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John James Geer, Beyond the lines: A Yankee prisoner loose in Dixie 38 4 Browse Search
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e cloaks and masks, and to exhibit it in all its ghastly repulsiveness. It is my purpose in the succeeding pages to narrate simply how, after being captured at the battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg Landing, I was, on the most frivolous charges, tried for my life before several prominent Rebel Generals, among whom were Bragg and Beauregard; how I was subsequently chained with negro chains and cast into military prisons and common jails; how, escaping from these, and in company with Lieutenant A. P. Collins, I made my way to the swamps; how we lived in these malarious marshes for three weeks; how we were hunted with bloodhounds; how we were assisted by the slaves in our flight, and lastly, how, being recaptured, we spent weary months in confinement, and were finally, released on exchange from our dreadful captivity. To all those friends who have cheered him since his return home with kind words and deeds, the author begs leave to extend his warmest thanks,--but more especially to R
Chapter 7: Macon a Southern Unionist in the rebel army beneath a Georgia sun secession speech thoughts of home-political prisoners horrible place offer of the Gospel-Lieutenant A. P. Collins contemplated escape robes of blood! Pinning a Federal soldier to the ground. We were next taken to Macon, Georgia. Traveling by night in box-cars, we had little opportunity to see the country. We were much annoyed on this trip by drunken, profane, and sleepy guards. Their cuffs to force us to become listeners to sentiments which were utterly incompatible with our views of patriotism and Christianity. But they parleyed, and finally desisted from their threats. It was here that I first became acquainted with Lieutenant A. P. Collins, a gentleman of refinement and culture, and with whom I was destined afterward to share incredible sufferings and perils. He was a religious man, and a graduate of the Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, Ohio. He had in his possessio
e agreed upon an hour when he should visit my quarters, at which time we were to exchange our clothing. I then informed Collins what I had done, and he made a similar arrangement with another Tennesseean. Time passed wearily on, and brought thee the lines, and snugly hidden beneath the dark foliage of the tangled bushes. Just as I was about giving the signal to Collins, I discovered that I had frightened an artillery horse so much, that he broke loose from his hitching-rack, and in anothpointed place of meeting, but believing that the confusion of the guards in capturing the frightened horse had prevented Collins from attempting to follow, I went down to the fence alone. Five minutes later, I heard my comrade giving the signal at once, rebel and prisoner as he was! He had actually mapped our proposed route, although our scheme was arranged between Collins and myself in whispers. But we were silently thankful for the information we received, and when we ascertained the pla
ard against all surprises from man or beast, we agreed to sleep and stand sentinel alternately until morning. Thus we relieved and rested each other that memorable night. It was a welcome day-dawn to us. For two hours I had stood guard over Collins, watching the stars mirrored on the smooth waters about our feet, and it was a glorious sunrise to us that chased the shadows and images away, and flooded our gloomy retreat with the light of morning. Again we started onward, taking the sun fored both in mind and body. Our steps were elastic-our hearts gladdened, and we hurried onward, under the conscious protection of God. Suddenly, I heard the barking of a dog not far distant. We paused and listened. It was not a bloodhound. Collins, being a little deaf from the effects of terrific artillery-firing at Shiloh, did not, at first, catch the sound. Now we knew that help was near. We quickened our pace, and in a few minutes heard the voices of some negro men. A few steps furth
pressing forward. We had gotten thus far, like the old apostles, with neither scrip nor staves, but we felt that God was with us, and his servants, the poor, downtrodden slaves, helped us on. Whenever we met one of the latter, who replied to our question, Can't dis yer day, he was a friend, but unable to assist us on account of the patrollers. If one answered, I know you, he was posted, and all was well. We passed the night in the pine woods, I remaining awake, and guarding my friend, Collins, who was completely worn out. During the next day, we made a good distance, in spite of numerous difficulties. By the 28th, our rebel clothing was well nigh worn off us, and our hunger began to increase terribly. In the evening, we came upon some slaves in a field, among whom were several females, about eighteen or twenty years of age. The latter were almost naked, having nothing on them save a very short skirt, fastened round the waist, and held in its place by straps, which passed over
