Two companies of the Twenty-sixth Infantry were raised almost entirely in Livingston County. In the summer of 1862 recruiting for a company was commenced by Stephen B. Burch and Washington W. Burch, of Pinckney, and Lucius H. Ives, of Unadilla, and the work of enlistment progressed so rapidly that the company was sufficiently filled for acceptance in August. The men of this company were largely from the south part of the county. The other Livingston company which joined the Twenty-sixth was raised principally in the north part of the county, the three men most interested in recruiting it being John C. Culver, of Hamburg; Edwin Hadley, now of Adrian; and Charles E. Grisson, of Hamburg. Mr. Hadley commenced enlisting men at Howell in the latter part of July or first part of August; the expectation being that the company when filled would join the Twenty-second Regiment, then in process of organization at Pontiac. The ranks were filled with comparative ease, and on the twentieth of August the company moved by way of Fentonville to the regimental rendezvous at Pontiac. Nine companies of the Twenty-second were already organized and mustered in, and there was room for but one more company,--a place which the men from Livingston fully expected to take, but were much disappointed to find that a company from another county--had already secured it, and that they must therefore be debarred from joining the regiment of their choice.
The only alternative then presented was to join the Twenty-sixth Infantry, then organizing at Jackson,
and this was finally decided on after some days of deliberation and inquiry.
Their rank dated from September 1st. In the mean time the other Livingston company had preceded this to Jackson, and was mustered and designated as B Company of the Twenty-sixth; its commissioned officers (dating also from September 1st) being
The Twenty-sixth was mustered as a regiment by Captain Mizner, U. S. A., with the following named field and staff officers, viz.:
The ceremony of a presentation of colors to the regiment, while preparing for
departure for the front, is thus described by General John Robertson in his "Flags of Michigan:"
|eighteenth. A day or two later it crossed the Potomac and marched to Alexandria, where it remained a short
time and moved but to Union Mills, which place was reached on the twenty-first. It was supposed that this would
be its winter quarters; but on the twenty-ninth it was moved back to Alexandria, and detailed for duty as provost-guard,
Lieutenant-Colonel Wells being made provost-marshal of the city. The camp of the regiment was in the suburbs of
Alexandria, and here it remained for about four months,--a period which is remembered by the survivors of the regiment
as among the most agreeable of any in their war experience. It was while the regiment was stationed at this place
that the small newspaper called Our Camp Journal was started,--its editors being Lieutenant H. D. Burch,
Lieutenant C. H. Holden, and Henry H. Smith. The first number appeared under date of April 1, 1863, and it was
afterwards occasionally issued at several different camps of the regiment.
One event of a peculiarly, sad nature, however, occurred to cast a gloom over the regiment during its stay, which was the death of Lieutenant Washington W. Burch, of one of the Livingston companies. A notice of the event, and a just tribute to the character of the dead lieutenant, was published in the special correspondence of the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune immediately afterwards, as follows:
"The saddest incident of all our history as a regiment was the death of First Lieutenant W. W. Burch, of Company B, which occurred on the morning of February 7th. He was a brave, generous, and high-minded officer, and by his gentlemanly bearing had won the admiration of the entire regiment. How much we loved him, and how greatly he had endeared himself to us all, no, words of mine may ever tell. But when our work as soldiers is done, and we are home again, full of the sad and joyous memories of all we have seen and felt and heard, not the least of them will be the recollection of our chivalrous lieutenant, whose pure nature was incapable of wrong."
On the twentieth of April, 1863, the Twenty-sixth, under marching orders, embarked at Alexandria on board the steamer "Zephyr," and proceeded down the Potomac, bound for an unknown destination. At night the steamer had reached the mouth of the Potomac, and there anchored. In the morning she resumed her way, and that night (April 21st) the regiment was disembarked at Norfolk, Virginia. From this place-on the twenty-second-it proceeded to Suffolk, Virginia, which place was then threatened by the enemy, under General Longstreet. The Twenty-sixth arrived at Suffolk at ten o'clock P.M., and on the following morning made its camp on the western outskirts of the town. It was assigned to duty with the Third Brigade (General Terry), First Division,
|Seventh Army Corps, in the department of General Dix. On Friday, April 24th, the men had their first glimpse
of the horrors of actual war, in seeing a large number of wounded brought in from the front past its camp, on their
way to the hospital in Suffolk.
