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Title: In Defense of the Flag - A true war story
Author: Stafford, David W.
Language: English
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  _Buy his book and read his story,
    Every word of which is true.
  He fought bravely for Old Glory
    That its folds might shelter you._

                        _H. C. STAFFORD_,
                     _Captain of Company C.
             Eighty-Third Pennsylvania Volunteers_.

_Erie, Pa., Aug 25, 1903._

[Illustration: DAVID W. STAFFORD.]




  A Pen Picture of Scenes and Incidents during the
  Great Rebellion.—Thrilling Experiences During
  Escape from Southern Prisons, Etc.


  All Rights to this Story Reserved by David W. Stafford
  of Company D, Eighty-Third Pennsylvania Volunteers



[Illustration: HENRY LEDIERER.]

A True War Story.

By David W. Stafford.

Now in the commencement of this narrative and tale of my early life, I
must say that a good part of my life has been somewhat gloomy. At the
time of my entering the service of my country I was seventeen years of
age. It was just after the first and second engagements at Bull Run.

My father was a poor man, the father of some nine children, and a
shoemaker by trade. I had left home early in my youth, when about
fourteen or fifteen years old, and at this time, just before the war,
a boy’s chances for labor and wages paid were very small. I worked for
only seven dollars a month. This was the first labor I ever performed,
working by the month. Oh, how my mind goes back to childhood days!

Now in the fall of 1862, on the 28th day of August I felt it my duty to
respond to my country’s call, and I enlisted in the 83rd Pennsylvania
Volunteers, to serve three years.

After I had been some two years in the service, my brother, two years
younger than myself, enlisted and came to the army at Rappahannock
Station, on the Rappahannock River. Now I had written a good many
letters home to my poor brother, advising him not to come to the army,
but it was of no avail. He would and did come, but I have reason to
thank God that it was his own good will, and that my brother’s life
blood was not shed in vain for his country, although I did try my best
to have him stay at home.

Soon after he came to the regiment and was placed in the same company
with me, I was detailed to go on picket duty. Very shortly thereafter
I became injured while assisting in the building of rifle pits at
night and was sent from our headquarters to Washington. I had previous
to this been through all of the engagements from the Antietam war,
where we first found the regiment. I had participated in all of the
engagements, such as the first and second Fredericksburg battles and
the Chancellorsville battle, or “Stick in the Mud,” and the Culpepper
battle and Mine Run, and at this place it certainly did seem as though
we run, for we retreated clear beyond Manassas Junction, in the
direction of Washington, and we could not stop long enough to steep our
coffee without getting shelled from the rebel batteries. For six miles,
on what was called the stone pike, we double marched, and it did seem
as though the rebels were destined to lick us every time we met them. I
had, up to the time of my brother’s coming into the army, participated
in all of the engagements that our regiment had been called into.

There is one thing that I recall to memory very distinctly. It is the
incident of our camping on the battle field of Bull Run, on our retreat
from Mine Run, near the Rapidan River. Near this run the rebels had
very strong fortifications thrown up. Now on the battle field of Bull
Run our dead had just been covered—a great many by the enemy—on top of
the ground, and so shallow that the bones of thousands of the dead,
skulls and all others, lay on top of the ground. Oh, how sad it did
seem to wake in the morning to find the country strewn with human bones
for miles around, and it is one thing that I can’t forget very soon.

I had gone over the ground in the direction of Bull Run, and very close
to the run, studded with trees, sat the skeleton of one of our Indiana
men against a large elm tree, just as he had died one year before. I
called the attention of the officers to this spectacle. The skeleton
was in a sitting posture, the flesh having entirely disappeared, and on
the ground lay his blue clothes. On the arms of the clothes were the
emblems showing the sergeant’s stripes and the number of his company
and regiment. One of the officers just touched his sabre under the chin
of this skeleton and it fell all to pieces. I thought this a wonderful

Now after my injury at Rappahannock Station, of which I have already
spoken, and being sent to Washington, I stayed in Lincoln hospital.
Here I was treated some two months and was sent home on a seventeen
days’ furlough, when the Battle of the Wilderness came on. This was the
first battle that my poor young brother had ever been in. As our troops
were charging on the enemy’s works for the third or fourth time, my
brother fell, pierced through the right thigh, and another ball passed
through the shoulder very close to the heart. After the battle he lay
on the field eight hours before he was finally taken to Alexandria,
near Washington, and here he was placed in what was called the Haywood
church. This church had been made over into a hospital in which to
place the wounded soldiers.

I had not been home but a few days at this time. As soon as I found
on the list of the wounded that my brother had been hurt, I went back
to Washington and returned to Lincoln hospital, from which place I
had received my furlough. I was very uneasy until I got a pass to go
to Alexandria, where my poor brother lay dying of his wound, received
in the Battle of the Wilderness. On receiving the pass and arriving
at Alexandria I stayed two days. I found on leaving my poor brother
that his stay in this world was very short. I went to headquarters and
called for another pass and told them of the condition of my brother.
They told me if I was able to travel back and forth to the city that
they would send me to the front and ordered me to go back to the
barracks until the next morning at ten o’clock, and, oh, with what a
sad heart I spent the night, scarcely sleeping, and then to think of
the suffering my poor wounded brother would have to endure! It made
my heart ache as I thought of his parting words. While at his bedside
he told me of a good old lady nurse who had told him of his Lord and
Saviour, how He had died to redeem him, and, oh, how happy he was in
all of his suffering! He would point me to the kind old nurse, tell me
how much she had told him about his Creator, and it was wonderful what
faith he had in God. He would tell me how much the old nurse reminded
him of our mother. He told me if he could only see our poor old mother
he could die contented. Oh, what sad hours these were to me! I would go
out on the street to pass away the time. I felt so sad after I started
to leave him and to think of his last words, when he would look up and
say, “David, don’t be gone as long as you were before.” I think I saw
him twice before he passed away.

Now comes almost the saddest part of my life. The next morning dawned
and at nine o’clock there were collected before the doctor’s office
twenty men to be looked over and sent to the front, myself being
included. Some were pronounced able for duty and some were sent across
the Potomac River, three miles from Alexandria, where my dear brother
lay dying of his wounds.

Just as soon as I got to this distributing camp I went straight to
headquarters for a pass to go to Alexandria, three miles away, and see
my brother, as I thought, for the last time. I could see the spires
from where I was. Well, I went and laid the matter before the commander
at this place and told him of the condition of my brother and plead in
tears for him to let me go to him. He told me that there were passes
ahead of my request, and with all of my pleading I could not get a pass
under two or three days. Well, I went around in the enclosure of the
distributing camp, which was surrounded with a fence ten or twelve feet
high. At the south side there was a piece of a board off, about two
feet in length, and through this I finally made my way and started for
the city, taking the chances of the guards shooting me. They halted,
then followed me some distance, but I got to the city, and with a good
deal of trouble I finally got through the guard lines that surrounded
the town and went to the church where my brother was, but, oh, what
a surprise awaited me! At the door or entrance I found the hospital
steward and the old lady who had cared for and shown my poor brother
the way to his Redeemer, and on entering to where the couch was I
found to my sorrow that he had died the day before and was laid in the
cemetery to rest, and it is difficult to tell what a sad night I put in
that night, lying on the same couch where my poor brother had died, and
thinking of what the next day would bring forth, and knowing that I had
deserted from the camp. It indeed was a sad night to me, yet with my
faith and trust in God I was in hopes that I would not be punished for
deserting camp. Oh, how this continued to haunt me through the night:
And the loss of my poor brother! All this made me very sad, indeed.
Well, when morning dawned I went and gave myself up to the guards
and returned to camp, and to tell you the truth, this seemed like a
hopeless trip. I finally arrived at camp and went before the commander.
He well remembered my pleading a day or two before and wanted to know
if I understood what deserting would do to me if brought to trial.
I told him I did. “Well, young man,” said he, “did you find your
brother?” In this talk to me I broke down and told him plainly of
finding his empty couch and of the sad night I had spent, and he told
me to go to my quarters. “Young man, it is all right. I would have done
the same thing myself.” This seemed to lift a great weight off me. I
went to the barracks with a light heart then.

I will soon commence relating the tale of my confinement in the rebel
prison and the story of my escape. After the death of my brother I had
no desire to stay longer near Washington or Alexandria, but I wanted to
go to the front and get into the battles for my country, and if need
be die for it. I did indeed feel sad at heart at this time. Soon there
came an order for the men who were able to bear arms to turn out, for
part of Longstreet’s corps had come to Washington while Gen. Grant was
at Richmond, to see if the rebels could not take Washington. While our
army was trying to take Richmond the enemy came up on the Baltimore
Pike and got almost into Washington. Here we had a very severe battle,
which ended in our driving out the rebels from the city of Washington.

Now soon after our trouble with the enemy, we were sent by transport to
Richmond. Here, in rifle pits and bumproofs and from forts, we had some
very severe cannonading. We charged each other until we were called to
go on a reconnoitering trip on the south side of Richmond and south of
Petersburg, on what was called the Weldon railroad. This road we tore
up and continued to hold it against all the odds that could be brought
to bear against us.


Now there was one other thing that occurred prior to what I have
just written that comes to my mind. This incident occurred at
Chancellorsville, on the south side of Fredericksburg, just after
the first and second battles of Fredericksburg, while we lay in line,
and more severe fighting never occurred at this place. For the time
being the battle waged fierce and warm. Now what I mention this for
is this: We had orders to get ready for a general inspection of arms
and all charges in the guns were to be withdrawn. In front of us there
was heavy timber, and perched in the trees were many sharpshooters,
ready to shoot any of our men who raised their heads above the line of
fortifications that we occupied. We had orders to draw all the loads
from our guns and I had tried to obey but could not get the charge in
my rifle dislodged. I had to get a special instrument, called a wormer,
placed on the end of my ramrod to take the ball from my gun. Well,
I had got one of these wormers fast in my weapon and I spoke to my
captain in regard to my firing the gun. He told me that Col. S. Strong
Vincon, our colonel, had given orders for every man to draw the charge
from his gun and be ready for inspection, as they must fire their guns.
I told him what shape my gun was in and told him in order to unload it
I would have to pick some powder and fire it in the fortifications,
and did so. The colonel came very soon and looked at each gun close
to where I was. Soon he took my gun and raised the hammer and blew in
the nozzle. The smoke came out of the tube and he ordered me to climb
on the fortifications there and remain for two hours or until he would
have me come down. This was supposed to be one of the rashest things
that any of our commanding officers had ever done. Well, I had nothing
else to do but to obey the colonel and I had no sooner gotten fairly on
the line of the works than the enemy’s sharpshooters commenced firing
at me. Here is one place in my life where I knew that I was being fired
at, and if there was one shot fired I believe there were thirty.
Captain Woodard of our Company went right after the colonel and told
him that he had command of Company D and he would either take that man
from those works or either one or the other would die, and while they
were contending over the matter I came down off the works. Well the
next battle that occurred was at Gettysburg, in my own native state,
and here the colonel was shot by sharpshooters and died in a few hours.
Thus ends this thrilling experience.

Now I will, by the help of the all-wise God, proceed to relate another
sad picture of my life and the story of my capture and confinement
in southern hells, called stockade prisons. Now, as I should have
given the date of my enlistment, also of my capture, I will say that
I entered the army on the 28th day of August, 1862, in Company D,
Eighty-Third Regiment, commanded by S. Strong Vincon, of Erie county,
Pennsylvania, and our company commander was Captain O. S. Woodard,
of Waterford, Erie county, Pennsylvania. At the battle of the Weldon
Railroad, while on outside picket, I was taken prisoner, with many
others, and carried to Macon state prison and was confined in this
prison about two weeks. This was the first prison in which I was ever
confined. This prison is just ten miles from Andersonville. Now for
about two days before we got to this place, we had about one day’s
rations of corn meal issued to us, with about four ounces of bacon,
and this bacon was nearly rotten. I felt that I must let my friends
know where I was confined, for my poor mother, after the death of my
brother, had mourned his loss so much that she nearly died. What I
wished to do was to get a letter to my captain. I knew that this would
soon be sent home and would let my folks know where I was. I observed
in this prison a man who had formerly been a Union man and whom the
rebels had drafted into the southern service. He wrote a very few lines
for me, and while he wrote he told me that he had been pressed into
the rebel army, but just as soon as an opportunity presented itself
he deserted and had been court-marshaled and was sentenced to be shot
the next day at ten o’clock. Yet he wrote a very fine letter and told
me that he had friends that he expected would help him out. We were at
this time in the outside yard to the prison. Some sixteen feet of wall
surrounded us, the top of which was covered with glass. Now when we
all fell in line it seems there was a box close to a large flight of
stairs that led up to the second floor. This man said to me that his
cell mate, if I remember right, was to shove this box, which had an
open end, up to the wall as he passed close by after he had been placed
in behind. The cell mate was to answer to the call of both names. This
was very successfully performed and the next morning when the prisoners
were let into the yard the fact revealed itself, that the condemned
man had disappeared. This man was a Northern man who had a good lot
of property in Georgia, and had not left as soon as he should have
done. Like many others, his property was confiscated, and I don’t know
whether he got away or not. My prayers were that he did and I hoped and
prayed that God might lead me in all that I might do in order that I
might continue to write and work for others. I now realize that this
life is closing very rapidly.

While we were confined in this prison our fare was about twelve ounces
of corn bread for a day’s ration and about four ounces of bacon.
We were kept here about three weeks and then sent to Andersonville
prison. Now when we arrived here we were soon visited by Captain
Wirz, the commander of this prison. We were left in the hot Georgia
sun for some time before we were taken inside. This Captain Wirz was
a very cruel man, for he would take the life of a helpless prisoner
upon the slightest provocation. We did some complaining because we
were not taken inside the stockade, and soon Wirz found that we were
dissatisfied about being obliged to remain in the hot sun. At the time
of our capture we had been stripped of all our clothing, except shirt
and drawers; no shoes, not even a cap to our heads. When we were taken
prisoners we were captured by Colonel Masfies’ guerrillas, and it was
known that these men did not spare many prisoners’ lives. Now, as I
was saying, we were lying in the hot southern sun, wondering why they
did not take us inside. Captain Wirz came along and with much cursing
told us that we would get in there soon enough. We soon found out
that in this he was telling the truth, if he never had before, for I
say he was a very bad man. It was well known that he was the cause of
thousands starving to death at Andersonville through his orders. Now
I must say that we soon realized what a place it was in which we had
to stay. It was the saddest and the most sickly place that I or any
human being could conceive. Here we met with the most ghastly sights
that eyes could ever behold, for there were fathers, sons and kindred,
of both North and South confined in this prison hell, starving to
death, with no eye, as it seemed, to pity, and in tattered rags, and
hundreds without a rag to cover their backs, and men found walking in
the sluggish stream that ran through this stockade from the north to
the south side, waiting for the water to get clear, which never did.
I often think of these starving souls, and how it is that there were
not more lunatics than there were. Right here I want to speak of the
great spring that broke out on the northeast side of the prison, near
the north gate, and all in answer to prayers to God. Oh, how often I
now think of the wonderful prayer meetings, and oh, with what power did
the real saints of God prevail through Christ, the Lord Jesus. I do
thank God in later years that I have learned to trust fully in Him.
Now think of poor suffering humanity living on less than one pint of
field peas for a day’s rations for nearly thirteen months! Such was
the suffering of many in this prison, and how often I have thought how
little one man’s experience was, considering the vast suffering in this
place. Oh, this is a sad thing to contemplate, but in my old age and
the crippled condition of my body, and mental and bodily suffering, I
have been led to write up for the last time, a true story of my life
and suffering.

There has not been a moment of time the last four years, coming April
28th, that I haven’t suffered almost untold agony from a severe fall
from a basement barn, which unjointed and broke my left hip and caused
other internal injuries, from which I can never recover.

Now there were many things that happened in Andersonville that have
never gone down in history, simply because there were many things that
were not generally known. There is the story of the hanging of the six
men, and such things that are known by almost every man who was not
there at the time, but now comes three men for their rations of the
rebel sergeant, two brothers and a father. Well, very soon the poor old
man gets sick and becomes so bad that he cannot rise from the cold,
damp ground. Soon the scurvy takes hold of him, with many other bodily
ailments. His sons are then called on to get his rations. The rebel
sergeant thinks it is some Yankee trick. He was the rebel police who
was always on hand at the time of issuing Yankee rations. We used to
remark that they were so very delicious you could smell them at least
ten rods. You knew they were coming if you were on the windward side,
because they were cooked up some two or three days ahead of dealing out
and of course they would ferment and get sour. Now these were steamed
in very large lots, in two bushel sacks, and emptied into a large army
cart drawn by a three mule team. As I was saying, here goes the two
sons for their own and their father’s rations. You would think it very
cruel if you had been in their place and had just got less than one
pint, and then have those rebel guards beset you as they did those poor
boys and almost kill you for asking for a small bit of stuff that you
would not be guilty of giving to your dog, for surely he would not eat
it unless he were nearly starving. Then to see the rebel guards without
any earthly excuse shoot men clear across the prison merely for pastime
to let the southern ladies see how good and correct they shoot, killing
poor praying men. These are sad pictures, but they are nevertheless
true. And to think of men catching a small dog belonging to Wirz while
he with Jeff Davis were inspecting the prison, and skinning and eating
it, and to punish them would make them go three days without rations. I
have seen men fight for a chance to carry out dead men to get a little
fresh air. Now I feel that I should not linger much longer with these
sad scenes, but hasten to the story of my final escape from the rebel

Now along late in the fall came a report that Sherman was on his
way; that is, General Sherman, to release all of the prisoners of
Andersonville prison and at Macon. The rebels had sent papers to the
prison, stating that they were going to take us to the nearest point of
exchange. This they did so that we would not try to escape, while being
removed to other quarters. Soon after this, in a very few days, there
came a rush of cars, and they put us aboard of these trains, composed
of box cars, and we were crowded into bacon and cattle cars. As many as
seventy-five or eighty of these poor starving men were put into one of
these box cars and sent to different quarters of the South. Now at this
time General Sherman was near Macon, about ten miles away—when they
sent the last train load of us away from Andersonville, and all the way
we plainly saw the devastation of burned and destroyed railroads and
stations. It seemed that the extent of the destruction was for over
forty miles, and here our progress was very slow and tedious. The train
moved very slowly over all of this new road, and while passing along
through this country the rebels would stop the train once in a while,
to our great relief, and open the car doors to let the people see the
Yankees, who were quite a sight for those Southern people. They would
stand and gaze at us with great curiosity, and I have no doubt it was
a great sight for them, for there were men in all conceivable shapes,
without a rag to cover their backs. Many of them were the hardest
looking sights, I do believe, that my eyes ever beheld, and at one
of those small stations there was quite a large gathering of people
and a large company of young boys, who had just been conscripted into
the rebel service. Here they all stood to see the great train load of
Yankee prisoners.

Right here something occurred that I can’t forget very soon. The large
car doors had been shoved back and here stood the gazing and gaping
crowd looking us over and asking all sorts of questions, and many of
them were eating melons and apples, and they would throw the peelings
and cores in to us. There was one saucy appearing rough who threw a cud
of tobacco in the face of a tall looking veteran. He was close to the
car door and it went in his eyes. He could not take this insult, and he
jumped from the train to resist it and trampled this young rebel nearly
to death, but he understood that he would be paid for his rash act with
his life, for there were many rebels on each car with loaded guns. Just
as soon as any of the prisoners attempted to leave the trains they were
shot down without mercy. Oh, how many there were who tried to escape
from the train and were shot down by the rebels guarding the train!
We were carried from Andersonville to Charleston City, and here they
ran us under the fire of our own guns and there were some severe shots
fired at the train load of prisoners. There were quite a few shots that
hit some of the cars, but soon the firing ceased. I think that it was
soon learned that it was not an enemy reinforcement. Here they kept us
in some large tobacco houses when it was learned that during the two
or three days we had been in the box cars, so many in each car, and so
close that there was not sitting room for them all. As I said before,
there were seventy-five or eighty in one car. Some one had sawed a hole
in the bottom of the car that we were placed in, which let us have more
air than we would otherwise have had. It was a sad sight to see from
eight to ten poor fellows taken out of each car half suffocated.

After our journey up to the unloading here at Charleston City it was
wonderful to see the devastated condition of this place. There were
many buildings that were falling from the solid shot that was being
thrown into them from our bombarding army.

The next day we were all placed on board of the cars once more and
started in the direction of Florence, South Carolina, one hundred miles
from this city. Here we were once more unloaded and placed in a ten
acre lot, for the stockade was not completed, which was thought would
have been completed in about two weeks. Here again we found that our
looked for exchange was still another bull pen, or a Southern prison
hell and worse. There were all of the same Andersonville bloodhounds
and Captain Wirz, the old commander, here to give us chase as soon as
any of us should try to escape. We had been here, surrounded by two
lines of guards and a line of pickets, for about five days, when the
rebels let out a large company between the guard lines, and they broke
through the next line and got away, three or four hundred, and many got
as far as the Peedee River, some thirty-four miles away. Nearly all
were caught and chewed up by the hounds and shot so that there were not
more than one-fourth of them ever brought back alive.

Henry Ledierer, an old comrade and bugler of the eighty-third regiment,
and of company C, of this regiment, the same one that I belonged to,
and who was with me while in Andersonville prison, was with me here at
this Florence prison. He was one to get away from here and was one to
get as far as the big Peedee River, some thirty-four miles from the
prison, and if I remember right was caught and brought back some three
days later. He was caught by a southern planter, who had been warned by
the rebels of the break that had been made by the prisoners. Henry had
brought back some eight or ten pounds of corn hoecake and he and myself
concluded that if we could get a chance we would get away just as soon
as we could. The day soon came, for it commenced to rain the next day
after Henry got back, and when night came we made ready and crawled out
through the first guard line, and then we laid in wait for a Northern
squad of about a hundred and fifty men who were let out through the
first line for water near the bull pen which they had not completed
yet, and when these men got outside of the first line of guards, there
lay just outside of the next line a lot of the sick on the ground
with nothing but the canopy of heaven to cover or shelter them from
the storm. We finally fell in with this working squad and passed out
through the second line here. Just as soon as we came to where the sick
lay it was understood that we would fall out among the sick without
being seen by the enemy, and we were successful in doing this. And
now came the picket line and if it had not been for their reckless
picket fire we never would have succeeded in our escape. We finally got
through their picket line and traveled all night until morning began to
dawn, when we had to find some place to conceal ourselves. But it had
been a bad night for us.

We had got out of the prison, but to tell in what direction to go
was the next thing to consider. Well, we were guided by the railroad
station lights until we got out of sight of the stations, then as
we had nothing to guide us we had to do the best we could. It still
continued to rain until we had traveled all night, when we found
ourselves in sight of the very prison that we had left early in the
evening. This was a surprise, for we had traveled nearly eight hours,
and to find ourselves within three miles of the very prison that we
were trying to get away from. Surely it made us feel sad enough.

As I was saying, the day was about at hand and the next thing to do was
to find some place in which to conceal ourselves until night should
close in, and while we were still looking we soon came to a large stack
of corn fodder, and in this we crawled and remained until night again.
Late in and during our first night’s travel we found nothing to subsist
on, but Henry had a small amount of hoecake that he had brought back
with him, but which was now all gone, and there was no water near us.
We were so close to the prison we could see the encampment. Oh, what a
day of suspense, with these Holland bloodhounds running in almost all
directions, hunting the trail that the rain had washed out. For this
we had reasons to thank God. When night set in we started again, and
the rain that had continued to fall had now let up for a time and the
stars came out. It had been very rainy for two days and nights. Now we
felt glad to have star light for we had studied out the small clump of
stars called the small dipper and also the north star.

Now this night we had before us about thirty miles before we came to
the Big Peedee River. This river runs nearly north and south. Well, we
traveled as fast as we could, keeping very shy of any inhabitants, for
in South Carolina it is very difficult to find a Union man.

We found some sweet potatoes on our way to help us along.

Praise God! How much I think of the little faith we had in God at that
time, but I am sure He cared for and protected us.

Well, just before dawn the second night we came in hearing of the
roaring of the river, for this river had several large falls in it,
and you could hear the sound of them before you came within a mile or
so of them. We came to the water’s edge. We had no sooner got on the
bank of the river than we discovered that the rebels were in pursuit
of us, for we could hear the faint baying of hounds. This almost made
our hearts quake, for Henry Ledierer had told me the reason that he
did not try to swim the river was because the fellow who was with him
could not swim and he himself was a very poor swimmer. Now this was
very discouraging, for the river was at least three-quarters of a mile
across and overflowed the banks nearly a half mile in two or three feet
of water. But we must start, for the hounds came closer and closer each
delayed moment. We plunged in. I had it understood that we must swim a
western course down stream so that the current would help us in gaining
the other side. Now it remained for us to get the hounds between us
and the river so that we could get out of the way of pursuit as far as
possible, but what was my surprise to find my comrade could not swim
against the current of the river. I had got some ten rods ahead, when
I found that he was floating down stream with the current. Oh, how sad
I felt to think the hounds were almost heaving in sight and that my
poor comrade, whom I had decided to stand by in every place possible
until death should separate us, struggling in the angry billows. Now
it seemed that the time had arrived, for he had already called to me
that he could not go any farther, and had sank once below the current,
and just as I reached him he went under again. I reached out my cane
that somehow I had kept in my left hand. He caught it like any drowning
man would, and it was all I could do to keep him from drowning both
of us. Well we got ashore just as the rebels came in sight. They had
been looking for some of our men ever since the break to pick up if
they could any straggling Yankees who had not yet been captured. We
were now destined to a few days of severe chasing, if not capture,
for there were in pursuit of us four or five mounted rebels and three
of the Andersonville bloodhounds. During all of this day and most of
the night we had been pursued along this river, and during the day we
were compelled to cross the river the third time to keep from being
captured. What suffering, without anything to eat! We began to get very
hungry and weak, still we kept on late in the night. For three days and
a good part of the night we were beset by these hounds, when in the
afternoon of the third day the blast of the horns and the baying of the
hounds ceased. For some distance we had traveled among the elm timber
along the river flats. Finally we came to a road which led off to the
left from the river, and we thought we would follow this road. Just
at this time there came a sudden blast of a horn, and, looking in the
direction of the sound, we saw an old gray-headed negro with a white
horse coming in our direction, who was beckoning to us to listen. He
went on to tell us that the rebels had given up pursuit of us, and he
had been close to them and to us most all day, and that his old master
was in hopes that we would not be taken. We did not want to believe
him, for we had come to the conclusion that most all South Carolians
were bad rebels and we felt rather suspicious of any one who would
speak a kind word for a white man. It showed the darkey to be a kind
old man and he told me in his old southern way, “Why, massy, for de
lobe of de Lord, I would not tell you a lie.” Well I must say that he
induced us to stay in the woods concealed in the thicket, and he went
away making us a promise that he would be back soon with something
for us to eat. I told Henry that I would go over near the road in the
direction from whence he would come and stay until he arrived, and
would find out whether he meant us any harm or not. Soon I came back
again. The poor old man went away singing in a low voice some tune,
and I went back to where Henry was. We waited, satisfied that he was a
friend in need. At this time it was about nine or ten o’clock in the
evening and when the old darkey showed up he had brought two large
hoecakes and some nice stewed bacon in one of those small stew kettles,
and some of the new sorghum cane syrup. Now if ever we were thankful
for anything in this wide world we were for this kindness shown us by
this poor old pilgrim, whom I believe was God’s own messenger. Now we
sat and ate and talked and told the old man of how we had suffered in
rebel prisons and many other things, and this poor old man told us that
his master was a good Union man and that he would like to see us. This
we did not desire to do, as we did not care to meet any white man. We
told the old darkey that we feared to meet with his old master, and
all the darkey could say, would not induce us to go to the plantation.
So we stayed concealed in the forest for three days, with nothing to
protect us from the cold, damp nights except a large amount of leaves
that I had gathered up to lay in.

Now this reminds me that I did not give the date of my capture and of
my getting away. It must have been about the first of August. I was
taken in the fall of 1864. Henry was taken about the time of the Battle
of the Wilderness. Now, the time of our escape was about the middle of
November, and I tell you it was at this time getting to be very cold
nights. Well, once a day, up to the third night, the old man continued
to come and bring something for us to eat, and the third night he came
he urged so hard to go to the plantation that we concluded to go with
him. When we got to the plantation barn we found two other men there.
One of them was an Irishman and the other a Frenchman. Both of them
had been concealed here for over a week. They were both from the same
prison, but we found out very soon that we did not want anything to do
with them for the old darkey brought four large hoecakes to be divided,
each to have one a piece, but the Irishman broke one in two and gave
Henry and I half of one a piece, and he and the Frenchman took the
other three. This we told the old darkey and he brought enough to make
it all right the next morning, and I and Henry concluded that we never
would travel a mile with them if we could help it. So we found out the
next morning that the old planter had looked in on us when the darkey
brought us our food for the last night of our stay at this plantation,
for it was understood that the next day was Sunday, the first Sunday
that we had known for a long time, and the old planter was going to
church. Our old friend, the darkey, was going to ferry us across the
river again for another start for our lines. The next day dawned
very beautiful and our sleep in the planter’s barn was very good and

Just as soon as the old planter had gone to church the old colored man
took us all to the river, where the little and big Peedee Rivers join,
and here he ferried us across. Now this boat in which we were carried
was one that the old man stood up in and used his paddle in the stern
end, and as soon as we got across the river we concluded to separate
from the other two fellows and travel alone. It was our intention not
to travel any at all by day, if we could only avoid it, and to get away
from the two fellows who had taken our hoecake was our desire.

We had traveled but a short distance when we came to a public road.
There were about ten or fifteen negroes on this road. The Irishman
wanted apple jack, and it seemed that to get a hold of this apple
brandy was the most he desired. So he and the Frenchman went to the
road, and, calling to the darkies, told them what their desire was, and
from the chuckling of the darkies we came to the conclusion from what
we heard that it would not be long before they would get something that
they were not looking for, for at the time of the break at the Florence
prison the country was aroused and armed, and they told the negroes
that the Yankee man was so powerful that he would eat up a black man.
The people were all armed for miles around and as soon as they would
tree any of our men they would shoot them out of the trees as fast as
they would come to them. Now this superstition had spread all over the
country, and it was nothing but the most intelligent class who would be
ready to help capture and kill these flying fugitives. They would kill
them for pastime and amusement.

Now as soon as it was understood by the Irishman and his chum that they
would soon be supplied with apple jack, they waited until the return
of the darkies, and it was not longer than half or three-quarters of
an hour before we heard the sound of hounds and the blast of horns.
We knew well enough what this all meant, and just as soon as these
fellows met the darkies we started in the direction of the river again
and made as fast progress as we could until we came to a swamp. We went
into this morass as far as we could—through the mire and water to avoid
pursuit of the hounds. We could hear the bay of the hounds and the
blast of horns. We did feel bad to think that these poor simple fellows
would run right into danger as they had done! It might have been about
an hour before we heard the discharge of fire arms and all was still
again and so ended. I have no doubt but that two more lives of fleeing
prisoners were sacrificed. They had escaped from what was more than
death—a Southern hell—as these prison pens were called, only to be shot
to death.

Now we lay here in this quagmire marsh until night set in and then we
started again, never intending to travel after night unless compelled
to do so. The way that we intended to travel lay in a northwesterly
direction, and oh, such suspense and fear as a man will have in
traveling in the cold part of the year in the enemy’s country,
surrounded on every side by a gaping mob and howling hounds, and many
a time while we were traveling near any road have we come upon a large
company of rebels, almost on us before we would know it. We would lay
down wherever we could, sometimes not over fifty feet away, and lay
there until it seemed as though every eye was turned on us.


There are many incidents that happened that I never will be able to
relate here in this tale of my escape. As I was saying, when night
again set in it found us on our way to complete our travel. We had
come a good, long journey without anything occurring of any note for
several nights or days, until we got within sixty or seventy miles of
the North Carolina line. We had not had anything to eat for several
days, except hard corn and once in a while some raw sweet potatoes that
we had gathered along the way. We had at this time camped, or stopped,
as I should say, in a secluded place in the forest, near a nice ravine,
and in the forest quite a distance from any inhabitants. We had been
traveling, as we had concluded to do, nights, and to sleep by day, and
at this place we had got up just before night on Saturday. We thought
we would move on a short distance, when we spied about fifty wild
turkeys, and we tried hard to kill some of these, but we could not get
near them, so we traveled on for some little distance, when we came to
an old grist mill, some ways from any settlement. All around this mill
there was corn growing, and it was loose and dry in the husk, so we
gathered about a bushel of this corn and shelled it and tried our hands
at milling. This mill we found was an old overshot wheel and it had but
one run of stone. It seemed it had just been shut down, so we took the
corn we had shelled and put it in the hopper. This did surely seem like
a great undertaking, but we let it run, raising the gate and letting on
a full force. Our small grist ran through the mill very fast, and just
as soon as we could we scooped up the damp and smoking meal, and not
any too soon either, for just about three-fourths of a mile away came
two or three Johnnies on the run to see what had happened. We ran into
the woods west of the mill, leaving it running full blast. We ought to
have shut down the waste gate to the old mill, but we had no time to
lose, as we thought, if we got away. We found some old sacks that we
carried our meal in. Now we did not know what use we could make of this
meal, but still we thought we might come across some darkey who would
make some hoecake out of it.

Well, we traveled along in this timber for some little time, for fear
that these rebels would pursue us, and just as night was closing in we
came to where there was a woman chopping wood in these woods, and we
lay concealed and watched her chop until she got ready to go home. Then
we made ourselves known to her. She seemed to be very much frightened
all the way home, and when she arrived at her house she told us that
she had a husband in the army—I think in the Union army—at Knoxville,
Tenn., and she told us how she was left with one boy and two girls. Her
boy, just a few days before we arrived there, had been caught in the
house, right on the hearth in the log cabin, where we now were, and
had been shot down at his own mother’s feet. He had been conscripted
some months before and had been a wanderer in the forest, pursued by
home guards, as they were called, but they were nothing but bands of
guerillas, scattered all over the states, and this poor woman told
Henry and I that her husband had been a good Union man before and since
the war. It did seem strange that this poor woman should be compelled
to cut this four-foot coal wood with which to make charcoal, and this
was also used in making powder to shoot our Union boys.

Oh, yes, after she had related this sad story to us, she urged us to
leave her house just as soon as we could, for she declared that there
would soon be a band of rebel home guards along, and that they would
kill us as soon as captured. We let her have the corn meal. I think
that we had done the first milling in the southern country in the
manufacture of corn meal. I have often heard the rumble of that old
mill in my imagination since we left it running away. Oh, such speed,
and such smoking from the fast heating stones!

Well, as I was saying, this woman told us that there was a poor old
colored man down in a valley south of the house where she lived, about
three-fourths of a mile away. We had not yet left her house, south of
the road, when we heard the clatter of hoofs and of galloping steeds.
At least two hundred of these home guards, or cut throats, as they were
more commonly called, came rapidly up to this poor woman’s house and
halted for a few moments. We kept concealed to see what might turn up,
and as soon as they went on we went down the valley until we came to
the place that we had been directed to—the old colored man’s hut. This
was about eight o’clock in the evening and we saw to our amazement a
little hut in the side of the west bank of this valley bluff. In front
of this hut stood the poor old pilgrim, singing a beautiful hymn. We
had found again one of God’s true servants. He seemed to be about
eighty years old. He had been in some way taught to read, and had a
good idea of his Divine Creator. Well we had a good meeting with the
old man, but all we found to eat, that the poor old man made us welcome
to, was a small piece of mutton chops and about a pint of beans. After
a long talk, he told us there was a good old Quaker whom he knew would
befriend us if we would go with him. After he had declared the Quaker
to be a truly good man we finally concluded to trust the old man, but
we decided to keep our eyes on him while we went with him. He also told
us that this man had a large sugar plantation, which he worked very
late nights. Now our fare of chops and beans was becoming very slim,
and we began to get very hungry. I tell you it is hard to relate what
a hungry man wouldn’t do before he would allow himself to starve to
death. This I have had the sad experience of witnessing, and I pray
to God it will never occur again. Well, this Quaker’s place was about
one and one-half miles from the old darkey’s place. We started at
about 9:30 o’clock, and after we arrived at the plantation the house
we found was a large brick structure. Just beyond we could hear the
sound of mills grinding cane and the noise of the factory. We went just
a little ways from the old planter’s house and here Mr. Ledierer and
myself waited, while the old darkey went on to get the old planter,
or to see him in our behalf. Now, for fear the old man was working
some scheme to betray us, I went on ahead of where Henry was to hear
what the conversation might be. As soon as the planter had heard the
old darkey’s story, he discharged all of his hands and came to where
we were. I was about ten yards in advance of Henry when they came
along, and just as soon as I heard their talk I was convinced that we
had fallen into the hands of a Godly man and a true christian pilgrim
Quaker. Just as soon as he met us he took us by the hand, called on God
to bless us, and whatever lay in store for us. Thank God, dear reader,
for these apostles of Christ!

We went to the old planter’s house and he had a boy stationed near the
corners of the road to keep watch for anyone who might be coming, for
the home guards would go by at most all hours of the day and night.
Well, soon the kind old Quaker let us know that our midnight repast
awaited us and he invited us to come and sit down to their table where
his loving wife was seated. Here was a table spread with clean linen
and napkins, and we poor, starved, walking skeletons without anything
but rags to cover our feet from the snow and wet! Our drawers and
shirts were made up of all of our attire, and oh, imagine our feelings,
to be seated at such a repast that awaited us! And as we sat down to
the table of our hostess and folded our arms as he returned thanks to
his Supreme Maker the tears flowed from my eyes as I thought of home
and my dear old mother. That table and its clean spread put me in
mind of her. My dear comrade, though as brave as any man I believe
I have ever met sat by my side, and as we sat there thinking of the
embarrassed situation we were in, we were like two weak children. The
hostess sympathized with us in our distress. Well, we soon took hold
of the repast, for we had not eaten but a very few meals to a table
in over two and a half years. They were very anxious for us to tell
what we had suffered in prison and seemed delighted to hear of our
experiences. We would sit up evenings and tell of these incidents. We
had stayed with this good old Quaker four days, and the fourth day we
had it understood that we would start again on our journey. So when
the time came for us to go it seemed like parting with the best of
friends, leaving them never to meet again. I have often thought and
truly believe that God will reward these good people for their many
kindnesses to us. Now when all things were in readiness they furnished
us with a large sack of stewed chicken and a mess of cakes, the best
they could furnish, and with good advice we parted. The name of this
man I have forgotten in this narrative. I wish to mention the excellent
concealment that this good man had for us in his barn during our
stay with him. He had a very nice barn which was on the south side
of the road. It seems that the road runs east and west, and on the
west side of the barn there was a large hay mow, and in the further
end from the door he pulled out a large bundle of hay tied up in good
shape which revealed a passage clear around the back of the mow and
to the ether end. There was a good bed that we slept on during our
stay there, and through the day our food would be brought to us, and
nearly every day, through a knot hole we could see guerillas going by,
and sometimes stopping and looking around the place. Now I come back
again to where we parted. The kind old man had given us the direction
where we could meet another man on our way who was friendly to Union
soldiers. We tried to find his place on this shallow road which was
about thirty-five or forty miles distant from this Quaker’s plantation.
He told us to be sure and remember that his name was John Coltraines.
He also told us about this man’s having a brother about a mile further
along on the same road by the name of “Bill” Coltraines. One of these
brothers was a Union man and the other a rebel. John, the kind old
Quaker told us, was engaged in piloting Union men, as well as rebels,
through our lines. The first night, not getting started as early as we
ought, we only got about eight or ten miles on our way when we stopped
and concealed ourselves. We had been living rather sumptuously and
sleeping nights instead of laying still by day and traveling by night.
We laid by this night. Henry and I lay concealed the best part of the
next day, planning what we intended to do when we arrived home. We
talked of either going to his parents’ place or to my folks’ home.

We would conceal ourselves until everybody had gone and then we would
take possession and have everything to ourselves, and have everything
to eat that we could think of. Being starved as we had been seemed to
weaken our minds. Well, dear reader, if you could have seen the plight
we were in and some of the nests of leaves that we gathered up for many
a night to cuddle up in to snatch a few hours’ rest and to inspect the
tattered drawers and shirt that covered our starved skeletons, your
sympathy would have been aroused. Soon the day dawned again and we lay
concealed, sleeping and eating until toward night. Our stopping with
the Quaker planter seemed to get us more in the notion of eating and of
having some regular time in which to eat, but we could not let the sack
of food alone which we allowed would last us four or five days. It
surprised us how soon it was gone, for before night of Saturday we had
eaten about all we had started with.

We started again about eight o’clock to make more progress than we had
the night before, hoping to find our friend, John Coltraines, of whom
the good old Quaker had told us. We had to go very slow on the start,
for this was a main thoroughfare and a state road, along which there
was a good deal of travel. We were liable to run into rebels at most
any time, but after about ten o’clock we had less danger of meeting
with any travelers on the way. There were squads of rebels traveling
along this road at all hours of the night, so we concluded to travel
and make all the headway possible. We had traveled most of the night,
which was far spent, and I had been stopping all along the way asking
for something to eat, but had not been able to get anything. Once or
twice I had been driven from the door with double-barreled shot guns.


We did not get clear through to our friend John’s, but stopped after
traveling about twenty-five miles or so. There were mile posts along
this road, so that we could tell how far we were traveling in a day or
night. After the second day had passed it found us again on the third
night eating hard corn from the cob, as we had often done before, when
it was not good for us to let ourselves be known along the way. We made
up our minds to get to where John Coltraines lived this night if we
could, for our old friend who had given us the direction of his abode,
told us if we could only find him he would help us through to our lines
without any trouble. We started with the full determination of getting
through to our lines this night if the Lord was willing, and until
midnight had past we had got out of the way and let squads of rebels
pass and repass along the way and still we had made some headway.
After about the midnight hour I had stopped several times to make
some inquiries as to where John Coltraines lived, without apparently
any success. I had also asked for hoecake, and in return I had a
double-barreled gun pointed through the door at me. This kind of fare
we had been receiving all along the way. Never on our whole journey
did fate seem to be so much against us as it did at this place, for we
had not obtained a bite to eat for most three days, except the first.
I had began to get quite jealous of my dear friend Henry, for I had
been stopping to enquire the way and he had not stopped, running the
chances of being shot at, and I began to find fault, as every jealous
person will, with my very best friend and comrade that I believe I ever
met in this wide world. I do believe if I should meet him and he had
but five dollars he would divide with me, and when Henry heard me talk
to him about his being a little cowardly he felt very bad, and told me
through his tears that he was no coward if I did think he was. This sad
talk, and with such feeling, broke me up, and I caught my grieved old
comrade by the hand and wanted him to forgive me for this unkind talk,
which I promised would never again happen, and I wish to thank God that
it never did. Henry was determined that he would show me that he was
no coward and he told me that he meant to stop at the very next house.
Now we had been told by our guide that we must not stop at William
Coltraines’, or “Bill,” as he was commonly called, for he was captain
of the rebel home guards, or of a band of guerillas. We had gotten very
close to where John Coltraines lived, and it was best that we should go
slow, as we had been told about the barn which was a very large one,
on the west side of the road, and the big wood colored house on the
other side located on a raised lawn. Several steps of square blocks led
up to the house. We came to this place, and Henry, not heeding my
warning, at once started up these steps. I continued to call to him to
stop, but he would not. He went to the large piazza and knocked on the
door. I still called to him, but he did not heed, so determined was he
that he would demonstrate to me that he was no coward. I could see very
plainly that this was the very house we had been warned not to stop at,
yet Henry continued to knock. There was a gruff voice heard, which I
will never forget until my dying day, asking who was there. Henry told
him that it was a friend. He was not satisfied, but still insisted on
knowing who it was. Then Henry inquired where John, his own brother,
lived. The old captain told him he would soon let him know where he
lived, so he came to the door and shoved out a double-barreled shot
gun, and before poor Henry had time to dodge, shoved my poor comrade
and friend to the ground. I thought when he struck the ground that he
had been killed, but soon he rose to his feet and pleaded for the rebel
to spare his life. Just at this moment I rushed up to the top of the
lawn, or stone steps, when he caught sight of me, and just as he was
about to level his gun on me I dropped backward and struck on all fours
at the bottom of the steps. Just as I did so Henry took advantage of
the situation and hurried behind the house. He ran clear around and
down through a cane field in the direction we had been going, and as
soon as I could gain my feet I started down the road as fast as my legs
could carry me. The rebel by this time was also at the road side and
sent another shot after me. The first shot came very close. Just as
I fell to the ground the rebel turned his fire on my comrade just as
he turned the corner of the house. Now as soon as the second shot was
fired at me he hastened to the barn, no doubt to get some steed with
which to pursue us. Just then there seemed to be a great stir at that
plantation house. My desire was to again get with Henry, and stopping,
I placed my fingers to my mouth and whistled the third brigade call.
At the time of Henry’s capture he was despatch carrier for our brigade
and also the bugler of our regiment. Now I had learned to give the
call on my fingers. This is the call in words: “Dan, Dan Butterfield!
Butterfield, get up you poor devil as quick as you can, and when you
get tired I will rest you again.” This repeated in the first words on
a horn or whistle is very interesting to anyone who has ever heard the
call. Now to whistle this call right in the face of an enemy seemed a
hard task, but it had to be done. Soon there came an answer, and within
five minutes we were again on our way, but the thought of ever meeting
with John Coltraines was now abandoned.

We had to change our course and leave this road, never to travel it
again. We struck out to the west of this road, the road, as I have
stated, running north and south. We made as good time as we could in
order to reach a forest that seemed to lay off to the west. By this
time it was now well on toward two o’clock in the morning. We succeeded
in getting into a thick swampy region which we had every reason to
believe saved our lives, for from the sounds we heard we came to the
conclusion that we were being looked after in this swamp, and that it
was no desirable place to be in. It was a very bad quagmire swamp, with
moss hanging from the trees, and a bad place to stop in at night, let
alone the day. For the next few days and nights, without a smell of
meat or hoecake, or any such thing, except hard corn, we had nothing
more to eat, and our company day and night was moccasin snakes and
other rattling and hissing reptiles. Still we traveled, not fearing the
wild animals as much as we did the rebels with their horns and hounds.
Well, I must say that, young as I was at that time, it was one of the
worst and most dreary times in the lines of life’s pages. To even
contemplate it now seems almost like a dream.

Well, after sleeping and traveling almost night and day
continually—cloudy weather some of the time and lost some of the
time—we finally came out where there was a large plantation on this
Shelterford road some sixty miles from where I had been shot at and to
which I had been directed by hearing the dancing of two small negroes
and the patting and singing of a large negro in one of the negro huts.
Here we stopped and ate the last meal together and the last night
that we ever traveled together in this southern country. Oh, how sad
it makes me feel when I think back of the lonely nights that we both
spent, traveling the balance of our journey! Well, as I was speaking of
our last meal together: It was at the supper of two rebel bushwhackers,
and these two rebels who were staying at this rebel plantation were
men who would shoot down a poor fleeing prisoner on sight, and this
made us uneasy to get away. This darkey had placed in the fire, in an
old-fashioned fire place, a mess of large sweet potatoes for us to
carry along with us, as he told us, but this he did intending to keep
us until the two rebel guerillas came in on us. We had told this negro
how well the old Quaker had used us during our stay with him, and I
think that this darkey took advantage of this to fool us in telling us
that one of these men staying here was a Quaker and he did not know
what the other was. He seemed to be so uneasy that it aroused us, and
we had just arose to go when the gate opened in front of the hut and
the two little black darkies slipped out unbeknown to us. They had
taken with them a ham that Henry carried along with him. Just at this
time we did not know what to do, for an instant, but I had learned
that my dear comrade was no coward, for here he showed the bravest
thing that I had witnessed in a long time. I told the darkey that if
he told of our whereabouts as we crawled under the bed, that we would
kill him if it was the last thing we ever did. What my dear comrade did
and which was his last brave act was to tell me to crawl under the bed
and leave all to him. He thought he could get us out of the trouble
all right. The two little darkies had already told the rebels of our
eating up their supper, and one of these rebels, it seemed, went to the
old planter’s house for a double-barreled shot gun and the other rebel
came into the negro cabin. Now this cabin was like all other plantation
huts. It had one door and one window on the east side, in the former of
which a rebel stood, and a fire place in the north end, made of stone
and sticks and daubed with red clay, and in the corner at the foot of
the bed was a ladder. Between this ladder, close to the straw cot, lay
my comrade, and just as soon as the rebel commenced to ask the negro
what was the matter, and the darkey standing in the middle of the hut
with mouth wide open, Henry arose to his feet and spoke to the rebel,
bidding him good evening. It took the rebel so much by surprise it
seemed as though poor Henry could have snatched one of his weapons
from his scabbard and shot him with one of his own guns, but it seemed
that the Lord had another way for us to get out of this dilemma. Henry
was trying to find his cane that he had left in the corner that he
might surprise the rebel still more, but the little darkies had made
way with it. So after the first surprise the rebel began to think of
his weapons, and drew them for the first time, asking Henry where he
was going. Henry told him he was going north to a large river that we
expected to cross. “Well,” said the rebel, “how many are there of you?”
Henry told him there were two of us. Oh, how uneasy I was at this time,
under a bed in a negro hut, betrayed, and, as I thought, almost in the
jaws of death! Still he asked Henry where the other fellow was, and
Henry told him I was out in the road. The rebel told Henry to go out
and tell me to come in and he would fix him in about a minute. This was
what Henry desired—to get out once for a start—so he went right off in
a southern direction, and just as soon as the rebel started after him
I got out of the hut as soon as I could. The darkey tried to stop me,
but with one swing of my club I placed him out of my way. When I got to
the road fence the rebels saw me running in the opposite direction. I
made for the timber in a north-easterly direction as fast as I could,
and very soon there was heard the blast of horns and the baying of
hounds in pursuit of me. Oh, how gloomy and heart sick I was to find
myself separated from my comrade, with hounds and rebels in pursuit of
me. It must at this time have been about one o’clock in the morning.
Soon thereafter it began to rain very hard. All at once the hounds came
upon me, but they did not seem to be as fierce as the blood hounds of
Andersonville. Shortly the blast of the horns ceased, and the hounds
stopped following us. This was the last of our being together.

Now, my travel the balance of the way to our lines, of over four
hundred miles, was alone, and a sad and lonely journey it proved to be.
Well, I have learned from Henry what he did after he ran south. The
poor boy came back to the negro shanty after it sat in and commenced
to rain, to find out, if he could, whether the rebels had captured me,
or had, as he thought, shot me, for as he made away they turned their
attention to me, and he heard them shoot at me as I left the negro
shanty. Henry came back to this shanty. The negro had drank an apple
jack and was so drunk in consequence that Henry could not wake him,
although he hammered him with his cane. He then went to the encampment
of a large band of guerillas, and here he whistled on his fingers the
call of the brigade which we belonged to until he aroused the whole
encampment. Well, dear reader, it is very seldom that one comrade will
do this for another.

On the banks of the Big Peedee river, after we had swam this stream
three times in one day, and each time I had carried poor Henry on
a cane across my left shoulder, we pledged ourselves that we would
not forsake each other in life or in death. Now I remained in this
timber, thinking that Henry might come this way and we would again get
together, but I was destined to disappointment, though I continued to
make the call on my fingers, yet did not give up in despair. If I had I
could not have written this simple narrative.

Well, I must hasten along. I lay by a good part of the next day in
this forest. Then I kept on in a northern direction until I came to
the river that Henry spoke to the rebel of. Now while crossing this
river I had since learned that Henry and I might have gotten together
again if we had only known each other, for below me, as I was told the
story, there was a rebel, to all appearances, crossing the river about
one hundred rods distant. We both told the same story, only he allowed
the rebel was just such a distance above him, and right here, if we had
understood, we could have gotten together again, but it seems our lives
still laid apart from each other.

I am in hopes that we may meet some day—if not in this world, that we
will in the world to come.

Praise God! My mind is continually trusting in Him that He will keep me
in the truth in this narrative.

Now, as I continue the sad tale of my life, I would not like to
rehearse the tale that Henry revealed to me of his escape in an
endeavor to get through to our lines after he left me. He had gone
south a short distance and had come back to the plantation, not finding
any clue as to my whereabouts. He had crossed the river, which I have
already mentioned. He then concluded to go east, in the direction of
Richmond, for he had learned that it was a great deal less distance
to travel to get through to our lines in this way than to go west to
Knoxville, Tenn. So he continued to travel for several days until he
came to a plantation where there was no one at home. He said that he
succeeded in getting into the plantation house, but he did not find
anything to eat of any account. He found a ten dollar bill in an old
pair of pants that he took possession of. He then continued to travel
for some distance in the day-time, as well as night, and finally came
to a small place where there was a log hut, and located in this hut
was an old man, working at shoemaking. He went to the door of this hut
and here he found, to his amazement, three rebels in full uniform, who
invited him in, but he declined to go in, and remained at the door of
the hut. There was some corn in a pile close to the door, and he got
some of it and put it in the fire that was close at hand, and as soon
as he stepped inside to help himself to the parched corn the enemy
tried to get between him and the door, but he kept them back with a
large club that he carried in his hands. These rebels, it seemed, had
not brought any arms with them.

Well, soon Henry left this place and went right back in a piece of
woods in the same direction from whence he had come, and just as soon
as he could he went straight back to the same house and this old man’s
yard. He had a large rooster and some chickens running about. He killed
the rooster and gave the old man the ten dollar Confederate bill and
stayed right there, while the rebels took his back track. Henry
started as soon as the old man had stewed this fowl for him.

The only other incident that I remember was getting through the rebel
picket lines on the James River, near Richmond, and his making a
signal of distress to a gunboat and their coming ashore and getting
him, while on the high banks there were lines of rebel pickets that he
had succeeded in getting through. He was taken into our lines at City
Point, and here he reported that he thought the rebels had killed me
at the negro shanty. This story my comrade had told the captain of my
company about and he had sent this word to my parents at home.

I will continue my story. As I have already told you, dear reader, my
journey lay in a northwesterly direction from Florence prison, and at
the negro shanty where we were separated it was very much nearer to our
lines at Richmond than it was to Knoxville, Tenn., but while we were
together we thought it was more difficult than to try to get to our
lines at Knoxville, but after we were separated Henry made up his mind
to try the nearest point. So I continued on my sad and lonely journey,
not knowing what there was in store for me. If I had known what was
going to befall me, it is possible this story would never have been

After I left the river and continued my journey I was now nearing the
lines of West Virginia and the Blue Ridge mountains. I traveled a good
many dark nights after I came in sight of the Blue Ridge before I came
to them, and such nights—laying in swamps and the loneliest places that
I could find—to avoid being discovered, and eating raw sweet potatoes
and hard corn. It was very seldom I stopped to ask for anything to eat
until I was starved into doing so.

