W. A Wash.

Camp, field and prison life : containing sketches of service in the South, and the experience, incidents and observations connected with almost two years' imprisonment at Johnson's Island, Ohio, where 3,000 Confederate officers were confined online

. (page 1 of 21)
Online LibraryW. A WashCamp, field and prison life : containing sketches of service in the South, and the experience, incidents and observations connected with almost two years' imprisonment at Johnson's Island, Ohio, where 3,000 Confederate officers were confined → online text (page 1 of 21)
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W. A. WASH, Capt., C. S. A.










B 1842 (-

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by

W . A . WASH,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern
District ot Missouri.


Perhaps there are those who will conclude that the
contents of this book are intended as an offset to the
alleged inhumanity to Federal soldiers in Southern
prisons. 'Not so; it deals as little as possible with the
cruelties of war. Were I so disposed, I might now go
back and drag up a thousand northern prison horrors
to place beside the most revolting pen pictures of Ander-
sonville; but who would profit or be made happier
thereby ? Indeed, would it not be calculated rather to
open afresh wounds now partially healed, and to revive
unpleasant memories that we would fain obliterate.

No doubt some will be deceived as to the anticipated
contents of the book, for they will expect to see their
own prison exploits jotted down, especially if they
were somewhat notorious. Such will please remember
that it would be utterly impossible to give more than a
tithe of what actually oecured, in a single volume like
this. Besides, my notes of prison life were not originally
taken with a view to publication. I expected some
abler pen than mine would portray to the world our life
during captivity, but as no other has seen fit to write our
prison history, I have thought that my meagre sketches
might be acceptable to my comrades and the friends


who so earnestly sympathized with us while shut up
on that little island.

Had I intended to publish my manuscript, I would
have taken much fuller notes and preserved many
items and facts which would have added greatly to the
interest of the book. But the opportunity is now lost
forever, since, in the great flow of events then daily
transpiring, it was impossible to keep them all in the
mind. What I have written will serve as an outline, to
be filled up by each particular individual according to
his experience.

The introductory of Gen. Lewis will be recognized
and eagerly perused by many hundreds who were on
Johnson's Island, for the tone and style are character-
istic, and perhaps no one in prison was better known.
The hearts of some will swell with continued gratitude
as they think again of him who ministered to their
spiritual welfare, and persuaded them to forsake their
evil ways; and many a masonic brother will go back
in memory and bless him for his zealous labors in their
behalf, when sick and destitute in an enemy's prison.

A careful reading of what he has written will greatly
assist the reader in correctly appreciating the book.
Though I am quite sure that some Southerners will con-
demn the spirit of the work as being too nearly loj^al, I
hope it will meet the approbation of the mass, and I feel
that it will be calculated, in many cases, to form bonds
of friendship where hearts are now callous. If so, I
have added a mite to the welfare and happiness of man-
kind, and am satisfied. AUTIIOE.

St. Louis, March, 1870.


Having read the manuscript of this volume, and
having been an eye-witness of the scenes which the
author relates, I take great pleasure in commending it
to the public generally, but particularly to those who
were unfortunate participants in the horrors of the long
imprisonment at Johnson's Island.

Time can never erase from the memory of any one
of the latter class the prominent scenes of prison life
in which he may have participated; yet, to many, the
minor details, the humorous, the painful, the cruel, the
oppressive experiences must have been lost in the im-
memorial past through the friction of every day life
if the diligent hand of Capt. Wash had not embalmed
them as they transpired.

To those who witnessed what is here related this
volume will prove a source of great satisfaction and
amusement. The materials from which this book has
been collated were jotted down just as the scenes
transpired, for the daily journal of the author recalls
almost the entire period from June, 1863, to the close
of the war.


To an outsider, who never had the misfortune to be
locked up for safe keeping in modern bastiles, or to be
guarded, not by angels, but by relentless brutes, who,
afraid of the battle field, volunteered to guard prisoners,
because all the shooting could be on one side, a j^eep
inside is furnished and a slight glimpse of what we
experienced. To us, the former prisoners, the old,
gloomy past will be re-enacted, and faces, long since
grown dim on the canvass of memory, will be retouched
into their former freshness. We will stand again within
those plank walls, see familiar forms, hear the laugh of
the merry and the complaint of the sad-hearted — in
fact, live over again the strangely mingled life of which
it is a sketch. Who can not even yet recall the varied
emotions experienced by the incarcerated patriot as he
listened to the tale of defeat, greedily related and largely
embellished ? Who can fail to remember how keen the
anguish realized as we heard of the want, suffering and
ruin of the land we loved better than life ?

