Over the dead line; or, Tracked by blood-hounds; giving the author's personal experience during eleven months that he was confined in Pemberton, Libby, Belle Island, Andersonville, Ga., and Florence, S.C., as a prisoner of war.. online

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Online LibraryUnknownOver the dead line; or, Tracked by blood-hounds; giving the author's personal experience during eleven months that he was confined in Pemberton, Libby, Belle Island, Andersonville, Ga., and Florence, S.C., as a prisoner of war.. → online text (page 1 of 14)
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S. M 1 . Dotur at 19.

This photograph was taken while the author was on
a furlough, fifteen days before he was taken prisoner.

S. M. Dufur at 59.

Photographed by F. W. Wheeler & Sou, Itichford, Vt.




ft L

I Over the Dead Line 1


E Tracked by Blood-Hounds a

CjIVING the Author's personal experience during eleven
months that he was confined in Pemberton, Libby, Belle
Island, Andersonville, Ga., and Florence, S. C, as a prisoner
of war. Describing pla?is of escape, arrival of prisoners, his
escape and recapture ; with numerous a?id varied incidents and
a?iecdotes of his prison life





' B, 1st Vermont Cavalry

War of 1861-5


Copyright, 1902,
By the Author, S. M Dufui

Printed by Free Press Association, Burlington, Tt.


In preparing this little volume, I have had an eye, not
so much to a literary production, as to give in compliance
with the oft repeated request of friends and relatives, a
simple and truthful account of my experience in the
prison pens of the South during the Great American
Rebellion. This Great Republic was at that time di-
vided against itself. The Northern and the Southern
people were enemies to each other, and although I was
forced to believe by the treatment to which I was sub-
jected at the hands of my captors, that it was their delib-
erate intention to destroy me, I can say, that it is with
no feeling of hatred or revenge that I now give to my
posterity a truthful account of what I saw and suffered.

The Author.
Richford Vt., Dec. 8th, 1902.


Chapter I.

Page i
Peace and Unity reign supreme.

Chapter II.

Page 9

Kilpatrick's famous cavalry raid around Rich-
mond, Va.

Chapter III.

Page 25

My horse shot from under me.

Wounded and taken prisoner.

Chapter IV.

Page 39

Five of Col. Dahlgren's men and myself sen-
tenced to death.

Chapter V.

Page 52

From Belle Island I escape and with 600 old

prisoners go to Andersonville.


Chapter VI.

Page 69
Our arrival at Andersonville on March 14th,

Chapter VII.

Page 85
Shot to death for reaching a hand beyond the


Chapter VIII.

Page 100
Public execution of six Union soldiers for rob-
bing and murdering their fellow prison-

Chapter IX.

Page 116
A young Massachusetts soldier's awful ex-

Chapter X.

Page 128
A nerve-trying experience. A live prisoner

carried to the dead house as dead.

Chapter XL

Page 139
Arrival at Florence, S. C.

A break for liberty.


Chapter XII.

Page 153
Eight days and nights wandering through
Southern swamps and mountainous fast-
nesses as escaped prisoners.

Chapter XIII.

Page 166
Secreted by slaves, they throw our pursuers
off the trail.

Chapter XIV.

Page 176
The Negro prayer meeting.
"Sist dese gemmen, O Lor, frou to de Norf."

Chapter XV.

Page 188
Escaped from the moon-shiners to be taken by

Chapter XVI.

Page 203

Our arrival at Florence prison after an awful

experience of nine days and nights.

Chapter XVII.

Page 213
Description of, and experience in, the Florence


Chapter XVIII.

Page 224
During the cold fall and winter storms, the suf-
fering in Florence was indescribable.

Chapter XIX.

Page 237
Leaving the prison of hatred and famine as
paroled prisoners.

Chapter XX.

Page 251

A dying soldier's story; his experience with a


Chapter XXI.

Pages 263-268

Names, Company, Regiment, date of death, and
Number of all Vermont soldiers whose re-
mains are interred in the National Ceme-
tery at Andersonville, Ga.

Chapter I.

It is March, A. D. 1901. The lofty hills of the old
Green Mountain State have not yet put off their white
robes of frost and snow, although the sun's bright rays
have already commenced their work of devastation upon
the spotless garments that for months have clothed their
fertile valleys.

