Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Dark Side of Sod...14

Greetings friends… I hope your Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends was extra special this year. I’ve decided to continue to post entries from my (G3) grandfather’s journal from the Civil War because it has fascinating details, I think he would like for his words to be shared, and you’ve expressed an interest in reading about it too. 

For me, I can’t believe what I am reading here. I try to picture the scenes but can’t imagine having the experiences he notes, or overhearing the conversations and rumors around the camp that spread like tidal waves. I know that anyone who serves in the military during wartime situations has their own tales to tell. Many are haunted by the ghosts of their experiences…they have absolutely seen too much. They have been too close to hell, and they’ve instantly become changed people. It can’t be helped… What’s a person to do? It’s what happens to humans when you put bloodshed, fear, weapons and the sense of duty in the same room. Love can be sacrificed as there are accounts where brothers and friends standing on opposite sides…wound or kill each other.

Yet, it is so easy to take things for granted. Freedom, comfort, safety, having a choice…we simply don’t understand how lucky we are. Take a look around your world, enjoy your freedoms…just because this took place in 1864 doesn’t mean it can’t happen in some form again. 

He writes…

Sunday, July 31st, 1864
Played a couple of games of chess, but having other more important matters on hand I could not keep my mind on the chess board, and I laid it aside for the bible.

Took a walk to the branch and visited an old friend, after which I returned to quarters and occupied my mind in reflections which led in various channels but neither subjects nor reflections are recorded. Home sweet home! How my spirit longs for freedom. Revenge sore revenge. Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the lord. How long, oh how long will this confinement last?

Monday, August 1st, 1864

Confinement, not close nor solitary, neither has it been yet long – a little more than a month and yet it seems as if I was growing old – but what is the use to write? It is of no avail – the skirmish line is a paradise to this, to risk life for liberty would be a pleasure. Would that I was a poet or an historian – but neither can do justice to this place. Parson Brownlow with all his profanity could not begin to describe the utterly inhuman treatment or prisoners – an yet there are those who curse the prospect of a release and those too who claim the protection of the Federal Government, wear the Federal Blue and belong to the army of the United States. Such men have forfeited all claims on the Government and deserve the most severe censure of the Authorities and the people. Some of them will have a mark set upon them that will be equal to the brand of Cain, and it will come to pass that some finding them will slay them.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 1864

Forenoon very pleasant. Cleared up in the afternoon with a thunder storm. Wild rumors afloat of the capture of General Stoneman – as to the credulity, I am inclined to believe that it is a good deal like the reports of parole and exchange – but I have given the rumors of exchange one comment with the result of observation and practice, and failed to do the cause justice to anything here – justice is far from being known in this camp – and should I fail to comment on a subject because I could not do it justice, I would be compelled to cease writing and not attempt to make any observations. Days, months, and were it possible, years would glide past and be a blank in history if a man were to cease to make observations for want of power to do justice to the themes presented. Yet memory would retain the scenes of horror and revert to them in future with a shudder. I have become so hardened and so used to false reports that I cannot believe anything I hear and scarcely half of what I see – but were I to tell what I have seen and what I know to be so, to half of the people at home, I would be set down as a liar, and yet could they see it as I have, they would be compelled to acknowledge it.

Take it easy,

Julie Pope

The Dark Side of Sod...13

Good morning! Everybody needs some java and good dose of what a day in the life of a POW is like to start the day. Man! These experiences may not be the same in all POW camps...but captivity sucks on all levels, regardless of where a person resides. I'm enjoying the SHARE because I'm learning about my grandfather...right along with you. So, right on! It seems to me, although he is in the most horrible conditions imaginable, he is not freaking out. Almost like he accepts his condition and is surviving. Enjoy your time...

He writes,
Thursday, July 28th, 1864

A number of prisoners arrived this afternoon from Atlanta, taken in Friday's fight. The intelligence brought agrees pretty well with, and is in fact a confirmation of, other reports - and my conclusion at first seems to have been correct, that is, that General Hood had undertaken something that he could not do and got considerably worsted. There is another conclusion I have been forced to, taking everything into consideration; I can see no other object in the rebel authorities giving Hood command of the army - seeing that he is only a Major General - except that it is to sacrifice him, and in doing that, they sacrifice the army.