Who can know, save those who were there, how the
heart sunk when grim despair, like the head of Medusa,
chilled the soul into stone at the contemplation of our
home and loved ones given to merciless aliens and
strano-ers, and we unable to raise a«n arm to save those
precious treasures?

Prison life as seen from the author's stand-point and
from mine were vastly different. His was exceptional,
mine was the common lot of a vast majority of the
three thousand Confederate officerson Johnson's Island.

He was more fortunate than many in being so close
to family and dear friends who had influence with those


in authority. To him camo many a box hiden with
turkeys, chickens, hams and sweetmeats, obtained
through an arrangement with the man Scovill, who is
mentioned in these pages as prison provost. But to
thousands, who were total strangers in an enemj^^s
country, far removed from the sunny land of their
birth, who were unskilled in wire-working, and depend-
ent solely on the rations issued by their keepers, there
was but little fun and less poetry in those sad years.
The class to which the author belonged could hear
almost daily from home and friends, thus affording
relief from the fears which long months of silence begat
in the minds of many who were less fortunate. There
were hundreds of our miserable associates, who, cap-
tured in midsummer, with the light and insufficient
clothing furnished by a hard pressed and closely block-
aded government, suffered untold misery amidst the
rigors of the winter of '63 and '64.

No one of all the vast number confined there at that
time can have forgotten the intense cold of that in-
clement island, located in the open plane of Lake Erie
and bordering on the shores of Canada. Insufficient
clothing, shelter, food and medicine sent scores of vic-
tims to the grave. As success crowned the armies of
the North their severity toward the j^risonera increased,
and, as the prospect lessened, to many, of getting a
chance at rebels on the oj^en and honestly contested
field of batjle, an itching desire grew to kill the un-
armed and defenseless.

The avaricious officer who issued rations shared with


the contractor and grew rich upon the bread and beef
denied to starving rebels.

For a short time we were guarded by soldiers who
had earned the name of veterans — the buck-tails of
Pennsylvania and others — who, under the gallant lead-
ership of such men as Long, Sedgwick, Hancock, Meade
and others, grappled, in dreadful carnage, with the
grand old army of Northern Yirginia, led by such men
as Lee, Jackson, Johnston, Longstreet, Hill, Early, &c.,
names forever immortal in the memory of man. These
knew how to treat the brave, whose misfortune it was
to be prisoners. Those gallant and chivalrous men did
their duty as guards, but showed to us, and that too in
broad contrast to the Hoffman Battalion, how the brave
can be generous. On both sides, doubtless, the stay at
homes and the shirks, who were prison guards, knew
how to be cruel to a degree that curses them forever.
It is to be hoped that their names are not remembered,
so that no record shall stand in time against them.

This book will furnish valuable material to the future
historian, who will pen the more complete accounts of
those "stirring times." It will be but the beginning
of a series which will show up the hitherto silent side
of ^' Prison Life during the War."

If we would have a just verdict from the grand juries
of coming generations, to whom will be submitted the
conduct of both parties to the late war, it is necessary
that, not only a cursory view of Johnson's Island j^rison
be had, but that a minute detail of it, as also of those
miserable pens, Alton Penitentiary, Camp Douglas,


Camp Chase, Eock Island and Elmira, be placed by the
side of the exaggerations about Libby, Belie Isle, Tyler
and Andersonville.

The resources of each section must be fully canvassed
and a dispassionate portrayal be given of the spirit that
characterized both governments in their dealings with
the unarmed and defenseless. -If the North has nothing
to lose by such an investigation, certainly the South
has everything to gain.

The style of the author of this volume is purposely
homely and peculiar, intended fully to revive the fading
memories of which it is a description. If fastidious
taste shall be disposed to term it ^^ vulgar" and out of
place, let it be known that the writer intended not only
to recount the transactions and experiences of army
and prison life, but to carry the reader back to the
very times themselves by using the peculiar patois, if I
may so call it, of the soldier.

