Van Santvoord, Cornelius, The One Hundred and Twentieth Regiment New York State Volunteers, Roundout: Press of the Kingston Freeman; 1894. pp. 95 – 96.

....On January 21st, 1864, their then place of confinement was vacated and the prisoners transferred to Belle Isle. How the men were tempted to forswear their allegiance, and find freedom, employment and good support by joining the Confederacy, and how the overture was rejected, the following paragraph will show:

“Here again rebel officers came with offers of quarters, food and clothing to those who would take the oath of allegiance and accept employment in the Tredegar Iron Works, and other places. But few, very, very few accepted; still, it was a fearful temptation to many. The picture was made as complete as words could paint it. Our government had forsaken us. They would never consent to a parole for fear the rebels would not observe it, (had I been a rebel I never would have used that argument,) and knowing one man on the defensive was as good as two or more in an aggressive fight, they – our government – had concluded to let us die. We were openly told of the opportunities we would have to desert them and escape North, but no, they stood and swore allegiance to the stars and stripes while stand they could, and then bravely, calmly, nobly laid down to die, and die they did rather than stain their souls with treason, and their lips with such a lie, and among the things longest to be remembered were the last words of some dying comrade, as feeling the icy fingers of death groping or their heart strings they would draw a comrade’s ear down to their fast stiffening lips and whisper, ‘tell father, mother, wife, children and friends, I did not desert.’ Those deaths were glorious.”

The removal to Belle Isle did not add to the comfort of the imprisoned, as appears from the following extract:

“Rations were smaller, if possible, on the island than in the city, and without clothing or tents – and an exceptionally hard winter, and a necessity for greater exercise to keep warm, men suffered very much. Many walked the whole night through, and overcome by fatigue and weakness, some lay down and froze. At any rate they died, and were found next morning stiff in death. At one time some of our guard were accompanied by dogs, but after several had been coaxed over the line and killed and eaten, the practice was discontinued.”

The prison life on the Isle, ended March 4th, on which day they were taken back to Richmond and hopes of parole were held out to the men languishing for release from their fearful captivity. These hopes were destined soon to be destroyed. For entering cars the next day, the prisoners were carried to Petersburg, where some fancied the paroling process might be performed in their favor. Instead of this, they soon learned to their horror, that their destination was Andersonville, toward which the train was now making its way. [author goes on at length about Andersonville and the journey there. This was not transcribed.]
 

Page last updated on 02/12/2008