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A Soldier's Experience in Southern Prisons A Graphic Description of the Author's Experiences in Various Southern Prisons

A Soldier's Experience in Southern Prisons
A Graphic Description of the Author's Experiences in Various Southern Prisons
Title: A Soldier's Experience in Southern Prisons A Graphic Description of the Author's Experiences in Various Southern Prisons
Release Date: 2018-07-04
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, A Soldier's Experience in Southern Prisons,by Christian Miller Prutsman

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Title: A Soldier's Experience in Southern Prisons

A Graphic Description of the Author's Experiences in Various Southern Prisons

Author: Christian Miller Prutsman

Release Date: July 4, 2018 [eBook #57440]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



E-text prepared by Graeme Mackreth
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See https://archive.org/details/soldiersexperien00prut






old bloke






A Graphic
Description of the Author's Experiences
in Various Southern Prisons



Copyright, 1901,



Events preceding my capture—The last day of freedom—Amajor's folly—My picket line captured—Warrenton—Ilose a valuable pair of boots—Culpepper—Farewellto the boots—A disappointing test of good faith


Libby—Now I lose my money—"Fresh fish"—Quarters andrations—Boxes from home—Two majors escape—A generalconspiracy—Bad news and new prisoners—GeneralButler saves two Union officers by threatening to hangCaptains Fitzhugh Lee and Winder—Two female prisonersdiscovered in male attire in Belle Isle—We securetheir release


Sick in the smallpox ward—A new plan of escape—Over apowder mine—The plan fails—Filling the roll, one hundredand nine men "short"—Shot at through windows—"Bread!bread!"—Hopes of exchange—May 1st—Boxeswhich had passed in the night—Brutes—More boxes—Danville,May 8th—Two weeks later, Macon


A tunnel spoiled by the rain—Captain Tabb's cruelties—Cornpone bakers—July 4th squelched—Beyond the "deadline"—Caught—Sherman sixty miles away—Charleston—Negroregimental prisoners—In the gallows' shadow—Whipping-post—Paroles—Moneyexchange drafts—TheAnderson men


Sherman devastates Northern Georgia—Columbia "CampSorghum"—A "dug-out"—I get away—Free—An unexpectedplunge—Trouble ahead—Recaptured—A meal—The"debtor's cell" at Abbeville—Back to "Sorghum"


An "underground railway"—More paroles—Bloodhounds—Bribingthe guard—Bloodhound steaks—Two hundredand fifty prisoners "short"—Back to Columbia—Buildingbarracks—A good tunnel started


Five of us have a narrow escape from the train—Friendlynegroes—A good old "shakedown"


Surrounded by rebel forces—Undiscovered—Skirmishing forfood—Sambo—Sambo's schemes—Sambo brings succor—Atheadquarters—Sambo's reward


General Logan—General Sherman—Clean at last—GeneralHobart's hospitality—Luxurious ease—A ghastly reminderof horrors escaped—Washington "short"—Orderedback to my regiment—An honorable discharge


[Pg 5]



Events preceding my capture—The last day of freedom—A major'sfolly—My picket line captured—Warrenton—I lose a valuable pair ofboots—Culpepper—Farewell to the boots—A disappointing test of goodfaith.

My enlistment in the service of the United States as a soldier toaid in putting down the rebellion of 1861-5 bears the date, August2, 1861. I was mustered into the service as a second sergeant of Co.I, 7th Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry, August 28, 1861, which regimentafterwards formed a part of the famous "Iron Brigade." I was afterwardspromoted to the rank of orderly sergeant, serving as such until April15, 1863, when I was commissioned second lieutenant, and finally on May4, 1863, received my commission as first lieutenant, in which capacityI was serving at the time of the opening of my story.

On or about the first day of October, 1863, after an attack ofsickness, I was discharged from the Seminary Hospital at Georgetown,D.C., and ordered to report for[Pg 6] duty to my regiment which was thenstationed near the Rapidan River, south of Culpepper, Virginia. A fewdays after I reached my regiment the whole army in great haste startednorth for Centerville, in order to head off the rebel army which wasthreatening to get between us and Washington City, via the ShenandoahValley. We arrived at Centerville just in time to frustrate their welllaid plans.

On the morning of October 19th, we started out, Kilpatrick's Cavalryin advance, in search of the rebs and found them in full retreat,via the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, Warrenton and Leesburg pike,and Thoroughfare Gap. We arrived near Gainesville, where, some monthsprevious, we had fought our first battle. Here we halted a few moments,to mourn over the long mound of earth, which but partly covered theremains of our dead, who on this very ground with our brigade andStewart's Battery ("B" of the 4th Regulars) had fought the whole ofStonewall Jackson's division for four hours, repeatedly repulsingevery attack and holding our ground until, finally, Longstreet'scolumn coming up in our rear, our position became too critical. WithJackson's Division between us and Washington, and Longstreet in ourrear, discretion became the better part of valor and we were obliged toretreat, leaving our dead on the field, where this mound now made shiftto cover them. History relates that Fitz John Porter had been orderedto check and repulse Longstreet at 4 P.M., and failing to doso was afterwards court martialed, but this is a digression and I mustproceed with my story.

