It has taken MUCH longer than I anticipated, but the 2013 winner of the pick my blog article is finally finished! The winner of the contest was Sidney Bondurant, and he chose the topic: the 33rd Mississippi Infantry. I had planned to do a short article about the 33rd Mississippi, but fate intervened, and I found this remarkable memoir by John Snead Lamkin, captain of Company E, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. It was a long memoir, but I felt the content would make the effort involved worthwhile. I hope you like it.
– luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for
I have found in my years as an historian that serendipity plays an important part in my work. In the course of my research I don’t always find what I am looking for, but quite often I find very interesting things that I didn’t even know existed.
A perfect example of serendipity in action is the following memoir, Recollections of my Prison Life, written by Captain John Snead Lamkin and published in the Magnolia Gazette of Pike County, Mississippi. I stumbled across this treasure while looking for an obituary; it was the bold headline, “Recollections of my Prison Life,” that caught my attention, and a quick perusal of the article made it instantly clear that it was written by a Confederate veteran. What really intrigued me though, was that the article ended with the words “To be continued.” This meant it was not just one article, but a series of articles, which is somewhat rare. I find individual stories by Confederate soldiers in the newspapers all the time, but finding a multi-part series does not happen very often.
As I looked through the Magnolia Gazette to find the other articles by Lamkin, I was astounded to find that his writings went on and on and on. Lamkin began his series on July 30, 1880, and with only a few interruptions, continued with one each week until finally ending on February 11, 1881. What I had found was not just an article by Lamkin, but his entire memoir, printed out week by week, describing in great detail his last battle, in which he was captured, and his experiences as a prisoner of war in 1864 – 1865.
John Snead Lamkin’s memoir is important not because of its length, but because of its content. He was a keen observer and a very good writer, and his account of life at Johnson’s Island makes for fascinating reading. Lamkin’s description of prison life imparts to the reader an appreciation of the hardships of confinement and how the soldiers fought against boredom, loneliness, and the elements.
John Snead Lamkin was born on June 13, 1829, in Dooley Georgia, the oldest of the thirteen children of Sampson and Narcissa Lamkin. By 1860, he was living in Pike County, Mississippi, along with his wife Isabella, and his two children, Helen, age 2, and Lewis, age 10 months. John Lamkin listed his occupation to the census taker as lawyer, and listed the value of his real estate at $2,500, and his personal estate as $4,500. The Lamkin family also owned three slaves; John owned a male, age 35, and Isabella owned two females, one age 45, and the other age 13. – The Genealogy of the Lamkin family was accessed at: http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=drphill&id=I338http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=drphill&id=I338, June 7, 2015. The 1860 U.S. Census information for the Lamkin family was found in the Microfilm roll for Pike County, Mississippi; Roll: M653_589; Page 332. Information on the family’s slaves came from the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Slave Schedules.
John S. Lamkin enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company E, “Holmesville Guards,” 33rd Mississippi Infantry, in March 1862. Promoted to Captain of Company E on September 24, 1863, Lamkin fought with his regiment at Corinth in 1862, Champion Hill and the siege of Jackson in 1863, and Resaca, New Hope Church, and Kennesaw Mountain in 1864. – Information taken from John S. Lamkin’s Compiled service record with the 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
Lamkin’s memoir begins with the recollection of his final battle; Peachtree Creek, Georgia, which took place on July 20, 1864. The 33rd Mississippi Infantry was part of Brigadier General Winfield Scott Featherston’s brigade in this battle, which was composed of the following units: 1st Battalion Mississippi Sharpshooters, 33rd Mississippi Infantry, 3rd Mississippi Infantry, 22nd Mississippi Infantry, 31st Mississippi Infantry, and 40th Mississippi Infantry. Featherston’s brigade was part of Major General William W. Loring’s division, Army of Tennessee. – Official Records, Series 1, Volume 38, Part 3, pages 880 – 884.
The Battle of Peachtree Creek was a bloody one for the Mississippians in Featherston’s brigade, and I think the memory of the fighting there scarred Lamkin for the rest of his life. He begins his memoir with an account of this battle, and it serves as a riveting introduction to his story of life in a Civil War prison camp. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Magnolia Gazette, July 30, 1880
Magnolia, Miss., July 22, 1880
Capt. J.D. Burke:
Dear Sir – I have just been looking through long disused documents – those which have now become musty with age. Among others I found one which I called at the time of penning it, “Recollections of my Prison Life.” On reading over some of it, I came to the conclusion that it might not be devoid of interest, to at least a portion of your readers. Most of the names mentioned in it are well known in this county. Some are living; some lie resting neglected on the field of honor, wrapped in their shrouds of imperishable glory; some perhaps, have passed away since the termination of the late “unpleasantness.” These “Recollections” were written while I was a prisoner of war, and all the scenes depicted were graven in my memory as with a pen of fire, and I know them to be correct and true as viewed from my stand point. They begin on the 20th of July, 1864, and running through a series of months, gives a sketch of prominent events which fell within my limited sphere of observation, up to April 20th, 1865. I have, and can have no “axe to grind,” in publishing this sketch, but only the desire to interest my friends. “What’s writ, is writ,” and I shall not change any of it, but let it go for what it’s worth, and will close the introductory remarks with the statement, that day before yesterday, sixteen years ago, I was “taken in out of the wet.” – Yours &c,
[J.D. Burke was the owner/editor of the Magnolia Gazette]
Recollections of My Prison Life
I would like to commence these “Recollections” back at the beginning of my military career in the P.A.C.S., but while I fear that the time allowed me for the completion of the task – if my life should be spared me by the mercies of a kind Providence – will be more than ample yet, so huge seems the undertaking now, that I begin with the second chapter, to wit, my imprisonment.
I never think of the sanguinary 20th of July, 1864, but with a shudder. Yet, terrible as are the “Recollections” of that day, I will essay this task of depicting its horrors, and I think I shall keep to my purpose to the end. In doing this, I have an object in view. First; to fill up the moments of that time somewhat usefully, which would otherwise hang like a dead pall upon my hands, and secondly; that I believe (should I ever be liberated from this living tomb) there are those who will feel an affectionate interest in knowing what I have passed through and endured, while separated from them. Thus much by way of prelude.
At this writing I am a prisoner of war to the United States government, on Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky City, on the banks of Lake Erie, in Erie County, Ohio. I am in a large, open room, some fifty of us huddled indiscriminately together – a single stove in the middle of the room, but scantily supplied with wood; the cold winter approaching; no messenger, but for loved ones at home, whose lives are bound up in mine; and bad as the prospect is, for whose benefit I yet long to live. I am seated on the end of my little trunk, writing on a shelf, while my bunk-mate is gone to a cold, filthy kitchen to prepare our scanty meal of beef slops – the time being 4 o’clock p.m. We only get enough for two light meals in the day. Gaunt hunger is writing its lasting lines on the faces of all around me.
On the 20th of July, Hood’s whole force was lying behind earth works some fifteen miles above Atlanta, Ga., which works had been completed but a day or two – about the same length of time that Hood had been in command of that army. That noble old hero, Joseph E. Johnston, had just been relieved by the President of the Confederate States, from the command of that army. The relief of Johnston at this time took the whole army by surprise. So great was the astonishment that General Johnston should be relieved, that the various generals of his army (as the writer was informed) held a council of war on the subject, the result of which was that they addressed a note of remonstrance to the President by telegraph. The only reply to which was; “General Johnston is no longer commanding the Army of Tennessee,” &c.
As soon would his army have expected to hear of the relief of Gen. Lee, in Virginia, or the President as of their beloved leader, who Moses like had piloted them on from place to place, whithersoever the pillow of cloud should indicate by day and the pillow of fire by night, he though yielding territory in his onward march, was nevertheless thinning the enemy’s ranks by thousands – compelling them to scatter on their line of march which they had occupied with comparatively no loss on his side. His army all saw this and were conscious of the fact that never in all their campaigns had they been so well fed, clothed and provided generally. No wonder then that they looked upon him as their military Father and great moral hero. On the other hand, while they knew nothing against Gen. Hood yet, knowing less they loved him less.
About noon, the army lying as above described, received orders to march by the flank to the right along the breastworks. They were quickly in motion; for so long had they been in campaign, and so accustomed to this kind of movement, that but few minutes were required at any time to put that vast army of sixty thousand men in motion. We moved some mile and a half, as near as I could judge, and halted. My regiment, the gallant old 33rd Mississippi, resting on the summit of a very tall hill. Here we supposed we would rest as usual and await the flank movement of the enemy.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, August 6, 1880
In this, however, we were mistaken, for we had been in that position but a few minutes when our Brigadier General Featherston, received the order by the hand of a courier to carry his Brigade to the front – the whole army to move in echelon by Division. Sergeant William J. Lamkin happened to be standing a few yards in rear of the troops, and very near to where Gen. Featherston was sitting on his horse when the courier approached, and delivered him the order, and heard the order read. He immediately came up to the lines, and related to the writer the contents of the order, which you may believe produced a considerable sensation, but not so great a sensation as was produced a few minutes afterwards when we heard the clarion voice of Col. Drake communicating the word of command to his regiment. This was the last time that I have any recollection of having ever seen Sergeant William J. Lamkin. He was certainly killed during the battle.– William James Lamkin was the younger brother of John S. Lamkin. William was 3rd Sergeant of Company E, 33rd Mississippi, and his service record states, “Missing since July 20, in action at Peachtree Creek,” and “Killed July 20, 1864, near Atlanta, Ga.” The information on Lamkin comes from the Lamkin Family Genealogy on Rootsweb.com, and his Compiled Service Record with the 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– Jabez L. Drake began his military career as a lieutenant in Company F, 33rd Mississippi Infantry, in 1862. He worked his way up through the officer’s ranks, and was promoted to colonel of the 33rd Mississippi on January 5, 1864. He was killed while leading his regiment at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, on July 20, 1864. – Information from the Compiled Service Record of Jabez L. Drake, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
The General gave to the Colonel of his Brigade the necessary orders for the advance, which were the last orders ever given by him to many of us. We were thrown across the breastworks by our Colonels, not knowing what was expected of us. We had to go down the hill before mentioned, and through dense, tangled brush-wood, which had been cut down and interlaced to retard the progress of the enemy should he attempt to advance on our works. So difficult was it to go through this wood in order of battle, that Col. Drake gave the command, “By the right of Companies to the front – Battalion, by the right-flank, march.” In this order, we passed through the woods, a distance of less than half a mile, until we reached a field, where our pickets were stationed, through which ran a creek with abrupt, high banks, and wide marshy bottom, with tangled briars all the way across. There we were again brought into line of battle by the command, “By Companies into line, march.”
Then moved by the left-flank across this creek to unmask Brig. Gen. Wright’s Brigade, which we found on our right in front, partly lapping over ours. Having crossed the creek, we were again moved towards the front, but soon found obstacles in the shape of briars, &c., that the three right companies could not easily surmount; so they were thrown back by the command, “Three right Companies, obstacle.” This took all companies on my right, mine being the fifth company, one of which was on picket. Thus arranged, we were again started to the front, and very soon were compelled to cross another bend of that difficult creek; this we did in the utmost disorder, for it was impossible to keep men in line in such a place; and by the time I was myself over, on looking about, saw my company scattered over a large space. I devoted myself as rapidly as possible to forming my company into a good line again.
By this time the men began to sniff the battle breeze, and they began to rush headlong onwards, encouraged to the most daring exhibitions of courage by my fiery spirited Lieutenants, who at that moment knew no fear, and were followed by men equally intrepid. Occasionally we heard the encouraging voice of our gallant Col. Drake; and then the advance of our men through morass, brambles, plowed fields, and over fences, became so rapid that I, who had been weakened almost beyond the power of exertion, by that dreadful plague of the soldier, chronic diarrhea, found the utmost difficulty in keeping up with them. The companies which had been thrown back on my right never did come up into their places, thus leaving a long, open space on my right, which was the cause of so much of the disaster that subsequently attended us. We had to pass through a pretty large plowed field just before approaching the enemy’s pickets, which were posted on the top of a hill, some thirty yards outside of the field. On going up the hill and approaching the fence which surrounded this field the enemy’s artillery poured an enfilading fire into us from the left, which completely swept the field. Here one of my litter bearers asked me if he should take Orderly Sergeant Richmond and Private Marion Lee to the shade? Alas! The noble boy, T.D. Richmond, or Dilly as we called him. I asked what of them?, and was informed that they were both wounded. I ordered them to the rear immediately. I did not learn how they were wounded, and have not seen, and only heard of them once since through the papers. – Francis Marion Lee was a private in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, enlisting on March 22, 1862, at Holmesville, Mississippi. He was “Wounded and sent to hospital, July 20, wounded slightly.” – Compiled Service Record of Francis Marion Lee, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– Thomas Delavene Richmond was the 1st Sergeant of Company E, 33rd Mississippi. He enlisted on April 30, 1862, at Holmesville, Mississippi. He was “Wounded in action on 20 July and sent hospital, wounded slight.” – Compiled Service Record of Thomas D. Richmond, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
As fast as we got to the fence we laid down, thus giving a few moments for rest and to collect the scattered men in line. Soon we heard the clarion voice of Col. Drake again calling out, “Forward, men, Forward!” The Regiment was up in an instant, and mounting the fence. There was a gap in the fence to my right, through which I threw my company, “By the right-flank, by file-left, march.” We then saw the enemy beginning to fly from their picket line. After clearing the gap I again brought my company “By company into line, march.” Just then I saw a blue-coat in great haste ascending the opposite hill. I pointed him out to Private Adam Bacot who was near me, and told him to draw a bead on him. He raised his rifle to his face, holding it poised for an instant, when its clear tone rang out to swell the rattling tumult all around, and the poor fellow tumbled on his face to rise no more (I suppose), until the resurrection morn. He must have been hit in the back. – Adam Bacot was a private in Company E, 33rd Mississippi. He enlisted March 22, 1862, at Holmesville, Mississippi, and was captured and paroled at Corinth in October 1862. Compiled Service Record of Adam Bacot, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
Just previous to this, Bacot pointed out a man to me whose head and shoulders were visible behind the enemy picket works, and asked me if it was one of our men or an enemy, and if he should shoot him. I could not distinguish the color of his dress and told him not to shoot, thinking some of our men might have got there ahead of us. Just then a bullet whistled by our ears and we saw the tip of a Yankee blouse fluttering in the breeze. As its wearer was flying down the steep hill which sheltered him from our view. This is believed to be the same man who again came in view as he ascended the next hill, and whom Bacot shot. Turning my eyes to the left, I saw Lieut. Level, the ensign of our regiment, full thirty yards in advance of the line rushing madly on, holding aloft and waving most furiously and defiantly our beautiful battle flag, the stars and bars. – Edwin Francis Leavell enlisted March 1, 1862, as 5th Sergeant of Company H, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. Appointed regimental ensign in early 1864, Wounded in the right jaw and shoulder at Peachtree Creek, Georgia, Leavell was captured by the Federals and sent to the hospital. – Compiled Service Record of Edwin F. Leavell, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
Suddenly I saw the beautiful emblem and it proud and brave bearer tumble to the earth. Oh! How my heart bled to see that noble man, that beautiful flag go down! But animated by a soul of flame which death alone could extinguish, the next instant he was seen crawling towards the enemy on one hand and knees dragging his beloved colors after him. Ah! The death hail was rattling around us then, and many a noble man there fell to rise no more; yet, many a death dealing blow was struck by us in return as we rushed despite all obstacles, on, right on to the front. I saw our beautiful flag no more, but was told that Silas C. Rushing snatched it from the ground and bore it proudly on, until he too, paid the penalty for his gallantry with his life’s rich blood. Again, it was snatched up by some one and borne onward until he too was shot down. Thus thrice was our colors prostrated, and as often rose, when alas! they fell to wave no more over the brave hearts that were want to march beneath its beautiful folds, on to the acquisition of their dearest rights. – Silas Cyrus Rushing enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi Infantry, on March 22, 1862, at Holmesville, Mississippi. Wounded in action at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, and captured by the Federals. Sent to Camp Douglas prisoner of war camp in Illinois, Rushing died of Typhoid Fever on February 19, 1865. – Compiled Service Record of Silas C. Rushing, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, August 13, 1880
About this time the gallant Drake fell, but the Regiment knew it not, except in the lack of order in their onward charge; but they did charge madly onward, and in that throng of brave spirits, not one organized company exceeded “Co. E,” for they went as far as he who dared go farthest. But we had no support on our right as far as the woods would let me see – a distance of about 100 yards. We charged down the hill on which stood the force above described, and up the next from the summit of which we could see where most of the mischief proceeded from. On the ascent of the next hill side, and beyond a ravine appeared the enemy’s breast-works of rails, evidently, hastily thrown together, from which they had full play at us every time we got on an eminence.
Notwithstanding the murderous volleys poured into us from their works, and from the ravine nearer by, and also from a battery which seemed but just to have got into position on the line of their works, we moved rapidly forward, the gallant little “Co. E,” as I believe, leading the van, until we reached a deep trench running parallel with our line of march, and about fifteen paces from the ravine spoken of. I jumped into this because I could not jump across it, and found it almost immediately filled with my brave boys, who hovered all around me, and seemed to desire to lose no time, for they loaded and fired as rapidly as they could, and when they would sink exhausted, a word of encouragement would cause them to make still another effort, to shoot a hated foe. I soon ascertained however, that the enemy was taking advantage of the gap on my right to flank us, and I ordered my boys, all who could, to return. I then for the first time ascertained what our condition was.
My brave brother Abner had received a minnie ball in his bowels and was supported by Bacot, who also deported himself with consummate coolness and bravery. Lucius M. Quin, who was a corporal, and a mere boy, and who had endeared himself to me by soldierly qualities, came to me holding up his (left I think) arm bleeding, told me that his arm was shivered all to pieces, and asked me for God’s sake not to leave him in the hands of the enemy. I promised him I would not, and immediately helped him out of the ditch, which was hard to climb. Corporal Raiford Holmes, another noble boy, came also begging me not to leave him. This I also promised. He was shot in, or about the hip-joint, dangerously. His brother, Sergeant David Holmes and I helped him out of the ditch, but he could not travel and was taken down again. – Abner Lewis Lamkin was the younger brother of John S. Lamkin. He enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on March 22, 1862, at Holmesville. He was “Killed in action, July 20, 1864, at Peachtree Creek.” – Lamkin family genealogy at Rootsweb.com, and information on his military service is from Lamkin’s Compiled Service Record with the 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– Corporal Lucius Monroe Quin enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on April 10, 1862, at Holmesville. He was “Wounded in action 20 July and sent to hospital, wounded severely.” Quin survived his injury and the war, dying in Pike County on November 4, 1909. – Compiled Service Record of Lucius M. Quin, 33rd Mississippi Infantry, and his tombstone information from Findagrave.com.
– Corporal Raiford Holmes enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on March 22, 1862, at Holmesville. Holmes was shot in the left hip during the Battle of Peachtreee Creek. Captured by the Federals, he died in the Field Hospital, 3rd Division 20th Corps, on August 24, 1864. – Compiled Service Record of Raiford Holmes, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– Sergeant David Holmes enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi on March 22, 1862. He was captured at the Battle of Peachtree Creek and sent to Camp Chase prisoner of war camp in Ohio. He died of Pneumonia on January 31, 1865, and is buried in grave 978 at Camp Chase. – Compiled Service Record of David Holmes, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
Then came the hardest part of all: my gentle brother, whose wound I thought was fatal, implored me not to leave him. I directed Bacot to do the best he could for him, and he said, ‘Captain, I don’t know what to do; he cannot walk.’ Oh! my soul sank within me then. Judge me ye Martinets; what was my duty then? Had I not stopped to assist my poor boys, at their earnest entreaties, perhaps I might have got back; but I think I could not, for of all those who were with me in the ditch, and started back, I know of but two who got back, and they were Quin and Bacot. Was it my duty to start and leave my boys? Could the pleading eyes of a dying brother furnish no reason for a minute’s hesitation? And a minute was all I had, but it was a minute heavy laden with consequences to me, for by the time I had said a few words to him, two of the enemy came over the little ridge that separated the ravine from the ditch in which we were.
As they came up, seeing my chances of escape cut off, Lieut. Ratliff, Sergeant Holmes and I, who were standing close together, announced our surrender as prisoners of war. As we did so, the foremost fellow, who I suppose was an officer, commenced fumbling rapidly in his belt, then jerking out his pistol, he said: ‘You son of b—h,’ and leveled it at the group of us (as then supposed) and fired, but God who holds even bullets in his hand turned aside once more the messenger of death, and he missed us. I then looked rapidly around for a loaded gun, but could find none but empty ones. Had I come across one, I suppose I would have tried to kill him. Frank Ware, who I did not know was there, it afterwards transpired, had snatched Lieut. LeNoir’s pistol and fired at the other one, striking him in the upper part of the arm. The Yankee who had (as we supposed) fired at us ran back, but the other remained with us and talked kindly to us. Lieuts. Ratliff and Miskell, about the time of the firing above mentioned, attempted to get back – Ratliff remarking that ‘If I have to be shot down after I have surrendered, I might as well be shot in trying to get back.’ Bacot and Morgan also started back, and I think another one but I cannot distinctly remember. – 3rd Lieutenant Warren R. Ratliff enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on March 22, 1862, at Holmesville. He was killed in action at the Battle of Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864. – Compiled Service Record of Warren R. Ratliff, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. In his history of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry, author James S. Pula wrote of the following incident in the wake of the Battle of Peachtree Creek: “Making his way to the field hospital, [Frank A.] Kuechenmeister picked up a cedar canteen inscribed ‘W.E. Ratcliffe, 33d Mississippi Infantry.” – The Sigel Regiment: A History of the Twenty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry 1862-1865.
Note – I have since come to the conclusion that the fellow did not shoot at us, who were standing together at all, but at Ware, in retaliation for the shot fired at them, by him, and that this drew forth the exclamation of the fellow, who fired the shot. At all events, this was the cause of Ratliff’s death, for he would have remained a prisoner, but for that shot. I then for the first time found Lieut. LeNoir wounded in the calf of his leg, behind an angle of the ditch, and Frank Ware with him, who had also been slightly wounded. I was gratified at a remark made by Lieut. LeNoir, for he then and there testified to the cool, deliberate bravery of Abner Lamkin. Said he had watched him and never saw a man bear himself more nobly. I suppose the reason Lieut. Ratliff attempted to escape was the (seeming) act of treachery of the fellow who (as we supposed) fired at us after our surrender. At all events, I never again saw him alive. – Private Benjamin F. Ware enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on July 13, 1863, transferring to the regiment from the 4th Mississippi Cavalry. He was captured at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, and sent to Camp Douglas prisoner of war camp. Ware was released from the prison on June 17, 1865.
– 1st Lieutenant George B. Lenoir enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi Infantry, on March 10, 1862, at Holmesville, Mississippi. Wounded in action and captured at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Lenoir was exchanged at Rough and Ready, Georgia, in September 1864. Apparently he was thought dead for awhile after his wounding, as his service record also states he died in a Federal hospital on July 25, 1864. Lenoir managed to survive the war, surrendering in North Carolina on April 28, 1865. He died on October 1, 1911, and is buried at Hope Hull Lenoir Cemetery in Marion County, Mississippi. – Compiled Service Record of George B. Lenoir, 33rd Mississippi Infantry and his listing from Findagrave.com.
Soon after getting into the ditch, Lieut. Miskell looked across the little ridge in our front, and saw men’s heads in the ravine beyond. He asked some one near if they were our men, he said that, ‘if any one else can go there we can,’ and started; but a better scrutiny showed him they were not our men, and he did not go. I did not see him when he started back. By this time the Yankees commenced pouring over us in numbers. Some of whom when they saw us cried out in Dutch jargon, ‘kill dem, kill dem; knock dem on de head,’ &c. One who had stopped with us told them if they did it, it would be over his dead body; they were his prisoners and should not be hurt. After they passed us he apologized saying: ‘They were none of our boys, and nothing but Dutch anyway.’ – 2nd Lieutenant Richard A. Miskell enlisted in the 33rd Mississippi Infantry on March 22, 1862, at Holmesville. He was initially listed as “Missing in action since July 20, 1864 in action at Peach Tree Creek.” It was later noted that Miskell was “Killed July 20, 1864 near Atlanta, GA.” – Compiled Service Record of Richard A. Miskell, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, August 20, 1880
I then devoted myself entirely to the care of my poor brother. I took his head in my lap, but could not arrange him very comfortably. He talked to me incessantly. I said something about being apprehensive that I would be blamed for remaining with him, but he said, no indeed, no one could be so hard hearted as to blame me for staying with my dying brother. He said he would not have had me leave him for a thousand worlds. He talked of his father, mother, brothers and sisters. Called me his good brother, and said he would rather I would be with him then than any one in the world. Asked Serg’t Holmes (who was nursing his brother) and me to pray for him, which we did. He heartily responded. I asked him if he was prepared to die. He said he felt no consciousness of guilt. He was very thirsty and I used up all the contents of my canteen, his and Holmes,’ after which the Yankees kept me well supplied with water. He wanted me to continue pouring it on and around his wound. I tried to dissuade him from talking, fearing it would fatigue him too much. He was very restless, and once when I tried to place him in an easier position his bowels gushed out at his wound. I then lost all hope of his recovery, for I saw the hole in the intestines. He spoke of his knapsack, telling me where to get it, and took some little trinkets from his pocket, asking me to take them to his mother. I have them yet.
In this way he survived perhaps an hour and a half, when he died calmly and peacefully, as he had lived, and I believe and hope went to Heaven. Once in the time he remarked that he knew a wound was painful, but did not know it hurt so bad. Holmes and I laid him out as neatly as we could, and I wrapped him up in my blanket. An Acting Major at my request promised me that he would be buried on the spot where he lay, and a board with his name and command thereon, placed at his head. The Yankees allowed me to watch by his side until about 9 o’clock at night. Previous to this time, however, I went in charge of a guard to walk over the field and see who I could discover. Some eighty yards back of where I was captured, I found Lieut. Miskell on his elbows and knees, drawn up, his face between his arms, cold and dead; Lieut. Ratliff on his back, the contents of his haversack scattered all around him, already dead. Lewis N. Ellzey, wounded, he told me of the death of John Harvey, but the Yankees would not let me go further, nor allow me more time, as they were fast erecting their breast works on top of this hill. If I could have looked further I would probably have been able to a certainty to relieve all doubts as to the fate of Brother William.
– Private Frederick C. Buerstatte served in Company F, 26th Wisconsin Infantry, and his regiment was engaged with the 33rd Mississippi during the Battle of Peachtree Creek. On July 21, 1864, he wrote in his diary, “This morning our regiment, after a sleepless night, had to bury the dead Rebs which laid before our regiment. They were all from the 33rd Mississippi Regiment. Our regiment lost 9 dead and 36 wounded. We buried over 50 Rebs, among them Colonel Drake and most of the officers of the 33rd Miss. Regiment.” An online transcript of Buerstatte’s diary can be found at: http://www.russscott.com/~rscott/26thwis/fredbdia.htm.
– Lewis N. Ellzey enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on May 1, 1862, at Holmesville. He was wounded in the right thigh and captured at Peachtree Creek and sent to Camp Douglas prisoner of war camp. Ellzey died at Camp Douglas of Typhoid Fever on January 13, 1865. – Compiled Service Record of Lewis N. Ellzey, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– Private John T. Harvey enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on April 10, 1862, at Holmesville. He was killed in action at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, July 20, 1864. – Compiled Service Record of John T. Harvey, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
Still later in the evening I prevailed on them to permit me to visit Lieuts. Ratliff and Miskell again to point their bodies out, and obtain their promise to give them a descent burial where they were lying. This they promised, but on the occasion of each visit, it being dark (or only star light) I could not tell nor was I allowed time to ascertain how they were struck. Raiford Holmes had been carried off and his brother, David Holmes permitted to stay with him. About ten or eleven o’clock, I was carried to the rear, being compelled to bid a final farewell to all that was mortal of poor Abner, whose fate, to die, so young, so good, so loved, so brave, was enough almost to break my heart. Frank Ware was taken with me, and we were not separated until we arrived at Louisville, whence the privates were taken to Camp Douglas, the officers to Johnson’s Island, where possibly their bodies may be reposing when the last trump shall sound. To wake the sleepers under ground.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, September 3, 1880
Lieut. Lenoir was not removed up to the time I was taken away, and I do not know where he nor the Holmes’ now are. I will, in the proper place, mention all that I have since heard of them. In going to the rear, I passed the spot where they had collected our wounded, and oh! what a heart-rending scene it was when the wounded knew it was I who was passing. There were several of my brother officers, and several privates from my own regiment. A Lieut. Kennedy, a good fellow called to me, ‘Captain come here; I am dying,’ said he ‘give me your hand; I bid you an affectionate farewell.’ He then mentioned some indifferent matters to tell his friends if I should see them. Lieut. West also spoke to me. Lieut. Level, the brave ensign of the regiment, whom I previously mentioned, called to me and said: ‘Oh, Captain, I am shot all to pieces.’ He was hit in the face and shoulder. Last, but not least affecting to my feelings, my own boys who had trod so many weary miles, contested so many well fought fields, and borne so many hardships subject to my lead, began calling on me. There was Lewis Ellzey, whom I previously mentioned, and Osborne, of whose fate I knew nothing until that moment. He told me that his wounds were of a dangerous character and he thought he could not survive them. I think he died subsequently. – 3rd Lieutenant Simeon J. Kennedy served in Company A, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. He was wounded and captured by the Federals at Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864. There was another notation in Kennedy’s service record that he was “mortally wounded.” – Compiled Service Record of Simeon J. Kennedy, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– 3rd Lieutenant Andrew G. West served in Company G, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, July 20, 1864. – Compiled Service Record of Andrew G. West, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– Private Lawrence Osburn enlisted in Company E, 33rd Mississippi, on May 31, 1863, at Jackson, Mississippi, as substitute for another man. He was killed in action at Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864. – Compiled Service Record of Lawrence Osburn, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
I spoke what words of encouragement I could to them, but my heart was too full to say much, and it was a relief when the
Yankee guard hurried me onward. I omitted to mention in the proper place, that it was the 20th Connecticut Regiment, Ward’s Brigade, Hooker’s 20th Army Corps, that we fought, and that took me prisoner. On the occasion of my second visit to the bodies of Miskell and Ratliff, I fell in with the acting Major again who asked me if I was the Captain he had previously seen. I told him I was, he then requested my sword, which I presented to him. He deported himself very gentlemanly towards me, as did many of the guard. After this the Major of the regiment – acting Colonel – came and sat down with me, entering very delicately into a discussion of some of the questions that separated us. He was a man of polished manners and fine address, and appeared in the imperfect light to be a mere boy.