Nineteen hundred and one. Peace and Unity reign
supreme. Moving columns of men, armed and equipped,
huge war vessels moving from port to port, bearing thou-
sands of mammoth cannon and trained men, panting
horses eager for the charge, glittering bayonets, and the sil-
very notes of the bugle echoing o'er the tent-covered hills
and valleys, are things of the past.

More than a third of a century since the first shot
echoed from the walls of Sumter. More than the aver-
age number of years alloted to man have passed, since that
shot proclaimed to the world that one of the greatest and
most powerful nations of the earth, was divided against
itself. Yes ! War was declared, the first gun fired, and


from mansion to cabin, from metropolis to hamlet, from
the Atlantic to the Pacific the news flashed that by trai-
torous hands, the old flag had been ruthlessly torn from its
proud position, to be trampled beneath the brutal foot of

"To arms! To arms!" was the pass-word of every
American patriot. We see and hear the people making
preparations for war. We hear the appeal of the orator,
the notes of the bugle and the din of the boisterous drums,
mingling with the commands of officers, who are endeav-
ouring to form and reform their inexperienced, though
patriotic, volunteers previous to their departure for scenes
that in after years were proudly described to their chil-
dren and grand-children. The dim eye of the veteran
shines, as in imagination it again flashes along the glitter-
ing barrel of his trusty weapon, or as he exhibits the
empty sleeve, or again relates the many thrilling experi-
ences and startling events that emblazon the pages of
his past history. None but those who were eye-witnesses
and saw the young volunteer of 1861, as he marched
proudly away under the flaunting flag, keeping time to
the wild, grand music of war — none but those who knew
him then and now, can realize the changes that time has


wrought. Those who participated in that hard fought
and closely contested struggle for rights and liberty, who
then possessed health, youth and vigor, are to-day aged
and decrepit. The once lithesome step is now slow. We
see the bowed form and the trembling limbs ; we see him
wrestling with aches and pains, which remind him that
ere long, will be mustered out, the last of those who in
this Great Rebellion placed their all upon their country's
altar. The past rises before him like a dream. Again
he is in the great struggle for National life. He sees his
countrymen as they enlist in the great army of freedom.
He sees them part with those they love; he hears tender
vows of affection as they lingeringly separate, perhaps
forever. Some are bending over cradles, kissing sleep-
ing children, while others are parting with fond mothers,
who with maternal affection hold and press them again
and again to their hearts, grief preventing speech. He
sees them part : now the wife is standing at the door with
the babe in her arms, and at the turn of the road the hus-
band's hand is seen waving her and his child farewell.
He goes with the husbands and fathers; he is by their
side on the bloody fields of battle ; in hospitals of pain ; on
the weary marches, and standing guard in storms and


under the quiet stars. He sees them pierced by balls and
torn by shells in the trenches, wild from thirst, the life-
blood ebbing slowly away.

Thousands, yes, millions of men and women are alive
to-day, who in some way, either directly or indirectly,
were connected with that terrible struggle, when nearly
three million responded to the call for true and loyal men
to defend the Nation's Flag, and to sustain the rights of
freedom and independence for which their ancestors so
heroically fought. Yes, fathers, mothers and their chil-
dren have been born since the first traitorous hand was
raised against that emblem of freedom that our fore-
fathers redeemed with blood and long-suffering, and
which they swore to maintain. Many years have passed
and gone, many winter snows and summer rains have
fallen upon the last resting places of those who, through
dangers seen and unseen, stood by their country's flag
until final victory.

And thus the writer, as one of the survivors of those
eventful days, is reminded that this first day of March,
A. D. nineteen hundred and one, is the anniversary of an
"event" connected with those days of carnage and strife.
It is an event that should be handed down from genera-


tion to generation, that our posterity may be truthfully in-
formed in regard to the terrible sufferings and privations
of those who courageously faced danger and death that
the Union might be preserved.

Statistics show that 25,840 Union soldiers perished
in Andersonville and Salisbury alone, to say nothing of
Florence, Libby, Belle-Island and many other places
where Union prisoners were confined, and of the many
thousands whose iron constitutions carried them through
the trying ordeal, but who came out physical wrecks.