Resuming our march south, we arrived at the Ma[Pg 7]nassas Gap Railroad,which we crossed, pursuing our course until we came to a little placecalled Haymarket, where our division was halted in the fields and adetail sent out for picket duty. Forty of this detail were from myregiment, and I was put in command of the quota furnished from thebrigade. We advanced about one mile further south and then west,leaving the roads to be picketed by details furnished from the otherbrigades of the division.

Hardly had I established my line, and chosen a place for the support tobivouac, before the enemy slipped in at a place called Buckley's Mills,between the picket and the cavalry in our front, and after a short andsharp engagement they forced Kilpatrick's Cavalry to leave the pike andflee to the south-east, in order to pass around the enemy's flank andreturn to our lines. The corps was compelled to fall back about threemiles in order to get north of the rebel army, which was endeavoringby advancing via the Bristo station from the east and ThoroughfareGap road from the west, to get in its rear. The major in command of thelines covering both roads, Bristo station and Warrenton pike, gatheredup all the men who could be conveniently reached, and following thecorps, left me in ignorance of our dangerous position and entirely atthe mercy of the enemy. (This major was afterwards court martialed forconduct unbecoming an officer in the face of the enemy, and dismissedfrom the service.)

In my position I could hear heavy trains moving on the pike, but couldnot see them on account of the woods. Finally a couple of rebels,chasing a few sheep, approached our lines, and naturally I undertook tocapture[Pg 8] them, but failed in the attempt. This revealed our position,and shortly after a long, heavy skirmish line appeared in sight,advancing upon us from the south. I concentrated my line by drawing inmy right, which was the most exposed flank, dropped back a few yardsin order to give my men the benefit of the timber for protection, andawaited the result.

As soon as the advancing line was within range we poured in a volley byfile, confusing and staggering that section directly in our front, butas each flank of their line extended beyond ours and they continued toadvance we were compelled to retreat, disputing the way from tree totree until we reached a point where the Bristo road crossed the pike atnearly right angles; here I commanded my men to rally on the reserve bythe left flank, but the men on the left, to my surprise, informed methat the road was full of rebels. I then directed another retreat bythe left oblique, in order to get away from the road and make our wayback to the fields, where we had left the brigade, but upon arrivingthere and jumping the fence we found ourselves in the midst of a rebelbattery; the rebels had been massing there for more than an hour.

I had no alternative but to surrender. My casualty list was two menwounded, both in their legs. Ah! what a sorry plight we were in. My menwere footsore and weary from their hard marching and maneuvering andour animals were completely fagged.

We were gathered in line; I was their first victim, without hat orsword, both of which had been taken away by the first rebel who hadapproached me.

All and each of the men had shared the same fate.

[Pg 9]

We heard a few volleys of musketry north and west of us; then sphericalcase shot from our own guns began to fly among us, which caused therebs to beat a hasty retreat to protect themselves from the murderousfire of our artillery.

As soon as we reached the pike we turned south and, after marching acouple of miles, we were halted in the woods, and there put in chargeof a guard, which was to take us to Warrenton.

It was now getting quite dark, and to add to our wretched condition itbegan to rain, notwithstanding which we resumed our march to Warrenton,eight miles distant. Upon our arrival there we were put into an oldstoreroom, which had been improvised as a prison, and in which we founda number of others prisoners who had been captured or picked up fromour army on its retreat from the Rapidan.

Those prisoners were crowded into one end of the room, while we wereconfined in the opposite. The next step was to examine us for boots andshoes. Previous to this I had secretly taken three twenty-dollar billsfrom my wallet, dampened them in my mouth, flattened them out a little,then slipped them into my watch pocket. But it was not money theywanted; they were looking for footwear.

It was my misfortune to have on a new pair of shop made boots, which Ihad just received by express from northern Pennsylvania, having beenmade to order. The provost marshal came in with a small guard and acouple of lanterns and proceeded with his examination. I think I wasthe first man approached, the officer giving the or[Pg 10]der, "Examinethat man's feet." The order was quickly obeyed. The guards rolled upmy pant legs to observe the length of their boot tops and the qualitythereof. Their report was "Good." Another of the guard carried anold sack filled with old shoes which had been cast off by men of ourarmy. The officer politely told me "to pick out a pair of shoes fromthe sack, and get out of them boots." Having no option in the matterI very reluctantly surrendered my new boots, and replaced them with apair of the cast-off shoes. Later we will hear from those boots. Theyexamined every man's feet, made a number of good trades, then raisedthe blockade. After this we were allowed the privilege of the wholeroom, and laid ourselves down for a good night's rest.

Next morning (October 20th) we were marshaled out into the street,put under a mounted guard in command of a lieutenant, and started forCulpepper. This guard proved to be an exception to most guards; theywere very gentlemanly, worthy of the responsibility they had undertakenand would frequently dismount

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