- An account of the capture, Imprisonment, and Release of Privates S. Augustus Alden, Lewis R. Allard, Alvin Abbott, and Frank A. Chase, substantially as related by Mr. Alden.
We were with the Battery until July 19, 1863, when I received orders to select three good men, and with them return to Berlin, Md., for mules and harnesses. We were then some twenty miles into Virginia. Having selected comrades Allard, Abbott, and Chase, in the latter part of the afternoon we took our departure, mounted, for Berlin, all feeling in good spirits. On our arrival at Harper's Ferry we dismounted, fed our horses, ate our rations, and bivouacked. On the following morning early, after feeding once more and eating another frugal meal of hard-tack and coffee, we started for our destination, reaching it about the middle of the forenoon of the 20th. We could get the mules, but could obtain no harnesses; and as we could not procure both, agreeably with instructions, left the mules and set out on our return, crossing again at Harper's Ferry into Virginia. We had ridden perhaps fifteen miles up London Valley, when we were suddenly surprised by a band of Mosby's guerrillas, lying in ambush behind stone walls both sides of the road, their carbines covering us. Not a word passed between us, but they beckoned for us to approach and enter their lines  through an opening in the wall about large enough for a horse to pass, which we saw at a glance was the only wise thing left for us to do. Having complied with this requirement, we were ordered to dismount. They then searched us, taking all our valuables and what of our clothing they wished, putting their old worn-out garments upon us. Some of their number then mounted our horses and marched us to the summit of the Blue Ridge, where they guarded us and some twenty or thirty others whom they had captured previously. Here we bivouacked with nothing to eat. On the following evening (Tuesday, 21st), having marched twenty or twenty-five miles, they filed us off into an open field to spend another night, with only a blanket to cover our half-clad forms, starvation staring us in the face, for we had eaten nothing since our capture. But our captors took no pity on us, nor heeded our applications for something to eat. All the satisfaction we got was, ‘Good enough for you. We have starved more than we have killed by the bullet.’ We resumed our march next morning, and at night brought up at Berryville, where they gave us a cup of flour, having nothing more, as they said, to give us. The most of us mixed it with water and then ate it, having no conveniences to cook it with. Wednesday morning they again ordered us into line, and we marched through quite a number of settlements to Winchester, Va. After leaving Berryville, many of the prisoners became so footsore that they walked barefooted the rest of the journey. Many, too, began to be afflicted, first with constipation, and afterwards with chronic diarrhea, which ultimately caused the death of a large number. At Winchester they put us into an old building  under a strong guard, where they issued a ration of wormy hard-tack to us, which we devoured, and then stretched ourselves upon the bare floor. From Winchester we were marched to Staunton, Va., and bivouacked on a high hill. Here they dealt us out a ration of mouldy hard-tack and a small piece of bacon,—a mite for starving men, but a God-send, small as it was, though crawling with animated nature. We remained at Staunton two or three days, when they marched us to the railroad station and packed some five hundred of us so closely into boxcars that we could scarcely raise our arms. A guard stood at each door ready to shoot or bayonet the first man who should attempt to escape. After proceeding some distance they stopped the train in a long tunnel, owing to an accident ahead. We were in this dungeon nearly two hours. Meanwhile many of the men got out of the cars stealthily, and creeping alongside, and underneath them, secured whatever missiles they could lay hands on, and then returned to the inside. When the train got under way, bang! bang! bang! would go the stones, taking off boards from the sides of the car, and the guard would fire at random in the direction of the sound. Two or three men were wounded, but not mortally. When the train reached Richmond, which was early in the morning, there was not a whole box-car remaining, all having been more or less staved outward to obtain fresh air. At Richmond they guarded us on the train some three or four hours, not allowing us to get off to obtain water to quench our thirst. Next we were ordered into line, where—weak as many were, so weak that their stronger comrades were obliged to give support, for not a man could leave the ranks  under penalty of being shot—we were kept standing in the broiling sun more than an hour. Two were shot while we were in line in front of Libby; they called us all sorts of abusive epithets. After they had thinned the prisoners out in Libby, intending to transfer some to Salisbury and Andersonville, they put a part of our squad into Libby and a part into Castle Thunder. Constant siftings were taking place from these prisons to make room for fresh arrivals. We four were amongst a squad they transferred to Belle Isle—a Paradise to the places we had been in, though not much better than a hog-pen, and with the appearance of having long been inhabited by that animal. lake every rendezvous for prisoners, it was alive with vermin. On a hill near the stockade in which we were kept stood a