From the Toledo Blade, Thursday, 6/9/1887

Prison Experience

Editor Campfire: I was taken prisoner Nov 27th, 1863 at the battle of Locust Grove near the Wilderness, Va., paroled February 27th 1865 at Northeast Cape Fear River, ten miles north of Wilmington, N. C., was held as a prisoner of war at the following places: Libby, Belle Island, Pemberton Castle, Andersonville, Miller, Blackshear, Charleston, Florence and Goldsboro. For the nourishment of Comrade A. F. Dalton, I would add to his bug soup the following chip of a beef bone: I was on that desolate Belle Island from the 10th of December 1863 until February 18, 1864.  Well do I remember Lieut. Boisseux, the commander of the post. His beloved, fat, white bull terrier strolled into the prison camp about the 10th of February, 1864, and was decoyed into the tent of some Germans who belonged to a New York regiment. He was covered with a blanket and his throat cut within a rod of my tent.  He was immediately skinned, cut up and cooked into a fine savory soup. I saw them eat the soup and I had secured one paw and a part of his skin, which I carried through all my prison life, and while being washed preparatory to entering St. John’s Hospital, Annapolis, Md., my wardrobe, consisting of only an army blouse and drawers, which were very filthy and in full possession of the loathsome grey-backs, my clothes containing prison life relics, including that of Boisseux’s bull terrier, were taken from me and burnt. Comrade Dalton, I also remember the red-headed rebel Sergeant Hight, who so unmercifully wielded his cudgel upon the heads and backs of feeble and sickly prisoners. I also remember the Yankee Frenchman on parole upon the island, etc., and it makes me sad to think of cold and chilly yet beautiful moonlight nights of December 1863.  How close we used to spoon by day and by night, while the cold, biting winds were blowing up the frozen James River from the ocean, and while many of the prisoners, clad only in army shirts and pants, constantly pattering in their already frozen bare feet up and down the hard-beaten ground of Market Street.  I stand in order to retain the little vitality yet remaining within their already starved anatomy, and in the morning, it was quite common to see a number of huddled together in the ditch, frozen to death. They were paroled, they passed out of the jars of death, out of the mouth of hell.  No one has ever adequately told one-half the sufferings the boys had to endure upon that island in that bleaky winter of 1863-’64 - H. J. Peter, corporal company E, 120th O. V. I., Rogersville, O.


Notes by Richard Cole, transcriber, made October 21, 2001

In the 1880’s, the Toledo Blade newspaper had a regular feature called The Camp Fire, which consisted of articles pertaining to the Civil War, typically letters submitted by veterans recounting specific events or actions.  The above letter, transcribed verbatim, evidently was in response to a previous published submission by an A. F. Dalton.  I have refrained from correcting obvious mistakes, such as Millen for Miller and Belle Isle for Belle Island. Also, the sentence beginning “I stand in order to retain…” makes no sense grammatically, but I think the meaning is clear.

Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion does not list the author’s name as a member of the 120th OVI.  Also, this unit fought in the west during its term of service.  However, the Official Roster lists the 126th OVI as fighting at Mine Run, Va. from November 26-28, 1863 and concurrently at Locust Grove, Va. on November 27, 1863. The roster for the 126th does list, under Company E, a Herman J. Peters, Corporal, as being “captured Nov. 27, 1863 , at battle of Mine Run, Va.  He was mustered out with his unit, indicating that he survived the war.

Thus, I think typographical errors resulted in the discrepancy in the author’s name and unit of service.