ur o'clock a heavy thunderstorm came up; and dreading to be again wet, we made our way to an old waste-house near by where, shortly, much to our surprise, in came two men, one rather old, and the other young. They inquired where we were from. Collins, whose fictitious name was Compton, told them that we lived in Pulaski county, Georgia; that we had been driven by the Yankees from Darien, and were now on our way home. We were in a hurry to get there before the conscripts left for the seat of We could not realize what he meant, but we soon learned, for within ten minutes we were chained together with a huge chain. One end was twined round my neck, and secured with a large padlock, while the other end was placed in like manner about Collins' neck, There, in the midst of ruthless foes, a thousand miles away from home and its endearments, we stood wet, ragged, and forlorn; chained, yes, chained together, like felons, like oxen, like wild beasts. Had it not been for the comforting sp
ere informed the narrator how we had been lying concealed under the palmleaves, and watching all their motions, at a distance of not over a hundred yards or so. This astonished him very much; so much so, indeed, that he seemed to doubt it, until Collins repeated to him the identical expressions used on that occasion by himself, his companions, and the soldiers. He then turned to the sheriff, and said with an oath: I've hunted bear, and deer, and fox, and never failed; but these Yankees food escaped at the same time, but had been separated from us in the alarm of that occasion. I read also an advertisement of one J. J. Geer, described as follows: Six feet and three-fourths of an inch in height, black hair, and blue eyes. Lieutenant A. P. Collins was also named, but without any description. I knew instantly that I had been reported by the man that I mentioned in the beginning of my narrative as having been a deceiver. He had measured me in Columbus jail, Mississippi, and, a
ssa, Tom White, an' he's a white man, seed dem white fellers what blacked dar faces, an' he told so, an' den I was tuk out oa de cell. Here the poor creature started after the jailor for the performance of some duty. I was now desirous to know what Captain Crawford's candid opinion was concerning slavery, but the loud tones in which we were forced to talk prevented me, for fear of drawing down some cruel punishment upon us. I conversed on the subject, however, with my comrade, Lieutenant Collins, and we both resolved never to cease its agitation so long as the Lord gave us life, and so long as there remained a single slave on the fair soil of Columbia. Our minds were much strengthened in this resolve by recalling to memory the teachings of Washington, Adams, Monroe, and others. Abigail Adams, the mother of John Quincy Adams, said: I wish most sincerely that there was not a slave in the Province. Benjamin Franklin, whose life was my schoolbook, in an address to the
ted, shaking at me his clenched fists. I do; and you know you did it! was my prompt reply. The villain thereupon lost all control of himself, and, drawing a bowie-knife, swore vengeance upon me. I quietly stepped back, and placed myself between the two guards, who, lowering their pieces, prepared to protect me, should my assailant attempt to do me violence. I then made a statement that my testimony could be corroborated, if necessary, by Captain Clay Crawford himself, and Lieutenant Collins, both officers in the United States army. He quibbled, and protested, and reasoned, and raved alternately; but it was all useless, and when at last I told the minutest particulars about the affair, such as where the negro took the axe from, et cetera, he was forced to give in, and was accordingly found guilty, while the poor black fellow was released amid the most tumultuous excitement. To show that Providence was retributive in this case, I need only state that the crest-fallen c
Sanders's than there is at Mike Adams's? As we were at this time under the charge of one Captain Collins, who was more indulgent than any of our previous keepers, we were allowed to converse with that is, those who were not Unionists themselves, and of the latter class there were many. Captain Collins, whom I have mentioned just before, still had us, in his charge, of which we were very gladch cooler, I felt inclined to admonish this old rebel a little. But, not wishing to offend Captain Collins, who had treated me so well, I refrained, and listened for some time to the hoary-headed coe wanted to fight, and demolish the whole crowd of d-d Yankees at once, and on the spot. Captain Collins, at length, thinking that he had amused himself long enough, quietly took hold of him, and hey were about to change guards. This was many miles away from the bridge, and we informed Captain Collins of the accident the moment he came in. At Petersburg, we fell in with a rebel captain w