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Prison Pastimes.

[New Orleans Picayune, Oct. 4, 1891.]
How our soldier boys at Fort Delaware Amused themselves while in confinement as prisoners of War—The publication of the ‘prison times.’

From the very many publications of experiences of prison life in the North and South, during the war of 1861-‘65, there should be but few persons who are not familiar with the narratives, both true and false, of the suffering and utter wretchedness that prevailed among the thousands of captives from both armies, held for an exchange, that was unfortunately delayed by the action of the Federal authorities in violating the cartel then existing between the contending parties.

From that mass of sorrowful narrative it is a pleasure to discover a small bit of the silvery lining which at times shows its glory behind the blackest clouds.

Among the archives of the Louisiana Historical Association is a newspaper published (hand-written) at Fort Delaware, in April, 1865, by Confederate prisoners. Within the limits of Fort Delaware, in a space of barely five acres, sixteen hundred Confederate officers were confined; and they, after the manner of Mark Tapley, not willing to be depressed by untoward circumstances surrounding them, perfected organizations for the entertainment and comfort of all the great company. Musical and Christian associations were formed, and finally they issued the Prison Times.

The Times illustrates so plainly the cheerful and hopeful spirit of these gallant officers, and gives such insight behind the scenes of prison life, that it deserves to be preserved among the annals of the great war.

The original paper was presented to the Historical Association by Major E. D. Willett, who received it from the wife of Lieutenant A. T. Turner, Fifteenth Louisiana regiment, who was Chief of Division 25, in the barracks of Fort Delaware.

It is so worn and torn that it is almost illegible, and can only be deciphered by using a strong reading-glass. [36]

As it is impossible to present it in fac simile, it is given below in cold type, and it may prove of interest to the survivors of the life at Fort Delaware or to their descendants, should they be no longer with us.

Here it is:

Prison times. et temps et lieu.

Vol. I. no. 1.

Fort Delaware, April, 1865.

Our paper.

In presenting to the public our first edition of the Prison Times we are aware that there will be many criticisms. As public journalists we intend to steer clear of all personalities, unless of a pleasant nature. Nothing political will be indulged in.

We will on all points of public interest speak candidly, as the interest of the public is our own.

Public improvements, the fine arts, advancement of literature, thorough school system—we are advocates of all these, and will do all we can to promote the interests of each.

We have secured the services of able gentlemen as correspondents. We feel assured their contributious will be perused with pleasure. In our miscellaneous columns we will have extracts from authors which will be interesting and edifying. In our poetical column will be found gems from celebrated authors, male and female, whose reputation is becoming known; so far as we can we will publish selections that have not appeared in print.

We intend to make the Times a good advertising medium. We ask the support of a liberal community.

Our terms are moderate. Manufacturers will find it to their interest to give us a trial.

‘We are literally immersed in business,’ as the fellow said when he was giving a swimming lesson.


An ancient toast.

It was a grand day in the old chivalric time, the wine circling around the board in a noble hall, and the sculptured walls rang with sentiment and song. The lady of each knightly [37] heart was pledged by name, and many a syllable significant of loveliness had been uttered, until it came to St. Leon's turn, when, lifting the sparkling cup on high—

‘I drink to one,’ he said,
     Whose image never may depart,
Deep graven on a grateful heart,
     Till memory is dead.

To one whose love for me shall last
     When lighter passions long have passed,
So holy 'tis, and true,
     To one whose love has longer dwelt,
More deeply fixed, more keenly felt
     Than any pledged to you.

Each guest upstarted on the word,
     And laid a hand upon his sword,
With fury-flashing eye,
     And sternly said, “We crave the name,
Proud knight, of this most peerless dame,
     Whose love you count so high.”

St. Leon paused, as if he would
     Not breath her name in careless mood
Thus lightly to another.
     Then bent his noble head, as though
To give that word the reverence due,
     And gently said, ‘My mother.’

“The fortitude that neither calumny nor calamity can crush never fails to command respect. Such fortitude is only attainable when one is calm in the rectitude of the cause in which he suffers, and feels that no false testimony can mislead the universal and eternal Judge. Then, indeed, is the sufferer happy, and despite of adversity feels that the clouds around him are not the frowns of heaven.” Bulwer.


Division 22.—M. L. White, Lieutenant Thirty-third N. C. T., is prepared to execute all kinds of engravings on metals with neatness and dispatch.

B. F. Cartwright & Co.—Division 24—Manufacture plain and gutta-percha rings, chains and breastpins, etc. Call and see specimens of our work. [38]

Tailoring Establishment.—Division 22—Griggs & Church, successors to Beval, Bowman & Church, are prepared to execute all kinds of fashionable tailoring at reasonable rates, at their shop, S. E. corner, upper tier of bunks. Call soon, as a stich in time saves nine.

Division 32.—Washing and ironing done with care and promptness by Davenport & Boswell. S. G. Davenport, Captain Ga. B. I.; I. C. Boswell, Captain 23d Ga. R. I.

Barber Shop.—Division 24—Shaving, shampooing, hair-cutting, dyeing and hair-dressing done up in the latest style. Choice selection of perfumes on hand. Broughton & Walker.

Dental Card.—Lieutenant R. F. Taylor can be found at all hours. Division 28.

Music.—Instructions given on the guitar by T. Gordon Bland, Lieutenant 10th La. Cavalry. Call at Division 26, S. E. corner, first tier.

Prison times.

published in Division27
by I. W. Hibbs, Captain Thirteenth Virginia Infantry.

Proprietors and editors:

George S. Thomas, Captain 64th Ga., Div. 24; W. H. Bennett, Captain and A. C. S., Div. 24; A. Harris, Lieutenant 3d Fla., Div. 28.

Saturday, April 8, 1865.


There are more than sixteen hundred officers in our barracks within an enclosure containing scarce five acres of ground.

One would suppose that the fact of so many men being thus crowded together would tend to create the greatest amount of sociability and afford unrivaled facilities for forming and cementing extreme personal friendships.

But there seems to be as much isolation of individuals and as many little cliques and communities as in large cities of the world outside. [39]

This is a phenomenon of prison social life to which we can only call the attention of our readers, and leave for a longer experience or more profound and skillful annotations to explain.

As our knowledge of the great world outside is fast becoming traditionary, or, at best, confined to ‘fresh fish stories,’ our news will be necessarily of a purely local character. Though it cannot be denied that the operators on our great Grapevine Telegraph sometimes manage to get up some wonderful and startling dispatches.

In our humble efforts to portray the prison times at this place we shall labor to keep our readers posted upon all incidents occurring in our midst worthy of record, and afford them every facility of letting them know who is here and what is being done.

Trusting that the difficulties of conducting an enterprise of this kind, under the circumstances, are duly appreciated by an intelligent public, we send forth this our first number, hoping that ere we have time to publish many numbers our Prison Times will be discontinued forever and our patrons and ourselves be far away in our loved sunny South.

Our prison world.

A glance at our advertising columns will prove that to call our barracks a miniature world is not so much of a misnomer as it might appear at first to the uniniated.

True it is that we have not the genial presence of charming women, and the very few babies we have with us are too old and too large to awaken that interest and sympathy we might have taken at an earlier stage of their existence. But, excepting the want of these grand essentials—women and little babies—to a perfect world, our little prison world is quite a good abridgment of the great world outside.

We have in our midst ‘men about town,’ ‘gentlemen of elegant leisure,’ many of whom play the games of chess, draughts, etc., with great proficiency and skill.

There are also several accomplished musicians, vocal and instrumental, who occasionally enliven and charm our little community with the concord of sweet sounds. The Prisoners' Benevolent Musical Association have lately earned and received the gratitude of our community by their generous efforts in behalf of the sick and destitute of our number, as will be seen from the statement we give in another column of the receipts of the concerts given in the Mess Hall for this purpose. [40]

Owing to the difficulty of procuring the necessary materials the rest of the fine arts are not so entensively cultivated. But we have, nevertheless, a few artists who exhibit considerable skill in the art of drawing and sketching.

The learned professions—theology, law and medicine—are not without their representatives, and, though ‘Othello's occupation is gone,’ as far as the practice of law and medicine are concerned (our law and physic being imported ready made at present), there are students to be found poring over the musty tomes of Blackstone and Esculapius.

There are also debating clubs in Divisions ‘22’ and ‘32.’ Every Thursday night these clubs hold meetings, open to the public, and some questions of interest are discussed.

Then we have a Christian Association for the relief of prisoners. We have time and space at present only to call attention of our readers to the directory of this most excellent institution, which will be found in another column. The list of standing committees there given will give some idea of the noble objects and plan of operations of this association.

We have also in our midst, busy at work, shoemakers, tailors, barbers, engravers, jewelers, machinists, washers and ironers, and ring, chain, and breastpin makers, many specimens of whose work we have seen, and must say that they reflect credit upon the patience, ingenuity and skill of the workmen.

Thus much for some of our public institutions. We have others that we expect to notice ‘et temps et lieu.’


Variety Works.—Division 24—Whitten and Neighbors.—Having completed our machinery, we are prepared to execute all kinds of sawing, turning and drilling with neatness and dispatch. W. M. Whitten, Lieutenant 23d Bn. Va. Infantry. W. H. Neighbors, Adjutant 51st Va. Infantry.

Barber Saloon.—Division 31—Hair cutting, shaving and shampooing done in the best manner. Terms: Cutting hair, 10 cents; shaving, 5 cents; shampooing, 15 cents. L. R Skinner, Lieutenant 17th Va. Cav.

Boots and shoes made to order. Repairing well done. Always ready for work. Give us a call. We can be found at our shop in [41] Division 24. Atkins and Beal. W. P. Atkins, Lieutenant 5th Ark.; P. S. Beal, Lieutenant 52d N. C.

Local-Salle Port.

Here are every day posted the latest bulletins; occasionally a startling ‘grape’1 is seen on the board. Perhaps no city furnishes a public place where those in search of the very latest can get it as readily as at the Salle Port of the officers' barracks at Fort Delaware. The advertisements posted are gotten up—some of them—in good taste. The various tobacconists set forth their claim for public patronage; they offer at what they consider reasonable rates the finest James river to its most inferior quality. Such large quantities so suddenly thrown on the market has created a decline, and holders are not disposed to part with their best brands.

The markets.

Everything except tobacco is still held at extravagantly high rates. It is to be expected, as navagation is no longer blockaded by ice, there will be a perceptible change in prices.

The milkmen have not occupied their stalls in the market places; will do so soon, as the grass furnishes good nipping.

Poultry dealers are holding back for higher prices.

Butter may be considered healthy. Small lots, several days ago, changed hands at fair prices; other lots too strong to take well.

‘Fresh fish’2 of recent importation can be found in every division. It is to be hoped that consignors will not forward any more for the present, as we have a superabundance of ‘Fresh fish’ already on hand, and storage room is becoming very scarce.

A butcher informed us that his orders thus far had been confined principally to rats. A change in favor of this kind of meat was so great, his orders were very large.

Our friends at a distance, in the upper and middle districts, must bear with us a short while, until we can procure the services of a first-class commercial reporter; we will then keep them advised as to the state of the markets.


A good work.

At a meeting called by a few officers in these barracks it was suggested by Lieutenant J. O. Murray, Twelfth Virginia cavalry, to organize a musical association to raise funds for the sick and destitute in our midst.

A communication was addressed by the secretary of the meeting, Lieutenant T. G. Bland, Tenth Louisiana cavalry, to the commandant of the prison, and permission was obtained for concerts to be given. Lieutenant W. Hays, Second Kentucky cavalry, the prisoners' friend, and ever ready to alleviate their condition, was selected as manager, and Lieutenant T. G. Bland musical director for the first concert, which was well attended, and the performance was highly creditable to all concerned.

We regret very much our inability to attend the second concert.

We have with pleasure seen the committee on distribution from day today going from division to division distributing to those most needy vegetables, fruits and other anti-scorbutics.

The good effects of this benevolent association are being already developed through their energetic and worthy committee.

Below is the statement of receipts and disbursements of concerts of the 21st and 28th of March.

Statement of receipts of concerts March 21 and 28, 1865, given for the benefit of sick and destitute officers:


By cash$187 55
178 pounds tobacco, 50089 00
$276 55


Total expenses$92 30
Balance184 25
$276 55

Cash receipts$187 55
Less expenses92 30
Amount of cash$95 25

Amount of tobacco for distribution, 178 pounds.

R. W. Carter, Colonel First Virginia Cavalry; C. E. Chambers, Captain Thirteenth Alabama; W. Hays, Lieutenant Second Kentucky Cavalry, committee.


Christian Association directory.

PresidentI. Hardeman, Lieutenant-Colonel Twelfth Georgia, Division 22.

First Vice PresidentT. A. Boyle, Adjutant Thirty-second North Carolina, Division 25.

Second Vice-PresidentJ. T. Kincannon, Captain Twenty-third Virginia, Division 33.

Third Vice-PresidentT. W. Harris, Captain Twelfth Georgia, Division 34.

Recording Secretary—John Law, Adjutant Thirty-eighth Georgia, Division 22.

Corresponding SecretaryJ. F. Fuller, Adjutant Thirty-first Tennessee, Division 30.

Treasurer—G. F. Lyle, Lieutenant Virginia Artillery, Division 22.

LibrarianJ. C. Wright, Lieutenant Twelfth Tennessee, Division 31.

ChaplainAlexander M. Sanford, Captain Fourteenth Texas, Division 29.

Chairmen of standing committees.

On State of the ChurchW. J. Clark, Colonel Twenty-fourth North Carolina, Division 28.

IntroductionJ. E. Roberts, Captain Fourth Virginia, Division 22.

EducationT. W. Hooper, Colonel Twenty-first Georgia, Division 22.

FinanceJ. L. Cantwell, Captain Third North Carolina, Division 35.

Religious ReadingJ. L. Connor, Adjutant Sixty-first Georgia, Division 22.

Devotional ExercisesJ. G. Knox, Captain Seventh North Carolina, Division 35.

Sick and DestituteW. C. Shane, A. D. C., Division 22.

Order and ArrangementsW. R. Stephenson, Captain Thirty-third North Carolina, Division 22.

MusicC. C. Turner, Lieutenant Fifth South Carolina, Division 22.

Regular meeting of the association every Friday night.


Debating clubs.

The debating club of Division 22 meets every Friday night.

PresidentJ. J. Riverd, Major Sixth Louisiana (?)

Secretary and TreasurerJ. E. Roberts, Captain Fourth Virginia.

The debating club of Division 32 meets every Thursday evening.

PresidentC. J. Palmer, Captain Third Virginia Cavalry.

SecretaryW. A. Darden, Captain Sixty-first North Carolina.

Original poetry.

The low, soft music of the Pines.

Oh there's music in the glad gurgling waters
     As they bound over rocks and through dells,
A music that lends an enchantment
     To deep forest's moss-festooned cells.

There's music in the low heaving billows
     As they break on the far distant lea,
When the sea nymphs and dolphins are sporting,
     But there's music far sweeter for me.

There's music in the soft-sighing zephyr,
     Where lovers oft linger to list,
And hear in its harmonious measures
     A song of long-promised bliss.

All nature's a grand choral organ
     That swells with melodious chimes,
But the sweetest of all nature's music
     Are the tones of the murmuring pines.

There's music for stern, reckless manhood,
     Where the storm king rides on the wave,
When the bark of the tempest-tossed sailor
     Madly drives to a watery grave.

When the winds lash the waves into fury,
     And the thunders and wild winds combine,
But more fearfully grand is the music,
     When the hurricane plays with the pine.

Then tell me not of the music
     That is held in the reveling hall,
When the feet of the light-hearted dancers
     Glide gaily at Terpsichore's call.

There's music around the home of my childhood,
     Where clamber the ivy and vine,
And I long to sit neath the shadows
     Of the low, soft, musical pine.

A. H.


Midnight Musings.

The fire burned briskly in the grate,
     The morn was dark aud dreary,
A captive in his cell sat lone,
     Thoughtful, watchful, weary.

He thought of home, of kindred ties,
     Long broke but not yet severed;
He thought of dear ones in the skies,
     That had left the earth forever.

Without the wall of his prison cell
     Discordant music met his ear.
What was it in the morn's dull cloak?
     He'd nothing but his God to fear.

As the morning light began to dawn,
     The sleepers awoke one another;
They knew not the thoughts of the one at the fire.
     He'd been thinking all night of his mother.

L. G. B., La. Fort Lafayette, N. K. Harbor, January 22, 1865.

Barracks directory.

Division 22—Chief, Captain J. E. Roberts, Fourth Virginia; adjutant, Adjutant John Law, Thirty-eighth Georgia; postmasters, Captain E. J. Dean, Twenty-second South Carolina, Captain N. C. Shane, A. D. C.

Division 23—Chief, Major D. Hammond, First Maryland Regiment; adjutant, D. F. Grimes, Virginia; postmasters, Lieutenant C. J. Bluit, Twenty-fifth Virginia, Lieutenant J. D. Irwin, Twentieth North Carolina.

Division 24—Chief, Captain E. T. Bridges, Thirty-seventh Virginia; adjutant, Captain T. J. Pritchett, Sixty-fourth Georgia; postmasters, Captain O. W. Spriggs, Forty-second Virginia; Lieutenant N. B. Riger, Twenty-fifth Virginia.

Division 25—Chief, Lieutenant A. P. Turner, Fifteenth Louisiana; postmasters, Captain H. S. Hoffman, Tenth Virginia, J. Maynadiey, First Virginia.

Division 26—Chief, Captain R. A. Cox, A. C. S., C. S. A.; postmasters, Lieutenant L. Stripling, Sixty-first Georgia, Adjutant M. S. Smallman, Eighth Tennessee. [46]

Division 27—Chief, Lieutenant W. Hays, Second Kentucky; postmasters, Lieutenant James Hewitt, Tenth Kentucky, Adjutant A. S. Webb, Forty-fourth North Carolina.

Division 28Colonel W. J. Clarke, Twenty-fourth North Carolina; adjutant, Lieutenant G. P. Waldman, Forty-fourth Virginia.

Division 29—Chief, Colonel W. L. Butler, Twenty-eighth Alabama; adjutant, Lieutenant R. Neil, Second Arkansas; postmasters, W. H. Hall, Fourteenth Texas, Lieutenant T. W. Mitchell, Forty-ninth Virginia.

Division 30—Chief, Adjutant W. L. Platt, Seventh Georgia; adjutant, Lieutenant D. McCoy, Twenty-second Virginia; postmaster, Adjutant J. F. Fuller, Thirty-first Tennessee.

Division 31—Chief, Lieutenant W. F. Ratcliffe, Virginia Reserves.

Division 32—Chief, Captain C. S. Jenkins, Sixty-fourth Georgia.

Division 33—Chief, Captain B. G. Patterson, Twenty-third Virginia Cavalry.

Division 34—Chief, Captain A. M. Cumming, First Louisiana; adjutant, Lieutenant L. Garric, Tenth Louisiana; postmaster, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Kesler, Forty-sixth Virginia Cavalry.

Division 35—Chief, Major D. A. Jones, C. S. A.

Division 36—Chief, Colonel V. H. Manning, Third Arkansas; adjutant, Lieutenant W. E. Hart, Carter's Virginia Battery.

Division 37—Chief, Captain W. A. Kendall, Third Kentucky Cavalry.

Musical AssociationPresident, R. W. Carter, Colonel First Virginia Cavalry; secretary, William Hays, Lieutenant Second Kentucky Cavalry; manager, P. B. Akers, Lieutenant Eleventh Virginia Infantry; musical director, T. G. Bland, Lieutenant Tenth Louisiana Cavalry.

Debating clubs.

Lee ClubPresident, H. L. Hover, Lieutenant Twenty-fifth Virginia; secretary, J. L. Cantrel, Captain Third North Carolina Infantry.

Stonewall ClubPresident, W. H. Rowan, Captain Third Kentucky Battalion; secretary, T. L. Pritchett, Captain Sixty-fourth Georgia. [47]

The allusion in the columns of the Times to the ‘Grapevine’ and ‘Fresh Fish’ will be recognized by old soldiers, the former being applied to the rumors of events occurring outside the prison that were supposed to be communicated through the ‘grapevine,’ or ‘underground telegraph’ line.

‘Fresh Fish’ was the term applied to new arrivals, captured on recent battle-fields. Upon their entrance to the fort they were greeted with the cry of ‘Fresh Fish’ by all the old residents, and immediately interviewed to learn the latest from the outside world, and if ‘Lee had whipped 'em again.’

The Times is dated April 8th--the day before Lee surrendered the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox—and it is presumed that no later number of the Times was issued, but that the occupants of the different ‘divisions’ were soon released and wended their way to their homes in Dixie land.

William Miller Owen. Springfield Republican.

1 Grapevine telegram.

2 New prisoners.

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