Henry F. W. Little.

The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion online

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Cyrus Bidwell, of the same company (they were both cor-
porals at that time), he performed the duty of marker for
the regiment on all drills, etc.

His prison experiences covered many months, and as
related by him will be found quite interesting :

" On the morning of February 20, 1864, the forces
under the command of General Seymour, which were
stationed at Barbour's Plantation, Fla., of which my

536 History of the Seventh Regiment

regiment was a part, was ordered forward towards
Lake City, about thirty miles away. Everything about
the march for the first fifteen miles was as pleasant as
could be desired, but what a change was to come over
the spirit of our dreams. We halted for rest and to eat
our lunch. Soon shots were heard on the picket line :
every old soldier will know what this meant, and that some
of us, who for more than two years had marched shoulder
to shoulder would, before the setting of the sun on that
day, sleep the sleep that knows no waking. Many others
would be maimed for life — who would it be? All hoped
they would come out of the approaching conflict safe. It
was a vain hope. Soon an orderly came riding at full
speed from the front with orders for one battalion of the
Seventh Conn. Volunteers, under Colonel Hawley, to
march to the front on the double-quick. Shortly another
order came for the whole force to move forward, and soon
the battlefield of Olustee was reached. I do not intend to
describe the battle, only to say my regiment entered the
field left in front, and were marching by the flank ; soon
the order was given b}' Colonel Abbott to break into col-
umn of companies, followed shortly by an order to deploy
on the eighth compan^^ While executing this order.
Acting Brigadier-General Hawley, of Connecticut, rode
up to the rear of the regiment and ordered us to deploy on
the second company, which so mixed the regiment up that
it was obliged to go to the rear to reform. Soon after the
regiment broke, the order was given by Colonel Abbott to
cease firing. One soldier who was about to disobey the
order attracted the attention of the writer, who turned his
head to see if the soldier was going to fire and thus diso-
bey orders. As I turned my head I saw Colonel Abbott
and Colonel Hawley sitting on their horses talking
together — that was the last I ever saw, for at that moment
a buck-shot from the enemy struck me in the left temple,

New Hampshire Volunteers. 537

passed back of both eyes, severing the optic nerve in both
eyes, and lodged back of the right eye, where it still
remains, totally destroying the sight of both eyes. I
instantly became unconscious, in which condition I
remained during the entire battle. When consciousness
returned, I found m^^self lying on my face. The rebels
were firing off the muskets they had found on the field.
One of the shots from these muskets struck my knapsack
on the right side, but didn't go through. Another struck
the heel of my left boot, glanced up, and wounded me in
the fleshy part of the thigh. As the firing ceased, I arose
upon my knees, when I heard someone coming towards
me. I hailed them, and asked them to take me to the hos-
pital or to a fire, as I was cold, and was wounded, but
could not tell how, as I felt no pain from my wound about
the head, but was totally blind. He said there was no
hospital near, so he would take me to a fire, which he did,
and after making me as comfortable as he could he left
me. Before he left me I ascertained that our forces had
been defeated, and that I was a prisoner of war. He had
been gone but a few minutes when I fainted from loss of
blood. When I became conscious again I was not alone,
several rebel soldiei's were there ; when they saw me move,
they told me to take off m}^ pants and give to them : that
I declined to do, telling them that I was blind, and could
not see to get any more. They said that if I did not take
them off the}' w^ould cut my throat and take them. I told
them that I hoped they would not do that, as I hoped to have
a good deal of use for my throat in the future : I told them
the pants were not worth the trouble, as they were a very
old pair. After examining them they went away, leaving
me once more alone. How long I remained so I could
not tell, probably one or two hours. When I heard some
teams going by, I hailed them, but the first gave no heed
to me ; the second stopped and picked me up and carried

538 History of the Seventh Regiment

me to Olustee Station, about a mile and a half from the
battletield. I remember being lifted out of the wagon and
walking about six feet, which was the last thing I remem-
bered, for my wounds bled so that I again fainted away,
and remained in that condition for three days. When I
once more returned to consciousness, I found myself in a
stable in Lake City, fifteen miles from Olustee, where I
got out of a wagon. Some of my comrades were with
me, but I knew but little of what was taking place around

