Experience of a Confederate States Prisoner Being an Ephemeris Regularly Kept by an Officer of the Confederate States Army
The cover was created by the transcriber and is placed in thepublic domain.
Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected.Variations in hyphenation and consistent non-standard spelling remainunchanged.
Confederate States Prisoner,
REGULARLY KEPT BY
An Officer of the Confederate States Army.
WEST & JOHNSTON, PUBLISHERS.
G. W. GARY, Printer.
The gallant Morgan has said that our independence is an achieved fact. “Privationand suffering have won it.” It is true that the noble South has been deprivedof many of its wonted necessaries, not to say luxuries, by the present invasionof those disciples of Satan, commonly called “Yankees.” Paper, amongother things, is scarce in the South, and paper may be turned into excellent accountin the composition of cartridges, while metal that might be moulded intobullets is run into type. Yet newspapers and books are printed, and most ofthem eagerly read, especially any that have the most remote bearing upon the presentcontest. In these stern times of war’s realities, plain facts challenge our attentionrather than the gaudy fiction of novels. Honey from Mount Hybla, orNectar from Olympus, would fail on the palate, unless relieved by homelier viands;and it would certainly require considerable stoicism to sit down to a tale of imaginarywoes and sorrows while one great wail is going up from our sick andwounded—an incredible amount of apathy to sit leisurely down to such a book underthe shade of a tree while the nation is sending out a heartcry for reinforcements toour brave legions, in order to speedily defeat the unscrupulous enemy. This littlebook is intended as, and professes no more than a plain statement of facts, sothat others may learn what I have read, seen and heard, without undergoingthe pain of incarceration in the hands of Yankees, whose tyranny increases in proportionto the power they possess over their victims.
May, 1862. A “heavy march” on the 6th and 7th instantresulted in a Confederate victory at McDowell, Highland county,at which place a battle was fought on the 8th. General Jacksonrouted and drove the enemy, commanded by the YankeeGenerals, Milroy and Schenck, twenty-five miles into Pendletoncounty, and captured a large amount of ammunition, commissarystores, arms, and many prisoners. Our forces afterwardscompletely routed Banks’ column at Winchester, and thoroughlydefeated Fremont and Shields at Cross Keyes and Port Republic.After the battle at Front Royal, I remained at that place uponthe recommendation of the regimental surgeon, on account ofhaving strong symptoms of the Typhoid fever, which turnedout to be the genuine disease. Dr. Brown, the resident physician,attended me; and a member of my own company, Mr.Oxford, nursed me faithfully from the 23d May, the day ourforces entered Front Royal, to the 30th May, the day that theYankees under General Shields recaptured it. The 12th Georgiaregiment was the only force left at Front Royal. TheProvost Marshal, or the Colonel commanding the 12th Georgia,gave us notice but one hour before the Yankees were in thetown that they were advancing. When Mr. Oxford informedme of the near approach of the Yankees, I quickly jumped outof bed, and we hastily made a retreat towards Winchester. Thesalutary and kind attentions of Dr. Brown and Mr. Oxford hadmuch improved me in strength, but I soon discovered that Icould not keep pace with the latter in our eager efforts to escape.We succeeded in getting about one mile and a half from thetown when the Yankee cavalry were heard closing on us so fastthat we leaped over a fence on the left of the road, thinkingthat we might conceal ourselves in the high grass until the6cavalry passed, and be enabled to elude them by getting into thewoods near by. In the confusion, however, Mr. Oxford and Ibecame separated, and by this time the Yankee cavalry wereclose enough to fire twice on myself and two others from the33d Virginia, who attempted to make their escape in the samedirection. The cavalry soon after had surrounded us, and wewere compelled to surrender, and were marched into town undera heavy guard. The commissioned officers were carried beforeGeneral Shields, and the non-commissioned officers and privatesto the building used by our army as a hospital, where we hadsome hundred sick at the time. The commissioned officers atfirst confined to any house they might select, were afterwardsparoled the town. I was taken to Mr. John B. Petty’s house,and ordered to remain there “for the present” by one of GeneralShields’ staff. About an hour after I was left at the abovenamed house, a Pennsylvania Major came into the room whereI was, and very abruptly asked me, “What are you doing here?”I informed him that by order of General Shields I was to remainthere “until further orders;” he would not believe me, andplaced two sentinels in the room until he found that my statementwas correct. Captain Keogh (on General Shields’ staff)gave me the following note, saying, when he did so, that I wouldnot be “any further annoyed by officers in other regiments”that had nothing to do with my case:
“Headquarters, Shields’ Division, May 30, 1862.
“Captain W. is allowed to remain at the house of Mr. John B. Petty (until furtherarrangements are made,) the said Captain W. being a prisoner of war. Byorder of Major General Shields.
MILES W. KEOGH,
After the lapse of two days I was allowed the limits of thetown, but being sick I did not go out of the house for five daysafter I was captured, when I walked down to the barbers’ shop.While passing the hotel I was called by a Federal officer, whosename I learned afterwards was General Duryea, of New York.I went into his room, around which were sitting several otherFederal officers, and the General addressed me, “What are youdoing walking about the streets? Are you not a Southernofficer?” I replied “I am,” and told him that Major Shedd,the Provost Marshal, had paroled me the town. General Duryeathen said,7 “I understand, sir, that when the Rhode Islandcavalry had you in their power, and could have killed you, thatas one of the cavalry dismounted to take your sword, andwas proceeding to mount again, you fired your pistol twice atthe back of his neck.” I replied such could not be true, for Ihad no pistol about me when captured. General Duryea thensaid, “I may be mistaken, but I wish to find out what Captainit was, and visit the proper vengeance upon him.” The daybefore the Yankees entered Front Royal, a colored man died ofsmall pox in a small frame house near the railroad depot, and bygeneral consent of both citizens and the Yankee paroled prisonersin the town, it was agreed as advisable to burn the houseand body, in order to prevent the spread of the dangerous andcontagious disease. The Yankees were told by some traitor,or else themselves originated the lie, that we had burned up twoof the Yankee prisoners in our hands, and they swore vengeanceagainst us—declared that they intended to “put the town inashes,” and nothing but a special order of General Shields to thecontrary, and forbidding interference with any property whatever,prevented the soldiers from giving vent to spleen engenderedby a false and malicious report. General Shields was informedby Major Collins, (Vermont cavalry,) in my presence, that whilea prisoner in our hands he was treated most kindly, and that allreports to the contrary had no foundation in truth; and all theother Federal prisoners endorsed the statement of Major Collins.
June 6th. We have been told from day to day that all “GeneralJackson’s men” would be paroled until exchanged, andyet at the same time preparations are being made to take us toWashington, i. e., about nineteen officers, and one hundred andfifty non-commissioned officers and privates. The kindness ofthe people of Front Royal, and especially the ladies to the Confederateprisoners, deserves the highest praise. Devoted to ourcause, they omit no opportunity to show their regard for thosewho are endeavoring to rescue them from the obnoxious presenceand depredations of the Yankees. They keep aloof from theYankees as much as possible, and are always on the alert to dosomething for the relief of our sick and wounded.
June 7th. Among the Yankees I made the acquaintance ofAdjutant Griffin, 5th New York cavalry, who treated me kindly,as also Captain Abraham Moore, Captain Isaac S. Tichenor,and Major Shedd, 105th New York regiment, and LieutenantH. Hobert Mason, of General McDowell’s staff. Met with thecelebrated Miss “Bell Boyd” to-day. Miss B. is a sprightly, intelligentlady, au fait in all the movements of our army, andmoderately good looking. Her general information, and nonchalantmode of fluent conversation, renders her tout ensemblequite interesting. It is said she has obtained valuable informationfrom Yankee officers in regard to their movements, and8conveyed the same to our army. A great many soldiers talk tome every day, and they all so far have expressed themselves tiredof the war, but say that it will soon be ended, inasmuch as theyhave General Jackson “in a trap,” out of which he cannotescape. They say “Stonewall” is our greatest General—incomparablyso—that he is cunning and strategic, but that it is notwithin the range of human possibility for him “to elude us thistime;” that they would like to capture him, but under no considerationwould they kill either him or Ashby if they knew it.
June 8th. They say we are to be sent to Washington city onto-morrow, but we have been told so many things that have failedto come to pass, that we are too reluctant to believe any morereports. Nous verron, to-morrow. Mr. and Mrs. Petty havebeen untiring in their attentions to the sick and wounded prisonershere. They will never be forgotten by those who have beenthe recipients of their kindness, especially those who had thefortune to be under their roof. Mr. P. has been made to pay theYankees a heavy penalty on account of being “Secesh;” theyhave stolen three of his most valuable negroes, any number ofhorses, cattle, &c., besides laying waste his two farms. One ofhis negro men left him one day, and the next time he saw himthe negro was dressed in the cavalry uniform, with a sabre hangingto his side, and passed his master with silent contempt onthe street. The negro was now a member of the “Michigancavalry,” a company notorious for its success in robbery andplunder of every description. This same negro visited Mr.Petty’s house afterwards in company with three Yankee officers,and demanded of Mrs. Petty (Mr. P. was absent) the key to thewine room; Mrs. P. told them that she had only a few bottles ofwine, which she kept for medicinal purposes, and requested themnot to disturb it, but the negro persisted with threats in havingit, and told Mrs. P. “she lied” in saying she only had a few bottles.Having obtained all the wine in the house, by frighteningthis excellent lady they drank it in her presence, when theysmashed the bottles on the floor, exclaiming, “the damnedSecesh don’t deserve to have anything.”
Monday, June 9th. To-day the prisoners were put on thecars to be taken to Washington city. A lady gave one of theprisoners a boquet with a small Confederate flag attached, which,as he was about to get into the cars, was noticed by GeneralDuryea, of New York, and as soon as the latter saw it he quicklysevered the flag from the boquet, and with an air of contemptand triumph tore it into fragments, at the same time tramplingeach fragment under his feet. The people of Front Royal manifestthe greatest interest in the Confederate prisoners. They9carry provisions to them daily at the hospital, while those prisonerswho are paroled are invited to their houses. It would seemthat interest would sometimes prompt them to court Yankeefavor, but they spurn it, and remain loyal and true in their deportmentat the sacrifice of thousands of dollars worth of property,for Yankee regiments camp on the wheat fields, and stealthe horses and negroes, and kill the hogs, and commit every sortof