The fall of Atlanta is a blow from which the Confederacy can never recover, and fall it must. The prisoners report now combatants leaving town, all transportation is used in shipping things out, and arrivals from the eastern army report the rebels to be fortifying Augusta as well as Macon - for Hood's army to attempt to hold both points seems to me to be sheer nonsense. With his forces united, he cannot hold one point, and with it divided he cannot expect to do anything - but if he abandons Augusta his communication with the east cannot be maintained. If he abandons Macon, he gives up Alabama, Mississippi, and the greater part of Georgia, leaving both armies to be supported by Eastern Georgia, North and South Carolina.

If Lee attempts a retreat from Richmond he will do it at the sacrifice of his munitions of war, and these they cannot afford to lose. A concentration at any point will be the beginning of the end, and a separation will give the same result - which would be most disastrous I will not attempt to say.

Friday, July 29th, 1864

More arrivals from the front but no more news. The population of Andersonville is increasing very fast, the last week has given an addition of upwards of 2000 - but I think emigration will cease for a short time at least. It is remarkable to note the contract in prisoners that have been captured on this campaign. Leaving out the capture of the garrisons at Plymouth and Fort Pillow and with other captures of less importance, and Grant has captured more men in one day from Lee's army than both Lee and Johnston have captured from both armies on the entire campaign. I think 7000 will include all that have been taken from both armies of Grant and Sherman, while on the other hand, the men captured by Grant alone would exceed four to one of the whole, and those taken by Sherman will exceed two to one - but there is a contrast in another respect that is still greater, and that is the treatment of prisoners.

While we are stripped of every thing and confined in narrow limits on cornbread and meat without quarters, the rebs are furnished with good quarters and plenty to eat. As to the quantity we get, it is sufficient, but quality and the manner in which it is furnished is the greatest bore possible, and under other circumstances but necessity it would be intolerable. Met an old comrade.

The Dark Side of Sod...12

Good morning! I wonder what my grandfather ever thought would become of his writings from being captured in the Civil War? I know...he probably thought they would be posted on the Internet in a social forum called Facebook...of course he did. Our evolution in just a short 149 years is hard to believe. His writings are daily...I'm just picking a couple at a time.

He writes...

Wednesday July 20th, 1864

Far different feeling exist in the bosoms of many. There are those here who were honest - those who never infringed law but who are now ready to disregard all law. Confinement only makes them desperate, and woe to the man who defeats their plans, should be made known in the future. Human nature - what a theme. Pope has well said that "the proper study of mankind is man". To know man you must see him in all circumstances and in all places.

I have seen them at home. I have seen them in the farm at home enjoying all its pleasures, surrounded with friends and plenty - still they are not satisfied, they complain of hard times and are not content with the dealings of Providence. There is too much rain, or they are suffering for rain, and would be willing to argue the point with the Ruler of the Universe to convince him that they know best and would regulate affairs for Providence if they had it in their power.

In the army I have seen them surrounded with danger and bearing up under all hardships that they are called upon to endure without one word of complaint - but there is another feature that no man knows without learning by experience. That feature I see now and am seeing every day. I love liberty, but should I live to get out safe in due time, I will never begrudge the time spent in prison.

Wednesday July 27th 1864

Weather warm in the forenoon, cloudy in the afternoon with a light shower late in the day. Prisoners from Hunter's army and Petersburg came in the morning but brought no late intelligence.

A few prisoners from Sherman's army came in the evening. They report that on the 22nd the rebels charged our lines and drove them into the works but were repulsed and followed to their own works. Our loss in prisoners is reported at 2000 while the rebel loss is estimated at 5000. The loss in killed and wounded was not known, but one man - who had served six years in the old country and claims to have been in some hard battles - says he never saw as hard fighting and never saw men lie so thick on any field.

One man killed by a rebel guard - but such occurrences are not infrequent, men are shot down almost daily by the guard for the least infringement of the rules regarding the dead line. They do not shoot merely to obey orders, but because they take delight in cold blooded murders - for it cannot be called anything else. Very often it happens that they miss the man they shoot at and kill or wound one or two unoffending individuals.

