
To return to the battle-field: Lt. [Stephen V.] Walker had command of our company ("D") during the engagement on Saturday, and at the commencement of Sunday's fight. During the second charge on Sunday, he was, sword in hand, rallying some of our men, who had for the moment given way, when a musket shot struck him down, entering his heart. 2nd Lt. [John V.] Baird caught him as he fell, asked him if he was much hurt. He slowly opened his eyes, closed them again, and as brave an officer as ever drew sword had gone from among us. They tried to conceal his death from the company, but he soon was missed, and when his death was whispered around, gloom settled on every face in our company. All felt they had lost a friend and a brother. Always kind, such a man could not but endear himself to all. After his death, Lt. Baird commanded.
Another death which affected me much, was that of a private of our company, a boy some eighteen years of age, named [John] Dillman. He was always full of life and mischief; when we were coming out on Saturday, he threw away a pack of cards, which he was carrying in his pocket, remarking at the time that he did not want to be killed with them about him. He also said to some of the boys that he believed if he went into the fight, he would be killed during the first fire. He together with another, whose name I will not write, ran to the surprise of all who knew him. Shortly after he and his companion came back. He felt so ashamed over it, that he could look no one in the face. At the second charge he took his place in line, using no caution to protect himself, but standing out in the open view of the rebels, loading and firing his gun. A ball struck him in the centre of the forehead with a dull thud. He raised his eyes, looked wildly about, and fell like a log.
As we have since been in prison, I have had but little opportunity of finding out what other casualties occurred in the regiment. Lt. [Granville] Jackson of Co. "G" was shot through the head and killed instantly. Orderly Sergeant [Benjamin L. Pratt] of Company "A" was also killed. Our Co. went into the battle with thirty-one men; eleven of us were captured with the regt. On Sunday, four were afterwards picked up about the hospitals, making our number of prisoners fifteen. The eleven captured together were Sergeants [Amos] Putman and myself; Corporals [John] Smith, [Wilson] Wilkinson and [Thomas E. W.] Elliot; privates, [John] Davis, [William] Childers, [Louis] Stackhouse, O [scar] Scarberry, N [oah] Scarberry and [Curtis] Sampson. The four captured afterwards, were [Aaron] Seymour, [Miles] Ratcliff, [Zachariah] Retherford and [George M.] Coyner.
From Ringgold, we started for Tunnel Hill where it was said we would take the cars. We reached Tunnel Hill about dark, stayed all night, and found in the morning, that we could not get on the cars at that place, but would have to go on to Dalton; reached Dalton that day, and on the next, were aboard the cars and off to Richmond. The first provisions drawn were at Tunnel Hill; here we drew one pint of meal to each man. We next drew at Dalton, the same quantity of flour. Our next stoppage was at Atlanta; here we stayed two nights in a pen formed of planks, with a sort of barracks inside containing prisoners, deserters from the rebel army. We got three days rations when we started, and the next night stopped at Augusta, the old capital of Georgia. Here we were put in a church yard during the night. This was a beautiful grove, with a fine growth of grass, underneath, and the finest stopping place we had throughout the whole trip.
From Augusta, we went to Columbia, S.C., where we changed cars. On our next day's journey we passed through Chester, S. C. While cars stopped, quite a crowd gathered around us, for the greater part consisting of the "innocent cause of this war." One of the "Chivalry," having taken a "drop-too-much" came down to the cars on horse-back challenging any "Yank" to come out and fight him. The "Yanks" would frighten away his horse, but he would return, and each time with the same luck until we left. An old woman came out to see us. She remarked that she did not see our horns. One of our boys answered that as we were younger than our cousins of the East, our horns had not yet appeared but would in the course of time. We next stopped and changed cars at Charlotte, N. C. From this place to Gaston, where cars were again changed. Then on to Greenberry, and from there to Raleigh, we drew rations-crackers with beans mixed up in them, and meat with life enough in it to need killing over again. From Raleigh we made for Petersberg, changed cars, and away for Richmond. Reached Richmond about an hour before dark, were marched up town and lodged in a building for the night. On waking the next morning, we found ourselves in the heart of the city.
This was the first day of October, just ten days from the time of our capture. I looked over my clothes for vermin and the sight was truly discouraging. They were literally covered, the creatures having taken advantage of our long ride on the cars. I consoled myself as best I could with the thought of soon getting through to our lines, where I could procure new clothes and throw away the old ones. What would have been my thoughts, if I could have looked into the future and seen our fate written "Prisoners for eight months." If I could not but have wished for death to remove me from my horrible condition. I went to work to rid myself if possible of the unwelcome strangers which gave me employment for the morning.
In the afternoon, we were taken to a room on the lower floor and requested to deliver up our "Greenbacks," which they told us we would receive again on going through our lines. If we would not give them up of our own account, we would be searched and all found upon our persons would be confiscated. Many gave up their money but some were sharp enough to conceal it about them. The rebels commenced their search in good earnest, but finding no more "greenbacks" forthcoming, gave it up after searching a few, and left us. We then had rations issued, "hard-tack" and beef, for which we were well prepared with appetites sharpened to do them justice. In the evening we were marched to another prison opposite Libby where I got along with most of our company from whom I was separated on the trip through. Here I mailed a letter to Father, which was written in my former prison. (This letter reached home just one month from the time it was mailed).
