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Captain Barnes' story.

Captain Barnes said:

I was captured in Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, Pa., on July 3, 1863. There my prison life commenced. After confinement in several prisons, I was taken to Johnson Island, Lake Erie, which was a prison exclusively for commissioned officers.

On the 9th of February, 1864, the names of 600 officers from lieutenant to colonel were called, and when we responded were placed in line and marched to the wharf, and there carried over to Sandusky in Ohio. None were aware of their destination, but supposed we were selected for exchange.

We remained all night in Sandusky, where it as very cold, but we were comfortable and enjoyed some privileges, not being strictly guarded. We left the next day on a train, and when we landed it was in Philadelphia.

There we were imprisoned in the State Armory, where we were comfortable. We staid there some weeks, and then were under strict guard by negro soldiers.

We left there on the 16th of June on a steamer for Washington city. On the way a plan was devised to seize the guard, capture the boat and run ashore. All were united, but the plot was foiled by the boat running up under a fort on the river. The commanding officer must have had some intimation or suspicion of our purpose, for from the fort, a gunboat went up the river with our steamer.

Arriving in Washington we were taken to the Old Capitol, where [367] we remained several weeks, with light rations, and then were carried to Fort Delaware. From this place we were taken on the 20th of August, 1864, and carried to a large ocean steamer, Crescent City, then lying in the bay below the breakwater.

We sailed the next day for parts unknown, but still believing we were going to be exchanged. During the voyage we ran aground on Cape Romain, off the coast of South Carolina, when a large lot of coal had to be thrown off to lighten the ship, before sailing again. While stranded, a large gunboat came in sight and created great commotion among the officers and guard of the boat. They were apprehensive that an attempt would be made for our release, but there was no demonstration of that kind.

After sailing again, nearly all of us were placed in the hull of the boat and guarded more rigidly. We were kept out of sight of land for two weeks or more, and finally landed at Morris Island, S. C. This was on the 7th of September, and the first intimation we had of our destination.

Several officers knew the place, and all were soon informed. Our treatment on board the steamer was very rough, with scanty rations and brackish water. An officer died on the way and was given a burial at sea.

After landing at Morris Island we were placed under fire of our own guns in front of a Federal battery, which was shelled from Fort Sumter. The first evening and night the shelling was very heavy but none of us were killed. It seemed our guns got the range and fired over us. One morning while Captain Findley, of Virginia (now a preacher in Augusta county), J. E. Cobb, H. Coffry and myself were in our small tent just after Captain Findley had read a chapter in a Bible, which I now have and in which I placed all the notes of all my travels, a large shell fell right at our feet and covered us all with sand, but fortunately did not explode nor break up our accustomed worship.

We were guarded by negro troops commanded by Colonel Hallowell, who was a heartless man, and under him the most cruel treatment was experienced. We were not allowed any privileges, and often fired into by the guards for the most trivial offence and several men were wounded.

There was a plan on foot to tunnel out and make our escape, but the equinoctial storm flooded our work and it caved in. Another attempt was made by digging out, but our scheme was reported to [368] the authorities by a traitor of our number and we abandaned the idea.

We left Morris Island on the 21st of October, and on the 22d landed at Fort Pulaski, Georgia. This was a nice prison, commanded by Colonel Brown, of New York, a kindhearted officer who allowed us the grounds in the fort for exercise, and good rations were furnished.

In the bringing in to prisoners of a barrel of hard tack, a barrel of brown sugar was brought by mistake, and before the error could be remedied, the sugar was devoured by the officers who had not tasted anything sweet for a long time.

On November 19th, about one-half of the 600 were taken to Hilton Head, S. C., arriving there the next day. Here retaliation was practiced in its most cruel form. Our rations for forty-five days consisted of five ounces corn meal and a half pint of brackish water per man, and occasionally some sour pickle.

The sufferings were intense and many died. Wharf rats were caught and eaten. The barracks were framed buildings about 30x90 feet, no windows, and bunks of pine poles, one blanket to four men.

Lamps were burning all the time and the rats were cooked over them. After the rats were all consumed, dogs and cats which came in the way were caught and speedily devoured. One old bob-tail gray cat long escaped, but was finally caught and a feast made over it.

Lieutenant S. H. Hawes, of Richmond, narrowly missed a feast on a fat dog, which came about thus:

Some of his comrades boasted of having had rat stews; and he did have an invitation to a cat supper. A Missourian (Captain Perkins) caught a cat, killed and cooked it for his mess of four. One of the mess, as a special favor, sent Lieutenant Hawes an invitation to the feast, and he accepted to the extent of looking at them as they ate. It was very kind to invite him, but he couldn't ‘go’ cat. It was suggested that as he was so squearmish about cat, maybe he would take some ‘Ponto’ stew if offered.

Ponto” was a beautiful half-grown, well-fed, fat setter puppy, belonging to the Federal officer in charge of our guard. This young dog came to our quarters every day to have a frolic with the prisoners. Hawes agreed to accept invitation and to eat some of the dog supper when prepared, for the puppy was young, cleanly-washed, fat and healthy. [369]

Perkins thereupon agreed to catch and kill ‘Ponto’ and prepare the feast. The next morning the dog came bounding into the prison yard as soon as the gate was opened, as was his habit, but most positively declined all of Perkins' advances, notwithstanding his friendship heretofore. As soon as he looked into Perkins' eyes doubt took possession of him.

Ponto” sniffed danger in the air, tucked tail and ran for the gate, and foreswore his prison friends ever after. His unreasoning suspicions prevented the feast.

Captain R. E. Frayser, also of Richmond, was the most active man in the grape-vine telegraph business. What news he couldn't bring in wasn't worth knowing. His having been in the Signal Corps possibly accounted for his success in that line.

Grape-vine news was terribly twisted and rarely straight. Nevertheless it gave us something to talk about.

When forty-five days expired flour, meat and bread were brought in and wood needed for cooking, utensils furnished and the men were allowed all they wanted to eat.

After such a long deprivation, many killed themselves from overeating. The meal was old and wormy, but it had to be eaten. Those who had survived the trying ordeal through which we passed, were taken from Hilton Head on the 5th of March, 1865, and carried to Fort Monroe on the 8th of March, after a very rough trip at sea.

From there we were taken to Fort Wool, and on the 11th of March, sailed for Fort Delaware, where we landed on the 12th, next day.

Of the 600 whose names were called at Johnson's Island on the 9th of February, 1864, only 293 of the number answered the call at Fort Delaware on their return after months of perils, trials, sufferings and tribulations.

Fort Delaware, taken altogether, was the dirtiest, filthiest and most unhealthy prison I ever saw, and I was there three times during my captivity. The remnant of the 600 remained at Fort Delaware until the general exchange in June, 1865.

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Ponto (4)
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