Lights and Shadows in Confederate Prisons - A Personal Experience, 1864-5
by Homer B. Sprague
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"Come with me," said I to the Confederate. "We'll go into the house and inquire if any one knows of a Lieutenant Gardner." We went in. There were perhaps thirty or forty inside who had got wind of what was going on. As we entered, I asked in a loud voice, "Does any officer in this house know anything of a Lieutenant Gardner?" Several smiled and declared it a very singular name. One wanted to know how it was spelled! A number were speaking at once. One said he escaped at the Yadkin; he knew he got away, for he "watched him till he got a long distance out of sight." Another knew a Henry J. Gardner, "a Know-Nothing" governor of Massachusetts, who knew enough to keep out of the army. Another affirmed that Gardner was dead; he had heard him say "I'm a dead man," and he wouldn't tell a lie! My memory is somewhat indistinct of all that was said; but Gardner is alleged to have whispered the officer thus: "I have been a gardener myself; and if Major Gee will parole me and give me good clothes and something to eat, I wouldn't mind becoming again a gardener in his employ." I recollect distinctly that the officer grew impatient and he finally asked me, "Do you say on your honor, Colonel, that you don't know a Lieut. Wm. O. Gardner in this house?" I answered, "I do"; but I left him to guess whether I meant "I do know" or "I do say!" I quieted my conscientious scruples by remembering that the lieutenant's true name was not Wm. O. but Wm. C.! The baffled officer left very angry, and "Where's Gardner at?" passed into a conundrum.

Late that afternoon, as I was engaged in the delightful employment of washing my fall-and-winter shirt, having for the first time since our arrival in Salisbury obtained sufficient water for that purpose, the order came for all officers to fall in and take the cars for Danville, Va. The juxtaposition of three or four hundred Yankee officers with eight thousand of their enlisted comrades-in-arms was getting dangerous.


[5] He had killed three men with his sword at the time of his capture.

[6] "We run the boy into one of the houses, clipped his hair, shaved him, and placed a new robe on him."—Letter of Capt. Wesley C. Howe to Colonel Sprague, Jan. 30, 1914.


From Salisbury to Danville—The Forlorn Situation—Effort to "Extract Sunshine from Cucumbers"—The Vermin—The Prison Commandant a Yale Man—Proposed Theatricals—Rules Adopted—Studies—Vote in Prison for Lincoln and McClellan—Killing Time.

At six o'clock, Wednesday evening, October 19, 1864, we officers, about 350 in number, were packed in five freight cars, and the train was started for Danville, Va. The tops of the cars were covered with armed guards, two or three being also stationed within at the side door of each car. In the darkness about half-past nine Lieut. Joseph B. Simpson of the 11th Indiana slyly stole all the food from the haversacks of the guards at the door of our car and passed it round to us, while we loudly "cussed and discussed" slavery and secession! About midnight Captain Lockwood, Lieutenant Driscoll, and eight or ten other officers leaped from the cars. The guards opened fire upon them. Lockwood was shot dead. Several were recaptured, and some probably reached the Union lines in safety. We arrived at Danville at noon October 20th.

The town at this time contained four, formerly six, military prisons, each a tobacco house about eighty to a hundred feet long by forty to fifty wide, three stories high, built of brick, low between joints. The officers were put into the building known as prison number three. We were informed by the guards that it had formerly contained about two hundred negro prisoners; but that some had died, others had been delivered to their masters or set at work on fortifications, and the number remaining just before our arrival was only sixty-four. These were removed to make room for us.

Except about twenty large stout wooden boxes called spittoons, there was no furniture whatever in prison number three. Conjecture was rife as to the purpose of the Confederates in supplying us with spittoons and nothing else. They were too short for coffins, too large for wash bowls, too shallow for bathing tubs, too deep for tureens! To me much meditating on final causes, a vague suspicion at length arose that there was some mysterious relation between those twenty oblong boxes and a score of hogsheads of plug tobacco, said to be stored in the basement. A tertium QUID, a solution of the tobacco, might afford a solution of the spittoon mystery!

A dozen water buckets were put into each of the two upper rooms to which all the officers were restricted; also a small cylinder coal stove; nothing else until December, when another small stove was placed there. Winter came early and unusually cold. The river Dan froze thick. It was some weeks before we prevailed upon the prison commandant to replace with wood the broken-out glass in the upper rooms. The first floor was uninhabitable.

So with no bed nor blanket; no chairs, benches, nor tables; no table-ware nor cooking utensils; not even shovel, poker, or coal-scoop; most of us were in a sorry plight. The little stoves, heated white-hot, would have been entirely inadequate to warm those rooms; but the coal was miserably deficient in quality as well as quantity. The fire often went out. To rekindle it, there was no other way than to upset the whole, emptying ashes and cinders on the floor. At best, the heat was obstructed by a compact ring of shivering officers, who had preempted positions nearest the stoves. They had taken upon themselves to "run" the thing; and they did it well. We called them "The Stove Brigade." In spite of their efforts, they like the rest suffered from cold.

Three or four of us, as a sanitary measure, made it a point to see, if possible, the funny, or at least the bright side of everything, turn melancholy to mirth, shadow to sunshine. When every officer complained of cold, we claimed to anticipate the philosophers, Tyndall, Huxley, and the other physicists, in declaring that "heat is a mode of motion," and brisk bodily exercise will infallibly demonstrate the fact! When, as was usually the case, all were hungry, we announced as a sure cure for indigestion, "stop eating!" When our prisoner chaplain Emerson on a Sunday afternoon prayed for the dear ones we expected to see no more, and even the roughest and most profane were in tears, we said with old Homer, "Agathoi aridakrues andres" ("Gallant men are easily moved to tears"), or with Bayard Taylor, "The bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the daring."

Most humiliating of all was the inevitable plague of vermin. "Hard indeed," one officer was accustomed to say, "must have been Pharaoh's heart, and tougher yet his epidermis, if the lice of the third Egyptian plague were like those of Danville, and yet he would not 'let Israel go.'" Wearing the same clothing night and day, sitting on the bare floors, sleeping there in contact with companions not over-nice, no patient labor, no exterminating unguent, afforded much relief. We lost all squeamishness, all delicacy on the subject, all inclination for concealment. It was not a returned Danville prisoner who was reported to have gone into a drug store in New York stealthily scratching and saying, "I want some unguentum; don't want it for myself; only want it for a friend." But it was reported and believed that in April one of them entered an apothecary shop in Annapolis plying his finger-nails and hurriedly asking, "Have you any bmsquintum?"—"From your manner," answered the courteous druggist, "I think what you want is unguentum."—"Yes, run git 'em; I guess that is the true name."—"Unguentum, sir"; said the shopkeeper. "How much unguentum do you want?"—"Well, I reckon about two pound!"—"My dear sir, two pounds would kill all the lice in Maryland."—"Well, I vow I believe I've got 'em!"

Lieut.-Col. Robert C. Smith of Baltimore, who took command of the Danville prisons soon after our arrival, appeared to be kind-hearted, compassionate, but woefully destitute of what Mrs. Stowe calls "faculty." He was of medium height, spare build, fair complexion, sandy hair, blue eyes, of slightly stooping figure; on the whole rather good-looking. He was slow of speech, with a nasal twang that reminded me of Dr. Horace Bushnell. His face always wore a sad expression. He had been a student at Yale in the forties a few years before me. Once a prisoner himself in our hands and fairly treated, he sympathized with us. He had been wounded, shot through the right shoulder. When I visited on parole the other Danville prisons in February, a Yankee soldier was pointed out to me as wearing Colonel Smith's blood-stained coat, and another was said to be wearing his vest. I had repeated interviews with him, in which he expressed regret at not being able to make us more comfortable. He said more than once to me, "I have no heart for this business. It requires a man without any heart to keep a military prison. I have several times asked to be relieved and sent to the front." An officer of forceful executive ability might have procured for us lumber for benches, more coal or wood for the stoves, some straw or hay for bedding, blankets or cast-off clothing for the half naked; possibly a little food, certainly a supply of reading matter from the charitably disposed. Single instances of his compassion I have mentioned. I shall have occasion to speak of another. But the spectacle of the hopeless mass of misery in the four Danville prisons seemed to render him powerless, if not indifferent. As Mrs. Browning puts it:

A red-haired child, Sick in a fever, if you touch him once, Though but so little as with a finger-tip, Will set you weeping; but a million sick! You could as soon weep for the rule of three, Or compound fractions!

Like too many officers both Union and Confederate, he was often in liquor; liquor was always in him. This "knight of the rueful countenance," of the sad heart, the mourning voice, the disabled right arm, and the weakness for apple-jack!—his only hope was to have an exchange of prisoners; but Lincoln and Stanton and Grant would not consent to that. The last I heard of him was when a letter of his was shown me by Lieutenant Washington, a Confederate, a distant relative of the great George. In it Smith, who had been absent a week from Danville, complained that he had had "no liquor for three days," and that he was "painfully sober"!

"Necessity," says the old apothegm, "is the mother of invention." It was surprising, how much we accomplished in a few weeks towards making ourselves comfortable. Bone or wood was carved into knives, forks, spoons, buttons, finger-rings, masonic or army badges, tooth-picks, bosom pins, and other ornaments; corn-cobs were made into smoking pipes; scraps of tin or sheet-iron were fashioned into plates for eating or dishes for cooking; shelves were made by tying long wood splinters together; and many "spittoons," which were soon rendered superfluous, because the two entire rooms were transformed into vast spittoons, were inverted, and made useful as seats which we called sofas.

Many ingeniously wrought specimens of Yankee ingenuity were sold clandestinely to the rebel guards, who ventured to disobey strict orders. No skinflint vender of wooden nutmegs, leather pumpkin-seeds, horn gunflints, shoe-peg oats, huckleberry-leaf tea, bass-wood cheeses, or white-oak hams, ever hankered more for a trade. Besides the products of our prison industry, they craved watches, rings, gold chains, silver spurs, gilt buttons, genuine breast-pins, epaulets; anything that was not manufactured in the Confederacy. Most of all, they longed for greenbacks in exchange for rebel currency. So in one way or another many of us contrived to get a little money of some sort. With it we could buy of the sutler, who visited us from time to time, rice, flour, beans, bacon, onions, dried apple, red peppers, sorghum syrup, vinegar, etc.

Perhaps the best result of our engaging in handicraft work was the relief from unspeakable depression of spirits. Some of us saw the importance of making diversion on a large scale. To this end we planned to start a theatre. Major Wm. H. Fry, of the 16th Pa. Cavalry, who knew all about vaudeville in Philadelphia, was a wise adviser. Young Gardner, who had been an actor, heartily joined in the movement. I procured a worn-out copy of Shakespeare. It seemed best to begin with the presentation of the first act in Hamlet. Colonel Smith and other rebel officers promised to aid us. We assigned the parts and commenced studying and rehearsing. Gardner was to be Hamlet; Lieut.-Col. Theodore Gregg, 45th Pa., was to be Claudius, the usurping king; the smooth-faced Capt. William Cook was to be the queen-mother Gertrude; Capt. W. F. Tiemann, 159th N. Y., was to personate Marcellus; Lieut. C. H. Morton of Fairhaven, Mass., I think, was Horatio; and I, having lost about forty pounds of flesh since my capture—it was thought most appropriate that I should be the Ghost! Every morning for some weeks on the empty first floor we read and rehearsed, and really made fine progress. But when we got ready to produce in theatric style, with slight omissions, the first act, the rebels seemed suspicious of some ulterior design. They refused to furnish a sword for Hamlet, a halberd for Marcellus, muskets for Bernardo and Francisco, a calico gown for the queen, or even a white shirt for the Ghost. This was discouraging. When the lovely queen-mother Gertrude appealed to her son—

Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,—

he answered, "I swear I can't do it!" One November morning, as we were rehearsing and shivering on the windy first floor, he ejaculated with some emphasis, and with ungentle expletives not found in the original text,

The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold;

"I move, Colonel, that we 'bust up' this theatre." So the "legitimate drama" vanished from Danville.

About this time my copy of the Greek New Testament was stolen from me, an instance, perhaps, of piety run mad.

A week or two before this, the lower room, in which I then lodged, containing about a hundred and seventy officers, was getting into such a condition that I felt it my duty to call a meeting to see what measures could be adopted to promote comfort and decency. I was not the senior in rank, but Colonel Carle did not feel himself authorized to issue orders. Some sort of government must be instituted at once. Nearly all recognized the necessity of prompt action and strict discipline. A committee was appointed consisting of myself, Major John W. Byron, 88th N. Y., and another officer whose name escapes me, to draw up rules and regulations. We presented the following:


1. The room shall be thoroughly policed (swept, etc.) four times each day by the messes in succession; viz., at sunrise and sunset, and immediately after breakfast and dinner.

2. There shall be no washing in this room.

3. No emptying slops into spittoons.

4. No washing in the soup buckets or water buckets.

5. No shaking of clothes or blankets in this room.

6. No cooking inside the stoves.

7. No loitering in the yard to the inconvenience of others.

8. No person shall be evidently filthy or infested with vermin.

9. No indecent, profane, or ungentlemanly language in this room.

10. No conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman about these premises.

11. No talking aloud at night after nine o'clock.

12. An officer of the day shall be appointed daily by the senior officer, whose duty shall be to see that these rules are strictly enforced, and to report to the senior officer any violation thereof.

13. In case of any alleged violation of any of these rules, the senior officer of the room shall appoint a Court[7] to consist of thirteen disinterested officers, who shall fairly try and determine the matter, and in case of conviction the offender's rations shall be stopped, or the commander of the prison be requested to confine the offender in a cell according to the sentence of the Court; and it shall be the duty of every officer to have such offender court-martialed after rejoining his command.

For the Committee. H. B. Sprague, Oct, 26, 1864.

The prison commandant promised that he would execute any sentence short of capital punishment. But one case was tried by such court. The offense was a gross violation of rule 9. The culprit was let off with a sharp reprimand by General Hayes; but my first act after the exchange of prisoners was to prefer charges and specifications against him. The beast was court-martialed at Annapolis in the latter part of July, '65.

The observance of these rules wrought wonders in correcting evils which had become almost unendurable, and in promoting cheerfulness, good behavior, and mutual esteem.

Many letters were written to us. Few of them reached their destination. The first I received was from Miss Martha Russell, a lady of fine literary ability, a friend of Edgar A. Poe, living at North Branford, Conn. In raising my company (Co. H., 13th Conn.), I had enlisted her brother Alfred. Under strict military discipline he had become a valuable soldier, and I had appointed him my first sergeant. At the battle of Irish Bend, La., in which I was myself wounded, he was shot through the neck. The wound seemed mortal, but I secured special care for him, and his life was spared as by miracle. His sister's letter brought a ray of sunshine to several of us. It assured us that we were tenderly cared for at home. She quoted to cheer us the fine lines of the Cavalier poet Lovelace,

Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage; Minds innocent and quiet take That for a hermitage.

A well-grounded conviction prevailed among the prisoners that the Confederate government was anxious to secure an exchange of prisoners, but that the Federal government would not consent. The reason was evident enough. The Confederate prisoners in the North, as a rule, were fit for military duty; the Union prisoners in the South were physically unfit. A general exchange would have placed at once, say, more than forty thousand fresh soldiers in the rebel ranks, but very few in ours. Conscription for military service had been tried in the North with results so bitter that it seemed unwise to attempt it again. Better let the unfortunates in southern prisons perish in silence—that appeared the wisest policy. But to us prisoners it appeared a mistake and gross neglect of duty. Between our keen sense of the wrong in allowing us to starve, and our love for Lincoln and the Union, there was a struggle. Our patriotism was put to the test on the day of the Presidential election, Tuesday, November 8th. Discouraging as was the outlook for us personally, we had confidence in the government and in the justice of our cause. Pains was taken to obtain a full and fair vote in the officers' prison. There were two hundred seventy-six for Lincoln; ninety-one for McClellan. Under the circumstances the result was satisfactory.

Very earnest, if not acrimonious, were the discussions that immediately preceded and followed. Some of us realized their importance, not so much in arriving at a correct decision on the questions at issue, as in preventing mental stagnation likely to result in imbecility if not actual idiocy. By the stimulus of employment of some kind we must fight against the apathy, the hopeless loss of will power, into which several of our comrades seemed sinking. Mrs. Browning well says:

Get leave to work In this world,—'tis the best you get at all. ... Get work; get work; Be sure 'tis better than what you work to get!

Some of us started historical debates, and new views were presented which furnished both amusement and instruction. One colonel, more redoubtable in battle than in dialectics, who had been shot through from breast to back, gravely informed us that the geometer Euclid was an early English writer! A kindly visitor, Dr. Holbrook, made me a present of Hitchcock's Elementary Geology. It was not quite up to date, having been published about twenty-five years before, but I found the study interesting. Grieved at having lost from my books three years in military service, I endeavored with three or four companions to make up for the deficiency by taking lessons in French. Our teacher was Captain Cook, already mentioned as teaching us French at Salisbury. As we had no books, the instruction was oral. I was delighted to observe how much a knowledge of Latin facilitated the acquisition of the modern tongue. A few weeks later upon the arrival of Major George Haven Putnam, Adjutant at that time of the 176th N. Y., several of us commenced under him the study of German. Here too the teaching was oral; but I was able to buy Oehlschlaeger's German Reader; took special pleasure in memorizing some of the selections, particularly from the poets Gleim, Claudius, Goethe, Schiller, and Uhland; and I was already familiar with some stanzas of Arndt's noble The German Fatherland, sung so often to me by my Lieutenant Meisner, slain by my side in battle. Some of those songs still ring in my ears. General Hayes, Major Putnam, and two or three others took lessons in Spanish from a native of Mexico, 2d Lieut. John Gayetti (I think that was his name), of Battery B, 2d Pa. Artillery.

Checkerboards and chessboards were prepared from the rudest materials, and many were the games with which some of our comrades sought to beguile the weary hours. Capt. Frank H. Mason of the 12th Cavalry had the reputation of being our best chess player and young Adjutant Putnam was his most persistent opponent.

No one needs to be told that old soldiers are great story-tellers, drawing upon their imagination for facts. This talent was assiduously cultivated in our prison.


[7] See Appendix.


Exact Record of Rations in Danville—Opportunity to Cook—Daily Routine of Proceedings from Early Dawn till Late at Night.

Our imprisonment at Danville lasted from October 20, '64, to February 17, '65, one hundred and twenty days. I kept a careful daily record of the rations issued to us, as did also Lieut. Watson W. Bush, 2d N. Y. "Mounted Rifles." After our removal from Danville to Richmond for exchange, we compared our memoranda, and found they substantially agreed. During the one hundred and twenty days the issues were as follows:

Bread. A loaf every morning. It was made of unsifted corn-meal, ground "cobs and all." Pieces several inches in length of cobs unground were sometimes contained in it. It always seemed wholesome, though moist, almost watery. Its dimensions were a little less than 7 inches long, 3 or 4 wide, and 3 thick. I managed to bring home a loaf, and we were amazed at the shrinkage to a quarter of its original size. It had become very hard. We broke it in two, and found inside what appeared to be a dishcloth!

Meat. Forty-three times. I estimated the weight at from 2 to 5 or 6 ounces. In it sometimes were hides, brains, heads, tails, jaws with teeth, lights, livers, kidneys, intestines, and nameless portions of the animal economy.