We stayed in this prison without any event of importance occurring, until moved to this place, Danville. We lived, and that was about all we were able to do, on the rations given us; half a small loaf of wheat bread, a piece of meat (hard to tell of what kind) about as large as your two fingers up to the second joint, and a mixture called soup every other day. I had a watch which my companion traded off, thus enabling us to buy bread and in this way manage to live, hungry all the time. Bread cost from 20 to 25 cts a loaf the size of a large biscuit. Soon our meat played out altogether, and we got rice or sweet potatoes instead. Our wheat bread at first mixed with corn soon became altogether corn, bran and all left in as it came from [the] mill.
After being confined a short time we began to look around and make discoveries. We found there was a Commissary under our building, containing sugar, salt, and tobacco. Openings were made through the floor into the cellar, and holes cut in the sugar hogsheads. The first night there was such a rush that the lower floor was all daubled over with sugar. This would never do, as it would lead to discovery; so the floor was scrubbed and all traces removed before daylight. It was then arranged for "details" from each mess (of 25 men) to go down every other night and get sugar enough for the mess. This plan worked well and we would have procured sugar for some time, but for an accident. The prisoners on the other side of the building finding out our game, cut through the wall from their cellar into ours, making so much noise in so doing, as to discover themselves to the guards.
The rebels gave the other party the credit for the whole affair as the opening on our floor was not discovered. The rebels afterwards published an estimate of the amount taken out and its value at existing prices. The amount was 8,900 lbs at a value of 3 cents a lb. in Confederate currency besides the salt and tobacco.
Next day all was taken out and hauled up town. They then stored away a quantity of bran in the cellar below; with this the men filled their haversacks, making of it coffee and boiling it on fire made of pieces of the building. Some ate it dry.
On the first Sunday a Chaplain of an Eastern regt., confined in Libby, came over and preached for us promising to call again if he and we stayed in Richmond, but he with the rest of the Chaplains was exchanged during the week; so that was the only sermon we heard while in the city.
On the 13th Nov. the prisoners from our building were taken out and started on the train for Danville. There were seven hundred of us, being the first of some three or four thousand to be sent to D. We arrived about 9 o'clock P.M. and were put in a large building. Prison No. 1. No preparation had been made for our reception. It was Friday when we started from Richmond. On starting each man received one loaf of bread. A few men were taken out on Saturday to cook for us but by 9 o'clock at night no rations had appeared; we had now been without food from Friday morning until Saturday night.
There was a small yard attached to the building surrounded by a plank fence twelve or fifteen feet high; a guard was stationed both on the outside and inside of this fence. Some of our boys cut a hole in one of the planks large enough to let a man slip through; soon after dark, we began our exit and before 11 o'clock some sixty or seventy of us were out and on our way to freedom. I was accompanied by three of our Co., [Wilson] Wilkinson, [John] Davis and [Aaron] Seymour.
From the yard we made our way to the canal, crossed, and went up between the canal and river. There were a number of batteaus with negroes living in them, on the canal, so we had to be very careful to prevent an alarm. We then followed the canal up to the outskirts of the city, crossed over on the locks, and struck out into the open country. There had been a heavy rain storm during the afternoon, and the roads were muddy and ditches full. As we had no desire to meet any one we avoided the roads and followed the river, going through the fields. Being very dark we could not see the ditches in our way, so we were constantly plunging into mud and water, running into briar patches, and wearying ourselves completely out. After a little while we reached the rough broken country, and the farther we advanced, the more difficult became our route; until at last we could scarcely get along at all. In many places we had to climb along holding to the bushes overhead, with the river flowing swiftly but silently some twenty or thirty feet immediately below; let go our hold, and we would be dashed to pieces on the rocks beneath us. At one place we were forced to climb over a steep bluff holding on to the undergrowth. At length, at about four o'clock in the morning, we stopped to rest until day-light. We had traveled in this time, over ten miles of road, such as I believe no man could have traveled without such a cause as we had to sustain him.
Here we were, having had nothing to eat for thirty-six hours, wasted away by over a month's imprisonment, eaten up by vermin, almost naked and with what little clothing we had, completely soaked. As we sat in the tobacco house, I shook as I had never shaken before, with the ague; the thought of gaining my liberty, had sustained me thus far, nothing less could have carried me through. But now, all my strength gave way; Wilkinson whispered [to] my companions that I was starving; I felt no hunger, I had no feeling, no thought except to reach our lines.
Daylight was approaching and it became necessary for us to go on, lest we should be discovered. They asked me if I could go on; I said I would try. I walked a few yards, and broke down; rested a few seconds, started on again, and broke down as before. Davis then came to my assistance and half carried me along. In this way, we reached the centre of an open field-the woods, where we could conceal ourselves, being on the other side. These woods we desired to reach, but I felt that if our own line of pickets was there, it would be impossible for me to reach them. I must stop here, come what would. I told my companions to go on and leave me; I could go no farther. They were loth to leave, but nothing else could be done. If we stopped in this open field all would be retaken; they could do nothing more for me. They then advised me to go to a house which was near, give my-self up, and get something to eat. After they had gone, I crawled into a fodder shock with no thought of surrendering. I would starve before voluntarily surrendering myself up again as a prisoner. I was soon asleep and slept perhaps two hours.
When I woke, I crawled out, and started on again, hoping to find my companions. In crossing the open field, I felt no fear of being seen, or recaptured. After reaching the woods, I searched some time for my companions, but finally gave up the search and laid down to pass away the day (Sunday). Through the day, from my place of concealment, I could hear the voices of children near, but none came where they could see me. About two hours before sunset I started again, most of my way laying through woods. I was unable to proceed more than a mile when I stopped and fixed my bed at the roots of a large chestnut, which had been overthrown by the wind, leaving a large hollow underneath. I scraped together a lot of leaves and so slept very well until one or two o'clock, when it turned cold, and I could sleep no more, as I had nothing with which to cover myself.
I lay awake, longing for day-light, and at last it came. I got up and started on my lone way up the river, resting often, and watching for an opportunity to cross. I could meet with none, and coming to a riffle in the river, determined to cross at all hazards. I pulled off my shoes, rolled up my pants, and started in. When I had got about one third of the way across, finding the rocks slippery and the water very swift, I saw that it would be impossible for me to cross there and was turning back, when I heard a voice calling from the shore. I looked up and saw a Negro woman looking at me. I made my way back to where the woman stood; she asked me if I wished to cross the river. I answered that I did; she then told me there was a ferry, a short distance above, belonging to the plantation if I wished, some of the men would set me across. She next asked me if I was not a Yankee. I told her I was, and was trying to get to our "lines." Then she told me of several others who had been along, and whom the Negroes had set across the night before. I then asked for something to eat, and she told me to stay where I was until she should send a man to take me to a place of concealment, and at noon, she would take me to her cabin. Soon the man appeared, and took me up a hollow, where I lay down and went to sleep in the warm sunshine, and slept until the woman come for me, at noon.
I went with her to the cabin, and after taking a good wash, sat down to the dinner she had prepared for me, a dinner of rabbit-pie sweet potatoes and corn dodgers. It was Monday noon and the first I had eaten since Friday morning. I made a good meal and the woman left me there, locking the door after her and promising that I should be set across the river, that night. I laid down on the bed and took a good sleep. At night I was too sick to think about travelling, and the good woman invited me to stay as long as I wished; said I would not be fit to travel for a week to come, and must stay with her; that I looked more dead than alive. I promised to stay that night, but must surely go the next.
On the day following, I improved slowly. The woman tried to persuade me not to go that night; but shortly after dark she came in and said there were two others wanting to cross, and would like to join me. I did not much like the idea of joining in with a squad of strangers, but would prefer going by myself. Soon after, one of them came in a fellow belonging to the 24th O.V. I. From his description of his companion, I concluded he was a young man belonging to our company. I went over to where he was, and found I had guessed right. He was a young man named [Miles] Ratcliff.
The Negress parched a quantity of corn for us, and at about 10 o'clock we were sent across the river and started again on our way, traveling until after daylight. We laid by until night, when we started again and lost our way; stopped at a Negro cabin, got our suppers and directions for the road. We were to cross Mt. Tuccock, but soon lost the road; and so had to take a general course across the hills and hollows. At length we reached the foot of the mountain and received directions for crossing from a white boy that we met. We were all day crossing and when we reached the other side stopped to rest awhile until the moon was up.
We had now entered Franklin Co., eighteen or twenty miles from the foot of the Blue Ridge. There we would be comparatively safe. After going a short distance, we came to a creek with a foot log across it. At this place four or five men sprang into the road, in front of us and ordered us to surrender. As resistance was useless, being unarmed and having four guns pointed at us, we did as ordered. We were marched off to a house at a short distance and taken into the parlor where an old lady and her two daughters were sitting. The old lady looked glum and sour, and had nothing to say; but the girls were very pleasant. They were all polite and kind in their treatment of us, with one exception. This was an old man, one of our captors; he d--d us considerably and "allowed you uns deserved to be hanged for coming down here to fight we uns." We told him such talk did no good, as we were not going to be scared by it; that we had been taken in Georgia and brought to Virginia, much against our wills, but would not have thought we were doing anything wrong in invading Va.; it was our duty to go where our Government ordered. He admitted it was useless getting mad; but he could not help it, when he thought about how we were doing.
As soon as we had gotten well warmed we were invited out to supper. After supper we were taken back over the mountain to a plantation where we were to stop for the night- two young men- sons of the owner of the plantation to which we were going, being our guard. We reached the plantation very tired, found a fire in the parlor, and they soon made a bed for us on the floor. Tired as I was, I had a long argument with the old man (Gravely) who was a very rabid secessionist. As he could bring but few arguments to his assistance, he used assertion, and became very heated, using some threats. He was bitter on the Morgan question.
"What if he were to treat me as we did Morgan - he had me in his power and could do with me as he pleased." I "allowed" not "with what assistance he had then." At last I told him I was tired and would go to sleep. One of the men sat up with us all night.
In the morning when I went out to breakfast, the old man commenced on me again, this time assisted by his daughter, while the old lady looked daggers from the head of the table. This time he changed tactics, and began boasting; referred to his table and asked if that looked much like we were starving them out. (The breakfast consisted of corn bread, without salt, coffee made of corn, or other substitute, sweetened with molasses, chicken, ham, and butter.) I did not care about discussing his breakfast, so said nothing. He then asked me what I thought of the crops through the country. I remarked that I did not see much of any, crops through the country, and what I did see, would be considered hardly worth gathering in the North. I then referred him to the currency of the South, and the amount of country we had recovered from them, and asked him if that looked encouraging to them, but he managed to get around the question, and I could get nothing out of him.
We parted on very good terms after breakfast, and were again on our way to Henry C.H. distance ten miles. When we had walked about half of the way, I was taken sick, and could walk no farther; so one of the young men let me ride his horse, he walking. In this way, we arrived at Henry C. H. and were lodged in the jail along with eight other "Yanks" who had been taken before us. While in jail we were subjects of much curiosity to the citizens who came down in crowds, to see and talk with us, through our prison bars. The jailor being an easy accommodating sort of a man, many were allowed to come inside and see us. The school children would also assemble around the jail, at every opportunity during the day. At first they were shy of us, and would only look in and talk from the hall. We soon however persuaded them inside, and had all the company we wanted during the day.
An old lady came in, on the first evening of our stay, and gave us a terrible rating for fighting in the cause in which we were. But the "Yanks" treated her so civilly, that she became ashamed of her conduct, and to make amends, came down the next morning with apples and some religious books for us; then said if we wanted anything, to tell her and she would get it for us. She afterwards called three or four times and we got along together most agreeably. They all expressed a desire to have us stay with them until we were exchanged or paroled.
Arrangements were made for our return to Danville in a coach. The coach called around Sunday morning, and we got in readiness for the trip- nine inside and tow on top with the driver. Three details were along to guard us- one on the coach and two on horseback. There were forty miles of muddy roads to travel, as we went along, we picked up other passengers.
At one place two young ladies were waiting for the coach. The driver told them the coach was full of "Yanks," but if they wished to go the "Yanks" would make room for them. The Yanks of course agreed, and invited the ladies to take seats inside. The ladies however refused our invitation and we drove on. Our guards were very kind and attentive during the trip, stopping at different places to get us apples, and turnips
On our way, we happened upon a number of details, having in charge three conscripts for the rebel army; and these they put on our coach. It was long after dark when we got back to D., the number of passengers having increased to nineteen. The conscripts were lodged in jail and we were taken to the guard house, where each received loaf of bread, and some wood with which to make us a fire. The bread being nearly black, soiled, and very sour, hungry as we were, we could scarcely eat it. In the morning we arose, expecting to be "bucked," as the prisoners captured before us, had been; but were agreeably disappointed, as soon after guard mounting, we were taken out and put into prison though not in the same one from which we had escaped. This was prison No. 3, where we have since remained.
It was then eight days since our escape from No. 1, and in that time we had improved much in health, from having more to eat, exercise and fresh air. The weather had by this time become disagreeably cold, and we were but half clad, without blankets, or covering of any kind. Some of the men, however, had their "dog tents" along with them and were thus partially protected from the cold. I was not so fortunate, and sometimes thought I could not stand it much longer; but my strong constitution carried me through. We drew a pretty good quality of beef, and also a pretty good quantity; but our bread was black and generally sour, and of such as it was, we could not get enough. What made us feel our situation the more, was, that we knew clothing, blankets and provisions had been sent us by our Government, but we could not have them. In this way we lived until December, when the rebels commenced issuing to us Government clothing; but they seemed to try how long they could be about it, stealing enough in the meantime to clothe themselves. It was Christmas day when we were at last taken out to get our clothing. We then found that so much of the clothing had been stolen, that it was impossible to get an outfit to each man; so if we took drawers, we got no pants; if pants, no drawers; if shoes no socks, and if socks, no shoes. We were allowed to have either a Great Coat or blanket. I drew a pair of drawers, shirt, pr socks, and blanket. I was then told that there was a box for me, which had been sent to Richmond, and from there forwarded to Danville.
About this time we were put into prison No. 6, where we stayed until after New Years, when we were again returned to No. 3. We were now much better situated, having more clothing in addition to our blankets. We had, at this time, a very cold spell of weather, which made us, all the more, appreciate our additional clothing and in our hearts, thank "Uncle Sam" for his kindness.
It was [on] January 19, 1864, [at Danville], that I was called to go and get my box. I went to the commissary, gave a receipt, and obtained the box, took it over to the prison opened it, and found nothing had been taken out. It contained a warmus, over shirt and under shirt, pr drawers, socks, silk handkerchief, soap, towels, two bottles of medicine, dried beef, sugar and tea. The over shirt I sold to a rebel, who first offered me $20. southern-script, which I refused and afterwards obtained $30. With part of this money I bought rice and bread, which helped along considerably. I was still on the watch for another chance of escaping but we were very closely guarded. Maj. Moffit had taken charge of the post, relieving Capt. McCoy; he was a man of greater energy and kept the prisoners much closer than the Capt. had before. While Capt. McCoy had command, he was continually having us searched although he never found enough to reward him for his pains; for they had by this time been searched often enough to know how to take care of what little they had left. In the early part of January, some of the men went to work digging a tunnel from the building across to the guard house under which it was intended to crawl up, the distance being some thirty or forty feet. After digging some fifteen or twenty feet, it was discovered. It was supposed that some one inside had told the officers. All the men on the lower floor were sent up stairs, and as we were already crowded, it was hard to find room for nearly two hundred more. They were however kept up, one day and one night.
The rebels said no one should go down until they told who dug the tunnel; but no one would tell. At last the two principal ones owned up, to save the rest. These two were taken out and bucked for an hour on two different mornings, and the men allowed to go back to the lower floor.
A short time afterwards some fifty or sixty escaped from No. 5 and a few nights after that a tunnel was discovered leading from No. 4, which would have been ready to have opened in a night or two. Through this the whole building could have escaped, as it was very large- enough for three or four men to walk abreast. When discovered, the tunnel was thirty feet long, and some six feet below the street.
The Richmond papers began to complain of the number of prisoners escaping from this place; so finding we would get out as long as we were where we could dig, they had all the men removed from the lower floor, at night, and a guard placed at the foot of the stairs; and also one in the yard, allowing only six men down at a time. Notwithstanding all this precaution No. 5 completed a tunnel through which a large number escaped. After this, the rebels went to searching, and found a tunnel some six or eight feet long under our building. They then had the guards stationed in the building and yard during the day, as well as a night, allowing fifty down during the day, and six during the night. The night after the tunnel from our prison (No. 3) was discovered, seventeen escaped by slipping out through the sewer leading from the sinks. Soon after the Richmond papers brought us news of the exchange being carried on, and the attempts to escape ceased.
In the beginning of March another lot of boxes came on, the boys from our regiment getting a full share. Soon after, still another lot of boxes came, and this time, I received a second one. We see from the papers that all the prisoners have got through, and we are now waiting our turn, which will be next.
We have met with disappointment after disappointment, until we have almost concluded that there is nothing more for us in this time. When we came in here, we were a hardy healthy set of men, but there has been a great change since then. Many then in the prime of life, strong and hearty, are now under the sod, died from hunger and cold. A great many are scarred with smallpox and the Hospitals are filled with men suffering with chronic diarrhoea. Our prison which was so crowded when I first came to it that I could scarcely find room to lie down on either of the three floors, now holds all on two floors with less crowding. We have heard very little from our friends, I received two short notes in the boxes I got, and one by mail; but they had little news in them. One brought me the news that Ed and Ike were at school in Pennsylvania. I had not heard of them being discharged; but am glad they are not with us, for it would hurt me worse to see them suffer than to suffer myself.
I have regretted much since my imprisonment not having a blank book in which to keep a diary, as it was I had not paper on which to write home. I borrowed a half sheet of paper, when first we came to Richmond, and wrote to father. Did not write again until the 21st of January, after receiving my first box in which was some paper. But every one was wanting paper to write letters, so I had to let it go. I have written three or four times since, and when I received the second box in which was this paper, I thought the best substitute for a diary would be a sketch of my travels and adventures, as accurate as could be given from memory.
I will add here a few remarks concerning our rations at Danville which I neglected to bring in in their proper places. Of the rations sent by our Government, they merely made a show of giving us. Out of a lot of beans sent, we had soup once or twice; besides this, we twice received crackers; at one time, ten and the other five. Of rebel rations we had black bread, beef and bean soup. The soup was nothing more than warm water covered over the top with bugs out of the beans, the beans being never washed, but thrown in dirt and all.
Once in a while there was a change and we got soup made out of musty rice, still weaker than the bean soup. For a while they gave us cabbage soup. This was made not from cabbage heads but from cabbage, not come to a head, thrown in stock, dirt and all, just as it was pulled out of the ground. Twice they issued this cabbage raw. There was not the sign of a head, and the leaves were eaten into holes and covered thickly with green bugs. The only soup we received worth drinking, was the bean soup made from the beans sent us by our Government; and some kraut-soup, which they issued two or three times. Twice they issued to us sweet potatoes raw and a few times sweet potato soup, which was about as good as the cabbage-soup. This was all that was issued to us besides the bread and meat, while Capt. McCoy had charge of the prison.
