They break up their ground with a small plough with one horse or mule attached.
What grain they raise is not enough for home consumption, let alone to supply an army with bread and meat.
The principal timber through the South
is pine, which grows in great abundance.
On arriving in sight of Richmond
, we got off the cars and were taken to Belle Island
on the morning of the 31st of September, being just ten days on the way; the distance we travelled over being 850 miles. The island is situated in James River
, at the foot of the falls, and opposite the upper part of the city.
That part of the island we were on is a very low sand bar, over which the chilly air comes from the river, and almost every night and morning we were enveloped in a dense fog. Here we were exposed to all kinds of weather, without any shelter from the cold rains and chilly winds.
Our rations here consisted of a small piece of bread and a few mouthfuls of meat or soup, over which we would hold a consultation to determine what it was made of, and came to the conclusion that it was intended for bean soup, although the greater portion of the ingredients were sand and bugs.
But we must eat it or do without anything, and as the bugs were well cooked and the sand well settled to the bottom of the vessel, we managed to eat it without any great inconvenience.
In this way we lived for five days, when we were taken over into the city, and took up lodgings in a large tobacco warehouse, opposite Libby Prison, and in the lower part of the city.
In this building they crowded eleven hundred of us. I was fortunate enough to get up in the third story, and it was much more comfortable than either of the others.
We were so crowded that we had scarcely room to lie down without getting on top of each other.
Here I remained about forty days. We were not allowed to go out of the house except to get rations.
In this way I managed to get out twice while there.
When first put in we got about one half rations, which I thought was doing well; but it soon got less, until we were scarcely able to keep from starving.
On the day after we were put in the prison the Provost Marshal
came in and took our names for the third time since being captured, and told us that if all those who had any greenbacks would give them up to him, he would return them when we went away.
All who did not give them up would be searched, and if any money was found it would be confiscated.
By this means a great many of the boys were induced to give up their money, thinking that we should go away in a few days, and then they would get it back again.
But some were not to be fooled in that way, but were determined to keep their money if possible; so they went to work to conceal it, which was done in various ways, some by sewing it in their clothes, others by putting it in their tobacco, and some would take the buttons of their blouses apart, put a bill in, and then fix it together to look as if it had never been touched.
In this last-mentioned way I kept ten dollars, and gave two to the Marshal
After getting all they could in this way, they commenced to search us; but finding that they were not getting enough to pay them for the trouble, they soon quit it, and issued us some rations, as we had not had any for thirty-six hours, and were getting pretty hungry!
The guards were strictly forbidden to sell anything to us, but they would do almost anything to get our greenbacks, and at night would smuggle in bread to those who had any money; and in this way I managed to get bread for four of us for several days by being economical.
For a one dollar greenback we could get eight or ten loaves of bread, but for one of Confederate money, sometimes we could get two loaves.
Others would not have it at all; said they had their pockets full of it. After we had been there about two weeks some of the men came so near starving that they would trade off their clothes for bread — their shoes and socks, and some even traded their shirts, and any little thing they could find; and some days the door would present the appearance of a toy shop.
There were handkerchiefs, pocket knives
, finger rings, combs, buttons, spoons, knives and forks, and everything a soldier could find about his person was offered for bread.
was the cry, and indeed it was a sorrowful sight to see men of all grades of society, from the college professor down to the ignorant and unlettered, all brought to the verge of starvation by the inhuman barbarity of their captors.
In passing around the room I could see men once stout and hearty made helpless as infants, their cheeks of a pale death color, their eyes sunken and the light that once sparkled in them gone, and their skeleton-like forms all saying plainly that unless soon aided their time was short for this world.
The sight was enough to draw pity from the hardest of hearts, unless they were so <*>ped in crime that nothing could affect them.
The anguish and suffering here endured can never be told.
Future history will fail in its endeavors to picture the noble heroism here displayed by men when they were suffering all the misery possible for man to endure, yet true to their country's cause, and would rather die than sacrifice their honor and patriotism, by turning traitor to their country.
Almost every day there were from eight to ten taken to the hospital, there to linger on for weeks, and perhaps months, before receiving any benefit by the change, if indeed they ever recovered.
But there was still another evil to contend against; and that was the vermin, which got so numerous that we could in no way rid ourselves of them; and when a person once got down and was unable to help himself, there was danger of his actually being killed by the lice
. It makes me shudder now while I think of it. What a terrible condition we were then in!
but how much worse must it have become by this time, as it has been near six weeks since I left!
But I will not dwell longer on so horrible a scene.
After having used what little money I had, and trading my knife and haversack for bread, and seeing what there was in store for me if I remained longer in that place, I resolved to effect my escape or die in the attempt, as it was death any how if I remained there.
I mentioned it to my comrades, but they did not approve of it. But not minding what they said, and finding a young fellow from Pennsylvania
who was as anxious to get away as myself, we went to work to contrive some means of escape, which was no easy job, for we were closely guarded on all sides.
The house we were in is a four-story building; and by going on the upper floor we could get a view of a good part of the city, and there we marked out the course we would pursue if successful in getting out. We were to go directly east for about four or five miles, and then incline more to the south, so as to come to our lines at Williamsburg, Virginia