By a survivor of Andersonville
August 17 1904 Morris Chronicle
Do you wonder if after all the deprivation and experience we had met and passed through, having once, as we supposed, escaped this earthly hell, we felt a little despondent at the prospect before us? How could we survive the winter three months destitute as we were; was there any ground for hope? I did not see Captain Wirtz when we came in this time, but some said the old man shed tears at our reception again, our appearance and the prospect that awaited us. A few blankets had been distributed to the men, gifts from the Sanitary Commission late in the fall. They were flimsy affairs, far inferior to the Government blanket in size and texture, yet far better than nothing. I doubt if there were four dozen of them in the camp; none I think in our party.
The rations of food were of same kind and quantity as on our first visit. But a new arrangement was instituted in regard to wood. Squads were allowed to go out every day under guard to bring in what they were able on their backs. Opportunity was afforded each individual once in about every three days. It had to be brought half a mile or more and consisted of what we could pick up in the woods without saw or ax and were able to carry. This, though a hard task for some, afforded us far more fuel that we had received by the old method, so we were able to afford a little for warmth above the requirements for cooking.
On our return to Andersonville my comrade and myself went to work moulding brick of the clay, fashioned by hand and sun-dried, with which, when we had sufficient quantity, we built a brick house some seven feet long by four or five feet in width, covered with the piece of canvas previously mentioned, which finally proved inadequate, and one night we were compelled to vacate in haste, to witness our artistic mansion dissolve itself beneath a heavy downpour into the mass of mud from which it had been erected. Had it been completely covered so no water could have come in contact with the clay it would have been quite comfortable.
Later we joined company with three others for economy's sake, warmth being the consideration. By this means one or two of us had privilege to go out every day for wood. On coming to the stockade this time we had chosen a location on the south side of the stream. After our connection with the others we excavated a place about seven or eight feet square to the depth of about eighteen inches and when one of our number was permitted to go out he took a blanket and filed it with leaves and twigs with which we lined our nest.
We had in the party beside the piece of canvas which we spread over the feathers now three blankets which we used for covering in case of storm, two of these had to form the watershed in tent fashion, to protect us from the rain. Fortunately these were not frequent during the winter, and no snow of any amount, though on one or two occasions there were flurries in the air. We had cold weather nights in which the ground froze quite hard and ice would form over the standing water in pools to considerable thickness.
When we retired, as we did habitually every night, and much of the time on clod days, we were packed in bed like sardines in a box. If one wished to turn over he was compelled to suffer until the feeling had extended to the whole party, when it was "presto change," and the spoon was shifted to the other side. On pleasant days of course we aired ourselves and stirred up and aired the nest, and in this way all of us passed the winter in comparative health. I think I must tell you of my Christmas cake.
On the day of our coming into the stockade, Dec. 24th, I saved a portion of my meal, which added to my Christmas allowance, afforded me about a pint for the requirement. This I wet up with cold water, and without salt or any other addition pour ed the precious batter in a half canteen basin and baked it all the earlier part of the day over and under a pine wood fire. A respectable crust was formed on the top, a little darker perhaps than fastidious housewives would approve. It was also tainted a little with pitch smoke, but it was the best I could do, and lack of toothsomeness the dainty might have experienced in eating it was completely overcome in my case by an appetite which devoured it and pronounced it good, that which only a starving dog could have eaten. Ah, you people to whom nothing tastes good, whose pampered appetites have been lost in the eating of good things, let me prescribe for you. Build a little Andersonville out on the sidehill, get the best blanket the house affords, let some friend supply you with two-thirds of a pint of unbolted corn meal, half a pint of stock peas, every kernel of which is perforated by worms, a little piece of meat the size of your fingers, or in lieu a half gill of something called molassas. This to be your allowance every twenty-four hours until a cure is effected. How long before it will revive the taste, think you?
I have seen numerous instances of individuals picking up a bone some wasteful person had thrown away, heat the end in the fire and suck the oozing grease and gnaw the charred and blackened end, repeating until every particle of fat was extracted.
Starvation is a remedy that cures all daintiness and sweetens to the taste the roughest and coarsest fare.
Although, as I have stated before, by the method we adopted we were able to endure the cold, there were others who were not,and very many who suffered greatly. On several of the most extremely cold nights men were chilled or frozen to death.