The Dark Side of Sod...11

Good morning! It's great to wake up free. Another journal entry from my grandfather John. 
He writes...

Saturday July 16, 1864

Well, business called me away before I got writing yesterday, I intended to make some remarks about the intellectual faculties. As far as literature is concerned, it is almost impossible to get hold of a book, and as almost everything is copied nowadays, the intellectual faculties are not called into action in the direction, except in a very few instances in which men energetic and active minds employ a portion under their observation.

There are others who train their minds in another direction - being noted for shrewdness and not enjoying confinement they are continually planning escape, but their plans are generally found out. Some miserable traitors who think more of the will of the Confederacy than they do liberty, their comrades or their country will inform on them, and they are checkmated before they can be carried into execution.

Sunday July 17, 1864

We had an example of the latter remark yesterday, but as the informant was not known. I declined making any remarks until further developments-this morning the developments have been made - the informant was discovered and the regulators took him in hand. He was taken to the barber shop and got a shave gratis - but it happened to be his head instead of his face - after which a paper bearing a stigma of traitor in large characters was pinned to his back and he was promenaded through the camp. This performance being over, he had the same stigma picked on his forehead with indelible ink, leaving him in a nice condition to return to family and friend. This reminds me of a punishment of a coward in the 57th Indiana on the 19th of June. The day before he had shown signs of cowardice, and that morning he was marched through the brigade with a board fastened to his back on which was printed the word coward.

The Dark Side of Sod...10

With a spirit of Thanksgiving I would like to thank our ancestry for the high price they paid so that future generations could have a chance. My Great Great Great Grandfather was a POW in the Civil War and wrote a journal of his experiences there. War is NOT Civil...ever! I treasure his words. His name was John...this week I would like to share some excerpts from his writings. I can't imagine what the times were like or what he must have felt really. He was in Andersonville, or Camp Sumter as it was known officially, located in Georgia, held more prisoners at any given time than any of the other Confederate military prisons. It was built in early 1864 after Confederate officials decided to move the large number of Federal prisoners in and around Richmond to a place of greater security and more abundant food. During the 14 months it existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements.

He writes...

Monday, July 11th 1864
...Seven hundred miles from home and in prison, watched and guarded by men who who have no feeling of honor or sympathy and who stand ready with loaded guns to send the messenger of death at the first show of an effort to escape- and even should one succeed in getting out, they are ready with blood hounds to chase him down. Every citizen is considered on military duty, and should a prisoner escape the vigilance of the guard, it is hardly possible that he would succeed traveling through 250 miles of country inhabited by the enemy. We have just had a pleasant shower and the sun is coming out to shed its last rays on some convicts that are to stretch hemp in a few minutes. Federal soldiers in Federal uniforms and a camp of Federal prisoners but by their misdemeanors they deserve their punishment. Guilty of murdering their comrades for gain and plunder, they were caught, tried and convicted and at 5 o'clock P. M. the sentence is to be executed for by order of Gen. Winder C.S.A. This is the one human act in the General, if he never did a good deed and never does another-may God have mercy on their souls.

5 o'clock and the convict prisoners are brought in, escorted by a guard of C.S soldiers headed by Capt. Wertz who delivers them over to the regulators for execution. They are attended by a priest, brought to the scaffold and ordered to ascend- but Delaney refuses and breaks through the crowd and attempts to escape, is recaptured and brought back. Mosby begs for mercy and calls several times, but none comes to the rescue. They ascend the scaffold, the ropes adjusted, the caps placed over the criminals faces - everything is ready- the moment has arrived, the ladders are pulled down and five men are seen dangling in the air. The sixth rope breaks - this is Mosby's- again he begs for mercy but the unflinching Limber Jim takes him up to the scaffold, readjusts the rope and swings him off again.

This may look hard to the civilized and enlightened world, but they have been a reign of terror to the camp. The reign of terror is broken if not subdued. What will the Federal Government think? It matters not, they leave us here. We are mixed with marauders and must protect ourselves. Justice must be administered - we have men who know what justice is and are ready to execute it.

Be well,
Julie Pope