By a survivor of Andersonville

May 4 1904 Morris Chronicle


How well it is we are not able to comprehend the future. That the sufferings and hardships we are to meet are not massed before us but present themselves from day to day, or time to time, piecemeal, to be met with the courage that hope lends. Almost as long as life lasts that change will take place. To-morrow the clouds will be dispelled; the difficulties overcome to morrow - always to morrow.

We were hustled off the train and ordered to form in four ranks to be counted, which we hastily commenced to do, but being a mixed company a little confusion resulted at first, which Captain Wirtz did not obviate any as he came down the line with a drawn revolver in his hand, saying: "Vare I finds five I make four." This was our introduction to the commander of Andersonville prison, and the only time in which I was ever in close proximity to him. He was a tall spare man, I should think about 60 years of age; sober and severe in every expression, betraying his nationality in a strong German accent. We were numbered in companies of 100. This I supposed was for two purposes. First, account must be taken by the commander of numbers received in charge. Second, for purpose of rations. One man was appointed in charge of each hundred to draw from the commissary and to divide to the sub-divisions of twenty-five, into which each hundred was separated. This sub-division was made by ourselves in the prison.

After all preliminaries had been settled our column was faced prisonward and the march was ordered down the little valley toward the terrible scene of suffering and death we were to face. Our eyes went out in interest. Before us we saw the stockade; we saw the dense crowd of moving human shapes, but we saw no canvas tents. We saw many blanket shelters which we knew were individual protections, and our hearts began to fail us. The Confederacy would not or could not afford to shelter its prisoners of war. We were to be herded as cattle, in open field at the mercy of whatever element prevailed. The sun, the tempest, the heat of day and the chill of dews of night were to rest upon us, on a bare uncovered ground, for we had, with nut two or three exceptions, not a thing but just the clothing we wore. I had a small piece of canvas which Edward Hammond had given me. He smuggled it from Bell Island. It was about four by six feet in size, and getting tired of carrying it on the march from Lynchburg to Dansville was about to throw it away when I discovered his intentions and tried to persuade him not to do so. I told him he might find it useful, that we did not know whether we would find shelter or not where we were being taken to. But he said he was tired of carrying it, and if I would not take it he would throw it away. So I accepted it and had brought it through. This with one or two other pieces was all that we Morris men possessed of covering or shelter. Everything of the kind had been taken from us in the search at Libby, excepting the very clothing we had on.

I may as well state here that Darel Stevens and George Reeve were not in the column; they had been overcome by the hardships of this journey so they were not able to march, and we suppose both were taken to the prison hospital where both died. We were never able, after leaving the train, to hear from them again. This prison hospital seems to have been a kind of death's valley; to all who entered it none ever lived to be restored to us. Its treatment and management must remain a mystery. Here is where we parted with the first two of our number whose prison history is thus early told.

The general direction of the railroad is north and south. Andersonville lies about two miles west from the station, a mere hamlet of two hundred and fifty inhabitants. It is nowhere visible from the road. There was not a single habition at that time visible from the prison. The station was simply a flag of the cheapest kind. As we advanced I noted on our righthand the fort and batteries, occupying an elevated, commanding position. The black mouths of the cannon opening our threateningly to ward the prison, a warning to mutinous thoughts or purposes. Back of these, just visible we could see the tops of the white tents of the guards, who I afterwards learned murdered about 4,000 men. I think there were twenty-four pieces of cannon, so placed as to be able to sweep the prison in all quarters. To our left extended at a little distance what appeared to be a large pine forest. As we advance our view is contracted to the lower ground of the narrow valley. We cross the little stream to the northern side. We note first the stables of the teamsters and their own quarters. On the opposite side and lying between the batteries and the stream, which appears to be the water supply of the rebel camp as well as the prison, a little further and we pass the cook's house for the prisoners. It is close to the edge of the stream, the wash and filth from which is added to its already murkey waters. And now the stockade of the prison rises before us, about parallel with the railroad, its face stretches down across the little ravine. A wall which shuts everything from view before us we note is made of pine logs hewn on two sides, the straightened edges of which are placed together and held upright by being set in a deep trench (I learned later that the logs were cut twenty-five feet long, six feet of which were in the ground and nineteen above). At intervals of about ten rods platforms were built out from the stockade about three feet from the top on the outside, with a board shelter from rain or sun, open on all sides and sufficiently high so as not to interfere with the tallest man's standing beneath. These stations were reached by means of ladders and were always occupied by guards. There were forty-four of these platforms.


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