previous next

[84] They slept upon the floor on their blankets, if they had been thoughtful enough to bring any, and ate their rations from their fingers, or spread them out on boxes or barrel-heads. Knives, forks and spoons were not abundantly supplied. But all this was better than sleeping on the bare ground without blankets and masticating scant and course rations while on the march, as multitudes of soldiers in both armies were often compelled to do.

Something like order, however, was soon arranged, and the prisoners, by orders of the Confederate authorities, were as well fed and better sheltered than the soldiers of the Confederate armies in the field.

Prisons are always uncomfortable places for subjective, if not for objective, reasons. I never have happened to meet one from either side who, while prisoner of war, was satisfied with his accommodations or victuals. It is not in human nature to be contented under physical restraints, and it is among the privileges and luxuries of prisoners to grumble; and he is a hard-hearted jailer who will attempt to deprive them of these alleviations. Feather-beds are hard and tenderloin steaks are tough behind iron gratings, and the kindest and most liberal commissary never satisfied prisoners. No external conditions can soothe the spirit's chafings; and as these men did not have soft couches, nor juicy roasts, they had a right to croak, and they exercised it.

Among those earliest introduced into Libby prison was Congressman Ely, of Rochester, N. Y., who, with other civilians, had taken a holiday excursion in carriages to witness a battle and congratulate the Federal victors. He amused himself by writing a diary of his observations and experiences, which he afterwards published in a volume ill-natured enough to be amusing, and in which so humble a personage as myself was singled out for special censure. All that I am conscious of having done to deserve this honorable mention, was, in a good-humored way, to reply to arguments urged to convince me that the Southern States had no right to secede, and that the United States Government was justifiable in sending armies to suppress the insurrection. Of course the prisoners having little else to do, were fond of talking, and so I imagined that I was gratifying them by responding and improvising a cheerful debate to help them while away the time which hung so heavily on their hands. I sometimes ventured to keep the ball rolling in a spirit of pure benevolence, perhaps just tinctured with a grain or two of impure reconciliation with their lot. If I ever uttered an ill-natured or abusive or churlish word to a prisoner

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.
Rochester (New York, United States) (2)

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.
Ely (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: