Treatment of Federal Soldiers There
As a great deal of interest has been manifested in regard to the treatment of Federal prisoners in Richmond, in this county as well as almost every other place in the loyal portion of the Union, I have concluded, at the solicitation of many friends, to give you the following statement of matters and things that came under my notice while held in "durancevile" in the Capitol of the Southern Confederacy the home of the F. F. V's the hot-bed of Secession and treachery:
After Our Capture
In your last week's issue I gave a statement of the skirmish between my party of seven, and the rebels, up to the time of our surrender. After we had yielded, we were taken to Martinsburgh, arriving there just as the shades of evening were thickening about the city, and after some considerable delay, the captain who had us in charge, found a hotel where they were willing to give us something to eat, for the Jeff Davis currency.
During all the time, that the Captain was hunting a place to procure refreshments, we were exposed to the gaze of a large crowd who had gathered around to see the "d---d Yankees," and as we sat there upon the horses which had brought us thus far on our jour ney, we attracted as much attention, as any animal show that ever traveled, taking into consideration the fact that our advent among the citizens of the place had not been previously announced.
We were relieved from the gaze of the multitude, which by this
time had swelled to several hundred, by the return of the Captain,
who again took us in charge, and conducted us to a hotel, where
supper was in preparation.
A Strong Guard Necessary
We were strongly guarded, and indeed it was necessary not so much to keep us from breaking out, as to keep the yelling mob outside from rushing in.
After supper was over (by the way it consisted of tough beef and burnt bread coffee) we were escorted to the parlor the landlord facetiously and repeatedly remarking to me that he would allow us some of "our Virginia hospitality." There were a large number of Secesh officers present, and two or three young ladies. The landlord told me that one of them was his sister and intimated that if I would request it she would give us some music on a piano which stood in the room. I of course asked her to do so, but she declined saying that she did not wish to hurt the feelings of myself and fellow-prisoners, by singing songs that could not help but be repugnant to us, adding in an undertone that owing to the presence of so many of Jeff's officers, she would be compelled to sing Southern songs. I however told her that it would not hurt my feelings in the least, and after some further reluctance she sat down to the piano and sang:"Yankee doodle came to town On a little pony." as myself and party had but a few minutes before came into the place on horseback, I leave it to the reader whether or not, it was hard to see the point.
Running the Gauntlet
About eight o'clock we were told to get ready to proceed to Winchester, distance about 26 miles. The crowd outside the hotel had become so large that it was dangerous for us to go out in the usual way so the Captain formed a line from the back yard out into the street and having procured a wagon for the men to ride in, giving me a horse we were all got ready in the barn-yard, and then when everything was ready, the Captain gave the word, and we went out of town "like a streak" followed by the taunts and jeers of the multitude. I could not help thinking of the "hospitality" the landlord spoke of.
Arrival At Winchester
We arrived at Winchester about 2 o'clock that night, and were turned into the guard-house, along with eight or ten negroes, and about twenty five or thirty citizens who had been arrested for their supposed Union proclivities.
A Touch of the "Blues"
I then, for the first time since our captive, had a slight touch of the "blues" and I think the boys were similarly affected. We had nothing but the bare floor to sleep on with no blankets, or anything for a covering.
I very soon discovered that [negroes] and Union men were not the only occupants of the Guard-House in fact the discovery was very feelingly impressed upon me. "Oft in the stilly night Ere slumbers chain hath bound me. I felt the cursed bite, Of something crawling round me."
About 10 o'clock the next day an officer came in and ordered us to form in line for roll-call we did so [negroes], union men, and Uncle Sam's Soldiers all fell in, and stood till we were counted. The officers then told us to remain there till he distributed our rations, which consisted of a small piece of fresh beef and a half loaf of bread to each; when he came to me however, he said that "seein' as you are a Captain you may have a whole loaf, now thar," I thanked him kindly and took it all. How to cook our beef was the next question, as there were "neither pots, kettles nor stew-pans" to be found; but one of the Union men came to our relief and informed us that if we would wait until he cooked his breakfast we might have his tin-pan. As there was not another article of the kind there we waited!
After we had got our breakfast which was about one o'clock, we were informed that our presence was wanted at the office of Gen. Jackson no relation to New Orleans Jackson, I am glad to say and we were taken to his quarters under a strong guard, a precaution which was entirely unnecessary; after the loss of blood the night previous, and the breakfast we had eaten, it would have been an impossibility to have escaped.
We were ushered into the presence of Gen. Jackson, who it seemed had us brought there for the purpose of vulgarly speaking "pumping us," and I think, if my recollection serves me right, he got more than he bargained for, at least if he judged that the balance of the Federal army had as many men in it in proportion to Banks' Division about which he was particularly inquisitive according to our account it must have assumed a figure entirely beyond any former estimate he had seen of the Federal strength.
Ought to be Shot
As we were about to depart he asked me if I knew what ought to be done with us. I replied that I did not. He answered by saying that he thought that we ought to all be taken out there, pointing to a meadow near his quarters and shot. As we left him, the landlord's remarks about "hospitality" again recurred to my mind.
Back to our Den
We were taken back to our comrades, [negroes] and Union men, where we put in our time the best we could waiting for something else to turn up.
Off for Richmond
Quite a number of sesesh officers visited us in the afternoon and towards evening we were informed that we should be ready at 9 o'clock that night to start for Richmond. We were glad of it, for we thought that we could not possibly get into a worse place than we then were.
A Night of Suffering
Accordingly when the hour arrived for our departure, we were taken out, our party separated, and placed on the tops of two stages. We had no blankets or overcoats with us, and our suffering from cold on that nights's ride a distance of 2__ miles was intense, and I think will not soon be forgotten by any of us. We arrived at Strasburgh about 3 o'clock in the morning, and took the cars for Manassas, where we arrived a little before daylight.
Treatment on the Way
On our way to Richmond at almost every station the cars were boarded by crowds of men, and sometimes women, for the purpose of having a peep at the "d---d Yankees", as everybody called us, and again bringing to my mind the landlords remark about "hospitality".
Arrival at the C.S.A. Capital
We arrived at Richmond the third day after our capture, entirely worn out, having had one supper on the night we were taken, and one meal of bread nd meat at the guard house during the whole of that time.
Our Party Separated
I was separated here from my men and placed in a room occupied at that time by another fifty officers of the Federal army who had been taken at Ball's Bluff, Manassas and other places. They were confined on the first floor of one of the Tobacco Factories, the two upper floors being occupied by the privates. My men were con fined on the opposite side of the street, in a building similar to the one spoken of. At the time we arrived, there was I think about one thousand prisoners in Richmond, a large number having been sent further South, to Tuscaloosa, Columbia, Salisbury and New Orleans.
So far as the officers were concerned, they had plenty to eat being allowed by the prison officers to purchase whatever articles they desired. They were furnished with bread and beef by the C. S., but nothing else, all they had aside from these two articles had to be purchased at enormous prices, but as most of them had money sent them by their friends, they fared very well. But the suffering was not with them, it was with the men who were crowded and crammed to the number of one hundred and fifty and two hundred to the floor, in the upper stories, with nothing to sleep on, most of them half naked their clothes having been either worn out or thrown away on the battle field, and at the time, we arrived there the average number of deaths was two per day, and had been for a long time previous.
How They were Buried
When one of the men at the hospital [died], the first notice we would have of his death, would be the appearance of the hearse in the street driven by a negro, then three or four of the guard would go in and help carry him out. The corpse was usually placed in a plain pin box. After this was done the darkey would drive away, no one knew whither. This occurred twice a day for a long time. I have often heard some of the most brutal guards remark in their conversation that "another d---d Yankee was dead."
The prisoners, at the time of our advent among them, were fed upon meat, rice and bread. The bread was a tolerably fair article, but the meat was usually boiled up the day previous to its being sent to the men and piled up reeking hot in a large trough in the back yard. The natural consequence followed the meat was often putrid, when served to the men, and could not be eaten until the pangs of hunger arose to such a pitch that men would devour anything. The rice was boiled and carried to the men in large wooden buckets. It was frequently sour always wormy and the boys frequently found bits of candle in it. Towards the latter part of our confinement, however, rutabagas were substituted for rice, and if we had remained there a great while longer we would in all probability have come down to corn fodder. In one of the prisons, the waste bones, bits of bread, and all the filth that would naturally accumulate in a room occupied by one hundred and fifty men, was heaped together in one corner of the room, where it remained, at one time for over three weeks before it was removed. Our men naturally cleanly, and disposed to keep things in the best order possible made daily application for leave to remove the stinking mass, but was put off from day to day. Men have been known, through sheer hunger to hunt out bones, from which the meat had not entirely disappeared from this putrid pile, and greedily devour it. Since my return I have been asked whether or not those men who have been prisoners in Richmond, will again take up arms, and fight the rebels? Can any man suppose that men who have been treated as they have, would not fight? Have they not a fearful account to settle, and the battle-field is the place, where they design to get even with the rebels for their inhuman treatment. I have heard many express their fears that the war would be over before they could again meet the enemy.
The boys occupied a great portion of their time in making bone rings, watch fobs, crosses, Odd Fellow and Masonic emblems, etc., and many of them became so expert at it that I have seen a single ring sell for the sum of $5. The tools used in the manufacture of these articles were exceedingly primitive usually consisting of a saw, made of hoop-iron and set in a frame similar to our wood-saw a knife and file. With only these tools I have seen some of the most exquisitely wrought rings manufactured. They obtained different colored sealing wax and could ornament them in almost any style, usually however, in the national colors red, white and blue.
I fancy I can see the readers flesh crawl as he reads the heading of this paragraph, but so far as my own experience is concerned, I should much prefer to read of it than to undergo the realities. I have seen them creeping upon the cutting antics up and down the walls of the prison, or standing on their heads on the coat collar of a brother officer. They were a pest from which there was no escape, and we were compelled generally to let them have their own way.
There are confined in the upper stories of the different Tobacco Factories about two hundred and fifty or three hundred Union citizens of Virginia, who have been arrested for their Union Sentiments only. I saw one old man eighty-five years of age, and who had entirely lost his eyesight. He had been arrested in Western Virginia, not for any harm he could do the rebel cause, but because he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Jeff. Davis Government. I also saw one boy, aged fourteen, who had been arrested on a charge of carrying information to our troops. He had been confined on this charge in July last, and he is still in prison, where he will likely remain until this vile rebellion is entirely crushed. The condition of these men are most deplorable. They are treated infinitely worse than the Federal soldiers, as they are considered as traitors to the State of Virginia. They are almost naked, having been torn from their homes without a moments notice, the rebels giving them no time to take anything with them, they would arrive in Richmond in a most pitiable plight. It was quite a common thing among them to offer to pick the vermin off our soldier's clothes for the sum of five cents.
The treatment of the prisoners depended in a great measure upon the acting officer of the day. This duty devolved upon three or four Lieutenants belonging to the Confederate "Regular" service it must be borne in mind that the C.S.A. have a "regular army" already organized, that is, they have all the officers appointed for a large standing army, and up to this time they have enlisted thirteen privates. One of these officers was rather disposed to treat us like human beings, but the other three, tyranized (sic) over us in every possible manner. This manifested itself in various ways; such as cutting off our supply of milk, refusing to let us purchase the morning papers; and in every other way that they could think of. On one occasion, I remember, that one of these fiends who desired to leave that day, and in order to gain time, ordered us out to roll-call just as day was breaking. This being about two hours earlier than usual, we were of course somewhat slow in getting up. He became enraged and ordered in a file of soldiers and gave them orders to make us get up at the point of the bayonet, which they did, thrusting the bayonet into the beds. After that if my memory serves me right, he was a "victim," as he never made his appearance in the room,, without being greeted with all manner of insults, by the prisoners. One of the methods employed to make him excessively wrathy, was to march past him after the roll was called every one keeping time, and whistling Yankee Doodle. He would sometimes "boil over," but the boys only whistled the louder.
