From the National Tribune, 2/14/1884

One of the First Prisoners at Belle Isle.


Will you allow an old “Typo,” and one of the “Boys in Blue,” about a “stickful” or so of space in your most valuable paper to “shoot off” an answer to an article which appeared in a Pittsburgh paper recently, to the effect that a railroad engineer, by the name of George Meadville, was the first prisoner of war on Belle Island, and also the first at Andersonville. The article stated further that Comrade Meadville had seen several years’ service before he was captured. There appears something wrong about this statement - some mistake. I was taken prisoner on the 27th of June, 1861 [sic], at Gaines’ Mills, in Virginia , along with my whole regiment, with the exception of one company and a detail of two men from each company to guard our knapsacks while we “went in.” And I tell you, Mr. Editor, truly, that we were not engaged in “cooling coffee” while we were taken, either. We relieved the 4th New Jersey infantry on the afternoon of the 27th, but, before coming into action, we had to lie down for a considerable length of time, subject to a fire from the enemy, which we could not return, waiting for our orders to advance. We exhausted our supply of ammunition, and, while waiting for relief, we received a galling fire from the rear. Some mistook the force for our relief, and shouted: “Don’t fire - they are our own men!” But only a very few minutes sufficed to satisfy us that we were their men - their prisoners. And right here I would like to know why it was that we were left fighting in that woods without any protection for our rear, and relieving a regiment that was also captured immediately behind us. Somebody higher in rank than division commander was evidently in error. Well, we were marched to Richmond that night, and arrived there about daylight the morning of the 28 (that is, the squad I was in). While being escorted along some street ( Carey street , I think), I was angered not a little by hearing some women at a window shout to us as we went by: “This is another way to take Richmond !” We were taken direct to Libby prison and assigned quarters in the third story, and found quite a number of prisoners who had been taken in other engagements. Enough already has been said about prison bars, treatment, &c., by others, and I will not attempt to describe our treatment while there. Early in July I was standing near the guarded door of the prison, when a rebel officer appeared, and said he wanted some “Yanks” - I don’t remember the number - to go to Belle Isle to assist in putting up tents, &c., and arrange the Island for the bulk of the prisoners, who would be transferred from Libby and the other prisons in Richmond the next day. I volunteered, - only too glad to get out of that horrid hole, --and when the officer got a sufficient number from Libby, we were marched down Carey street , when we met another squad (larger than our own) drawn up in front of another prison. I judge our number was over a hundred. Before starting for the Island we were given each a loaf of bread - small-sized baker’s loaf - as extra rations for the labor which we were expected to perform. I assisted in putting up one tent, - a Sibley, - and succeeded in capturing a part of another, which was too rotten to put up, and assisted in occupying said Sibley while I remained on the Island. So, Mr. Editor, I will claim that I was one of the first that went on Belle Island as prisoners of war.

Respectfully yours,

CO. F, 11th Pa. R. V. C.

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