By James T. Wells, Sergeant Company A, Second South Carolina Infantry.
A great article of trade, crochet needles, was turned out by lathes made for that purpose; so also were pen handles, bodkins, &c. In fact, every little article needed could be made in our canvass city, even to the ingeniously constructed tools with which the men worked.
There were the tailors, shoemakers, wash-men, barbers, &c. We also bad eating houses with very little to eat in them; but you could get a good cup of coffee and a piece of fried rat for twenty-five cents. This may seem a joke, but rats were eaten and with much gusto.
The first engine made in camp excited much curiosity and wonder among the prisoners, and was visited by a large number of them.
It was indeed a curiosity, and a description of it may not be out of place.
The boiler was made from an old camp kettle, the mouth of which was plugged up with wood.
The pistons and connecting rods were made of wood, and the valves and heads were contrived from old mustard boxes.
It does not seem possible that this could be done, yet it was, and the machines were of sufficient power to drive turning lathes, from which pen handles, bodkins, &c., were turned out. The first of these wonderful machines was made by a Georgian, who could neither read nor write.
In a short while there were seven of them in different parts of the camp, and as they would whistle every morning previous to commencing work, it reminded one of the machine shops in large cities.
Another remarkable curiosity was a clock, the works of which were made completely of bone.
When it was completed, it was placed inside of a Confederate canteen, and was exhibited to any one who wished to see it for a cracker.
It would be an endless task to enumerate the many little curious and ingenious articles which could be seen about the camp; but it must be remembered that among fourteen thousand or fifteen thousand men there must necessarily be some of ability and ingenuity.
Many of them were good writers, and the daily bulletins posted in different parts of the camp attested the fact that they had been accustomed to writing for the public.
There were portrait and landscape painters, and many fine pictures were produced there.
One, The prisoner's Dream of home,
was greatly admired and coveted by many, but money could not purchase it from the owner.