On the sixteenth of May the regiment left its camp at Suffolk and moved out ten miles, to "Deserted House." Here was the New York Sixty-ninth (then under command of Colonel Corcoran), and a number of other regiments. On the twenty-third of May the Twenty-sixth was ordered to the front, and became engaged in a skirmish with the enemy in the vicinity of Windsor. A member of the regiment who was in this fight wrote of it as follows:
"Our brigade, with two others, went out on a reconnaissance towards Blackwater River. We did not find the enemy in very heavy force, although it was reported that Longstreet had several thousand men in that vicinity. Our pickets had one or two slight skirmishes with the rebels, but without anything disastrous occurring to us. While our men were out on picket the enemy made a charge on our line, at a post where Company A was on duty, near the edge of a narrow strip of woods. The rebels charged through the woods, yelling like ten thousand demons, thinking thus to intimidate our boys, who were now for the first time hearing and seeing 'gray-backs' face to face on the field of battle. But they stood their ground like veterans. When the enemy came in sight of our men, they found they had a foe to contend with 'well worthy of their steel.' Although the enemy outnumbered us three to one, yet on seeing the firmness with which we stood our ground, they thought 'discretion the better part of valor,' and returned back faster than they came; and, as turn about is considered fair play, our men now charged on them, and sent them back again beyond the woods."
In this affair Captain John C. Culver, of E Company, was mortally Wounded, while in command of a detachment, scouting in the woods outside the picket-line. The ball took effect in his right arm, between the shoulder and elbow, and though it was not at first thought to be dangerous, amputation became necessary, and the brave captain died in the hospital at Suffolk in the afternoon of Sunday, the twenty-fourth of May. By this casualty the command of the company devolved on Lieutenant Hadley, who was immediately afterwards commissioned as its captain. During its stay on the Blackwater the regiment was engaged in another skirmish (June 17th), in which, however, it sustained little or no -loss; and on the nineteenth of June it left Suffolk by rail for Norfolk,
|where it was embarked the same night on board the steamer "Utica" and, transported to Yorktown,
on the Virginia peninsula, where it became a part of the force under General E. D. Keyes. It was disembarked at
ten P.M. on Saturday, the twentieth, and on the following Monday was moved out on the road to Williamsburg, which
town it passed through on the twenty-third, and camped eight miles beyond. From this place it marched to Cumberland
Landing and White House. Moving from the latter place on the first of July, it marched up the Peninsula to the
vicinity of Bottom's Bridge, on the Chickahominy, where it remained for eight days on the plantation formerly of
ex-President John Tyler. Nothing of much importance happened there, and on the eleventh the regiment, with the
other forces of General Keyes' command, reached Yorktown on the return. At eleven o'clock in the evening of the
same day the Twenty-sixth embarked on a steamer at Yorktown, destined for Maryland and Pennsylvania, as the officers
and men thought; but the opinion proved unfounded. At nine o'clock the next morning it arrived at Washington, and
soon after left by railroad for the North. It was now understood that its destination was New York City, being
moved there in view of the necessity or using its power to quell the lawless and murderous hordes who were inciting
resistance to the military draft. Arriving in New York on the sixteenth it was first quartered in the Park Barracks,
then in the old arsenal on White and Centre Streets, and was shortly afterwards moved to Fort Richmond, Staten
Shortly after the encampment of the Twenty-sixth on Staten Island, three companies (D, E, and G), with a battery, were transported by steamer to Tarrytown, on the Hudson River. Here, at their pleasant "Camp Irving," they remained some two or three weeks, which was a season of great enjoyment, and of very little laborious duty to the soldiers, so that marching orders, when they came, were received with much regret. A member of the command, in writing of the stay at Tarrytown, and the scenes immediately preceding their departure from it, said, "There is not an officer or soldier of our little battalion, or the battery, but has some peculiar and pleasant attachment to Tarrytown. When it was known that we had marching orders, the ladies purchased and presented to the battalion a stand of colors, which presentation was made the occasion of a large patriotic gathering. The Rev. Mr. Wines, presented the flag on behalf of the ladies of Tarrytown, as a pledge of their devotion to their country, and an earnest of their future labors in its cause.
|He spoke in flattering terms of the conduct of the soldiers during their brief sojourn at Camp Irving,
and was pleased to bear testimony to the intelligence and honor of Michigan soldiers. Rev. Mr. Todd followed in
an enthusiastic and powerful speech, and Lieutenant Burch responded on the part of Captain Dailey and the officers
and soldiers of his command. In behalf of Captain Dailey and his command, of Colonel Farrar and his regiment, of
Governor Blair and the ladies of Michigan, he thanked the patriotic ladies of Tarrytown for the banner, and for
the kindness and courtesy they had extended. In the hearts of these officers and soldiers henceforth Tarrytown
and its loyal citizens would be canonized. The memory of all they had seen and felt and heard would go with them
to their graves. The flag, the ladies, and the speakers were loudly cheered, and our work in Tarrytown was done.
Long and pleasantly shall we remember and speak of our visit on the Hudson, of the happy hours we passed in Camp
Irving, of the pleasant evenings with the Clevelands, of our sail upon the river in Walter Byron's yacht, of Captain
Storm and his kindness, and all the warm hearts and sunny faces of Tarrytown."
The Twenty-sixth was not called on to perform the duty for which it was transported to New York, and after a very pleasant stay of about three months, mostly passed amid the invigorating breezes of the lower bay, it left on the thirteenth of October, proceeding south by railroad to rejoin the Army of the Potomac. In due time it reached Alexandria, and marched thence to Warrenton, Virginia, where it went into camp, and was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division of the Second Army Corps. On seventh of November the regiment moved thence to Stevensburg, where it again went into camp, and there remained until the twenty-sixth, when it moved forward with the army on the expedition to Mine Run. It crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford, and reached Robertson's Tavern on the twenty-seventh. On the twenty-ninth it had reached the front of the hostile works at Mine Run. The story of its assault of one of the enemy's positions is thus told by an officer who was present: "Shelling and sharpshooting, skirmishing and reconnoitering are the order, until Sunday morning the twenty-ninth of November, when, dropping down upon the left of the line at White Hall Church, our brigade is thrown in the advance, and, forming into a strong skirmish-line, move forward under Colonel Miles and drive the enemy's pickets to within a mile of his main works, when we are ordered to halt in full view of his line of battle. Colonel Miles, commanding the brigade, Colonel Farrar, of the Twenty-sixth, and Colonel McKean, of the Eighty-first Pennsylvania,
|were repeatedly shelled by the enemy's batteries as they rode out upon the field to reconnoitre. Eighty
rods to our front, and between us and the enemy's right, a piece of pine-woods was held by a force
twice our strength, both in numbers and advantage of position. After a half-hour's halt we were ordered to charge the enemy from this position, and to hold the wood with our brigade. To charge across an open field for eighty rods exposed to a raking fire of musketry from the woods and shell from the batteries is no mean work, even for veterans; but the First Brigade knew how to do it, and so across they go with a yell and a will that puts the enemy to flight, and in ten minutes they hold the wood within easy musket range of the rebel intrenchments. Repeatedly they try to dislodge us from this position; but it is worse than useless, for amid the bursting of shells, the hissing of balls, and the falling of boughs, the men of the First Brigade are coolly holding their position, and Colonel Miles is not solicitous about the result. This charge cost us some noble blood. Captain Phillips, of the Eighty-first, is among the killed, and Lieutenant McKinley, of the same regiment, ten of our own, and several from the Sixty-first New York, and other regiments, are wounded. From our great exposure to musketry and shell, it was only the bad practice of the enemy's gunners and infantry that prevented a hundred or more of us from being cut down."
The Mine Run expedition was but a reconnoissance in force, and upon its completion the Twenty-sixth returned (December 3rd) to its encampment at Stevensburg, where it remained in winter quarters, engaged only in picket duty (and in an expedition to Morton's Ford, February 6th and 7th), until the opening of the historic campaign of the Wilderness in the spring of 1864.
On the third of May at eleven P.M. the regiment marched away with its brigade from the Stevensburg camp, and took the road to the Rapidan, each man carrying five days' rations and sixty rounds of ammunition It crossed tile river at Ely's Ford on the following day, and at night bivouacked on the old field of Chancellorsville. On the fifth, the march was resumed at an early hour, and by the middle of the afternoon the roar of battle was heard to the southward all along the front. The Twenty-sixth formed in line of battle, but was not engaged during this day. That night, and through the following day, it was employed in throwing up defensive works. On the seventh, Company E was sent out, and met the enemy in some force, but, having driven them a short distance and killed one officer and several men, retired again finding it
impracticable to hold the position against the superior number of the Confederates. Then the regiment
advanced, supported by the One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania, and drove the enemy back , capturing two prisoners
and some important dispatches, and losing one man from Company A. On the eighth of May the regiment marched to
Todd's Tavern, threw up some works, and then moved out towards Corbin's Bridge, skirmishing and losing one man
wounded, after which it retired to the works at Todd's. On the ninth it crossed the Po River, and advanced about
two miles to the immediate front of the enemy's line, and there lay on its arms through the night. In the morning
of the tenth it covered the crossing of the Po River. On the eleventh it recrossed that stream, reconnoitred the
enemy's position, became sharply engaged, and lost eighteen killed and wounded.
The above lists, being official, are believed to be correct, though it is possible that they are not
entirely so, having been made on the field, immediately after the battle.
* Mr. N. T. Kirk, the present county clerk of Livingston, was taken prisoner at Spottsylvania, in the battle of that day, and spent some months in Andersonville prison, as is mentioned in another place.
|wounded; among the latter (mortally) being its commanding officer, Captain James A. Lothian. Again, on
the seventeenth it took part in the assault and capture of a line of works, and lost nine killed and wounded in
the charge. On the eighteenth it skirmished with slight loss, and it was a part of the force which sustained and
repulsed a determined attack of the enemy on our lines, on the twenty-second, near the Williams House.
In the morning of the twenty-sixth of July the regiment marched with its brigade to Deep Bottom, where, on the twenty-seventh, it participated in the assault and capture of the enemy's works, with four pieces of artillery and a large number of prisoners. On the following day it was engaged in a reconnoissance from Deep Bottom in the direction of New Market, and on this expedition it attacked and routed a largely superior force of Confederates, and compelled them to take refuge within their fortifications. It was not again seriously engaged until the sixteenth of August, at which time, near White Oak Swamp, it encountered the enemy, and in the sharp action which resulted lost seventeen killed and wounded, and seventeen prisoners, among the latter being Captain Dailey, its commanding officer.
The Twenty-sixth recrossed to the south side of the James River on the twentieth of August, and on the following day took its place in the lines fronting Petersburg. It moved to the Weldon Railroad on the twenty-second, and energetically worked at destroying the track until the twenty-fifth, when the force was furiously assaulted at Ream's Station by the enemy, and driven from its defenses, which were, however, retaken by a determined charge, in which the Twenty-sixth took part, with considerable loss. From the fifth of September until the ninth of October it was employed in constructing earthworks near the Williams House, but on the latter date moved to a position farther to the right, and from the latter part of October for about five months it was daily employed in picket and fatigue duty in front of the invested city.
On the twenty-fifth of March, 1865, immediately after the furious Confederate attack on Forts Steadman and Hancock, the Twenty-sixth Regiment, with its brigade, made a charge on the hostile works in its front, carrying a part of the line, and captured a considerable number of prisoners. The brigade occupied this position until the army commenced its flanking movement to the left, when the Twenty-sixth moved as skirmishers in front of the corps during the twenty-ninth, thirtieth, and thirty-first of March, being heavily engaged in skirmishing during a good part of the last-named day. From the first to the fourth
of April it was engaged in the pursuit of the retreating enemy, and fighting every day. On the sixth
of April the regiment attacked a train of two hundred and sixty wagons loaded with amunition and provisions, all
of which were captured.
EXPERIENCE OF A SOLDIER OF THE TWENTY-SIXTH AT ANDERSONVILLE
Among the members of the Twenty-sixth Regiment who were unfortunate enough
to fall into the hands of the enemy during the terrible struggle at Spottsylvania on the 12th of May, 1864, and
to find their way to the prison-pen at Andersonville, was Newton T. Kirk, of Company E, who spent several months
in confinement there. Mr. Kirk (who is the present county clerk of Livingston) has written an account of the experience
of himself and fellow-prisoners in that frightful place, and extracts from that account are here given. There were
other Livingston County men besides Mr. Kirk who suffered within that hideous inclosure, and his narrative of the
atrocities which they there endured in common, cannot fail to be read with interest.
