By a survivor of Andersonville
August 10 1904 Morris Chronicle
But one incident occurred while here that I recollect worthy of mention. A few mornings after our arrival we saw two or three officers approaching, and after a little consultation one of them stepped forward and calling attention, said: "I want a thousand men to form in line immediately for exchange." The call was on the opposite side of the camp from where I was, and neither my companion or myself made an effort to get in line, knowing it would be useless, but Andrew Brown of our party did succeed in getting a place where he was counted with the thousand. I went near enough to speak with him before they were marched away, and well recollect the expression of voice and feature of anticipation of freedom, home and friends soon to be obtained, written all over him. I think the shock of the disappointment he met must have killed him. for it was all a cruel joke, we learned afterward, and the exchange was simple from Blackshire to Salsbury, North Carolina. From that day no news that I have heard has ever been obtained of him. He doubtless died there. He was a good soldier, promptly answering to the call of every duty.
BACK TO ANDERSONVILLE
About the 20th of December we were again mustered in line and the column was marched away westward. At first none of us knew our destination, but finally it was whispered down the ranks, "Home to Andersonville." At this news you can imagine the feelings of rejoicing which we experienced. I will not attempt to describe it. We were to go by way of Albany. The distance from Blackshire to Albany is something over 100 miles, where we were to be freighted the remaining distance, some 50 or 60 miles, by rail. The highway we followed was a passable one enough of the Southern type of that day, did not have the appearance of being much used for wagon purposes. It lay all the way thro' the pine forest. The streams we crossed were all small, and only the unfordable ones were bridged. Any water below the knees or even of greater depth in flood seasons was fordable. We saw but one or two houses in the whole journey, and these were of the cracker type, miserable huts, in which the comforts of life must have consisted of the numerous progeny with which they were stocked. But I must relate to you a bit of experience of my own connected with this long winter's journey, which although not that of the Northern latitude was not lacking in a degree of cold. When captured in June it chanced that I was in government shoes, which though easy to the feet were not the most enduring foot gear, consequently the six months or more of constant wear had been too much for them. The stitching had given away which connected sole and upper some time before this and I had been compelled to preserve connection by tying with leather strings, holes being bored with a penknife blade, and a fine artistic job was accomplished. But alas, they were no longer water or sand proof, as I found to my sorrow before three miles of our journey had been accomplished. Sand first found its way in, then water and a grinding commenced which threatened to skin my poor feet completely. It was not to be endured and I was compelled to use the only remedy, throwing them away and going barefooted, and in this manner all my future travels in the Confederacy were accomplished.
The streams were high and cold and the nights often frosty, but we had plenty of wood and privilege to build comfortable fires, besides I obtained some old rags and swathed my swollen feet in them nights. I was by no means the only one who made this long December march in bare feet. It drew towards its close however and we emerged from the forest near Albany, and when a mile or two from that place and a half mile from the Flint river, which flowed between, we came to one of the world's famous springs, called Crystal, I suppose on account of its perpetual clearness. I should think this bubble must be about twenty or thirty feet in diameter and it boils up with great force. It would be impossible for a body to sink in it. One could look down into its clear depths for many feet. Sometime earlier a resort had existed there apparently, which had long since fallen in ruins. A stream of water larger than the Unadilla river at New Berlin flowed from it. As I gazed at this wonderful river fountain I wondered if it was not the one to which the Indians led the old Spaniard Don Ponce de Leon in his search for the fountain of youth.
But we loiter. It is forward over the Flint river to Albany, board train and December 24th we are once more, some 4,000 poor wretches, marched inside the gates of Andersonville for the second time. A dreary and barren welcome the old prison presented us; only something of the evidence remained of the dense throng which had filled it, in the useless wells and numerous little burrows and excavations which existed on the faces of the slopes where some poor wretches had sought protection by half burrowing in the sand and clay, which had often proved a treacherous wall of safety when the floods poured down upon them dissolving the clay and burying the occupants in mud and mire. Deep furrows were now plowed where the heavy fall rains had washed the light and sandy soil from the hillsides into beds of yellow deposit along the edge of the morass which seemed half filled with the wash, and from the dammed up overflow of the little stream at the exit beneath the eastern wall of the stockade the rains and frosts had partially purified this late hot bed of filth. Still the katydids hovered over it for the crumbs which might yet be found remaining of the feasts of earlier days.
[CONTINUED NEXT WEEK]