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[393]

Prison experience.

By James T. Wells, Sergeant Company A, Second South Carolina Infantry.

No. 2.

About this time (January, 1864) General B. F. Butler was made Commissary of Prisoners, and in the discharge of his duty he paid us a visit. He was welcomed in such a manner as a parcel of defiant “Rebels” could welcome him, with hisses, curses and groans; notwithstanding which, he made us some good promises. Among others, that we should be better treated, have more wood, more food and plenty of clothes. As we knew this to be so many idle words, it produced no effect upon us. He did not seem to have formed a favorable impression of the Confederate authorities. One of his first acts towards better treatment was to relieve one of the white regiments as a guard, and place in its stead the Thirty-sixth North Carolina colored regiment. This was a severe blow to us. On the 25th of February they arrived, accoutred in their military glory. They were quite a curiosity to many, as they had never, previous to this time, seen any colored troops. The first day they came on guard will long be remembered by every prisoner in the camp. At the usual hour, they marched in with knapsack, haversack and canteen, equipped as for a march. They proceeded with military precision to unsling their knapsacks, and place them upon the ground, to mark the ends of their beats. The main street, along which they were stationed, was crowed with prisoners, all anxious to see the “monkey show.” We knew their intense hatred to us, and we were well aware that the slightest demonstration on our part would be used as a pretext for firing into us. Notwithstanding this, some fellow, on mischief bent, deliberately crossed the line, and stole one of their knapsacks, which he tossed into the road, and the dismay and chagrin evinced by this ebony son of Mars can be imagined better than described. After calling in the officer of the guard, he related his story in the following pathetic style: “Fore God, if I bin here six monts, I never tief anything from dese buckra. I wouldn't care, if dey give me back dat garytype. Dat's all I wants.” These are, as near as can be remembered, the exact words he used on the occassion. He never recovered his knapsack, nor his “garytype,” for it was seen, long afterwards, in the possession of a prisoner, who used all kinds of expedients to keep it concealed, for had he been discovered his life

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