|suitable to the health and comfort of the prisoners, and with the intention, as was asserted, of building a pen for the Yankees where they would rot faster than they could be sent. In January, 1864, a stockade was erected of pine-logs, about twenty feet in height, inclosing an area of about seventeen acres; to this was given the name 'Camp Sumter.' In the following July the inclosure was enlarged to afford room for the confinement of an increased number of prisoners, which was accomplished by extending the stockade about forty rods to the north; the work being performed by the inmates of the prison. With the addition, the stockade embraced about twenty-three and a half acres. Across this, from west to east, and about one-third of the distance from the southerly end of the stockade, ran a sluggish stream of water, five or six feet wide, and bordered on the north by a low swamp, embracing an area of perhaps four or five acres. This swamp became in time the receptacle for the offal which naturally drained into it from the surface of the camp, as well as the wash and waste of the camps and cook-houses outside. Outside the stockade, near where the stream entered it; the cook-house was located, and farther up, the rebel guards were accustomed to wash and bathe, while close to the stockade, animals were permitted to die and rot in its waters. This stream was the only place, with the exception of a few shallow wells and springs, from which the prisoners could procure water for general use. When the stream entered the stockade, it was covered with a mantle of filth, grease, and drippings that continually floated upon it when the creek was at its ordinary stage. From this pure and invigorating stream the prisoners drew their main supply of water. Outside the main stockade were two other lines built for defense and protection, in case of attempts to escape on the part of the prisoners; one being twelve, the other sixteen feet in height. The hospital was situated outside the lines, some distance from the southeast corner of the camp, having been erected in June, 1864. There were two entrances to the stockade, both on the westerly side, one north, and the other south of the stream, secured by strongly-constructed gates. It was guarded and garrisoned by rebel troops, whose camps were on the west side. Thirty-five sentry-boxes, well sheltered from sun and rain, were provided for the guards, and placed on the top of the stockade, at intervals of one hundred feet, so that the sentinels could see all that transpired among the prisoners within. On an eminence on the southwest corner, commanding the camp, were forts well supplied with artillery. The country around Andersonville||prison was a thick forest of pines, the space occupied by the camp having been cleared away for the
purpose of its location.
A crowd of several hundred men, mostly wounded, went into the stockade on the twelfth of July, 1864. [This was the party of which Mr. Kirk was one,--having come there, by wearying and painful stages, from the place of his capture, on the battle-field of Spottsylvania.] We were weak from wounds, and tired and jaded from a ride of more than a thousand miles in crowded cattle- cars; but we were thrust in among thirty thousand prisoners, and left to our fate. The scene within I have not words to describe. It is true that over the gates were not written in so many words 'abandon hope all ye who enter here,' but it was a fact that a fearfully large proportion of those who did enter never passed out alive. The first inquiries of the prisoners were in regard to the cause they loved so well, and for which they were suffering and dying. What of its victories and defeats? Does Father Abraham still live? Does the old flag yet wave? And as listening thousands gathered round, and the stories of the successes and triumphs of the Union arms were repeated, shouts ascended from gladdened hearts, and they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. They suddenly remembered that they were Union soldiers, with higher aims than that of starving and dying in Andersonville. Many had been there for long months. No letters had been received or sent, and they were intensely anxious for news from home. Letters were the soldier's life in our own camps; what joy they would have brought to suffering hearts here! Our detachmen t of several hundreds was directed to a certain part of the stockade-- the northeast corner--where we would find some vacant ground. After a long search we found the point indicated, and proceeded to spread our blankets, but there was hardly room enough for all to lie down at night. After this, I went to the creek for water, and when I returned I could not find my place." The ground was all covered with sleepers, and all looked alike to me. I roused one and another, hoping to find my comrade and blanket, but had to give up the search, and finally camping on an unoccupied corner lot, two feet by six, went to sleep. The next morning I found the object of my search about twenty feet from me. The more I explored this place, the more I disliked it. The tales told of its unhealthfulness were not encouraging to a sickly person, and, reports as to the bill of fare were not satisfactory to a delicate one, and I wanted to go home. But thousands had died with that same cry upon their lips, and my request was not granted.
|"During July the weather became hotter and hotter; at midday the sand burned
the feet; the skin blistered under the sun's rays, and cracked open, and the flies were then a cruel torment. The
loathsome swamp grew in offensiveness with every hour, and disease struck down its miserable victims on every side.
During these months of July, August, and September, one could see in every direction numbers of men in the last
stages of rotting death. The entire lack of vegetable food caused the scurvy to rage among the men in a frightful
manner. The gums would become diseased and rot away, and men with strong, healthy teeth could pull them out with
their fingers. The limbs would swell to twice their natural size and become red as blood and almost putrid; yet,
in cases as bad as these, I have known a half-bushel of sweet potatoes, eaten raw, to effect almost an entire cure.
If we could have had the precious privilege of picking out from the refuse of the kitchen at home the potato-parings,
apple-cores, and crusts of bread, hundreds of lives would have been saved to their country and their friends. I
knew there in the stockade a German watchmaker from Philadelphia. Knowing that among the rebels were hundreds of
old watches that required constant tinkering to keep them in motion, he made for himself some rude tools, and started
a shop. His price for cleaning and repairing a watch was twenty dollars, and he took his pay in sweet potatoes
at twenty dollars a bushel, Confederate money. He was constantly at work. Watches came to him from every quarter,
and sweet potatoes followed. Aside from his own necessities, they were distributed among the suffering, and doubtless
hundreds were relieved, and many lives saved, by his industry, skill, and humanity. I had the pleasure of meeting
him afterwards in God's Country, and of congratulating him on the good work he was permitted to accomplish.
"Inside the stockade, parallel with the lines, and about sixteen feet distant, was the 'dead-line,' marked by strips of boards nailed upon upright posts which were planted in the ground at regular intervals. It was rightly named--the line of death; to pass it, to encroach upon the fatal spot beyond, brought the penalty of death to all, without distinction. The purpose of its establishment was to guard the stockade against the approach of the prisoners, either singly or in numbers; and the violation of the rule brought instant punishment. Many a soldier, weary of his wretched life, crazed with hunger, and despairing of release, deliberately crossed the dead line, and from the bullet of the guard met the death he sought. Day by day we heard the crack of the deadly rifle, and the remark would pass along the line that
|another soldier had received his discharge. But the greatest number met their death
at the point where the dead-line crossed the creek on the west side. Those wanting water would go to this spot
and reach as far up the stream as possible, to get the least filthy water, and as they could reach nearly to the
dead-line, this furnished an excuse to such of the guards as were murderously inclined to fire upon them. I think
I am not out of the way in saying that for many weeks at least one man a day was killed at this place. The murders
became monotonous; we could hear the crack of the gun, and the piercing shriek of the victim, and hundreds of throats
would yell out curses and cry, 'Oh, give the rebel a furlough!' It was our firm belief that any guard who shot
a prisoner got a thirty days' furlough. Prisoners whose tents were near this point--this fact giving them
a good opportunity for observationhave stated to me that after a soldier had been shot, the particular guard who
did it would not be seen on duty again for some weeks.
"I was at the creek one day for water, and two soldiers, each eager to get the best place for filling their canteens, began crowding and pushing each other. In the scuffle they came near the dead-line (or where it would have been had it been continued across the creek), and in a moment the sound of the rifle was heard, and the poor victim paid a fearful penalty for his thoughtlessness. Most of the guards were very young boys or old men. The more able-bodied were in Lee's or Johnston's army, and the cradle and the grave had been robbed in forming these home regiments. Their ignorance was simply wonderful; they could hardly comprehend that it was any more harm to kill a Yankee than a deer of their own forests. Their minds had been so worked upon by those who wished to create just such impressions, that they believed it was a meritorious act to exterminate them as fast as possible. It seemed to be the aim of those who inaugurated this system of things to use every available means to diminish the number of Union soldiers. The condition of prisoners here was well known to those in high authority, as well as the extreme cruelty of those, "who had charge of them. When the rebel general Winder left the scene of his crimes at Richmond, to take charge of Andersonville, the Richmond Examiner, a paper never suspected of any partiality for Yankees, exclaimed, 'Thank God that Richmond has at last got rid of old Winder! May God have mercy upon those to whom he is sent!'
"The life we were compelled to live here was barely endurable. Multitudes died because they
|had nothing to do, nothing to read, nothing to engage their attention but misery
and death. Many yielded to the long strain of privations and exposure. Their faculties shrunk under this waiting
and longing, until they forgot their companions and regiments, the date of their capture, and finally their very
names. Many sunk into this imbecile condition, and had to be carefully guarded by their comrades from running into
danger. To our minds the world contained but two grand divisions: the space over which our flag floated we called
'God's Country'; that covered by the Confederate flag was designated by the strongest epithets at the speaker's
command. To get from the latter to the former was the highest object of our desires; better be engaged in the most
menial services under the Stripes and Stars, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness under the hateful Southern
Cross. To take the lowest place in the field would now be a delightful change. We did not care to go home; we would
not ask for furloughs, if we could only get to that blessed place within our own lines; once there, there would
be no more rumbling at guard duty, no more fault-finding about rations. We would endure cheerfully all the privations
that soldier's flesh was heir to. To thousands, hanging on the verge of eternity, this question meant life or death.
"Between July 1st and November 1st twelve thousand men died, the most of whom would doubtless have lived had they been able to reach our lines. There were only two ways by which this object could be accomplished,--escape and exchange. And there were so many perils attending the former, and so many failures connected with it, that our hopes were mainly centered on the latter. Every day there came something to build up the hope that exchange was near at hand, and every day brought something to extinguish the hope of the preceding one. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, and the desponding and sickly sank down and died under these repeated discouragements. We had rumors, from time to time, of Sherman breaking loose from Atlanta, and of his march eastward; and we prayed that his route might take in Andersonville. Our ears were constantly open for the faintest sound that might indicate his approach. There was hardly an hour of the night passed without some one fancying he heard the sound of distant firing. One would jump up and say, 'Now, if I ever heard musketry firing in my life, there's a heavy skirmish line at work, and not more than two or three miles away, either.' Then another would say, 'I don't ever want to get out of here, if that don't sound just like the skirmishing at the Wilderness the first day of the fight; it rattled exactly as that does
|now.' One night there came two short, sharp peals of thunder, sounding almost precisely
like the reports of rifled field-pieces. We sprang up in a frenzy of excitement, but the next peal went off in
the usual rumble, and the excitement gradually subsided.
"A few days later, in the evening of September 6th, the rebel sergeant who called the roll entered the stockade, and addressed the prisoners about as follows: 'I am instructed by General Winder to inform you that a general exchange has been agreed upon; twenty thousand men will be sent immediately to Savannah, where your vessels await you; detachments one to ten will be ready to march early tomorrow morning.' I was in my tent when I first heard the cheering, and hastened over to where the crowd had gathered. The excitement was simply indescribable, and it increased in volume as the crowd increased in numbers. The prisoners had endured their sufferings with manly firmness, but the emotions which sickness and pain could not develop, joy could; and the boys sang and shouted and danced and cried as if in delirium. God's country, fairer than the promised land of Canaan appeared to the rapt vision of the Hebrew prophet, was spread out in the far vista before the mind's eye of every one. It had come!--that which we had dreamed of, longed for, prayed for, schemed, planned, and toiled for, and for which had gone up the last, earnest, dying wish of the thousands of our comrades who would now know no exchange, save into that eternal God's country to which they had gone.
"In the morning of September 7th several thousands passed out, but our enemies were such measureless liars that many believed that they were only being sent to another stockade, to be out of the way of Sherman's threatened march. On the. seventh, eighth, and ninth of September about ten thousand were sent away; and this gave us more room, so that we could have some exercise. We fervently hoped that our comrades had really been exchanged; that they had carried to our friends in the North some news of our whereabouts and condition; but knowing so well the character of those people we were not greatly surprised when we found our friends in the stockade at Millen, Georgia, about two months later.