*' When I did recover sufficiently to realize my condition,
I learned that a rebel surgeon had examined me, but said
I was not wounded, and must have been blinded by the
bursting of a shell, saying the powder must have burned
my eyes. In searching for my wound, he not so much as
washed the blood from my face, and of course my wounds
had not been dressed at all up to this time. I now began
to feel the need of a good wash, and as there was no way
to get one in the stable, I asked one of the colored waiters
if he knew where Elizabeth Gould lived; he said he did,
and I asked him to take me to her home. She, with many
others who were in Lake City, had lived in St. Augustine
when the Seventh New Hampshire garrisoned that place ;
and as our regiment treated them kindly, they telt well
disposed towards any of our regiment, and came to the
hospital to see us — but to go back. The waiter started
with me for Miss Gould's, but on the way saw Comrade
Charles Danforth in a house, so took me in there. As we
entered the house without knocking, Danforth and the
lady met us, when Danforth asked me what was wanted. I
told him where I was going, for what purpose, and we
had come there by mistake. The lady invited me in, told
the waiter to leave me there, she would see that I had the
opportunity to wash and fix myself up. She took me into
the dining-room, and after handing me a chair left me.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 539

She soon returned with hot water, towels, soap, and
sponge, and proceeded to wash the blood from my face.
When she applied the hot water and the blood w^as
removed, the wound opened, and she exclaimed, ' there is
where you are wounded.' I immediately put my finger in
the mouth of the wound to see how bad it was, and found
that the ball that did the mischief must have been a buck-
shot about five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. I had not,
up to this time, sutfered any pain trom the wound, neither
did I at any future time. After I finished my toilet, she
brought me some food, consisting of biscuit, johnny cake,
butter, and tea. This was the first food I had any remem-
brance of eating since I was taken prisoner.

"After I had eaten, she took me into the sitting-room,
spread a blanket on the floor in front of the fireplace, and
remarked, as she left the room, that I could lie down and
get some rest. I, with some other wounded soldiers, re-
mained there that night. I found that the lady of the
house was a Union woman and was doing all she could to
help the boys in blue. I remained in Lake City several
days longer, and my wound was not dressed up to this
time by any surgeon, nor indeed at any future time, and
I was obliged to take the entire care of it myself.

"About the 4th of March, I, with others, was sent to
Tallahasse, the capital of the State. Here we had better
quarters, being put into a church that had been used by
colored people. We received kind treatment and the food
was good, but coarse and scanty. To illustrate this, I
bought five dollars' worth of food at a baker's, and though
I had eaten breakfast only half an hour betbre, and then
ate all the rebels would give me, I ate the whole five dol-
lars' worth of baker's food, except one piece of ginger-
bread about four inches square, and my stomach did not
feel any trouble by the extra food. Another time I paid
two dollars and fifty cents for a meal which consisted of

540 History of the Seventh Regiment

two biscuits, two pieces of hoe-cake, two eggs, and several
pieces of bacon about the size of a silver dollar. This was
the cheapest meal I had while a prisoner. The money I
bought this food with, I got by selling my gold pen with
a silver holder for thirtv-five dollars. I should have said
before this that while lying unconscious on the battlefield,
the rebels stole everything I had in my pockets except
this pen, which thev did not find, as it was in my vest
pocket. They even took the shoes from my feet, so the
rest of the time I had to go barefooted. As I have said,
our quarters were much better than they were at Lake
Cit3% but our liberty was restricted. We were not
allowed to go but a few rods from the building without
permission, and even then a guard had to go with us. It
was here that I heard that my brother Joseph was dead.
I had heard that he was wounded, but did not know how
badly. I felt sorry that I had not been able to see him, as I
was but a short distance from where he died. As I said,
I had to dress my wound myself : in order to get the mat-
ter out of the wound, I had to press on the eye. About a
week after I arrived at Tallahassee, as I was engaged in
dressing the wound, and while pressing on the eye, the
ball of the eye burst, but it was three days before it entirely
run out.

" The rebels now began to tell us that their government
was building some nice hospitals at Americus, in Georgia,
where v/e could be more comfortable than we were, and
that we should have good beds to lie on. About a week
later, the}- told us that the hospitals were all ready, and
on the morning of Saturday, March 19, we bade adieu to
Tallahassee, and with food enough to last us two days, we
started for Georgia. Our first stop was at Chattahooche,
which place we reached in the afternoon. We were put
into an old arsenal and kept until Sunday night. Then
we were put on board a steamboat and sent up the Chatta-

New Hampshire Volunteers. 541

hoodie River to Fort Gains Landing. Alter leaving the
steamer, we had to cHmb one hundred and ten steps to
reach the height of land, then go about four hundred feet
to the depot, where we expected cars to take us to Ameri-
cus. But no cars were there, so we had to wait. It was
a drizzly, rainy day, and the weather was cold, so the
guards built a fire and we managed to keep warm. My
comrade had to help me from the landing to the depot. I
was so weak I was obliged to lie on the platform nearly all
day, going every little while to the fire to get warm. My
stay at the fire was short, as I could not stand but a few
minutes without fainting away. Our tbod lasted only till
Sunday night, so that Monday morning we had no breakfast.
The officer in charf^e of the guard went to Fort Gains to
get us something to eat, but they refused to issue any
rations for us, and it looked as though we would have to go
hun^rv for a while. In the afternoon I heard someone
speak of a house about a half-mile away, and I asked the
officer if he would send a guard with some of the men to
see if they could buy some corn bread. He consented, so
I gave them ten dollars, all I had left from the sale of my
pen. They were gone some time, but when they returned
brought ten dollars' worth of corn-pones, which we divided
among the prisoners. It was not more than half a meal
for us, but much better than nothing.

" In the evening, a box car was run down to the depot,
into which we were put for sate keeping for the night.
There were tw^ent3'-two of us. The car door was closed
within two inches and securely fastened. The bottom of
the car was covered to the depth of half an inch with wet
mud, in which we w^ere compelled to sit or lie as we
thought best. In the morning, our car was attached to a
train, and w'e started for our destination. The people all
along the line seemed to be expecting us, for at every
depot crowds were gathered to get a sight of the ' Yanks.'

542 History of the Seventh Regiment

About noon we reached Americus. Here we found that
the story of the hospital and nice beds was a lie, told to us
for what purpose we did not know. About 2 o'clock in
the afternoon of this day, March 22, we reached Ander-
sonville. After leaving the cars, we were marched to the
stockade, about three quarters of a mile away, and,
though we did not know it, what we had passed through
w^as like paradise compared to what we afterwards suf-
fered. Of the twenty-two men who entered Andersonville
with me, only two, Charles Danforth, of Hopkinton, and
myself, ever left it alive. England has never outlived the
stigma of the ' Black hole of Calcutta,' and the Southern
States will never outlive the stigma of Andersonville and
other kindred prison pens.

" When we entered the stockade we were placed in dif-
ferent companies, to till up the ranks depleted by death.
I was very fortunate in being assigned to a compan}- which
alread}' contained fifteen men from my regiment. This
was very pleasant, for I felt that, although I was blind, I
was among friends who w^ould assist me as far as they
were able. At this time there were only about six thousand
prisoners in the stockade, but the number was afterwards
increased to about thirty-five thousand. For convenience
in issuing rations, the prisoners were divided into detach-
ments of two hundred and seventy each ; each detach-
ment was divided into three companies of ninety each, and
each company was divided into four squads. These de-
tachments, companies, and squads, were each in charge
of a man from their own ranks. The manner of distribu-
ting the rations I will now describe : They were brought
into the stockade in two-horse wagons, and each com-
mander of a detachment was given the rations for two
hundred and seventy men ; these rations were divided
into three equal parts, and that there might be no cause
for complaint, one man would turn and look the other way,