In the fall of 1865, tne writer was honorably dis-
charged from the first and only regiment of cavalry that
was recruited from among the loyal and sturdy sons of
the old Green Mountain State. During the four years,
this regiment participated in many a hard fought battle.
Seventy-five general engagements and skirmishes are
credited to its war record from April 16th, 1862 — when
its first charge was made upon the enemy at Mt. Jackson,
Va. — to April 9th, 1865, at Appomatox, where it re-
ceived, and in part executed, the last order given for a
cavalry charge, in the army of the Potomac.

It is upon this cold and dreary March day, the thirty-
seventh anniversary of General Kilpatrick's famous raid,


wherein the ist Vermont Cavalry took a prominent part,
that I take from the dust-covered board, the worn and
faded memorandum, that for many years has lain unmo-
lested in the old attic chest.

As I pause for a moment to peruse the dim lines that
time has nearly erased, I ask myself, "Is this real? Did
I write these lines in such a terrible place, and while sur-
rounded by scenes that almost baffle description?"

Yes. Each page, grim with age, bears undisputable
evidence of sickness, starvation and death. I am look-
ing upon the same lines that thirty-seven years ago I
wrote while the pangs of hunger, the ravages of disease
and the burning rays of a southern sun were doing their
awful work.

I carefully lift the first tender leaf. My now im-
paired vision rests upon the nearly obliterated words :

March 2nd. Taken prisoner last night. I am badly
wounded, and in Libby prison. What misery I behold."

"March 3rd. Dick Turner, the commanding officer,
told six of us, who were with Dahlgren's command, that
we would be shot. We are not guilty. Have not yet had
my wounds dressed. God help us, in this our suffering


"4th. They accuse us of murdering women and chil-
dren. The Richmond papers call us murderers. The
guard told us to-day that there is no hope for us."

"5th. I asked Dick Turner for some crutches; he
replied, 'No, you will be in h — 1 with your commanding
officer, before you have a chance to use them'. We are
more afraid of being lynched, than of being shot. On
Bell-Island I found boys I knew."

"6th. O how I suffer. If I am murdered or die,
and this book is saved, never let it be seen by my father
or mother. God knows I am not guilty of any crime. I
only did a soldier's duty."

As I glance at these minute memoranda, reading here
and there a few words, I notice that months have passed,
since, with a trembling hand I wrote, "Have just been
taken prisoner. They tell me I am to be shot. I am
badly wounded," etc., and instead of March, I see July,
August and September. In an entry made July 24th, I

"Another has been taken from our family — Frank
B. Jocelyn, of our company. How poor Frank wanted
to live. He gave me a message to carry to his widowed
mother, should I live to go out."


"July 26th. The members of our family, who are
gradually growing fewer in number, to-day mourn the
loss of another — M?ilo Farnsworth. I found him dead at
my side, at three o'clock this morning. He died between
the hours of twelve and three."

"July 27th. One hundred and sixty-three deaths
during the past twenty-four hours. Report says that
cholera is in camp. God help us if this is true."

"28th. Two men were shot near the south gate, for
stepping beyond the Dead Line. Capt Wirz said to-day
that we would soon be paroled."

"August 2nd. The heat is suffocating. I counted
177 dead bodies at the gate, awaiting the last act of the
drama — to be drawn away, and like dead dumb beasts,
thrown into a trench. The stench arising from the dead

bodies at the gate, and the excremental matter in the
swamp, and other parts of the prison, make the air almost

Such are a few of the reminiscences recorded in this
little book, by the aid of which, I shall endeavor to por-
tray to the reader the thrilling and heart-rendering scenes
that came under my observation during nearly one year
that I was confined in the Confederate prison pens of the


Chapter II.

It was during the winter of 1863-4, and while the 1st
Vermont Cavalry, of which I was a member, was lying
in winter quarters at Stevensburg, Va., that the order
was given from the War Department, to recruit from the
ranks, or in other words, re-enlist all three years' men
who had already served two years of their time. The in-
ducements held out to the men for this extra two years'
service, were that they should receive $402 bounty, and a
thirty days' furlough. Many accepted this offer, myself
being one of that number.

At the end of thirty days the veterans came strag-
gling into camp by twos and threes, and by the 25th of
February, the men were all back at their old quarters, and
doing picket duty on the Rapidan river.

It was about this time and on a clear, cold February
morning, just as the first welcome rays of light were seen
in the eastern horizon, that I was seated upon the back of
my faithful old war-horse, on a lonely picket-post situ-
ated near the summit of a hill which commanded a view
of the Rapidan. For eight hours I had remained at my


post, eagerly watching for any unusual move of the enemy
on one side, and for the relief guard on the other, when
I saw by the motions of my horse, that either friend or foe
was in the immediate vicinity of my post.

Reining my horse a few feet to the rear, where the
wide-spreading branches of a mammoth pine tree entirely
concealed my presence, I looked at my arms, and placed
myself in an attitude of defense. I had not long to wait,
as in a few moments I saw two horsemen approaching
from the direction of the reserve post, and just as I gave
the usual challenge of "Halt ! Who goes there?" I discov-
ered that it was two men from my own company, a Cor-
poral and a new recruit, one of those who are enlisted to
fill the ranks or places of those who have been killed or
discharged. The Corporal had orders for me to report
to my Company Headquarters at once, and the recruit was
to take my place upon the picket-line. As I passed the
reserve post on my way to camp, I was told by the officer
in charge, that the cause of my not being relieved through
the night, was, that the stars and moon shone so brightly,
he did not think it advisable to move men along the side
of the hill, as they could be seen by the enemy just across
the river, therefore they could locate my post.


Arriving at camp, I received orders to be ready to
march at a moment's notice; also an order was given for
each man to draw three days' rations, and sixty rounds
of ammunition. We had worn Uncle Sam's uniform long
enough to learn that a moment's notice might mean thirty
days or it might mean thirty hours, but the three days' ra-
tions, and sixty rounds of ammunition meant business in
the near future.

All day, men could be seen congregated in small
parties, eagerly discussing the probabilities of our intended
move. Officers were hurrying to and fro, and in low
tones giving orders, and answering the many inquiries
in regard to our probable destination and invariably the
answers were, "We know nothing about it."

Many of the boys wrote letters home, sending money
or .\ny article of value that they did not wish to have with
them, should an engagement or a raid occur.

All that day, — February 26th, 1864, — the men were
getting ready, for — they knew not what. All preparations
were made as quietly as possible; no loud orders were
given. Our winter quarters were left standing ; and those
who were excused from duty by the Doctor, and some of
the new recruits, were to occupy them until the company


returned. None but veterans were to go, so we did not
consider this would be a pleasure party by any means.

About sunset that night, our horses were saddled and
bridled; the men with overcoats on, with sabres and re-
volvers hanging to their belts, walked up and down the
company streets, talking in low tones.

No bugle sounded, but as daylight disappeared, and
the shades of night brought out more prominently + he
many camp-fires that bespeak the intense darkness so soon
to come upon us, each soldier distinctly heard the com-
mand, though in a low tone of voice, "Lead into line!
Right dress ! Number by fours ! By fours ! Right wheel !
Forward, march!" and Kilpatrick's famous cavalry raid
around Richmond had begun.

The objects of this raid were the liberation of the
Union prisoners in that city ; also the destruction of mills
and army stores; the capture of the reserve artillery at
Frederick's Hall Station, and the Virginia Railroad, and
the distribution of President Lincoln's Amnesty Procla-

Kilpatrick started with six regiments of cavalry, con-
sisting of some 4,000 men. The young and daring
Colonel Dahlgren, who was Kilpatrick's second in this


enterprise, commanded a body of some four hundred men,
consisting of detachments from the ist Vermont, 2nd and
5th New York, ist Maine, and 5th Michigan cavalry.

All night we marched through the rain and mud,
and the following morning we were fairly in the rear of
Lee's army. We were entirely cut off from all communi-
cation with our army ; we had captured the enemy's picket-
post, and no longer was our destination a secret. Soon
after daylight, a halt was made long enough to feed our
horses, then up and on to Richmond ; tearing up railroad
tracks, destroying telegraph lines, burning bridges, and
makinggeneraldestruction,aswe advanced. The men were
ordered to molest no one who did not molest them, and to
enter no private dwelling. Most of the time during that
long-to-be-remembered ride, the rain fell in torrents, ren-
dering the roads almost impassable.

Colonel Dahlgren and his command fell into ambush,
and he was killed, sixteen bullets passing through his head
and body. His command became separated and the Ver-
mont boys joined Kilpatrick's forces near Richmond. This
was on March ist, and during the afternoon of that day,
Kilpatrick's men were drawn up in line before the fortifi-


cations at Richmond on the Brook turnpike, three and a
half miles north of the city.

