John Ogden Murray.

The immortal six hundred; a story of cruelty to Confederate prisoners of war online

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were not allowed to go on deck. After
the long wait Captain Webster, who had
charge of the guard and prisoners, came



made our condition much worse than
those English soldiers in the Black Hole
of Calcutta. The guards were quartered
upon the upper deck of the ship ; one sen-
tinel was stationed on deck at the hatch-
way and one below at foot of the ladder
leading on deck, and under no circum-
stances would these sentinels allow more
than two or three prisoners on deck at
one time to catch a breath of fresh air.
After a run of one day our ship came
to anchor under the guns of Fortress
Monroe and the ships of the fleet guard-
ing that point. Here we laid at anchor
some fifteen or more hours, suffering all
the tortures of heat and seasickness; no
rations, and the worst drinking water pos-
sible given us, and the stench from the
hole we were confined in became almost
stifling. Our men had been made sea-
sick by motion of the boat, which made
our quarters filthy. Beg as we might, we
were not allowed to go on deck. After
the long wait Captain Webster, who had
charge of the guard and prisoners, came



on board and informed us that the point
of exchange, owing to the movements of
Grant's and Lee's armies, had been
changed from City Point, Va., to Charles-
ton Harbor, S. C. Disappointment was
visible on all faces. Here we were, in
sight of the promised land, but not al-
lowed to enter. Indigo was a bright color
contrasted with our feelings and looks,
yet we consoled ourselves with the hope
and the fact that the delay would be but
for a day or two longer, when we would
be at home. Then, in our joy, we would
forget the vile treatment given us on the
Yankee prison-ship. All the men of our
party save two or three had been made
seasick on the run down from Fort Dela-
ware, which, as I said before, made our
close quarters below decks a veritable cess-
pool. We appealed to Captain Webster,
in charge of the guard, but he gave no
heed to our protest, and we were com-
pelled to stand it as best we could. On
the evening of August 22d the ship pulled
up anchor and steamed out of Fortress



Monroe Harbor, bound for Charleston
Harbor, S. C, under escort of two United
States gunboats. This looked strange,
yet little attention was paid to it by our
men. In fact, in rounding Cape Henry,
all our men were seasick, and we did not
take much heed if there was one or a hun-
dred gunboats guarding us. The heat
of the ship's boilers, the heat of the
weather, and the seasickness made our
condition a veritable orthodox hell, a reg-
ular sheol in miniature form. Notwith-
standing all this torture, our men suffered
in silence, and there was no complain-
ing. We believed we were going back
home, and we would not let the Yankees
see that we suffered.

Late in the night I had pushed my
way through the darkness to the step-
ladder that led up to the deck above,
awaiting my turn to go on deck. In the
dark some one spoke to me, and I rec-
ognized the voice of Col. Abe Fulker-
son, 63d Tenn. Inf. I said, " Colonel, we
have fallen into hard lines, but it will



soon be over." " Yes," he said, " Mur-
ray, it will be over when they kill us, not
before." Stepping back out of hearing
of the sentinel, the Colonel said, " Mur-
ray, do you honestly believe we are to be
exchanged?" "Why, most assuredly," I
replied. " Why not ? And when we get
back to the army we will not forget this
inhuman treatment." "Well, that's all
right; but, Murray," said Fulkerson,
" when you and I get back to Dixie the
war will be done. If the Yankees intend-
ed to exchange us they would have
paroled us at Fort Delaware and not sent
this heavy guard with us. And now we
have an additional guard in the gun-
boats. I tell you," he continued, " there
is trouble ahead for us. Of what char-
acter I can not say, but bear in mind what
I say to you: there will be no exchange
of this six hundred men. I feel certain
of what I say. Now, again," he said,
" why are those two officers who took the
oath at Fort Delaware on this boat?
Why is it they are entertained in the



cabin by the Yankee officers while we are
kept below in this miserable hole? I tell
you those fellows are birds of ill omen.
These galvanized rascals mean trouble for
some one."