Since Maj Moffit took command in January, we have had soap three times, the whole amounting to less than a quarter bar of common soap. We have four or five times drawn wood, but they furnish no axes, and seemed to pick out the knottiest they could find. When we were searched they took away all pocket and case knives, yet no matter how hard the wood, it would in days time be split up into fine kindling tied up and hung to the rafters. At each time they issued one cord of wood to the building, a teacupful of salt was issued to each man, once.
In January they began issuing corn instead of wheat bread, all the bran being left in the meal. The beef gave out about the same time and we had pork instead, sometimes very good, and sometimes very poor.
Prison No. 3, Danville, Va., April 11th 1864.
Wednesday April 13th. This morning the first lot of "Yanks" started from here for City Point. They were taken out of No. 5; drew three days rations yesterday, which consisted of a loaf and a half of wheat bread, and the usual amount of meat. Another lot from No 6 drew rations to-day, and will start in the morning. It is reported that a load will go every day, until all are taken. The rebels gave us quite an exhibition on guard-mounting this morning and yesterday. A man was rode up and down the "parade" on a rail with a board fastened to his back with "I will steal" upon it. Two men carried the rail, and two walked along, one on each side, supporting the rider in his position. The band followed playing the "Rogues March."
Every morning some one of the guards is punished for being absent without leave, the usual punishment being to stand them on the head of a barrel with a board on their backs. I have passed the day playing checkers and reading an old magazine of 1857.
Thursday, April 14th.
This morning No. 6 started for the lines. I was awake when the guards who accompanied them, left their barracks, at about 3 o'clock. They raised a shout on starting as though they were glad to get off guard duty. Poor fellows how soon they will find out their mistake. After taking the prisoners to City Point they will go on to the front, and this for the first time, as they have been guarding prisoners ever since they enlisted.
I remember the time when I was just as anxious to see the "front," but am now satisfied and would willingly live the life of a quiet citizen, were this rebellion crushed. But while it lasts, and my life and health are spared, I am still a soldier, willing to do and to suffer in our good cause. May God speed the day, when we shall be a united, prosperous nation, as we were, and all this bloodshed cease throughout our unhappy land.
I have been thinking lately a great deal about the loved ones at home. Not one word have I have heard from them except the simple fact of their all being well, from my mothers letter. I have thought some of them might write, but do not know that I have any reason to think so. I believe they each would do all they could for my comfort. Perhaps they have written, and I not received their letters.
No 1 prisoners leave here to-morrow, and perhaps some of our prison with them. This will leave only two prisons, here, (our own No 3 and No 6) and the prisoners in the Hospitals.
If every thing goes on straight we will get off Saturday, or the first of next week. It has been pleasant weather ever since the prisoners commenced leaving this place, but this evening it has clouded over and looks like rain.
Friday, April 15th.
This morning No 1. started but none of our prison accompanied them; some of our men got to work this morning, splitting the rafters and tearing up things generally. There has been a great deal of excitement on our account of a rumor in the "Richmond Examiner," that the prisoners who had left Danville, Va., had been taken to Ga. to be exchanged at Americus in the State. We do not like the idea of going to that place, and are afraid they would not exchange after getting us there. But I think it is all a mistake, and when we leave here, we will go to City Point. The guards on duty in the building, tell us, but the Lt. of the guards are right. Report says that our prison starts Monday morning next. Hope we will not be disappointed.
Tuesday, April 19th
As usual we are again disappointed; many different rumors are afloat about our getting off, and where the prisoners, who have already left have been taken. But from what I hear, I come to the conclusion that they have been sent to Georgia, and will remain there for some time, very likely, during the summer. We will either follow them or be kept in this place.
From the papers we can get nothing. One day they assert a thing, and contradict it, the next, and, on the whole, seem as ignorant of the intentions of the two Governments, as ourselves.- They claim that their government will have nothing to do with Butler, and will not exchange under him; while at the same time, they speak of exchange going on at City Point, Butler being our commissioner of exchange. I cannot see how they work it, unless through him. They tell of their commissioner Oulds, going to Fortress Monroe, to make arrangements with our Commissioner; and how can he do this without communicating with Butler. The conclusion I come to is that they know nothing of the matter, and so compound a heap of lies to fill their dirty sheets, which are composed of little else than these lies, a lot of advertisements for runaway negroes, and extracts from copper-head papers, which are a disgrace to the north. The editorials are such flimsey lies, that no one with anything like common sense however prejudiced, but can see through them. It is anything but consoling for us to reflect, that it is our lot to stay here during the summer, but such is the fate my feelings lead me to predict for us.
All communication with the North seems to be cut off, at this time. We have had no mail now for two or three weeks. I could be more contended if I could hear from my friends. Sometimes I become down-hearted, and almost think I have no friends. Yesterday, two men belonging to our regiment came in from the small-pox hospital and from them I learned of the deaths of different ones of our regiment of which I had not before heard. Corporal John Smith of our Co., died in small-pox hospital of the 5th of January, Louis Stackhouse also of the same Co., died in the same hospital on the 18th of Feb. John McClintock of the 33rd O.V. I. died in the same hospital on the 14th of January. I heard that Miles Radcliff was dead, but have no certain knowledge of his death. He was in the general hospital near the R.R. depot. Last night a number of guards who went off with the prisoners from this place, returned, and seemed to be glad to get back.