New Hampshire Volunteers. 543

while the man in charge would place his hand on one of
the three parts and ask, ' Whose is this?' The man who
was facing the other way would say, ' Company A, B, or
C Then the man who had charge of each company
took its portion and divided it in the same way to the
four squads, into which the company was divided. The
man in charge of each squad would take its portion and
cut it into as many pieces as he had men in his squad,
and distribute them in the same way as before described,
while the men would watch the operation with a hungry,
anxious look upon their faces, as they realized the hope-
lessness of being able to satisfy their hunger with the small
amount of food given them for a whole day, as it was not
half enough for a single meal. Perhaps there would be no
better time to tell of what our rations consisted than now.
When I lirst entered Andersonville, the prison was in
charge of a lieutenant of the army, and he allowed us one
pint of meal per day. It was cob and corn ground
together, and a piece of bacon about one inch square.
About the twentieth of April, Wirtz took command of the
stockade, and he at once reduced our daily allowance of
food to two thirds of a pint of meal, and a very small piece
of bacon. I wish to say here that the bacon was that
which had been condemned as unht for their soldiers, so
it was sent to feed the prisoners with. Most of the time it
w^as alive with maggots. The way of cooking the food
was b}^ taking the meat on a tin plate and setting the plate
on a tire, then the maggots would crawl out and we could
throw them away ; then, after mixing the meal with water,
fry it in cakes. Of course I could not do this, so my com-
rades would do it for me, for which I was truly thankful,
for without this and other kind favors, the writer would not
have lived to write this story. For some time after I
entered the prison, the only water that we had to drink
w^as from a brook which ran through the middle of the

544 History of the Seventh Regiment

stockade. This brook came through two rebel regi-
mental camps, and all the slush and grease trom their
cook-houses was thrown into it, so that when we drank
tVom it our mouths would feel and taste as if we had been
eating fat meat. After a time they allowed us to dig wells,
and many availed themselves of the privilege and got pure

" Sometime in June, during a severe rain-storm, a spring
broke out near one side of the prison, and the men named
it " Godsend Spring," which indeed it was to all the pris-
oners confined there. Andersonville was a parallelogram
in shape and contained twenty-five to thirty acres, but was
afterwards enlarged by about twelve more. It was sur-
rounded by a fence twenty feet high, made of square logs
set two inches apart, the lower ends sunk into the ground
about three feet, and the top ends pointed. The guards
were outside this fence on the ground. The dead line was
a tence two and a half feet high, made by driving posts
into the ground a rod apart and nailing a two or three inch
scantling on top. This was about twenty feet inside the
stockade. The object of this dead line was to prevent the
prisoners from digging the stockade down, as nearly
every morning the guards would find from one to six
posts and some of the prisoners gone. They were hunted
with bloodhounds and almost always found and brought
back ; only one or two succeeded in reaching our Union
lines, while one poor fellow who failed to climb a tree
was almost torn to pieces by the bloodhounds. No blame
can be attached to the rebels for building the dead line,
but they were to blame for allowing the abuse of prisoners
by the guards. The orders were for the guard to shoot
any prisoners who crossed the dead line, and as a reward
for so doing he was given thirty days' furlough and
the first commission vacant in his regiment, and as their
storv would be believed before ours, thev did not wait for

New Hampshire Volunteers. 545

a prisoner to cross the line before they shot him. I will
give two examples ; one was a poor sick man unable to
eat the rations given him, and so weak that he could only
crawl on his hands and knees, seeing a piece of hard-tack
near the dead line which some new prisoner had shaken
from his haversack, he tried to get it, but he was so weak
that when he lifted his hand to pick it up, he tipped for-
ward. The guard, who had been watching him closely,
instantly fired, sending a ball through his head, for which
the guard got his reward, both a furlough and a commis-
sion for killing a Yankee. The other was a case of a
prisoner who stepped up to the dead line and rested his
elbow on it for a moment, but seeing that the guard was
going to shoot, he jumped back and stepped quickly to
where some men were standing, but the guard fired at him
and missed him, but he hit one of the others, breaking his
leg, the ball glanced and killed a man who was asleep a
few feet away. Other cases similar to these might be
told, but these are enough to show^ the abuse of the dead
line, and the way they were sustained by the officer in
charge in wickedly shooting men without a cause. Most
of the prisoners had shelters made of pine boughs, in
which to sleep, and the floors were carpeted with pine
needles. These were very comfortable and afforded a
good deal of protection from the sun and rain. One was
built for the writer of this, just large enough for two, and
a member of the Sixth Illinois Cavahy, who had just come
into the stockade, was allowed to share it with me on
condition that he assist me in caring for myself. He did
as he agreed to, and was a great help and comfort to me.
The wa}'^ the pine boughs were obtained was in the follow-
ing manner : Four men from each company were sent out
into the woods every morning to get wood with which to
do cooking ; as one of them could bring all the wood
required, the others would bring pine boughs to build the

546 History of the Seventh Regiment

shelters. Owing to the hick of means to keep clean, the
prisoners had become very lilthy, and our clothing had
become intested with xermin. in the shape of body lice, and
the morning hour was devoted to hunting and destroying
these pests. It was a novel scene to see the men take oil"
one garment after another, and hu.nt for these pests.
Luckih', or unluckih', our wardrobe was very scant : my
own consisted ot' about two thirds of a blouse, ani.1 two thirds
of a pair of pants. I had neither shirt, stockings, shoes,
or hat. The mtisery caused by these little pests cannot be
described, but some idea ma\' be formed tVom the fact that
while it was more than three months after I lett Anderson-
ville before I reached home, yet m}' back, the entire length
of the spine, was one complete sore from being bitten by
those pests.

•'Sometime in the latter part of May, Captain Wirtz
built a cook-house and commenced issuing cooked rations
to one half the prisor.ers and raw rations to the other hall",
so they got cooked and raw rations on alternate weeks.
The cooked rations consisted of a piece of corn bread
about one inch in thickness, two inches wide, and tour
inches long, with the usual piece of bacon. When it was
my turn to draw raw rations, I would exchange with some-
one who had cooked rations, ns it had become more difli-
cult to get \\-oi)d with which to do the cooking. Occasion-
ally in place of the bread and bacon, we were gixen a pint
of liast}' pudding, at other times a pint of boiled rice: this
rice was olten wormy and vou had to look closelv in order
to see which was a worm or kernel of rice : at other times
they would gi\'e us a pint of cow peas cooked with the
stems and lea\"es just as thev were taken iVom the thresh-
ing floor : once I had these stems and leaxes taken out
from my portion, leaving about three tablespoonluls of
beans. These rations were given once in twent\'-four
hours. Should any prisoner escape during the night, the

New Hampshire Volunteers. 547

rations were cut off from that half of the stockade to which
he belonged for twenty-four hours. The prisoners were
obliged to fall into line every morning and were counted
by Captain Wirtz and his aids.

" Along in May, prisoners were brought in from New
York regiments, consisting of bounty jumpers and the
rougher element from that great city, who formed them-
selves into raiding parties ; and whenever they saw any
of the prisoners with money or watches, or anything
which they desired, they would make a raid upon them in
the night and forcibly take it from them. These acts of
lawlessness were usually accompanied by more or less
disturbance, which endangered the peace and safety of the
rest of the prisoners, as orders had been issued by the
general commanding the guard, that if any tumult oc-
curred in the stockade, which did not immediately cease,
the three batteries of artillery which commanded the stock-
ade would open lire and shell it until every man was
killed. In view of this danger, the better class of the
prisoners went to Captain Wirtz and stated the cause of
disturbance to him, and handed him a list of over one
hundred names of those who had been disturbing the quiet
of the prison, and asked him to arrest them and hold them
outside the stockade while they themselves would form a
court consisting of judge, jury, and lawyer, who would
try the offenders. This he consented to do, and accord-
ingly each one received a fair trial. About fifteen were
sentenced to wear a ball and chain for three months ; six
were sentenced to be hung, the rest were allowed to return
to the stockade with the understanding that if caught in
any other scrapes they would be severely dealt with with-
out any further trial.

" On July 10, requisition having been made for lumber
with which to build sinks, Wirtz furnished the right kind
of lumber as he knew the object for which it would be

548 History of the Seventh Regiment

used, and the prisoners immediately commenced the erec-
tion of a gallows. On the following morning, July 11,
Wirtz brought the six prisoners who had been sentenced to
be hung inside the stockade and delivered them up to the
men who had formed the court which had tried and sen-
tenced them. One of the prisoners broke away, saying
that they shouldn't hang him, but by the time the others

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 42 of 52)