By a survivor of Andersonville

June 15 1904 Morris Chronicle

I will tell you something of our neighbors, for there are two I wish to give a little space in the memories. On one side we had two young men, scarcely more than boys. We knew them as Allen and Howard, and strange as it may seem, especially with the first, a warm friendship grew between us. I do not recollect that I heard the surname of either, we simply knew each other by the names with which our intimate companions addressed us. They were from a Pennsylvania regiment. Allan was of an open hearted true and honest type, from whose lips I recollect never to have heard an evil expression. The other was of a taciturn, servitive character, who seemed rather to avoid our friendship. Back of us were quartered four or five Dutchmen who conversed altogether in their native language, with whom it was impossible to exchange a word of conversation. On the opposite side were two cavalrymen, very pleasant and agreeable, with both of whom we made friends. In front of us a little way to our right and on the opposite side of a narrow path, on which we were located, three men, or rather two men and a boy, one hot summer day took up their quarters. They had a blanket shelter and were better equipped than average comers, and all seemed to be of a better class of prisoners. But it is of the boy whom we knew as Willie I wish to speak. He was very young. I should not say more than 16 or seventeen years of age, of the slender, fairhaired, fair-complexioned type, so much so that I wondered at his having been able to obtain acceptance in the service, and certainly I saw none brought into the prison who seemed more out of place than he.

My interest was attracted immediately and forebodings quickly realized, the change grew upon him swiftly from the first, his face grew pale, his step feeble and the flesh wasted from his form soon. He laid most of the time in his place, his companions being very kind to him, doing all that was in their power. Dispondency and homesickness added to the real ills invariably met, of scant unwholesome food, impure water, and exposure; a combination that would have overcome the strongest, makes but short work with the chances of this poor boy. For three or four days he had been unable to leave his bed, when one night I noticed, after quiet had settled over the camp, an unusual restlessness with Willie, his suffering moans were borne continually to my ears, and towards midnight I saw he was making an effort to rise, which he finally succeeded in doing by drawing himself up with one of the sticks that supported their shelter. He was but a shadow in the dim light, yet I could see it was with the greatest effort he was able to support himself there and I was on the point of going to his assistance when one of his companions sprang to his side, and supporting him with his arms asked him, "Willie what's the matter, where are you going?" He said, "The gates are open I am going home." Partly by persuasion and partly by force he was borne back to his place, from which he was never to rise again, for death came to his relief next day. The gates of his dream were the cruel gates of Andersonville. The gates he entered were the gates of Paradise.

The prison is beginning to manifest its power upon all the members of our little party, the flesh is waster, the look of feverish anxiety which had struck us in the expression of others on our first entrance to the prison, is manifest in the faces of our friends. Disease, too, has laid its hand on some. Adelbert Eldred and Henry Rogers are dying. The first from the greatest of all scourges of the prison, diarrhoea; the latter from a sore throat of some character, some thought diphtheria, but this I do not think possible, as it was the only case that came to my knowledge in the camp of death resulting from a similar character.

I do not recollect seeing Adelbert but once or twice. He was in a locality out of our usual line, which I had no occasion to visit except it was especially to see him. He had isolated himself entirely from all, and I fear he was not looked after as he ought to have been by any of us. Once especially I recall being down there. The ground was dry and smooth though the locality of morass and sink made it objectionable to me. The poor fellow was eating his ration standing up, not a dish, not a visible article near him. Save the clothing he had on his person he had nothing but the pitiless sky above, the earth beneath, not a thing to protect him from either. Was not death merciful in coming to him?

Henry Rogers was not of our Company but a former townsman, whom Butternuts people claim should be credited to them, he having enlisted from that town, with the Second New York Heavy Artillery, in which regiment he was serving at the time of his capture. I think he was taken prisoner in the same engagement in which we were, and had been brought to Andersonville and remained with us until his death, which was one of the first to occur. He was a robust, strong young man, one who would naturally have been selected by most people as likely to make the best fight for existence. Aldin Ripley, James Miller, and my chum, Abel Card, are manifesting somewhat the symptoms of the disease to which later they too are to yield their lives, scurvey.

It had been Abel Card's and my own practise to arise every night between 12 and 2 o'clock and go down to the stream near the bridge and take such a bath as we were able without soap and towel; this latter article however we later supplemented very satisfactorily by taking the rear breadth from my discarded shirt, so perhaps it was unnecessary I mention its absence. That faithful shirt, how I did hate to part with it; for four months perhaps it had done constant and uninterrupted service, save only on a few brief occasions when it had been relieved from duty a few moments for washing, to be returned with moist and clinging fondness to the bereaved back from which it had been torn. If those washings, I am now constrained to believe, had been still less in number this most faithful friend might have been longer spared to me. Of course its demise was not at once. Thinness preceded the breaking thread, the frilled rent. First the sleeves, then the shoulder and body in turn until it was a useless shirt, but useful as a drying cloth after the bath.

Forgive this lengthy obituary to a wornout garment, though indeed it has (lively) memories connected with it.


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