To resume, I was being conducted past Gen. Ward’s head quarters to the ‘Bull Pen.’ The General having been informed that a Captain was in tow, sent for me. When I entered his tent (fly rather) he raised up from his cot and spoke to me very politely, at the same time ordering a chair for me. We held a conversation of some half hour in length, during which I, having caught the Yankee style, asked him nearly as many questions as he did me. He did not ask me the old hacknied question as to the strength of our army, but some fellow sleeping near me did – putting his questions in several different forms – some of them I declined answering without giving a reason, and some, for the best of reasons, that I did not know. After which the General spoke rather petulantly I thought, saying he had never yet seen once who did know the strength of their (our) forces. I took this as a rebuke to the individual (perhaps his A.A.G.) who had asked question so little likely to be answered. In answer to some of my questions, the General informed me that he had been in the old congress and was distantly connected with Matt Ward (whom all remember), had known Gens. Featherston, Barksdale, &c., and indeed all our political generals, and thought there was more of the politician than the military man about many of them &c. He stated that he though we would soon be exchanged, as the only obstacle seemed to be the ‘nigger,’ and that both parties had agreed to ignore that until they got through with the white folks. This alas! has proved to be a delusion by the poor prisoners on both sides. I was then sent to the guard house, where I found several officers and a good many men from my brigade – several of the men being from my regiment. I laid down to sleep for the first time in my life a prisoner. In a very short time I awoke and the sun was shining down on me. Thus ended my first day of imprisonment. The next day being no so pregnant with consequences, will not require so much tediousness in description. – The “General Ward” mentioned by Lamkin was Brigadier General William T. Ward, who commanded the Third Division of the XX Corps, Army of the Cumberland. “Matt Ward” may have been Matthias Ward, who was a United States Senator from Texas in 1858 – 1859. Information on Matthias Ward found at: https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwa50.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, September 10, 1880
The morning of the 21st dawned gloriously on me, but alas! it brought no sunshine to my heart. I traded a piece of tobacco to a Yankee for a cup of coffee and some crackers. This was my breakfast; but I had plenty of corn bread in my haversack, a part of which being mouldy, I threw it away. I was treated kindly enough by the soldiers at the front, for they knew how to treat a manly foe then. All my maltreatment was reserved for the cowardly miscreants to inflict who are far in the rear.
Pretty soon, ‘Fighting Joe Hooker’ came prancing by us on his gay gelding. He is a man of fine appearance; keen and sharp looking: red face; aquiline nose; light hair, weighing apparently about one hundred and eighty pounds. It was with a heavy heart that I soon after that, in company with the other prisoners took up the line of march for Gen. Thomas’ head quarters. Arrived at some body’s quarters, were stopped, when the rolls were made out and verified; and then we were sent on a distance of two miles to Gen. Thomas’ quarters, where we found him in a state with all the business paraphernalia of his department, and many more prisoners, near 350 in all. Then our roll was again called, rations issued, and all of us quartered for the night, (i.e.) surrounded by a guard. I found among them Frank Martin, son of J.T. Martin, of Pike, also an assistant surgeon of his (45th Mississippi) Regiment. The assistant surgeon was sent back from there and Martin was carried on with us to commence his second term of imprisonment. – Private Frank M. Martin enlisted in Company E, 3rd Battalion Mississippi Infantry, on November 11, 1861, at Natchez, Mississippi. The 3rd Mississippi Battalion was later designated the 45th Mississippi Infantry. Martin was captured at the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on January 1, 1863. Sent to Camp Douglas prisoner of war camp in Illinois, he was paroled on March 30, 1863. He was captured for the second time near Atlanta on July 20, 1864, and sent back to Camp Douglas. Martin was discharged from the prison on June 17, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. – Compiled Service Record of Frank M. Martin, 3rd Battalion Mississippi Infantry.
Early on the morning of the 22nd, we were formed and commenced our march of fifteen miles to Marietta. This we completed before night some time, although the road was exceedingly dusty, water scarce, and weather warm. That night we were quartered in the courthouse, on account of a shower of rain that came up, and our condition was exceedingly uncomfortable on account of the dense crowd of us; and with all due deference to my brother prisoners, I will say that I have been much more crowded by them ever since than I like.
About 9 o’clock on the 23rd we were marched out in order – officers in front – to the depot, where after some delay we were placed in the cars, which were a dirty box for the officers, and mostly open slatted sided cars for the men. It was amusing to see the maneuvers of a couple of young cavalrymen to pass themselves of as officers. They were a little doubtful about coming out and saying they were officers, and yet thrust themselves among the officers, thinking thereby to get better quarters and accommodations. But the test question came plainly from the Yankees after awhile and they had to own up and take back seats.
At length we were off, and I felt myself fairly on the way to Yankee land. We ran all that day, night and until about half an hour by sun next morning, when we took up at Chattanooga. The guard with whom we started followed us up to this point where they turned us over to the provost marshal and a new guard. The old guard treated us humanely, but the new were kinder still, (i.e.) after they started again with us. At Chattanooga we were put into a room, so much crowded that all of us could not lie down at night. It was literally alive with vermin; filth too abounded to a disgusting extent. The occupants of the room were Yankee deserters, suspected citizens, bushwackers, guerrillas, horse thieves, murderers, &c. Such was the companionship that we were thrust into.
The general appearance of the town was much improved from what it was a few years ago when I saw it. The streets were turn-piked, many neat houses were erected, stores, groceries, and confectionaries were in full blast; ‘But the trail of the serpent was
over it all.’ On all the heights surrounding the place frowning battlements stood out in bold relief; while here and there on the sides of the hill, a dark cloud appeared, supposed to be encampments of Negro troops. We stayed two nights there. About 8 o’clock on the 25th, we were taken from our dreary abode to the depot, where we awaited the cars, which were ready for us about 1 o’clock. During our stay there I saw the Yankee General Rosseau. He is a burly looking man, of Dutch appearance; nothing distinguishing about him. – “Yankee General Rosseau” was Major General Lovell Harrison Rousseau, who commanded the districts of Nashville and of Tennessee, and had his headquarters at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. – Generals in Blue, pages 412-413.
Several privates were here said to have manifested their wish to take the oath, and it was said they were to be taken north of the Ohio River and released. I do not know what became of them. I am glad there were no Mississippians among the number. Near one o’clock we were off again as fast as steam could bear us, to a bleaker clime. Ran all night, passing through Murfreesborough, some time during the night. Next morning about sun rise, we found ourselves at Nashville, where we were incarcerated in the penitentiary. This was my first appearance in a penitentiary as a prisoner; but our treatment was a considerable improvement on the Chattanooga calaboose. Many of the officers and men being Tennesseans [had] received small sums of money, provisions, and clothing. Here we remained over night.
About 10 o’clock on the morning of the 27th, we were again started to the depot. On our march thither, a distance of half a mile or more, several little incidents occurred which affected me some. Once as I was marching along near the head of the column, I observed a buggy meeting us, driven by a large, fine looking old lady, having a little boy by her side. I, of course, paid but little attention to this, and should perhaps have forgotten it in a few minutes; but just as they got opposite to us – the little boy – his face and eyes all aglow with excitement, eagerly clapped his little hands and seemed bursting with the intensity of his emotion; and I at the same time saw the old lady put her handkerchief to her eyes. Just then I observed a young Tennessean by my side (who had endeared himself to us all by his high and chivalrous bearing and noble and generous disposition) shudder and put his handkerchief to his eyes. We marched in one direction, and the buggy passed on in the other. At length he remarked: ‘I hardly thought he would have known me; my dear little brother! and my mother too! It has been so long since I saw them – three years now and he was a little fellow when I left him.’
We turned and gazed after the buggy, and the old mother whose heart was bursting to embrace her much loved oldest boy (who was the prop of her declining years), was waiving her handkerchief. But few knew the wealth of love conveyed by that wave, yet he for whom it was intended understood it all. She then turned her buggy back and drove close by us again. They could see each other and cast loving looks at each other – that weeping mother, that noble, sorrowing son, and that child brother. But alas! that was all that our Argus-eyed guards could not prevent. This young officer’s name is Andrew Allen. He is in this prison now. – “Andrew Allen” was probably Lieutenant Andrew J. Allen, ensign of the 2nd (Robison’s) Tennessee Infantry (Walker Legion). Allen was captured on July 20, 1864, near Atlanta, Georgia, and sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. – Compiled Service Record of Andrew J. Allen, 2nd (Robison’s) Tennessee Infantry.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, September 17, 1880
We had proceeded but little further until I observed a lady dressed in black with a veil drawn over her face, standing by the side of the road. She was of most beautiful form. The head of the column passed her, when suddenly behind me I heard a piercing shriek, and on looking back saw her endeavoring to reach some one among the privates and crying most piteously, ‘oh! let me kiss my poor brother.’ But the soldier’s relentless bayonets crossed in front of her and remorsely put her back. The line of march was uninterrupted, and she followed her brother some distance crying and wringing her hands, but all to no purpose. She could not come near her brother who she knew was doomed to this living tomb.
We went on to the depot and there saw a large crowd of persons, but a certain Maj. Sherman who seemed to command for the time, had a wide circle established between us and them. There, young Allen again saw his mother, little brother, and also his step-father and many other friends. They gazed on him with sorrowful faces, but dared not reply by word or token to the many signs of affection made by him for fear of being arrested as sympathizers. The little brother could hardly restrain himself. He wanted to get at his brother. After we started I saw many carriages playing around with fair hands and snowy kerchiefs waving from the windows. Allen told me who they were. A friend of the Lt. Col. Who was along tried every means to convey some money to a Lt. Colonel, but it was no go. He got some afterwards however – no difference to the Yankees how. We got off just before night, and having stopped a few miles out of town, some beautiful girls came out to the cars, and there the vigilance of the guards was relaxed, for not only were they permitted to converse with Allen but to give him a sweet kiss all around. I think they were excusable; don’t you?
He pointed out to me his homestead with much emotion, and also many familiar and beloved scenes. Had it been me, I should have risked everything and jumped from the train. We started on to Louisville, Ky., where we arrived during the next day (28). Stayed one night in the city military prison. Found it cleanly. On the morning of the 29th we were off again. Just as we were starting however, a pretty, rebel sympathizer threw a couple of bundles of eatables into our crowd. There the officers and privates parted company, the former being destined for Johnson’s Island and the latter for Camp Douglas, Ill. We crossed the Ohio River in a steam ferry boat, landing in Jeffersonville, in Indianny (as the Yankees call it). There we took the train for Bellefontaine where we arrived before day on the 30th. About the middle of the forenoon we took the train again for Sandusky City, O., where we arrived in the afternoon, and the same evening were floated across the placid bosom of Lake Erie to Johnson’s Island to go from thence perhaps no more forever.
Oh! it is very hard to waste the prime of manhood there. But though without a precedent in civilized warfare I will not repine. A
few stations before we got to Sandusky, we passed the village of Clyde, where had recently been buried the mortal remains of the Yankee Maj. Gen. McPherson, who was killed about the time of my capture. He seemed to have been much beloved by all. While stopping here, little girls vending cakes and pies came around to the cars to trade with the Rebs. Having accumulated a small amount in greenbacks by selling out my tobacco to the Yankees, I concluded to invest, as I was sick and could not eat the rations of pickled pork issued to us raw. By permission of a guard I got on the platform and called to a little pie vender who came up, and while I was bargaining for a piece of pie, a sudden emotion of patriotism seemed to strike her, and snatching back her tray and giving me a scornful look, she backed off exclaiming as she backed, ‘you nasty stinkin’ old Reb! Nasty stinkin’ old Reb!’ And so I lost my pie. As appearances at the moment gave some just coloring to the charge I was not much disposed to find fault with her action except so far as my disappointment was concerned. – Major General James B. McPherson, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, was killed on July 22, 1864. Generals in Blue, pages 306 – 308.
A gentleman came around and in the kindest, most benevolent tones, conversed with us – I fancied, sympathizingly. While talking with us, the remarkable resemblance he bore to my old friend Dr. Jesse Wallace, of Holmesville, struck me forcibly, and the illusion was strengthened when some acquaintance addressed him as doctor. By reference to my short notes made at the time I find the following entries, except dates which seemed to have been a little confused.
July 31st – Found good friends from Summit who gave me clothes and a bank with one of them. 1st and 2nd – Quite sick, but wrote all the letters I was allowed. Feel the want of greenbacks. I will here remark that I felt the same need all the way, and even those of our party who had current money, were very niggardly with it. I raised a little by selling some tobacco that I had and by exchanging $20 in new issue that I had for eighty cents in greenbacks. From this time on until I come up to the present time, I shall not be able to keep up the correct dates of events, as I kept no record of events as they transpired. The night was dark and gloomy, when I with my party was ushered into the prison gates. Here it was amid surrounding gloom and strange weird scenes that I first heard that cry with which afterwards became so familiar to my ear, ‘fresh fish! fresh fish.’ Next week I will begin my prison life within the walls.
To Be Continued
The Magnolia Gazette, September 24, 1880
The acquaintances who found me were Captains J. H. Wilson and A.A. Boyd; Lieutenants Wilson and Louden (the latter I had not before known) of Summit; Lieutenants Gatlin, Sandell, Magee and White, of Pike County. They vied with each other in showing me kindness. I am particularly indebted to Capts. Boyd and Wilson, and Lieuts. Wilson, Louden and Gatlin. Lieut. Louden received me into his bunk with him and I have been enabled since that time, in some measure, to return the favors shown by him. He also took me into his mess – five of them – all of whom I found clever, young men, and all from Alabama but him. – “Lieutenant Wilson” is most likely 1st Lieutenant Joseph B. Wilson of the “Dixie Guards,” Company H, 39th Mississippi Infantry. He was captured July 9, 1863, at Port Hudson, Louisiana, and sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. He was released after taking the oath of allegiance to the United States on June 11, 1865. – Compiled Service Record of Joseph B. Wilson, 39th Mississippi Infantry.