This conversation with Fulkerson
certainly put a damper on my hope, and
the more I thought of the conversation
the more depressed I became, until hope
had almost fled. When we separated it
was coming daylight. The ship was roll-
ing badly, and there seemed to be much
commotion on the upper deck. The
guard at the hatchway was doubled and
no one was allowed to go on deck. The
engines had stopped working. By some
means I got on deck, though how I got
there I never could tell, and tried to as-
certain the cause of the commotion. I
heard one of the ship's officers say, " We
are aground, sir, off Folly Island. Where
should have been the Cape Romaine
Light, we are stuck fast in the sand;"
which later proved to be true. The night
was very dark. The route was new to the

74 "~~


" Crescent's " officers, and they had run
too close into shore and had run the ship
aground and lost our escorts, the gun-

This accidental grounding of the
ship sent my spirits away up, and the
thought came to me, " Now we can cer-
tainly get back to Dixie without the for-
mality of exchange." While I was think-
ing all this over, Col. Van Manning, 3d
Ark. Inf., came on deck. I hastily told
him the situation. He at once said,
" Murray, we must take this ship." He
went below, a hasty council was held with
the prisoners, and it was determined that
we should take the ship. It was arranged
that Colonels Manning, DeGurney, Abe
Fulkerson, and Maj. W. W. Goldsbor-
ough should make the demand for the
surrender of the ship. If it was declined,
those below were to rush the guard at
foot of the ladder, get on deck, capture
the guard, and go ashore on Folly Island.
It was a desperate undertaking. It would
have been certain death for some of us



before we could have captured the guard ;
yet there was no thought of the conse-
quences of failure, no hesitation as to
who should lead. By consent, Col. Van
Manning was the leader, and with him
we were all ready to chance the fire
of a thousand guns. Colonels Manning,
Fulkerson, DeGurney, and Major Golds-
borough went upon deck and demanded
that Captain Webster, commanding the
guard, should surrender the ship into our
hands at once, otherwise we would take
it. Our men below were all ready to obey
the order to rush the guard. Hardly had
Colonel Manning made the demand for
the surrender of the ship when, to the
surprise of all the committee, Captain
Webster agreed to the surrender of the
ship. My recollection is that he and his
men were not to be put into prison, but
taken to Charleston city and exchanged
at once, or paroled and sent home; to
which condition Colonel Manning agreed.
We were to land our men on Folly Island,
with assistance of the ship's lifeboats,


and from there make our way to Charles-
ton city. While the preliminaries of the
surrender were being arranged a signal
gun was heard out at sea and soon the
gunboats hove in sight. Under the
shadow of their frowning guns hope fled
and black despair settled upon our hearts.
The moment the gunboats came in sight
the cowardly attitude of Captain Webster
changed to that of impudent defiance. He
forced some of our officers to go down in
the coal bunkers of the ship and help to
throw overboard coal to lighten us off the
sand bar. The guard drove us all below,
allowing no prisoners on deck until the
ship was pulled off the bar. There were
two incidents which took place while our
ship was aground worth recording; The
first showed how deeply Webster and his
guards hated everything Southern. The
first mate of the " Crescent City " was an
Irishman who had lived, before the war
began, in New Orleans. He recognized,
amongst the prisoners, several friends.
Whenever the chance presented itself he



would give our men tobacco, meat, bread,
in fact anything he could get from the
ship's stores. The Yankees saw this and
reported it to Webster, their commander,
who had the poor Irishman put in irons,
transferred to the gunboats for court-
martial, charging the poor fellow with
running the ship aground that we might
escape. I have always believed and do
still believe that Webster made the charge
against the first mate of the " Crescent
City " for the sole purpose of hiding his
abject cowardice in agreeing to surrender
the ship to unarmed men. We never
learned what became of the mate. The
other incident was the escape of Colonel
Woolfolk from the ship. By some means,
Colonel Woolfolk, a brave, honorable,
and true Confederate officer, had permis-
sion to have a stateroom on the ship.
Aboard the " Crescent City " was an old
colored woman who had belonged to the
Woolfolk family in South Carolina. She
was the stewardess of the ship. She rec-
ognized Colonel Woolfolk, her young


master, and determined to help him to es-
cape. She took him into her linen room,
hid him under the bed, and fed him. She
hung out of the stern window of the ship
a sheet to make the guard believe he had
dropped by that means into the water and
gone ashore in the darkness. She kept
him concealed on board until after the
ship had landed us on Morris Island.
When the ship reached New York city
the old woman smuggled him ashore and
gave him money. He succeeded in get-
ting to Canada, from there to England,
and back to the South on a blockade run-
ner; and the Yankees never learned how
he made his escape until he published it
after the war.

