The Libby Chronicle, 10/2/1863

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The Libby Chronicle

Devoted to Facts and Fun.

Editor-in-Chief, LOUIS N. BEAUDRY, CHAPLAIN FIFTH N. Y. VOL. CAVALRY.

VOL. I.           LIBBY PRISON, RICHMOND, VA., OCTOBER 2, 1863.           NO. 7.

NOTES AND NOTICES.

Comical.  While a party was engaged in card-playing near the foot of a pillar in the upper east room, a ham, hung on a peg seven or eight feet above the heads of the players, gave way and fell with a crash upon the board used for a table. No harm was done, but an almost endless stream of merriment was set in motion. “How are you, Ham?” cried a bystander, “there is evidence of a fall in the meat market.” Another vociferated, “You’re mistaken, it is a tumble of the Sons of Ham.”

Yankee ingenuity, versus Rebel cupidity.  Perhaps some are curious to know how greenbacks and gold have found their way in considerable quantities in Libby. Some of our number who had been through this mill several times before gave the benefit of their experience to others. Money was hidden between the soles of shoes, in folds of garments, between the toes, etc., etc. One man stuffed his greenbacks in his mouth with a quid of tobacco. Others still hid them in their buttons. Regulation buttons are hollow. With a knife blade you can start the rim and then pull off the cap; tear a greenback in two; fold the pieces carefully and lay them in the button; rim on the cap and your money is safe. In such case the Editor would be willing to play the old game, “Button, button, who’s got the button?” And he would “hold fast all you give him.”

Don’t get tight.  One of our funny fellows has said, “If you don’t want corns on your feet, don’t wear tight boots; if you don’t want to get corned all over, don’t get tight.”

Superior, inferior.  Your shadow is gigantic in the morning or evening when the sun is low, but at noon it is like the shadow of a pigmy. Great among inferiors, small among superiors.

 

RUMORS.

Rumors are like humors. There is, however, a rumor that the chaplains are soon to be released. It sounds reasonable. Let us hear from our friend “Jack Rumorstrap.” He writes as follows:

Rumored that the exchange commission did not meet yesterday as was expected. (September 28, 12 M.)

FOUR P. M.  Rumor says that the United States commissioners hearing of Spencer Kellogg’s execution, immediately returned without awaiting the arrival of the Confederate troops, and that there will be no exchange of prisoners very soon.

September 29.  As a result of yesterday’s news the spirits are drooping in all except those of the huckstering fry, who seem to have renewed their diligence.

September 30.  We have news from a reliable source that all the Federal officers are to be paroled and sent north on the next truce boat – all except the chaplains and surgeons.

Three P. M.  Since receiving the above, we have received information that no exchange or parole is to occur, as the exchange agents have not acceded to any proposition yet offered. It is said the next truce boat will bring blankets and clothing for the Libby family.

Four P. M.  The negro question prevents all exchange.

Five P. M.  The negro question has never been an issue.

October 1.  The huxtering fry say they will allow fruit to be conveyed down Red Lane pike, is the teamsters will allow them a profitable remuneration.

Two P. M.  It is reported direct from the commandant of the prison, that Libby is to be emptied, and its happy family sent north in a day or two.

Two-and-a-half P. M.  From the hospital comes the dire rumor that a United States gun-boat has brought dispatches of worse complications than ever in the exchange bureaus. No exchange even of privates will be allowed until the case of Kellogg is satisfactorily explained.

Still later, nine P. M.  The commissioners had not met, but are sure to meet on the 3d of October. The United States commissioner will bring six gunboats along with him to protect the white flag.

                                                            Yours,
                                                                        Jack Rumortrap.

 

LIGHTS AND SHADES IN LIBBY.

No. 7.

A ramble through Libby of an evening will well repay the effort. In one room we meet a large procession which represents on a small scale a country caravan. The elephant is none other than four officers bent forward, with a blanket thrown over them, while two sticks of wood protruding from the blanket make the tusks. One man mounted upon another astraddle his neck is the camel, and another on all fours the bear. These are paraded through the rooms, headed by bearers of torches, and a band of music improvising Yankee Doodle and other airs on split quills, combs, tin plates, cups, kettles, etc., etc. Accompanying the show are hideous imitations of all kinds of beasts and fowls with a menagerie-like effect, which would do honor to Barnum’s American Museum.

The Caravan passed we hear a rustling, grating noise, with tramp of many feet, and a rush, like a whirlwind, is made towards us. We step aside to avid the shock. It is a raiding party á la cavalrie. Twenty or more of the most desperate characters among us form the squad. They dash by, armed with broom-sticks, and other like weapons, sweeping all before them, upsetting everything and everybody that comes in their way. These raiders are the terror of the more sedate of our community. Their rude and harmful practice justly merits the severest reprimand.

In another room we are drawn to a crowd, that at intervals shouts and laughs as if frantic with joy. We elbow our way through the press to get a sight of the fun, when, Oh, shades of the feathery king of the barn yard! here are fowls without feathers, spurs or crests, engaged in a “cock-fight.” Two individuals have submitted themselves to the process known as “bucking,” and then within a ring, marked with chalk on the floor, they hop around, crow and hit one another in a “rooster-like” style, which results in one or the other and sometimes both tumbling over in a most laughable manner. Each “bird” has his ring of betters, and these also lend no little amount of excitement to the play.

But our evening ramble must cease. Now weary, “like a quarry slave at night scourged to his dungeon,” we wend our way to our chosen spot for the night. We lie down, but not to sleep at once, for we have not yet recited our catechism. How like the days of childhood is this experience! It well even in Libby to be reminded of these domestic animals, cat-echism and its mate dog-matism. They are a very ancient species. The one ahs cleared the centuries of their rats and mice of religious folly, and the other has kept at bay infidelity’s beasts f prey. The keen eye of the one and the threatening voice of the other have given evidence of their usefulness. Time honors their labors, and from them history borrows important lessons. It is well that the fire-side and the Sunday school are not the only legitimate fields of their operations. Catechism, at least, has found its way into Libby. And now the gray-haired sire lifts his venerable head and, with a voice comically solemn, propounds his important questions to his listening family. No subject is allowed to escape. The habits, opinions, peculiarities, mishaps of every individual fall under this crucial censorship. Each day supplies a sufficient budget to furnish means for an hour or more of uproarious hilarity.

Here is a great field for the punster and the jester. Such questions as these elicit ready answers:

“Who hid behind the big gun and was captured?”

“Who among the colonels has star on the brain?”

“Who offered to enlist in the Rebel army to escape imprisonment?”

“Who stole Moseley’s hash?”

“Who sold his boots for money to buy extra mutton chops?”

“What mess undertook to wash their shirts in the coffee kettles?”

“Who has exchange on the brain?”

“How does Libby differ from another public institution in Philadelphia?”

Answer.  “That is a northern home for friendless children – this is a friendless home for northern children.”

These questions are almost endless in their number and variety, while the answers often contain jokes almost too severe to be mirthful and facts too startling to be true. Gradually the pounding on the floor with fists and feet dies away, the roars of laughter cease, and “sleep, tired nature’s sweet restorer,” comes to drive our cares away and put our sorrows in oblivion. Now we wander through dreamland where kind friends are met and loved ones held in fond embrace; battles too are fought and bloody victories won – until the morn shall break again.

 

SIGNAL OF DISTRESS.

To His Excellency, Augustus W. Bradford, Governor of Maryland:

SIR, we, the undersigned officers of your State, now suffering the privations of prison life in Richmond, though conscious that we are not forgotten by you, would nevertheless urge upon your consideration the importance of making a personal effort for our release, should such an effort be found practicable. Our imprisonment has become almost intolerable. Deprived as we have been for so long time of the sweet sunshine and pure air, and especially of our accustomed rations, we have gradually sunken under the debilitating influences.

Scorfulous and scorbutic diseases have already manifested their alarming symptoms among us, and unless we are soon released will doubtless prove fatal in many cases. One of our fellow-sufferers, Major Morris, but recently fell a victim to our wretched condition. Others will probably soon follow him. Can anything be done on our behalf? Our prayer is brief, but earnest.

We are, respected sir,
                        Your obedient servants, etc.

(Signed by many officers of the State of Maryland.)

 

KANSAS BRIGADE’S VERSION OF JOHN BROWN.

John Brown’s body lies mouldering in the grave,
While weep the sons of bondage who he ventured all to save,
And though he lost his life in struggling for the slave,
                                    His soul is marching on.

John Brown was a hero undaunted, true and brave,
Kansas knew his valor when he fought her rights to save,
And though the grass grows green above his northern grave
                                    His soul is marching on.

He captured Harper’s Ferry with his nineteen men so few,
And frightened “Ole Virginny” till she trembled through and through,
They hung him for a traitor themselves a traitor crew –
                                    His soul is marching on.

John Brown was John the Baptist to the Christ we are to see,
The Christ, who of the bondmen will the liberator be,
Until throughout the land the slaves shall all be free,
                                    As we go marching on.

The conflict that he heralded he looks from heaven to view,
On the army of the Union with her flag, red, white and blue,
And Heaven shall ring with anthems o’er the deeds we’re bound to do,
                                    As we go marching on.

O soldiers of Columbia, then strike while strike you may,
The death-blow of oppression in this better time and way,
And the dawn of Old John Brown shall brighten into day,
                                    As we go marching on.

 

PROFIT AND LOSS.

What profit would it be for a man
To work every day as hard as he can,
And when Saturday comes then take a pique
And waste all he’d earned during the week.

But how much better for him to seek
To earn very much each day of the week,
And when Saturday comes lay it in store,
And thus next week earn just as much more

Try this, oh men, who struggle with care,
Then means you’ll have, enough and to spare;
Your friends made happy, your homes made bright,
Will lessen your burdens or make them light.

 

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN.

It still runs in the memory of many, when to be an officer in the American army, was to be as a consequence, a gentleman, a true man of honor. The claimant to official rank of whatever grade was ever the recipient of marked attention. The announcement of his arrival was paraded in the journals of the day, and the blandest smiles of “mine host” and the coziest chamber of “mine inn” were instantly at his command. From the great, the learned, the wealthy and the fair, hospitalities, invitations and favors of every kind were tendered him, and his sojourn in town or country was made a continuation of fete days, culminating in intensity as his leave of absence drew near its close.

“All men revered him, all women loved.”

To impugn his character, or to doubt his honor, subjected the utterer to the closes investigation, or the stern arbitrament of arms, while for himself to fall from his high position was a descent second only to that of Lucifer. In camp, courteous to his superiors; and in the campaign he faced the foe, because the path to glory is through the field of danger.

For his associates, with whom he had encountered many vicissitudes “through field and blood,” he entertained an affection dearer than the ties of relationship; he was ever ready to aid, support and defend them at all hazard. Such were the life, character and attributes of an American officer at the commencement of this contest; and whether enrolled in defense of constitutional right, and just government, or engaged in marshalling the ranks of the disloyal and the traitor, to this day he retains in an eminent degree, most if not all of these virtues.

Let us now turn to the volunteer. Called to arms by his country’s need, the gifted, the honored, the brave, throwing off the lethargy of peace, donned the uniform of his government, and, pledging his life and his sacred honor, rushed to the defense of the time-honored flag, and the beloved institutions of his forefathers. A hearty volunteer in a glorious cause, he brought with him the enthusiasm of the patriot, and the loyalty of the citizen; accustomed to comfort and nurtured in luxury, he nevertheless endured the privations of the camp and bitter experience of martial life with cheerfulness and obedience; proud of his cause, his country and his uniform, he strove so to guide his steps, that each and all might be honored by his advocacy and acquainted with the amenities of civil life; filled with the recollections of the social distinctions accorded to the officer of former days, and a firm believer in the attributes of the chivalric soldier, he naturally turned to his immediate associates in arms for an exhibition of those characteristics which have garnished the pages of history and peopled the world with heroes.

The child that nightly awakens the denizens of Libby by its eager search after the paternal Teed,* to whom the knowledge of light, air and impalpable being seems but a thing of yesterday, is yet old enough to chronicle the downfall of these expectations; and could he answer, he would blush while recounting the reverse of our fair picture. For, did he speak truly, he would tell of the lie banded in lieu of the sacred word of honor ever implied; of the act and gesture of filth and indecency in place of the many joke and good-humored repartee; of the blasphemous response to the authorized command of the superiors instead of the graceful obedience of the subordinate; but worse than all he would tell of the rights invaded, the property purloined, and the pocket rifled of one officer by his fellow.

Mr. Editor, had such a statement been made in any journal as respectable as yours previous to my advent to Libby, I would have deemed t my duty to hunt the anonymous slanderer from his lair to nail the calumny to his forehead. But now, alas, a short but painful experience in a military prison has revealed to me that an officer and a gentleman are no longer synonymous; that the uniform of a soldier may cover the carcass of the sneak, and the shoulder straps of the officer may serve to conceal the brand of the thief. Dare any one deny this? If any such there be, let him dispassionately investigate the record of the past two weeks, and ere venting his virtuous indignation, inquire of the first officer he meets of his experience. Or better still, let him consult the official announcement affixed to these walls, proclaiming the loss by theft of one hundred and eighty dollars within the past fortnight, or he may be enlightened by the recital of innumerable petty larcenies, minor scoundrelisms and sneaking pilfering unworthy the talents of the meanest thief that ever graduated from the Five Points. Even the honor which obtains among rogues is forgotten, for we have it on record that thief has robbed thief, and the sneak preyed upon his brother. And yet, forsooth, these miscreants bear a commission, hold a command, and, by my manhood, even sport a sword. Of such men the immortal Shakespeare has written thus:

“He will steal an egg, sir, out of a cloister. He professes not keeping, of oaths; in breaking of them he is stronger than Hercules. He will lie, sir, with such volubility, that you would think truth were a fool. Drunkenness is his best virtue, for he will be swine-drunk, and in his sleep he does little harm save to his bedclothes about him; but they know his conditions and lay him in straw. I have but little more to say, sir; of his honesty he has everything that an honest man should not have, what an honest man should have, he has nothing.”

I would not have it understood, Mr. Editor, that a majority, or even a tenth of our number, are open to these charges. The bad among us, I am proud to say, are numerically small, but that they are skillfull and proficient, their present concealment evidences. Brought from the various armies of the north and west, we are, in a degree, total strangers to a large number of the present inmates of this prison. The very man who shares our plank, is unknown to us by name or state, and may be, for all we know, the mirror of knighthood, or the veriest poltroon.

A sufferer by the peculations complained of, we turn in querulous haste, with jealous eye, upon the first comer, and are more likely to suspect the innocent than to detect the guilty; and we ourselves, while seeking our despoiler, are in turn suspected by a fellow sufferer, who deems the eager look of the loser to be the preying scrutiny of the thief. For our own sakes, then, let us combine to purge our body of this moral blot, to rid our profession of this novel stain. To one or the other, the condition and opinion of each and every man are known. The knave and the coward, under a close surveillance, must inevitably be discovered, while the brave and the honorable can rarely be misunderstood. By his words and actions mark every man. Scan closely the unguarded movements and desultory remarks of the suspected. Meet cunning with stratagem, and ply the rogue to his ruin. The cause we advocate and the uniform we wear, demand that we should expose the unworthy and unmask the dishonest; and it is the duty of every honest man to bring the recreant to that justice which he so much needs and fears.

                                                                                    Lieut.-Col. S.

 

HOW I WAS CAPTURED AND THEN BROUGHT TO LIBBY PRISON.

Gettysburg! Three bloody days! Then Rebellion’s desperation and folly rose to flood tide and Pickett’s Division made its awful charge and was annihilated! Scarcely had the echoes of the last gun of that memorable cannonade reverberated among the hills of the “Keystone” State that General Meade ascertained that the enemy was already retreating towards his own place. Accordingly General Kilpatrick, commanding the Third Division of the Cavalry Corps was ordered around the Rebel right to intercept their flying trains in the passes of the mountains.

During the night of Saturday the Fourth of July, in the midst of a torrential rain storm (great storms seem to have followed quickly on the heels of great battles), Kilpatrick attacked Ewell’s train at the Monterey Pass. Here he captured over two hundred wagons laden with stolen property from the stores and granaries of Pennsylvania, and about 1,500 prisoners fell into his hands.

It was during the latter part of the night that at least fifty of us were surrounded by a force of Stuart’s Cavalry. It is hard enough for any Yankee, and harder still, I think, for a Yankee Frenchman, to say a hated enemy, “I surrender.” But this had to be done. A Rebel lad was taking possession of my horse. I had a splendid charger, the pride of my heart and a favorite with the regiment. I said to the Rebel:

“Young man, I am a Chaplain, and that horse is my own and not the Government’s. Will you not respect my private property?” He answered me with a piquant sneer. Soon the officer in command made his appearance. To him also I made an appeal. TO my surprise he turned to the lad and said:

“Let that horse alone, sir.” Then turning to me, he added, “Take your own horse, Chaplain, saddle and mount him, and when you reach General Stuart’s headquarters, you shall be released.”

Bowing my thanks – and it may be inferred how polite a Frenchman could be under such circumstances – I gathered up my “traps,” and was soon riding among the “Johnnies.” After riding a few hours we reached the anticipated headquarters, of course, in the saddle, near a place called Mechanicsville. On arriving, according to the promise made me at time of capture, I was immediately “released” – of my horse and of all hopes of liberty. This was a serious contrecoup. A personal interview with General Stuart, before whom I laid all my rights and complaints availed me of nothing. With my hand upon his horse’s shoulder, I looked up into his bright blue eye and saw clearly the terrible agitation of his mind. When he learned that I belonged to Kilpatrick’s troops, he nervously inquired:

“Where is Kilpatrck?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

He eyed me closely as if to see whether or not I was answering honestly.

“How many men has Kilpatrick?”

“I can’t tell you.”

Had I known, he would not have been any wiser for it. He wore a slouched hat adorned with a black plume, and carried an ivory-handle bowie-knife, fastened with a gold chain to his belt. Our interview was brief and away he rode toward the head of his column.

The griefs of that Sabbath day can never be recounted. Lugging my equipage I was compelled to walk through deep mud and across swollen and unbridged brooks, paddling along as best I could with my great awkward cavalry boots. All this while a Rebel provost-marshall (Lieutenant Ball) rode my beautiful horse. Up and down the lines of prisoners he often passed, as if anxious to increase my sorrows. On one occasion, he accosted me by saying, “Do you know, Chaplain, how much this horse is worth to me?” on answering that I did not know, he added, “He is worth $500.” This was poor consolation.

Our captors paid no attention to our physical wants. No rations were issued to us during the day. All would have fainted by the way, as a few actually did, had not the Union ladies along our route come to our relief. As soon as they could recognize us, they brought us bread, cake, cold meats, pies, etc., pressing through the guards who at times threatened to bayonet them, while with tears at our sufferings and prayers for our safety, they bade us God-speed.

About sun-down Kilpatrick made an attack upon Stuart. How we prayed that he would demolish him and release us! But darkness soon put an end to the contest and we were left with the enemy. Near midnight we arrived in the valley of the Potomac near Leitersburgh. Footsore and weary we were driven into a damp field where we spent the remainder of the night.

The next day Kilpatrick and Stuart had a sharp encounter at Hagerstown. Here Captain John W. Woodward of the First Vermont Cavalry lost his life. Colonel Ulric Dahlgren lost a limb and Captain James A. Penfield, one of our sufferers, was wounded and captured. We were marched and countermarched much of the day and after sundown driven into a field, where we supposed we would spend the night. Darkness had come and I had fallen into a dose, when I heard a call: “Chaplain, Fifth New York Cavalry.” Springing to my feet I saw a Rebel lieutenant standing near with who I had some conversation during the day. He held in one hand a piece of warm bread and in the other a cup of smoking hot coffee. In an undertone he remarked, “Chaplain, I thought you might be hungry, and I’ve brought you this for your supper.” I was well-nigh overwhelmed at the unexpected act of kindness. This was a noble fellow, worthy of a better cause. Glad am I to testify to the nobility of character wherever I find it.

We reached and crossed the Potomac at Williamsport. The Rebel army was in a most deplorable condition. There is little doubt that had General Meade closely followed up his victory he would have nearly, if not quite, annihilated his antagonist. All Rebel hopes had been blasted. The feeling of their rank and file was well expressed by one of the officers of the guard. On reaching the sacred soil of Virginia, he flung his saber down exclaiming with much emotion, “Lie there! and never again will I cross this river, God helping me, on an expedition of this kind.”

A change of guard was here made and a striking episode occurred. By the outgoing commander we were introduced to the new provost-marshall. As my turn came I was presented as “Chaplain Beaudry of the Fifth New York Cavalry.”  “To what denomination do you belong?” inquired the talkative provost-marshall.  “I am a Methodist, sir.”

“So am I,” smilingly added my interlocutor. “I am very sorry to find you where you are,” I said half earnestly and half jokingly.

“Ditto! ditto!” almost screamed out the Rev. Mr. Linthicum of the Baltimore Conference into whose hands I was both prisoner and guest. This passage at arms – with words not swords – served me a good turn. He treated me with kindness and at times with condescension.

On Friday, July 10, we all suffered terribly from the excessive heat of the day. Many even of the guards gave out completely. If infantrymen, accustomed to the climate and hardship of the march, failed, it may be inferred how much cavalrymen, unused to the foot march, suffered. Before night my feet were terribly wounded with blisters under each heel half the size of an egg. I had perspired so much and was so nearly exhausted that cold flashes shot up my hips and back, indicating that I was in a critical condition indeed. We bivouacked that night near the Washington Springs, not far from Winchester, where we remained to rest until the following Sunday.

Here we heard through Rebel sources of the fall of Vicksburg. Had it not been for Rebel bayonets all around us we would have cheered lustily. Like our Quaker friends we endured our joy in silence. “Gettysburg! Vicksburg! Vicksburg! Gettysburg!” were often passed from lip to lip like a draught of nectar to the Union prisoners, but like gall and vinegar to the Rebel guards.

Two hundred miles of travel brought us at length to Staunton, Va., at the head of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley or Valley of Virginia. Here we struck the Virginia Central Railway. On the morning of the 18th of July we took cars for the Rebel Capital.

Note. There were about 4,000 Union soldiers captured in the Gettysburg campaign. Of these about two hundred were officers. The first dispatches published in Richmond gave 40,000. The city was jubilant at the news, while our poor fellows in Libby Prison were terribly dejected. The second day’s news showed that one zero too many had been given in previous dispatches. “Look on this picture and on that.” The thermometer went down below zero outside the prison when it was ascertained that at least 17,000 Rebels had been captured, that General Pickett’s Division was obliterated, and that General Lee was flying back to recross the Potomac with the dispirited and broken remnant of his lately proud Confederates.

                                                                                                Editor.

 

“SOUTH WINDOW.”

NO. 3.

Amidst the excitement of “fresh fish” (and this is ever a fishy place) and exchange, there has been little time of late to write, and even now you correspondent knows of little that will interest your hearers. “Changing, forever changing; so runs on the petty pace from day to day,” says the poet, and how has its truthfulness been proven during the few weeks past. Victory and defeat have hovered over our country’s banners, and as we watch to see the smoke of battle roll away, we see the red result – a result which we as me of war have seen but too often.

Vast armies, numbered by their tens of thousands, go crashing together. Steel clashes against steel, fire responds to fire; one line recoils, and again amid the whistling ball and hurtling shell, the shock is repeated, until the one weaker and worn out is hurled back, whipped, defeated, routed. They who were brave an hour before, on losing hope, fly for refuge under some impregnable fortress. Thus, however, Mr. Editor, has it not been with our valiant army of the Cumberland.

Forced into a battle without position, what did our brave Rosecrans? With numbers small in comparison with those of his foe, we see him day after day stubbornly fighting. At length his lines are driven back, for they cannot resist the force that is hurled, confident in their weight of numbers, against ours. Back, back they fall, and in a few moments more all will be lost. But see! a form, well known and loved by each in that gallant army, dashes forward scarcely one hundred yards from the advancing foe. There amid a storm of bullets which they who were there tell us they never saw equaled, right in the jaws of death, between the two combatants, rides the leader! His hat is raised aloft while he shouts, “Forward, men! Will you let Rebels drive you further back? Forward! Give them the bayonet!” This they did. The day was saved.

Night came on apace, and quietly and unobserved our forces fell back to Chattanooga, where Braxton Bragg, whose name and nature seem synonymous, will not attempt to attack them. Better far, and none know it better than he, to be content with what he may call a victory – a victory indeed in one sense, but certainly a very barren one.

                                                                                    Captain Porter.

LIBBY PRISON, Oct. 1, 1863.

 

LAST WORDS OF THE CHRONICLE.

ADDENDA.

On Sunday the 4th of October, through the courtesy of Lieut. Latouche, then in command at Libby, I was permitted to go to Pemberton Castle for the purpose of preaching to our men detained there, who were captured at the battle of Chickamauga. No rebel guard was sent with me. I was a strangely habited Chaplain. My shoes were well-nigh worn out moccasins which I had fabricated out of pieces of old blankets. My clothes were nearly worn off me or eaten out by vermin. My head-gear was one of the cheapest gray sloutched hats, obtained by exchange from a Rebel soldier, and known as the “Stonewall hat.” It was full of holes as if perforated by many bullets.