number of cannon trained on the prisoners in case of any general attempt to escape. We were on this island some six weeks, during which time we got only one ration in two days, the same consisting of a pint of bean soup, or a small bit of half-boiled beef—more bone than beef. In a pint of this liquid, by brisk stirring, we could manage to arouse from one to six lonesome beans, which seemed as if trying to escape our search,—a forlorn and useless hope, however, for, half boiled and hard as they usually were, they were seized and swallowed. One day we were lucky enough to work ourselves into a squad picked out for exchange. This we did by feigning sickness; and if ever we felt happy and grateful to our heavenly Father, it was when we were released from that sink of filthiness and fasting called Belle Isle. From there we were taken to Richmond, where we were confined for the night in Libby Prison. The next morning they packed us,  as at Staunton, in box-cars, like sardines,—I think there were three or four hundred of us,—and dispatched us to Petersburg. Thence we went by the exchange boat to City Point, where we saw for the first time since our capture the glorious old Stars and Stripes. They never meant so much to us before, and weak as we were we sent up a rousing cheer. At City Point we were transferred to the steamer ‘City of New York,’ which soon cast off and started for Annapolis, where was located the camp for paroled and exchanged prisoners. Our feelings at this moment can possibly be imagined, but it was an ecstasy of joy I cannot describe. But so weak and shattered were many of the men released, that the reaction was too much for them, and several passed away before reaching their destination. The first ‘square meal’ we had after our capture was obtined on board this steamer. It consisted of hardtack, bread, cheese, and coffee, but such was the condition of the digestive organs of some of the prisoners that death soon followed. The bodies of fifteen such lay on the bow of the steamer as she reached Annapolis. At this place the prisoners were distributed, some being sent to College Green Barracks, others to Parole Camp, to remain until they rallied, when they were returned to their respective regiments or companies. The writer remained here on detail until the close of the war.
The experience of those who were taken at the battle of Reams Station.447] enemy succeeded in entering our works. The first few lines of the following account are his own experience only, for no man could do more than look out for himself in that time of great confusion.] When the ammunition of the first piece was exhausted, nothing remained to be done. The gun's crew, therefore, fell back to the next piece, and the next,—and so on, each gun firing its last round in turn. The other guns' crews fell back as we did. At one piece fought Isaac Burroughs and Frank Estee. The former had just time to insert the last round (canister), as a body of Rebels came down upon them. ‘This is my gun!’ shouted the officer in command, coming straight in front of the piece. ‘Take it!’ answered Estee, pulling the lanyard. These two cannoneers got safely off of the field. Those of us who fell back along the works kept on as far as the traverse which separated our left piece from the right one of the Rhode Island Battery. How many of the boys of the Tenth were at that spot I cannot say. I remember only one, beside myself, but there must have been many others. Looking toward the right, the scene was frightful. The ground was thickly strewn with the dead and wounded of both sides. Many of the infantry who had gathered courage enough to try a dash towards the rear, were seen to fall as they ran, and in the middle ground lay the gory heaps of our poor horses, who had stood with such unflinching firmness under the terrible tempest of shells and bullets which had swept the plain. The victorious Rebels were advancing, evidently in high spirits, as well they might be. Hundreds of the wretched fellows who had failed so miserably in their duty as support to the Battery, lay huddled under the works, too terrified  even to stand. It may be imagined that our feelings were bitter enough when we learned, some months afterward, that one of the New York papers, in its account of the battle, had stated that the Fourth New York Heavy Artillery had manned the runs of our Battery after we had fled. There was, however, one exception to the poltroonery which most of these poor creatures displayed: Major Frank Williams, of the above regiment, rallied about a score of his men, and charged upon the vastly superior force of the enemy with the utmost gallantry; but bravery was of no avail: all of his party were soon killed or captured. The enemy continued firing as they bore down upon us, and it seemed to be their intention to kill us all; and, as we had no weapons, we could only stand up and take it. A Rebel, at the distance of fifty feet, drew his rifle to his shoulder and aimed in such a direction that I could look, as it seemed, directly into the muzzle. I was certain that my time had come to die. After a moment's pause he fired, and I was surprised to find myself unhurt; but a man at my side, and partly behind me, sunk down with a groan, shot in the head. The next minute I felt the cold muzzle of a Rebel lieutenant's pistol just behind my ear, and heard a command, in most abusive language, to get over the works and go to the Rebel lines; which I obeyed at once. When we reached the open level field which lay behind the low ridge where their guns had been posted, we saw at least two brigades which they had not brought into the fight at all; so, very likely, the result might have been the same if our support had been a help instead of a hindrance. It would be a natural supposition that the two thousand prisoners who met in that field were full  of sorrow and dreadful forebodings; but nothing could be farther from the truth. The flush and excitement of battle were still on us too strongly to allow us to think of what we should have to endure in Rebel prisons, and our conduct was more like that of victors than vanquished; as one after another of a regiment or battery met his fellows, the handshaking and loud salutations were renewed, and the air rang with our talk and laughter. Occasionally a shot from a Union gun would come obliquely over the field, and the prisoners shouted and jeered to see the Rebels dodge and break ranks. They took our chaff very good-naturedly; indeed, to do them justice, their conduct towards us was very kind and friendly, with one or two exceptions. I had received a new felt hat from home that morning, which a ragged Rebel took possession of without much ceremony; and a. few other instances occurred of similar seizures; but I feel bound to say, that, as our enemies had showed the most desperate courage in the battle, they proved themselves humane when the victory was assured. But when I speak of humanity, it must be remembered that I speak only of the actual fighting-men, as will be seen further on. We remained in the field I have spoken of for perhaps an hour, and then took up the line of march for Petersburg, not by a direct course, for fear of recapture, but making a detour towards the south. Our exhilaration had by this time subsided, and the feelings naturally to be looked for had taken its place, and that evening's march was indeed a gloomy one. To add to our depression of spirits, it soon began to rain, and when we halted for the night, about 9 o'clock, the wet grass was our bed, and the pouring clouds our covering, until the  march was resumed at about four next morning. Most of us had been taken in our fighting costume of shoes, pantaloons, shirt, and hat. The only articles I took into Libby Prison, beside these pieces of clothing, were a towel and an old condensed-milk can, and few of us had much more. This day's march was exceedingly severe, for the sun was unclouded, and shone down upon us with its full August fierceness. Water was scarce, and if it had been plentiful, we could have done no more than dip up a little in our hands as we passed along. The guards were changed twice, if my memory does not deceive me; but for us there was no relief, nothing but an incessant tramp. We sometimes met parties of Rebels on the way, who seemed much pleased at having taken so many of the Second Corps. ‘I reckon we have got about all of Hancock's Butterflies,’ they would say. ‘Go to Deep Bottom, and see!’ was the bitter rejoinder. This generally put an end to their questions. Several times we encountered officers who were looking for our gallant corps commander himself, the story having reached Petersburg that he was among the captives. ‘Where's Hancock? Where's Hancock?’ they asked. ‘You'll hear from him within twenty-four hours,’ we replied. They took our retorts in perfectly good part, as if they could make allowance for our condition, and knew the dismal place we were going to. At about 3 o'clock we were allowed to rest in a thin grove of pines. At this place I had the exceedingly good fortune to find a condensed-milk can, which I used afterwards in Libby to hold my ration of pea-soup. Had 1 not found this I must have gone without my soup, in which case I might not have been now where I am.  It was a little before sunset when we reached Petersburg. I was surprised to see, in the outskirts, how every spot sheltered from the bombardment had been seized upon as a dwelling-place by those whose residences were in the more exposed part of the city. The citizens were living there in scores, in all kinds of habitations,—tents of cotton-duck; wigwams of poles tied together at the top, and covered with bed-quilts; booths of boughs of pine-trees; and now and then a log-cabin. As we filed through the streets we were pleased to see that many of the houses had great gaps in their walls, made by the passage of our shells. We were fortunate enough to pass the church by whose clock it was the fashion of our men to set their watches when we first came in sight of the town, so as to be able to give each other Petersburg time, until a three-inch shot tore through it, completely upsetting its internal economy. The citizens looked rather black as we pointed up to it, but our guard only laughed. We passed the night on an island in the river, and in the morning we were counted, searched, and robbed. Everything of value was taken from us. The search was especially keen for money. Their own currency was exceedingly plentiful, and correspondingly worthless. We had been much surprised, the day before, when we were led through the town, to have little boys come to us to buy buttons from our blouses, offering four or five dollars a piece for them, and showing the money. Some of these boys tried to find a Yankee with a watch to sell, and went about with a handful of Confederate promises to pay, shouting that they would give two hundred dollars for a silver watch. I had a little experience of my own in regard to the value of Rebel scrip. Glidden—my ‘partner,’  as we used to call it in those