– “Lieutenant White” is probably 2nd Lieutenant John J. White of the “Dixie Guards,” Company H, 39th Mississippi Infantry. He was captured at Port Hudson, Louisiana, on July 9, 1863, and sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. He was released after taking the oath of allegiance to the United States on June 11, 1865. – Compiled Service Record of John J. White, 39th Mississippi Infantry.
– “Lieutenant Magee” is probably 3rd Lieutenant William W.J. Magee of the “Monroe Quin Guards,” Company K, 39th Mississippi Infantry. He was captured at Port Hudson, Louisiana, on July 9, 1863, and sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. Transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland, prisoner of war camp on March 21, 1865. Sent to Fort Delaware, Delaware, prisoner of war camp and released from there on June 12, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. – Compiled Service Record of William W.J. Magee, 39th Mississippi Infantry.
– Lieutenant Lorden” is probably 2nd Lieutenant Andrew Lowden, who served in the “Summit Rifles,” Company A, 16th Mississippi Infantry. He was wounded in action and captured at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863. Lowden was sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp, then transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland, prisoner of war camp for exchange on March 21, 1865. Something must have delayed his exchange, however, as he was transferred to Fort Delaware, Delaware, prisoner of war camp, where he was released on June 12, 1865, after taking the oath of allegiance to the United States. – Compiled Service Record of Andrew Lowden, 16th Mississippi Infantry.
The prisoners were all that time allotted by blocks and messes. I was assigned to Block 1, Mess 11. Since that time we have also been divided into companies. Mine is company 22. The block indicates the building we stay in; the mess, those who draw rations together, and the company is composed of those whose names are on the same roll, and who answer at the same roll call. The blocks are long, two-story frame buildings, arranged on two sides of a broad street, running north and south. There are thirteen of them, the last being in the middle of the street at the north end. The southern blocks are cut up into small rooms and well sealed but the others are in large, open sealed rooms, more comfortable in warm weather, but terrible in cold weather. I could not get into a sealed block, and indeed, did not at first know the relative advantages. The cooking was at that time done in small end rooms below stairs, men being detailed or hired by the messes to do the cooking for the whole mess – those who were able paying extra for any extra cooking they had done. Now, separate blocks have been erected in the rear of the occupied blocks, especially for cooking and eating.
When I first came in, sutlers were in operation who supplied moneyed men with all they wanted to eat, but that privilege has been cut off, and the only extra supplies now received are on the surgeon’s certificate of a necessity therefore, and this only from near relatives. The government ration issued is little more than half enough to satisfy the appetite, and the consequence is that much suffering is entailed upon us all. But at present writing, and for some days past the ration has been better measure, and we have not been suffering so much.
Mail Arrangements &c.
At the time of my arrival on the Island prisoners were permitted to write one letter per day, of one page of ordinary letter paper each, but that was soon changed so as to allow them to write but two letters per week. All letters are sent off unsealed, and are read under orders of a superintendent of prison correspondence, to see that they are not too long, and that they contain nothing contraband. As many letters as come to the office may be received provided they conform to the above regulation as to matter and length. Mondays and Thursdays are the mail days. Each person prepares his letter and deposits it in a box kept in each room for that purpose. Every room has its mail carrier, who carries the letters to the office, generally, on the previous evening. After the mail comes into the prison in the morning, this carrier attends the office and gets the mail matter for his block or mess as the case may be. Prisoners are permitted to take as many newspapers as they see proper.
Each room has its regular detail of two men each day, whose daily duty it is to bring water and the wood for the use of the room during the day, and to sweep the room, at least, twice during the day. In addition to this detail some rooms have a special detail to bring water for cooking purposes, for although there are cooking stoves in the kitchen, yet, nearly every one does more or less cooking in the dwelling apartment. There is also a daily police detailed for cleaning around the blocks and kitchens, emptying slops in the dredging carts, &c. Sometimes when ditching is to be done, sinks dug or removed, or any other extra work, a special police from a mess at a time is detailed for that purpose, all taking their regular turns – the general and the lieutenant being found side by side, spade in hand. Details are made daily from the prison to serve in the hospital. In addition to this the Young Men’s Christian Association furnished their daily detail. The Masons also make a detail to attend to their own, and the Mississippians – perhaps other states – have organizations to relieve the destitute from their particular state. Each mess and company for police and room has its chief, who regulates and directs the operations of their mess, police or room. Thus it will be seen that we have a little government of our own which works with a good deal of harmony.
The prisoner of war thinks a great deal of his correspondence, and well he may, for it is through that medium alone that he is enabled to receive any comforts other than the prison fare which is meager enough. It is always a sort of festival occasion among the prisoners from any particular locality when any one of their number receives a letter from home. Many of us have friends in the North who write to us and do us many favors. During the early days of my incarceration I wrote to some of my wife’s relations who responded promptly and substantially. I wrote to one of her uncles who I afterward learned had been dead for some time, but three others immediately answered my letter, two of whom sent me money, and one tendered his services to me in any manner that he could serve me. He has since that time nobly redeemed his promise, and is still laboring for my good. I have preserved all their letters which I trust may yet be perused by loving eyes far off from here.
Note: Before passing to my next caption to-wit, “Amusements,” I will examine my old correspondence and if I can find any thing that would seem interesting to the general reader, I will give it in my next, with explanatory remarks that I desire to make.
To Be Continued
The Magnolia Gazette, October 1, 1880
It sometime happens to the tempest ridden mariner, that he can see in the dim as he tosses restlessly from the wide expanse of water’s distance, a long skirt of cloud, in reality, embedded up on the surface of the water, and his imagination the wide expanse of water’s distance, a long skirt of cloud, in reality, embedded upon the surface of the water, and his imagination, leaping and bounding from craggy boulder to sea-beat shore, from shore to fertile valley, from valley to vine-clad hill, from hill to flowery meadow, converts it into a Paradise, more beautiful and glorious than perhaps has any actual existence on earth. And the mariners together gaze upon the illusory appearance and talk about it. Each gives his own ideas of the beauties he imagines have there an existence. If one is an adventurer seeking to unearth the golden sands that mother earth has locked in her secret embrace, he revels in the bright treasure that he imagines lie hidden there. If he is a visionary, a dreamer or a lover, his imagination revels in an untold wealth of beauty, loveliness and verdure; and if thirst is consuming, or hunger gnawing at his vitals, his imagination pictures the ice-cold, silvery, sparkling rivulet, leaping from the mountain’s brow to the deep tangled shaded glen, thence bounding from crag to crag, and trailing in a silver thread across the beautiful meadow below until it mingles into an undistinguishable body with old ocean’s waves; and anon he imagines that “sea girt isle” to be the abode of some ancient, lordly line, perhaps of kings whose tables are groaning with all the rich vivands that could tempt the appetite, or minister to the taste of the most fastidious gourmand.
Thus was it ever with us in prison. While there existed a thousand exterior circumstances, which it is but natural to suppose would engage most of the attention of the prisoners of war, yet the average man is so constituted that when we came together at twilight hour, our conversation would generally drift in the direction of the culinary. On such occasions many were the pictures drawn of good dishes, until our bowels would yearn for the flesh pots, and our very natures would loath the prison stuff with which our existence was prolonged. Often have I been reminded on such occasions of the anecdote of the two old darkies, who made a bet that each one could, on the first trial, name a better grub than the other, another old darkie supposed to be a complete judge in such matters being made umpire. When they had drawn straws to see who should have the first say, the one who won it scratched his pate for a moment and then said: “I tell you niggers, gub me good fat possum roasted brown, befo’ de fish, wid ash-cake givered wid corn corn shucks, rolled in de hot ashes twell hit is jist dun, den farewell world, dis nigger wants no mo’. Now Jake, you say!” Jake lifted his grief-stricken face and with sorrow in his tones said: “G’way, g’way nigger! You’s dun gone an’ telled it all an’ lef nuffin at all fur dis nigger to tell.”
Now, the reader, if he or she, has been patient enough to read this far, will be pretty apt to inquire what all this has to do with what I promised, to-wit, a few extracts from my old correspondence. It is this: While we were shut up on Johnson’s Island, the burden of our theme generally, in our letters was, something to eat, or that which would bring it. The unlooked for friends and favors that penetrated in one form or another to my prison cell, touches me very deeply.
Among the earliest communications received was one from a lady whom I had never heard of before, but whom my heart has had cause a thousand times to bless, and to whom the Mississippi prisoners should rear a pillar of marble commemorative of her noble deeds to them. I do not know where she is now, but if this should ever meet her eye or that of any of her friends, I hope they will forgive the publicity thus given to her name, which is already dear to a thousand soldier’s hearts.
Dear Sir – Your letters to friends in Monticello and Holmesville I have forwarded. I took the liberty of reading them. Seeing you are in want of one thing that is very necessary to a person’s comfort these days, I forward you by Adams Express, twenty-five dollars, and if you will write to Mrs. Mary Warner, 1227 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, for clothing, and send your size, she will send it to you. I urge you not to hesitate in doing this. Mrs. W. has $100 which I sent her last week for my dear boy, who was seriously wounded (on the 28th of July near Atlanta) and it was supposed he was a prisoner. As no intelligence comes from him through the Federal lines, I have almost given up in despair of ever hearing more of him (which has nearly crushed me), and if living, it is more than he needs for his present use. When you receive remittances from your home you can return it to Mrs. W., or you can consider it a loan, payable to me when sweet peace returns to bless us once more. Therefore, do not hesitate in accepting it as I have a great sympathy for prisoners; and if it was in my power to relieve all their wants, no sacrifice would I consider too great.
Please writer, give me your rank, the company and regiment, as I have many correspondents in Hood’s army. My poor boy belonged to the 10th Regiment, Tucker’s Brigade. Praying that you will not have to spend the winter in that cold and bleak Island, but will be permitted to return to friends and ‘home sweet home.’I subscribe my self if truly, a prisoner’s friend.
Mrs. George W. Baynard
‘Way Side,’ near Natchez
August 29th 1864
The above letter was directed to me at ‘Block 11, Mess 1, Johnson’s Island.’ I did not again receive a letter from the ‘prisoner’s friend’ until as she said in the former one ‘sweet peace’ had returned to bless us once more. The next was in reply to one from me and was dated ‘Way Side, July 25th 1865.’
Your letter has just come to hand and I hasten to reply, to tell you how I rejoice with you to hear that you are free; that you are
once more permitted to be with loving ones at home. Ah! Well can I imagine the joy of a mother, of a wife, to welcome home the returning soldier, and how endeared they are after the suffering and hardships they have endured. It seems so hard that the true defenders of our land were not rewarded; that Southern patriotism, that Southern valor, was all in vain – our country, our fortunes lost!
The Yankees may change our acts, govern our tongues, enslave our bodies but our hearts they never can reach. Our spirits will be Southern still, and scorn we shall ever feel for their narrow, cold-contracted natures. Our hearts will be Southern hearts forever, and we shall ever be proud of the blood that makes our love warmer, our acts nobler than theirs could ever be.
Tis so sad to see the sweet Sunny South, our once happy land reduced to poverty, and then ‘tis so beautiful to see our noble boys and girls who have been reared in every luxury and extravagance, not at all despairing, but cheerfully go to work to maintain aged fathers and mothers. My husband and I feel that hired labor will not pay. When we contrast our situation with others less highly favored, we find we have more cause for gratitude than repining.
We have the satisfaction of knowing that it (cotton sold for Confederate money) added greatly to the comfort of our needy soldiers, though my husband was bitterly opposed to secession, yet, he was true to his country and her defenders. Our home was the soldier’s home. ‘Tis such a pleasure to feel we did our duty; but to think our noble boy was sacrificed so uselessly – his head lying in a cold, unknown grave. Ah! the crushing weight of agony our hearts have endured. Life can never be to us what it would have been to him. He was so well calculated as a prop to lean on in our old days. But he fell in a glorious cause, and better for him to have fallen than to have shirked from his duty. I try to be resigned to God’s will, as he knows what is best for us. But I must stop this _____ and hurry on.
I am particularly interested in my correspondents made during their imprisonment. The little you said of your future prospects interested me and I sincerely hope that God in his goodness has many bright days of happiness and prosperity in store for you. Even though the future looks dark and joyless to us, we should trust in God. He judges not as man judges, and will not forsake us in the night time of sorrow and care if we love and serve him.
I received a letter a few days ago from our mutual friend Mrs. Warner. She wrote so affectionately of her nephews, and said: ‘Among them all there was none she was more pleased with than Capt. —– (delicacy forbids me to give the name thus complemented.)
You acknowledged the receipt of the first remittance forwarded you, the second $25 which was sent in January, you did not, and I often wondered why; as I wrote several times to you and no answer came. The mystery is solved now as I see you did not receive it, which I regret is not the only remittance I sent which was retained by some Yankee.
Sincerely your friend,
M. Jane Baynard
I received another letter from the above noble lady dated Sept. 26th, ’65, but as it treats mostly of business I will not make any extracts from it. Interesting extracts will form the body of my next. – Mary J. Baynard was the wife of George W. Baynard of Natchez. On the 1860 U.S. Census for Adams County, George W. Baynard listed his occupation as “farmer,” and gave the value of his real estate at $16,000, and his personal estate at $28,000. Among the Baynard children listed on the census was 17 year old Daniel F. Baynard. He enlisted in the “Natchez Southrons,” Company B, 10th Mississippi Infantry, on March 8, 1862. Daniel was wounded and captured at Atlanta, Georgia, on July 28, 1864. Sent to the 1st Division, 15th Army Corps Hospital, he was listed as having wounds to the pelvis and left ulna. The hospital record simply says of Daniel, “died.” – Compiled Service Record of Daniel F. Baynard, 10th Mississippi Infantry.
To Be Continued.
Magnolia Gazette, October 15, 1880
Sometime after I had been in prison the following note was placed in my hands, which was quite consoling to me, because it gave me assurance that in my exile I was not quite forgotten by my friends at home. Col. Nixon was also in prison. He was, I think, connected with the New Orleans press.
Summit, Miss., Sept. 12, 1864
Col. J.O. Nixon, Johnson’s Island
Dear Colonel – I have just learnt that Capt. John S. Lamkin, a personal friend of mine, who was captured near Atlanta, is now on Johnson’s Island. He is, no doubt, without means, and I write to solicit your kind offices for him. He and his friends have ample means(?) but have no means of getting them to him. If you can aid him, the money will be promptly refunded when possible, and your kindness will be duly appreciated by Capt. Lamkin and esteemed a personal favor by most truly, your friend.
– James Oscar Nixon was owner of the New Orleans Daily Crescent newspaper, and during the war was Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Louisiana Cavalry. Captured in Kentucky in July 1863, he was sent to Johnson’s Island, Ohio, prisoner of war camp. He was paroled on December 19, 1864, and given the privilege of going at large in the North, though he was required to report in writing monthly to Brigadier General Henry W. Wessells. – Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers, Volume 3, Book 1, page 1287, compiled by Andrew B. Booth.
