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Prison reminiscences.

By Hon. James F. Crocker.
An address, read before Stonewall Camp, Confederate Veterans, Portsmouth, Virginia, February 2d, 1904.

[The estimation in which Judge Crocker is held is evinced in the brief item which appeared a day or so since: ‘Judge James F. Crocker will convene the Court of Hustings for Norfolk, Va., in January, (1907) and with it will end his career on the bench—a career that has been attended with much credit to himself, and of great benefit to the public. He has served six years, and was not a candidate for re-election.’ Two admirable addresses by Judge Crocker, ‘My Personal Experiences in Taking up Arms and in the Battle of Malvern Hill.’ and ‘Gettysburg—Pickett's Charge,’ are included in Vol. XXXII, Southern Historical Society, Papers. —Ed.]

In the charge of Pickett's Division at the battle of Gettysburg I was wounded and taken prisoner. With some others I was taken to the Twelfth Corps Hospital, situated in the rear of the left battle line of the Federals. I was here treated with much kindness and consideration. Among other officers who showed me kindness was Col. Dwight, of New York. Professor Stoever, of Pennsylvania College, at which I graduated in 1850, on a visit to the Hospital met me, accidently, and we had a talk of the old college days.

I wore in the battle a suit of gray pants and jacket. They were a little shabby. After I had been at the hospital a few days if occurred to me that I ought to make an effort to get a new outfit so as to make a more decent appearance. The ways and means were at command. I wrote to an old friend and former client, then living in Baltimore, for a loan. A few days afterwards two Sisters of Charity came into the hospital and inquired for me. They met me with gracious sympathy and kindness. One of them took me aside, and, unobserved, placed in my hand a package of money, saying it was from a friend, and requested no name [29] be mentioned. They declined to give me any information. I never knew who they were. There was a mystery about them. They could not have come for my sake alone. But this I know, they were angels of mercy.

I made known to the authorities my wish to go to. Gettysburg, and while there to avail myself of the opportunity of getting a new suit. The authorities of the hospital, through Col. Dwight, conferred on me a great honor—the honor of personal confidence —absolute confidence. They gave me a free pass to Gettysburg, with the sole condition that I present it at the Provost office there and have it countersigned. I went alone, unattended. The fields and woods were open to me. They somehow knew—I know not how—that I could be trusted; that my honor was more to me than my life.

On my way to town I called by the Eleventh Corps Hospital, to which General Armistead had been taken, to see him. I found that he had died. They showed me his freshly made grave. To my inquiries they gave me full information. They told me that his wound was in the leg; that it ought not to have proved mortal; that his proud spirit chafed under his imprisonment and his restlessness aggravated his wound. Brave Armistead! The bravest of all that field of brave heroes! If there be in human hearts a lyre, in human minds a flame divine, that awakens and kindles at the heroic deeds of man, then his name will be borne in song and story to distant times.

I had my pass countersigned at the Provost office. It gave me the freedom of the city. There were many Federal officers and soldiers in the city. It was a queer, incongruous sight to see a rebel lieutenant in gray mingling in the crowd, and apparently at home. They could see, however, many of the principal citizens of the town cordially accosting, and warmly shaking by the hand, that rebel. I met so many old friends that I soon felt at home. As I was walking along the main street, a prominent physician, Dr. Horner, stopped me and renewed the old acquaintanceship. He pointed to a lady standing in a door not far away, and asked me who it was. I gave the name of Miss Kate Arnold, a leading belle of the college days. He said, ‘She is my wife and she wants to see you.’ There was a mutually cordial meeting. While standing in a group of old [30] friends I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder from behind. It was my dear old professor of mathematics, Jacobs. He whispered to me in his kindest, gentlest way not to talk about the war. I deeply appreciated his kindness and solicitude. But I had not been talking about the war. The war was forgotten as I talked of the olden days.

On another street a gentleman approached me and made himself known. It was Rev. David Swope, a native of Gettysburg, who was of the next class below mine. He manifested genuine pleasure in meeting me. He told me he was living in Kentucky when the war broke out. He recalled a little incident of the college days. He asked me if I remembered in passing a certain house I said to a little red-headed girl with abundant red curls, standing in front of her house, ‘I'll give you a levy for one of those curls.’ I told him that I remembered it as if it were yesterday. He said that little girl was now his wife; and that she would be delighted to see me. He took me to a temporary hospital where there were a large number of our wounded. He had taken charge of the hospital, and manifested great interest in them and showed them every tender care and kindness. I fancied that those Kentucky days had addled something to the sympathy of his kind, generous nature towards our wounded; and when I took leave of him, I am sure the warm grasp of my hand told him, better than my words, of the grateful feelings in my heart.

