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Old prison site.

I went from the cemetery over to the old prison site, near the Chemung river. Your city had so encroached upon it I could not have identified it, but for the northeast and southwest stones, erected by Baldwin Post, in 1900. I reached Elmira prison August 2, 1864, and left July 8, 1865. I had charge of Ward 36, which contained some 300 prisoners. Where my ward stood now stands the city pumping station, and the camp fronting on the street is filled with residences. Near where the old cook-house was is now a large nursery, and in front of the ice-houses is where the tents stood that contained the small-pox patients. I had the varioloid, and the doctor said I must go to the hospital. I thought first of the horrors over there, and next of the loss of my nice suit of jeans. After some six days sojourn there, with two of my bunkmates who died with confluent small-pox, I received orders to go take a bath. Away went my suit, and I was clad in the blue, with long frock coat. While I was admiring my uniform the sergeant took out his knife and commenced cutting off my skirt. “Hold on,” said I, “don't disfigure my uniform.” He replied: “Do you reckon I am going to leave you in this condition? You would walk out as one of our guards.” [195]

I was fortunate in my recent visit in meeting Postmaster M. M. Conklin, who was on special duty in the prison for some months, and we talked over the prison days. He told me the old darky, named John W. Jones, died only a few weeks ago. I wish I could have seen the old man again and talked to him about the burial of the dead, and the big scare he got one day. The old man drove the horse that pulled the small wagon hauling the dead piled three deep out to the cemetery. Our sergeant, who had charge of preparing the dead for burial, agreed with another prisoner to feign dead. Accordingly he straightened himself out in the box and had the lid nailed lightly on and loaded in the wagon on top of the other two boxes. When the old man reached the cemetery he heard a groan and witnessed a resurrection. He fled to the prison in terror and the prisoner fled in another direction. Thereupon Major Beale appointed my friend, M. M. Conklin, on especial duty, one of his duties being to see that no prisoner was sent out of there dead, unless he was much dead. As most of our dead were captured in the Wilderness, I gave my friend Conklin a sketch of that terrible field of carnage. In seven days 50,000 men fell. May 1, 1864, General Lee issued two orders.

First: “Send all extra baggage to the rear; Second, cook up three days rations;” both easily complied with, because we had little extra baggage; second, our three days rations consisted of three pones of cornbread. May 4th, General Grant crossed the Rapidan with 117,000 men, the flower of the Federal army. Confronting him in the Wilderness was General Lee, with 55,000 ill-clad and poorly fed Confederates. May 5th, General Grant charged us in the Wilderness with three columns across Palmer's old field. Result: 1,100 killed in few hours; 146th New York nearly annihilated, and its commander, Major Gilbert, killed. Continued fighting 'till May 12th. Dead angle in front of Spotsylvania Courthouse, in which 1,100 of the Elmira prisoners were captured.



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