|SOUTHERN SOLDIERS IN NORTHERN
A VERY GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION.
Experience at Johnson's Island and Point Lookout - Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg - The Cavalry, Fight at Boonesboro, Maryland.
The following graphic story of the life in Northern
prisons during the war is from the pen of Mr.Albert Stacey Caison, a native
of Fayetteville, but now of Jefferson City, Mo. It was written while he
was a resident of Lenoir, from which place he went into the army:
"Thinking we had exhausted the capacity of prison life for harm, we
were little prepared for
"All along the route we were fearful that some evil chance should turn us back again to the old life, but that fear became secondary to the dread lest we should call a permanent halt at this point,and we drew a long breath of relief when we marched out of this place."
I was one of "these unfortunates," and, strange to say, survived seventeen months of the horrors he witnessed there, and neither time nor circumstances can ever efface the recollection of what I suffered.
Like all Southern boys, I believed that the war would be brief but glorious,
and when the call came for volunteers I was one of the first to respond;
and I cannot describe me feeling of disappointment and chagrin when my
father - himself a volunteer - told me that I must not join the army, but
most continue at school, my fear now being that the war would end
When I did go into the army I joined Company I, Twenty-sixth North Carolina regiment, and was as proud and happy as possible when I put on soldier's clothes, shouldered my gun, and marched away to share the danger and the glory of this courageous band.
But as I am to tell of my prison life I must pass over other events
in camp and field, and commence with the Battle of Gettysburg, where all
active service for my beloved South
THE FIRST SHELL.
Well do I remember the first shell that burst in our ranks that first day. We were still in the road, and our boys wavered just a little, when our gallant colonel, H.K.Burgwyn, called out, "Steady, men!" which brought every man to his place, to waver no more, for we now fully realized what we must do.
We marched to the right of the road and formed in rear of our batteries, in order to support them, but in a short time we moved forward to a piece of timber at the foot of the hill,where we remained some time, watching the enemy masking their forces in another piece of timber in front of us, all impatient for the word "forward," well knowing that every moment's delay was giving them the advantage.
When the word "attention" was given, every man was on his feet and in
position instantly. Then came the command "forward," and dauntlessly we
charged across the open field, while three lines of the enemy in front
of us poured a murderous fire into our ranks. Undaunted, we pressed on
until we struck the timber, where we encountered the first line of the
enemy and routed them, driving them and the other two lines out of the
timber. But in doing this we lost many
The second day we were not engaged, but were exposed to the shells from the enemy's guns. I was detailed to look after the wounded, and a sad day's work it was.
In the evening we marched to the right and took our position for the third day's fight, and slept with our guns in our arms.
The morning of the 3d the chaplains held services in the regiments. When the artillery opened it was appalling, and all who heard it will agree with met that it surpassed any artillery fight during the war - I mean any field fight. I think our guns numbered 210, and it is safe to say the enemy's numbered more, for they never met us with fewer men or guns.
When the cannonading ceased, the noble, brave General Pickett was ordered forward with as brave men as ever fought under any flag, and inspired with as genuine patriotism as ever filled any heart. We could see the mouth of the gaping cannon, only waiting for us to get in range to pour bushels of grape and canister into our ranks and mow us down like wheat before the sickle, and in line with the artillery was the infantry, masked behind a stone wall. We had to advance on them through an open field, with nothing to shield us from the murderous fire.
I was within thirty yards of the stone wall when I received two wounds - one in my hand and one in my hip - which disabled me. Believing that our boys would rout them, I lay down to shield myself from the bullets that were flying like hail around me, and when I found, to my dismay, that we were retreating, I got up and attempted to get off the field; but found I was cut off, and when I saw twenty guns turned upon me, there was no alternative but to throw up my hands and surrender.
Neither brush nor pen can ever depict the awful grandeur of that battle
- only those who were
We prisoners were marched to the rear, and put in camp. I had picked up an oil-cloth and fly-tent, and rolled up in the oil-cloth was the roll-call of the Seventh New York volunteers. I had some letter-paper and stamps, also.
About midnight I was aroused by some hard kicks, and when I asked what it meant was told to "Get up, and hurry, for Stonewall Jackson is in our rear." I said, "Stonewall Jackson is in his grave"; but the man laughed, and said: "You can't stuff that into me; we've heard that before, but don't believe it." We were started for Westminster right away, in the pouring rain, and marched all next day, and besides being wet, tired, and hungry, I was suffering acutely from my wounds, which had no attention until several days afterwards. On the 5th we were marched to Fort McHenry, and on the 6th we were given our first rations, only three hard-tack.
After two days and nights in the pouring rain we were taken to Fort
Delaware, and received
The officers of our regiments, especially Colonel
Burgwyn, were so strict in enforcing cleanliness that there were
neither fifth nor vermin among us, and now, to my horror and disgust, I
was covered with both. I had never seen body vermin until I reached this
Our joy was unbounded when, on the 13th day of October, we saw the Old
HE WAS KIND.
