previous next

[44] to allow boxes for sick prisoners. The result of these orders was that the prisoners were kept in a state of hunger—I will say in a state of sharp hunger—all the time. My messmates whom I have before mentioned, were as refined and as well bred as any gentlemen in the South; and they had been accustomed to wealth. We employed a person to cook our rations, and to place them on the table in our room. What then? Sit down and help ourselves? No. We could not trust ourselves to do that. We would divide up the food into five plates as equally as we could do it. Then one would turn his back to the table, and he would be asked: ‘Whose is this, and this,’ and so on. And when we had finished our meal, there was not left on our plates a trace of food, grease or crumb. Our plates would be as clean as if wiped with a cloth; and we would arise from the table hungry—hungry still—ravenously hungry. We no longer disdained the fat, coarse pork—the fatter, the better. It was sustenance we craved. No longer did we crave desserts and dainties. The cold, stale bread was sweeter to us than any cake or dainty we ever eat at our mother's table. We would at times become desperate for a full meal. Then by common consent we would eat up our whole day's rations at one meal. And then, alas, we would get up with hunger—hungry still. My God, it was terrible! Yet we kept in excellent health. I said it then, and I have said it hundreds of times since, that if I had an enemy whom I wished to punish exquisitely, I would give him enough food to keep him in health with a sharp appetite, but not enough to satisfy his appetite. I would keep him hungry, sharply, desperately hungry all the time. It was a cruel, bitter treatment, and that, too, by a hand into which Providence had poured to overflowing its most bounteous gifts.

One practical lesson I learned from this experience; that a hungry man can eat any food, and eat it with a relish denied kings and princes at their luxurious boards. It has made me lose all patience with one who says he cannot eat this, and cannot eat that. Between such an one and starvation there is no food he cannot eat, and eat with the keenest enjoyment.

Shall I leave out of my story a bright, happy page? No. On the 13th of January, 1865, there was sent by express to me at Johnson's Island, a box prepared and packed by the joint

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.
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
Johnson's Island (Ohio, United States) (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 13th, 1865 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: