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Doc. 239. experience of Alfred Ely, M. C., while in prison at Richmond, Va.

The particulars of Mr. Ely's capture and a portion of his experience at Richmond are as follows: He was captured by a South Carolina company of infantry, about five o'clock P. M. of the day of the battle of Bull Run. He had stopped at a blacksmiths shop to have his carriage mended, and after that waited a while for Senator Foster, of Connecticut, who had gone out with him. While waiting he walked down toward a ravine, in which he saw a company of National troops skulking or in ambush, but, as he approached them, they receded, and just as Mr. Ely paused, to return to his carriage, a spent musket-ball struck the earth near him. He stepped behind a large tree near by to be out of danger, and continued his observations. In a moment a cannon-ball went crashing through the branches of the tree, and seemed to be felling the whole top upon him. By the time he recovered from this surprise, a company of soldiers, accompanied by two well-dressed officers, emerged from the woods near by.

On perceiving Mr. Ely, the two officers advanced and demanded his name. He answered, “Mr. Ely, of New York.” The question followed, “Do you hold any civil office in the Government?” For the first time Mr. Ely said he felt he was in trouble. He replied that he was a member of Congress, and thereupon one of the officers clapped his hand upon him and declared him a prisoner, but assured him he should be treated with every consideration. They took him to their Colonel, and introduced him formally as “Hon. Mr. Ely, member of Congress from New York.” Instantly the Colonel drew a pistol, cocked it and levelled it at Mr. Ely's head, not two paces distant, and said, “You d — d rascal, I'll blow your brains out.” The two officers who had arrested Mr. Ely instantly threw themselves upon the Colonel, forced his pistol back, and persuaded him away. They then apologized to Mr. Ely, saying they were ashamed of their Colonel, who was excited by drinking. This officer was Colonel Cash, and the officer who arrested Mr. Ely was Captain Mullins.

Mr. Ely was put with a large herd of prisoners, and all were started to Manassas. It was a march of seven weary miles, and the prisoners suffered tortures from the dust, heat, and thirst. At Manassas, which they reached at nine o'clock P. M., they were driven into an open space, surrounded thickly by guards, and all began to fall on the ground, then wet with a fast-falling rain, to seek rest and sleep. While Mr. Ely was preparing for a similar movement an officer rode into the yard and called aloud to know if “Mr. Ely, of New York, was present.” Mr. Ely thought his time had come now [513] to be shot. Nevertheless he answered the call, and was told that General Beauregard required him to come to his Headquarters. He followed the officer and reached the log house surrounded by a verandah, on the porch of which, with a single candle burning on it, was a table, and around the table sat Jeff. Davis, Beauregard, Extra Billy Smith, Porcher Miles, and other rebel officers, apparently reckoning up the result of the day's battle. Porcher Miles approached Mr. Ely, and expressed regret at his situation, but in a moment changed his tone, remarking that he had no opinion of Congressmen who would come to aid an army in invading a State. Mr. Ely was sent off to sleep in a barn, where he found the captured National officers.

The next day they were all started to Richmond. The morning after their arrival there Messrs. Bocock and Pryor, of Virginia, and Keitt and Boyce, of South Carolina, called upon Mr. Ely and stated that they should use their influence to secure his release. They made an application for this purpose to Jeff. Davis, who called a meeting of his Cabinet and the result was a consultation of several hours. The Cabinet generally favored Mr. Ely's release, but Davis, Benjamin, and Hunter were opposed to it, on grounds of public policy, and Walker, the Secretary of War, sent an elaborate communication stating that the Cabinet had come to the conclusion to deny the application.

Mr. Ely's arrival was announced by the Richmond papers and the whole press of the South, by which he soon became notorious. Visitors came to see him by hundreds, and it was not unfrequently the case that he had forty in his room at a time. Among them were Breckinridge, Humphrey Marshall, and ex-Minister Preston, who expressed the opinion that his being held in custody was an outrage. The Governors and Episcopal Bishops of most of the rebel States, were also visitors. In fact, they came to him from all parts of Jeff. Davis' dominions. Bouquets were sent him almost daily, and sometimes not less than a dozen a day. His meals too, nicely prepared, were sent him by the families of citizens. In his conversations politics were rarely alluded to, except he himself introduced the subject, when there was a free interchange of opinion.

The position of our hostages at Richmond is painful. Seven of them are confined in a room about twelve by fifteen feet in the Richmond jail, having two small windows, which admit but little light. They are permitted to see no person but the jailer and the negro who waits upon them, and are only permitted to leave their cells thirty minutes in the morning, and the same time in the afternoon, to walk in the narrow promenade between the jail building and the interwall. Their food consists of jail fair, sobby corn bread and boiled beef, and they are not permitted to have any thing better, even though they purchased it. When Mr. Ely was released he went, in company with Mr. Faulkner, to the jail, and the two were granted the favor of an interview with the unfortunate officers. Mr. Faulkner expressed his surprise at this rigor, and he stated that such was not the treatment that the privateers received in New York and Philadelphia — that, although they were held for capital crimes, they were allowed to receive visitors, and to have all the comforts compatible with their safe custody. Mr. Ely thinks that, based upon this last statement by Mr. Faulkner, the rebel authorities will lessen the severity of their treatment.

Of the reckless and outrageous conduct of the rebel guards Mr. Ely speaks in terms of the utmost censure. He states that the prisoners had not been in the tobacco warehouse fifteen minutes before a bullet was fired into the window of one of our prisoners, who had ventured to put his head outside, and that in this way seven men had been wantonly killed. This conduct met with severe censure from all who were aware of the facts, but he was not apprised that any action had been taken to punish the offenders by the rebel authorities.

A few days before his release, Mr. Ely was again visited by Messrs. Bocock and Boyce, who stated that they intended to use their efforts to get him exchanged for Mr. Faulkner. The following day he saw announced in a Richmond paper that Mr. Faulkner had been released on his parole for thirty days, on condition that he should proceed to Richmond and procure in exchange for himself Mr. Ely, or, in the event of failing, to return to Fort Warren. He could hardly credit this, as he thought, had it been a fact, Bocock and Boyce would have been aware of it; but as each additional day's intelligence announced the progress of Mr. Faulkner, he became convinced that his release was near at hand.

Mr. Faulkner was received in Richmond with a perfect ovation, thirty thousand people being out. The following day Mr. Faulkner called upon Mr. Ely, and they had a pleasant interview, and, having both been prisoners, they could well appreciate their mutual position in the past. He announced that he had an interview with Jeff. Davis and his Cabinet, and he was happy to state that they had decided upon his release. The following day Gen. Winder came to the prison, and with much formality and dignity entered the room, and in the presence of Mr. Ely's fellow-prisoners presented him his release, and announced to him that he was a free man, and that he should be happy to see him at his own house. After the interchange of a few pleasant words Gen. Winder left.

A meeting of the Prison Association, of which Mr. Ely was the president, was at once convened, and Mr. Ely made a farewell address of nearly an hour in length. In it he rehearsed many of the incidents of the history in which they had borne a part, and that, notwithstanding their confinement, they had succeeded in making their hours pass cheerfully by, and he was gratified to announce that, though there [514] was so much in the separation from their families and friends, in the want of common comforts and the annoyances they suffered to irritate them, there had never yet been the slightest difficulty during their whole five months imprisonment. The deepest emotions were visible on the countenances of all of the members present, and nearly all were affected to tears. They parted with their president with mingled feelings of joy at his deliverance and regret at his departure.

At five o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Faulkner again called at the prison with Gov. Letcher's carriage, and they proceeded to the Governor's mansion, where they dined together, and parted with a mutual expression of personal good feeling. Mr. Ely proceeded to Norfolk by railroad, being everywhere regarded with great interest, and thence reached Fortress Monroe and Baltimore.--N. Y. Times.

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Alfred Ely (30)
Faulkner (9)
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John H. Winder (2)
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