I received another letter dated at Milan, O., Oct. 6th, ’64, directed to me as ‘Prisoner of War, Johnson’s Island,’ which threw me into a high dudgeon. I had never seen or heard of the lady who wrote it, and until I began to ‘smell a very large mice,’ I thought she was volunteering advice, or assuming a prerogative which was in no way becoming. To my subsequent regret, I replied in a manner corresponding with my construction of the language used, which I construed literally. I was yet to learn that correspondents of prisoners were under the strictest military surveillance, and if any one manifested too strong a sympathy with rebel prisoners, he or she was subject to be dealt with. Then I learned that she was simply ‘throwing dust’ in the eyes of the prison authorities, while she was really desirous of doing me a kindness. She knew that every letter coming in to the prison had to be read by the superintendent of prison correspondence, as before stated, and by that letter she would establish her loyalty, and her right to address me; for she showed a sort of relationship, and no one but relatives were allowed to correspond with prisoners. Mrs. Warner, who was mentioned in a former issue must have had a hundred nephews in the prison – par parenthese.
I will remark that Mrs. Warner mortgaged her estates to raise funds to aid Confederate prisoners, which so crippled her that she could never recover, and her homestead being about to be sold to meet the obligations of the mortgage, her war nephews have inaugurated a movement which, is now going on to raise the mortgage and relieve her home. Extracts from the letters to which I allude, are as follows:
The letter you wrote to Dr. Kennicott (my wife’s uncle) of Chicago, has been sent me for answering, for reasons which I will state: Your wife’s uncles, Dr. William and John, both died over a year ago. Wm’s daughter was visiting my step-mother, Mrs. B.E. McMillan, of Buffalo. She thinking she could not communicate with you, sent me the letters (my father was a cousin of the Dr.). She wished me to direct you to write to your wife’s cousin, William Welch, of Gowanda, N.Y., and make your wishes and wants known.
The following was the part I kicked at:
I will only add that you may be thankful every day, your lot fell to Johnson’s Island. I am acquainted with many of the officers and men, and know what your fare is. We have just heard of the death of a friend, Capt. C.H. Riggs, a prisoner in Macon, who might have lived, had he fared as well as those where you are. Write if you receive this and I will try and forget that we are enemies, and do as I hope mine may be done by. Yours truly,
Mrs. Eugenie Penfield
Milan, Ohio, Erie Co.
I did write: not only to her, but to those she mentioned, who all nobly responded to all my necessities. The following is her reply, dated Milan, Jan. 1st, 1865:
Your favor by your friend received. I have not forgotten you if I have been negligent. I wish you a happy new year (as is possible under the circumstances) and may you live to see many a happier one. Mrs. Wells Brooks and daughter are with me for a short time, and if you can tell us any news of her brother, G.S. McMillan, you can confer a great favor. There was a letter received from him over a year ago. His mother died last March. Mrs. Brooks buried her eldest daughter a year ago now. I have been trying to send you a cask of cider and a barrel of apples, but the prairie has been almost impassible this fall. The cider is too old now, but apples you shall have as soon as possible, provided you will be allowed to receive them. When did you hear from your family or Mr. Tennisson, and how and where are they? I should like to hear from you soon. I remain, yours truly,
Mrs. Eugenie Penfield
Milan, Erie Co., Ohio
I did not seem to get the apples. The authorities would not let me have them. Next week I will resume the regular course of my recollections as written in prison. I have many other letters but the foregoing will suffice.
– In the 1860 U.S. Census for Erie County, Ohio, James J. Penfield, age 34, and his wife, Eugenie, age 26, were living in Milan Township. James was a lawyer, and listed the value of his real estate holdings at $1,200, and his personal estate at $600.00. Both James and Eugenie were apparently both Unionist in sentiment. in 1860 James was chairman of the committee that chose delegates to the statewide Republican convention. (Sandusky Register, July 17, 1860). On June 11, 1861, the Sandusky Register printed the following thanks from the men of Company K, 23rd Ohio Infantry: “Also to Mrs. Eugenia Penfield for nice rosettes, which were presented by her to our company. They will be preserved with care. E. Weller”. Why Eugenie Penfield chose to aid Confederate prisoners is a mystery; perhaps she could not stand to see any human being suffer, regardless of their political beliefs.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, October 22, 1880
Amusements are as much diversified as are the tastes of men thrown together on their own resources. Where twenty-five hundred men of the better class are collected from every corner of the Confederacy, it is but natural to suppose there is quite a diversity of dispositions. On my first arrival here town ball was a favorite sport, there being two companies that played on different ends of the broad street, between the blocks. This sport is now discontinued on account of rains creating mud and because many intersecting ditches have been dug to keep the ground in as dry a condition as possible. These ditches have been of great service to us. Some employ their time at cards or reading. Some in the little more profitable way of eternal gassing. Some who have no money nor friends North, take in washing; others hire themselves as cooks. There are also Christian Associations, which good Samaratan [sic] like, do all the good they can. They devote their time unceasingly to the care of the sick in hospital and all manner of good works. They will certainly be entitled to high praise hereafter, as they receive the thanks of all who know them now.
There are all manner of mechanics among us too; such as shoe makers, tailors, chair makers, tinners, jewelers, &c., &c. It seems to me however that the chief occupation of a great many is begging tobacco from all the others. A few, it is said do a little extra stealing, while not a few lay flat of their backs, too trifling to do anything in the world. Not even will they go out to roll call, feigning themselves sick and getting some good natured friend to report them.
We have some very fine voices amongst us who, occasionally, of an evening regale us with a popular comic or original song, one of the best of the latter description that I have heard is as follows:
The Southern Cross
When the fierce terrific roar
Of five hundred guns or more,
A doom over Sumpter was seeming,
They gave up in despair.
For one Beauregard was there:
And brightly the Southern cross was gleaming.
Shoulder to shoulder with hearts firm and true.
We never can be conquered by our abolition crew:
For wherever is seen, one bayonet’s sheen,
Brightly the Southern cross is gleaming.
When Gilmore’s mongrel horde
Into Florida was pour’d,
Fondly of triumph he was dreaming:
But the columns backward reeled
From Olushe’s bloody field.
There brightly the Southern cross was gleaming.
When the miscreant Dahlgren thought,
As he led his base cohort,
That with blood the streets of Richmond
would be streaming:
But he tasted Southern lead,
While above his gory head
Brightly the Southern cross was gleaming
Brave Forrest once again
With his gallant mounted men
Has filled the Yankee heart with terror teeming:
At Paduca he had paid
The full price of Sherman’s raid:
Brightly the Southern cross is gleaming
With Lee in the East
And Hood in the West,
Brightly the star of hope is beaming:
Our success in ’64,
Will end a glorious war:
Proudly the Southern cross is gleaming
The foregoing song as well as the one following (to be given next week) were written by Lt. H.C. Wright. I do not take copies of them on account of any great literary merit, but merely as specimens of ‘Island Poetry’ and of the manner in which prisoners employ themselves. The effect was indeed thrilling, when at twilight the above song was poured forth by a hundred voices in full chorus, with perhaps a thousand persons gathered around listening in wrapt attention. When the song would be concluded such a ‘rebel yell’ would break forth as to remind every one of some terrible charge upon the enemy, and it would seem almost sufficient to rend the prison walls; but it was not equal in effect to the blowing of the rams’ horns around the city of Jericho. I was apprehensive at times that the prison authorities would break in on us and forbid such demonstrations, but they never molested us.
– “H.C. Wright” is probably 1st Lieutenant Howard C. Wright, Company C, 30th Louisiana Infantry. He was captured at Port Hudson, Louisiana, on July 9, 1863, and sent to Johnson’s Island, Ohio, prisoner of war camp. He was paroled and forwarded to Point Lookout, Maryland, prisoner of war camp, on February 16, 1865, for exchange. – Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers, Volume 3, Book 2, page 1167.
To be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, October 29, 1880
THE DYING PRISONER OF WAR
(Air – ‘Jamie’s on the Stormy Sea’)
By Lieut. H.C. Wright
Darker still the skies are growing,
Here and there a white fleck showing,
Bleak and chilling winds are blowing,
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore,
While the surges never failing
With their shroud-like wave caps sailing
Hoarsely sound the dismal wailing,
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore.
On a wretched pallet lying,
See that war worn soldier dying!
Mournfully the gale is sighing,
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore
Wearily his eyes are turning,
With a feverish fire burning.
Naught but alien skies discerning
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore.
Can he see a young wife weeping,
As she clasps her baby sleeping,
While death’s pall is o’er him creeping
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore!
Can he hear a mother praying:
Plaintive words of sorrow saying
While a chill his pulse is staying,
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore?
Quickly are the moments fleeting,
Soon that heart will cease its beating
Death’s relief from sorrow greeting
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore.
Hark! What solemn tones are pealing!
Music through the air is stealing,
Heaven’s own promises revealing
On Lake Erie’s lonely shore.
Many circumstances of little importance in themselves – yet, served to pass the dull hours away. Indeed, some of those circumstances made it pretty lively for us occasionally. A few of them, I shall hereafter relate from memory entirely believing they will not detract from the little interest there may be in this little narrative.
To be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, November 5, 1880
We, the prisoners, early learned one lesson in our captivity, even if we had not learnt it before – which was that we could look
with far more confidence for sympathy and clemency to the old veterans from the front, than to the holiday men who were enlisted for a short term, especially for prison guard duty. During a portion of my imprisonment, a regiment or two of men enlisted for 30 or 60 days were doing guard duty around the military prison. None of them had ever been service at the front. They were dressed in uniform, looked fat and sleek, and were as prim and precise as army regulations could make them. If a prisoner in the slightest degree was observed to violate prison rules, these fellows were ready to fire away at him, within the prison, at the imminent peril of the lives of others.
At the sound of the 9 o’clock p.m. drum, under prison rules, all lights had to be extinguished in the rooms and every one had to be in quarters. On one occasion the drum sounded at a time when a man was in the room of a friend across the street. The moon was shining brightly, and the sentries – on their elevated walk. This man started immediately across the street to his own room. A sentry saw him come out from the building and supposed he was leaving his own rooms and ordered him to get back to his quarters. This man made no reply; being perhaps 150 yards from the sentinel, but continued walking briskly on towards his own quarters. The sentinel again ordered him to get back to his own quarters, to which he still made no reply, but continued walking forward, when the fellow deliberately raised his rifle and fired at him. Fortunately he missed him. Col. Hill, the commander of the prison, had him taken off under arrest and told us he would court martial him, but I heard of the matter no more. There were many instances of the big headedness, or rather ‘pig headedness’ of these thirty-day sentinels. It was contrary to rule to approach within less than twelve feet of the prison walls. That was called the ‘dead line.’ The thirty day men have been known to fire at a prisoner who unconsciously crossed that line.
– “Colonel Hill” was Colonel Charles W. Hill, commandant of Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. He took over command of the prison on May 9, 1864, and ran the facility until the end of the Civil War. – http://www.mycivilwar.com/pow/oh-johnsons-island.html
In marked and noble contrast to these things were the acts of the war worn veterans who had met and broken a lance with us on many a bloody field. They had a lively and sympathetic recollection of the last time they saw us, and a ‘fellow feeling made them wondrous kind.’ We saw them on the same round that the former had made, but some of them pegged around on a wooden leg, others handled their rifles with an arm and an empty sleeve, while scars of every conceivable shape on all parts of their person sufficiently attested the fact that they had mingled in the dreadful fray, while blood and carnage ruled the hour. While these men were on duty they performed their whole duty with faithfulness and fidelity in spirit, but oh! how kind and sympathetic were they! A few instances in contrast with the thirty-day men: Once a poor emaciated Confed staggered up towards the prison wall and actually got across the ‘dead line.’ Oh! horror! now he must die. In the eyes of a thirty-day man he has violated prison rules and committed a crime worthy of death. Just then an old veteran, bearing his rifle at a support, performed with the stump of his arm, came pegging along on the walk above, in the kind of gait known as ‘dot and go one,’ and he called out to the representative of a sinking cause, who had unconsciously crossed the ‘dead line,’ said he, ‘Johnny, get back there, quick, before the Col. sees you. Didn’t you know that was the ‘dead line?’ What made you cross it?’ ‘Yes,’ said Confed, ‘I knowed it was what they called it, but I seed how you had to support, and wasn’t afeard. I was out’n terbaccy, an’ no money ner no friends, so I tho’t I’d axe yer to give me a chaw, ef yer had it about yer.’
‘Yes, yes, brother,’ the veteran replied, ‘all I’ve got for a soldier, but be quick for God’s sake, before the Colonel sees you,’ and suiting the action to the word he whipped out half a cake of tobacco and stuck it on his bayonet and reached it down to the lean Confed, who, plucking it off went on his way rejoicing.
Again: on one occasion, an enterprising Confed took it into his head that he could saw a hole through the wall large enough to escape, with a saw-bladed case knife. That wall was about 15 feet high. Posts on the outside some ten feet apart and a promenade on the outside for the sentinels to walk on, near enough to the top of the wall to show about half a man to those inside. Against the posts (which could not be seen from the inside) and about 60 yards apart, being lanterns all around the wall. Those lanterns were constructed with a shade of three inches in width, in front of the light, causing a dark place in front, and the light to be thrown out laterlly. Enterprising Confed saw a veteran walking the rounds on top and taking advantage of the time when he was walking away from the position of the lantern, ran up to the place above which the lantern hung, protected by the darkness of the shade in front of the lantern. The veteran stumped on above apparently unconscious, but his dexter eye took in the situation. He continued to walk back and forth on his post, while the enterprising Confed sawed away for dear life on the plank below, whenever the veteran was going off. Every time he got above the lantern he looked over without halting, doubtless chuckling to himself at the waste of energy and ingenuity being expended below him. Every time he came above the lantern the enterprising Confed was as quiet as the grave. When about half an hour had been expended in this way, the veteran came to a halt directly above the enterprising Confederate and called out to him in a stage whisper, ‘Johnny! Johnny! I reckon you had better quit now and go back to your quarters, for you are sawing right against a post there, and you would not get through all night. Phancy the pheelings of that enterprising Confederate.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, November 12, 1880
One constant, prevailing idea was always uppermost in our minds. What ever intervened to divert our thoughts for the moment, we were certain to return to that when the momentary diversion had passed. That idea – common to us all – was ‘escape;’ and thereby hung many a thrilling episode. The bolder ones laid many plans, and concocted many schemes which really appeared plausible until the moment of execution arrived, and then it was that we realized as Burns has expressed it, that ‘the best laid schemes of men and mice aft gang aglee.’ These plans were generally thwarted by the failure of the timorous souls among us to come up to the mark at the last moment, or by the craven-hearted, white-livered ones among who, like the mean boy at school, always ran and told the Yankees of our plans to gain immunity for themselves. There were too many of us; we were unwieldy, and not all actuated by the same purpose; and in case of a general escalade, of course, it was necessary for us all to act in concert. At the time I entered the prison, so far as my observation went there was a heavy club concealed in the bunk of every prisoner. This I learned was in pursuance of some plan deemed feasible, to rise and overpower the prison guards, break down the prison walls or gates and march out in a body. I do not know what the after part of the plan was, but this I do know, that whatever it may have been, it was bound to fail of success, for the whole country was bristling with shot guns and perhaps with more formidable weapons for our especial benefit. Every man was a militia man for the time, and on the firing of three guns in quick succession at the prison – which was the signal of the escape of a prisoner – all the citizens of the vicinity were on the alert. A few who did escape were actually arrested by this means and returned to prison.
