Lessel Long.

Twelve months in Andersonville. On the march--in the battle--in the Rebel prison pens, and at last in God's country online

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Online LibraryLessel LongTwelve months in Andersonville. On the march--in the battle--in the Rebel prison pens, and at last in God's country → online text (page 1 of 18)
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By LESSEL long,

Private Co. F, 13th Indiajia Infaiitry






Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1886,


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C





This volume is presented to the public by its author with
a thorough aj^preciation of its imperfections as a literary pro-
duction. There has been no attempt at ostentatious display of
learning or boastful show of knowledge, but the volume is sim-
ply the plain story of a private soldier who suffered a year in
the rebel prison pens of the Southern Confederacy. Originally
the sketches appeared in our village paper, the Andrews Ex-
press, under the title of " Army Life." The partial judgment
of friends and neighbors has encouraged us to revise and
re-publish them in book form;

In this, the story of his personal experience, the author
has written only the truth. Horrible as was the condition of
Union prisoners — terribly as they suffered — the dreadful reality
can be but feebly portraj'ed on paper. The grizzled veteran
who wakens from his sleep, twenty years after, with the moans
of starving and dying comrades ringing in his ears, whose eyes
yet retain the mental picture of the utter wretchedness, hope-
lessness and misery of Anderson ville — he alone can realize the
horror upon horror of a year's confinement in the rebel military
prisons of the South. God grant that such suffering as fell
to the lot of my brave comrades who died, or living, suffered
the tortures of death in rebel prison pens, may never again be
known in our common country.

The Author.
Andrews, Ind., 1886.


Campaigning in Florida — The Countersign Lost — Camp
EuMORS — Out at Sea — -Killing an Alligator with a
Paper Wad — Joining the Army in Virginia — A Dis-
gusted Kebel Sympathizer — The March to the Front.

(i) |XJEING- the winters of 1863-4 the regiment to which I be-
-Ly longed, the 13th Indiana Infantry, was stationed on Fol-
lies Island, South Carolina. It was generally believed that there
would be an early and active campaign. Both the North and
the South were making great preparations for the final strug-
gle. Late in February our command was ordered to Florida
to reinforce General Seymour, who had met the Johnnies and
got the worst of the fight. We arrived at Jacksonville about
February 26th, and when we landed there was considerable
excitement. General Seymour had been out near Ocean Pond
and met General Finigan, who gave him battle at once. By
some unknown means the rebels secured our countersign, and
during the night passed a large body of their men through our
lines, thus gaining the rear of the Union army. At daylight
the fight began greatly at Seymour's disadvantage, and in a
short time his men were on the retreat. It was a hard fought
battle for the number engaged. There were several regiments
of colored troops in the fight, and they were comparatively new
and suflfered badly. So when we arrived at Jacksonville the

8 Tzuelve MoiitJis in Andersoiiville.

colored troops who were wounded were seen coming to camp.
As Seymour lacked sufficient transportation they were com-
pelled to make their way back to camj) as best they could. In
a short time after we landed we were marched to the eastern
part of the town, where we got our supj^er and were ordered
out on the picket line. It was reported that General Finigan
was advancing and we might expect a fight at any time, and to
make things worse we had no countersign. The location of
our lines being new it was somewhat perplexing. At last our
officers agreed upon a sign by which we might know our men
from the enemy. The sign was the drawing of the saber about
one-fourth out of the scabbard and forcing it back with such
force as to be heard at least ten paces. This done three times
in quick succession was to be our countersign for the night,
and the regiment was deployed on the picket line, two men at
a place, and each squad about ten to fifteen paces apart. Thus
we spent our first night in Florida. Next day the front of our
lines was properly explored, and the country scouted over for
several miles. Finding no enemy we established our camp and
soon fell into the ordinary routine of camp life.