Captain Patterson, of the Third or Fifth New Hampshire regiment, had charge of our camp, and was as kind as he was allowed to be, so we became warmly attached to him. I have always believed that it was his kindness that caused him to be removed and sent to the front, and Major Brady to be put in his place. To us he was the impersonation of cruelty and meanness, and soon earned the title of "Brute Brady." I have seen this man have a guard at the gate, call for a detail, and when the men came crowding around the gate to get out, which all were eager to do - poor fellows, because they would get extra rations for their work - he would have the gate thrown open, put spurs to his horse, charge in upon them, calling them d-d rebels, and ride right over them before they could get out of the way. This is only one instance of our usual treatment while under this man. He had command of two negro regiments, and if I were to tell half of the suffering and indignities to which we were subjected they would fill a good-sized volume. We all suffered for any misdemeanor of the part of one, so glad were they of any excuse to deprive us of our morsel of meat and cup of soup and put us on hard-tack and water.
Ladies would visit the prison & call out so that we could hear them, "Major, how are Jeff Davi's cattle getting on?" How any woman could deride such abject misery, even in an enemy, has always been a mystery to me.
No blankets were given us and we had only two well-worn ones for three - two good friends beside myself, who kindly let me "sleep in the middle," and with one blanket under and one over us we shivered the long nights through.
We had been here fifteen months before we got any clothing. My jacket and trousers were in strings. I had had no shirt for months, and was barefooted. When we were called out to get some clothes I had to stand two hours on the frozen ground before my turn came, and I am sure I never felt so comfortable in my life as I did when I first upon on the coarse blouse, pantaloons, shoes, and socks. I often wonder how we lived to tell of the cold and hunger of our prison life.
I had been in prison twenty months, three and a half at Fort Delaware, and seventeen at Point Lookout. We were paroled in March, and a pitiful set of men we were. I weighed barely ninety pounds, was almost a skeleton, and so weak I could hardly walk. But I was free, and going home, and that was the best tonic I could have.
AT CITY POINT.
At City Point our prison friend, Captain Patterson,
came on board the vessel to see us, and there was a rush to shake hands
with him. He said he was glad we were going home.
Whilte in Richmond I met Colonel Lane,and was surprised to hear him say, "Why, how are you, Company I?" I told him how astonished I was that he knew me, and he said, "I never forget a Twenty-sixth boy."
My faithful and unselfish friend, "Perk" Miller,
another Caldwell county boy, who had joined the first company that
was formed in Caldwell, had shared every morsel of comfort with me during
our long imprisonment, and was my companion still as we joyfully wended
our way to our mountain home. A part of this journey was on foot, and although
we felt in our hearts that we had only to show our pitiful selves to any
North Carolina woman to get the needful food,
I was at home one month when Stoneman made his raid through the country and came to Lenoir. I was in the yard in my shirt-sleeves when I first saw the Yankees, and might have made my escape, but thinking they were our Home Guard, I deliberately walked around the house in full view of them, and say my mistake when the guns were pointed at me, and I could only throw up my hands in token of surrender. I was carried right off, without a coat, and was all night without coat or blanket, and almost frozen.
They issued no rations, but my mother was allowed to supply me with food. My sister went with my parole to General Gilliam and begged him to release me, but he refused to do it. This was Eastereve, 1865.
On Monday we marched twenty miles up the Blue Ridge, and camped at Yadkin spring, where we received our first rations - a half-ear of corn for each - for twenty-four hours. And this in a land not yet despoiled of provisions, where our captors had plenty and to spare. I had some remains of my lunch, and did not want corn; but half a dozen famished me were eager for it. Next morning we were turned over to Kirk, and marched on to Boone.
At Easte's school-house Lieutenant Shotwell
and two other men made their escape, and but for an open path to the school-house
would have been safe. When discovered, two surrendered,
Murder and robbery was the order of the day with Kirk's band.
At Boone, while gathered around the court-house, Kirk rode into our midst, called us "cowards, cut-throats, damned rebels," and every vile thing he could think of, and threatened the most horrible vengeance if we attempted to escape. My good old friend, Mr.Sidney Deal, came up to me and said: "Keep close to me, my boy, and if anybody must fight for you, I'll do it."
Mr.Deal had suffered every wrong from these men, and when one of them commenced to abuse him, he told him boldly how he,Ford, had robbed him of horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, and the man went off without another word.
Our next stop was at Cool creek, in Watauge county, but we drew no rations
until we arrived at Greenville, Tenn., when we had some hard-tack and bacon.
We were hurried on to Knoxville, where we were turned over to regular United
States soldiers, and fared a little better. At Nashville we were lodged
in the pen, but we had better rations than before. We crossed the Ohio
river at Louisville, and on the other rations than before. We crossed the
Ohio river at Louisville, and on the other side, at Jeffersonville, saw
the first signs of mourning for Abraham Lincoln - an arch bearing this
inscription: "Abraham Lincoln, the Saviour of His Country, Is In His Grave."
About the 1st of August we were given the alternative of taking the oath, or going to hard labor on the fort. We took the oath, but none the less loyal to that banner that has been forever furled, and the grand old leaders of the "Lost Cause."
On our homeward journey, at Wheeling, W.Va., where we arrived in the early morning, and spent the day, an elderly gentleman and two young ladies came to us and inquired if we were Confederate prisoners, and when told that we were, gave us nice refreshments.
At Baltimore we went to the Soldiers' Home, and had good food and every comfort. From there we went to Fortress Monroe, thence to Petersburg, and on to Danville. We switched off to B Junction, and there a kind old gentleman gave me my first greenback dollar, and I was glad to get it. Our next stop was at Greensboro, N.C., and then we were soon at home.
Albert Stacey Caison