By a survivor of Andersonville
May 11 1904 Morris ChronicleThe description of the western face is that of the other walls of the inclosure, which we estimated contained about 30 acres, not in a square but of perhaps three times the length north and south of the width east and west; about two-thirds the length or more lying on the north side of the stream.
Now we are at the gates. To day it is in the memories of the past, that we stand before them. Were it a reality we would turn and flee as from the gates of hell. We find them double; the outer gates open into a kind of anti-court and are not opposite the inner ones but at the southwest corner. The space is perhaps four or five rods square. Exactly opposite the inner gates are two twenty-four or thirty-two pounders side by side, watchdogs threatening and holding in check the half starved and despairing prisoners should a purpose form among them to make a dash for liberty. Before the inner gates are opened those in our rear are closed. This method is always followed in the entrance or exit from the prison. All prisoners are brought in thro' this entrance as well as the rations, wood etc. While waiting in the court I noticed a set of stocks by the northern wall in which two men were being punished, sweltering beneath a broiling sun, hands and feet fast; they were uncomfortable at the least.
INSIDE ANDERSONVILLE PRISON
Now the massive inner gates are swung back, we pass through, they close behind us and we are prisoners of Andersonville prison. What does it mean? We look about us; we see the skeleton like faces and forms of those who are pressing near us. We see the drawn lips and burning eyes of famine and disease. We see the tattered, filthy garments. We hear the peculiar cry, and a feeling of depression comes over us as we realize that we are to become as these. They greet us kindly with many questions. Where are we from? What is being done? What appears the prospect of the war? Is there any talk of the exchange of prisoners? Have we any newspapers? etc. The poor fellows are in the world but no longer of it. What they know of what is going on outside the prison is from the lips of the new arrivals, or perhaps from the columns of some newspaper brought in by them. (These were generally confiscated, for the Johnnies had a curiosity to read Northern news) We moved along slowly as interest subsided, no longer in ranks, our guards having been withdrawn, we were at liberty; the liberty of hell, as the poor inmates designated it, and aptly, for truly it seems to me it would have satisfied the most orthodox idea as a type of that uncomfortable place.
The street on which we were is designated as Market. It is the Broadway of the city. It is in fact the only street through which a team can be driven. Here the supply of rations, wood, etc., are delivered for the prison. Here are police headquarters. Here near the gateway the trial was made of about seventy men, against whom charges were brought of murder and theft. Six of these heard the sentence of death pronounced upon them and to-morrow are to meet execution by the rope. Here is the suttlers' place, where one may buy a good meal; potatoes, ham, eggs, biscuit, butter, etc. at the insignificant cost of from $5 to $10. Salt retails at 25 cents per spoonful; biscuit, inferior in size, color and quality, 25 cents per one. We pass hungrily and sadly by and seek a place to rest. The street upon which we are terminates about midway of the prison. Chaos commences of disorder and confusion. It seems wherever one has found a bit of unoccupied ground he has taken possession, for you see everyone has a home even in Andersonville, if it be only a bare unsheltered place where he can lay himself down and lift his eyes to the azure above. It is his home until he vacates his title by death or removal to another place. We picked a devious way in and out among the thickly settled community, bearing to the higher ground and so avoiding as far as possible the vicinity of morass which lay along the stream and was a bed of filth some five or six rods in width, filling all the surrounding air with its poisoned odors.
I think at this time we were nearly all together, and soon near the eastern side of the prison and near the top of the slope to the stream we found an unoccupied place and immediately took the necessary measures to securing our claim by seating ourselves upon it. Imagine if you can our situation. Turn yourselves into an open field in which you are confined, not a green thing around you, no shelter to life above your head from the sun by day or the damp and chill of the night; from the continued storm or the bursting shower, thinly clothed, half fed, surrounded by a dense throng of suffering, sick and starving humanity, with no promise in the future to look forward to only the evidence on every hand of what imprisonment had done, what it was doing and what it still had power to do. What wonder if the cheek pales the joke dies from the lips and even hope, the last and truest friend of poor humanity, almost flees the heart. We say little and we think much. As our eyes take in the situation and sights around us we see fully one-half the camp have blanket shelters raised in rude tent form, the occupants being compelled to use such sticks as they were able to find for the purpose of elevating them. We are told that the original prison was ready for occupancy in March of the present year. That the first installment of prisoners was brought here in that month from Libby and Bell Island, and it being in the cold season still they were allowed to bring their blankets with them, and others had since been brought in, especially those captured from Sherman, who had not been thoroughly plucked. This I had from the lips of one of the first commers, who had been at that time a prisoner seventeen months.
[CONTINUED NEXT WEEK]