days—found a razor in the grass on this island, which he sold for twelve dollars; and we both felt considerably elated, for we thought that if provisions ran short in prison we could buy extras with all that money. This was Saturday forenoon. We had had nothing to eat since Thursday forenoon,—just before the fight,— so we thought it best to buy a little bread to break our long fast. It took the whole of the money to buy three biscuits, and the vender was by no means desirous to sell even at that. By some inquiry and comparison we found that a dollar of our paper money was worth twenty of theirs, and considering the price of gold, the actual value of Rebel scrip must have been about the same as that of the old Gallipolis bank of which the story went that you could buy wood with it at the rate of cord for cord. That afternoon they issued a ration to us: four mouldy hard-tack, to last us until we should reach Libby. A little before sunset we were started for the train of platform cars which were to take us to Richmond. To reach them we were obliged to march about three miles out, for the thirteen-inch mortar, the Dictator, which we had seen a month before on the City Point road as we came back from Deep Bottom, dropped its shells so neatly on the railroad just out of Petersburg that the track was impassable. We had watched the mortar practice at the Union end with pleasure and interest, and now, at the Rebel end, observed its effects. We were crowded on the cars and very slightly guarded, as it seemed to me, for there were not more than four or six guards to a car, and perhaps some of us might have escaped by suddenly pushing them off. But the risk was certainly very great, and the  probability of reaching our own lines exceedingly small; so, though one or two of us whispered a suggestion to each other, nothing was done. The guards were the very soul of good-nature and treated us with great consideration. At Chesterfield Station the train halted for a few moments, and I asked an old man, a civilian, who stood by the track, what time it was. ‘Yankee time!’ said the old fellow; not a very bad insult, but one of our keepers, who heard him, rated him soundly for his incivility. I mention the good feeling of the actual fighters because it was in such marked contrast with the conduct of the home guard and playsol-diers who took charge of us the moment we arrived in Richmond. With oaths and curses we were driven into the street, sometimes at the point of the bayonet, and were marched to Libby with jeers and execrations. The hunger we had endured we thought little of; similar experiences had not been unknown when wagon trains had failed to come up; but the brutality so suddenly showered upon us brought to us all the realization that we were indeed prisoners of war. In Dante's ‘Inferno’ the gates of Hell bore the inscription, ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here.’ The words came into my mind with frightful force that night; the street was just light enough to enable us to see the pale faces pressed up to the bars; the corpse of a newly slain prisoner lay in its blood on the pavement near the door; and the door-way itself was a. great square mass of blackness, for nothing was visible within. They forced us in, closed and barred the door, posted the guard, and left us to our reflections. That it was an exceedingly miserable time for us I need not say. It was as dark as a pocket; there was no room to lie down or for many  even to sit; sleep was of course impossible, and we spent the rest of the night wondering what would be the end of all this. At about eight the next morning we were taken, two hundred or so at a time, up two flights of stairs, to the rooms which were to be our jails; and there Dick Turner robbed us again. There was not much to reward his industry,—we had been too thoroughly searched by the Petersburg thieves for that,—and when he had stolen everything he could find he left us. With the idea of humiliating us, a negro with a club was stationed at the door, but it may be imagined that he did us no harm. In the greenness of my soul I asked him what we were to keep our rations in when they were dealt out. ‘You won't be troubled with rations,’ he answered, and his words came true. I have told the story in detail so far; but we were now fairly entered on our prison life, and one day was like another, so it will not be necessary to particularize. Our daily life was as follows. We got up off the floor at daybreak, cold and numb and lame, and when the sun rose and shone a little while into the two eastern windows, we gathered there to enjoy his rays as flies do when they begin to feel old and stiff in autumn. Then we would go to our own part of the room; for we formed little squads, and had our own territory which we never left by day. The Tenth Battery squad had, as I believe, the most eligible camping ground in the whole room, for it was on the side next the river and had two windows. Here we sat until the sweepers came,—three negroes with a broom and one with a half barrel,—whose business was to sweep the floor. They were under command of a tall, thin, and sour Georgian who made it his occupation to  see that we held no communication with the sweepers: a task quite out of his power to accomplish. A few would begin to argue with him about the war, and he would take fire at once and forget everything else, and while he was telling us for the twentieth time, ‘You uns had no business to come down here to fight we uns. If you uns had stayed where you