Oh, how often since have I learned to put all my faith in God! I have
frequently thought of the passage of scripture where the Saviour said
the foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man hath
not where to lay his head. How much I feel at this time that this was
truly my condition.

Soon I felt as I neared the mountains, and at this time near the lines
of West Virginia, that I must have something besides the stuff that I
had been subsisting on or I would have to give up. I finally came to
an old deserted house and at this time there was snow on the ground,
some two or three inches deep. Then imagine a poor starved skeleton,
weighing less than one hundred pounds, traveling the forests and swamps
without anything but a pair of drawers and an old shirt; no hat or cap,
no shoes, nothing but old rags tied around the feet, thinking of home
and its warm fireside. Well, dear reader, this was my sad plight!

As I was saying, I had stopped at an old plantation to look around.
Soon I saw a man about half a mile away toward the mountains, gathering
corn from the field, with an old gray horse. I made myself known to
him, for by this time I was getting very weak, not having had anything
to eat since Henry and I had been separated at the negro shanty. If I
remember right, there had been at least a week, if not better, since
I had tasted food. When I got to the old man I gave him to understand
that I was a fugitive and was on my way to Ash county, West Virginia.
My way and manner of talking was not like that of the people here, so
the old man told me he reckoned that I was a Yank from Salsbury prison,
but he seemed to receive me so kindly that I told him who I was after
he had told me that most of the people there were Union folks. This
he did to win my confidence. Oh, how sorry I was as soon as I went to
the house, for the old lady was, I believe, the hardest looking old
woman, with a Roman nose, and such eyes I never saw, as she glared
on me when I uttered the word that we were rebels. Here there was a
son about thirty years old, seated in a chair, who was a sad sight,
for he appeared to be perfectly helpless and he would repeat just like
some parrot the same words, “Yes, we are rebels here,” and how simple
he seemed to act. Now the old man told the old lady to give me some
hoecake if there was any and he at this time showed his true colors,
for he told me that there was a company being raised and I had better
wait and eat some hoecake until he would return, and I would get a good
suit of rebel gray, worth thirty or forty dollars a suit, and fifty
dollars bounty. On saying this he left me, and jumping on the back of
the old gray horse went off on the run to a small town four miles to
the west and south of his place. This old man, I think, told me that
he was eighty years old. As soon as he was gone I told the old lady
if there was any hoecake in the house that I must have it. She still
insisted that they were rebels and had nothing for a Yankee. Then I
told her that I would have to help myself, for I was determined to have
something to eat or die in the attempt. I had almost become mad on
account of going so long and having so little to subsist on. You see
the harvest had gone by and the cold, bleak rains and some snow would
fall every few days.

Now, kind reader, comes one more sad incident of my experience in
life. I had finally started for the cupboard, when the old lady told
me that she would give me some hoecake, and that I must not try to go
until “Pa” came home, and if I did she would have to stop me. I sat and
ate the corn cake, which was done very soon, and then I started for
the door. It seemed so strange that every time the old lady would say
anything the poor crippled young man would repeat most everything his
poor old mother would say. When I started to go to the door the old
lady stepped between me and the door and I told her if she did not
step aside that I would have to use force enough to put her aside, for
go I must. She had in her hand a fire poker and I felt afraid that I
would have to war with a poor old woman. I told her that go I must, and
she stepped aside, sending curses after me.

I must say right here that I had at last reached the Blue Ridge
mountains, or at least this old man’s place was less than half a mile
from the foot of the mountains. Just before I could reach the foot
of these mountains I had to cross a large, deep stream. I found that
I could not get anything to cross on, though I looked diligently for
a boat, and to cross a stream some one hundred rods or so across at
such a time of year as it was then meant something. Believing it
meant death or capture by the rebels, who would soon be on my trail,
I nerved myself for this perilous undertaking. This was surely one of
the coldest baths that I had ever before experienced. Now before me was
one of the worst things that I had ever encountered in all my life,
for if any of the readers of this story ever have been near the Blue
Ridge mountains they know that unless a person finds a trail to cross
the mountains with it is almost an impossibility to get over them. I
knew nothing of any trail and knew from all appearances, and from what
I could hear, that bloodhounds would soon be in pursuit of me, so I
commenced to climb the side of the steep, rugged mountains, several
hundred feet in height, which seemed to be almost perpendicular. After
I had climbed for a long way up I could hear the hounds in pursuit of
me way below, but I was sure that I had climbed where no human foot had
ever been before. Well, I did not dare to look back.

This reminds me of the time when two certain people were commanded to
flee and not to look back. My position reminded me of those two. You
cannot imagine my feelings when I would get hold of some large bush
that grew in the crevices of the rocks to have them give way and seem
as though they would tear loose and let me fall some three or four
hundred feet below. Now, to tell the whole truth, dear reader, it was
over half a mile or more, and nearly perpendicular. The hounds could
not climb after me, and once more I was satisfied that I had escaped
another Southern hell, or I might say, death.

But what is death if the soul is in God’s care? Well, praise God, it
does seem that His hand was with me and is still with me in this last
sketch of my life.

Still I continued to climb the mountain side until I got on top of one
of the highest points before I dared to look down, and oh, what a sight
you never have had, dear reader, being several thousand feet above the
common level. Looking down you would be surprised at your enormous
height. I must say that I believe I had climbed at least two thousand
feet. At last I had gotten to where it was not so steep, yet it was
still quite a distance from the top of the Blue Ridge mountains. After
I had traveled some distance further I finally found it to be quite
difficult to make much headway on a strange mountain, and that after
night, and if, dear reader, you have ever been on any mountain you will
find it more or less uneven and hard to climb, even in the daytime.

As I still continued to travel along, I soon came to a place which
seemed impossible for me to get over. It was a very deep gorge or a
cut, which seemed to be at least eighty or ninety feet from top to
bottom, and over ten yards across. On either side it seemed to be
perfectly straight up and down. Well, after some thought, I climbed
down on what seemed to be a tall spruce tree, and after I got down in
the bottom I found a stream of cold water which seemed to be running in
the direction from which I had come. Here I was right under the solid
rocks and in a cave immediately underneath from where I had climbed
down. I had a curious desire, though it was very dark in this cave,
to go in and see how far it extended under the rocks. I thought how
much I would have given at this time for a torch. Upon the impulse of
the moment, I started into this cave and wandered for several rods.
I continued for some distance. I had several times stepped from side
to side of this cave and fell on the slippery and slimy stones in the
bottom. There were many leaves that would rustle under my feet, and,
oh, the many thoughts that would pass through my mind of some deep,
unknown space that I might step off into, fall on the rocks and be
killed. And if I should lie down to sleep and never awaken again! Such
thoughts would crowd themselves upon my mind until I finally concluded
to go back and climb another tree on the other side of the chasm. As
I turned to go, to my surprise I heard, further back in the cave, a
hoarse growl. This seemed to come closer, and if ever anyone needed
help it seemed I needed it just now, for I could see two bright orbs
or eyes looking right at me, and it seemed that every minute that what
I had at this time encountered would soon bounce upon me. I continued
to look right at the object until I had backed myself nearly to the
mouth of the cave, and I soon got out on the opposite side by climbing
another tall evergreen. After having crossed these mountains and gotten
on the other side I met with a West Virginian. He told me that he had
been for many years an old trapper, and had killed bears in this part
of the mountains that weighed fully four hundred pounds. Now, it might
be if I had stayed in that cave that this tale would never have been

I continued to travel until I came to a large farm on the top of this
mountain, a farm of over one hundred acres, and all cleared. It seemed
so funny to find a large farm away on top of such a large and high
mountain. I went up to the house and found it to be very large and
black in color, which had a large, old-fashioned, fire-place, made of
stone and sticks. There was but one door and one window, but it was
a large house. The roof ran very low on the north side, and on the
south side was the door and window. I went to this door and looked in
the window and saw three or four pairs of cavalry boots, with spurs
attached to them, sitting by the fire-place on the hearth. I made up
my mind that it was best not to disturb these folks, for I did not
like the looks of those boots and spurs. I went around the house and
found on the north side a mess of shelves and on them quite a number
of old-fashioned crocks all full of nice sweet milk. I drank a sup of
it and then went on and looked for a mountain trail that I knew must
lead down off this mountain somewhere. Soon I found it and followed it
until I arrived in the village below. I went but a very short distance
before I came to a log house, and found myself so hungry and faint
that I had to call on the occupants of this house for a bite to eat.
This night’s travel had been well spent in getting over the mountains
thus far. I went up to the door rather tremblingly and knocked for
admittance, when a kind old man came to the door. I told him what I
desired and he invited me into his house. This was about two o’clock in
the morning. This proved to be one more hard spent night of travel. The
whole family, composed of a very kind wife and a daughter, got up and
in a very short time had a good breakfast. We all sat down and ate. It
was about half past three o’clock. I told these people that I wished
to go as soon as possible. I told them in as few words as possible how
I had suffered and about the perilous times that I had experienced.
He now told me that he had hunted in the mountains that I had just
crossed and told about killing bears that weighed over four hundred
pounds. Now when we all had eaten, I started again on my journey, and
I felt anxious to get away, for I had great encouragement that I would
soon get to our lines. As we parted, after so short a stay, the kind
old lady and her daughter shook hands with me and bade me God speed.
The kind old gentleman went with me some distance from their place to
direct me to the line of Tennessee. Now this kind old man told me to
keep in line with the Blue Ridge mountains and to keep them to my left
and follow the Chestnut Ridge, along in range with the Blue Ridge. He
told me to be sure and not leave this Ridge, and it would bring me to
what was called the Iron and Doe mountain. This mountain I would have
to cross in order to get into our lines in Tennessee. So after a kind
greeting and a wish for God’s speed he parted with me.

I have often wished that I could have kept a diary of the names of
the people who had befriended me on my journey. How many times have I
thought of God’s hand being in my travels.

I was instructed to be sure and keep in range of the mountains—that
is, the Blue Ridge—and I would be sure to go all right. As I have said
before, I had no intention of doing any traveling in the daytime. Thus
far it had all been done nights, but after the old man left me and I
had got on the Chestnut Ridge I found some of the largest chestnuts
that I ever saw in my life. So I thought that I would pick up some of
them and carry them along with me, and as I was doing so I heard a man
down in the valley calling hogs, and it seemed as though he was looking
in the direction I was in. He seemed to be armed with a gun, so I got
on the other side of the ridge and hurried along for some distance,
when I again stopped where the nuts seemed to be very thick, when I
looked up to find the object of my pursuit holding his gun on me and
not over thirty rods away. This was the first time that I had been
caught in so close a place.

I had now got some five or six hundred miles from Florence prison. As
soon as I saw the rebel I thought I would run. Then I started to walk
very fast, and it seemed that he would soon shoot me, judging from the
way he acted. So I turned and spoke to him, and he told me that he
reckoned he would have shot me if I had not stopped. We sat on an old
log and talked for a long time, and I must say that this was the first
time in my life that I ever talked politics, but it seemed as though I
never had such power of speech before, for I told this rebel plainly
that the South had seceded and rebelled from the best government on
earth, and if Jeff Davis was hung that the war would close. The rebel
would say the same about our martyred Lincoln, and at last this rebel
home guard, or guerilla, told me that I would have to go with him.
This seemed hard after having suffered what I had to get away from
those rebel hell pens to be taken back. It discouraged me so much that
I concluded to die rather than go where he would turn me over to any
home guards, for I knew it meant almost certain death to any Yankee to
be retaken after trying to get away from prison. Oh, how I plead for
him to let me go, and told him no one would ever know except God if he
did. I plead as I never plead before in all my life, and shed fountains
of tears, but still it seemed all in vain. The rebel told me that he
would have to take me to a home guard about four miles distant, and he
ordered me to get up and go with him. Now when I saw that my entreaties
would not prevail, I concluded that I would get away from him some
way or die in the attempt. So I pretended to be very lame and could
hardly go, and as we traveled along told him that I would still live
in hopes of getting through to our lines and to friends. He allowed
me to walk a little in his rear, and still sobbing and pleading for
him to let me go. I had my mind made up to get his gun out of his left
hand as he seemed to be trailing it along and to brain him and get
away and leave his carcass on the Chestnut Ridge to feed the fowls,
or to be found by some other home guards. Now, as I was contemplating
this and still pleading for him to let me go, having already attempted
to reach his gun, I spoke of my poor old mother, who was waiting at
her sad fireside, after losing one of her boys in the Battle of the
Wilderness, and whose bones were lying in the Alexandria cemetery, and
who died before he was sixteen years old. When I spoke of this and my
poor suffering mother at home it seemed to break him up and he turned
around just as I was about to make the final attempt to snatch his gun.
He looked very pale, and, sobbing, told me that he had a good mother
once who used to pray for her wayward boy, but she was gone now. He
said: “If you will promise not to tell who you are or where you came
from we will go down to that house in the valley and get something to
eat and you can go,” and then it was that my heart was lifted, for I
could see that he meant what he said. Still I continued to be very
careful not to trust him too far. Well, we went to the house and found
two nice looking women there, one weaving the sheep’s gray cloth, and
they asked me very kindly where I came from. I told them that I was
only a refugee. That was all my guide allowed me to tell. Now the food
that was set on the table for me to eat was something immense. The
good hostess sat on the table one full old-fashioned gallon crock of
milk and a nice dish of butter, a bowl of nice apple sauce, a plate of
biscuits and a loaf of corn bread. Oh, how, I thought of my own home
as I sat eating. It seemed that I never would get through. They all
sat and gazed at me while I ate, and after eating nearly all that there
was on the table—at least nearly a whole gallon of milk, and most all
that I have mentioned—the rebel came to me and placed his hand on my
shoulder and told me that he reckoned I had better stop eating if I did
not want to kill myself. The two ladies of the house looked sadly after
me when I started off, and as soon as we got out of the house the rebel
told me to keep straight east and that I need not be afraid to stop
anywhere. I concluded that he wanted some one else to take me, but did
not go a mile before turning to the northwest, the same direction I had
traveled all the way when the stars were my only guide.

Henry and I had found on an old southern map where Knoxville, Tenn.,
lay from Florence prison. I had not gone over half a mile when I began
to get sick, and I vomited all that I had eaten. It seemed as though it
would kill me, eating so much milk and apple sauce. It caused gas in my
poor, weak stomach.

It came on foul, cold and rainy weather and traveling without the guide
of the stars was very difficult. I traveled for several nights and
parts of days, to find myself back to the very house that I had left,
and to my joy found them good Union folks. The women received me kindly
and concealed me in the loft of the small barn. The next night found me
again on my way.

It seemed as though I had traveled in the last preceding days, and had
made no headway, over seventy-five miles. I got started again before
night and came to where there was a large chestnut orchard, of over ten
acres, and the limbs of the trees grew close to the ground. In this
orchard there was a large drove of hogs fatting on the nuts that they
got to eat, and right to the left of this was a large field of over
one hundred acres of pasture and a vast herd of cattle was feeding in
this field. Down to the north of the field I spoke of, in which the
hogs were, was a large brick house and just south of the house stood
several graycoats looking at me. The cattle were following me while I
crossed this large field and their bellowing made me very nervous.

Well, after I had traveled again for nearly three nights and days, in
cloudy weather, I found myself crossing this same field, in the same
place, going in the same direction. Now this kind of traveling nearly
broke my heart. I saw the hogs, to make sure, and the chestnut orchard
and the brick house. Oh, how I cried to see what a waste of time I had
made. I came to the conclusion that I would not travel any more unless
I had settled weather. This event caused me to shed bitter tears once
more, and to recall this to my memory makes me feel extremely sad,
but I do thank God from the depth of my heart that I have learned to
trust Him under every circumstance, and when I look back over these
scenes and memories of the past I feel to praise God for preserving my
unprofitable life.

Well, I crossed this field again, determined to lay by until clear
weather, and when night sat in the stars and moon shone, which helped
me along until in a few days I came to the Iron and Doe mountain. I had
traveled for several days with nothing to eat but hard corn, and as
another day began to dawn I came to a barn back in the field from the
house that seemed to be near Iron mountain. I stayed here, intending
to go again in the evening. I saw a boy about ten years old come near
the barn to get an old gray horse. Then I saw a middle aged lady go
with a cart to milk. Oh, how the pangs of hunger again bothered me.
Well late in the afternoon, about four or five o’clock, I saw no one
but the little boy and a girl about fifteen years old. They seemed to
be afraid of me, and well they might be, for I had long, uncut hair
of nearly half a year’s growth, and was a sad looking sight. These
good children gave me a dish of bread and milk to stay my poor, weak
stomach until their mother came home, and very soon I learned that this
woman’s husband was in the Union army at Knoxville, Tennessee. I stayed
here concealed in the corn husks for these days, and it was quite bad
weather, but how many hours I sat in the house and told them of the
suffering of prisoners in southern prisons.

Now the time had come for me to again be on my journey. When I got
ready to go it seemed hard to part with such kind friends who had done
so much for me, and something that I felt I would never be able to
repay in this world, but I bid them a kind farewell. This good lady
told me to follow along the mountains until I came to the mountain
trail and then I was to follow this across the mountain. She told me
I would come to the trail in about four miles from her place. Then
after I had crossed the Iron and Doe mountain it would take me into,
I think, Johnson county, Tennessee. Well after leaving this place I
thought that I had crossed one mountain on my own hook and could do so
again. So after going about two miles came to the conclusion that I
could turn to the right and climb up the mountain until I struck trail,
and did so. I climbed one range after another, as I thought, when it
began to get cloudy, and I well remember that the woman told me it was
fourteen miles across this mountain. Now when the fowls were crowing
for daybreak what was my surprise to find myself back to the very house
that I had just left, and had to go clear up to the door before I could
be convinced that it was the place I had left that evening. I did not
want them to know that I did not follow their directions. So I just
started off as fast as my poor weary legs could carry me, and before
day had the satisfaction of knowing that I had struck the mountain
trail. I will say right here that my kind friend told me to be sure to
pass the third house before attempting to stop, and then I would find
good Union people. As soon as I got to this mountain trail it commenced
to snow and blow very hard, and oh, how I suffered. I am not able to
describe here what I experienced and my tongue seems too short to tell
it, but, dear reader, just imagine yourself in my stead, surrounded by
rebels on every side, and in a strange country, and clad with an old
woolen shirt nearly in tatters and your drawers with one leg gone to
the knee, and you can form some idea of what I had to put up with in
this cold storm, and a mere walking skeleton at that. I had an average
weekly fare of corn hoecake and bacon, and that not averaging once a

Well, I had been told when I got by the third house that it would be
safe to stop. The storm was so severe that I made a mistake and stopped
at the third house, and as fate would have it this was the very one
that I should have shunned. Here I found a rebel captain from the
Eleventh Virginia Cavalry, home on a furlough, and when I knocked and
he let me in it must have been three or four o’clock in the morning.
I told him I had been directed there by a friend and he seemed to be
all right, and placed a feather bed on the hearth of an old-fashioned
fireplace, or close to it, and it was not many minutes before I was
fast asleep, and really I imagined that I was at home on one of my
own mother’s cots, but what was my surprise when I awakened to find
myself in the hands of a rebel captain, in full rebel uniform, with
bars on his collar. Truly I felt surprised. His wife told me as soon
as I arose that I ought to have gone to the next house and there would
have found her own folks, who were good Union people. Her husband,
the old captain, tried to stop her talk, but it seemed of no avail.
She told him if he did not let me go that she would go home. He told
me to sit and eat some hoecake and bacon, for he was going to turn me
over to the home guards. I felt so bad to think that I was again in the
hands of my enemy. I told him that I could not eat, but he commanded
very fiercely for me to come, and the look of his wife told me that he
needed petting. So I went and ate my supper—not my supper, but dinner,
I might choose to call it—but could not eat much, and drank a little
corn coffee, and how many tears and such pleading, both on my part and
the part of his kind wife, to let me go! At last when pleading ceased
and his wife told him that if he did not let me go that she would go
home and there remain, with many bitter curses on his lips he started
off, with me tagging along after him, down again toward the foot of the
mountain. I looked over his side arms and it occurred to me that he
had no gun of any kind, nothing but a sword to guard me. So I lagged
behind, pretending that I could hardly walk, and I took a good look at
his long legs, for he was over six feet tall, and then I started up the
side of the mountain with the rebel in full pursuit. I still continued
to run the best I could up among the rocks and brush that grew thick
on this mountain side. Still the rebel continued to pursue me for some
time, when finally he went back.

Well I kept on for some length of time, until it had gotten to be
nearly night. I finally came to the mountain trail that I had been on
when I stopped at the rebel captain’s place. I had in all of this day’s
rambles traveled in no direct line, but had put in a good part of the

I had not gone far before I came to a log cabin, and here found two
women. It had snowed two or three inches the night before, and during
the day the sun had come out warm, and in the woods a man could be
tracked. It seems that the rebel captain had gone back and got help
to pursue my trail, and when I stopped at the log cabin and asked for
something to eat they gave me a lunch and told me that the captain’s
place was not more than six or seven miles from where I was, and they
told me that I had better go to a barn which was back in the lot just
a short distance from the house and conceal myself in a large quantity
of straw that was in the barn. This barn was built of logs. So I went
and crawled down in the northeast corner, clear down to the bottom.
Now I had heard of crawling into a hole and drawing the hole in after
you, so I tried to fill the hole up after me the best I could, and
none too soon either, before there came three mounted men, one the
captain. They tried to make these two women tell where I had gone.
These women had husbands in our army at Knoxville, Tennessee, and I
think these Union women would have died before they would have revealed
my whereabouts. Soon these men came to the barn, looked all through
it, and it seemed as though they would dig in the corner where I was
and find me, but they went away without finding me, and again tried to
find out for certain from these women whether they had seen me, for
they had tracked me through the timber to the clearing, but when they
came to the clearing the snow was gone. These rebels soon went back
in the direction that I had come, and I went to the house and again
started on my way, it now being dark, to see if I could not succeed
in getting across this mountain. It did seem as though this was the
hardest part of my journey, for after traveling all night until nearly
morning, I lost a good share of the time from the mountain trail. What
was my surprise to find myself again in the hands of a rebel guerilla.
I had come around in front of a newly constructed log building, and
just as I did so I saw a man in full rebel uniform seated on an old
box mending a pair of boots. He perceived what a plight I was in for
dress, and as he heard me talk he began to ask me a good many questions
in regard to where I was from, and he told me about his being in the
rebel army and deserting, and about his parents being good Union
people. After he had talked for some time I really thought he was a
good Union man, and told him of my escape from prison. Then I told
him where I was from, and that my birth place was in Erie county,
Pennsylvania. After we had talked some little time he wanted to know if
I ever worked at shoemaking. I told him that I had, and that my father
worked at the trade as long as I could remember. So he had me mend up
his boots, which I did, thinking that his wife would soon be home and
get something to eat. Now this was one of the worst sights for poverty
that I had seen in all my travels, for it did not seem as though this
man had five pounds of corn meal in this newly built hut. In one end
there was a very rudely constructed fireplace, and I failed to find
anything inside of the place to answer for a bed, except some old rags
and a little straw in one corner. The day was nearly half gone when I
had finished mending his boots, and he seemed to be very well pleased,
when I told him that it did not seem as though his wife would be back
very soon, of whom he had spoken. He had told me that as soon as she
came she would get something for us to eat, but I still insisted on
going. So I started to go, and just as soon as I made away he reached
behind the door and got out a double-barreled shot gun and brought it
to bear on me. He told me to stop or he would have to shoot. I thought
how soon my friend had turned to a foe. I found that I was again in the
hands of an enemy. As soon as I went back to him he called very loudly
for his mother to come up to his place. It seemed that his folks lived
about a hundred yards or more away, just across the woods. Soon his
poor old mother came running up to the house and asked him what was
the matter. He wanted her to stay with the children while he went away
with me. Then she looked at me and wanted to know where he was going.
He told her that I was a Yankee, right from Pennsylvania and that he
was obliged to take me and turn me over to the home guards. He would
shoot or hang me without any trial whatever. Then she told him that
he had deserted from the Confederate army himself and would be just
as liable to arrest as I was, but he didn’t seem to care how much she
talked to him. Oh, so selfish was he to accomplish his end! He wanted
his mother to stay with the two children while he went away with me.
Then his mother wanted to know who I was and I told her all I had done
for her son, and how I had waited after mending his boots, and how he
was inclined to want to shoot me for the kind act I had shown him.
“Well, mother,” he said, “will you stay here with the children until I
come back?” “No sir, I will not do it, nor will I ever do anything for
you if you do not let this poor starving creature go,” she said. “No,
mother, I could not do it, but if you will take the children home with
you I will go down and let father see my prisoner, so come along,” and
he made me walk right in front of his double-barreled shot gun, and was
very careful to tell me if I undertook to run that he would have to
shoot me. In this way we went to a corn field, about a half mile from
his father’s place, and here we found about eight or ten women and men
husking corn. Advancing up to his father this “William,” as they called
him, said: “Father, here is a real Yankee, right from Pennsylvania.”
“What part of Pennsylvania are you from?” asked the father. I told
him from Erie county. “Well,” he said, “my boy here was born in that
state, in Crawford county. Well, how do you do? I am very glad to see
you. William, what have you got that gun for?” “Why, father, don’t you
know that I took a hard oath to serve my country?” “Yes, you took an
oath, my poor boy, but deserted the Southern service, knowing that your
poor father was a Northern Union man. Yes, yes, you took a wonderful
oath, but, William, you must let this man go.” All the talk the poor
old man could say to his son was of no avail, and now his kind brother
plead with him. This boy was only seventeen years old. He had lost his
right arm above the elbow. Then came, last of all, his sisters, and if
ever I have heard pleading for one’s life it seemed that these poor
souls did it. It seemed that all this man’s aim was to try his firearms
on me, for after a long talk with his young brother and sisters, the
brother came to me and told me that the only way that William would
release me was for me to start off a little distance and then run. He
said William would probably shoot at me and that he was afraid it would
mean death to me very soon. The brother and his two sisters came back
shortly, and the former told me what he had concluded to do. He allowed
that he would just get off a short distance and then I must get up and
run. Then William would turn and shoot at me, and I must run all the
faster. He started and walked off about ten rods and I saw that he did
not intend to go any further. So I arose as quickly as possible from
a shock of corn I had been husking and started for a very steep bluff
which was almost straight down, and it did seem as though I fairly flew
down this hill so rapid was my flight. Dear reader, if you was never
compelled to flee from a foe with a gun and then to be shot at, you
can imagine the plight I was in. Now I want to say right here that in
eternity I expect to meet this same man, and I don’t want him to come
up before me and say: “You wrote a tale, away back there, against me
that you scattered broadcast which was untrue.”

Now if I never complete this tale of my sad life, or if I do, I just
ask God to direct my pen that I might not purposely insert one word
that is not true, to the best of my knowledge. I do praise God from the
depth of my heart that my faith is in Him.

As I was saying, I ran down this steep bluff, and just before I reached
the foot of it there came the discharge of my pursuer’s gun, and a rain
of buckshot flew all around me. I was very thankful that they did not
hit me. William, as they called him, told me that he just fired at me
so as to clear himself from the hands of the rebels. It did seem as
though he should have given me some food before putting me up for a
target. His deceiving me while fixing his footwear seems to convince
me all the more that he meant to do me harm. After firing the shot gun
at me he buried his brother’s side arms, which consisted of a large
horse pistol, which he carried with him. After firing two shots from
the shotgun, he still continued to follow me for at least a mile and a
half, until I hid in a thick foliage of laurel brush. He came within
twenty yards of my concealment, calling for me to show up and it would
be all right. I could not believe him, for I had lost all confidence in

Now that night about nine o’clock I had to pass this same man’s house.
I found him singing and rocking his little “Jeff”—his boy whom he told
me he had named after Jefferson Davis. Oh, how the pangs of hunger
commenced to tell on me at this time!