Judging the capture of Richmond to be impossible,
Kilpatrick decided to move around the city and join Gen-
eral Butler at Yorktown. At 4 P. M. the column started,
and after destroying two miles of the Fredericksburg
railroad, moved on to Mechanicsville, six miles from

Here, after destroying the railroad buildings and cut-
ting the track, the men got an hour's rest. It was just
after dark, when we turned off from the turnpike, and our
regiment entered a small piece of pine woods. As soon
as a halt was made, and our horses picketed, many of the
men camped down at once. Both men and horses were
suffering from want of food and rest; all the sleep that
we had obtained during the past forty-eight hours, was
while riding in the ranks with our heads resting upon the
blankets that were rolled and strapped to the front of our

Comrade Horace B. Stetson and myself were tent-
mates at the time, and while I was loosening the saddle-
girths, and caring for our horses, Stetson spread out our
wet blankets, and made us as comfortable a bed as he


could under the circumstances, as it was raining and
snowing at the time. Our rubber blankets, however, par-
tially protected us from the storm, and we were soon fast
asleep. At 10.30, I was awakened by the report of ar-
tillery, immediately followed by the crashing of solid
shot and shell through the tree-tops. At the report of
the first gun, the bugle sounded "To horse!" and those
who had not camped down for a little rest, and were run-
ning the risk of losing the much-needed sleep, in ex-
change for a cup of hot coffee, had a little advantage of
those who were fast asleep; the latter springing from
their beds in a bewildered state, scarcely knowing where
they were. Small camp-fires were shining all through
the woods, and as we entered after dark, knowing noth-
ing of the lay of the ground, neither the points of the
compass, and the dazzling camp-fires threw many of the
men, especially those who were suddenly awakened, into
a bewildered condition; it often happened that if one
moved a few feet from his own quarters, he was com-
pletely lost, or "turned around." As the sound of the
first gun startled me, I sprang from my bed, and shouted
to my comrade, who slept more soundly than myself, to
turn out, that the enemy had opened fire upon us. I then


looked for my horse, and after two or three minutes found
him in almost an opposite direction from where I sup-
posed I had left him. I was not long in arranging my
saddle and bridle, and making a charge for the bed to
secure my blankets, I was somewhat surprised to find my
bed-fellow, Stetson, still quietly sleeping. I caught him
by the foot and pulling him out of the bed,I again shouted
that the Rebs. were shelling the camp.

This time he spoke, and proceeded to instill into
my mind the contempt he felt for my self-imagined cun-
ning, and that if I did not wish to sleep myself, I might
allow others to do so.

"Boom ! Boom !" again rang out the Rebel gun, im-
mediately followed by the bursting of a shell, which cut
short poor chummy' s scolding, and springing back into
his bed upon his hands and knees, he threw the things
right and left in searching for his cap, as he excitedly
asked : "Why in thunder didn't you wake me up?"

By this time the rebels had advanced to the edge of
the woods, and soon a scattering fire of musketry com-
menced along the out-skirts. Lieut. Col. Preston, of the
ist Vermont, gave the order for his men to fall in on foot,


and soon quite a line of battle was formed between our
horses and the enemy.

Thus far the enemy appeared to have everything
about their own way, and most likely they mistook our
silence for a preparation to retreat, but when our regiment
opened fire with their Spencer carbines, they appeared
somewhat surprised, and for a time their firing ceased
altogether. After we had fired eight or ten rounds, in
rapid succession, the order was given by Col. Preston,
"Every man to his horse, and lead into line in the open
field to the rear !"

This was the last order or command I ever heard
from this brave and noble young officer, as he was killed
on the 3rd of the following June.

While we were on the firing line, my horse escaped,
or was by mistake taken by some one else; I never knew
which, for I never saw him again. Anxiously going
through the company, making inquiries from man to man,
and from company to company, I heard some one a little
distance away cry out, "Who wants a horse?" Hurrying
as fast as I could to the spot where I had heard this ques-
tion asked, I found an officer sitting upon his horse and

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Online LibraryUnknownOver the dead line; or, Tracked by blood-hounds; giving the author's personal experience during eleven months that he was confined in Pemberton, Libby, Belle Island, Andersonville, Ga., and Florence, S.C., as a prisoner of war.. → online text (page 1 of 14)