belong there wouldn't have been any war,’ the others got all the news of the day from the negroes, and those who had money sent out by them to get things to eat. Sometimes the value of their money came back to them and sometimes not. In this way we learned the news of the fall of Atlanta and taunted the Georgian with it. He denied it as long as he could, and ended by drawing a pistol and commanding silence. After the sweepers had gone, the next excitement was the entrance of pompous Major Turner, Dick's brother, by whose orders we were formed in two ranks up and down the room while he counted us. What he would have done if he had found his birds short in number I can neither tell nor imagine. This brought us to about half-past 9, when we devoted ourselves for the next half-hour to waiting for breakfast which was due at ten. Those whose territory lay at the street end of the room had the excitement of watching for the negroes who brought the rations in greasy tubs from the cook-house across the street. When we heard the joyous cry ‘Fall in’ we gathered in our respective squads and waited for the welcome food. The bulk of meat and bread was divided into as many parts as there were squads, and the chief man of every squad divided these portions into as many parts as there were men in a squad; then one turned his back and was asked, ‘Who shall have this lot? this lot? this lot?’ and so on until all were disposed of.  The next half-hour was always a time of great enjoyment. We ate slowly to prolong the pleasure, gathered up the smallest crumbs that had fallen, and picked every atom of meat from the bones; but the end of the feast would come at last. I will describe these rations a little more fully. The bread was of the coarsest description, made of corn, ground cob and all, and not finely ground. I have lately read that chemists say there is a good deal of nourishment in cobs, but I think they do not look for it in the same way as we did, for we looked in vain. Of this bread, such as it was, we got about four ounces. The meat was of a character which made it a fitting companion for the bread, and, poor as it was, they gave us only about three ounces, including the bone. We liked to have a bone fall to our share because it took so long to pick it, and some bones, the ends of the ribs for example, had soft places in them which we could chew and try to think that we were eating. One day we had a fine lot of bones. General Early had captured a herd of cattle from the Union army, and the heads were boiled and sent in to us after the cheeks, brains and tongues had been removed. The next meal—the other meal I should say—was not until four in the afternoon, and there was a great deal of time on our hands. We passed this in various ways. Somebody had managed to save a pack of cards, and those who liked played until so many of the cards were lost that no game could be carried on; others sat and talked the time away, telling all the adventures that never happened to them. One day I found a piece of laurel wood, and made a spoon which I still keep as a memento of that dismal time. I also marked my tin can with my name, and around the rim I cut Lovelace's lines,  ‘Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage,’ and thought as I did so that the poet did not know about these things. In some way or other, three books had escaped the clutches of the two sets of thieves who had robbed us. These were a Bible, which I read completely through; a copy of Miss Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, which I also read, but without much enjoyment; and The Arabian Nights, a book whose absurdity and childishness were too much for me, even in prison. We used oftentimes to sit and gaze at a field of corn which grew on the south bank of the river, hardly a stone's throw away, and say to each other, ‘Oh, if I were only in that cornfield!’ Other objects which whiled away the weary prison day were the occasional passage of a tug up or down the canal, or a group of turkey-buzzards hovering about some choice bit on the river bank. It was hazardous to approach the window near enough to be seen by the sentries, for it was at once their delight and their orders to shoot any one who did so. Yet we were never warned by any one in authority to keep back, nor did the sentry often take the trouble to give any orders. The sight of a musket being brought into position was generally the only intimation of danger before the discharge of the piece. We did sometimes venture, however, and it gave us unfeigned satisfaction to see how thickly the grass was growing between the paving-stones. One day—it was the 13th of September, I believe—we heard heavy cannonading down the river, and could even see Union shells exploding in the air. Pretty soon a string of fugitives appeared coming up the canal bank, among them an old lady in a high-wheeled chaise and with a lapful of silver ware, who was frantically urging on an old horse which was wholly  unable to satisfy her desire for rapid transit. We made sure that our side had gained some great advantage and saluted the shells with cheers, to the great disgust of the sentries. Some of the prisoners managed, one day, to cut out a piece of the flooring so as to communicate with the prisoners on the floor below. The Rebel authorities suspected this, but they never could find the place. The negro sweepers must have known where it was, but they never told. In these ways the wretched days dragged on. At four o'clock, each day, a shout from the northern end of the room gave notice that our luxurious supper was about to be served; this consisted of another piece of the apology for bread, which we by no means sneered at then, and bean, or rather pea broth, about one-third of a pint to each man. It was very galling to see those worthless negroes pour out some of it into the street when the tubs were a little heavy. This stuff was made of the cowpea, raised as a forage crop at the South; and these peas, like others, were full of weevils to such an extent that their carcasses made a thick, black layer over the broth. This was of a dark-red color, and we thought the flavor excellent. We were as long as possible in eating supper, and when it was over we soon went to bed; that is, we went in a body to our chosen spot near the centre of the room, as far from the window as possible, and lay down. There was no glass in the windows, and as the month was September, and the prison on the river bank, it always became very cold before morning; so we used to lie down as close together as we could get, and when one wanted to turn we all had to turn in concert. It took some time to get to sleep under such circumstances, and just as we were  getting into a doze the sentries were sure to wake us with their half-hourly cry, like this, ‘Postnum-ber-seven-half-past-twelve-and-all's-well!’ But no person born north of Mason and Dixon's line can reproduce the drawling whine of the Georgians who guarded us. One night one of them started out in full cry, ‘Post number two half—what time is it?’ The effect was very ludicrous, and we jeered and shouted at him for some time. Late in September we had a piece of good news, which, however, turned out to be false. A crowd of prisoners arrived at midnight. Some one among them shouted, ‘Butler's got his machine to working.’ We supposed by this that the Dutch Gap Canal had proved successful, and felt quite happy over it. So we turned to and fro until daybreak, when we rose and tried to hobble to the east window to get a minute's sunshine. Thus the time passed for five weeks. During this period we always stopped eating while still hungry, as we are often told we ought to do; but the result was not such as to cause us to continue in the same course when not obliged to. At the end of the third week any sudden change of position was followed by ringing in the ears, darkness before the eyes, and great dizziness; and when five weeks were over and they took us out, we found that to go down stairs even with our lightened bodies was a severe trial to the strength of our knee-joints. We were marched through the streets on that drizzly day to Belle Isle, and found it a far worse place than that which we had left, in most respects, although exposure to the sun was quite a luxury to us. The population of the island, at that time, must have been about six thousand. The area of the prison pen was laid out in about sixty streets,  branching out at right angles from a central avenue, thirty on a side; these streets were numbered, and on each were the quarters of a hundred prisoners, their covering a condemned tent, their bed the ground, sometimes wet, sometimes not, according to the weather. This camp was guarded by a strong line of sentries, and several pieces of cannon on a hill near at hand were trained upon the inclosure in case of a sudden outbreak. I strolled out to see the place on the first afternoon, and was suddenly accosted with, ‘Look out, dead line!’ from a prisoner who was better acquainted with the premises. I looked up and saw the silent sentry just beginning to bring his rifle to position. I disappointed him of his expected reward—a furlough—by stepping back. ‘Where's the dead line?’ I asked the prisoner. ‘Anywhere within three rods of the stockade,’ he said. ‘Sometimes nearer, sometimes not so near.’ And we soon found that ‘dead line’ was wherever the sentry chose. Some of these guards were friendly and would warn us, but the majority were quite the other way. There was a daily count as there had been in Libby. For this purpose we were all marched out of the stockade while our quarters were being searched, and were counted as we passed in again. Some spent their time while outside in digging witch-grass roots out of the sand, getting as much as could be clasped in one hand. I could not imagine what they did with this at first, but found that they dried the roots and then used them to heat their pea broth; making for the purpose a circular wall of earth just large enough to set a tin can upon, leaving a draught hole and a place for the escape of the smoke, thus saving nearly every particle of heat. Once or twice a man tried to escape by burying himself  in the sand while outside and lying there all day, slipping into the river by night. One, I believe, got away while we were there. After dark it was exceedingly hazardous to move outside of the quarters. One night we heard the report of a musket, followed at once by shrieks of agony, and we knew that one more murder had been done. One day cannonading was heard down the river, apparently at no great distance, and our hopes began to rise. The guards were doubled, the artillerists were posted at the guns on the hill, and an officer came in and gave us notice that if more than two men were seen talking together fire would be opened upon us. The cannonading continued, and feeling very little confidence in the forbearance of the guards we went into our tents, threw up breastworks and lay down behind them. That, however, passed over; the firing died away, and