Right here I would like to say that during the conversation I had with
the younger brother, who had lost one of his arms, he told me how he
had been taken prisoner near Big Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,
and of being in the care of men belonging to the Fifth Corps, and how
well he had been cared for. He told me that his arm was amputated at
this place.

As I was saying, the traitor was singing and rocking his little “Jeff”
as I passed by his place. I remember that he told me about his brother
living about a mile ahead on the mountain trail. So when I came there
I thought I would stop and let myself be known, but I did not do so. I
went to a cool spring house near by and found there some nice milk and
a piece of corn bread which I was very thankful to take possession of.

After this I started along, and instead of keeping the mountain trail
I took a cow trail that led far up on the mountain. It seemed that I
never, in all of my journey, traveled harder to reach our lines or to
get into the state of Tennessee than I did this night.

After traveling all night, until it broke day, I found myself on one of
the highest pinnacles of this mountain, and, as I supposed, was looking
down into Tennessee, for at a distance I could see a log house, so in
this direction I made my course. After some traveling I came to the
house, and what was my surprise to find myself back to the very house
that I had stopped at and drank the milk. This place proved to belong
to the father-in-law of the man who had done the shooting at me the day
before. So I thought I could do no better than to stop, for at this
time I had become very hungry. So I went in, and as I was seated at the
table talking and telling of what had happened to me the day before,
we heard the discharge of a gun several times, and these good people
told me that the man who had betrayed me told them that he had wounded
me, and intended to capture me the next day, and had started very early
that morning to complete his work. While still eating, we could hear
the discharge of his gun every little while. It made these people
laugh to know that I was sitting at their table while my pursuer was
on those high bluffs, pretending to be hunting to death that runaway

Now, after I had finished eating I started once more to follow the
mountain trail, as far as I dared to, and then laid by until night set
in, for I had not traveled very much by day.

After bidding these kind friends good bye I started, hoping to get
across these mountains without any very serious trouble. I had got
where the mountain began to descend, when I began to have hopes that I
would soon arrive where I could be safe in our lines.

Oh, how I longed to be at my own father’s fireside! These thoughts
would, in my state of mind, cheer me up. After laying by until night
set in I again started down this mountain side. The distance, I think
I had been told, down this rugged Iron and Doe mountain was about
eight miles. About one or two o’clock I found myself at the foot of
the mountain and about a mile from it. I came to quite a respectable
looking farm house and barn. Here I stopped and was told that I was
now within the lines of Tennessee. This caused me to believe that my
troubles were nearly at an end. But, alas! they were not.

I will soon tell you, dear reader, what occurred to me when I went to
this house. They received me very kindly and after eating something
they had me go to the barn and there remain until about noon. When
the man wanted to know if I did not want to go to a corn husking bee,
I told him that I did not dare to. He insisted on it so hard and my
thinking that getting into Tennessee meant I was practically into our
lines, or at least into a Union state, I made myself quite free, after
some persuasion, to go with him. As soon as we arrived at the place,
about two miles away, we found a great company of people there. They
seemed to come and consult with my friend a good deal, and when supper
was announced I told my friend that I must leave, for there were at
least two rebels there who were home from the Southern army, and who
seemed to be very inquisitive as to where I had come from. So I started
back to my friend’s place and he stayed to see what he could learn in
regard to what they intended to do. He came home about seven o’clock
and came to the barn and called to me, but I was concealed in the straw
in the barn loft and did not answer, for the reason that he told me
not to reply to any one until I was sure that it was him. As soon as I
knew it was him I came down and he told me that he had overheard the
two rebels talking together and that they were coming to his place to
capture me. He had a small lunch for me and I found to my sorrow that
my troubles were not ended.

From this place I traveled all that night and so on until some days
had passed, when I came at last to a northern range of the mountains.
Now in Tennessee there are a great many ranges of mountains, one range
after another. Well, I stopped at this man’s place and found a very
warm friend and a good whole-souled Union man.

If I have not forgotten, it was about three days from the time I left
the barn, of which I have spoken. The man’s name was John Robertson,
and it appeared that he had a niece whom he told me he desired to send
home across the mountains, over into what is called Carter county,
Tennessee. Beyond Carter lay Knoxville, which I had been nearly forty
days trying to reach. In the morning, in my sad condition of dress, I
started across this mountain, with the young lady to guide me. On the
way we sang national songs, and for about nine miles we spent the time
very pleasantly. Long before night we came to the settlement on the
other side of the mountain. This place is now called Carter county,
Tennessee. Here at the first place we came to were Anderson’s two or
three men in blue clothes. This young lady had not explained that there
were eighteen of our soldiers cut off from our army at Knoxville, and
when I saw them standing in front of the house I was about to flee to
the mountains again, but the young lady just insisted that they were
Union soldiers. So I went up to the house and was very kindly received,
and here I must say I had one of the greatest experiences that I ever
had in all my life. The next day after my arrival the Anderson people
thought they would clean me up somewhat. So they had me take off my
old drawers and shirt and placed on me some old twilled pants and a
shirt, and I was set to work building a fire to clean and scald the
old clothes that I had taken off. I say clothes—nothing but a part
of a pair of drawers and a shirt that had seen more than six months’
service. Then talk of pleasure in a soldier’s life!

When I had just fairly got the water and the fire agoing there came up
the main road, just a few rods away, the sound of many horsemen and
the clatter of hoofs and a motion from the house for me to flee in the
direction of the mountains. I started, not knowing whether to ever
come back or not. I ran about a mile along the foot of the mountains,
when I came to a man by the name of Sampson Robertson. I found that he
was one of our men, but had been conscripted into the rebel service.
He never went into the Southern army, but skulked for a living among
his friends. He told me for the first time that this dash of rebels
numbered over one hundred men, and that they had come over the mountain
from the west, from Sullivan county, to capture our eighteen Union
scouts, and that they intended to intercept them, for these rebels had
already robbed the poor people of everything, even their bedding and
household goods, and had killed an old man some sixty-two years old and
burned the grist mill. If ever I wanted to help a handful of our poor
soldiers, cut off from our army, it was now. So I went along to where
I fell in with about seventeen of our men and boys, all told, and nine
of the very best of these men allowed me to go along with them upon
a bluff overlooking a run called Stony Creek, traveling down through
the valley. This run was very deep and at least sixty yards across,
and there was a small foot bridge, made of hewn timber, on small
abutments. Just opposite this foot bridge there was a very large bluff
or mountain, some three hundred feet high, and on this high elevated
ridge these nine scouts had located themselves. I had the honor of
being one to help in the little battle that was soon to come off. I had
one of the old hero’s muskets. Now we could see the Johnnies coming.
They had divided their force of one hundred men and were advancing
right up to this foot bridge and began to cross it, when our boys
opened fire on them from five shooting carbines. They told me to load
the old musket well with buckshot and let them have it. Well, to tell
the truth, I took too much powder from an old powder horn, for I put in
nearly a handful, and also about a handful of buckshot. When this gun
did go it would kick right smart, I reckoned, but still kept on loading
and firing it, to the merriment of the other boys. But, oh, such fun!
In a short time the rebels turned back and went away faster than they
came. The Union boys, some of them, went on the mountain trail as the
rebels were on their way back, and while they were leading or riding
their horse the Union boys opened fire on them and nearly stampeded the
whole force. There were only six or seven of our boys. We succeeded in
escaping while they were trying to capture us. We had it from their
own men that there were seven, I think, wounded and two killed. If I am
not mistaken, this is what the rebels reported. They could not reach us
from where they were.

Now after this great share in the battle I went back to the place that
I had left, and stayed with a woman by the name of Urie Low. At this
place I stayed for some four or five days. I made while here, I think,
three pairs of shoes out of almost raw hide, working the hide just long
enough to get the hair off and left them tan color.

So ends my first introduction into Carter county, Tennessee.

After this I stayed at Mrs. Low’s place for some time. Then I went
to Lieutenant Housley’s, one of our men, and a commander among the
Union boys. I went to Housley’s place to stay, and would go to a
mountain cave to sleep nights, for it was very dangerous to stay at the
dwellings any more.

There was one thing that happened soon after I went over to Lieutenant
Housley’s place. I was requested to stay at a place called Sampson
Robertson’s. All the boys had gone to the cave and I stayed at the
house a short time to finish a pair of shoes for one of Mr. Robertson’s
daughters. I had just got seated near the fireplace and was telling
some of the exciting times I had in making my escape. Time passed along
very pleasantly, when there came a stern command from the door for the
women to clear away from the hearth of the fireplace so they could
end that Yankee talk. If ever I felt afraid in all my life I did just
now, and if I ever needed help it was now. The good woman had me sit
clear down on the hearth, and if ever I felt myself under petticoat
government or protection it was now. Here I sat while the daughter of
Mr. Robertson entertained these two rebels and gave them apple-jack,
or what was sometimes called apple brandy. The women got a large amount
of walnuts and butternuts for them to crack, and for over two long
hours I sat on the hearth and took the cursing of those two rebels. I
can tell you if I ever had to be placed in the same position again I
would say let me stand before the belching cannon and the rattle of
small arms rather than to be cooped up in a log hut on the stone hearth
surrounded by the breastworks of brave women!

How often have I thought of this place in my life and what a delicate
position it was. Well, it seemed as though the time had passed the
slowest it ever did in all my life. While these two rebels began to be
fired up with drink they began to make threats about what they would
soon do to the Yankee, and I began to whisper to the women to let me
slip out and make one dash by those two blood thirsty rebels. There
was but one door and they told me to sit very quiet. Soon the wife of
Lieutenant Housley’s father-in-law slipped by those two rebels and went
over a mile and a half to the cave where the Union boys were staying,
and very soon there came dashing down from the mountain cave the brave
Lieutenant Housley and the husband of this brave and heroic woman. She
had to climb over one hundred and fifty feet, where the edges of rocks
were not more than three feet in width, and on a very dark night at

Once more I had great reason to thank God and these kind ladies for
saving me from blood thirsty villains.

In about an hour there was a stern command for those rebels to
surrender, and they arose to their feet and ran, but soon the
lieutenant stopped them with a shot or two, wounding one of them in the
arm. The two Union men made the two rebels take the oath of allegiance
to our government and then they were allowed to go.


Now, just as soon as I found that our boys had arrived it made me glad
to know that I was able to get out of such a cramped position. Before
this I never had witnessed such a close place, let alone being in it. I
can say that I was very thankful for my deliverance from these drunken

After they were disposed of the lieutenant told me that I had better
go to the cave with them, and after this I was careful when night came
on to find my way to where I was more safe than at the houses in this

I would like to tell you about the cave we had to stay in. I must
say it was a most wonderful sight. The trail commenced at the foot
of the bluff, or mountain, and wound its way up the side for nearly
three-fourths of a mile and followed along the west side of a large
range of mountains. Very close, or right under this trail, there was
a large cataract, and for over one hundred and fifty feet above this
cataract was the mouth of the cave, concealed by a large amount of
foliage, such as laurel and sage bush. It would be almost impossible
for a stranger to find this cave. After passing into this cave it was
very beautiful, for far up through the crevices of the rocks came the
light of the sun. This cave was over one hundred feet in length, and it
seemed to be of different widths, varying from thirty to forty feet. On
either side were rude couches where our poor boys caught their short
naps, and in the middle, on the rock bottom, there was a warm fire,
which was perfectly concealed from observation below, and the smoke
went a long ways up among the mountain’s high cliffs. This reminds me
of hiding in the cliffs of the rocks.

Oh, I am so thankful that I have learned to hide in the Cliffs of the
Rock of our salvation through Jesus Christ!

Well, now, since I have explained the cave, I must tell you that my
stay in Carter county must have an end. So the report came that
the rebel army had left Sullivan Station. This was on the railroad.
They had retreated way beyond the lead mines and salt works. The
time had come for us—myself and all of these Union boys—to leave for
Knoxville, so we all started in the direction of the mountain trail.
The night before we started the people all met at the house of one of
the Union boys, and it was as sad a parting as I ever want to witness
in my misspent life. I saw here mothers, fathers and sisters parting
with each other, probably never to meet again. Oh, such a sad sight!
Finally my time came to bid farewell to friends. It seemed in so short
a time, only about three weeks, I had gained such an attachment with
these people that it seemed as though I was parting with near and dear
friends of longer acquaintance. When I came to Lieutenant Housley’s
family it seemed I had to pass them by, for I had been at their table
and had been treated very well by them. This is an incident that I
will speak of later. Now when I came to bid Angeline, the daughter of
Lieutenant Housley, good bye I could not do so without showing more
than common feeling, for without thought I had learned to have a great
deal of affection for this girl. When we left all these good people
we did not think we would ever return—at least I never thought that I
would see any of them again in this world of sin.

We started for the mountain and as soon as we got to it it was said
the lieutenant wanted two men to volunteer to go across the mountain,
about nine miles, and find out for sure if the rebel army had gone from
Sullivan Station. I stepped forward with a young fellow by the name
of Rogen Anderson. The lieutenant told us where we would find one of
our spies over the mountain near Sullivan Station. We started armed
with a brace of good revolvers and a fine shooting revolving carbine.
It was in the afternoon, and we were to be back by night if nothing
prevented us. We started on our way and that night we arrived at a
Union spy’s place. We intended to go back just as soon as we found out
that the rebel army was gone, but the old man told us where there was
a blue overcoat which he claimed was about two miles from where he was
staying. So my friend Rogen and I thought we would go and see the man
where the coat was. He was a Presbyterian minister. There was also a
breech loading rifle here. We intended to get it if we could. The old
pilot went as far as a small piece of woods and Rogen and I started
in the direction of a large house that was about three-quarters of a
mile away. When we got within about forty rods of the house, what was
our surprise to see seven armed rebels come out of the east side and
form a line, and on the back of the spokesman was the blue coat I have
spoken of. This leader called to us to surrender. I did the talking,
and told him that we would never do so, but if they did not throw down
their arms we would advance and shoot as many as we could. We both
acted upon my suggestion, for we started, with drawn weapons. Just as
soon as these seven rebels saw our bravado they started and ran around
the house and opened an outside cellarway and down into this they went.
When we came up to the front we were very careful not to go around
to that cellarway, but instead came up in front at the piazza. I had
told these rebels that our Colonel Kirk, of the Seventh Tennessee, was
awaiting our success, and we demanded the gun. The old man produced,
and as soon as we got it we started back and struck the piece of woods
where the colonel was. We started for the mountain as fast as we
could. We had not gone quite a mile before they found out that we had
tricked them. They made all possible speed to overhaul us. We had about
three-fourths of a mile start of them, and about a mile further to
make, so we improved the time right royally, and if two young fellows
ever got there we did. None too soon did we get to the mountain either,
as they were but a short distance away, and after we had got within
a few hundred feet from the foot of the mountain we could well bid
defiance to them all, for the mountain was steep and hard of ascent for
a man let alone a horse. Soon we went back to where we left the scouts,
or Lieutenant Housley and his men.

The next day we all started across the mountain again, and we all
thought we were on our way to Knoxville, but it seemed that these
Union men wanted some satisfaction, for as soon as we got over into
Sullivan county where all of the rebels lived, and who had been over so
many times to capture them, they were bent on taking all of the home
guards that they could and make them take the oath of allegiance to our

It seemed that the home of the old colonel of the home guards, or
guerillas, was the first place that I came to. It was about eight
o’clock at night. Here we found a double log block house and in the
west end of this house sat the old colonel on the floor, playing with
a young grandchild. There were five or six of our men at the door and
several at the windows, and before we gave the old man any warning the
men broke the door in and took the old man by surprise, but just as
soon as the colonel got to his feet he had a gun in hand, that hung on
a couple of pegs, and there were several other guns hanging around the
house and standing in the corners. The old man struggled to avoid being
taken, but at last submitted. The pleading on the part of his wife and
daughter was pitiful and heart-rending, but in spite of their tears
and pleadings we started in the direction of the mountain. We securely
tied the old man’s hands behind him with a rope, and then tied another
some ten feet long to that, and they had the Andersonville prisoner,
as they chose to call me, lead the old man. He swore a good deal and
was very surly about being led, but he had to go just the same. When
we came to a piece of woods the scouts came to a halt and run the
old man under a large low-limbed tree. The rope that was tied to his
hands was untied and a noose placed around his neck. The rope was then
thrown over a large limb and the rebel was commanded to say his prayers
before they strung him up. Then it was that the old man knew his time
was short. Well, to tell the truth, this made me feel sad and almost
sick to see an enemy hung after taking him prisoner, although it was
often done by the rebels to our men. As soon as the old man began to
plead very hard they gave him his choice of either taking the oath of
allegiance or dangle at the end of the rope, so he took the oath of
allegiance. Then we all went to others of the home guards and got hold
of a large number of them and made them all take the oath of allegiance
to our government.

After this we went to a large plantation and here we found the folks
had left with the rebel army, leaving the plantation in charge of
an old darkey and his wench. These two old colored people the boys
compelled to bake biscuit and hoecake for nearly three hours. We found
a large bee hive full of honey in the loft of the smoke house, and
nearly one hundred weight of butter, and here around the old planter’s
table we sat and ate until we all felt very much satisfied. Then we
all retired for the night, lying down in whatever beds we could find
to occupy. In one of these beds I found over forty yards of sheep’s
gray cloth, which was worth at this time over five dollars a yard in
gold. This I took back across the mountain and gave it to Lieutenant
Housley’s wife, and out of this cloth Mrs. Housley made me a nice pair
of gray pants, the first pair I had been able to wear for a long time.

Now the time had come for us to go in the direction of Knoxville. There
had been some of Colonel Kirk’s scouts about fifty in number, who had
come to help our boys in reaching our lines, so we started. Most all of
our men were mounted on good, fleet horses. Lieutenant Housley had a
nice little black mare that he let me have to ride. All the men in this
company would number about eighty-five men. There were some seventy
mounted men and in the neighborhood of fifteen footmen. Some of these
footmen were young boys, going to Knoxville to keep out of the rebel
army. There was one or two rebel deserters along with us. We had been
traveling a part of one night and one day along the line of railroad,
when we came to a school house, or church, I don’t just remember which,
and camped for the night. Along the way we had captured a rebel spy,
who pretended to be a good Union man, and our boys let him go. He had
not been gone more than two or three hours before there came a report
from the guard lines that we were surrounded by at least four or five
hundred rebels. This was about eleven o’clock at night, so the scouts
all fell in and made a dash in the direction of the mountains. Our men
were successful in breaking through the rebel lines, which let all of
us footmen into the mountains. There were sixteen of us besides the
pilot, who was left with us. We got high up into the mountains between
two large bluffs and here we stayed that night, or the balance of it.

The next morning found us very hungry, for we had not had much to eat
for about two days. I want to say that our boys had a very sharp and
hard time to get through these rebel lines, and some of the rebels must
have fell under the fire of the scouts.

About noon, or somewhere near that time, the pilot came to the
conclusion that he would take one of our crew and go and try and get
something for us to eat. So he started off in the direction of the
valley. He had not been gone long before I took one of the young men
and started off on my own hook, to see what success I would have, and
we started down in about the same direction. We came to where the
rebels were in pursuit of us and we went near the building where our
boys had previously had their troubles with the rebels.

We went some two miles farther into the valley, where there was a large
house standing on a very large plantation. At this house we got a
large hoecake, or a baked kettle cake of corn bread and some bacon and
started back.

As we were passing the place where we had had the trouble with the
rebels, what was our surprise to see two mounted rebels coming in our
direction. Now I knew it was all up with us unless we could get ready
for them in some way, so I told the young man to stoop down and get
hold of anything that looked like a weapon and we would make a bold
dash at them. There was a large thorn bush hedge between the rebels
and us. We made a very sudden movement toward this hedge, holding
short sticks in our hands, and called to them to surrender, when they
turned their steeds and started off in the direction they had come. We
made all the speed that we could, and soon found our way back to our

We all had a good lunch of corn bread and bacon and were ready to start
again that night. We had to keep along the range of mountains, for we
did not dare to follow the line of railroad for a while, for fear of
the enemy. At this time we were about one hundred and twenty miles from
Knoxville, Tennessee.

After starting again on our journey there was a woman pilot sent
by Lieutenant Housley to help us along these mountain ranges, and,
oh, such rugged, rocky cliffs that we had to climb, and such tired
and aching limbs that we had during such nights of toiling up those
mountains! It is something that I can never forget.

Well, as the distance grew less between the boys in blue and myself,
my heart began to gladden and every night now began to tell on the
distance. Oh, what thoughts I had of the folk; at home, and how I
longed to see the playgrounds of my boyhood days!

After the third night our guide left us to traverse the rest of our
journey without her and we at this time were following the railroad
line to our final destination at Knoxville.

We were about thirty-five miles away the last night of our travel,
and we had got very hungry. I had slipped ahead of the boys to see
if I could not get some hoecake before the rest of them came up. I
had advanced ahead about three miles, and had come to a large block
house, about half a mile south of the railroad. I went up to the door
and looked in an old stile window. In the east end of the house was a
fireplace, and close to this was a half dozen pairs of boots, while in
the corner sat as many guns. I stood there a short time, when I knocked
on the door. Presently there was a gruff voice which demanded to know
who was there. I told him I wanted some hoecake. He again demanded a
knowledge of me as to who was there. I told him that I was a friend.
Soon he told the men who were on the floor to get up in haste, and
when I saw that they were all getting up, I ran about seventy rods in
the direction of the railroad. Here I waited until the boys came up
and I told them what had happened. The old pilot concluded to try and
make them all surrender, but in this we were mistaken, for we could
not make them do so. They seemed to be desperate in regard to giving
up their arms, so we had to abandon the idea of taking them. We all
started on again to finish up our journey.

There was nothing of any importance which occurred the balance of the
way. The next day we arrived at the Knoxville river. Here we found the
railroad bridge was gone, and there were ferry boats to take the people
over the river. When I saw the stars and stripes once more I shed tears
of joy to think I had arrived into our lines, and I had great reasons
to thank God for His deliverance from worse than death in those prison

Here I was taken to the commander’s headquarters, and I told him
something of the privations I had gone through, and after I had been
given some dinner I was taken to the sanitary commission department.
Here I found an old man by the name of David Scott. He was assistant
surgeon of the Hastings hospital of Knoxville. This old man took me
to the sanitary commission where I was given a fine suit of navy blue
clothes and a hat with an eagle on one side. Oh, how grand this made me
feel to get a good warm suit of clothes on once more and to be free.

The next day I was given a pass to go to Washington, and how glad I was
to take the train in the direction of home. I started and every eastern
bound train that I could get on to without asking any questions I would
get on, until I finally found myself in New York City.

Then the next place I found myself was in Pittsburg Pennsylvania,
within ninety miles of home. Here I was accosted by a provost marshal,
who asked me where I was from. I told him. Well he concluded that I
had been taking a very good pleasure trip at the government’s expense.
He put me aboard the train and started me for Harrisburg, and when
I arrived there I met my old colonel, Chauncey Rodgers, whom I found
at the Soldiers’ Rest. He induced me to go to the state capitol at
Harrisburg. Here he introduced me to Maribee Lowery, a state senator of
Pennsylvania. Here I was seated above all of the leading senators and
related the story of my escape, while a shorthand writer wrote it down
as fast as I could tell it.

After I had sat and told the story of my escape for nearly three hours
a doctor came to me and felt of my pulse and told Mr. Lowery that if
he intended to do anything for me he must do it soon, for he told him
I was coming down with some fever. Now Mr. Lowery gave me a letter
of introduction to the adjutant general of the war department, and
the next day after I got to Washington I received a thirty-five days’
furlough to go home.

Mr. Lowery told me when I came back by the way of Baltimore and
completed the tale of my escape that he would give me five hundred
dollars in gold. Now when I started from Washington and got on the
train I found an old man who had been at the Howard hospital at
Washington, and who had buried a son and had just started for home.
I told him where I lived when at home, and found that he lived about
thirty miles from Waterford, Erie county, Pennsylvania. This old man
took care of me until I reached home.

When I got to Harrisburg I was so sick that I did not know what was
going on around me, and when I arrived at the station at Waterford it
was along about the last days of January. The snow was about two feet
deep and drifted for a distance of some two miles from the station
to a depth of ten feet. I got into a box car and remained in my old
friend’s care some two hours, while an old lady went two miles over
some terribly deep drifts to notify the stage driver of the condition I
was in.

During this time the good old man had tried to get me into some Irish
shanties near the station, but without any success. I still remained
in this cold car until my feet were badly frozen, and when the stage
did come there came with it a man by the name of Clifford Stafford, a
distant relative, if any, who had been discharged on account of wounds
received in the Battle of Gainsey’s Mill or Hall’s Hill. Now when I
got home I never knew my own folks for five long weeks, and when I did
bring myself through I did not have a spear of hair on my head, nor did
I have hardly any soles on my feet, so badly were they frozen while
escaping and being exposed to so much snow and frost.

This tale may not be so interesting to many on account of its being so
long since the close of the war, but nevertheless it is a true story.

Oh, how sad is the memory of the past! If my faith was all I had in
this world I should consider myself most miserable, but I thank God
that while I still continue to suffer, my faith is in Him.

When I got well I learned that my folks had made ready to have funeral
services for me, as Comrade Ledierer had sent word to them that I was
killed way back there at the negro shanty, at which place we were
separated from each other.

Now the time had come for me to return to Washington. General Lee’s
army had surrendered, and my time of service had nearly expired and my
furlough also.

At last the day came when I bid my kind old mother and friends good bye
and once more started to join the army.

My desire now was to continue the tale of my escape from prison to the
Senator from Pennsylvania, and get the gold he had promised to give me,
but when I got to Harrisburg, I found that he had been taken ill and
had been sent to an insane asylum, and while there had died, at least
that was the report at that time.

Soon after I got to Washington we were all mustered out of service and
sent home.

While I was on my way to Washington, and while in Baltimore waiting
for a train to go to Washington, there was a guard who attempted to
arrest me. I had been home three months, under a doctor’s care, and of
course my furlough of thirty-five days had expired, but I had a sworn
certificate from the doctor and a pass from the provost marshal of the
place where I lived, but this did not suit the guard, who was bent on
taking me for desertion.

After twenty-five years had expired I got my ransom money from Uncle
Sam on account of that guard at Baltimore keeping my furlough.

Now this ends the tale of my escape from rebel prisons, and since all
of this prison suffering I have lived in Oceana county, Michigan, and
have reared up a family of five children, one boy dying at the age of
thirteen years. I have had both shoulders broken, my right shoulder
blade, right arm and left hip misplaced and broken, and also my left
leg below the knee, and am now left almost a total cripple.

This ends the short tale of suffering, but suffering not ended until
this life is closed.

Transcriber’s Note:

The following changes have been made to the original publication:

  Page 6
    rebels had very strong foritfications _changed to_
    rebels had very strong fortifications

  Page 52
    crevises of the rocks _changed to_
    crevices of the rocks

  Page 72
    on small abuttments _changed to_
    on small abutments

  Page 77
    through the crevises _changed to_
    through the crevices

  Page 85
    to thank God for His deliverence _changed to_
    to thank God for His deliverance

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