Captain Wash has rendered, to his old associates at
least, a service which must be highly appreciated by
them. It will serve not only to give pleasure and in-
struction, but to recall to the minds of many readers
much which they had otherwise finally forgotten, thus
securing, if each will take pains to note down his re-
miniscences, a full and complete account of our impris-

I most heartily commend this book to those who have
a personal interest in its narrations. Many a one will
delight to con its pages, from the relative connection
they sustained to the sufferers.


To some it will bring many a merry laugh, to others
the tears of yet unconsoled sorrow for the dear dead
ones who still sleep on that inhospitable coast.

May God bless the survivors and grant to the bereaved
that consolation which comes alone from the God of all
comfort. L. M. LEWIS.

Arcadia, Mo,, March, 1870,



At Vicksburg-, in April, 1S63 — March to the Front; Clothiner and Papers Lost:
Thrillinii- Incidents; Country, Climate, Seasons and People of Mississippi;
Out aniontr the Fanners; Army Movements Brisk; Conflict witli Iron-
clads; Almost an Execution ; Enemy's Intentions Evident ; Fiddle&Fun;
More Iron-ciads; May Campiign Opens ; Bowen at Port Hudson; Out-
post Duty; Musquitos r^r5«5 Rebels ; Steal a March on the Boys; Gun-
boats versus Water Batteries; Dinner with a Contraband; Stonewall
Jackson Dead, &c.


Reflections; Pleasant Jaunt; Commissary Supplies; Preparing' to Evacuate;
Big Black Bridge; Edward's Depot; Battle of Baker's Creek; All import-
ant Document looEate; Fight at Big Black; Surrender; Dinner with a
Federal Officer; Why Defeated; Blue Coats and Gray Comminjj^le; Van-
dalism: A Fancy Shoulder Strapper and I; Edward's Depot again ; Patent
-Cooking; Confiscation; Big Black once more; Noble Women; "Chicka-
saw" Battle Field; Yazoo Landing; Young's Point, La.; The Contra-
bands; Northward Bound ; Scenery on the Mississippi ; Napoleon, Ark.;
Elliott's Marine Brigade; Dead Prisoner Consigned to the Waves, &c.


Memphis; Gov. and Adj't. Gen. of Iowa; Pleasant ATeeting; Fort Pillow;
Island No. 10; Monotonous Scenery; All about Cairo; Gen. Buford, U,
S. A.; Passenger Cars for Rebel Officers; A Gymnastic P'eat Dixieward;
Natives flock in to see Johnny Rebs; The Ladies and Copperlieads; Terra
Haute; Muss with a Dirty Dutchman ; Indianapolis Then and Now; Our
Reception; Soldier's Home; \'isitors and Incidents; Railroad Metropolis;
Passage through Ohio; Sandusky City; Our Home in tlie Distance;
Strange Feelings.


Over the Bay; Sail Crafts; Head Quarters; Funds or no Funds; The Place
and the Garrison ; Sandusky ; Exterior Survey ; In Prison ; Thoughts ; First
Thing Done; Who We Found There; Rebel's shot and Others under Sen-


tence; Vallandig^ham ; First Sunday in Prison; Preaching-; Dress Pande;
What Next ? My Watch in Pawn ; Sutler; Washing- Day; Ring Making;
Prisoners Arrive; Still They Come; Touching Incident ;'Lt. Read Dead;
Galvanized Rebels; Exchange; Baltimore Merchants; Lee, P.ragg, and
the Southwest; Loyal Inconsistency ; Meade, the 7th Commander ; Differ-
ence in Northern and Southern Armies; Money from Home; F~ourth of
Tuly; Divine Service; Gen. Archer and others from Gettysburg; My Ring
Disaster; Sky Rockets and Cannon; John Morgan's Raid, &c.


My first box from home; Cannonading: Across the Lake; Foaming- white Caps ;
Peculiarities of Prison Life; The Morgan Boys; Gunboat Michigan; Iron-
clad Prowess Defunct; Lee and Meade; Rebellion Most Dead {?); Siege
ot Vicksburg; Woman's Worth; Alabama Officers in Luck ; Olden Times
Made New; Foreign Intervention ; Grand Proposition to the South ; Four
Hundred Veterans from Lee's Army; Thoughts and Talk of Escape;
Smuggling Letters; Sutlers' Department; Our Mess Reinforced by Twenty
Dollars; Northern Press; Death in Prison; Hospital Scenes; Morgan
Raiders Arrive; Crittenden, Dead; Jobii Morgan in Federal Clutches; His
Achievements; One Hundred and Sixty Rebellonians from Port Hudson;
Prison Scenes; Retrospective Look, &c.