"As hopes of exchange declined activity in tunneling increased. Escape was a perpetual allurement to those who had some health and strength left; it afforded an opportunity for active possibilities. Far better to die in making the attempt than to starve and rot in inactivity; but we could not but acknowledge. that their plans to guard
|against our escape were well-nigh perfect, as was attested by the fact that out of
the fifty thousand prisoners who were, from first to last, at Andersonville, only about three hundred and twenty-eight
succeeded in getting to our own lines. . . . There were hundreds of patrols, pickets, and guards passing around
at all times, watching and guarding every avenue. Several packs of hounds also formed an important part of the
establishment of the prison-keepers. The human rebel might be escaped, but it was not so easy a matter to get clear
of their canine assistants. One man now living in this county has told me that on one occasion three prisoners
(of whom he was one), accompanied by a single guard, went out for wood, when they seized and gagged the guard,
and bound him so that he could not give the alarm; then ran for life and liberty, keeping as much as possible along
the stream, where the hounds could not follow the scent. After some hours the guard succeeded in getting free,
and gave the alarm; the hounds were immediately put upon their track, and when they heard them in close pursuit
they separated and took to the trees; but the hounds followed by their masters, soon came up, and the men were
brought down. This man was just on the point of getting down from the tree and joining the others, when he thought
he would wait until invited to come down. To his great surprise the entire party turned about and retraced their
way to the prison camp. As soon as they were out of sight he pursued his way to freedom, and finally succeeded,
with much assistance from the colored men, in reaching our lines. We always found the colored people true friends,
and there was no corner of the Southern Confederacy so remote but that they had heard of 'Massa Linkum' and his
"In September an event happened which brought to the minds of all familiar with Bible history the narrative of Moses bringing water from the rock. The stockade was very much crowded, and as there was considerable ground covered by the marsh along the creek that could not be occupied, some of the men asked and obtained permission from the rebel officers to dig down the hill along the dead-line and wheel the dirt down into the marsh, thereby gaining an acre or two of ground, which was afterwards used to very good advantage. They were busily engaged in this work when, deep in the hillside, they struck a fine spring of water, as cool and refreshing to the parched lips of the sick and dying of the prison as the waters of Meribah to the Israelites of the wilderness. The news spread that the waters were bursting forth, and as the maimed and sick crowded round the
|healing pool of Bethesda in Christ's time, so did these sick and dying ones come
here for a draught of pure, cold water. So great was the crowd that a police force was organized, and the last
who came were obliged to fall in the rear of the line. But there was no need of hurrying, for the water poured
forth in a steady, constant, endless flow, fit emblem of the blessings that should flow from the liberties which
men were dying to perpetuate.
"For me, this long period of hoping and watching and waiting finally came to an end early in November. An order came that every man must be at his tent, as the doctors were going to examine and send to our own lines those who would not be fit for future service. The doctors soon came in, and were quickly surrounded by maimed and wounded men, with wounds full of gangrene and limbs swollen almost to bursting with scurvy and dropsy, all of them imploring and beseeching the doctors to send them home before they died. From such a sight I turned away. I thought I had no chance in that crowd, but the sergeant of our ward insisted on the doctors seeing my wounds, and to my great surprise they put my name down for exchange. The next morning the bugle sounded for us to fall in. Our names were called and we were marched out of the stockade and again crowded into the cars. As our train left the depot we could see through the trees the fields where more than thirteen thousand of our soldiers were buried,--victims, not of necessity, but of the inhumanity of those who had them in charge.
"Our train ran to Macon, and then turned on the road leading to Savannah. We arrived at that city on Sunday morning, November 20, 1864, and were soon drawn up in line on the dock, to sign articles of parole not to take up arms again until duly exchanged. These preliminaries duly arranged, we got on board a small tug and started down the Savannah River to the point where our vessel lay. As we rounded a point in the, river we came in sight of a fort over which our flag floated. Our men, almost frantic with the sight of the stars and stripes, rushed to that side in such numbers that the vessel almost capsized, and the rebel officer drove them back with his sword. We finally arrived in the bay, where we saw our own steamers, laden with clothing for the naked, food for the famishing ones, medicine for the sick and dying, and waiting to convey all to home and friends again. We sprang over the narrow plank that separated the vessels, and were at home. What a night we passed on board that vessel! Men shouted and prayed and sang as if in delirium, and some died, from very joy, Whenever I awoke
during the night, the voice of singing came to my ear, and my heart joined in the melody. What a delightful sense of comfort and rest we experienced for a few days! Food was given us sparingly, but we knew there was plenty in reserve when we were able to bear it. The day after we came on board we threw our rags into the ocean, and received a new suit of blue. We were then transferred to another vessel and started North. The very elements were propitious, and we had a delightful voyage, singing with glad hearts 'Homeward Bound.' Very few were sea-sick, and about dark on Saturday, November 26, 1864, we reached Annapolis, where our wants were all provided for, and we received everything that our condition required."
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