As I stepped out upon the street I felt like one electrified. For nearly three months my feet had not touched the ground. Such was the remedial and joy-giving power of this touch, that I felt like falling down to kiss the dust while exclaiming: “Thank thee! thank thee, dear mother earth, for the blessing that comes to me from thee!”

I found the prisoners in Pemberton Castle in a much worse condition than we were in Libby. There were 1800 of them there, and in each of the six rooms occupied by them, at least fifty were so sick that they could not raise their heads from the dirty floor. Many of them had been robbed of their clothing and shoes, and suffered terribly from the chill of the October nights. Those who were able to do so, kept themselves tolerably warm by walking briskly all night long, then taking what rest they could during the day. I stayed long enough to preach twice to them, once in each separate department. On leaving them a sergeant brought me a bundle of about two hundred letters, saying to me: “Chaplain, please take these messages for our friends at home who know not where we are or what our fate. The Rebel authorities have refused repeatedly to take and send our letters. Perhaps you can get them through for us from Libby.” I accepted the precious package and brought it with me to Libby. I then divulged the secret to several of my most intimate friends, who agreed to assist me in trying to pass these letters out as our own. At every roll-call a few of them were passed into the hands of Little Ross, the prison clerk.

Wednesday morning about 4 o’clock, a strange light gleamed through the upper middle room, and a gruff voice, well known as that of the sergeant of the guard, called out, “Are there chaplains in this room?”

“Yes, sir,” I quickly replied, “two of us.”

“Get up then, pack up and come down.”

Though weakened by night sweats from which I suffered, and bones aching as I tossed and rolled over and over from side to side on the hard floor, I was soon to my feet. But, oh! what packing was ours who had been robbed of nearly everything when we came in! The bustle caused by the call of the sergeant brought many of my friends to their feet also. It was believed that the chaplains were indeed to be released. Several verbal messages and a few written ones to friends at home were hastily confided to me by those we were to leave behind us. These increased the difficulty of my preparation. I had my Spanish grammar, all the files of the LIBBY CHRONICLE and 123 letters from the inmates of Pemberton Castle. What to do with these precious things, became an embarrassing questions. Some officers assured me that I would be searched on going out the same as when coming in. It was well known that if so much “contraband” stuff was found upon me, a cell would be my portion. In the midst of this perplexity an important adage taught me by my father came forcibly to my mind, namely: “Qui risqué rien n’a rien” – who risks nothing has nothing. This gave me courage. The letters I knew would need such attention as perhaps no one left behind could give them. I took all my documents, divided them into two bundles, and stuffed them into each pant leg, down into my old cavalry boot legs. These boots were unfit to wear, but served a good purpose on this occasion. My worked bones I put into my pockets – glad was I not to leave my bones behind me. The Spanish grammar went under my arm. A cordial shake of the hand with an anxious group of well-wishers, and then I came down. Fortunate for us all, Lieut. Latouche was on duty. Already I had touched him by addressing him in our vernacular, the French, and he seemed to have a tender penchant toward me. The search we dreaded was not made, and I escaped with all my treasures. Just as we were stepping out, the guards were calling their “all’s well.” It never sounded so sweet to me before.

We were soon at the southern depot, where we met Commissioner Ould, who treated us very kindly. However, we were put on board cattle cars on a freight train, which moved slowly to Petersburg. For nearly two hours we were left quite free in the city. Early in the afternoon we took a passenger car and journeyed toward City Point on the James river. About one o’clock we arrived in sight of the flags of truce, one on shore and the other at mast head of the steamer New York, that also floated the “stars and stripes.” Tears flowed unbidden at the sight, and we all felt like exclaiming:

“Bright flag, at yonder tapering mast,
Fling out your field of azure blue,
Let star and stripe be northward cast,
And point as Freedom’s eagle flew!
Strain home, Oh, lithe and quivering spars!
Point home, my country’s flag of stars!”


 

* Captain John Teed, of Reading, Pa., could imitate the crying of a little child in its endeavor to find its nurse, and indeed any other noise from animal or man, as to render detection quite impossible. Hours of intense merriment were occasioned by his efforts.

Page last updated on 02/12/2008