A laughable instance at an attempt at escape occurred there on this wise. A few enterprising fellows living in a block nearest the walls, concluded to tunnel out. They commenced operations from the middle of the floor of their room, and worked away like beavers, excavating the earth and passing it back as the digger for the time, proceeded. Thus they proceeded until they broke ground at the appointed place beyond the prison walls. I do not remember which undertook to go out first, but all was ready for the exodus, and not a breath of suspicion attached to them either out or inside the prison walls. They had guarded their secret well and performed their work faithfully, and deserved success. But, here again I may invoke old Bobby Burns, “The best laid schemes” &c. Among their number was a very fat man and if he could squeeze through, of course, the others could, so in he started to try the hole, but “alack! And alas!” he had been gone but a short time until a muttered scuffling noise was heard beneath, and a smaller man concluded to go in and find out what was the matter. When he got to him, he found him wedged hard and tight in the hole and could go neither forward nor back. He undertook to pull him back by the feet, but it would not do – that fat man was fast. They would not call out for fear of detection. Perhaps it would have done good if they had.
– The November 4, 1863, edition of the Sandusky Register reported on this escape attempt.
But what were they to do? That was the question. They were apprehensive that the F.M. might smother to death if he remained in that condition long. So after a hasty consultation they concluded there was but one thing to be done, and that was to “let the cat out of the bag.” So they told the Yankees of it, and they came in with their spades and, like Columbus discovering a new world, they took a more direct route for the object of their search. They ascertained his locality and went for him from the top of the ground, and soon released him perhaps the most mortified man, unless it was his companions on account of the compulsory divulgence of their plan, that ever was detected trying to escape. The close quarters that he was in had nearly used him up. So much for taking on flesh.
Another attempt at escape which I will relate as nearly as I can recollect the particulars was more successful. It was really a gallant action and merited the success with which it was crowned.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, November 19, 1880
When Lake Erie was frozen over the authorities would let a certain number go out at a time on the ice for the purpose of recreation, and to get water from a hole cut in the ice for the purpose – one guard being assigned to every man – and there were certain prescribed bounds indicated by a row of objects laid on the ice, that were not to pass, but might go to that line. A stripling boy was assigned as guard, rather [than a] stout man who was, and on one occasion, and this man, apparently involuntarily, kept playing off from the crowd, his guard following close to him all the time. When he had got pretty near the boundary line, and some distance from the crowd, he took advantage of a moment when his guard was not noticing and whipped out a pair of skates that he had concealed on his person and which he had bribed a Yankee guard to bring in the prison to him under pretense of trying to learn to skate when he was taken out on the ice, and then dexterously slipped them on his feet. This done, he made a dash at the boy, and as a certain old gentleman now no more would have said, picked him up “bodsciously” gun and all and struck boldly with him for the Canada shore. The other guards saw him skating off like the wind, but were afraid to fire at him for fear of killing the boy. Some of them had skates and were skaters, so they struck out of the line in full pursuit. Oh! it was a splendid sight; that man in his wild race for life and liberty, bearing his burden with him over the frozen lake, with the bright morning sun shedding his glories around him, and the keen and chilling winds of a northern winter whistling around him, while his foes behind him like sluth-hounds were, and to use a nautical phrase, crowding all sail to overtake him. But it was no use. One after another they gave over the fruitless chase, and he finally distanced them all. When he had far outstripped all his pursuers, he threw the gun as far as he could and it in one direction and the boy in another, and then it was, freed from his burden he bade farewell in earnest to the loathsome prison bounds and seemed to sniff the air of freedom as it wafted from the Canada shores, as if to woo him from his native land to the more hospitable country of the peaceable stranger. As we gazed on his fast receding form, he seemed almost to fly. His peril, however, was not over yet. He had to pass the upper end of the Island at a point where he could be in full view of some of the guns of the prison. These were quickly got into position and as he crossed the dangerous gauntlet were turned loose upon him. This was a moment of terrible suspense to us all. We saw where the balls struck all around him, throwing the ice like spray as the ricocheted. He did not, however, dread the strike of the balls so much as he did that a hole might be made in the ice in front too close to avoid, and that he might plunge headlong into it to rise no more. But the Lord delivers him out of all the peril, no ball having struck him and he having never tripped.
Now, with an open sea ahead of him, all pursuit outstripped, he made directly and never checked his speed until he landed safely under the guns of a British port, which gave him protection, and what was more the authorities refused to redeliver him to the Federal authorities, although he was demanded. Reader, did you ever hear the rebel yell? If you have not, it would have done your soul good to hear it as that man sped safe beyond the reach of that cannon’s range. Oh! but it seemed that the very ice would be shivered and the heavens rended, for a thousand sympathizing hearts followed him as he sped on the wings of the wind on his wild career.
While on the subject of escapes, perhaps another or two may be of some interest: There was in the prison a Confederate
named Kennedy. From whence he came, or anything about his antecedents, I know not, but whither he went, I have some little idea. Collected from what came under my observation, and what I saw in the public prints at the time. He was a well knit little fellow, small in the waist, and broad above and below, under medium height, black eyes and black curling hair. He was a merry, chivalrous and determined little fellow, active as a cat, and chafed at confinement. He had a favorite song which he had often been heard to sing in prison, a part of the refrain of which was “Trust to luck.” Perhaps some of my readers have heard or sung it. I do not know whether it was in his mind when he assayed his daring exploit, but I rather expect it was. Across the end of the street which was between the blocks and at the end where the large gate opened, there was a very formidable ditch or moat some ten or twelve feet in width, and three or four deep, according to my recollections, which had unclean water and mud in it. The outer edge was about two feet from the wall, and a sentinel continued upon his eternal rounds over this place. Kennedy, as the story goes, armed only with a case knife, watched his opportunity when the sentinel’s back was turned, and with a running start, made a leap for life, clearing the moat and landing safely on the narrow strip of ground near the wall. This was an exceedingly critical moment for him. More safely than the bed bug creeps in the pillow under your ear, he went to work with the case knife to excavate the dirt under the wall. This he accomplished safely under the very eye of the sentinel, and having made a hole sufficiently large to admit his body, he crawled through, and by some means made good his escape from the Island. He must have bribed somebody to help him or found a small boat that he could detach from its moorings. For the sequel to his adventure I am indebted to the newspaper accounts at the time which from memory were about the following: These were the days of hotel burners in New York city, and thither Kennedy made his way and joined them, but having a suspicion after a time that he was suspected by the police, he left and went to Canada. A detective followed him, and found him, and worked himself into Kennedy’s confidence, travelled with wherever he went under some pretext, and finally entrapped him into crossing the line and coming into the U.S. again. As soon as they had crossed the line the detective arrested him and took him back to New York where he was tried, and convicted of the offence, on his own confession, and was hung, still singing (so stated the accounts) as he swung into another world “Trust to Luck.”
– Captain Robert C. Kennedy of the 1st Louisiana Infantry escaped from Johnson’s Island in October 1864. After making his way to freedom in Canada, he became involved in a plot to start fires in New York City. Kennedy was captured by Union authorities while trying to reenter the United States, and eventually executed for his crimes. – Compiled Service Record of Robert C. Kennedy, 1st Louisiana Infantry (Strawbridge’s).
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, December 3, 1880
The originally written narrative will now be resumed:
This brings me up to the night of the presidential election. Many items of interest occurred in the mean time however, but I do not know that the world will lose a great deal by my omission of them. For instance, a terrible storm swept over the Island one night, uncapping several of the buildings and completely demoralizing the inmates of the prison. The walls on one side of the prison were blown down and for a short time deserted by the sentinels, yet none of the prisoners effected their escape for the storm was too severe, and sentinels in other places were shooting away at random almost, and no one knew but that in dodging a flying board or brick he would strike a Minnie ball with more force than was agreeable. It is said that one man went out and waded to his waist in the Lake, then struck out to swim, and after buffeting the stormy waves an hour, found himself driven on the shore from which he started, and then returned nearly frozen. Another, it seems got to a skiff and tried to loose it, but could not, and went to a yankee’s fire outside and asked permission to warm; tried to make them believe he was a Reb, and to get them to take him back, but they would not believe him for a long time. It is further stated that he got a good meal with the commander of the post, before he would entertain the belief that he was a Reb. As I intend that my “recollections” shall be a pretty faithful picture of all the prison life, it may not be uninteresting to give a little sketch of a night’s employment, the night on which I am writing, being the one after the presidential election, when no one of us knows the result. The wind is howling boisterously outside, and the men in the room below me, boisterous over the nightly debates they always indulge in. I am sitting up next to the roof of the building listening to snatches of a conversation going on below me which are plainly distinguishable on account of openings in the floor below me. The conversation ran about thus: Says Mr. F. – “Well my dog is just the best possum and coon dog that ever I see, and as for treein’ fox-squirrels and sich he can’t be beat.” Mr. B., in another quarter of the room says: “It’s no use in talking, gentlemen, I am still willing to back my judgment on McClennan, and if any man wants to win a day’s rations of fish from me, all he has got to do is to plank up the swimmers.” “Oh B.,” says P., “don’t make such a rash but as that for it would be staking your life’s blood. I don’t think heaven would look propitiously on one who would thus foolishly trifle away his more than birth right.” “Pass, says D. “Ah, diamonds are trumps. If it had not been for the old left coming in just then, you would have been a busted institution.” “Yes,” says R., “but I had the right and left bowers and queen which would have been pretty hard to get over.” “No,” says M., “but what I mean to say is that if a man gets a fashionable coat or hat and keeps it a year, it will be as much out of fashion as if it were twenty years old.” “Now listen, gentlemen, while I tell a joke on F,” says me. “Louder! Louder! cry a dozen voices, while a dozen more who are trying to read, mutter something which sounds very much like “Oh d—n,” and among the hubbub, the noise and confusion was so great that I could never get at the joke. “Let’s peep up in the loft” says F, “that’s the aristocracy up there. His getting up among the tailors reminded me very much of the name of a game I’ve seen played before.” This remark had reference to the fact that there is also a tailoring establishment in my garret. “Now,” says M, “when a child gets so it can know me, then I like to play with it.” “Well, for my part,” says B, “I congratulate myself on the fact that I could never get a child near me, of which circumstance I was particularly glad. Sometimes the mother would force the little brat in my lap, and while she was looking at me I would practice all the endearments of which I was capable, but the moment she looked off I would give it such a pinch as would be likely to relieve me of it for all time to come.” “Mothers” says R, “are responsible for many of the bad habits of their children. Now there’s N. who says he was drunk every day of his life until he was six years old, after which he joined the Sons of Temperance and has not been drunk since.” “The most laughable thing I ever saw” says M, “was a drunken cat. He would reel and stagger about until he saw you, and then he would make a spring at you, his head striking some object, he would roll over and meow at you, his eye-balls rolling the while and looking as silly as any other drunkard.” “I think,” says B, “I will some day make a turkey as drunk as a lord and then kill him to see if it will not improve the flavor.” “Now B.,” Says F, “you have demoralized this crowd completely, for we were not talking about anything to eat, and you know that is a delicate subject, and one that we like to keep our minds off of. “Let me add my mite to this drunken conversation” says D, “I once saw a horse drunk!” “Well, what did he do?” cried all. Oh nothing.” Snap! “There what’s that popped?” – a glass broke. “Yes, says G, “I’ve bin a tryin’ a dozen times to keep from gittin’ agin it, but I bit it at last.” “Lights out!” squalls the sentinel, so out goes mine, and I prepare for another long night, perhaps to dream of home, sweet home! I sometimes do, as that is one pleasure that my tormentors cannot deprive me of while they let me live. It will appear from the above that the all-absorbing topic of the presidential election had but little interest for us, as it was scarcely mentioned, nor indeed had it any interest, for we felt that our doom was sealed in either event.
Some time after this Lieut. Underwood (Will A.) of the 22nd Mississippi Regiment arrived here. He was wounded and captured in the same engagement in which I was captured. He could give no later information from my command, yet, many interesting particulars. He was with Lieut. Lenoir in the yankee hospital. I have since learned that Lieut. L. has been exchanged. Of this I am very glad.
To Be Continued.
– 1st Lieutenant William A. Underwood was a member of the “Liberty Guards,” Company E, 22nd Mississippi Infantry. Wounded and captured near Atlanta on July 20, 1864, after recovering he was sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. Underwood took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States on June 17, 1865, and was released from captivity. – Compiled Service Record of William A. Underwood, 22nd Mississippi Infantry.
Magnolia Gazette, December 10, 1880
About this time I came across the following item from the N.O. Picayune, which, though incorrect in some particulars, nevertheless bore a mournful interest to me:
“The following is a list of the casualties in Co. E, 33rd Mississippi Volunteers, from Pike county, Miss., in which be Osyka, Magnolia and Summit, on the Jackson Railroad, and Holmesville, a little off of it – old summer resorts for our citizens. Capt. J.S. Lamkin we have seen recorded by Federal accounts as a prisoner. The younger Lamkins are his cousins, and the sons of Hon. John T. Lamkin, Confederate States member of Congress, who is a Georgian by birth. These casualties occurred in the battle of the 20th ult., at Atlanta. The list is furnished by Mr. John J. Ligon:
Capt. John S. Lamkin missing, supposed to be killed. 1st Lieut. George B. Lenoir, missing; 2nd Lieut. Jr. R.A. Miskell, missing; 2nd Lieut. Jr. W.R. Ratliff, missing; Orderly Sergt. T.D. Richmond, wounded; Sergeant David Holmes, do; Corp. Raiford Holmes, do; and missing: Corp. Lucius M. Quin, wounded; Privates Geo. W. Briley, do; F.M. Lee, do; M.P. Foil, missing; John T. Harvey, do; S.R. Rushing, do; Lewis N. Eilzey, do; S.C. Lewis, do; B.F. Ware, do; Sergt. W.J. Lamkin, do; Privates, A.L. Lamkin, killed, left on the field; W.N. Morgan, do; do; L. Osborn, do; do. The company went into the fight with twenty-seven men, including officers, and came out with only seven men. The regiment suffered very heavily. Col. Drake was killed and left in the hands of the enemy.”
The corrections to be made in the above statement are as follows: “The younger Lamkins” were brothers of J.S. Lamkin. (Other important corrections were noted at the time, but I will not here insert them.) I will now turn for awhile from the contemplation of the painful subject, and occupy my mind with an effusion which will enumerate most of the men in my room, but it will not be appreciated by others like it will by the occupants of the room.
The Kingdom of Captives
There is a realm of small demesne,
By nature beauteous and serene;
Begirt by Erie’s placid wave;
And on its breast the vale flowers waive;
Yet, over all this lovely Isle,
A serpent crawls, of aspect vile,
Whose loathsome slime and pois’nous breath,
Infect the air, and carry death –
Or worse – to many a freeman’s heart,
Who erst has borne a glorious part
In striking down his country’s foes,
To turn aside her pains and woes.