I must ask indulgence to mention another incident. I met on the college campus a son of Prof. Baugher, who was then president of the college, and who was president when I graduated. The son gave me such a cordial invitation to dine with him and his father that I accepted it. They were all very courteous; but I fancied I detected a reserved dignity in old Dr. Baugher. It was very natural for him to be so, and I appreciated it. The old Doctor, while kindhearted, was of a very positive and radical character, which he evinced on all subjects. He was thoroughly conscientious, and was of the stuff of which martyrs are made. He was thoroughly orthodox in his Lutheran faith; and in politics, without ever hearing a word from him, I venture to say he was in sympathy with, I will not say, Thaddeus Stevens, but with Garrison and Phillips. My [31] knowledge of him left me no need to be told that his views and feelings involved in the war were intense. And there he was, breaking bread with a red handed rebel in his gray uniform, giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Was he not put to it to keep mastery of himself?

Happy for man that he is double sighted; that there is within him a quality allied to conscience,—call it charity—that enables him to choose on which side to look. The venerable Doctor saw before him only his old student, recalled only the old days, and their dear memories. If there was anything between his heart and his country's laws, there was nothing between his heart and his Saviour's sweet charity.

And here I must relate an incident of those old days not wholly irrelevant and inopportune. I graduated in 1850. I had the honor to be the valedictorian of my class. In preparing my address I took notice of the great excitement then prevailing on account of the discussion in Congress of the bill to admit California as a State into the Union. Great sectional feeling was aroused through this long protracted discussion in the Senate. One senator dared use the word ‘disunion’ with a threat. The very word sent a thrill of horror over the land. I recall my own feeling of horror. In my address to my classmates I alluded to this sectional feeling, deprecating it, and exclaimed, ‘Who knowns, unless patriotism should triumph over sectional feeling but what we, classmates, might in some future day meet in hostile battle array.’

Dr. Baugher, as president of the college, had revision of our graduating speeches, and he struck this part out of my address. But alas! it was a prophetic conjecture; and members of our class met in after years, not only in battle array, but on the fields over which, in teaching botany, Prof. Jacobs had led us in our study of the wild flowers that adorned those fields.

Many other incidents occurred on this day deeply interesting to me, but they might not interest others. I returned to the hospital, but not before leaving my measure and order with a tailor for a suit of gray, which was subsequently delivered to me.

It was a queer episode—a peace episode in the midst of war. This experience of mine taught me that the hates and prejudices engendered by the war were national, not individual; that individual [32] relations and feelings were but little affected in reality; and that personal contact was sufficient to restore kindliness and friendship.

A short while afterwards I was taken from the Twelfth Corps Hospital to David's Island, which is in Long Island Sound, near and opposite to New Rochelle, in New York. A long train from Gettysburg took a large number of Confederate wounded, not only from the Twelfth Corps Hospital but from other hospitals, to Elizabethport, and from there the wounded were taken by boat to David's Island. We were taken by way of Elizabethport instead of by way of Jersey City, on account of a recent riot in New York City. All along, at every station at which the train stopped, it seemed to me, our wounded received kind attentions from leading ladies, such as Mrs. Broadhead and others. These ladies brought them delicacies in abundance; and at Elizabethport these attentions became so conspicuous that Federal officers complained of the neglect of the Union wounded on the train, and forced the Southern sympathizers, as they called them, to distribute their delicacies between the wounded of both sides.

When we arrived at David's Island, we found there a firstclass hospital in every respect. It was called ‘De Camp General Hospital.’ It consisted of a number of long pavilions, and other buildings delightfully and comfortably arranged, and furnished with every appliance needed to relieve the wounded and sick. It had been previously occupied by the Federal sick and wounded. It was quite a relief for us to get there. After our arrival, with those already there, three thousand Southern wounded soldiers occupied these pavilions. Only a few of these were officers. Most of the wounded were in a very pitiable condition. The New York Daily Tribune, of Wednesday, July 29, 1863, had this to say of them:

The sick and wounded.

The sick and wounded Rebels were handled with the same care and tenderness that is bestowed upon our own invalid soldiers. Those who could not walk were gently carried on stretchers, and those who were able to stand upon their feet were led carefully from the boat to the hospital pavilions. They were in [33] a wretched condition—dirty, ragged, and covered with vermin— their soiled and torn uniforms, if such they may be called, were stained and soaked with blood; and their wounds, which had not been dressed from the time of the battles at Gettysburg until their arrival here, were absolutely alive with maggots. Many of them had suffered amputation — some had bullets in their persons—at least a score have died who were at the point of death when the boat touched the wharf.

On their arrival here they were dressed in the dirty gray coats and pants, so common in the Southern army. Shakespeare's army of beggars must have been better clad than were the Confederate prisoners. One of the first acts of Dr. Simmons, the surgeon in charge, was to order the prisoners to throw aside their “ragged regimentals,” wash their persons thoroughly and robe themselves in clean and comfortable hospital clothing, which consists of cotton shirts and drawers, dressing gown of gray flannel, and blue coat and trousers of substantial cloth..

‘Their old rags were collected in a heap and burned, notwithstanding the great sacrifice of life involved. We looked about the island in vain to find a butternut colored jacket, or Rebel uniform. The 3,000 prisoners did not bring with them enough clean linen to make a white flag of peace had they been disposed to show any such sign of conciliation.’

