By a survivor of Andersonville
July13 1904 Morris Chronicle
Were you ever half sick, half starved, half clothed, almost wholly exposed to the elements, shut off from all possibility of escape, sickness and death on every hand, your associate and most intimate friend just taken from you? Then you have been in my circumstance and will understand the feelings that possessed me. I did not cry, I did not swear, I did not kick the furniture all over the house; thee was only a black and bruised tin cup and part of a caseknife, not worth the while, in fact it is a little hazy what I did do, probably sat down and whistled. It has been a sort of instinctive remedy.
I was not long to remain alone; I think it was the same day or the next (call it Providence or chance, to me it will always be Providence) I saw Henry Bishop, and he volunteered to come and stay with me. The most valuable possession I can remember that he brought was a darning needle. Were I able to properly eulogize any thing it would be that needle, a yard or two of poetry would no more than do it justice. Now every raveling was utilized. It was continually employed either by ourselves or the neighbors around us. An old stocking, of which the foot portion had been worn past remedy, was appreciated to enormous value. The coat, the pants the shirt (if one had such a luxury) were mended and darned util our section became almost famous for the toniest of residents; the whole honor due to that needle.
Observation had shown me that the Andersonville ration had a tendency to one or two results, diarrhoea or scurvy. Every prisoner almost was afflicted with one or the other, none of both at the same time. Comrade Card and myself were of opposite examples. Continued constipation with him had resulted in scurvy. Dysentary or diarrhoea had been my affliction. There had been a time when my friends had given me up almost, and I had little hope to lean upon myself. I heard one say of me, "His hands will soon be tied together." Evacuations were half blood, and I experienced the most terrible pains. Whenever one of these gripped me I was compelled to lie down any where. In coming from the stream one day I had been compelled, in one of these spells, to lie down beside the path. A number passed me without speaking, but finally one whom I always since thought of as the "good samaritan", came to me and after hearing an explanation of my condition he told me he had been in much the same condition and had saved himself by steeping blood root and drinking the extract/ I asked him were he obtained the root, and he said he had found it by digging in the camp. He said he had got some left and if I would try it he would bring it to me, which he did. When I reached home I commenced steeping it at once, at the same time I did a little mining on my own account, with the result that I found a piece of oak root. This I stripped and added to the brue. It was kill or cure. Desperate situations require desperate remedies.
Well, to my surprise as well as others, my improvement commenced. Added to this I took my ration of meal and scorched it, making of this a tea which I used for drink, eating the grounds for food, that nothing be lost. This statement may be kept for a recipe in similar cases. Simple remedy; no charge and sure cure.
On two or three occasions word was circulated in camp that prisoners would have an opportunity to write to friends. Letters must be brief and left unsealed, as all would have to be inspected. I had a few sheets of note paper and envelopes and improved each opportunity offered, writing simply that I was well and imprisoned in Andersonville, Georgia, to my parents, none of which they received. The letters were not stamped. Had I had the means to purchase a stamp none was procurable that I know of in the prison, either of Confederate or United States postage. I knew the uncertainty and consequent anxiety that must exist with them and desired very much to alleviate it if possible. Where the fault was I do not know, but doubt very much if the letters ever reached the point of exchange.
During all the time of my sickness and convalescing Henry Bishop, my new comrade, was very kind to me. I became so nearly helpless before the turning point was reached that I was unable to walk more then ten rods at one effort without being compelled to lie down and rest. I know of hardly a similar case in Andersonville of one recovering after being brought so low, and to him I have ever since given credit for my life.
A worn out blouse, pants, shoes and cap constituted my entire wardrobe. To this one day Henry added a dress coat which he took from the back of a poor fellow who had ceased to need it. It was perfectly alive with vermin, and for nearly two days we worked over it picking them off, and when almost in despair of ever being able to free it a happy thought occurred to him. He would try soaking and washing. This was the means of success. Not that the inhabitants were detached or drowned, but when after the scrub it was hung upon a stick to dry, I suppose to rearrange their rumpled feathers, get a breath of fresh air, look about to see if the flood had subsided or some other reason, they all congregated at the top, then le grand coup (as the French would put it) was accomplished, and the coat was rescued from the Philistines to become a comfortable, much appreciated garment for my own back.
It was one of Henry's daily duties to visit our sick comrades in the barracks, carrying fresh water and doing for them whatever he might for their comfort and help, selfimposed of course, an authority which sprang from one of the largest and most sympathetic hearts that ever beat in human breast. Of this there is later evidence to prove. When sufficiently recovered in health and strength I joined him in these visits and helped to share the care, which at the time and since has been so richly rewarded in thanks and memories.
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