That serpent is the tyrant’s sword,
Accursed of God – by man abhorred –
Which holds three thousands hearts of fire,
To glut a v—‘s vengeful ire.
On this fair Isle, by God designed
To cheer and renovate the mind.
Press hard, thou despot of the hour!
Bind fast your chains of power!
Laugh, laugh, who glory in our pain,
Thro’ out your chief’s inglorious reign!
But soon – as we believe in God,
Your last vile war path will be trod;
And we by thousands disenthralled,
Will praise that power on Whom we called,
Then roar your cannon, blow your blast!
Yet, mind this, “who laughs best, laughs last.”
I know ye care not for our pains;
If hunger dry our scorching veins;
If fever crisp our wrinkling skin,
Or fell disease shall waste within:
Ye are secure from war’s alarm,
A hundred leagues or more from harm;
In bomb proof armor closely wrapped;
No fears thy pates will ere be tapped;
No grape nor shrapnel whistles round,
Nor any other dreadful sound:
But calm as sleeping infants are,
Ye stroke your chins and read of war,
Such then, are we, and such thou art,
Thou actors of a baser part.
This Realm – this lovely sea-girt Isle,
Where all is bright, but men are vile –
Is subdivided yet again,
And placed beneath our monarch’s reign.
The little kingdom where I live,
And move and vegetate and thrive,
By four bare walls is compassed round,
And built of WOOD from roof to ground;
While UNDERWOOD is paved with dust,
Where soon the “sword and scepter rust,”
This kingdom’s measured by one SPANN,
In such short space then dwell who can.
Thro’out the world where kingdoms stood,
Before and since old Noah’s flood,
Two Kings at once could ne’er abide;
Nor equal power in peace divide.
Yet, here two Kings their scepters hold,
In spite of precedents of old;
Nor e’re in wrath do they collide,
But smoothly in their courses glide.
One CROUN they had the other day,
But storm-winds blew their CROUN away.
We’ve nobles too in our domain,
A DUKE forsooth to grace the reign;
For BRITTON’S lost as I opine,
Unless he boasts some lordly line;
But ah! alas for this proud man!
To dwell in bliss he never can;
For as St. Peter keeps the keys,
And welcomes in but whom he please,
He will permit no hideous sight,
To enter there where all is bright;
And ere BARR is thirty-seven,
No hair’ll wave ‘twixt him and heaven,
So when he’ll knock without the gate,
And in the opening thrust his pate,
St. Peter’ll think, as I hear say –
He’s coming a—y verse;
Then from that peaceful portal driv’n,
He’ll wander forth outside of heaven.
A MARSHALL wields the baton too,
Over the military crew.
A MAHERr?? wields the civil power,
And tastes the hash at midnight hour;
While to write deeds our CLARK’S the man,
And place on stove another can
This small kingdom’s well provided
If from fiction, fact’s divided,
PEGUES and LAMKIN are to eat,
And a rare BIRD will furnish meat;
This BIRD’S not tall, nor very slim,
Yet surely marks his GRAYBILL him,
To rear the first a SHEPPARD good,
Will feed and tend the precious food
A NEWBERRY for pies is found,
That vegetates upon our ground,
Also one detailed to TILLETT,
Who’ll tend round but will not kill it.
Our FITCH is of the HERRING kind;
A juicy fish as you will find.
To serve this food up for table,
Ever was our good COOK able,
To Dixie’s land he’s gone away,
And there, I trust will ever stay;
Yet, in his place we have one FRYER,
Who’s good around the kitchen fire;
Who, though he ever cooked in town,
Yet, what he cooks he does it BROWN,
When men’s characters grow too dark,
We rub some WHITING o’er the bark;
And if the noise should ever cease,
We’ve but to LOUDEN – t’will increase.
We’ve men indisposed for duty,
Whose only worth is in their beauty;
Who’re sleek as eels and sly as toads,
On such we’ll use our double GOADS.
Now what can I do with DOWELL,
But make his name rhyme with POWEL?
To cherish all the arts have we
FOSTER – father of industry.
For carrying, for sales and barters,
We’ve one or more bran new CARTERS.
When we’ve greenbacks in our pocket,
We place keys heron and LOCKETT.
I’ve tried to HARMONize my plan,
And couch the name of ever man;
Yet fancy’s vision fails to find
Only mother to my mind;
Attention give, ye halt and lame!
Lieut. FERRELL is his name.
He’ll point your staff whereon you lean,
A good support is he I weep.
Now search our realm from last to first,
You’ll find on other only HURST.
Should I write a REAM of paper,
Or nurse the pale midnight taper.
Or search the PENN from block to pump.
My mind could then but only JUMP
At one rational conclusion,
Which banishes all delusions.
Which is, of all that’s left behind,
By searching this truth you will find,
There’s all the substance used and fed
There’s little left to use but PEALE.
And now, dear friends, your pardon all.
From grave to gay, from short to tall;
I trust none will be offended,
Or no malice is intended.
That thus the poet used his name,
And banded it to merry fame;
For ‘twas to while away an hour,
And rob blue devils of their power,
That poet’s license thus was used,
And you my friends might be amused.
Should some feel that they are slighted;
That their chance for fame is blighted;
To them the muse can only say,
That “every dog will have his day.”
And that when ere they make a name,
Some muse will hand them down to fame.
For many a moon shall wax and wane,
And many a hero bleed in vain,
Ere every marshal strain is still
In castle, camp or classic hill.
And when the sword rusts on the wall
May those who’ve met here one and all.
Fight each their battles o’er again;
Recount with pride the foes they’ve slain.
Around the genial hearth of love!
Farewell! May we all meet above.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, December 17, 1880
About the date of which I am writing, my cousin, Captain Claiborn Snead, found me. I had heard that he was in this prison, but
my efforts to find him had been unavailing. It gave me much pleasure to meet him, as he treated me very kindly.
Note – Within a year or two past, I have seen that Captain Snead has been promoted to the position of Judge of the Superior Court, of the Augusta district, Georgia. He was a close student of law while in prison.
– Claiborn Snead was captain of Company G, 3rd Georgia Infantry. He was captured July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. Transferred to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, on January 27, 1865, he was exchanged and promoted to lieutenant colonel. He surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, in 1865. – Compiled Service Record of Claiborn Snead, 3rd Georgia Infantry.
I will now pass rapidly over the intervening time until the 3rd of Dec., the day on which the battle of Franklin, Tenn., was fought. On the 5th, a large number of officers captured in that battle, from Hood’s army, were ushered into the “pen” by the uproarious shouts of “fresh fish,” which always greets new comers. Among them were Adjutant D.W. Hunt, Jr., and Captain Ed Simmons of my regiment. From them I heard with painful interest all that had transpired since I left them. Sad, oh sad indeed, were the tidings they bore. They told of the almost utter demolition of one of the finest regiments in the C.S. service. The sorrowful intelligence which they brought me was quickly followed by the somewhat distorted newspaper accounts of the battle before Nashville, where Hood was repulsed and severely chastised by Thomas. This took place on the 16th inst., on the 22nd. 306 officers were ushered in here as a part of the results of that disastrous battle. Among them was, I am told, Maj. Gen. Ed Johnson, Brig. Gen. Jackson of Ga., besides one or two other generals. I found in the crowd Lt. W. Russell Edwards, of my regiment. His history of the transaction was a sad commentary on somebody. Among other casualties he gave the painful intelligence of the death of Lt. H.E. Weathersby, my old friend and brother chip. This made me sorrowful indeed.
NOTE – As my jottings at the time appear rather meager, I will next week give some account of the battle of Franklin and its casualties, which I have recently found between the leaves of the old family bible at home. Part of this has been torn off, but enough remains, perhaps, for the purpose. I think it is from the pen of our veteran editor, Bonney, as it appeared editorially in a paper published by him.
To Be Continued
– “Ed Simmons” is James E. Simmons, captain of Company A, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. Wounded at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, on July 20, 1864, he returned to the regiment in time to fight in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, where he was captured November 30, 1864. Simmons was sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp, where he remained until June 17, 1865, until he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. – Compiled Service Record of James E. Simmons, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– William Russell Edwards was 2nd Lieutenant in Company F, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. He was captured December 16, 1864, at Nashville, Tennessee, and sent to Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. Edwards was released on June 16, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. – Compiled Service Record of William Russell Edwards, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
– Eugene Weathersby was a 2nd Lieutenant in Company K, 33rd Mississippi Infantry. He was killed in action at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. – Compiled Service Record of Eugene Weathersby, 33rd Mississippi Infantry.
Magnolia Gazette, January 7, 1881
As I proposed in my last I will now give you some further accounts of the BATTLE OF FRANKLIN, or as it appeared in the paper published by H.S. Bonney, in Holmesville, when the events were all fresh. A part of his very interesting account has been torn off but enough remains to revive in our memories the terrible details of that sanguinary engagement. The “List of Casualties” will also be of much interest at this day, although as many of us know – that is erroneous in some particulars. This account appears in the issue of the 31st of December, 1864:
As the accounts come in of this bloody battle, we are more and more shocked at the horrifying details. The fierceness and sublimity of the desperate charge upon the breastworks of the enemy is said to surpass all description – to beggar all language. Our dead were piled in the ditches and on the breastworks, and many had fallen over them. In some places an eyewitness counted fifty in less than fifty yards on the field. The charge was made over an open field 300 yards wide, carrying the first line of works easily. Not the second. Johnson’s division, only gained this latter and held it, the men fighting across the works, and suffering terribly. Some of our men were literally shot to pieces, having from twenty to thirty bullets through them, and lay in piles of three deep – in some places four and five were lying across each other. Gen. Adams was himself shot in several places, on the works and bayoneted besides, together with his horse, falling with his forefeet on the works, and both found lying side by side across them. His body was robbed of his pocket book, watch, and his wife’s picture, but the latter was returned to one of our wounded men. Gen. Cleburne was killed near Gen. Adams – Fifteen other general officers were either killed or wounded. Our entire loss is reported to be 5000. The Federal loss was 110 officers and 2015 men killed, wounded and missing according to their reports. Hood himself led the charge, at the head of his columns. Pointing towards the Yankee lines, he is reported to have said to his men, “Break those lines, and you have finished the war in Tennessee, break them, and there is nothing to oppose your march from Nashville to the Ohio river.” He was answered with cheers, and immediately the whole space in front was crammed with the eager advancing multitudes, formed in a semi circle two regiments in depth, extending around the enemy’s line, while behind each alternate regiment were placed four others, so that our assaulting columns were really six regiments deep.
Storms of shot and shell were hurled furiously into the charging ranks, but with most wreckless bravery our troops rushed onward, not stopped or wavered while nearer the prize a terrible fire of musketry was poured upon them that seemed as if nothing could live before it. They crowded into the Yankee works and hand to hand encountered the enemy with bayonets and the butts of their muskets, unmindful of the sanguinary ground over which they had just passed, now covered with thousands of their dead and dying comrades. Oh what a slaughter was then and there! How many bleeding hearts are now made to gape anew at the tragic horrors of this most terrific shock of arms between the proud legions of Hood and the defeated enemy.
This was undoubtedly one of the hottest and most fiercely contested battles of the war. Even the Yankees admit that our men rushed on with most reckless bravery up to the parapets of their works, and that they stuck their muskets under the heads of the logs on their embankments. Victory crowned their efforts, and the enemy fled to within their fortifications at Nashville, but the cost was to us, indeed, as terrible as the success was brilliant. It is said that nothing in the record of battlefields can exceed in interest and pathos the story which the bloody field of Franklin furnishes for the history of the war. The result is indeed deplorable, and the necessity must have been great to justify it. It is asserted by some that we could have accomplished all that we have done without fighting this battle – that an opportunity of destroying the retreating enemy was lost to us on the previous day, when Cheatham’s corps encamped near the road, saw and heard the whole Yankee force go by, during the night, without attacking them. Thus the escape of Scofield at this opportune moment, led to one of the bloodiest battles of war, filling the land again with mourning for the thousands of brave hearts whose patriotic pulsations are now stilled and lost to home and country forever.
Among the mourning thousands we find from the list of casualties given, many of our friends in this and adjoining counties. Scarcely recovered from the stunning blow that reached us from the plains of Atlanta, we fall prostrate before this terrible visitation from the bloody marge of Harpeth Creek and around Franklin. Below we give the list of casualties most immediately interesting to our readers.
List of casualties in the 33rd Mississippi Regiment at the battle of Franklin, Tenn., November 30, 1864.
Co. A. Wounded – Serg’t J.W. Barfield, foot, severe; J.M. Saunders, arm, severe; D.J. Wilson, abdomen, slight.
Co. B. Killed – Capt. John Powell, Sergeant Alex Stewart, Wounded – Lieut. J.G. Richmond, chest and arm; W.N. Hampton, abdomen, severe, A.J. Wilson, thigh and arm, R.L. Jones abdomen, slight, T.W. Hurst, chest and groin, severe, C.H, Gordon, foot, severe, B.E. Downey, leg, slight.
Co. C. Killed – Lewis Dunn. Wounded – R.A. Ham, thigh and arm, severe, J.S. Byrne, abdomen, severe, A.H. McGuffy, hip, severe, J.W. Parnell shoulder, slight.
Co. D. Killed – T.S. Newman. Wounded – J.S. Cain chest, severe, L.S. Hollinger, abdomen, severe.
Co. E. Killed – Serg’t Owen L. Conerly, Pinkney Dunniway. Wounded – Thomas Payne, back, severe, F.T. Conerly, chin shot off, Amos Sandifer slight, in head.
Co. G. Killed – Lieut. M.J. Rose, Corp’l J.M. Easley. Wounded – Lieut. W.C. Gosely, arm severe.
Co. I. Killed – Serg’t C.F. Robertson. Wounded – Lieut. S.B. Brown, arm, severe, W.S. Cooper, face, severe.
Co. K. Killed – Lieut. H.E. Weathersby, Lieut. H.C. Shaw, Serg’t J.S. Anderson, Serg’t Major C.W.B. Street, W.A. Dunn, Thomas D. Adkins, J.A. Dunn, H.C. Lea, M.W. Sinclair. Wounded – Corp’l Robert S. Capell, hip and arm severe, Edwin May, Knee, severe (amputated at lower third of the thigh). S. Covington, knee, slight. J.G. Co, knee and arm, severe, T.A. Robinson head, slight, N.F. Smiley, groin, slight, T.M. Varnado, foot, severe, A.W. Forsythe, Jr., arm and chest, severe.
Total – Killed, 18. Wounded 31. this only embraces the killed and wounded who passed through the hands of the surgeons.
Casualties in the 7th Mississippi Regiment, commanded by Col. W.H. Bishop. Cos. A,C,F,H, and I. Killed – Col. W.H. Bishop, Private G.S. Lea. Wounded – D.F. Anders dangerous (since died). G.D. Brown, severe, Lieut. Col. B.F. Johnson, Major Henry Pope, W.W. Byrd, Capt. J.N. Atkinson, Serg’t A.J. Barnes, Joseph Cothern, W.C. Willims.
Total – Killed 2. Wounded 9.
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, January 14, 1881
On the 20th (Dec. 1864) a Mr. Redfield came to the Island attempting to effect my exchange for a Capt. Harkness, of the U.S. Army. Mr. H. is a brother-in-law of Robt. Kennicott. This was the most joyful proposition that has been made to me since I have been operating for me in this behalf and has shown me many kindnesses. I like him more than any other man I ever saw, and feel that there is no sacrifice short of right that I would not make to serve him.
Dec. 23rd. I am now waiting with all the patience I can to hear the exchange negotiations. I received another good letter from Willie Welch today in which he says he wants to send me another box. If I stay I will be most happy to receive it, if I can get a permit. Eatables can only be received on the approval of the surgeon, he believing that they are necessary for health.
Dec. 25th. This has been a gloomy Christmas day to the prisoners. Not one cheering beam of hope to gladden the immeasurable waste in the future. I have however, made this day an exchange of rooms which I think will conduce to my comfort and consequent happiness. I have left, I suppose forever, the old attenuated Block 11 into Room 8, Block 2, with my friends, the Wilsons, White and four clever gentlemen.
Dec. 26. Just received a letter from Mr. Redfield, the gentleman who was attempting to negotiate my exchange for Capt. Harkness – a friend of his confined at Charleston. He says that Capt. H. is already exchanged. This is a sad blow on me, but as he promises still to operate for me, I will hope that all may turn out right, but it will certainly require much more time. I find my new room very dull since leaving the noise and confusion of the old.
Dec. 27th. Nothing new today. Wrote to Jas. Redfield in reply to his letter announcing the exchange of Capt. Harkness, also to Willie Welch for a box.
Jan. 1st, 1865. I here chronicle the evacuation of Savannah, Ga., on the 20th ult., by Gen. Hardee, with his garrison, and the occupation of the same on the 21st by Gen. Sherman. This day here was ushered in clear and cold. The papers today brought us the joyful intelligence of the intended proposition by Col. Mumford to Col. Onid for a general exchange. I have this day made the usual amount of good resolutions for for the ensuing year; among them one to read the bible through again, in the reading of which three of my comrades join me. We read seven chapters today. Intend reading as many as five on Sabbath and three each day through the week. I have been troubled with my old complaint, the toothache, and am even now suffering with it. I have just finished a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Tennison. I must try to be good and industrious man the year to come and not waste my time because I am a prisoner. I may make it the most valuable time of my life, for surely my imprisonment will cease some day. Several cases of smallpox have broken out in the prison. I have this day been re-vaccinated.
Jan. 4th – Have just written to Willie Welch, answering his letter of the 27th ult., sending me $25. Contemplate commencing the study of French tomorrow.
Jan. 5th – Commenced the study of French today. Too sick to study much.
Jan. 7th – Received a very kind letter from Mrs. Eugenia Pennington today. Her address is Milan, Erie County, Ohio. She desires to send me cider and apples. Alas! I can’t get them.
Jan. 8th – Answered Mrs. Pennington’s letter today. Still sick – Diarrhea
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, January 21, 1881
January 9. A memorable day to some of the officers. One hundred and sixty, who belonged to the Trans-Mississippi Department, were taken off for the purpose of exchange as is stated. The prison has been in a ferment for the past week on the subject of exchange. Statements of many different shades have been in circulation, but I suspect the whole thing will die out with the departure of those who have gone. No rumor of exchange has reached my care except that of a general exchange. The prisoner can do little else than dream. I dream of my little company toiling for their country, and all the consolation I have is that it requires one Yankee guard to keep me, and one Captain is held for me. I dream of home in all its phases – full of cares and hopes – and happiness – but, I awake and find myself still on Johnson’s Island.
January 16. Fort Fisher has fallen! One by one the rose leaves fall. To the cost of the Republican forces, and to our own national anguish, it may truly be said, “We die hard.” Nothing also has transpired to disturb “the even tenor of our war” for several days – but the fall of Fort Fisher is enough for that.
January 20. For some days past we have been considerably exercised by exchange and peace rumors not that we believe any of them – but could not help listening. Among other startling things looking in that direction, is an order of Col. Hill, commander of the Port, vacating Blocks 1 and 2 to accommodate those who take the oath of amnesty, and those who do not want to be exchanged. This will be pretty heavy on me, for I have long been in an uncomfortable room, and now, just as I supposed myself permanently comfortable, I suppose I’ll have to ‘march’ again. The Yankees represent that the numbers belonging to the above classes are legion. I do hope for the honor of my little struggling nation that they are not so numerous as represented, but we shall see in a few days. In reading the N.Y. News, I came across an eloquent extract from Gustavus A. Henry known as the “Eagle Orator of Tennessee,” which is so beautiful, in its word painting, that I make a copy of it here. It is as follows:
Reunion with them: No, Sir; never! There is a great gulf that rolls between us. It is a gulf of blood, without a shore, and without a bottom, and is an inseparable as that which separated Dives from Lazarus. The mute objects of nature; our desecrated churches and altars; our sweet valleys, drenched in blood and charred by fire forbid it. The dead would cry out against it from their gory beds. The blood of our own sons, yet unavenged, cries to heaven from the ground for vengeance. The thousands who are resting red in their graves would awake and utter their solemn protest. Stonewall Jackson, Polk, Stewart, Rhodes, Morgan, Preston, Smith and thousands over whose remains a monument to the unknown dead shall be raised are speaking in tones of thunder against it; and can it be, the living only will be dumb? Sir; those who have died in this war are not dead to us. ‘E’en if their ashes live their wanted fires.’ They are, in the light of their example, more valuable than the living. Their spirits walk abroad and stir the hearts of living men to do or die in the cause of liberty. We cherish their memory. Weeping virgins and devoted mothers, shall kneel around their tombs and bedew with tears the graves where they sleep. Poetry shall embalm their memory and minstrelsy perpetuate their fame forever. We give in charge their names to the sweetest lyre. The historic muse, proud of her treasure, shall march with it down to the latest sculptor, who in turn, shall give bond in stone and enduring brass to guard them and immortalize her trust. The soldiers who have died in this war are not only inshrined in the innermost care of her heart, but to the mind’s eye, are ever in our sight. ‘On fame’s eternal camping ground their silent tents are opened; and glory guards with solemn round, the bivouac of the dead.’
To Be Continued
Magnolia Gazette, February 11, 1881
March 15th. Long and weary has been the time since I have looked into my old diary. There have been some changes which perchance are not noteworthy as composing a part of prison life; yet the changes such as they are, can be told with a few words. A general exchange has been agreed upon, and eight hundred officers from this prison have actually gone off on the general exchange.
Restrictions have also been by some legerdemain removed from the sutler, and he permitted to sell provisions and clothing in limited quantities, except some particular articles, which he is not permitted to sell. It is interesting to see the sutler’s establishment, besieged as it always is during business hours with its eager throngs of hungry men. Woe unto the man, feeble or sound, who trusts himself in that crowd, for if he gets out with the whole bones, he will not get out without being most woefully squeezed and mashed. It seems, too, like their rapacity would never abate for the press continues all the while – some forty or fifty men who made application to take the oath of loyalty to the U.S. Government has been assigned quarters to themselves of the best rooms in the pen – the previous occupants having been first removed.
The ice across the bay remained firm and solid for about six weeks but has at last broken up and the boat is now running regularly. The weather is mild almost as southern spring, the sun shining very brightly in the middle of the day. This pleasant weather however does not continue long, in this climate, for like a girl with an irascible temper it weeps and shines almost in the same hour. I studied French a little while, but the excitement of getting off from here has broken that all up. Willie Welch has sent me a box of eatables. Most of my room mates being Port Hudson captures are expecting to leave here soon. I am impatient to see them go as every man leaves his number less.
March 16th. – Dark, warm, rainy and no signs of any one leaving today. Now the wind blows a gale. The change comes even as
I write it. Capt. B. received a box of clothing from Mrs. Boyor. What a diadem will shine in that woman’s crown for all the good she has done. Now the gale has increased to a hurricane almost and I desist for the present.
“Captain B” may be Lieutenant Samuel Boyer Davis, a Confederate spy who was captured in 1864. Sentenced to death, Davis was sent to Johnson’s Island for execution. He was pardoned by Abraham Lincoln just before the sentence was carried out. – http://www.militaryheritage.org/Davis.html
April 10th. – This is the darkest day of my country’s doom. I have just heard of the surrender of Gen. Lee and his whole army – all to be paroled and retain side arms and private property. Oh! I could weep many tears while my heart is bleeding! Never before has utter despondency of our cause seized up on me, but now I feel that all is indeed lost, except the dear bought and now worthless bauble, that we are more a manly and honorable foe. The oath takers hoisted the “stars and stripes” on their prison.
April 11. At night 425 officers of the Virginia Army arrived here. They were captured on the 2nd inst. At Petersburg. Among them was Thos. A. Garner and some other old acquaintances. They think all is lost.
April 14. The Yankees are making the most extraordinary demonstrations of joy. Dress and fancy parade, music, bills, flags, festoons. Tonight they are to have a display of fireworks and a national salute. This is the day appointed by the President for general rejoicing. Alas! there is no joy for the captive. Every sound he hears, he knows to be a direct thrust at the jewel enshrined in his bosom’s care. Col. Hill, Commander of the Post, has behaved himself most gentlemanly towards the prisoners in his charge here.
April 15. Life is truly a checker board, one check white and one black. Yesterday was a day of national rejoicing for the conquest of the Union arms over the Confederate, and quite lustily was it carried out on this Island. Today dispatches have reached announcing the death of President Lincoln while at the theatre in Washington. Secretary Seward at home, and Assistant Secretary Seward – though it is not yet known whether the latter is dead. A man named Wilkes Booth secreted himself in the President’s box, and during the third act shot him through the head, and then with a drawn knife, rushed out, exclaiming, “Sic simper tyrannis.” He mounted his horse and attempted to escape, but was – I understand – arrested. This event of course will plunge the nation in gloom deeper than was the height of exultation on yesterday. The flags that waived jauntily yesterday in the laughing winds, today droop gloomily at half mast, thus identifying to the solemn and rapid mutation of all sublunary things, whether national or individual. I feel no joy at the sad sad solemn event. May God protect and keep us right and his will be done. Col. Hill made a very moderate and feeling little speech, to check any possible demonstrations of pleasure that might be made by the inconsiderate, both for our good and his. A very, very few did cheer a little when they heard the news. I deeply regret that Col. Hill found it necessary to make any remarks on the subject.
April 30th. There is considerable excitement among the officers of this pen on the subject of taking the oath of allegiance or amnesty, as it is termed. General Joseph E. Johnson surrendered his forces on the 26th ult. On the terms that General Lee surrendered. This disposes of the commands of most of the officers, and many believing the struggle henceforth hopeless are making application for release on the terms of the oath, as they are assured that none other will ever be granted them.
May 1st, 1865. This day the various Colonels imprisoned from Mississippi, held a meeting to consider what action Mississippians ought to take in relation to the subject of release from prison. They came to the conclusion that further delay in making application for the oath of amnesty in order to be released from prison, was useless. The reasons which actuate Mississippians to this course now, are as follows: The civil government of the Confederate States has only been supported by their military power. In the fall of Richmond and other ports, and the surrender of Lee and Johnson – their two greatest military chieftains, with their respective armies – the Confederate States have been shorn of the most formidable power which sustained the government. Without such support it can not assert itself – does not exist de facto, ergo there is no government now to which we are paying allegiance. There is no military command in the field to which any of us belong. All have been surrendered – paroled not to take up arms against the United States until regularly exchanged. This, in the nature of things can never be done; wherefore, we are as effectually precluded from ever taking up arms, as those who take the oath. Our homes are in a State over which the United States now exercises its power and authority. While living in that state we expect and claim as a right, that so long as we behave ourselves as peaceable citizens, the protection of the existing government should be extended to us. If it then protects us, we can do no less than give it our adhesion and support. It is not improbable that soon vexed political questions may arise at home, which will require the best talents and purest men of our country to cope with successfully. Such as these are as likely to be found in this prison as any where on top of the ground, and therefore we believe it is right for us all to hasten home, and take such part as we may, in protecting the interests of our State in the new order of things that will shortly be inaugurated. It has been objected that our allegiance is due to the entire confederation of States and not to the State of our residence alone, and that if the President and his cabinet should establish themselves and the government in the trans-Mississippi Department and prolong the contest, that it is our duty to flock to his standard there and aid in reclaiming the lost territory. This I admit to be the gravest question presented to my mind in connection with the whole subject, and while I do detest the common practice of controverting a powerful argument with a weak answer, and thus dismiss the subject with a triumphant flourish of trumpets, as if the strong argument had been successfully met, yet I think this argument not unanswerable. If the reasons already given are not sufficient, I think the following will fully meet the objection. One of the “Casus Belli” is the question of State sovereignty. The United States has met this on the field of battle and her arms have been successful. She now holds indisputable dominion over the States of our residence. Family ties, business complications, and other matters render it impossible for us to leave our homes and go where the Confederate arms are still holding the territory. Therefore, as we believe in the sovereignty of the State, we must render our allegiance to it, and as a matter of course to the government to which she is tributary. It would be with a bad grace that we would now abandon the proposition for which we took up arms, and still remain in the country where the doctrine no longer exists. Tho’ conquered we still believe that our duty is to the State in which we live. Again, even if it were no compulsory, with us, still if the U.S. should take us under her protecting aegis, it would be but a fitting return that we should yield a faithful allegiance to that government. But, above and beyond all this is the comforting (?) assurance that if we do not take this oath of allegiance, we are doomed to perpetual imprisonment, or, if possible, worse. I, for one, feel that my duty to my family, my country, and my God, require my presence in active life.
Mr. Editor, here the manuscript ends. I came off after that, and your readers and those who have been kind enough to follow me, are glad of it.
John S. Lamkin’s confinement at Johnson’s Island ended on June 14, 1865, when he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and was released from the prison. He went home to his wife and children, and the years to follow made a comfortable living as a lawyer and newspaper owner/editor. Lamkin played an active role in keeping the memory of the Confederate soldier alive in the postwar south, serving for a time as president of the Pike County Reunion Association.
Captain John S. Lamkin died on December 10, 1900, in Natchez, while paying a visit to his son, Doctor L.H. Lamkin. In his obituary it was said of his wartime service, “When war was declared between the states he was among the first to join the Confederate army, and served with distinction throughout the long and bloody struggle. When peace was restored he returned to his home in this county and was prominent in the noble work of rebuilding the waste places, and through the long ordeal of reconstruction he never lost hope, and his neighbors and friends could impose no task that was too hard for him to perform.” – Summit Sentinel, December 13, 1900
The memoir of John S. Lamkin was very well written, and I am proud to make it available to the public for the first time since it was originally published in 1880. I think that first person accounts such as Lamkin’s are very important, as they bring home quite forcefully the true cost of the Civil War to the people of Mississippi.