At first our camp was on the edge of the city of Jackson-
ville. We soon had the place so fortified that we did not fear
any danger, as we had several gun boats lying in the river
ever ready to throw a Camp Kettle over to the Johnnies, who
were always as ready to keej) out of range. So things went
on very quietly, and we moved our camp outside the works
about one-half mile, where we had a nice location and pretty
good water, so much better than the water was in South Caro-
lina that it seemed like a paradise to us who had been cooped
up on those islands, so long. Now we could go to town, and
everything was moving off nicely until one Sunday morning,
about the first of April, we heard a pretty brisk fire at the
north of our camp, and in a few minutes wc could see the

Twelve Months in A2iderso7iville. 9

orderlies flying i^ every direction. Soon we received orders
to strike tents and get inside of our breastworks. It was
said that Finigan was advancing with a large force. All was
hustle and hurry until all our camp equipages were inside the
works. We saw a large force going out towards where the
firing was heard, and in the course of two or three hours we
learned that it was only a scouting party which had come on
one of our j^icket posts and had left as fast as their horses would
carry them when their fire was returned. We were ordered
back to our camp, the boys feeling disappointed that they had
so much trouble for nothing, but as it was all for Uncle Sam
and cheap glory we were soon fixed up as nice as ever, and all
again was quiet.

About this time those of our regiment who had veteran-
ized returned, and all was excitement for a few days. The
boys would relate what good times they had while at home,
and the many letters that they brought back were read and
re-read time and again, and the situation talked over. It was
apparent from the activity going on that there was to
be a general move all along the line. We heard all sorts of
reports as to where we were to go. Some said we were going-
back to Follies/ Island, some that they knew we were to form a
party to take Savannah, G-a., others thought we would
be sent somewhere on the coast to do garrison duty, as
the regiment was very much reduced, while others insisted
that we would take the field, as we had always done. At last
the order came to strike tents and report at the landing, where
we would find transports to convey us away from Jacksonville.
This was the last of April. At last we were all on board, and
down the river we went, arriving at its mouth late in the
evening. The weather was clear and warm, when night
closed the day ; we lay down to sleep, but when we got up in
the morning it was raining. We saw several transports

10 Twelve Mo7iths i7i Andersonville.

anchored out in the bay, and learned that we were at
Hilton Head, South Carolina, and that we were to go further
north. We soon lay alongside a nice vessel and were ordered
to go aboard. We remained at the wharf for two days and
nights to receive the baggage of our own and other regiments.
Here we learned that all the troops that could be spared from
the coast were to go to Yirginia, where they would be re-organ-
ized into brigades and corps. All the stores, baggage and
equipments having been loaded, we put out to sea.

Just here, I will relate a little joke our Captain, H. A.
Johnson, played on one of the 112th N. Y. regiment. That
regiment belonged to our brigade, and one day while we were at
Jacksonville, our Captain was the officer of the day. The Cap-
tain always enjoyed a good joke and could laugh as hearty at
one as anybody. So while he was making the rounds of the
picket line, he came to a post of the 112th. Their post was
located at a bridge that had been built to afford a crossing
place over one of many marshes or in-lets that put into the St.
John's river. The boys who were stationed at this post had
discovered a large alligator which had crawled upon a log just
at the side of the bridge, and was lying there in the hot sun
with the top of his head thrown back for the pvrpose of catch-
ing flies. The boys asked the Captain if they might shoot the
monster. He said it would never do to fire otf their guns
along the line, as it would raise the alarm. At their invitation,
however, the Captain went down on the bridge and saw the
gent apparently asleep, when it occurred to him that it would
be a good joke to have one of the boys draw the ball out of his
gun and shoot the fellow with a paper wad. So the Captain
gave permission to draw the ball and run down some paper
loosely — just enough to hold the powder — and go out and j^oke
the gun as close to his throat as possible and fire, and the effect
would be to blow him up, and at the same time the gun loaded

Twelve Months in Andersonville. H

in this manner would make no report that could be heard at
any distance. No sooner did the boys obtain permission than
they j)roceeded to execute it. The fellow with the gun walked
out on the bridge until he was over the alligator, then he
poked his gun down as close as he could to its mouth, and fired.
At the report of the gun, the alligator popped up like a blad-
der, but the greatest surprise was when the sentinel looked at
his gun. The muzzle was as flat as if it had been placed on an
anvil and struck with a sledge hammer. In the agonies of
death the alligator clasped his jaws together, flattening the gun
barrel as described ! The Captain had a hearty laugh at the
result. It was just as he anticipated, and he said it was worth
a month's wages to see that soldier when he looked at his gun.
The jolly Captain is dead. May his ashes rest in peace until
the great roll call on the other side.