After some hours of delay, with the
aid of the gunboats, we got off of the
sand bar and proceeded on our way to
Charleston Harbor. The atmosphere be-
low deck had now become terrible, and
Webster positively refused to allow the
ship's crew to put the hose on the pumps
and wash the filth out of our quarters.



It was good enough for Rebels, he said.
When we reached the blockading fleet off
Charleston no one was allowed on deck
from below. Again we were in sight of
the promised land; would we enter? was
the absorbing question we asked one
another. The anxiety amongst the pris-
oners became intense. We all hoped for
an exchange, yet there was a doubt.

After being kept a whole day below
decks a request was made by Colonel
Manning, of Captain Webster, that from
fifteen to twenty of the prisoners should
be allowed to go on deck at one time to
get some fresh air. In his appeal to
Webster, Colonel Manning said : " We
are away out here in the ocean; we are
surrounded by your gunboats, and no man
can swim from here ashore; no man can
escape ; it's brutal to keep us down below
in that pest hole." The only reply
Webster made to this appeal was " You
must stay below decks." Colonel Man-
ning then said, " Captain Webster, if you
will not allow us on deck have the hose of


4th Virginia Cavalry


the ship turned on and wash the filth out
of our quarters." To this Webster again
said no. We'could obtain no information
whatever about exchange from the guard,
the sink of the ship was, we found out,
on the upper deck near the wheel, so we
kept a constant line of men going all the
time that we might know if the flag of
truce boats were together in the harbor,
and when they separated. On the day
after and for several days after our ar-
rival in Charleston Harbor our hearts
were gladdened by the reports from the
upper deck that the flag of truce boats
were together. At night they would sep-
arate, and we could judge, by the conduct
of the Yankees towards us, that nothing
had been accomplished in exchange. On
the fifth day after our arrival off Charles-
ton one of the Yankee guards told Lieut.
Bob Bowie that the exchange of prisoners
had all been fixed for next day, in Char-
leston Harbor. We were all elated. To
confirm this report our boat took up
anchor and we steamed, as we thought,



towards Charleston, but at daylight found
ourselves far out at sea. During the day
we steamed back to our old anchorage
under the guns of the blockading fleet.
No one seemed able to interpret this
move. Late in the evening our scouts
from the upper deck reported the flag of
truce boats together, just off Fort Sumter.
All night the excitement amongst the
prisoners ran high. At night our ship
again took up anchor and steamed out
to sea, and next morning, when allowed
to go on deck, we found ourselves in Hil-
ton Head Harbor. Here we remained
three days, daily begging Captain
Webster to turn on the ship's hose and
wash the filth out of our quarters, which
he persistently refused to do. In fact, we
could not get him to do the least thing to
alleviate our suffering, although he was
fully cognizant of the filthy condition of
our prison quarters below decks. After
our stay of three days at Hilton Head,
at the mouth of Broad River, our ship
again pulled anchor and we steamed back


towards Charleston. In our close, hot
quarters our suffering was the most in-
tense. The Yankees knew it, yet they
would do nothing to relieve us, but
seemed to enjoy the torture they inflicted
upon us. We arrived off Morris Island
on the morning of September 7, 1864,
and had now been eighteen days on this
prison ship, suffering the tortures of the
damned, and not the least effort was made
by the brute who had charge of us to
curtail our suffering. About 10 o'clock
of this morning, September 7th, Captain
Webster, who had charge of us, coolly
informed us that it never had been the
intention of the United States govern-
ment to exchange us. That we would be
placed on Morris Island under the fire
of our own guns, in retaliation, he said,
for the Union prisoners under fire in
Charleston city, of the guns of Morris
Island and fleet shelling that city. After
Webster had vouchsafed us this informa-
tion, most forcibly came back to me Col-
onel Fulkerson's prophecy that the war


would be over before we ever set foot in
Dixie. On the afternoon of the 7th day
of September we were landed on Morris
Island. The day was hot, but we were
once more in God's sunshine and out of
the pest hole of the prison ship.

Two old dismantled schooner hulks,
the " Jno. A. Genet " and the " Transit,"
were utilized as our prison, and the 54th
Mass. (nigger) Regt, Col. E. N. Hal-
lowell commanding, our guard. And
now in truth began our torture. Every
man seemed crushed. Not much talking
was done by the prisoners, yet we all
hoped that fate, in a relenting moment,
would help us and drive away black

After the first night on these old
hulks, filled as they were with rats and
vermin, that old courage that made the
Confederate soldier a hero came back to
us, and we determined to face the fate
in store for us without flinching or
whining. God had made us men; we
could die like men, if need be, for the


^ — — mmmmmm

cause of right, even if death came to us
in a Yankee prison. The charge that the
Confederate government had six hundred
Union officers under fire in Charleston
city was as false as the brain that con-
ceived the story; as false as the tongue
that uttered it ; and Secretary Stanton and
Gen. J. G. Foster, U. S. A., knew there
were no prisoners of war under fire in
Charleston city. They had the testimony
of their own officers, who had been pris-
oners of war in Charleston city, that the
story was false. Yet the testimony and
word of these gentlemen was ignored by
Stanton and Foster, and the word of nig-
gers and Confederate deserters taken as
gospel truth. The officers who had been
prisoners of war in Charleston city:
Generals H. W. Wessells, Seymour,
Scammon, et al, over their own signa-
tures, say they were not under fire, but,
on the contrary, in no danger ; with good
quarters and plenty to eat, kindly and
courteously treated. Yet they were not
listened to as reliable witnesses, but ig-



nored because niggers and Confederate
deserters said there were Union soldiers
under fire in Charleston. General Wes-
sells went so far in his letter to General
Foster as to protest against putting offi-
cers under fire on Morris Island ; yet Gen-
eral Foster paid no attention to the pro-

The life of a prisoner of war is at
best hard and irksome ; and it is extreme-
ly hard when he is restricted in all things
necessary to the simplest comfort. He
must suffer, he does suffer, and suffers
more than tongue can describe or pen
portray when his rations are curtailed to
the point of barely keeping him from
starvation. Time and time again the
Confederate authorities protested against
the inhuman treatment of our men in
Northern prisons, and begged the Wash-
ington authorities, in humanity's name,
to exchange prisoners of war. " Send
your transports," said President Davis
and General Lee, through Exchange
Commissioner Ould, " and take your sick



and wounded men. We can not feed
them; we can not care for them." But
Secretary Stanton said " No, we will
make no exchange; our men in your
hands must suffer." The Union prison-
ers of war in all the Southern prisons
were fed the same ration that was given
the Confederate soldier in the field. What
more could the Confederates do? Gen-
eral Lee, in an order, said " all wounded
on the field must be treated alike ; all pris-
oners of war must be treated humanely " ;
and the Confederate Congress passed a
law to this effect. Mr. Stanton and Gen-
eral Grant both said " We can not, we
will not, exchange prisoners of war. The
South can not feed our men; we can not
get any benefits from exchange, while the
men we return to the South only help to
swell Lee's army. Our men must suffer
for the good of those who are now con-
tending with the terrible Lee " ; and these
officials in Washington found it cheaper
to starve Confederate soldiers in North-
ern prisons than fight them on the battle-



field. The United States had the world
from which to draw their army and their

supplies ; the Confederacy had but a small
area, without the slightest chance of
getting supplies from the outside world
save when a blockade runner could slip
through the fleets blockading our ports.
Neither the men responsible for the wan-
ton cruelty nor their apologists can give
a valid reason for the inhuman treatment
meted out to us on Morris Island, Hilton
Head, and Fort Pulaski.

The following two letters, — found
in Vol. XXXV, War Records,— show be-
yond question that the United States gov-
ernment officials at Washington, with
Gen. J. G. Foster, made preparation for
the infliction of their brutality upon us,
and that Col. E. N. Hallowell, 54th Regt.
Mass. Vols, (niggers), was chosen as
commandant of our camp because of his
brutal nature — just the man to carry out
the beastly orders Gen. J. G. Foster, U.
S. A., might issue by authority of Edwin
M. Stanton, Secretary of War.



Headquarters Department of the South.,

Charleston, S. C, August 23, 1864.
Brig.-Gen. A. Schimmelfennig,

Commanding Northern District,
Department South.
General :

I am directed by the major-general com-
manding to state he has ordered Captain Su-
ter, Chief Engineer Department of South, to
proceed to Morris Island for purpose of con-
sulting with you in regard to the location of
the camp for the prisoners of war daily ex-
pected in this department from the North.
The major-general commanding desires that
this camp be placed between Fort Strong and
Battery Putnam. If this position is con-
sidered too dangerous you are authorized to
locate the camp wherever yourself and Captain
Suter shall deem the best and safest from at-
tack of the enemy. Should it be necessary
to have more troops to guard these six hun-
dred, another regiment can be sent from this
place. Still, it is desired that they may be
guarded by the force at present in the North-
ern District if it is possible, as we want all
the troops at this place that we now have.


I have the honor to be, General, very

Your obedient servant,

W. L. M. Burger,
Assistant Adjutant-General.
(War Records, Vol. xxxv, p. 256.)

Headquarters Northern District, Depart-
ment of the South,
Morris Island, September 8, 1864.
Gen. J. G. Foster,

General: — I have the honor to report
that on yesterday the Rebel prisoners of war
were safely landed and placed in the stockade
in front of Fort Strong. I found on my ar-
rival here that General Schimmelfennig had
already detailed the 54th Massachusetts Regi-
ment (negroes), Colonel Hallo well, to guard
the prisoners, and as I was expected as far
as possible to carry out his plans, have not
changed the detail. I believe no better of-
ficer than Colonel Hallowell can be found
in whose hands to place the prisoners for their
safe keeping, and thus far the duty has been
well performed. Last night was so dark and
the weather so stormy that the navy boats did
not report for duty at Paine's Dock. My boat
brigade was out but saw nothing unusual. The
navy detail have reported this morning and



no exertion will be spared to carry out suc-
cessfully the object of the expedition.
I am very respectfully,

R. SaxtoN,
Brig.-Gen. Commanding.
(War Records, Vol. xxxv, pp. 275-276.)




March from old Schooner Hulk to Prison
Stockade — Hot Sun — Men Sick Forced
to Move On — Brutal White Officers and
Nigger Soldiers. Prison Stockade —
Water, Rations, and Shelter.

AFTER two days' confinement on
the old schooner hulks, without
much drinking water or rations,
we were ordered, on the afternoon of the
second day, to turn out and form in line
on the beach. After forming and the
counting of our number was finished the
order was giving to march. We started
up the beach in full view of Sumter's
guns. The day was intensely hot ; the sun
shone down upon us in all its splendor.
We had not gone over half a mile before
some of our men, weakened from the
eighteen days on the filthy prison ship,
fell, from prostration, in the sand. I was
of this unfortunate number. The brutal
white officers of the 54th Massachusetts
(nigger) Regiment made the negro



guards force us to get up and stagger on
at the point of the bayonet in the hands
of a negro soldier. When I had fallen in
the sand an old man, wearing the badge
of the Sanitary Commission, attempted to
cross the guard line to help me. He was
driven back by a burly Dutch lieutenant,
with an oath, who ordered the negro
guard to make me move on. I heard the
old man protesting to the guard that we
were human beings even if we were
Rebels. When we reached the stockade
prison-pen gate we were again halted,
counted off by fours and sent inside the
inclosure, where a negro sergeant as-
signed us to tents, putting four men in
each small A-tent which would not com-
fortably hold more than two men. But
what mattered this? We were prisoners
of war, in the hands of a great and good
government. Our camp was laid off be-
tween batteries Waggoner and Gregg:
Waggoner in our rear, Gregg in our
front. We were in exact line of the guns
of Fort Sumter. To the left of Battery



Gregg was a mortar battery ; next to this
was what the Yankees called an iron bat-
tery; further to our left, facing Charles-
ton, was a large gun the Yanks called
the " Swamp Angel " ; and off to the right
of our camp was the fleet of monitors
with their guns all trained on our stock-
ade prison, always ready shotted should
we show the least sign of disobedience
to the orders governing our prison. The
guns on Battery Waggoner were ar-
ranged to sweep our camp from the rear,
and the guns on Battery Gregg to rake
our camp from the front. All these Fed-
eral batteries constantly drew the fire
of our guns on Sumter, Johnson Island,

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Online LibraryJohn Ogden MurrayThe immortal six hundred; a story of cruelty to Confederate prisoners of war → online text (page 4 of 13)