Who were these dirty, ragged soldiers, whose soiled and torn uniforms, if such they could be called, were stained and soaked with blood? The world knows them as the gallant followers of Lee, whose triumphant valor on every field, and against all odds, had filled the world with wonder and admiration,—who suffered their first defeat at Gettysburg—suffered from no want of courage on their part as Pickett's charge shows, but solely from want of prompt obedience to Lee's orders. The three thousand wounded Confederate soldiers, in these pavilions, were the very flower of the South—the sons and product of its best blood; inheritors of a chivalric race, the bone and sinew of the land, bright, intelligent, open-faced and open-hearted men; including in their ranks many a professional man—many a college student—readers of Homer and Plato—readers of Virgil and Cicero. There were among these ragged-jacket wearers [34] men who, around the camp fires, could discuss and quote the philosophy and eloquence of the Greek and the Roman. These were the men who bore with cheerfulness, and without complaint, the conditions described; who asked only that by their service and suffering their country might be saved.

Yes, it was of these men, in these pavilions, that the assistant surgeon of the hospital, Dr. James E. Steele, a Canadian by birth, said to me: ‘Adjutant, your men are so different from those who formerly occupied these pavilions; when I go among your men they inspire in me a feeling of companionship.’

In the same article of the Tribune there is something personal to myself. I will lay aside all false modesty, and quote it here for preservation for those who take an interest in me.

Adjutant J. F. Crocker.

‘In pavilion No. 3 we saw several Confederate officers, with one or two exceptions, they were abed, the nature of their wounds rendering it painful for them to sit up. One of these officers, however was sitting at a table writing a letter. He was very civil and communicative. He was a native of Virginia, a graduate of Pennsylvania College at Gettysburg, where he was wounded—a lawyer by profession, and really a man of superior talents and culture. He has brown hair and a broad high forehead. He is apparently 35 years of age. He said it was impossible for the North to subdue the South. The enemy might waste their fields, burn their dwellings, level their cities with the dust, but nothing short of utter extermination would give the controlling power to the North. The intelligent people of the South looked upon the efforts to regain their rights as sacred, and they were willing to exhaust their property and sacrifice their lives, and the lives of their wives and children, in defending what they conceived to be their constitutional rights. They would consent to no terms save those of separation, and would make no conditions in relation to the question of slavery. They would suffer any calamity rather than come back to the Union as it was. They would be willing to form any alliance with any country in order to accomplish the fact of separation. “Such are my sentiments,” said the Adjutant. “I will take the liberty of [35] asking my comrades if they endorse what I have said.” Captain J. S. Reid, of Georgia, Adjutant F. J. Haywood, of North Carolina, Captain L. W. McLaughlin, of Louisiana, Lieut. T. H. White, of Tennessee, L. B. Griggs, of Georgia, Lieut. M. R. Sharp, of South Carolina, Lieut. S. G. Martin, of Virginia, all responded favorably as to the opinions presented by their spokesman. Mr. Merwin asked the Adjutant what he thought of the fall of Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Jackson, and the defeat in Pennsylvania. “ We have seen darker days,” replied the Adjutant; “when we lost New Orleans, Fort Donelson, and Island No.10. We shall now put forth extra efforts, and call out all the men competent to bear arms.” This officer undoubtedly represents the views of some of the leading men in the Confederate Army, but there is a diversity of opinion here among officers and men. If they seem to acquiesce in the opinion of such men as Adjutant Crocker, who appears to be deeply in earnest, and who looks and speaks like a brave and honest man, they do not generally respond to his views and sentiments. He says the North is fighting for the purpose of abolishing slavery, and that appears to be the prevailing opinion among the prisoners in his pavilion.’

The Tribune with this article came, when it was published, into the hands of a friend who wrote: ‘I saw and read with a thrill of pride that piece in the N. Y. Tribune that spoke of you. I felt proud indeed to know that one of whom an enemy could speak in such terms was a friend of mine. I shall preserve it to read with increased pleasure in the future.’ The hand that preserved it, in after years, placed it in my Scrap-Book where now it is.

There came to David's Island a group of ladies as devoted as self-sacrificing, and as patriotic as ever attended the wounded in the hospitals of Virginia. They gave up their homes and established themselves in the kitchens attached to the pavilions. With loving hands and tender sympathy they prepared for our sick every delicacy and refreshment that money and labor could supply. It was to them truly a service of love and joy. These were Southern-born women living in New York City and Brooklyn.