At the end of five days on the sea, we arrived at Chesa-
peake Bay. We simply touched at Fort Monroe, where we re-
ceived orders to go up the York Eiver. While attempting to
make the mouth of the York Eiver, our pilot lost his way, and
asthe wind was blowing a gale, we came near being wrecked
on old Point Comfort. After signaling for. a long time we got
a pilot, who took charge of our vessel and made the river all
right, landing at Gloucester Point, opposite Yorktown. Here
we remained close to the river for the night, and the next day
moved back from the landing about one-half mile, where we
established our camp. The troops continued to arrive from
day to day, until there was a large body of men, out of which
the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps were organized. The Tenth
was commanded by Smith, and the Eighteenth by General
Gilmore. All was bustle and hurry. Organization of difterent
branches of the service was made from day to day, there were
reviews and general reviews without number. We encamped
in the old works which McClellan built two years before, when

12 Twelve Months in Andersonville.

he made his advance " On to Eichmond," by the way of the
Peninsula. Many were the brave boys who took part in that
campaign, who went on the march never to return. Yes, they
gave up their lives that the Eepublic might live and that the
glorious old stars and stripes might wave over a land of the
brave and a home of the free. Did they give up their lives in
vain? It looks that way sometimes when we see the same men
that were then doing all they could to destroy our free institu-
tions, now, after twenty years, elevated to the law-making

After due time we were assigned a place in the Tenth
Corps, and on May 1st, we broke camp and were ordered to
go aboard of the transports. What does this mean? We
thought we were going to advance on Eichmond by the way
of the White House, and to confirm our opinion of this fact,
several days previous to this there had been a small brigade of
infantry and the Uth Penn. Cavalry sent up to White House,
and it was reported that the Cavalry were scouting over the
country while the infantry were fortifying the landing so as to
protect our supplies when they should arrive. As the trans-
ports took on theij- loads, each boat would steam up the river
for two or three miles and anchor. This proceeding was going
on all day, our regiment embarking late in the evening. When
we started after the rest of the fleet darkness had set in. After
discussing the probabilities of the campaign we rolled ourselves
up in our blankets for the night and slept as only soldiers can
sleep under such circumstances.

Imagine our surprise the next morning to find our fleet
out on the Chesapeake Bay. The question was now where can
we be going? Speculation as to our destination was at last
ended by the fleet passing into James Eiver. It was apparent
that we were going to land somewhere up the James and
opposite from the south side, while Grant was on the North.

Twelve Afontks in A7iderso7iville. 13

It was a grand sight to see all the transports loaded with
troops, their bands playing, flags flying, and men cheering.
I do not know the number of boats. There were a great many.
Some steamers had in tow floating wharfs, while iron clad gun-
boats were promiscuously scattered amongst the fleet. J^ear
sunset we passed City Point. This had been the place for the
exchange of prisoners ever since the war commenced. Here
lay a huge iron clad at anchor, seeming anxious for something
to do. We passed on up the river to a place called Bermuda
Hundred. Here we landed and marched out in a field and
encamped. All night we could hear the troops on the move.
Next morning when we got up, and the mist cleared away, as
far as we could see were troops on the move or in camp.
There were several hundred acres of wheat and corn all doing
nicely until the troops went into it. After we got our break-
fast an old gentleman came over to us and commenced to talk
about the war. He said: "This plantation belongs to me.
I gave uncle Jeff $50,000 in gold to help carry on the war, and
I sent fifty of my best field hands up to Eichmond to work on
the fortifications. I sowed this wheat with the intention of
giving it to him when it was threshed, but here you damned
Yankee devils have come and destroyed it as you do every-
thing else." While we were talking, some one said, see those
fellows over there in the barn lot ! Looking over that way, we
saw forty or fifty soldiers after the pigs and chickens or any-
thing else that could be of any use to a soldier. The old man
looked at them for a few seconds and exclaimed : " This beats
hell," and started off for the house. The boys gave three
cheers as he went. We soon got the order to prepare to march
with two days' rations in our harversacks. Soon the bugle
sounded " fall in " and the regiment formed its ranks. Colonel
Dobbs galloped to the head of column and gave the order
" right face, forward march ! " We know not whether we

14 Twelve Months in A?idersonville.

will ever return. Many never did return, but we hope they
were permitted to extend their march to better fields beyond
the river.