Wednesday, April 20th.
A man named Kimmel had a very severe attack of cramp colic this morning. The men worked with him nearly two hours, giving him pepper tea, and holding warm bricks to his body. I have been amusing myself yesterday and to-day, watching a negro working a garden, just across the street. I wonder whether I will be here when the garden grows up. Hard as it is, I think it altogether likely. We are still in the dark as to where the prisoners who left here have been taken; whether to a new prison in Ga. or into our own lines. The rebels tell us that Grant is advancing on Richmond from the front, and Burnsides from the Peninsular, also that McClelland and Sigel command Corps in the Army of the Potomac. In Sigel I have much confidence, but cannot say the same of McClelland. My faith in him has been greatly shaken for a variety of reasons, but I still have some confidence in his ability as a military Commander, and hope he will try to retrieve his character, in the eyes of his country-men. I have all confidence in Genl Grant and am looking for the speedy capture of the rebel city. Then, no doubt the rebels will either fall back on this city, or we will be taken South. I think if the war is ended this year, we will remain here until peace is restored. The small-pox hospital has been destroyed, the patients who were well enough being sent to the prisons, and the rest put in the other hospitals. All day they have been hauling the tents and bedding past our prison.
Friday, April 22nd.
A lot of sick was sent on to be exchanged this morning, and another, yesterday. Many of our men are playing off, sick and going out to the hospital every morning, hoping to get to our lines in this way. The other evening the guards told the prisoners there was "lots of news in the papers," we soon got hold of a paper, but could not find the "lots of news." It only contained an exaggerated account of the capture of Fort Pillow by General Forrest's Command. Although the capture of the fort may true, yet all the details I set down to be false. It is unnatural to suppose the defending party should suffer the most in killed and wounded, that out of five hundred men, on our side, three hundred should be killed, while the rebels only lost some twenty killed, and fifty or sixty wounded.
Monday morning April 25th.
The third and last lot of sick was sent from this place on Saturday. Yesterday we were taken out of our prison, and brought over to this building formerly occupied by No 1., and the place in which I spent my first night in Danville. I did not much like the move, as I had gotten used to the old building and would much prefer remaining there while we stay in D. Besides issuing to us our regular rations, yesterday, they also issued a days rations of our government crackers, and three or four spoonful of molasses to the man. This is the first of the molasses sent by our government which has been given. I cannot account for this unusual liberality. It is also reported that they are going to issue more of the clothing sent us. The Richmond Examiner of the 23rd contains a long speech made by a Northern Copper-head in our Congress. I did not trouble myself to read it, but know it is to afford aid and comfort to the rebels, or they would not have copied it, a long speech filling one-half their paper. Although they try to keep a "bold front" it is plain that the rebels are expecting to lose Richmond, and are making preparations for such an event. I would not be at all surprised if they should fall back this way, as they are opening the railroad beyond, and fortifying this place. This morning a Co of rebels left D., I suppose for the front.
Monday evening, April 25th.
Saw a regiment this evening, marching to the "Rogues March," I have always seen it used as a punishment, until this time. They marched off as though it was some stirring patriotic tune, hardly guessing that the "Yanks" were laughing at them, and considering the tune a very appropriate in their case.
Tuesday, April 26th.
Last night some twelve or fifteen men escaped from this prison, before the guard was put on for the evening. They crawled under the fence (through a hole where the ground had caved in at the sinks) to an inclosure made by the fence leading to a small stable in the yard adjoining. This inclosure was filled as it could be with "Yanks," waiting until night should allow them to come out. When Maj. Moffitt came, in the evening on his round of inspection, he noticed where the stakes had been pulled out of the hole, but thought the Yanks had only pulled them out for wood. He even looked through the cracks of the fence into the inclosure, but saw nothing of them. The Major was pretty badly sold when some of the boys told him this morning that the inclosure was full at the time he looked in. When night came on, those who escaped made their way from the enclosure into the stable; and then by removing a paling from the fence, into the garden, where they were on the outside of the guards. Their escape was not discovered until between four and five o'clock this morning. About 9 o'clock a squad of rebels was sent in pursuit, but as the Yanks had six or eight hours start it is not probable they will be overtaken. Yesterday the Surgeon took out thirty men, not three of whom, I will venture to say, were sicker than I. To-day, the prisoners from No 4 were taken out, and put into the prison we left Sunday. Another Co of rebels left this morning, I suppose for the front. Some of our men have been much excited to-day, on the subject of retaliation. The rebel papers having rumors of our government retaliating on Forrests men for the brutal murder of the Col Commanding at Fort Pillow. It seems the rebels nailed him to a board, and then burned him to death, in the most horrible manner. Some of the men think our Government should not retaliate, as it will cause the rebels to retaliate on us again. I think there is no danger of that as the rebels would be afraid to do anything of the kind as long as we have so many of their men in our hands. I think our Government would be doing wrong in not adopting some measures to punish such an outrage. Men who could do such a thing, do not deserve the name of men, and the earth should be rid of their presence.