our position was no more hazardous than before. In the second week of October the prisoners began to be sent to Andersonville and Salisbury, two or three hundred at a time. Some supposing that they would be better treated there exchanged themselves into the hundreds next in order; others, reasoning that it was best to stay as near our own lines as possible, made exchanges the other way. One morning, after we had come in from being counted, we found that three of our batterymen were missing; they had got separated from the rest of us, had been counted in with a lot to go South, and we never saw them again; they all died at Salisbury: Charles Green, Timothy G. Redfield, and Francis L. Macomber. One night, all of us that were left on the island, to the number of several hundred, were ordered out, and marched across the railroad bridge to where the cars bound South were standing.  Looking around I saw that not a guard was in sight; it seemed as if it would be almost flying in the face of Providence not to attempt to escape, but in a few minutes came the joyful news that we were to be paroled. It seemed too good to be true, but true it was. After having had rations furnished us for the journey to the South, and while we were standing by the cars that were to take us, the orders were changed, and we were sent North instead. We took up the line of march to Castle Thunder, and there took oath not to serve against the Confederate States (so called) until exchanged. This formality over, Major Turner asked if there was any one there who could write; hundreds at once stepped out. Two of us, Jas. S. Bailey and the present writer, were chosen, and we wrote all night long, taking names, rank, regiment, etc. In the morning early we got another ration of bread, and were packed on board a Rebel vessel, and taken down the James, past Fort Darling, to Varina Landing, where we went ashore. The river at this point makes a wide sweep and comes back again nearly to the same place, so it was a short walk acoss the neck of the peninsula. As we got to the top of the little hill which lay in our way we saw the most magnificent sight our eyes ever rested upon—the Star-spangled Banner at the must-head of the flag-of-truce boat New York, which was to take us to Annapolis. There is no need of spending fine words to express feelings which were beyond the power of words to express. If such feelings are not understood without words they never can be understood at all. In due time we reached Annapolis, and there several of us were detailed for duty under Capt. Davis, who had charge of College Green Barracks. I remained there several months, and when the general  exchange was declared, and the prisoners who had been twelve or eighteen months in Salisbury and Andersonville arrived, I saw sights which made me feel as if I had no right to say that I had ever been a prisoner at all.
Extracts from a Diary of a visit to old camps and Battlefields in 1888 by John D. Billings.
Boydton Plank Road.With the morning's dawn I settled my bill at Hotel Gary in Petersburg and at 8 o'clock took seat in an open carriage and set out on a day's campaign. A pair of high-stepping grays took me along at a lively pace to the Boydton Plank Road and down that historic thoroughfare we proceeded. I had instructed the driver not to tell me when we arrived at Burgess' Mill, wishing to test the accuracy of my recollection. But when he drew up at Burgess' barn and asked me if this was the place I had to give it up. Yet here we were at Burgess' Tavern, wrongly so called, sure enough and I had just crossed Hatcher's Run. On this very ground stood the lines of the Second Corps Oct. 27, 1864. Had I approached the spot from the Union side I think I should have recognized it. Here is the White Oak Road which enters the Plank Road from the west. Burgess' old house was torn down by the Rebels after we left on that October day, and a heavy line of works was built across the road connecting with a strong fort a few rods away on either side. The old barn into which Lieut. Smith was carried wounded was destroyed at the same time and a new one stands in its place.  As I left the carriage a young man perhaps nineteen years old came out of the barn. He gave his name as Burgess and from him I learned that not his father but his grandfather it was who lived here in war time, and that said grandfather had been dead three years. An elderly man with full gray beard now appeared from the house. It was Clark Burgess, the present proprietor. I accosted him by saying that as I had not seen him for nearly twenty-five years I would give him a call. He retorted quickly that unless I was more friendly than when here last he did not care to see me. He regretted much that his father was not alive to talk with me. For himself he was in the north when the battle occurred and knew nothing of it save by hearsay. ‘The mill has disappeared and I have drained off the mill pond,’ he went on to say, in answer to my inquiries. ‘Right down there,’ he continued, pointing to the low ground back of his barn, ‘Gen. Hampton corralled those 3000 cattle he took from you. He turned them into our cornfield at night and in the morning not a leaf or stalk remained. There,’ pointing to a large tree perhaps half a mile away, and at some distance to the left of the White Oak Road, ‘was Hampton's headquarters during the fight of the 27th. Our house was used as a hospital during the battle, the surgeons throwing the amputated legs and arms out of the windows. My brother was up in Petersburg that day and on his return at night he said he found our hogs running about with these fragments of human kind in their mouths. He says he found our father perfectly demented by the excitement of the hour and engaged in collecting in one vast, unassorted pile, knapsacks, blankets, overcoats, muskets, shelter tents—in short all belongings abandoned by the soldiers.  