Scouting for the Enemy — A "Non-Combatant" Doctor —
Capture of a Torpedo Battery — A Skirmish — Fright-
ened Darkey — Battle of Chester Station — Charge
Upon the Enemy — Taking a Johnnie Prisoner — The
Tables Turned — " Throw Doavn that Gun, You Yank"
— Taken Inside the Enemy's AYorks — Libby Prison.


FTER leaving the landing our course ran southwest. We
J^Jl. did not go more than one-half or three-quarters of a mile
until the boys began to throw away their blankets and extra
clothing, it being the 6th of May and the weather very hot. At
a distance of about one mile we left the main road and began
to scout through the woods and farms. We were told by the
officers that we were to thoroughly explore the country between
the landing and the turnpike to see if there were any John-
nies in the woods. This operation caused the brigade to break
into regiments, each regiment taking a different road, but to
keep within supporting distances of each other. As we ad-
vanced we observed at every cross-road officers with their maps
trying to gain all the knowledge of the country they could.
We came to many farms during the day where the men were
plowing corn, having no idea of our presence until we were
right on them. Some would start to run, others seemed
perfectly amazed, having never seen a wild "Yank" before.

16 Twelve Mo7iths in Andersonviile.

All of the white men were put under arrest. This precaution
was taken to prevent them from giving aoy information to the
enemy. We spent the entire day in this manner, without find-
ing any armed enemy. Late in the afternoon we captured a
young darliey, who said he belonged to a j)rominent doctor
who lived in Richmond, and who owned the farm that we were
then on. He said his master had gone to Petersburg and
would be back soon. So part of the company went down the
road, and taking a good position, soon had the satisfaction of
capturing the doctor. He was very wrathy. He said we had
no right to detain him, as he was a peaceable citizen. One of
our officers stepping up to his horse and taking hold of his
holsters, said : " Is it customary for peaceable citizens to carry
such things as these?" The old doctor said: "That is my
private property, and you have no right to interfere with pri-
vate property." Nevertheless, the revolvers were confiscated
and the horse also. Oh, how he did charge when the horse
was taken from him! The boys took the doctor to General
Foster's headquarters. From there ho was sent to Butler's
headquarters. I never heard of him after. About the same
time Company D found a negro who said that right " over
there is the river, and our folks have a signal station there."
So off the boys go, across the fields and through a strip of woods.
We were so close to the station before we were discovered that
the signal officer left for the fort, leaving his uniform, signal
flags, books and everything, which our boys captured and
brought to camp. At this station we found a battery for the
purpose of blowing up our boats should they attempt to go up
the river. The river at this point was sunk full of torpedoes
and wires running from them to this battery. By the use
of this instrument the signal station officer could touch oflf
any of the torpedoes he desired at any time, but our boys
came upon him so suddenly that he left everything. It being

Twelve Mo7iths i7i Andersofiville. 17

now sunset we fell back with the rest of the command, and
went into camp for the night.

Early next morning we were ordered up and told to get
ready for a march, and probably a fight. Soon we saw the ad-
vance cavalry start out, and soon after we followed. The cav-
alry did not go more than half a mile until we heard a brisk fire,
which lasted a minute or two, when all was still. In a short
time we saw some cavalrymen coming back guarding a lot of
prisoners whom they had taken. We were ordered forward at
once, and knew now that we had work before us. As we
passed out to the main road we saw the doctors fixing up their
tables, getting ready to attend the wounded. We learned that
the prisoners just taken were some of General Beauregard's
men, and that his army was concentrating at Petersburg. We
soon came to the woods and formed in line of battle and ad-
vanced in this manner. We were under a pretty brisk fire, but
as yet the enemy were not strong enough, and every time we
moved up they would fall back and take a new position. In
this manner we followed them all day, until late in the evening,
when our bugles sounded the order to fall back. So back we
went to camp. In this day's fight we had a good many men
wounded and some killed. As yet we had not put up any tents
but lay down on the ground with our blankets for cover.
About midnight we were ordered up and told to commence the
erection of breastworks. We were supplied with axes, shovels
and picks, and soon had a pretty good line of works. By the
time our works were finished it was daylight. This being
Sunday, May 8th, no move was made to-day. We arranged our
camp, put up our shelter tents, and fixed up for house-keeping.
In the evening the right wing of my regiment was ordered out
on the picket line. Also the right wing of every regiment
in the brigade. We did not go far, and were stationed along a

fence, two men at a place, and not more than ten paces between


18 Twelve Mo7iths in Aiidei^sonville.

each squad. Thus we jDassed Sunday night, Monday, and Mon-
day night. Sometime on Monday morning the Eighteenth
Corps marched out on the same road (towards Petersburg)
that we had fought over on Saturday. They came on the
rebels about a quarter of a mile from our pickets, and from
thereon, as far as they were able to drive them, they had heavy
fighting, continuing all Monday night, and it was the heaviest
musket firing I ever heard. Sometime Monday night the left
wing of all the other regiments of the brigade was ordered out
to guard the rear of the Eighteenth Corps, while they were
fighting at Petersburg. Having learned from scouts that there
was a considerable force collecting at Fort Darling, who were
advancing out on the pike leading from Richmond to Peters-
burg, Tuesday, May 10th, about 10 o'clock, we were relieved off
of the picket line and ordered to join the left wing, which we
proceeded to do as quick as possible. After going about three
miles we came to the turnpike, followed it for a short distance,
the woods being very thick with underbrush on both sides of
the road. Here we learned that the left wing of our regiment
was on the west side of the pike, so we tried to find them.
After going through the woods for some time, we got orders to
go back to the pike, where we were ordered to support Battery
D, Fifth TJ. S. Artillery, which had taken position on top of a
rise in the pike, with orders to hold. We filed across the pike
on the east side and lay down. The fight had opened on the
west side of the pike. The musket fire was pretty heav}', and
several rebel batteries were firing constantly. As 3'et our bat-
teries had not opened. As we lay here I heard the orders
given to hurry up the rest of the Corps. All the while we lay
hero the rebels were throwing solid shot and shell in all direc-
tions. This was done to get our batteries to reply, so they
would know where to concentrate their fire. While laying
here we learned that the Major of the G2d Ohio was in com-

Twelve Months in Andersonville. 1^

rnand of our brigade, and he, with other officers, was continu-
ally riding up the pike to see if they could see anything of
the rebels. All at once they came dashing back like a flock of
scared sheep. Then some of the officers said to the Major:
" Did you see the game, Major? " " You bet I did, and we will
smell hell here in a few minutes." Just then the Johnnies
fired a volley over us. Our Major's darkey, who had been
holding his horse, came leading him up to the Major, and said,
"Take the boss, Majah, I'se gwine back ! " The Major looked

at the darke}^ and yelled out : " You d d black rascal, are

you any better to be shot at than I ? Hold the horse until I
call for him." "All right," said the darkey. Just then there
was another heavy volley fired, which cut the twigs over our
heads. The darkey again bustled up to the Major and said :
" Majah, take the boss now, I'se gwine back sure." The Major
said, as he took the reins, "go, you black devil," and away he
went down the pike as fast as he could run, with all the rest of
the darkeys belonging to the regiment.

The rebels had by this time crept up through the thick
brush so close that they were shooting the artillery horses,
when we were ordered to charge, which we did, and a bad old
charge it was for many of us. We soon had the Johnnies on
the run, and forced them out of the thick brush. We killed,
wounded, or took prisoners, all we could see. Many of our men
in the front, were killed or wounded in the thick brush, and

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Online LibraryLessel LongTwelve months in Andersonville. On the march--in the battle--in the Rebel prison pens, and at last in God's country → online text (page 1 of 18)