By a survivor of Andersonville
May 25 1904 Morris Chronicle
I think our first prison ration was issued to us toward night on our first day. As we had been without food since morning and it was after noon when we entered the prison we were ready for it. This time our provision was cooked. It consisted of coarse unbolted corn meal bread and bacon boiled; the bread was without salt, and had the appearance of having been baked in a shallow tin or sheet iron dishes of about ten or twelve inches in width, the loaves cut lengthwise through the middle then the halves divided into slices constituting the ration. These were from two to three inches in thickness, two inches wide and four or five inches long. The bacon was a piece not larger than a person's two fingers. This ration was for twenty-four hours. For a time I tried to divide this into two meals, thinking it would be better for me to do so, but soon gave it up, as did most of the others, and ate the whole as soon as received, going without until the next day. This was the ration day after day for several days. Then a change was made and the raw material was issued to us with some variation, except in the corn meal; that portion of our diet was not changed. No bread food of any kind but corn passed our lips again during our stay in the Confederacy. I do not know why this change was made. Whether at the request of the prison or of their own minds. It necessitated the provision of wood for cooking and brought great hardship to many in the prison who had no means for cooking, as no dishes were provided for that purpose. Later I will continue this subject. The night is approaching, our first in the prison, and though we have no preparations to make there is much comfort to be found in companionship. The sights around us are gradually shut out by the gathering night. The noise and stir of the day ceases, only here and there where some suffering one moans in pain and dispair as he lies helpless and alone, with not a friend to sympathize, or minister to his dying wants, babbling perhaps in an abstraction of mind, of the home and loved ones he is never more to see. Such sounds as these which have been smothered by the confused noises of the wakened camp, with their subsidence are now revealed - sounds from which our ears are never to be freed again during our confinement in Andersonville. We are continually in the presence of death. An average of four in every hour of the twenty- four are falling in the great battle with exposure and starvation.
Now for the first time we listen to the watch- word of the guards as they circle the stockade from post to post, 'nine o'clock, and all is well'; and what a mockery it seems to us poor wretches as we throw ourselves on the naked earth and try to shut out the foreboding and surrounding worries that oppress us, in sleep.
It is the 11th or 12th of July, the day following our arrival in the prison and the day appointed for the execution of the convicted murderers. There is early an unusual stir in the camp. A crowd is gathering on the southern side between the gate and stream. The scaffold is being prepared, the accommodating rebels kindly loaning the material for the purpose. Two posts are erected some twelve feet in height and twelve feet apart, connected at the top by a strong horizontal cross-beam four or five feet from the ground. Directly beneath this is prepared the trap, a strong plank that will bear the weight of the six men who are to stand upon it, but which at a blow can be loosed from its supports and fall to the ground. Six dangling nooses at regular spaces are attached to the beam; six trembling men are ranged beneath them; they are adjusted; the word is given; the drop is sprung and five struggling forms are suspended in the air. One rope has broken and the poor wretch springs away down the slope towards the stream amid the dense throng, but falls to lose himself and is soon overtaken and dragged back protesting his innocence all the way, declaring the incident to be the intervention and testimony of Heaven in his behalf, but his words are not heeded for a moment. The crowd cries, 'less talk and more hanging;' and the poor fellow is lifted up and the rope readjusted and soon swings a corpse beside his fellows.
I did not join the crowd around the scaffold and I think none of our party did, but it was all in plain view from where we were on the opposite side. It was doubtless justice, but it was horrible to me, especially the latter incident.
We will refer again to our early time friend for information in regard to why and how the scene we witnessed happened. He said some weeks earlier great lawlessness existed in the prison. A gang of roughs ruled, almost taking by force or theft whatever they found in the possession of others that they desired; if no other way could be found even resorting to murder. Eight bodies had been found secreted in one place. For protection this had led to the organization of a police force, who had arrested these men. A court was convened consisting of judge, jury, counsel for defence and prosecution and everything had been done in regular legal form and order down to the execution which we witnessed.
This piece of justice doubtless had its influence. Though petty theft existed I never heard after of murder being committed among the prisoners. The police organization became a permanent institution. The members I was told received an extra ration as compensation for services, whether from the prison supply or outside, I am unable to say.
[CONTINUED NEXT WEEK]