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Chapter 3:

  • Taken to Columbus, Mississippi
  • -- visit from the Clergy -- an Enthusiastic mute -- American Aristocracy -- secession Lies -- political and ecclesiastical prisoners -- reflections.

On Monday morning, at ten o'clock, a part of the prisoners left Corinth, for Columbus, Mississippi. Wherever the cars stopped, the wildest excitement prevailed.

“How goes the day?” was the constant inquiry.

We were exhibited as some of the trophies of the battle. That the people were somewhat divided, could easily be perceived from their countenances. On the evening of the same day, we arrived at Columbus, and there we were placed under a heavy guard, in an old warehouse; but the ex-Governor of Mississippi came to the prison, and took us to the hotel, where we enjoyed supper at his expense. There the crowd gathered round us as though we were some mammoth traveling menagerie, while our hostess kept commenting so earnestly upon our handsome appearance, that, in spite of my longitudinal neck and limbs, I began to [46] suspect myself worthy the compliment. While under guard here, I heard men declaring most unequivocally their opposition to a Republican form of government. Two ministers who visited me-Rev. Doctor Tensley, of the First Baptist Church, and Rev. Mr. Morris, of the M. E. Church South-expressed but little confidence in the Confederate cause. These gentlemen invited me to their church on Sabbath, but the force of circumstances compelled me to decline the invitation. These circumstances were, close confinement under a heavy guard; and of this fact they were perfectly aware. I was led from this to believe that their sympathy was not genuine.

After the ministers left me, a deaf and dumb man came to the door, and handed me a paper which contained an article relative to the recent battle of Shiloh. The account began in the following self-gratulatory style: “Glory! glory! glory! Victory! victory! I write from Yankee paper.” The writer proceeded in his intense and heated manner by saying, “Of all the victories that have ever been on record, ours is the most complete. Their repulse at Bull Run was nothing to compare to our victory at Shiloh. General Buell is killed, and General Grant wounded and taken prisoner. Soon we will [47] prove too much for them, and they will be compelled to let us alone. Our brave boys have driven them to the river, and compelled them to flee to their gunboats. The day is ours.”

The mute who had given me the paper was so permeated with the prospect of rebel success, that he favored hoisting the black flag, and in this was sustained by a large number in that neighborhood. As the news came slowly in, the comments made on the state of affairs were as various as they were amusing. Only through the friendship and ingenuity of the slaves, who were the attaches of the prison, were we privileged to receive papers giving the account of the recent fight. When they learned the true condition of their army after the battle, and realized that their boasted victory was a bloody defeat, they became more charitable in their opinions. I became well satisfied from the conversation I overheard from rebel officers and visitors, during my incarceration here, that a favorite doctrine of Dixie is to adjust their “peculiar institution” in such a way as to include the poor whites as well as the colored people as chattel property.

I was here visited by two rebel captains belonging to Bushrod Johnston's staff, one of whom was a lawyer from Virginia, named McMoore. These men conversed freely on the [48] times. Both of them expressed themselves as decidedly in favor of an American Aristocracy! They argued, with as much earnestness and ability as their vocabulary furnished words, the imbecility of Republican government; and to prove the immutability of their opinions, cited to me the semi-idiotic and degraded “clayeaters” of the South, saying:

What do these men know of civil institutions, and what right have they to vote?

Said I, “Gentlemen, is it possible that this is the faith of your leaders?”

They replied emphatically in the affirmative.

“Then, sirs, we of the North have not been mistaken on a subject which has been forcing itself upon us as a fact, but which we were loth to believe could harbor itself even in the basest American heart. Since you are frank enough to own it, certainly the world should know it, and execrate it as it deserves.”

When I became acquainted with the motives of these two representative men-how they despised their poor, ignorant soldier-brethren, armed and fighting to fasten fetters on themselves and children for ever, I could but exclaim, “Send out thy light and thy truth, 0 God! into all the earth. Hasten the hay when ignorance and oppression shall vanish before the free gospel, [49] and righteousness through all the land prevail.”

From my prison windows I now had ample leisure to study the countenances of all classes of our rebellious enemies, from Brigadier Generals down to the conscript “Sand-hillers.” All faces were indicative of sadness. From what I could see and overhear — the downcast eyes and the conflicting stories — I was well satisfied that they had been worsted at Shiloh. The officers were given to wholesale exaggeration, their falsifying tongues gliding from lie to lie with the alacrity of a Baron Munchausen! These prevarications forcibly reminded me of a negro boy down South, who undertook to describe to his master a storm.

“Why, massa, dare was de wonderfullest, de tremendus'est post mowerfulest win‘ stohm dat you ever heah. De win‘ blowed so hard dat it blowd de har-de har-all off one man's head! Ya'as, de har all off one man's head! De har!”

“Now, Sam, you lying rascal, why didn't the wind blow your hair off?”

“Why-why-you'se allers bodderin white folks when dey'se tellin‘ de trufe-why, dare was a man a-stan'n‘ a-holdin my har on! Ya'as-a man a stan'in‘--a man!”

“But why was'nt his hair blown off?” [50]

“O dare was anudder man a-standin‘ a-holdin‘ his har on! Ya'as anudder man.”

“But why was'nt his hair blown off?”

“Kase-why w-why,--(you'se bodderen you'sef about de wind-stohm)-why dare was a little boy a-standin a-holdin his har on. Ya'as, aha--a little boy — a holden his har on!”

“But why wasn't the little boy's hair blown off, you black scamp?”

“Why-w-why-golly, doesn't you see plain ‘nuff how it was? Why, dare was A man Wid A Bald head A-Stan din‘ A-hold'n his Har on!”

Just so the secession leaders falsify, and thus they attempt to bolster up their improbable Confederacy. The whole compact is a libelous league with darkness!

Some of these pompous Southerners would treat us with a kind of counterfeit courtesy, which became to us even more disgusting than outright abuse. The rebel army is made up of a passive-minded, illiterate citizenship, officered by slave-owners and negro-drivers. The maximum of soldiers in a regiment is much smaller than in the Federal army, and each company has three Lieutenants. This gives the young men of aristocratic families an opportunity to wear shoulder-straps and lord it over the “poor white trash,” which compose the rank and file. [51] I learned from the prison guards, many of whom would be loyal to the old Stars and Stripes if they dared, that the mass of the Southern armies have been forced by the most stringent and often cruel measures to take up arms against the United States Government.

At this place there were a number of political prisoners, and a few prisoners of war. Once we obtained leave to visit them. We were conducted by a vigilant guard to their apartments in an upper room of a very dilapidated building. We found about one hundred and fifty Mississippi citizens, such as were suspected of Union sentiments, in a most loathsome situation. Among them were three clergymen-one a Presbyterian, one a “United brother,” and the other a Methodist. There was also a lawyer, from Kentucky, named Halleck, who had been captured by Bishop-General Polk. Halleck was a subject of the ecclesiastical body over which the Bishop ruled; but his loyalty to church did not save him from arrest and trouble for want of confidence in arch-treason. He had been dragged from his bed by a band of ruffians who tied his hands behind him, and forced him into a filthy prison where he lay for seven months in close confinement. He was finally permitted to share a room with thirty-five or forty other [52] Unionists. At one time they were so shamefully neglected, that for three days they were unsupplied with any food. To prevent absolute starvation, they were obliged to beg the guards to assist them in stealing a barrel of soap-grease, which they devoured with a greedy relish! This was in the midst of the boasted chivalry of Columbus, Mississippi!

I should not forget to mention here the names of the ex-Governor of the State, Mr. Whitefield, and his son. They had human hearts, and extended to us some degree of kindness and sympathy. But these friendships were rare exceptions, and all sufficient, if reported to rebel officials, to call down vengeance on their heads. The people, to avoid suspicion and imprisonment, were compelled to practice all manner of apparent cruelties. In this building we began to feel the hateful oppressor's power. We could hardly believe that any portion of our once united and happy country could be so soon, so darkly blighted by accursed treason!

While looking on the old, rusty walls of my prison-house, mocked and insulted by the jeering outside multitudes, I had time and heart for reflection. I thought of a familiar cottage amid the hills of Ohio, at that very hour all fair and free in the spring sunlight, the orchard blossoms, [53] the opening flowers in garden and arbor, the dewy meadow grass, and the thousand charming scenes of my home! I thought of wife and children there-how they would wonder and fear at receiving no tidings from the one they loved. I thought of God and his cause-my country and her honor-my flag and her insulted glory. I thought of the poor Southern conscript, and the despised and fettered slave of the cotton-field, and my soul was stirred with mingled hope and compassion, Thinking of my home, my friends, my country, my wounds, my prison, I could but say;

Patience, my soul, the Saviour's feet were worn;
The Saviour's heart and hands were weary too;
His garments stained, and travel-worn, and old,
His vision blinded with a pitying dew.
Love thou the path of sorrow that he trod,
Toil on, and wait in patience for thy rest;
Oh! country that I love, we soon shall see
Thy glorious cause triumphant, crowned and blest.

While reflecting upon the inconsistency of secession, and witnessing the persecutions heaped upon those who were loyal to the flag and truth of our fathers, I almost faltered in my religious faith, for many of these leaders in treason were professed Christians. But, through the power of prayer, came a satisfying answer to [54] my questioning fear. I felt that the Lord Omnipotent was just — that his grace and gospel were for the poor and the oppressed.

I remembered the day when the Saviour appeared to me-when denser, darker prisonbands were sundered. Then old things passed away. Then came the strength to believe and trust in a Higher Power--an Infinite Deliverer. Remembering when the Friendly voice had spoken to my troubled heart, “Peace, be still,” even in prison, and hated of men for Christ's and country's sake, I could exclaim:

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
Oh! how our hearts beat high with joy
Where'er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers! holy faith I
We will be true to thee till death!

Though a prisoner of war, a soldier can be a Christian. He realizes in trial and trouble that the Judge of all the earth does right.

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