previous next

[198] process pretty well. The Castle Thunder poetry said that the lice were so big that they themselves became lousy.

On the fourth day of July we determined, in Libby Prison, to have a celebration, and by odds and ends and scraps among the officers then in Libby Prison, we gathered together material enough to make a Union flag--the stars and stripes. We had to make it very secretly. We then appointed our committees, and had correspondents, one from one of the Cincinnati papers, and one from the New York Tribune. We had men of talent, and we drew up a set of resolutions, and had everything in readiness in one of the upper rooms, with our flag spread out over us, when up came a rebel surgeon and pulled down our flag, and vetoed everything that we had in progress — and we had to submit to it.

Many ask us what we had to eat in prison. The officers drew a half-ration loaf of bread every day, and three ounces of meat. The officers had meat that was fit to eat, although none of the fattest and best, but it was not of that kind of beeves mentioned in the Castle Thunder poetry, that had to, be killed to save their lives. We also got a small amount of rice, or some black-eyed beans. The peas were of a curious variety. They were live peas. Some of the men did not seem to care; they said it made the soup thicker. For drink we had the pure extract of James River, always warm and never cold, sometimes thick and sometimes thin. The soldiers confined on Belle Island are nearly starved, or fed on tainted meat. If a man has money he can send out and buy a barrel of potatoes for sixteen dollars, a barrel of flour for forty dollars, a pound of sugar for three dollars, a pound of coffee for ten dollars. On Belle Island there are thousands of our men without clothing to keep them warm; for when they go into a battle they sometimes lose their hats, or throw off their coats, and leave their blankets, and many of these men are destitute of sufficient clothing to keep them warm. At night they lie down upon the sand, without any blankets to keep them warm, and nothing but the great canopy of heaven for a covering, and the stars, as it were, for their candle. And there some of our soldiers have been, month after month, without anything under heaven to make them comfortable. You pity the soldiers in our own hospitals — then, my friend, let your pity go to our soldiers on Belle Island. They are there sickening and dying by tens, twenties, and by hundreds. Here before you to-night, and before God, at whose judgment bar I must stand, it is murder for those Confederates to put our men there on that island in that condition, and our government should take some step to relieve those men who are absolutely being murdered in this way.

I saw your townsman, William Hayes, who was on Belle Island, and had been brought from there to the hospital. He told me of his sufferings. Twice he was paroled to be sent north, but he was too weak to go to the depot. Men who are in the hospital are put in an ambulance and taken to the depot; but if they are on Belle Island they must walk. Now this man was twice parolee but was too weak to walk to the cars and was left behind. Many of our men become so weak that a number of them join together to help one another. William Hayes was brought to the hospital, reduced to a living skeleton, and I obtained permission to visit him, and learned of his trials and sufferings, and received his message to his family. In view of eternity just before him he was cheerful and contented, with the hope and prospect of glory before him. But, my friends, this is only a single instance of the sacrifice that has been made, not only for our country, but as a sacrifiec to rebel cruelty. Our boys on that island, instead of good provisions, get mule meat, or tainted meat, that before it was killed was as poor as the turkey that had to lean against the gate post to gobble. Many of those men are absolutely starved, and left without fuel, water, or blankets. There are about eight thousand brave men there, many of them from Ohio, whose sufferings must be terrible. Can you wonder that my sympathies go out for those suffering men, who have become so weak that they can hardly stand upon their feet?

Castle Thunder is north-west from Libby Prison, and is a place where they confine both men and women. Down in one room in Castle Thunder there were three hundred men. This room runs the entire length of the building, and was about one hundred feet long. There was one window in the end of the room, and that was closely cross-barred. There were three hundred men confined in this room, and two of them were in an entirely nude state, without one particle of clothing on their bodies. They had been there two years, and what little clothing they had when they first went in had worn out and gone, shred by shred, until they were in an entirely nude condition. They spent the winter by heating sawdust at the fire, and then, making a bed like pigs, they would get into it, and get those who were clothed to lie around them, to keep them from freezing during the winter.

The floors of the prison were covered with two or three inches of sawdust, and having but one window in the room, only a few could get to it to examine their clothes, and, as a consequence, they became so covered with vermin that the rebels had to take them out into the yard and set their negroes to scrubbing them off.

When the rebels heard that we had prayers in Libby Prison they scouted the idea, and came out in their papers against us, and said that they would just as soon expect that God would hear the cannibals pray as to hear the thieving Yankees; and they wondered at our temerity, and referred me specially to the second chapter of Romans, twenty-first verse, and advised me to read it before I prayed any more. This verse reads, “Thou, therefore, which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?” They thought to be accused of stealing a negro was a great thing; and when they thought they had a special case they wanted to make a special example of it. They forgot how the rebel leaders perjured

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Belle Island (Georgia, United States) (5)
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (1)
Ohio (Ohio, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William Hayes (2)
Romans (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: