By a survivor of Andersonville
June 1 1904 Morris Chronicle
The location of the Prison, climatic and otherwise, was the best possible. The air was dry and pure, the water supply sufficient and of good quality could it have reached us in its natural purity. I attribute the great suffering and mortality which existed to the quantity and quality of the food and exposure to the elements. No contagious epidemic of disease touched the prison as of small pox or fevers. Dysentery, diarrhoea and scurvey were the afflictions from which we suffered, and from which three-fourths of the deaths occurred. Had fresh vegetables even on alternate days been issued I believe the result would have been different. It was hot climate, poor food, wet and chilly nights and storms that here fought for the Confederacy.
Here was found representatives of every civilized country (excepting that out of which the war had grown, Africa); every profession and occupation; the theologiacal, the medical, and the law schools were represented. Every other occupation can be mentioned. Merchants had left their counters, the minister his pulpit, and the farmer his plow, to come to Andersonville. The wise and the foolish, good, bad and indifferent, all were here.
People have asked me what effect the seeing and meeting of conditions in the prison had had on new arrivals. This of course was almost as varied as their names, and wholly according to the different temperaments. Some took up the life hopefully, making the best fight possible; observing cleanliness as far as possible in washing their persons, keeping their clothing free from vermin, exercise, etc. Others drifted along, living from day to day easily and indifferently as was their natures. Some sat down hopelessly, waiting the death that seemed inevitable and which usually soon claimed them. We may conjugate the chances of the three classes of living in this way: Good, possible, hopeless. In regard to the moral effect of the prison, I failed to observe that affliction had a tendency to bring men to repentance. This too was governed much by temperament of the individual and perhaps by the earlier opportunity or training received. Many I fear followed the foolish counsel of Job's wife, and cursing man and God died.
As only the usual events are occurring we will bring ourselves forward a couple of weeks. Our Morris party has broken up a little. Comrades James Lewis and Edward Hargrave have early removed to a more approved locality a few rods lower down the slope, and Adelbert Eldred alone is down near the very edge of the swamp. Abel Card and myself have found a location with more liberty higher up near the boundary of the old prison on the north side. A description of our new home may be of interest to some readers. In the first place we procured a quantity of the red clay of which the subsoil of the prison was underlayed, with which we raised a bed five or six inches high, six or more feet in length by four or five feet wide. At one end we built up a kind of bolster or pillow. This bed after it had dried in the sun was as smooth and hard as a brick, and could be brushed as clean as a house floor, but would soften and become sticky if exposed to continual wetting. Then we procured four sticks some four feet in length, which we drove in the ground at the corners of our bed, and to the tops of which we fastened the piece of canvas I have described. A fifth stick a little longer than the others elevated the center sufficiently to enable us to sit comfortably underneath, and although worthless as a watershed it sheltered us from the sun and the dew somewhat, which was a great comfort and advantage to us. Later I obtained a piece of board of which there seemed to be no owner. It was five or six feet in length by about fourteen inches in width. This was my bed for the future time of our first stay in the prison. It was drier than the earth at most times and equally as downy. I may say this was not the usual way of preparation. Most of the camp took the earth as they found it, with perhaps a little smoothing or leveling of a place on which to lay
Cleanliness had been one consideration with us in thus preparing to lift ourselves out of the dust, and an effort to escape the vermin of different character which infested the prison. We were unable to do this fully however, for although the sides of our bed were almost perpendicular, after a damp night we would have to dust the persevering maggot, who had scaled the walls and invaded the sanctity of our rest. Against these I had at first great antipathy, but later learned to regard them with less unfriendly eyes, recognizing them as the scavangers that by their number and industry were perhaps warding from us disease of other worse character.
In the construction of the prison the stream had been depended upon to provide all the essential needs for preservation of sanitary conditions. The upper end, where it entered the stockade, was to supply water for drinking and washing purposes. The lower part, at which the sink was located, to carry all filth from the camp. This accommodation was ample and well planned had all been able to avail themselves of it, but sickness and feebleness prevented. Men lingered in a helpless condition for some days usually before death came to relieve them, and sad were the sights one must witness on every side who started out for a walk in Andersonville. Have you no heart, have your nerves been steeled in the furnace of accustomed sights of suffering? We will go a little way. You must see through my eyes of remembrance, and the view to you will be softened as only that of reflection; the gazing upon a picture the reality of which you do not see and the experience of which you cannot feel.
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