Your departure from the field that night, my father has often said, was so sudden and stealthy he never could understand it. You see they all went to our well for water, and after awhile so many canteens, dippers and buckets had been dropped into it no one could get water. So father tells that he had gone down to the pond for some and when he returned a few minutes later you all had gone. After you were here our folks built two forts on our farm. Yonder is one of them. The other I levelled, also the line that ran between them.’ Mr. Burgess answered all my inquiries as far as able and urged me to come again and stay longer. Nearly opposite the barn at the corner of the Plank and White Oak roads was a cotton field from which 1 plucked a few bolls as mementos. Across this field and covering the White Oak Road stretched the left of Egan's division—Rugg's Brigade, as I remember. When the Johnnies came in upon our right flank that afternoon, Major W. G. Mitchell, an aid on Hancock's staff, was on this part of the field and had just started for the rear when he found the Rebels across his path. With that rare presence of mind and promptness to act in an emergency which was one of his distinguishing characteristics the Major rode back at full speed and ordered Rugg to take his brigade, charge down the road to the rear and clear the way once more, but Rugg lay cowering and immovable in his tracks. He was afterwards court-martialed and dismissed the service for neglect of duty and disobedience of orders. Major Mitchell told me since the war that Rugg's excuse was that Mitchell had no authority to order him but while that was literally true, the circumstances so fully justified it that Hancock stood loyally by his Aide. I well remember this brigade  as I saw them that day lying low behind a hastily improvised barricade of boards and fence rails which they had collected early in the fight. Right here opposite the opening of the White Oak Road and not six rods from it stood early in the fight Beck's Battery C & I, Fifth U. S. Art'y, relieved later by the Tenth Massachusetts Battery. Here our Lieut., Asa Smith, tumbled from his horse mortally wounded. Here fell Daniel W. Atkinson of my own gun's crew. Here fell Captain David A. Granger at the time in command of the Eleventh Mass. Infantry. Here David R. Stowell of the Battery seized hold of the staff of the regiment's colors as the men fell back through the guns and offered to lead them himself. Dave was no dress parade soldier and had little or no style about him, but when the crisis called for a man he easily sized up to the requirement. Here Lieut. Granger, then in command of the Battery, said as coolly as if on parade, on learning that our support had fallen back and that we had no canister left, ‘Fire whatever you have got into the woods. We can whip them alone!’ This is an enchanting spot, but much more remains to be seen. So getting into the carriage regretfully, and taking from Mr. Burgess his last 12-lb cannon ball which he generously disengaged from his mole-trap, I bade him a reluctant good bye, and the ‘army’ moved on down the Boydton Road. Perhaps not as fast as the Battery went over the same ground when it ran the gantlet of the Rebel skirmish line that stirring afternoon. We halt again at the Dabney's Mill Road. Into the field at my left, about 300 yards from Burgess', the Rebels came out of the woods and overran Gen. B. R. Pierce's brigade about 4 o'clock that afternoon,  and there 300 yards further along, Gen. P. Regis de Trobriand's men formed line, faced and headed them. What a fat, jolly Frenchman Trobriand was! What a funny figure he cut on horseback! His short, stubby body, rigidly perpendicular with short, stubby legs projecting stiffly at right angles with his body the whole decorated with his scarlet Zouave uniform made a figure decidedly picturesque. Yet he was a good soldier withal, and popular with his command. Under this tree which stands in the angle of the Plank and Dabney roads, I saw Generals Grant, Meade, and Hancock holding a conference. It ought to be marked for the information of tourists. But no, that would ensure its destruction. Opposite the Dabney Road, in this clearing, was the second position taken by the Battery which Gen. Walker in his history of the Corps has omitted from his map of the field, presumably because it is not found on the memory sketch of Col.. Morgan, Hancock's Chief-of-Staff. Yet here fell Lieut. Henry H. Granger mortally wounded, here privates Alfred C. Billings and Mike Farrell were wounded and here a piece-wheel was shattered by a Rebel shell. The Battery, however, did not fire. At or near this very spot stood the guns of the First New Hampshire and Tenth Massachusetts, Sunday morning, April 2nd, 1865, and shelled the two forts on Burgess' farm; and later our hearts thrilled with joy inexpressible to see the flag going over the works in the hands of Mott's division of the Second Corps. The rifle pits thrown up by this corps along the eastern side of the Boydton Road are still visible, but the last one disappears as we speed along and soon after high noon we have reached Dinwiddie Court House.