From their pent — up homes, and their close hostile environment, [36] within which there was no liberty to voice and no opportunity to show their deep passion of patriotism, they watched the fortunes of the beloved Confederacy with an interest as keen, and an anxiety as intense, as was ever felt by their mothers and sisters in the Southland. Imagination itself almost fails to depict the avidity and joy with which they availed themselves of this opportunity to mingle with, and to serve our wounded and to give vent to their long suppressed feelings and sympathy. It was my great pleasure personally to know some of these. There were Mrs. Mary A. Butler, widow of Dr. Bracken Butler, of Smithfield, Virginia; and her sister, Miss Anna Benton, daughters of Col. Benton, formerly of Suffolk, but who many years before the war, removed to New York. There were also Miss Kate Henop and Miss Caroline Granbury, both formerly well known in Norfolk; Mrs. Algernon Sullivan, Winchester, Va., the wife of the distinguished lawyer of New York, and Mrs. Susan Lees, of Kentucky, who after the war adopted the children of the gallant cavalryman, Col. Thomas Marshall, who was killed in battle. There were others whose names have escaped me. If there ever be erected a monument to the women of the South, the names of these patriotic women of whom I have been speaking, should be inscribed on its shaft.

A Virginian, then living in Brooklyn, whose peculiar circumstances prevented his returning to his native State, Dr. James Madison Minor, made me frequent visits for the happiness of giving expression to his feelings. He said it was an inexpressible relief. His little daughter, wishing to do some thing for a Confederate soldier, out of the savings from her monthly allowances, bought and gave me a memorial cup which I still have.

Mrs. James Gordon Bennett came to the Island with a coterie of distinguished friends, among whom was General Dix. She brought a quantity of fine wines for our wounded. She with her friends came to my pavilion, and asked for me. The surgeon in charge, Dr. James Simmons, had referred her to me. When I presented myself, she said: ‘Adjutant Crocker, I wish to do something for your men. I do not mean mere words.’ With some pride of independence, I replied, ‘There is nothing I can ask for my comrades;’ and then I quickly said: ‘Yes, Mrs. [37] Bennett, there is one request I wish to make of you for them, and I feel that you, as a woman of influence, can do something for us.’ She shrugged her shoulders in the polite French style, and said she was but a woman, with only a woman's influence. I made a complimentary reply and said to her: ‘Mrs. Bennett, my companions here had their clothing battle-torn and bloodstained. They are now in need of outer clothing. They have friends in New York City who are willing and ready to furnish them; but there is an order here forbidding our soldiers from receiving outer clothing. Now, my request is that you have this order withdrawn, or modified, so as to permit our men to receive outer clothing.’ She promptly replied that she would use all her influence to accomplish the request,—that she expected to have Mrs. Lincoln to visit Fort Washington (her home) next week, and she would get her to use her influence with the President to revoke the order. The New York Herald of the next day, and for successive days, had an editorial paragraph calling public attention to the order, telling of the exposure of the wounded and sick prisoners to the chilling morning and evening winds of the Sound, and insisting, for humanity's sake, that the order should be revoked. Afterwards I received from Mrs. Bennett the following note:

Fort Washington, Sept. 14th, 1863.

Yesterday Mrs. Lincoln visited me at Fort Washington. I embraced the opportunity to ask her to use her influence in regard to the request you made me. She assured me she will attend to it immediately on her return to Washington. For all your sakes I sincerely hope she may succeed. I have done all in my power. I can do no more. Hoping that your prison hours may pass lightly over,

I remain with best wishes for yourself and brother officers,

Yours truly,

Mrs. Bennett conversed freely with me about her husband. She said he was always a sincere friend of the South; that when, upon the firing upon Fort Sumter, the wild furor swept the [38] City of New York and demanded that the American flag should be displayed on every building, Mr. Bennett refused to hoist the flag on the Herald Building, and resisted doing so until he saw the absolute necessity of doing it. She said he wept over the condition of things. She spoke also of her son James. She said that when Vicksburg fell ‘Jimmy came to me with tears in his eyes, saying, “Mother, what do you think? Vicksburg has fallen. Brave fellows—brave fellows!” ’ I replied that it was the tribute which brave men ever pay to the brave.

Dr. James Simmons, the surgeon in charge of the Hospital, was a native of South Carolina. Somehow he took a great fancy to me, and gave me a warm friendship. He took me into his confidence and talked freely with me about his surroundings, and how he came to remain in the Federal service. He married Miss Gittings, the daughter of the well known banker of Baltimore. He became a citizen of Maryland, and while waiting for his State to secede, he became involved in the Federal service, and found that he could not well leave; and he concluded that as a non-combatant he would probably have opportunities of serving our captured and wounded soldiers. He himself was not beyond suspicion; for I remember his saying to me in his office, with a motion, referring to the writers in his office, ‘these are spies on me.’ The Federal authorities, I believe, had in the war more or less suspicion about the Southern officers in the army,—that they did not fully trust them until like General Hunter, they showed cruelty to their own people. Real traitors are always cruel. Benedict Arnold on the border of the James, and on our own waters here was more cruel with the firebrand and sword than even Tarleton was. Let it ever be thus. Let infamous traits be ever allied to infamous treachery. I occasionally met Mrs. Simmons, who, I believe, spent most of her time at New Rochelle. Her warm grasp of the hand told more plainly than words that the sympathies of her heart were deeply with us. I made a request of Dr. Simmons. His kind heart could not refuse it. I told him I wanted a Confederate uniform,—that I had a friend in New York City from whom I could get it—that I knew it was against orders for him to grant my request. He answered: ‘Have it sent to my wife at New Rochelle.’ I had [39] my measure taken and sent to New York. Soon I received a full lieutenant's uniform in Confederate gray of excellent quality, which I, afterwards, on returning home at the end of the war, wore for a while for lack of means for getting a civilian's suit.

While at Johnson's Island to which prison I was taken after leaving David's Island, and when the exchange of prisoners had been suspended, I made special effort to obtain an exchange. For this purpose, I wrote to my brother, Rev. Wm. A. Crocker, the Superintendent of the Army Intelligence Office at Richmond, and got him to see Judge Ould, the Commissioner of Exchange on my behalf. I at the same time wrote to Dr. James Simmons to aid me in getting exchanged. I received from Dr. Simmons the following letter and enclosure:

Medical Directors' Office, Department of the East, New York, Feb. 13th, 1864.
Dear Sir:

Your letter of the 11th Jany. did not reach me until a few days since. I have written to Colonel Hoffman in your behalf and sincerely hope that he may grant your request. I am but slightly acquainted with Col. Hoffman, and can only hope that the justice of the case may cause him to grant your request. If I can be of any service to you pray command me. I send a copy of my letter to Colonel Hoffman, and regret I did not receive your letter sooner. Be kind enough to remember me to Captain Butler, Kincaid and others.

Very truly yours,

New York, February 13th, 1864.

I enclose you a letter from Captain J. F. Crocker, prisoner of war now at Johnson's Island. The letter which reached me only a few days since was directed to David's Island, Captain Crocker supposing I was in charge of that hospital. If anything can be done for him not inconsistent with the regulations [40] of your department, I am sure you would be conferring a favor upon a gentleman and a man of honor and refinement. The orderly behavior of the prisoners while at David's Island was in a great measure due to the influence of this gentleman.

I am, Colonel,

Your obedient servant,

J. Simmons, Surg. of &c. Colonel Hoffman, Comr. Genl. of Pris., Washington, D. C.

With other officers I left David's Island for Johnson's Island on the 18th of September, 1863. While on the steamer going to New York City, Dr. James E. Steele, the assistant surgeon of the Island, before mentioned, came to me and asked me if I had an Autograph Book. He said a lady wished to see it. I gave it to him. He soon returned it, cautioning me about opening it. When he left me I opened it. Two names had been written in it, J. M. Carnochan, M. D., and Estelle Morris Carnochan, and within the leaves there was a ten dollar note. I took it as a token of good feeling towards me, and as a compliment delicately made. Dr. Carnochan was a native of South Carolina. He then lived in New York City, and was by far the most eminent surgeon of that city. He frequently came down to David's Island to perform difficult operations on our wounded. His wife, as I understood it at the time, was the daughter of General Morris, of Maryland, and her mother was the daughter of the famous founder and editor of the .Richmond Enquirer, Thomas Ritchie.

In passing from New York city through the great States of New York and Ohio to Sandusky, one thing deeply impressed me—the great number of men in civilian's clothes of the military age, who gathered at the railroad stations. I said to myself, ‘War in the North is fully organized—with such resources of men and war material, it is prepared to conduct the war for an indefinite time, and that it was with the North only a question of finances and of public opinion.’ It renewed my grief at our defeat at Gettysburg. That was the pivotal point of the war. A great victory there would have achieved peace, and would [41] have enabled the South, instead of the North, to determine the terms of reunion and reconstruction. Had it not been for the delinquency of some of our generals, Lee's Army would have won a complete and decisive victory on the first and second days of that battle, as I have explained in my address on ‘Gettysburg —Pickett's Charge.’

We arrived at Johnson's Island about the 19th of September, 1863. The following officers of my regiment, the 9th Va. Infantry, had already reached there: Maj. Wm. James Richardson, Captains Henry A. Allen, Jules O. B. Crocker, and Harry Gwynn; Lieutenants John H. Lewis, John Vermillion, Samuel W. Weaver, John M. Hack, Henry C. Britton, M. L. Clay, Edward Varnier and Henry Wilkinson. I was assigned to a bunk in Block 12. This building consisted of large rooms with tiers of bunks on the sides. Subsequently I with four others occupied room 5, Block 2. My room-mates and messmates were, Captains John S. Reid, of Eatonton, Ga., and R. H. Isbell, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Lieutenants James W. Lapsley, of Selma, Ala., and John Taylor, of Columbia, S. C.

The first incident of personal interest to me after my arrival in this prison occurred thus: I met on the campus Colonel E. A. Scovill, the Superintendent of the prison. I said to him: ‘Colonel, you have an order here that no one is allowed to write at one time more than on one side of a half sheet of letter paper. I have a dear, fair friend at my home in Portsmouth, Va., and I find it impossible for me to express one tithe of what I wish to say within the limits prescribed.’ He replied: ‘Write as much as you wish, hand me your letters to your friend, and tell her to answer to my care.’ That kind act of Col. Scovill made him my personal friend, and he afterwards did me other important kindnesses. I believe that the surest way to become a friend to another, is to do that other person a kindness. A kindness done has more effect upon the donor, than upon the recipient, in creating mutual interest. This gracious favor of Col. Scovill was highly appreciated, and it added happiness to me and to my dear friend.

I brought my battle-wound with me, unhealed, to Johnson's Island. I had not been there long before gangrene appeared in [42] it. It was a critical moment. My friend, Dr. Brodie Strauchan Herndon, of Fredericksburg, Va., a prisoner, by immediate and severe remedy arrested the gangrene at once; and soon afterwards made a permanent cure of the wound, and also restored my general health. The tardiness of my wound in healing was caused by the low condition of my health. On our way to Pennsylvania, I sat on my horse in the mid-stream of the Shenandoah while my regiment, the 9th Va., waded across. I did the same when it crossed the Potomac. When we reached Williamsport I went under the treatment of our surgeon. It was there, for the first time since I was twelve years old, a drop of intoxicating liquor passed my lips, save at the communion table.

It was owing to the condition of my health that a slight injury on my lip, while at David's Island, caused by my biting it, although not malignant, refused to heal. Finally I was advised by Dr. Herndon to have it cut out. He said, however, that the operation could not be safely performed in the prison on account of a tendency to gangrene. I obtained permission to go to Sandusky for the purpose. I was given a parole. I went to the leading hotel in the city. There I met—strange coincidence—with Mr. Merritt Todd and his wife, both natives of my own county, Isle of Wight, Va., friends of my father in their early days, with their granddaughter, Parker Cooke, then about fourteen years of age. Their home before the war was in Norfolk. Mr. Todd had established a large and lucrative business in curing hams in Cincinnati where he owned valuable real estate. To prevent the confiscation of his property he made Ohio the State of his residence during the war, and was at this time in Sandusky. Nothing under the circumstances could have added more to my happiness than thus to be thrown in intimate intercourse with these friends.

I reported to the Federal surgeons. They received me most courteously. They seated me in a chair for the operation. They asked me if I wished to take an anaesthetic. It instantly flashed in my mind to show these kind surgeons how a Confederate soldier could bear pain, and I answered No! I sat in the chair from the beginning to the end of the operation without a groan or a token of pain. Their work was done skillfully, effectively [43] and kindly. The trouble never returned. These officers were very polite and hospitable to me. In return for their hospitality I had one or more of them to dine with me at the hotel. Don't raise your hands in horror! Why should I have been less a gentleman than they? Once a gentleman,—always a gentleman —under all circumstances a gentleman. No true Southern soldier ever lost in war his good manners or his humanity.

I again had the freedom of a Northern city. And although I walked the streets in Confederate gray, no one showed the slightest exception to it or showed me the least affront. But on the contrary, there was one citizen of the place, to the manor born, who visited me almost daily—and a very clever and strong man, too, he was. According to his account, he had been ostracized; his home had been surrounded and threatened by mobs; he had been hooted and maltreated on the streets. Why? He said because he was a Democrat and opposed to the war. He was a genuine ‘Copperhead,’ and either from intolerance or other cause, he was a warm sympathizer with the South. The opportunity to express his sympathy was a great relief and gratification to him. He never tired of talking about Lee and his battles and his successes. He had reached a state of mind when he was even glad to hear of the defeat of his country's armies and the success of ours. At the end of four weeks, I returned to the Island.

When I first reached Johnson's Island I found that the rations given to the prisoners, while plain, were good and abundant. Within the prison was a sutler's store from which the prisoners were allowed to buy without restraint. Boxes of provisions and clothing from friends were permitted. To show the liberality with which these were allowed, I received from my dear brother, Julius O. Thomas, of Four Square, Isle of Wight county, Virginia, a box of tobacco which he had kindly sent as a gift to me, through the lines under the flag of true. It was as good to me as a bill of exchange, and I disposed of it for its money value. This condition continued until the issuing of orders, said to be in retaliation of treatment of Federal prisoners at Andersonville. These orders put the prisoners on half rations, excluded the sutler's store from the prison, and prohibited the receipt of all boxes of provisions—with a discretion to the surgeon in charge [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 [45] hands of a number of my friends at home then within the lines of the enemy, full of substantial and delicious things. The mail of the same day carried to Lt. Col. Scovill the following note:

Portsmouth, Va., January 13th, 1865.
Lt. Col. Scovill:
Colonel: To-day by express I send a box of provisions for my friend, Adjutant J. F. Crocker. If there should be any difficulty in regard to his having the articles sent, will you do me the favor to use your influence with the surgeon in obtaining his permission for their delivery? If you will, I shall take it as a new kindness added to that one granted by you in the past, and shall not feel less grateful for this, than I did, and do still feel for that.

Yours respectfully,


This note was sent into me with the following endorsement:

Jany. 17th, 1865.
Adjt.: Make an application to Surgeon Woodbridge and enclose it to me.

Yours, &c.,

A. E. Scovill, Lt. Col. & Supt.

Application was made, and that box was sent in immediately to me. Yes, it was a new and added favor from this warm, generous-hearted officer and man; and I have ever since borne in my heart and memory a kind and grateful feeling towards him. My messmates and I had a royal feast.

I cannot omit to notice the religious feeling that prevailed in the prison, and I cannot better do so than to copy here a letter written by me at the time.

Johnson's Island, Sunday, July 10th, 1864.
This is the holy Sabbath, my dear friend. Can I better interest you than by giving you a religious view of our prison? There are many things in prison life, if properly improved, that conduce to religious sentiments. A prisoner's unfortunate [46] condition, of itself, imposes upon him much seriousness, and in his long unemployed hours reflection grows upon him. There is a pensive sorrow underlying all his thoughts, and his sensibilities are ever kept sensitive by the recollection of home, and the endearments of love from which he is now indefinitely excluded, while his patriotic anxieties are constantly and painfully alive to the wavering fortunes of his country. You will not therefore be surprised to learn that there is here a high moral tone and religious feeling. The present campaign was preceded by daily prayer meetings here, and for a long time afterwards kept up. And it would have done your heart good to have heard the earnest appeals that rose to the throne of the Great Ruler of Nations from every block. You can imagine the great burden of these earnest prayers. These prayer meetings are still of almost daily occurrence. We have here also our Bible Classes, and also our Christian Associations, that do a great deal of good. But above all we have our sermons on the Sabbath and other days. Among the officers here are a number of prisoners who are ministers. It is one of our greatest privileges that these are allowed to preach to us unmolested, and with all freedom. I can scarce ever attend one of these services without having my eyes moistened. There are two subjects that never grow trite, though never passed over without allusion in these services—our country and the loved ones at home. These ever elicit the hearty amen, and the tender tear. These touch the deepest and strongest chords of our hearts. Ah! was country ever loved as it is by its far off imprisoned soldiers! Was home and its dear ones ever loved as by him who sighs in imprisonment. The heart grows hallowed under these sacred, tender influences. Shut out from the beautiful green earth we learn to look up to the sky that is above us; and through its azure depths and along the heights of its calm stars, our thoughts like our vision, rise Heavenward. Many a one who entered these prison bounds with a heart thoughtless of his soul's high interests, has turned to his God; and now nearly on every Sabbath there is either some one baptized or added to some branch of the Church. It is a high gratification to make this record of my fellow comrades, and I know it will be a delight to you.

Your devoted friend,



The death and burial of Lt. Henry Wilkinson, Company B, 9th Va., deeply affected me; and I cannot deny him a kind word of mention in these pages. He was the only one of my regiment who died in the prison. He was severely wounded at Gettysburg, at the Bloody Angle. He was from Norfolk. He was a gallant, conscientious, patriotic soldier. He asked only once for a furlough. That came to him after we had started or were about to start on our Pennsylvania campaign. He declined it. It was to him as if he were taking a furlough in the presence of the enemy. There was something pathetic in the refusal. It was to give him opportunity to meet, and see, one whom he loved. He sacrificed to duty the heart's dearest longing.

Well do I remember his burial. That open grave is even now clearly before me, as vividly as on that day. His comrades are standing around. There is a tender pathos in the voice of the holy man, a Confederate minister, who is conducting the solemn service. There are tears in the eyes of us all. The deep feeling was not from any words spoken but a silent welling up from our hearts. The inspiration felt in common was from the occasion itself—the lowering down the youthful form of this patriotic soldier into the cold bosom of that bleak far off island— so far away—--so far from his home and kindred—--so far away from the one that loved him best. Well do I remember as I stood there looking into that grave into which we had lowered him, there came to me feelings that overcame me. I seemed to identify myself with him. I put myself in his place. Then there came to me as it were the tender wailing grief of all who loved me most—dear ones at home. Even now as I recall the scene, the feelings that then flowed, break out afresh and I am again in tears.


by A lady in Kentucky.
From his dim prison house by Lake Erie's bleak shore
     He is borne to his last resting place,
The glance of affection and friendship no more
     Shall rest on the Captive's wan face.
The terms of the Cartel his God had arranged
     And the victim of war has at length been ‘exchanged.’

[48] His comrades consign his remains to the earth
     With a tear and a sigh of regret,
From the land he could never forget.
     He died far away from the land of his birth
'Mid the scenes of his boyhood his fancy last ranged
     Ere the sorrows of life and its cares were ‘exchanged.’

The clods of the Island now rest on his head
     That the fierce storms of battle had spared
On the field that was strewn with the dying and dead
     Whose perils and dangers he shared.
From home and from all that he loved long estranged
     Death pitied his fate and the Captive ‘exchanged.’

(Copied in my Autograph Book when on the Island.)

The United States government had suspended the exchange of prisoners so long that it had become a general belief of the prisoners that they would be kept in prison until the close of the war. The renewal of exchange came as a great joy to us all. It was not only personal freedom we craved, but we desired to renew again our service in our armies in behalf of our country. There had been several departures of prisoners, when, on the morning of the 28th of February, 1865, I received notice to get ready to leave, and that I was to leave at once. In a few moments I had packed up some of my belongings—as much as I could carry in a dress suit case, and joined my departing comrades. We were taken by rail to Baltimore, and from thence by steamer down the Chesapeake Bay and up the James to Aiken's Landing, which place we reached on the 3rd of March. There was no incident on the way worthy of note. I recall, however, the deep emotion with which I greeted once again the shores and waters of dear Virginia. It brought back to me the impassioned cry of the men of Xenophon, ‘The Sea! The Sea!’ I recall as we came up Hampton Roads how intently I gazed towards this dear home city of ours, and how, as we entered the mouth of the James, I seemed to embrace in fond devotion the familiar shores of my native county. Ah! how we love our native land-its soil, its rivers, its fields, its forests! This love is God-implanted, and is, or should be, the rock-basis of all civic virtue. [49]

At Aiken's Landing we were transferred to our Confederate steamer. ‘Once again under our own flag,’ I wrote on the Confederate steamer and sent it back by the Federal steamer to my home city to gladden the hearts of my friends there.

We landed at Rocketts, Richmond. As we proceeded up on our way to General Headquarters, and had gone but a short distance, we saw a boy selling some small apples. We inquired the price. ‘One dollar apiece,’ was the answer. It was a blow—a staggering blow—to thus learn of the utter depreciation of the Confederate currency. I may just as well say here that all the prisoners at Johnson's Island stoutly maintained their confidence in the ultimate success of our cause. They never lost hope or faith. They never realized at all the despondency at home. The little boy with his apples told me that it was not so in Richmond. I at once seemed to feel the prevailing despondency in the very air, and as we made our way up the street I felt and realized that there was a pall hanging over the city.

When I reached General Headquarters I found out that we were not exchanged, that we were prisoners still, paroled prisoners. I was given a furlough. Here it is before me now:

Headquarters Department of Richmond, Richmond, Va., March 3d, 1865.
In obedience to instructions from the Secretary of War the following named men (paroled prisoners) are granted furloughs for 30 days (unless sooner exchanged) at the expiration of which time they will, if exchanged, rejoin their respective commands.

Adjt. J. F. Crocker, 9th Va. Regt.
By order of Lieut-General Ewell. J. W. Pegram, A. A. General.

The next day I went to the ‘Pay Bureau Q. M. Department.’ I was paid $600 in Confederate notes. I have before me the certificate that was given me.

Richmond, Va., March 4th, 1865.
I certify that I have this day paid First Lieut. and Adjt. [50] Jas. F. Crocker, 9th Va. Regiment, from I June to 30 Nov., 1862, pay $600.

Geo. A. Barksdale, Capt. & A. Q. M.

I took what was given me. I asked no questions. I made no complaint. I concluded that the market would not stand a much larger issue, or the boy would raise the price of his apples. I informed the department that I wished to go to see my brother, Julius O. Thomas, in Isle of Wight county. I was given transportation tickets with coupons to go and return. I went by the Richmond and Danville Railroad to Danville, thence to Raleigh, thence to Weldon and thence to Hicksford. From Hicksford I was to make my way as well as I could. I reached without difficulty our ancestral home, Four Square, where my brother lived. I shall never forget the kind and loving welcome he and his dear wife gave me. It was indeed a true home-coming. The prison half-rations were forgotten. I remained about three weeks. I then started for Richmond to report to Headquarters to see if I had been exchanged or not. I took the train in Southampton county for Weldon and thence to Raleigh. When I reached Raleigh I heard that Richmond had fallen. When I reached Danville, I learned that Lee's retreat had been cut off from Danville. I then determined to go across the country to see my brother, Rev. Wm. A. Crocker, who was living the other side of Campbell Court House, and with whom was my dear mother. I took the stage to Pittsylvania Court House. When I reached there, I learned that Lee's army was operating in the direction of Appomattox. While waiting there a few days in uncertainty, a section of a battery was drawn up in the Court House square, abandoned and disbanded. While the men were unhitching the horses, I said to them that I had $100 in Confederate notes in my pocket which I would be glad to give for one of the horses. A horse was at once handed to me and I gave them my last $100 in Confederate notes. I mounted this horse, and rode him bareback to my brother's.

On my way I met large bodies of unarmed soldiers going South to their homes. Their silent walk and sad faces told of a sorrow in their hearts. These were Lee's men. They had [51] surrendered at Appomattox their arms but not their honor. They were heroes—but they were not conscious of it. They were unconscious of their fame and glory. These were they of whom the world was to declare they made defeat as illustrious as victory.

When I came in sight of my brother's home, I saw that his woods near the road were on fire, and that persons were engaged in fighting the fire. I saw that my brother was among them. I jumped off my horse, broke off the top of a bush, and approaching my brother from behind I commenced fighting the fire a short distance from him, turning my back on him. I had been thus engaged for some time, unobserved, and without a word, when I heard, suddenly, the cry: ‘Brother! My Brother!’ I was in his arms and he in mine, and we wept—wept tears of affection and joy at meeting, and wept tears of sorrow over our lost country. All was over.

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