Gloomy Prospect; Cartel Broken ; Bone of Contention ; Prison Scene; Off for
the Penitentiary; Siege of Charleston; Mobile; True Friendship; One
Hundred Gallant Sons trom the Old Dominion; Eccentric Minister;
Domestic Matters ; Going Home; Conscripts; Hidden Fire; Our Possible
Destiny; Contrast between tlie Naval Fleets; Why the Disparity in our
Favor; Kentucky Election; Despotism; Inhuman Federal Officers;
Changeable Weather; Yancey is Dead; Ourselves and our Friends;
Soldier's Life; Two Years from Home; Then and Now; Fast Day; Pay
Day; Capt. Law; New Pump; Lt. Kirby Smith; Northern Extract; Two
Suits of Gray from Louisville; Manners and Customs in Prison; Cele-
brated Characters; Youngblood, Branth', &c.; Prison Scenes and Prison
Ways; Daily Routine; Captives from 'Helena; Col. Johnson's Jewels;
Alton Prison; Sunning Day; Going- after Straw; Bathing in the Lake;
Skirmish with the Pump, &c.


Excursion Party; Preaching; Col. Lewis; "Who are in the Penitentiary at
Alleghany City, Pa.; Profession Life in our Midst; Lt. Minor and his
Drinkables; No More Boots; Laid Away; Rebels Arrive; Mr. Lincoln's
Intention; Sutler Enlarging; Washing Day; The Rebel that didn't go out
in a Slop Barrel; The Loyal Folks want us back in the Union, and Why;
Political Parties; Brantly and Universalistn ; Prayer Meeting; Tiie Sisters
ofLt. Brand; Tht' Alabama; My Way of Cooking; Town Ball; Pi ison
Scenes; My Facilities for Writing; Fashions Among Us; Hard-shell
Sermon; Old Pap; Reflections; Theoretical versus Practical Knowledge
of Persons and Things; What f>ur Ministers Pray For; Retrospect;
Mental Reliearsal ; Chain of Memories ; Our Prospects ; Panorama of War;
What the North Thinks and. what the South Thinks, &c.



Almost Two Years since the Last Chapter was Written; Why tlie Orifjinal
JSIaniiscript was Written ; My I'resent C^iartcrs; WJjyinJail; Long (jliain
of Kvents ; Grave Charge; IJefore a Magistrate; Article in Joneshoro pajjer
headed "Arrest of the notorious Capl. Wash;" Kenegades; The Sequel
Not Yet; Kindly Cared For; 15ad State of Affairs ; A Look Around Me;
Thoughts of iS'Ji; Memorable Cold Day; Four Confederates olV for
Canada; The Result; Death of Col. Cluke, of Kentucky ; Blockade of Ice;
Express Matter; Dead House; Plot Nijjped in the IJud; Five Hundred
Prisoners Ordered for Exchange; Act of Federal Kindness; Sutler Closed
Out; Our Fuel; Exit Rebels; Re-enter Re!)els; Papers Suppressed from
Prison; Rebel Kicked out of Prison ; Removal and Escape; Sermon bv
Col. Lewis; Death of Capt. Uarnes; The Masons, a word in their behalf;
Mv Hunk Mate Takes the Small Pox; Inspection by U. S. A. Surgeon;
Prison Guard Increased at Niglit; Col. Pierson's Prison Report from Organ-
ization up to Date; Grand Snow Battle; Gen. M. Jeff. Thompson Cap-
tured; .VI V French; Judge Breare; The Owner of our Island; Heavy
Dixie Mafl; Its Contents, &c.


Fourth of July, 1S65; My Enemies and I; Celebration; No Secffsh ; Poor Beef;
Major Scoville; Jas". B. Clay Dead;. Death of a Choctaw Captain; Dr.
Foster and the Bitters; Sharo Practice; Stir in Prison, Four Hundred
Sent Off; A Joke on Some Who Stayed; Southern League; Col. D.
Howard Smith on Parole; Lt. Alexander takes the Oath; Mountains of
Ice; Blockaae Described; Two Ladies in Prison; Rings and Autograph
Albums; Confederate Captain Disgraced; Gen. Shaler; A Night in the
Hospital; 2zd February; Brantley's Rat, my share; Col. Lyle a Rebel, a
Yankee and a Rebel Again; Revival; Promenading; Puerile Order;
Arkansas Travelers; Conversion of Prisoners; Federal Chaplain; Short
Rations; New Furniture; Lamp Broken Over Sutler's Head, and Why;
Starchy Federal Popped in the Back and Don't Like It; A Good Old Capt.
Praying in the Hospital; Col. Printup's Box; Nothing Lost by Kindness;
Delicious Pudding; Escaped and Captured; Monev Makes the Mare Go;
Crowd at Sutler Shop; Kentucky and Baltimore Ladies, &c.


Sub-Sutlers; April Fool's Day; Good Joke on Maj. Stewart, of Ark.; Dancing
School; New Occupations; Southern Thanksgiving Day; "Asallartz;"
Ladies from Kentucky; Galvanized Rebels; Camp Morton; Warm Times
in Northern Congress; Not Captured on the Battle Field; Rcbellonians;
Prison Strategy; Dr. Woodbridge, U. S. A. ; Dixie Mail; Rugged Lake;
French Letter; Fun; Tunnels; Ditch; Lt. Williams, U. S. A. ; Torchlight
Procession; Dr. Brantlev and Co. Trying to Bribe Sentinel; How the Dr.
got his Title; Gen. Slialer in Rebel Prison ; Muster and Inspection; Gen.
J. E. B. Stuart killed; Fish, Butter and Eggs; Prisoners from Johnson's
Army; Hawthorne and Giddings dead; Attempt to Scale the Wall; Tun-
nels; Qiiarters Searched; Result, &c.


June ist, 1864; Our French; Lt. Tobey; Long Letters Forbidden; Under-
ground Railroads ; Col. Hill Excites Renel Indignity; No more Coffee,
Sugar or Candles; Box from Mrs. Lillard; Morgan Turns up Again; Grant


Changing his Base; Vallandigham back in Ohio; Swimming in the Lake;
Five Daily Papers in Our Room; Gen. Polk Killed; Gold 22610235;
Gen. Arclier sent off ; Secesh Arrive; Capt Jonas on Parole, and Why ;
Seven Surgeons Sent South ; My Schoolmate ; Lt. H. M. Baldwm, U. S. A. ;
Geo. M. Steever, the Youngest of our Class ; Southern Gentry Aim to
Scratch out; Disagreeable Roommate; Sentinel shoots a Ditch instead of a
Rebel; July 4th; The Alabama Sunk: Box from Home; Tlioughts ; Prison
Wall Moved Back; Talk About Rebelling; Prison Gardens"'; The Oath
After Dark; A Dutchman's Order; Fifty Dollars from Home; Gen. Trim-
ble; Circulating Library; Lt. Brown;' Col. Boynton, U. S. A.; Chair
Factory; Two Prisoners \Vounded by Sentinel; A Dark Hour; Pro-
gramme of Concert Given by Rcbellonians, &c.


August — Arrival of Prisoners; Maj. Dick Person ; A Dozen Surgeons Sent
South; Bold and Successful Attempt to Escape by Lt. Murphy; Rebels in
Blue Follow Out Sand Wagon; Value of Worn-out Blue Pants; Fleven
Southerners Ride out on Two Wagons ; Adjutant Newman as a Yankee ; Lt.
Selecman Trapped; Loyal Troops Skirmishing forSeceshers; Seventeen Cap-
tured First Haul; Guard at the Gate; Prayer Meeting; " Fresh Fish; " Col.
Baxter, C. S. A., as a Major U. S. A.; Cruel Order from Commissary Gen-
eral; Fuel Added to the Fire; Three Southern Gents Crawl Down a Slop
Ditch; Lt. Dudley; How Lt. Clark and I confiscated numerous Plank and
what we did with it; Our Study finished and described; French and Span-
ish ; Cheating the Yankees; Ugliness Sometimes a Virtue; Rebel Hung;
Ratastrophe Described; Col. Fite, President of the " Rat Club ; " Exciting
Era; Heavy Slam : Our Modus Operandi; liaid on Hospital Woodpile;
Col. Lewis Gone; Escaped and Caught; The Washing Business; Capt.
Furnish and Lt. Maris in a Muss over a Rat; Sequel, &c.


"Pro Bono Publico" McClellan Nominated; We Indifferent; Golden Rule ;
Memorable Occasion; Graphic Description of a Tornado; Prison Scenes;
Rich Jokes; Nothing but the Lord's Prayer ; Thompson's Christmas Tur-
key; All About It; A Rich Affair; Short Rations; Fight in Prison; Privi-
leges of Our Cook; Pleasant Surprise; How a Rebel Got to Canada; Col.
Printup in Luck ; About the Prison Officers ; How and Why We Played
Possum; Lt. Wilson, who will Appear on. the Stage Again; Generals
Removed from Our Prison; Studying Spanish in our Stuclio; Our Room
in Luck; Gens. Marmaduke and Cabell Arrive; A Good Soldier Dead;
What Breckinridge Did tor Gillem; Reign of Terror in Kentucky; Cotton;
Gen. Beall; Col. Fite Promoted; Sherman's March to the Sea, &c.


Hot Weather in Jail; My Relative Situation; I Think Much but Say Little;
Dec. ist, 1S64; Battle at Franklin, Tenn. ; Southern Chivalry Scratch Out;
End of Block i; Death of Col Matlock, of Arkansas; How We Profited
by Somebody being Three Sheets in the Wind; Memorable Occasion; Out-
break; Lieut. Boles Killed; Cren. Beall's Circular; Our Share of the Mobile
Cotton; Port Holes in the Wall and Forts on the Island; Insjiection of
Blankets, and How We Juggled; Thief in Prison; Two Hundred and
Eighty of Hood's Officers Arrive; Colonel Printup Dines with a Federal
Major; Colonel Mike Woods; Fish in the Dab; Rebels Apply to Work on
Forts; Gold 216; My Spanish Grammar Finished; Prospect's; Good-bye
1864; All About Wilson's Chicken, &c.



1865; Genciral rtojnjirks; Why Prison I.ife was not Unhappy for Me; Grant
Authorized to Exclian^e; Fcdaral Policy; its Cruelty, its Results; Ex-
change Begins; Keelings in Prison; Two Hundred KebelOllicers Shipped;
Scenes and Thoughts ; Still They Or; Modus Operandi ; My Time Comes;
How I Fell; On the Outside; Passage over the Bay; On the Ice, and Inci-
dents; Across Oliio; " Xo Use Grieving over Spilt Milk"; Slansfield,
Ohio; Pittsburg; Through the Alleghanies ; OurHnances; Happy Family;
Juniata Valley; Old Friend in the Shape of a Bridge; Mufflintown, Pa.;
llarrisburg; Pies and Pretty Giils at York, Pa.; Anti-Triumphal March
through Baltimore; The Dear Ladies; Beast-like Federal Officer; At the
AVharf; Down Chesapeake Bay; Historic Scenes; City Point; Up the
James; Our Steamship; My Adventures among the Sailors; Twenty Dollars
for Breakfast; Our Federal Escort; Scenes on Shipboard; Pleasant Parting;
Harrison's Landing; Confederate Flag ol Truce Boat; Colonel Mulford a
Generous Foe; Unfurling of a Hidden B^lag; Passage over Historic Space;
Arrival at the Confederate Capital, &c.


Eisappointed, and Why; Spottswood Hotel; Colonel Leathers; On Parole
Furlough; Wages Paid and Balance Due Me; Richmond Theater; Libby
Prison; How 1 Felt Toward the Inmates; Confederate Capital; President
I)avis and General Lee; All Sober; Adieu to Richmond; Burksville;
Pleasing Incident; Round the Jollv Camp Fire; Bound West; Unexpected

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Online LibraryW. A WashCamp, field and prison life : containing sketches of service in the South, and the experience, incidents and observations connected with almost two years' imprisonment at Johnson's Island, Ohio, where 3,000 Confederate officers were confined → online text (page 1 of 21)