Wednesday, April 27th.
This afternoon, some three hundred men were sent back to No 4, leaving a few of their number in No 3 building. They then made a call for eighty-seven men from our building to take back to the old building; but no one would volunteer, so they had to conscript them. At first, they conscripted a floor, wholesale; but could not secure more than half of them, but balance going to the other floors, and hiding themselves, so that it took them the best part of the evening, besides a large stock of patience to get out the required number. Still another lot of these rebels was shipped off this morning. If they thus continue leaving, we will come to the conclusion that it is not worth our while staying here prisoners, there not being guards sufficient to take care of us.
Tuesday, May 3rd.
Happy season for many but not for the poor prisoner. Trees, fields, and gardens begin to look green and inviting, but we can only look at them from our guarded windows, and long for that freedom so long denied us. Will we ever see our homes and the ones we love? Our men are working for the rebels in every way they can, tailoring, carpentering, gardening, building, and even helping them to make shells of which I am not sure, they at least make the moulds and build the foundry in which they are cast. There are shoe-makers and lath-makers, and nearly every calling at all useful to the rebels. These men who go out to work have not the excuse of necessity for doing so. What food we get in here, mean and rough as it is, is enough, and all a man should eat of such stuff. Those who go out to work, get a little more of the same, but nothing better. They do get more exercise, than we in the prison but they get it at the expense of aiding their enemies. Nearly all our old North Carolina guards of last winter, have left us, and we are now guarded by Va. conscripts, really the most ignorant and surly of all the troops of the South, with whom we have had anything to do. We are getting very anxious to hear from our armies, for in them is our only hope of deliverance from our captivity. We hear through the rebels of great preparation on our part, but when will the action commence. Until the battle does come off, I have no hope of hearing from home. We have received no letters, now, since the middle of March, What is the reason, communication is cut off, I cannot guess.
Sunday, May 8th.
On Friday evening, about sundown, we unexpectedly received orders to bundle up and go over to No. 4. This building was already full so that it was next thing to impossible to get a place in which to lie down, during the first night at all. The next day Saturday, a lot more was brought over from No. 3. They allowed these to stop on the lower floor, and a good many going down from above left us a little more room on the upper floors. But we are still most horribly crowded, and the rebels could not have taken a better plan for killing us off. Last night, towards midnight, we had quite an exciting scene. There had been a plot laid among six or eight men to break out of prison and effect their escape; which was to be carried out last night. They seized the guard, inside the building and took from him his gun. The poor guard thinking his fate was sealed, gave two or three most unearthly shrieks waking almost everyone in the house. After securing the guard, they made for the yard, and commenced prying off the bar which fastened the gate; while men were at work, the guard from the outside tried to shoot through at them. The gun-cap snapped, but the gun would not go off; so the guard took to his heels. They at length got the gate open. And cleared out, carrying the gun with them. In getting out they had to go within reach of four or five of the guards, but not a gun was fired. The guards on all sides of the building waiting for the reserve guard to turn out. Soon an officer came and asked what was the matter. Our boys answered, "a man has the nightmare." The guards were soon out, but by this time the boys were a mile, on their way. This morning some thousand or more Yankee officers arrived from Richmond, and were put in No 1 and No 3 buildings. I looked for some of our regimental officers, but could see none. No doubt however, there are some among them.
Saturday, May 21st.
We started from Danville on Monday, the 16th, took the railroad towards Greensboro, and had to walk five or six miles where the road was not completed. From Greensboro we went to Charlotte, from Charlotte to Augusta; then to Macon, and from Macon to this place (Andersonville). We were four or five days on the cars, crowded so that we could not lie down. The cars were very close, and only the doors allowed to be opened; so we were almost suffocated by the heat, and close air. Two or three men had sun-strokes, and one died during the trip. The place where we camped last night, is on the sand; no shade, and the sun is beginning to strike us, this morning without mercy.
We are situated in an inclosure of some ten or fifteen acres, surrounded by a picket fence of pine logs. There is a small run of water passing through the centre, but the water is not very good. There are now in the inclosure some fourteen or fifteen thousand Yankees from all parts of the army. There are some of the most miserable looking creatures I ever came across. A number of the Belle Island prisoners are here, some of them as black as the Negroes who are in the inclosure. Some of them have scarcely any clothing and sleep in holes dug in the sand. Yesterday, the sand caved in on one of them, covering all but his head and neck. It as rather an amusing sight; but might have been very serious for the poor fellow, if it had not been for the assistance of those around. A man dug away the sand so as to release one arm and shoulder, and then the man tried to draw himself out, but all his efforts only served to pack the sand closer around him, and secure him the better. The men around then went to work and dug him out, and as soon as he was free, he went to work to dig him another hole. The rebels are much afraid of a break from the stockade, and at night put on an extra line of guards called chase Guards all around the Stockade. Four pieces of artillery are bearing on the Stockade, one from each corner. The rations issued are about the same as at Danville, corn bread, and pork, with rice or peas, once a week.