CHAPTER 13:  LIFE IN THE PRISONS-PENS 1864-1865



"I was mortified at finding myself apparently the only prisoner from the Thirty-Fifth, but soon others were brought in, and in all nine of us were captured.  On May 31st eleven hundred prisoners were packed in box cars, sixty to a car, in route for Andersonville, Georgia.  Seven days later on June the 6th we neared our journey's end and an increasing soberness came over us, and there was but little disposition to joke

with each other or with the rebel guard; this partly from weariness, but more from an increasing conviction that the horrors of Andersonville were but too true.  Late in the afternoon we filed into our prison home, begrimed with dust and dirt, weary, faint, and hungry.  As the heavy timber gates swung open for our entrance, more than one of us felt, from what we had seen outside, like the saying, Abandon hope all ye who enter here.  


Going over the enclosure and coming in contact with its inmates, one's eyes fill with tears and the heart shrinks in horror at the scenes around him - men almost skeletons from lack of food, from diarrhea, and

chills and fever, more than half of them clothed in rags, and all begrimed with the pitch-pine smoke from the fires.  Added to these horrors, one finds a spirit of selfishness sad to witness - the strong oppressing the weak.  A fellow prisoner found this out today by bitter experience.  Going to bathe he left his clothes upon the bank; when he resumed them he found, to his grief, that his pocket-book was gone, and

with it the balance of our reserve fund.  "I do not care for the money," he said, with tears streaming down his cheeks, "but those pictures of my wife and child, if I only had them they might have the money."


The work of tunnelling is carried on in the night; a number club together, keeping the matter to themselves.  Case knives, spoons, wooden shovels, and tin plates are the tools for digging, and the excavated earth is carried away to the creek or covered with rubbish. Two nearly finished tunnels were discovered by the rebs today.  Searching for tunnels has become a daily task for the rebs; they go about the camp poking their heads into tents on the hunt.


Eleven hundred more Yanks were brought in today.  They bring all sorts of reports as to the progress of the war, some encouraging and some discouraging.

On July 4th I woke with thoughts of home, inspired by "the day we celebrate".  For the past two weeks I have been saving up the extra rations allowed me of meal and rice, we four having determined to have a

Fourth of July dinner if possible.  We had a jolly time cooking it, and smacked our lips as heartily in eating it as ever at any Fourth of July in the Old Bay State.


Two years yesterday since I enlisted.  Little did I think that a part of my three years' service was to be spent as a prisoner of war.  Two months of prison life and health and strength still remain to me.


We left prison this morning.  The most of the men had exhausted nearly all their nervous power in their effort to get to the point they had now reached, and seemed unable to participate in the joy they had long

looked for and which was now so close at hand. 


Without any long lingering look behind, we were soon en route across the peninsula of disputed territory that lay between the opposing forces.  It was a gala day.  The air was calm and spring-like.  We journeyed along in silence until a rise in the land brought us suddenly in sight of the Union lines on the opposite side of the river, and there we saw, floating over the ramparts, the glorious old flag.  A shout of joy went up, as wagon after wagon came in sight of the treasured emblem.  "Lift me up, lift me up and let me see it," said a fever-stricken comrade at my side - and big tears started down his cheeks as he gazed in silence upon its waving fold.  We were once again in the "Land of the Free".


Excerpted from CHAPTER 13:  LIFE IN THE PRISONS-PENS 1864-1865, by Nancy Ashkar