Soup. Sixty-two times; viz., bean soup forty-seven times; cabbage nine times; gruel six. It was the thinnest decoction of small black beans, the slightest infusion of cabbage, or the most attenuated gruel of corn-cob meal, that a poetic imagination ever dignified with the name of soup!

Potatoes. Seven times. Seldom was one over an inch in diameter.

Salt fish. Five times. They call it "hake." It was good. "Hunger the best sauce."

Sorghum syrup. Three times. It was known as "corn-stalk molasses." It was not bad.

Nothing else was given us for food by the Confederates at Danville. The rations appeared to deteriorate and diminish as the winter advanced. My diary shows that in the fifty-three days after Christmas we received meat only three times.

Manifestly such supplies are insufficient to sustain life very long. By purchase from the rebel sutler who occasionally visited us, or by surreptitious trading with the guards, we might make additions to our scanty allowance. I recollect that two dollars of irredeemable treasury notes would buy a gill of rice or beans or corn, a turnip, onion, parsnip, or small pickled cucumber!

The Confederate cooking needed to be supplemented. Here the cylinder coal-stoves were made useful. The tops of them were often covered with toasting corn bread. Tin pails and iron kettles of various capacities, from a pint to several quarts, suspended from the top by wooden hooks a foot or two in length, each vessel resting against the hot stove and containing rice, beans, Indian corn, dried apple, crust coffee, or other delicacy potable or edible slowly preparing, made the whole look like a big black chandelier with pendants. We were rather proud of our prison cuisine. Cooking was also performed on and in an old worn-out cook-stove, which a few of our millionaires, forming a joint-stock company for the purpose, had bought for two hundred Confederate dollars late in the season, and which the kind prison commander had permitted them to place near the southwest end of the upper room, running the pipe out of a window. Culinary operations were extensively carried on also in the open yard outside, about forty feet by twenty, at the northeast end of the building. Here the officer would build a diminutive fire of chips or splinters between bricks, and boil or toast or roast his allowance. We were grouped in messes of five to ten or twelve each. Happy the club of half a dozen that could get money enough and a big enough kettle to have their meal prepared jointly.

Such was the case with my own group after the lapse of about two months. We had been pinched; but one morning Captain Cook came to me with radiant face and said: "Colonel, I have good news for you. I'm going to run this mess. My folks in New York have made arrangement with friends in England to supply me with money, and I've just received through the lines a hundred dollars. We'll live like fighting-cocks!" Adjt. J. A. Clark, 17th Pa. Cav., was our delighted cook. Shivering for an hour over the big kettle amid the ice and snow of the back yard, he would send up word, "Colonel, set the table for dinner." To "set the table" consisted in sweeping a space six or eight feet square, and depositing there the plates, wood, tin, or earthen (mine was of wood; it had cost me a week's labor in carving). The officers already mentioned, Cook, Clark, Bush, Sprague, with Lieut. E. H. Wilder, 9th N. Y. Cav., sit around in the elegant Turkish fashion, or more classical recline like the ancients in their symposia, each resting on his left elbow, with face as near as possible to the steaming kettle, that not a smell may be lost!

Wood was scarce. It was used with most rigid economy. Many joists overhead had been sawed off by Lieut. Lewis R. Titus of the Corps D'Afrique, using a notched table-knife for a saw. In this way the Vermont Yankee obtained pieces for cooking, but he weakened the structure till some officers really feared the roof might come tumbling about our heads; and I remember that the prison commandant, visiting the upper room and gazing heavenward, more than once ejaculated irreverently the name of the opposite region!

Through the kindness of a Confederate officer or bribing the guards a log four or five feet in length is sometimes brought in. Two or three instantly attack it with a blunt piece of iron hoop to start the cleaving, and in less time than one could expect such a work to be done with axes it is split fine with wooden wedges.

Naturally one of the ever-recurring topics of discussion was the glorious dishes we could prepare, if we but had the materials, or of which we would partake if we ever got home again. In our memorandum books we are careful to note down the street and number of the most famous restaurant in each of the largest cities, like Delmonico's in New York or Young's in Boston.

With few exceptions one day is like another. At earliest dawn each of the two floors is covered with about a hundred and seventy-five prostrate forms of officers who have been trying to sleep. Soon some one of them calls in a loud voice. "Buckets for water!" The call is repeated. Five or six, who have predetermined to go early to the river Dan that seemed nearly a quarter of a mile distant, start up and seize large wooden pails. They pass to the lower floor. One of them says to the sentinel on duty at the southwest corner door, "Sentry, call the sergeant of the guard; we want to go for water." He complies. In five, ten, or fifteen minutes, a non-commissioned officer, with some half a dozen heavily armed soldiers, comes, the bolts slide, the doors swing, our squad passes out. They are escorted down the hill to the river, and back to prison. By this time it is broad daylight. Many are still lying silent on the floor. Most have risen. Some are washing, or rather wiping with wet handkerchief, face and hands; others are preparing to cook, splitting small blocks of wood for a fire of splinters; a few are nibbling corn bread; here and there one is reading the New Testament. There is no change or adjustment of clothing, for the night dress is the same as the day dress. We no longer wonder how the cured paralytic in Scripture could obey the command, "Take up thy bed and walk"; for at heaviest the bed is but a blanket!

Now, for a half-hour, vengeance on vermin that have plagued us during the night! We daily solve the riddle of the fishermen's answer to "What luck?" the question which puzzled to death

"The blind old bard of Scio's rocky isle,"

"As many as we caught we left; as many as we could not catch we carry with us!"

About eight o'clock the cry is heard from the southwest end of the room, "Fall in for roll-call! fall in!" to which several would impudently add, "Here he comes! here he is!" A tall, slim, stooping, beardless, light-haired phenomenon, known as "the roll-call sergeant," enters with two musketeers. We officers having formed in two ranks on the northwest side of the room, he passes down the front from left to right slowly counting. Setting down the number in a memorandum book, he commands in a squeaky feminine voice, "Break ranks," which most of us have already done. Much speculation arose as to the nature and status of this singular being. His face was smooth and childlike, yet dry and wrinkled, so that it was impossible to tell whether he was fifteen or fifty. A committee was said to have waited upon him, and with much apparent deference asked him as to his nativity, his age, and whether he was human or divine, married or single, man or woman. They said he answered sadly, "Alas! I'm no angel, but a married man, thirty-seven years old, from South Carolina. I have three children who resemble me."

Immediately after roll-call, corn bread is brought in for breakfast. It is in large squares about two feet in length and breadth, the top of each square being marked for cutting into twenty or twenty-five rations. Colonel Hooper and Capt. D. Tarbell receive the whole from the rebel commissary, and then distribute to each mess its portion. The mess commissary endeavors to cut it into equal oblong loaves. To make sure of a fair distribution, one officer turns his back, and one after another lays his hand upon a loaf and asks, "Whose is this?" The officer who has faced about names some one as the recipient.

Clear the way now for sweepers. From one end of the room to the other they ply their coarse wooden brooms. Some officers are remarkably neat, and will scrape their floor space with pieces of glass from the broken windows; a few are listless, sullen, utterly despondent, regardless of surroundings, apparently sinking into imbecility; the majority are taking pains to keep up an appearance of respectability.

Many who have been kept awake through the night by cold or rheumatism now huddle around the stoves and try to sleep. Most of the remainder, as the weeks pass, glide into something like a routine of occupations. For several weeks I spent an hour or two every day carving with a broken knife-blade a spoon from a block of hard wood. Sporadic wood-splitting is going on, and cooking appears to be one of the fine arts. An hour daily of oral exercises in French, German, Spanish, Latin, or Italian, under competent teachers, after the Sauveur or Berlitz method, amused and to some extent instructed many. Our cavalry adjutant, Dutch Clark, so called from his skill in the "Pennsylvania Dutch" dialect made perhaps a hundred familiar with the morning salutation, "Haben Sie gut geschlafen?" ("Have you slept well?") Lieut. Henry Vander Weyde, A. D. C., 1st Div., 6th Corps, the artist chum of our principal German instructor, amused many by his pencil portraits of "Slim Jim," the nondescript "roll-call sergeant" of uncertain age and gender; also of some of the sentries, and one or two of his fellow prisoners. A worn-out pack of fifty-two cards, two or three chess and checker boards of our manufacture, and twenty-four rudely carved checker-men and thirty-two fantastic chess-men, furnished frequent amusement to those who understood the games.

On an average once in two days we received about one o'clock what was called soup. We were told, and we believed it to be true, that all the rich nitrogenous portion had been carefully skimmed off for use elsewhere; not thrown away as the fresh maid threw the "scum" that formed on top of the milk!

The topic of most frequent discussion was the prospect of an exchange of prisoners. Our would-be German conversationalists never forgot to ask, "Haben Sie etwas gehoerten von Auswechseln der Gefangenen?" ("Have you heard anything of exchange of prisoners?") It was hard to believe that our government would leave us to die of starvation.

At the close of the soup hour and after another turn at sweeping, almost every officer again sat down or sat up to rid himself of the pediculidae vestimenti. We called it "skirmishing"; it was rather a pitched battle. The humblest soldier and the brevet major-general must daily strip and fight. Ludicrous, were it not so abominable, was this mortifying necessity. No account of prison life in Danville would be complete without it. Pass by it hereafter in sorrow and silence, as one of those duties which Cicero says are to be done but not talked about.

The occupations of the morning are now largely resumed, but many prefer to lie quiet on the floor for an hour.

An interesting incident that might happen at any time is the arrival in prison of a Confederate newspaper. A commotion near the stairway! Fifty or a hundred cluster around an officer with a clear strong voice, and listen as he reads aloud the news, the editorials, and the selections. The rebels are represented as continually gaining victories, but singularly enough the northern armies are always drawing nearer!

Toward sunset many officers walk briskly half an hour to and fro the length of the room for exercise.

Another roll-call by the mysterious heterogeneous if not hermaphroditical Carolina sergeant!

Brooms again by the mess on duty. Again oral language-lessons by Cook and Putnam. Then discussions or story-telling.

It is growing dark. A candle is lighted making darkness visible. We have many skilful singers, who every evening "discourse most excellent music." They sing Just before the battle, mother; Do they miss me at home? We shall meet, but we shall miss him (a song composed on the death of one of my Worcester pupils by Hon. Charles Washburn); Nearer, My God, to thee, etc. From the sweet strains of affection or devotion, which suffuse the eyes as we begin to lie down for the night, the music passes to the Star-spangled Banner, Rally round the flag, John Brown's body lies a'mouldering in the grave, and the like. Often the "concert" concludes with a comic Dutch song by Captain Cafferty, Co. D, 1st N. Y. Cav.

Sleep begins to seal many eyelids, when someone with a loud voice heard through the whole room starts a series of sharp critical questions, amusing or censorious, thus:

"Who don't skirmish?" This is answered loudly from another quarter.

"Slim Jim." The catechism proceeds, sometimes with two or three distinct responses.

"Who cheats the graveyard?"

"Colonel Sprague."

"Who sketched Fort Darling?"

"Captain Tripp." (He was caught sketching long before, and was refused exchange.)

"Who never washes?"

"Lieutenant Screw-my-upper-jaw-off." (His was an unpronounceable foreign name.)

"Who knows everything?"

"General Duffie." (Duffie was a brave officer, of whom more anon.)

"Who don't know anything?"

"The fools that talk when they should be asleep." (The querists subside at last.)

For warmth we lie in contact with each other "spoon-fashion," in groups of three or more. I had bought a heavy woolen shawl for twenty Confederate dollars, and under it were Captain Cook, Adjutant Clark, and Lieutenant Wilder; I myself wearing my overcoat, and snuggling up to my friend Cook. All four lay as close as possible facing in the same direction. The night wears slowly away. When the floor seemed intolerably hard, one of us would say aloud, "Spoon!" and all four would flop over, and rest on the other side. So we vibrated back and forth from nine o'clock till dawn. We were not comfortable, but in far better circumstances than most of the prisoners. Indeed Captain Cook repeatedly declared he owed his life to our blanket.


Continual Hope of Exchange of Prisoners—"Flag-of-Truce Fever!"—Attempted Escape by Tunneling—Repeated Escapes by Members of Water Parties, and how we Made the Roll-Call Sergeant's Count Come Out all Right every Time—Plot to Break Out by Violence, and its Tragic End.

Our principal hope for relief from the increasing privations of prison life and from probable exhaustion, sickness, and death, lay in a possible exchange of prisoners. A belief was prevalent that the patients in hospital would be the first so favored. Hence strenuous efforts were sometimes made to convince the apothecary whom we called doctor, and who often visited us, that a prisoner was ill enough to require removal. Once in the institution, the patients got better food, something like a bed, medical attendance daily, and a more comfortable room. Some of them were shamming, lying in two senses and groaning when the physicians were present, but able to sit up and play euchre the rest of the day and half the night. This peculiar disease, this eagerness to get into hospital or remain there till exchanged by flag of truce, was known as the "flag-of-truce fever" or "flag-of-truce-on-the-brain!"

I recall one striking instance. Lieutenant Gardner, already mentioned, had received six or eight hundred dollars in Confederate currency as the price of a gold watch. But like the prodigal in Scripture he was now in a far country, and had wasted his substance in what he called "righteous" living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that corner of the lower room, and he began to be in want. And he would fain have filled his belly with corn-cob-meal bread, or spoiled black beans, or the little potatoes which the swine didn't eat. And no man gave him enough. And he determined to go to hospital. He gave out that he was desperately sick. I at this time had "quarters" on the floor above. Word was brought to me that my friend was mortally ill, and would thank me to come down and take his last message to his relatives. Alarmed, I instantly went down. I found him with two or three splitting a small log of wood!

"Gardner, I hear you are a little 'under the weather.'"

"Dying, Colonel, dying!"

"What appears to be your disease?"


"Ah, you've got the exchange fever?"

"Yes; bad."

"Pulse run high?"

"Three hundred a minute."

"Anything I can do for you?"

"Yes, Colonel, beseech that fool doctor to send me to hospital. Tell him I'm on my last legs. Tell him I only want to die there. Appeal to him in behalf of my poor wife and babies." (Gardner, as I well knew, was a bachelor, and had no children—to speak of.)

"Well, Lieutenant, I'll do anything I properly can for you. Is there anything else?"

"Yes, Colonel; lend me your overcoat to wear to hospital; I'll send it back at once."

"But, Lieutenant, you can't get into the hospital. Your cheeks are too rosy; you're the picture of health."

"I'm glad you mentioned that, Colonel. I'll fix that. You'll see."

Next morning he watched at the window, and when he saw the doctor coming, he swallowed a large pill of plug tobacco. The effect was more serious than he expected. In a few minutes he became sick in earnest, and was frightened. A deathlike pallor supervened. When the doctor reached him, there was a genuine fit of vomiting. The story runs that Captain Tiemann made a pathetic appeal in behalf of the imaginary twin babies, that the doctor diagnosed it as a clear case of puerperal (which he pronounced "puerpērial") fever complicated with symptoms of cholera infantum, and ordered him to hospital at once! I loaned the patient my overcoat, which he sent back directly. His recovery seemed miraculous. In a week or two he returned from his delightful outing. This was in the latter part of November.

Previously, for some weeks, Captain Howe and three or four other strong and determined officers managed to get into the cellar of a one-story building contiguous to ours and thence to excavate a tunnel out beyond the line on which the sentinels were perpetually pacing to and fro. I was too feeble to join in the enterprise, but hoped to improve the opportunity to escape when the work was done. Unfortunately the arching top of the tunnel was too near the surface of the ground, and the thin crust gave way under the weight of a sentry. He yelled "Murder!" Two or three of our diggers came scurrying back. The guard next to him shouted, "You Yanks! you G—d d—d Yanks!" and fired into the deep hole. No more tunneling at Danville.[8]

More successful and more amusing were several attempts by individual officers one at a time. The water parties of four to eight went under a strong guard two or three times a day down a long hill to the river Dan. On the slope alongside the path were a number of large brick ovens,[9] in which, we were told, the Confederates used to bake those big squares of corn bread. The iron doors when we passed were usually open. On the way back from the river, one officer on some pretense or other would lag behind the rearmost soldier of the guard, who would turn to hurry him up. The next officer, as soon as the soldier's back was turned, would dodge into an open oven, and the careless guards now engaged in a loud and passionate controversy about slavery or secession would not miss him! Then, as night came on, the negroes in the vicinity, who, like all the rest of the colored people, were friendly to us, would supply the escaped officer with food and clothing, and pilot him on his way rejoicing toward the Union lines. One by one, six officers escaped in that way, and many of us began to look forward to the time when our turn would come to try the baking virtues of those ovens!

But it was important that the escaped officer should not be missed. How should we deceive the nondescript that we called "the roll-call sergeant"? Morning and evening he carefully counted every one. How make the census tally with the former enumerations? Yankee ingenuity was here put to a severe test; but Lieutenant Titus, before mentioned, solved the problem. With his table-knife saw he cut a hole about two feet square in the floor near the northeast corner of the upper room. A nicely fitting trapdoor completed the arrangement. Through this hole, helped by a rude rope ladder of strips of rags, and hoisted to the shoulders of a tall man by strong arms from below, a nimble officer could quickly ascend. Now those in the lower room were counted first. When they broke ranks, and the human automaton faced to the west and moved slowly towards the stairs with three or four "Yanks" clustering at his side in earnest conversation, the requisite number of spry young prisoners would "shin up" the ladder, emerge, "deploy," and be counted over again in the upper room! The thing worked to a charm. Not one of the six was missed.

Unfortunately, however, two or three of them were recaptured and again incarcerated in Libby. The Richmond authorities thereupon telegraphed to Colonel Smith, asking how those officers escaped from Danville. Smith, surprised, ordered a recount. The trapdoor did its duty. "All present!" Finally he answered, "No prisoner has escaped from Danville." The rebel commissary of prisons at Richmond, Gen. J. H. Winder, then telegraphed the names of the recaptured officers. Smith looks on his books: there are those names, sure enough! The mystery must be solved. He now sends his adjutant to count us about noon. We asked him what it meant. He told us it was reported that several officers had escaped. We replied, "That's too good to be true." He counted very slowly and with extraordinary precision. He kept his eye on the staircase as he approached it. Six officers flew up the ladder as we huddled around him. It was almost impossible to suppress laughter at the close, when he declared, "I'll take my oath no prisoner has escaped from this prison." But there were those names of the missing, and there was our ill-disguised mirth. Smith resorted to heroic measures. He came in with two or three of his staff and a man who was said to be a professor of mathematics. This was on the 8th of November, 1864. He made all officers of the lower room move for a half-hour into the upper room, and there fall in line with the rest. His adjutant called the roll in reality. Each as his name was read aloud was made to step forward and cross to the other side. Of course no one could answer for the absent six. I doubt if he ever learned the secret of that trapdoor. The professor of mathematics promised to bring me a Geometry. About two weeks later, November 24th, he brought me a copy of Davies's Legendre.

On the 9th of December, while our senior officer, General Hayes, was sick in hospital, the next in rank, Gen. A. N. Duffie, of the First Cavalry Division of Sheridan's army, fresh from the French service, with which he had campaigned in Algeria, where he was wounded nine times, suddenly conceived a plot to break out and escape. Two companies of infantry had arrived in the forenoon and stacked their arms in plain sight on the level ground about twenty rods distant. Duffie's plan was to rush through the large open door when a water party returning with filled buckets should be entering, seize those muskets, overpower the guard, immediately liberate the thousand or fifteen hundred Union prisoners in the three other Danville prisons, and push off to our lines in East Tennessee. He had Sheridan's elan, not Grant's cool-headed strategy. With proper preparation and organization, such as Hayes would have insisted upon, it might have been a success. He called us, field officers about twenty, together and laid the matter before us. No vote was taken, but I think a majority were opposed to the whole scheme. He was disposed to consider himself, though a prisoner, as still vested with authority to command all of lower rank, and he expected them to obey him without question. In this view many acquiesced, but others dissented. By his request, though doubtful of his right to command and in feeble health, I drew up a pledge for those to sign who were willing to engage in the projected rising and would promise to obey. It was found that at least one hundred and fifty could be counted on. Colonel Ralston, previously mentioned, was the chief opponent of the outbreak, but he recognized Duffie's authority and insisted upon our submission to it. Similar appeared to be the attitude of the following colonels:

Gilbert H. Prey, 104th N. Y.

James Carle, 191st Pa.

T. B. Kaufman, 209th Pa.

W. Ross Hartshorne, 190th Pa.

Of the lieutenant-colonels, most of the following doubted the success, but would do their best to promote it, if commanded:

Charles H. Tay, 10th N. J.

Theodore Gregg, 45th Pa.

G. A. Moffett, 94th N. Y.

J. S. Warner, 121st Pa.

George Hamett, 147th N. Y.

Charles H. Hooper, 24th Mass.

Homer B. Sprague, 13th Conn.

So the following majors: A. W. Wakefield, 49th Pa.; G. S. Horton, 58th Mass.; E. F. Cooke, 2d N. Y. Cav.; John G. Wright, 51st N. Y.; J. V. Peale, 4th Pa. Cav.; John W. Byron, 88th N. Y.; David Sadler, 2d Pa. Heavy Art.; John Byrne, 155th N. Y.; E. O. Shepard, 32d Mass.; J. A. Sonders, 8th Ohio Cav.; Charles P. Mattocks, 17th Maine; E. S. Moore, Paymaster; Wm. H. Fry, 16th Pa. Cav.; Milton Wendler, 191st Pa.; James E. Deakins, 8th Tenn. Cav.; Geo. Haven Putnam, Adjt. and later Bvt.-Major, 176th N. Y.

All of the foregoing then present and not on the sick list should have been most thoroughly instructed as to their duties, and should have been enabled to communicate all needed information to the forty-six captains and one hundred and thirty-three lieutenants, who, though many were sadly reduced in vitality, were accounted fit for active service. I had repeatedly noticed in battle the perplexity of company, regimental, or even brigade commanders, from lack of information as to the necessary movements in unforeseen emergencies. It is not enough to say, as one corps commander (Hancock?) is said to have done during the Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, to a newly arrived colonel with his regiment, who inquired, "Where shall I go in?" "Oh, anywhere; there's lovely fighting all along the line!"

Here the step most vital to success, the sine qua non, was to keep that outside door open for the outrush of two hundred men. To this end, eight of our strongest and most determined, under a dashing leader like Colonel Hartshorne or Lieutenant-Colonel Gregg, should have been sent out as a water party. Instead, Captain Cook, who was brave enough, but then physically weak, hardly able to carry a pail of water, was the leader of an average small squad, "the spirit indeed willing, but the flesh weak."

Hardly less important was it to select a dozen or twenty of the most fierce and energetic, to be at the head of the stairs in perfect readiness to dash instantly through the opening door and assist the water party in disarming their guards, and, without a moment's pause, followed by the whole two hundred, pounce upon the guard house. Ralston or Duffie himself should have headed this band. Simultaneously, without a second's interval, three or four desperate, fiery, powerful officers, detailed for the purpose, should have grappled with the sentinel on duty in the middle of the lower room and disarmed and gagged him.

Besides the field officers, we had with us many subordinates of great intelligence like Capt. Henry S. Burrage of the 36th Mass., Lieut. W. C. B. Goff of the 1st D. C. Cav., Lieut. W. C. Howe, 2d Mass. Cav., Adjt. James A. Clark, 17th Pa. Cav., and the artist, Lieut. Henry Vander Weyde; and nothing would have been easier than for Duffie to communicate through them to every officer the most complete and precise information and instructions.

Scarcely any of these precautions were taken. The general was impatient. The next day, December 10th, he issued his command in these words: "I order the attempt to be made, and I call upon all of you, who have not forgotten how to obey orders, to follow." The water party was immediately sent out, and its return was watched for. He and Ralston, without the help of a third, made the mistake of personally grappling with the floor sentry, a brave, strong, red-headed fellow, and they tackled him a moment too soon. He stoutly resisted. They wrested his musket from him. He yelled. They tried to stop his mouth. Instantly the door began to swing open a little. The water party, too few and too weak, paralyzed, failed to act. The foremost of us sprang from the stairs to the door. Before we could reach it, it was slammed to, bolted and barred against us! With several others I rushed to the windows and tried to tear off the heavy bars. In vain. The soldiers outside began firing through the broken panes. Ralston was shot through the body. We assisted him up the stairs while the bullets were flying. In less than five minutes from the moment when he and Duffie seized the sentinel, it was all over. In about a quarter of an hour, Colonel Smith came in with his adjutant and two or three guards, and ordered Ralston removed to hospital. As he was carried out, one of us expressed the hope that the wound was not serious. He answered in the language of Mercutio, "No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve." He knew it was mortal, and expressed a willingness to die for his country in the line of duty. He passed away next morning. Colonel Smith expressed sorrow for him, and surprise at the ingratitude of us who had been guilty of insurrection against his gentle sway!

A strict search for possible weapons followed during which we were told we must give up our United States money. I saved a ten-dollar greenback by concealing it in my mouth "as an ape doth nuts in the corner of his jaw," all the while munching corn bread, gnawing two holes in the bill!


[8] "You will doubtless recall the man-hole worked through the heavy brick wall, made during the 'stilly nights,' opening into the attic of an annex to the main building. We found our way down by means of a rope ladder, and started our tunnel under the basement floor. But for the exposure we would have emptied the prison. To find the way down we gave them a lively hunt!—And those epithets!—I have a blouse with a rent in the back made in going through that hole in the wall."—Howe's Letter of Jan. 30, 1914.

For further particulars of this attempt to tunnel out, see Major Putnam's A Prisoner of War in Virginia, pp. 55-60.

[9] Putnam describes them as disused furnaces. They may have been both.


Kind Clergymen Visit us and Preach Excellent Discourses—Colonel Smith's Personal Good Will to me—His Offer—John F. Ficklin's Charity—My Good Fortune—Supplies of Clothing Distributed—Deaths in Prison.

Union men never looked upon Confederates as mortal enemies. Whenever a flag of truce was flying, both were disposed to shake hands and exchange favors. I recollect that our Captain Burrage complained that he was unfairly captured when he was engaged in a friendly deal with a Confederate between the lines. At Port Hudson, when the white signal was to go down, we gave the "Johnnies" fair warning, shouting, "RATS! TO YOUR HOLES!" before we fired on them. But war cannot be conducted on peace principles, and in a flash a man acts like a devil. In an open window near the spot where I slept, an officer upset a cup of water, and a few drops fell on the head of the guard outside. Instantly he fired. The bullet missed, passed through the window below and the floor above, and lodged in the hand or arm of another officer. I had an opportunity to express to Colonel Smith my angry disgust at such savagery. He agreed that the fellow ought to be punished—"at least for not being able to shoot straighter!"[10]

Kindly visits were sometimes paid us. Two young men from the Richmond Young Men's Christian Association came. The wicked said, "One came 'to pray with us all right,' the other 'to prey upon us all wrong'"; for the latter tried to induce us to exchange greenbacks for rebel currency!

Several times we were visited by kind clergymen who preached excellent sermons. The first was Rev. —— Dame of Danville. He was, I think, an Episcopal minister. He was a high Mason, a gentleman of very striking appearance, with a beautiful flowing beard, that would have done honor to Moses or Aaron. As we sat on the hard floor, two hundred listening reverently to his choice language, he seemed to foresee the doom which many of us had begun to fear, and he very appropriately and with much earnestness bade us consider our latter end. Mentioning his name with gratitude some thirty years afterwards in a lecture at the Mountain Lake Chautauqua, Md., one of my audience gave me a photograph of the minister's handsome face, and told me he was greatly beloved. I doubt not he deserved it.

Rev. Charles K. Hall of Danville, a Methodist Episcopal clergyman, came to us a little later. His first sermon was an eloquent discourse on Charity. He practiced what he preached; for he never came empty-handed. On his first visit he brought armfuls of tobacco, each plug wrapped in a pious tract. He asked us to fall in line, for he had something for each. When he came to me in the distribution, I declined it, saying "I never use tobacco in any form." "Oh take it," said he; "you read the tract, and give the tobacco to your neighbor." On subsequent Sundays he brought eggs and other delicacies for the sick. We admired him as a preacher, and regarded him with affection as a man. Secession and slavery aside, for he believed in the rightfulness of both, as we learned on arguing with him, it would be hard to find a more lovable character than Charles K. Hall. And the South was full of such, who would have been glad, if permitted and opportunity offered, to be good Samaritans, neighbors to him who had fallen among foes; pure, gentle, kindly spirits, to whom it will be said in the last great day, "I was an hungred and ye gave me meat; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

From the lack of sufficient and proper food, clothing, and exercise, the health of all suffered. Much of the time it was impossible to keep warm. The most prevalent diseases, I think, were rheumatism and scurvy. I suffered from both. Anti-scorbutics were scarce. The pain from rheumatism was slight during the day; but at evening it began in the joints of the fingers and became more severe as night advanced, ascending from the hands to the wrists, arms, and shoulders. It was worst at midnight and through the small hours, then gradually diminished till daylight. The prison physician did his best to help us with liniment, but in those winter nights the treatment was ineffective.

Upon the total failure of our attempt to break out on the 10th of December, and having come reluctantly to the conclusion that Colonel Smith had told us the truth when he said that Lincoln and Grant would not consent to an exchange of prisoners, I foresaw that death was inevitable after a few months, perhaps a few weeks, unless the situation should materially change for the better. I determined, though without much hope of success, to appeal to Colonel Smith for personal favor. On the 15th of December I sent word to him that I wished an interview with him. He immediately sent a soldier to bring me to his office. He received me courteously; for he was a gentleman. I told him it was necessary for me, if I was to live much longer, that I should at least have better food and more of it. I asked him if it would not be possible for an arrangement to be effected whereby some of my relatives in the north should furnish a Confederate prisoner with food, clothing, and comforts, and that prisoner's relatives in the south should reciprocate by supplying me. He answered that it might be possible, but he did not know of any such southern captive's friends likely to respond. After a few minutes of silence he said:

"Colonel Sprague, I'd like to do something for you, and I'll make you an offer."


"Your government has adopted the devilish policy of no exchange of prisoners."

"I am afraid it's true."

"I know it's true."

"Well, what's your proposition?"

"I am overworked here. I must do my duty to my government. Our cause is just."


"I should like to have you assist me by doing writing regularly for me at these headquarters. I would parole you. You shall have a room to yourself, a good bed, plenty of food, and a good deal of liberty. You must give me your word of honor not to attempt to escape."

"Colonel Smith, I thank you. I appreciate the friendly spirit in which you make the offer, and I am very grateful for it. But I can't conscientiously accept it. I am in the Union Army, bound to do everything in my power to destroy your government. I must do nothing to help it. If Lincoln refuses to exchange us prisoners, it may be best for the United States, though hard on us. What happens to us is a minor matter. It's a soldier's business to die for his country rather than help its enemies in the slightest degree. I can't entertain your proposal."

So the conference ended sadly. As I was leaving his office he introduced me to a Confederate soldier who sat there and who had heard the whole conversation. Next day this soldier entered the prison by permission of Colonel Smith and brought me some nice wheat bread, some milk, pickles, and other food, a pair of thick woolen stockings, and a hundred dollars in Confederate money. He gave me his name, John F. Ficklin, of the Virginia Black Horse Cavalry. He whispered to me that he was at heart a Union man, but had been forced by circumstances to enter the Confederate service; that by simulating illness he had got relieved from duty at the front and assigned to service at Colonel Smith's headquarters; that he was confident he could bring about such an arrangement for reciprocal supplies as I had proposed, and had so informed Smith, who approved of the plan; that until such a plan should be put in operation he would furnish me from his own table. He said to me very privately that he was greatly moved by what I had said the day before. "But," he added, "I am not entirely unselfish in this. I foresee that the Confederacy can't last very long; certainly not a year. I give it till next September; and, frankly, when it goes to smash, I want to stand well with you officers." At my suggestion he gave a few other prisoners food and money.

In a few days I was again called to headquarters to meet a Mr. Jordan, who, through Ficklin's efforts, had been invited to meet me. His son, Henry T. Jordan, Adjutant of the 55th North Carolina Regiment, was at that time a prisoner at Johnson's Island, Ohio. Mr. Jordan agreed to make out a list of articles which he wished my relatives to send to his son. In a day or two he did so. I likewise made out a statement of my immediate wants, as follows:

Wood for cooking; Cup, plate, knife, fork, spoon; Turnips, salt, pepper, rice, vinegar; Pickled cucumbers, dried apple, molasses; Or any other substantial food.

I asked Jordan to send me those things at once. He answered after some delay that he would do so immediately on receiving an acknowledgment from his son that my friends had furnished him what he wanted; and he would await such a message! As my relatives were in Massachusetts and Connecticut, it would take considerable time for them to negotiate with the prison commandant and other parties in Ohio and have the stipulations distinctly understood and carried into effect there. Besides, there were likely to be provoking delays in communicating by mail between the north and the south, and it might be a month or six weeks before he got assurances from his son; by which time I should probably be in a better world than Danville, and in no need of wood, food, or table-ware. I wrote him to that effect, and requested him to make haste, but received no reply.

My friend Mr. Ficklin came to the rescue. As a pretext to deceive, if need were, the prison authorities, and furnish to them and others a sufficient reason for bringing me supplies, he pretended that he had a friend, a Confederate prisoner of war at Camp Douglas near Chicago, and that Colonel Sprague's friends had been exceedingly kind to him, ministering most liberally to his wants! The name of this imaginary friend was J. H. Holland, a private soldier of the 30th Virginia Cavalry. Ficklin forged a letter purporting to come from Holland to him, which he showed to Colonel Smith, in which he spoke with much gratitude of my friends' bounty, and besought Ficklin to look tenderly after my comfort in return! The ruse succeeded. Ficklin's generosity to me was repeated from time to time, and perhaps saved my life.

A year after the close of the war Ficklin wrote to me that he wished to secure a position in the Treasury Department of the United States, and he thought it would aid him if I would certify to what I knew of his kindness to Union prisoners. I accordingly drew up a strong detailed statement of his timely and invaluable charities to us in our distress. I accompanied it with vouchers for my credibility signed by Hon. N. D. Sperry, General Wm. H. Russell, and President Theodore D. Woolsey, all of New Haven, and Governor Wm. A. Buckingham of Norwich, Conn. These documents I forwarded to Ficklin. I do not know the result.

From Sergeant Wilson F. Smith, chief clerk at Colonel Smith's headquarters, a paroled prisoner, member of Co. F., 6th Pa. Cav., the company of Captain Furness, son or brother of my Shakespearian friend, Dr. Horace Howard Furness, and from Mr. Strickland, undertaker, who furnished the coffins and buried the dead of the Danville prisons, both of whom I talked with when I was on parole in February, '65, I obtained statistics mutually corroborative of the number of deaths in the Danville prisons. In November there were 130; in December, 140; from January 1st to January 24th, 105. The negro soldiers suffered most. There were sixty-four of them living in prison when we reached Danville, October 20, '64. Fifty-seven of them were dead on the 12th of February, '65, when I saw and talked with the seven survivors in Prison No. Six. From one of the officers (I think it was Captain Stuart) paroled like myself in February to distribute supplies of clothing sent by the United States through the lines, and who performed that duty in Salisbury, and from soldiers of my own regiment there imprisoned, I learned that in the hundred days ending February 1st, out of eight or ten thousand prisoners, more than thirty a day, more than three thousand in all, had died! Of Colonel Hartshorne's splendid "Bucktail Regiment," the 190th Pa., formerly commanded by my Yale classmate Colonel O'Neil who fell at Antietam, there were 330 at Salisbury, October 19th, the day we left; 116 of them were dead before February 1st, one company losing 22 out of 33 men.

* * * * *

Why this fearful mortality? Men do not die by scores, hundreds, thousands, without some extraordinary cause. It was partly for want of clothing. They were thinly clad when captured.

Pursuant to agreement entered into early in December, 1864, between the Federal and Confederate authorities, supplies of clothing for Union prisoners in Richmond, Danville, and Salisbury, were sent through the lines. They did not reach Danville till February. Colonel Carle, 191st Pa. and myself, with another officer (I think he was Colonel Gilbert G. Prey, 104th N. Y.) were paroled to distribute coats (or blouses), trousers, and shoes, among the enlisted men in their three prisons. Then for the first time Union officers saw the interior of those jails. By permission of Colonel Smith, Mr. Ficklin accompanied us on one of these visits, and I saw him give fifty dollars in Confederate money to one of our suffering soldiers. My part in the distribution was to sign as witness opposite the name of each one receiving. Those rolls should be in the archives at Washington.

On the 12th of February we issued shoes and clothing in the jail known as Prison No. Six. It contained that day 308 of our men. There were the seven surviving colored soldiers, and the one wearing our prison commander's coat. We requested them all to form line, and each as his name was called to come forward and receive what he most needed. Some of them were so feeble that they had to be assisted in coming down from the upper floor, almost carried in the arms of stronger comrades. Many were unable to remain standing long, and sank helpless on the floor. Nearly all were half-clad, or wearing only the thinnest of garments. Some were white with vermin. Several were so far gone that they had forgotten their company or regiment. Every one seemed emaciated. Many kept asking me why our government did not exchange prisoners; for they were told every day the truth that the Confederate government desired it. There was a stove, but no fuel. The big rooms were not heated. The cold was severe. About a third of them had apparently given up all hope of keeping their limbs and bodies warm; but they kept their heads, necks, shoulders, and chests, carefully wrapped. The dismal coughing at times drowned all other sounds, and made it difficult to proceed with our work of distribution. There were two little fires of chips and splinters on bricks, one of them near the middle, the other near the far end. In contact with these were tin or earthen cups containing what passed for food or drink. There was no outlet for smoke. It blackened the hands and faces of those nearest, and irritated the lungs of all.

This prison was the worst. It was colder than the others. But all were uncomfortably cold. All were filled with smoke and lice. From each there went every day to the hospital a wagon-load of half-starved and broken-hearted soldiers who would never return. I visited the hospital to deliver to two of the patients letters which Colonel Smith had handed to me for them. They were both dead. I looked down the long list. The word "Died," with the date, was opposite most of the names. As I left the hospital I involuntarily glanced up at the lintel, half expecting to see inscribed there as over the gate to Dante's Hell,


At the rate our enlisted men were dying at Danville and Salisbury during the winter of 1864-65, all would have passed away in a few months, certainly in less than a year; AND THEY KNEW IT.

Is it any wonder that some of them, believing our government had abandoned them to starvation rather than again risk its popularity by resorting to conscription for the enrollment of recruits and by possibly stirring up draft riots such as had cost more than a thousand lives in the city of New York in July, 1863, accepted at last the terms which the Confederates constantly held out to them, took the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, and enlisted in the rebel army? I was credibly informed that more than forty did it in Prison No. Four at Danville, and more than eleven hundred at Salisbury. Confederate recruiting officers and sergeants were busy in those prisons, offering them the choice between death and life. No doubt multitudes so enlisted under the Confederate flag with full determination to desert to our lines at the first convenient opportunity. Such was the case with private J. J. Lloyd, Co. A, of my battalion, who rejoined us in North Carolina. The great majority chose to die.

The last communication that I received from enlisted men of my battalion, fellow prisoners with me at Salisbury, whom I had exhorted not to accept the offers of the Confederates, but to be true to their country and their flag, read thus: "Colonel, don't be discouraged. Our boys all say they'll starve to death in prison sooner than take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy." And true to this resolve did indeed starve or freeze to death Sergeant Welch, Sergeant Twichell, Privates Vogel, Plaum, Barnes, Geise, Andrews, Bishop, Weldon, who had stood by me in many a battle, and who died at last for the cause they loved.

It is comparatively easy to face death in battle. No great courage or merit in that. The soldier is swept along with the mass. Often he cannot shirk if he would. The chances usually are that he will come out alive. He may be inspired with heroism,

And the stern joy which warriors feel In foeman worthy of their steel.

There is a consciousness of irresistible strength as he beholds the gleaming lines, the dense columns, the smoking batteries, the dancing flags, the cavalry with flying feet.

'Twere worth ten years of peaceful life, One glance at their array.

Or nobler, he feels that he represents a nation or a grand cause, and that upon his arm depends victory. In his enthusiasm he even fancies himself a vicegerent of the Almighty, commissioned to fight in His cause, to work His will, to save His earth from becoming a hell. "From the heights of yonder pyramids," said Napoleon to the French battling against the Mamelukes, "forty centuries are looking down upon you." Our soldier in battle imagined the world looking on, that for him there was fame undying; should he fall wounded, his comrades would gently care for him; if slain, his country's flag would be his shroud.

By no such considerations were our imprisoned comrades cheered. Not in the glorious rush and shock of battle; not in hope of victory or fadeless laurels; no angel charities, or parting kiss, or sympathetic voice bidding the soul look heavenward while the eye was growing dim; no dear star-spangled banner for a winding sheet. But wrapped in rags; unseen, unnoticed, dying by inches, in the cold, in the darkness, often in rain or sleet, houseless, homeless, friendless, on the hard floor or the bare ground, starving, freezing, broken-hearted.

O the long and dreary winter! O the cold and cruel winter!

It swept them away at Salisbury by tens, twenties, even fifties in a single night.

These men preferred death to dishonor. When we are told that our people are not patriotic, or sigh of America as Burke did of France a century and a quarter ago, that the age of chivalry is gone, we may point to this great martyrdom, the brightest painting on the darkest background in all our history—thousands choosing to die for the country which seemed to disown them!

My diary records, and I believe it correct, that on the 17th of February, there were ten deaths in the Danville prisons. A little before midnight of that day the Danville prisoners were loaded into box cars, and the train was started for Richmond. Three, it was reported, died in the cars that night, and one next morning in the street on the way to Libby.

During the next three days I obtained the autographs of two hundred and fifteen of my fellow officers there. The little book is precious. A few still survive; but the great majority have joined the faithful whom they commanded.

On Fame's eternal camping ground Their silent tents are spread, And Glory guards with solemn round The bivouac of the dead!

On the twenty-second we were taken for exchange down the James. As we passed through the lines into what we were accustomed fondly to call "God's Country," salvos of artillery and signs of universal rejoicing greeted us. Our reception made us imagine for an hour that our arrival perceptibly heightened the general joy of the Washington anniversary. But many of us could not help wishing we were asleep with the thousands who were filling nameless graves at Danville and Salisbury.


[10] See Putnam's account of this incident in his A Prisoner of War in Virginia, p. 67.


Results and Reflections—The Right and the Wrong of it All.

A few days of waiting in the buildings of the Naval Academy at Annapolis while exchange papers were preparing gave us opportunity for a much-needed transformation. Our old clothing, encrusted with dirt and infested with vermin, in many cases had to be destroyed. One of our number especially unkempt, Captain T., who gave up for an hour or two his beloved trousers, found to his surprise and horror when he called for their return that they had been burned with four hundred dollars in greenbacks sewed up in the lining! We smiled at his irrepressible grief; it was poetic justice. He had carefully concealed the fact of his being flush, pretending all along to be like the rest in forma pauperis, and contriving, it was said, to transfer in crooked ways our pennies into his pockets!

Fumigated, parboiled, scrubbed, barbered, decently clothed, "the deformed transformed" were once more presentable in civilized society. Then followed a brief leave of absence if desired, to visit relatives. To them it seemed a veritable resurrection after our months of living burial; yet the joy of reunion was sometimes tinged with sorrow. I learned that in the very week in which the tidings of my capture came our home circle had been sadly broken by the death of a beloved sister, and just then the telegraph told of the loss by fever in the army at Newbern of our household darling,

Younger by fifteen years than myself, Brother at once and son.

As previously stated we who held commissions fared better on the whole than the non-commissioned officers and privates, though receiving from the commissary rations exactly equal to theirs. Commonly older and therefore of larger experience and superior intelligence, a good officer is as a father looking out for the physical welfare of his men as well as himself. Then there were some who, like Gardner, had been fortunate in keeping clothing, money, or other valuable at the instant of capture or in hiding it when searched by Dick Turpin at Libby. Several like Captain Cook had obtained pecuniary assistance from influential friends across the lines, or in a few instances had been favored by brother freemasons or by charitably disposed visitors who gave us a little food, a few old books, or even Confederate currency. Several sold to the sentinels watches, rings, chains, breast-pins, society badges, silver spurs, military boots, or curiously wrought specimens of Yankee ingenuity carved with infinite pains. The "Johnnies" appeared to hanker for any article not produced in the Confederacy. An officer of the guard offered Putnam three hundred dollars for a nearly worn-out tooth-brush!

The educational standard among our officers was quite respectable. I think that West Point had a representative among us, as well as Bowdoin and several other colleges. Certainly we had ex-students from at least five universities, Brown, Yale, Harvard, the Sorbonne, and Goettingen.

To afford diversion and as an antidote to depression, as well as for intellectual improvement, some of us studied mathematics[11] or Shakespeare. Three or four classes were formed in modern languages. We had card-playing with packs soiled and worn; checkers and chess on extemporized boards with rudely whittled "pieces"; occasional discussions historical, literary, political, or religious; many of us quite regular physical exercises in brisk walks on the empty lowest floor; story-telling; at times, though not often, the reading aloud of a Confederate newspaper, to a group of fifty or more listeners; at evening, sweet singing, riddles, jests, or loud-voiced sarcastic conundrums and satirical responses. Many found interest and pleasure in carving with the utmost nicety wood or bone.[12]

Something like military discipline prevailed among the two hundred in the upper room where the superior rank of General Hayes was often recognized. Among a hundred and fifty or more in the lower room, where for a month or two I was the senior but was unwilling to assume precedence, I secured with the aid of Major Byron, Captain Howe, and a few others a sort of civil government with semi-military features.

These measures and the favoring circumstances that have been mentioned tended of course to the preservation of health among the officers. There was severe suffering from hunger, cold, rheumatism, and scurvy, from all of which I was for weeks a victim and at one time seemed doomed to perish. I recall, however, the names of but two officers (there were said to be four) who died at Danville. Some of us, though enfeebled, were soon able to rejoin our commands; as Putnam his at Newbern in April, Gardner and I ours at Morehead City the day after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Of the effect in after-life of these strange experiences it is safe to say that to some extent they were a spur to intellectual effort. At least they should have made all sadder and wiser; and they certainly were in some cases an equipment for descriptive authorship. Major (Adner A.) Small wrote a valuable account of prison life. Dr. Burrage's narratives of his capture and its results are entertaining and instructive. Major Putnam's A Prisoner of War in Virginia (reprinted in his Memories of My Youth) is an important contribution to our military history.[13] Lieutenant Estabrooks's Adrift in Dixie is charmingly told.[14] "Dutch Clark" (Adjutant James A. Clark, 17th Pa. Cav.), one of the four who nightly tried to sleep under my blanket, started and edited with ability at Scranton The Public Code, for which I was glad to furnish literary material. He afterwards became prominent in theosophic circles. Others distinguished themselves. Captain (Frank H.) Mason, in prison our best chess player, was long Consul-General at Paris. Cook studied five or six years in Germany, France, and Italy, then was for eight or ten years assistant professor in German at Harvard, and afterwards for two years, until his untimely death, professor in the same department at the Institute of Technology in Boston. In addressing a Sunday-school in Brooklyn, 1871, I unexpectedly lighted upon Captain Tiemann doing good work as a teacher. Captain Gardner continued for many months a model military officer in Georgia.[15] I remained in the service a full year, often on courts-martial, military commissions, and "reconstruction" duty.

* * * * *

As already described, the condition of the enlisted men strongly contrasted with ours. The Report of the Confederate Inspector of Prisons now on file in the War Records of our government, though the reports of his subordinate officers are significantly missing, covers the few months next preceding January, 1865. It sharply censures the immediate prison authorities, stating, as the result of the privations, that the deaths at Danville were at the rate of about five per day! I think they were more numerous in January and February. None of my battalion were there, but at Salisbury three-sevenths of them died in less than three months!

It is hard to refrain from the expression of passionate indignation at the treatment accorded to our non-commissioned officers and privates in those southern hells. For years we were accustomed to ask, "In what military prison of the north, in what common jail of Europe, in what dungeon of the civilized or savage world, have captives taken in war—nay, condemned criminals—been systematically exposed to a lingering death by cold and hunger? The foulest felon—his soul black with sacrilege, his hands reeking with parricide—has enough of food, of clothing, of shelter; a chair to sit in, a fire to warm him, a blanket to hide his nakedness, a bed of straw to die on!"

But listen a moment to the other side. Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, afterwards for eight years a representative in our Congress, a man of unquestioned integrity, shows in his War between the States (pub. 1868-70) by quotation from the Report of our then Secretary of War (July 19, 1866) that only 22,576 Federal prisoners died in Confederate hands during the war, whilst 26,436 Confederate prisoners died in Federal hands. He shows also from the United States Surgeon-General Joseph K. Barnes's Report that the number of Federal prisoners in southern prisons was about 270,000, but the number of Confederate prisoners in northern prisons was about 220,000; so that the percentage of deaths in southern prisons was under nine, while the percentage of deaths in northern prisons was over twelve![16]

Had there been, from the first, prompt exchanges of prisoners between the north and the south, few of these forty-nine thousand lives would have been lost. Who, then, blocked the exchange?

Stephens declares (War between the States, vol. ii):

"It is now well understood to have been a part of the settled policy of the Washington authorities in conducting the war, not to exchange prisoners. The grounds upon which this extraordinary course was adopted were, that it was humanity to the northern men in the field to let their captured comrades perish in prison rather than to let an equal number of Confederate soldiers be released on exchange to meet them in battle."

To the same effect our Secretary Stanton in one of his letters in 1864 pointed out "that it would not be good policy to send back to be placed on the firing line 70,000 able-bodied Confederates, and to receive in exchange men who, with but few exceptions, were not strong enough to hold their muskets."

The responsibility, then, for this refusal and the consequent enormous sacrifice of life with all the accompanying miseries, must rest in part upon the Government of the United States.[17]

Blame not the tender-hearted Lincoln for this.

Did he not judge wisely? Was it not best for the nation that we prisoners should starve and freeze?

The pivotal question for him and Grant and Stanton was, "Shall we exchange and thereby enable the South to reinforce their armies with fifty to a hundred thousand trained soldiers?

"If yes, then we must draft many more than that; for they being on the defensive we must outnumber them in battle. If no, then we must either stop their cruelties by equally cruel retaliation, as Washington hung Andre for the execution of Hale, or we must, more cruelly still, leave myriads of our soldiers to sink into imbecility and death."

The North had not the excuse of destitution which the South had, and it could not bring itself to make reprisals in kind. To draft again, as evinced in the terrible riots of July, 1863, would have been extremely unpopular and perhaps overthrown the administration and defeated the policy of the government. To exchange would pretty surely have prolonged the war, and might have resulted in permanent disunion.

As to the right or wrong of the refusal to exchange, it is hardly relevant to insist that the triumph of the South would have perpetuated slavery. Lincoln's Proclamation, January 1, 1863, did not touch slavery in the Border States. And from the southern nation, denuded of slaves by their escape to the North and confronted by the growing anti-slavery sentiment of the civilized world, the "peculiar institution" would soon have died out.

Need we attempt, as is often done, to justify our government's attitude in this matter by affirming that the nation was in a life-and-death struggle for its very existence? Did that existence depend upon its territorial limits? Would it have gone to pieces if the victorious North had relinquished its hold on the defeated South? Had a boundary line been drawn half-way across the continent, separating the twenty-three loyal States from the eleven seceding, the twenty-two millions of the North from the nine or ten millions of the South, would it not have remained a mighty nation with no cause for further disunion, and able as the war had shown to place in the field more than two million fighting men?

Is it not equally unnecessary to urge, as if it were a valid excuse for our government's refusal to exchange, that between the two nations there would have been frequent if not perpetual hostilities? Why so, any more than between the United States and Canada, where for fifty (it is now a hundred) years, along a boundary line of thirty-eight hundred miles, there had been unbroken peace and no fort nor warship?

Let us not raise the question whether Lincoln made a colossal blunder when he renounced his favorite doctrine so emphatically set forth in his Congressional speech (page 47). The die was cast when Sumter was fired on. The question which confronted him in 1863-64—What to do with the perishing Union prisoners?—was simply one of military necessity.

According to the ethics of war was he not fully justified in sacrificing us rather than imperiling the great cause which he had at heart?

Are we, then, to blame President Davis, or the Confederate Commissioner Robert Ould, or Gen. John H. Winder, Superintendent of Military Prisons, for allowing the Federal prisoners to starve and freeze and die by thousands? Must we not admit the truth of their contention that their soldiers needed the food, clothing, and medical care for want of which their prisoners were suffering? And if the shocking conditions at Andersonville, Salisbury, Danville, and other prisons could easily have been avoided, or even if they were made more distressing by the deliberate inhumanity of those in immediate charge, ought not such facts to have intensified a desire on the part of both governments to effect a speedy exchange?

The southern people were threatened with subjugation, their government with annihilation. In such a critical situation, what measures are allowable?

We endeavor to look at the matter from both standpoints.

This brings up the whole question of the rightfulness of war. If it must be waged, is success the highest duty? If military necessity demands, may any and every law of God and man be disregarded?

While we write these concluding pages, the European conflict is raging, and the voice of the most warlike nation on the globe is heard continually affirming that war is useful and highly honorable, and that any means, however frightful, if necessary to ensure or hasten victory is praise-worthy!

Then both presidents were right!

But is not international war murder on a great scale? It is glorious to die for one's country; but how about killing for our country? killing innocent men, too? for the soldiers on either side honestly believe they are doing their duty in shooting and stabbing as many as possible! "The business of war," said John Wesley, "is the business of devils." So it would seem; but at heart few are enemies, none devils.

It has been a pleasure in this narrative to record instances of a very different spirit. Surely, in proportion to population such were not fewer in the South than in the North. Like Whittier's Angels of Buena Vista they rescue us from pessimism. They are prophetic of a better day.

Not wholly lost, O Father, is this evil world of ours! Upward through the blood and ashes spring afresh the Eden flowers: From its smoking hell of battle, Love and Pity send their prayer, And still thy white-winged angels hover dimly in our air!


[11] I still possess the copy of Davies's Legendre which I bought on the 8th of November for twenty Confederate dollars, and of which I memorized three books in prison. As to the Shakespeare, see ante, p. 85.

[12] I retain with pride the wooden spoon which did me good service when I was in limbo. It cost me over two weeks' labor in shaping it with half a knife-blade and pieces of broken glass. For the little block of wood I paid the sentry one "rebel dollar!"

[13] Many years after the war he rendered financial aid to fellow prisoners, his chum, artist Vander Weyde, and General Hayes. Author of several valuable works, he is now head of the publishing house of G. P. Putnam's Sons.

[14] It was a special pleasure after the lapse of fifty years to meet Estabrooks at the Massachusetts Commandery of the Loyal Legion, where, without knowing of his presence, I had just made honorable mention of him in an address on prison life.

[15] In my own case the prison experience was peculiar: it changed the course of my whole subsequent life. I had studied law, been admitted to the bar in two states, and "practiced" with fair success, "though," as a friend was accustomed to remark, "not enough to do much harm!" Many times one of the best men I ever knew, my father, had said to me at parting, "Do all the good you can." Much meditating while in the army and especially while in prison, I finally resolved to pursue an educational career. Of course I felt sadly the loss of years of study that might have better equipped me; but it seemed a duty. I had had some experience which, I thought, proved me not wholly unqualified. While a student in college and while reading law I had partly supported myself by giving instruction to private pupils and in the schools of General Russell and Mayor Skinner. Afterwards, before the war, I had taught Greek in the Worcester (Mass.) Academy; and English literature, Greek, and Latin for more than three years as principal of the Worcester public high school. I knew the vocation would be congenial. So I became principal of a state normal school, of two high schools, of a large academy; house chairman of a (Conn.) legislative committee securing the enactment of three school measures of importance; later, president of a college, professor in a theological seminary and in Cornell University; founder and for three years first president of the earliest and long the largest of the world's general summer schools (which now in the United States number nearly 700); lecturer in many Chautauqua assemblies, colleges, vacation schools, and university extension centres; President of the State University of North Dakota; editor, with biographic sketches and copious notes, of many masterpieces as text-books in higher English literature; author of a history of my regiment; also of a treatise on Voice and Gesture, of many monographs and magazine articles mostly educational; associate founder and first president of The Watch and Ward Society; one of the directors and executive committee of the American Peace Society; director of the Massachusetts Peace Society; president of The American Institute of Instruction; translator, annotator, and essayist of The Book of Job; etc.

It may be proper to add that among those indebted in some degree to my instruction or training were several who captured Yale's highest prize for rhetorical excellence (the hundred dollar gold medal of which I was the first recipient): one college president; six college professors; three university presidents; two governors of states; two United States Senators; and many others eminent as clergymen, authors, judges, editors, and business men.

[16] The higher death-rate (if that be conceded) of southern soldiers is easily accounted for. The northern soldiers had been carefully selected by competent surgeons. They were physically perfect, or nearly so. They were in the bloom of early manhood or the strength of middle age—not an old man among them, not a diseased man among them, not a broken-down constitution among them. But multitudes of the southern, enrolled by conscription, were physically unfit. Many were much too old or too young. Said our General Grant, "To fill their ranks, they have robbed the cradle and the grave!"

[17] The exchange is said to have been stopped in 1862-63 by the refusal of the Confederates to give up captured negro soldiers in return for southern captives in the North, the United States properly insisting upon perfect equality in the treatment of black and white. But early in 1864, if not previously, the Confederates yielded the point and were anxious to surrender man for man.

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