The men whose duty it was to stand guard over us, were generally speaking, as ignorant a set of men as were ever gathered together. They were, however, getting very tired of the war, and cursing their officers, and the Confederacy most bitterly. Many of them are Union men at heart, and are anxiously waiting for their term of enlistment to expire, swearing that if they ever enlist again, it will be under the "old flag." Accidental discharges of their muskets were very frequent. Only a few days previous to our release, one of the guards let his musket go off accidentally, the ball went through three floors and out of the roof of the building. All the floors were full of "Yankees," but luckily no one was hurt.
This individual who had charge of the prison previous to our advent in Richmond is a brother to Mrs. Lincoln, the President's wife. He is in all probability, the most fiendish brute that ever went unhung. It was by his orders that three prisoners belonging to some of the New York Regiments were shot down with their hands in their pockets, for approaching the windows in the third story of the building. The same man at roll-call one morning, for some slight cause, drew his sword and thrust it into a crowd. It passed through one man's leg and wounded another. If either Todd or Lieut. Emack meets any one who has been a prisoner in Richmond, their fate is sealed.
There is a strong Union sentiment in Richmond, and has been during the whole time. Nothing but the presence of the rebel army in the State of Virginia has prevented it from showing itself openly long since. The Union men there are organized in a secret league, having signs, grips, and passwords and as soon as the federal Army approaches near enough to protect them, it will prove a valuable auxiliary to our forces.
Various and numerous were the plans devised to get up something to while away the dull monotony of Prison life. About the holidays, the boys had a Theatre organized on a small scale, which afforded considerable amusement. When they wished to represent the character of a gentleman, in any of their plays, they did so, by brushing up their coats and washing up their drawers to give the appearance of white pants. Several "Secesh" officers were present, at one of their entertainments, and the boys played an original piece, called the "Yankee at Bull's Run," which sat so hard upon them that they 'yamosed the ranche,' amidst the cheers of all present. Glee Clubs were organized, and some of them could not be excelled. Among the prisoners there were, of course, many who were very expert with the pen, and some of them could copy the shin-plasters notes, with which the whole South is flooded so perfectly that they could readily pass them on the darkey milk-vendors for their face.
Everything in the Confederacy is excessively high. Morphine was selling at $65 an ounce. Coffee $1.25 Tea, $5; Brass Buttons, $8 per doz. Chickens, 75 cts; Turkeys $2; Salt, $40 per sack, and everything else in proportion. The rebels have labored hard to convince England that the blockade was one of "paper," but a few week's residence in Secessia will convince any one that it is a stern reality.
Our Recent Victories
The news of our recent victories fell like a clap of thunder upon the rebels. First came the news of the bombardment of Roanoke immediately after, the surrender of Fort Henry; and again followed by the bloody but glorious taking of Fort Donelson. The rebel's countances (sic) were terribly elongated, while the Yankees shouted and sang the "Star Spangled Banner," so that the half of Richmond could have heard it. From that time up to our departure from "Dixie," the prisoners had it all their own way.
On the evening of the 21st of February we were told to be ready to go home by the following evening. We were, of course, ready, and on the evening of the 22d, immediately after the conclusion of the Jeff Davis inauguration ceremonies, we bade adieu to the tobacco warehouses and were marched to the boat which took us to Newport News, where we were transferred to the U. S. steamer, Geo.Washington. We were immediately taken to Baltimore, where we all arrived in safety. We were released on parole for exchange, which will without doubt take place in a few days, when we will again rejoin our Regiment. Reub.
Northern Indianian March 13, 1862
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