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Chapter 23

A NEW LOT OF PRISONERS--THE BATTLE OF OOLUSTEE--MEN SACRIFICED TO A
GENERAL'S INCOMPETENCY--A HOODLUM REINFORCEMENT--A QUEER CROWD
--MISTREATMENT OF AN OFFICER OF A COLORED REGIMENT--KILLING THE SERGEANT OF
A NEGRO SQUAD.

So far only old prisoners--those taken at Gettysburg, Chicamauga and Mine
Run--had been brought in. The armies had been very quiet during the
Winter, preparing for the death grapple in the Spring. There had been
nothing done, save a few cavalry raids, such as our own, and Averill's
attempt to gain and break up the Rebel salt works at Wytheville, and
Saltville. Consequently none but a few cavalry prisoners were added to
the number already in the hands of the Rebels.

The first lot of new ones came in about the middle of March. There were
about seven hundred of them, who had been captured at the battle of
Oolustee, Fla., on the 20th of February. About five hundred of them were
white, and belonged to the Seventh Connecticut, the Seventh New
Hampshire, Forty Seventh, Forty-Eighth and One Hundred and Fifteenth New
York, and Sherman's regular battery. The rest were colored, and belonged
to the Eighth United States, and Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts. The story
they told of the battle was one which had many shameful reiterations
during the war. It was the story told whenever Banks, Sturgis, Butler,
or one of a host of similar smaller failures were trusted with commands.
It was a senseless waste of the lives of private soldiers, and the
property of the United States by pretentious blunderers, who, in some
inscrutable manner, had attained to responsible commands. In this
instance, a bungling Brigadier named Seymore had marched his forces
across the State of Florida, to do he hardly knew what, and in the
neighborhood of an enemy of whose numbers, disposition, location, and
intentions he was profoundly ignorant. The Rebels, under General
Finnegan, waited till he had strung his command along through swamps
and cane brakes, scores of miles from his supports, and then fell
unexpectedly upon his advance. The regiment was overpowered, and another
regiment that hurried up to its support, suffered the same fate. The
balance of the regiments were sent in in the same manner--each arriving
on the field just after its predecessor had been thoroughly whipped by
the concentrated force of the Rebels. The men fought gallantly, but the
stupidity of a Commanding General is a thing that the gods themselves
strive against in vain. We suffered a humiliating defeat, with a loss of
two thousand men and a fine rifled battery, which was brought to
Andersonville and placed in position to command the prison.

The majority of the Seventh New Hampshire were an unwelcome addition to
our numbers. They were N'Yaarkers--old time colleagues of those already
in with us--veteran bounty jumpers, that had been drawn to New Hampshire
by the size of the bounty offered there, and had been assigned to fill up
the wasted ranks of the veteran Seventh regiment. They had tried to
desert as soon as they received their bounty, but the Government clung to
them literally with hooks of steel, sending many of them to the regiment
in irons. Thus foiled, they deserted to the Rebels during the retreat
from the battlefield. They were quite an accession to the force of our
N'Yaarkers, and helped much to establish the hoodlum reign which was
shortly inaugurated over the whole prison.

The Forty-Eighth New Yorkers who came in were a set of chaps so odd in
every way as to be a source of never-failing interest. The name of their
regiment was 'L'Enfants Perdu' (the Lost Children), which we anglicized
into "The Lost Ducks." It was believed that every nation in Europe was
represented in their ranks, and it used to be said jocularly, that no two
of them spoke the same language. As near as I could find out they were
all or nearly all South Europeans, Italians, Spaniards; Portuguese,
Levantines, with a predominance of the French element. They wore a
little cap with an upturned brim, and a strap resting on the chin, a coat
with funny little tales about two inches long, and a brass chain across
the breast; and for pantaloons they had a sort of a petticoat reaching to
the knees, and sewed together down the middle. They were just as
singular otherwise as in their looks, speech and uniform. On one
occasion the whole mob of us went over in a mass to their squad to see
them cook and eat a large water snake, which two of them had succeeded in
capturing in the swamps, and carried off to their mess, jabbering in high
glee over their treasure trove. Any of us were ready to eat a piece of
dog, cat, horse or mule, if we could get it, but, it was generally
agreed, as Dawson, of my company expressed it, that "Nobody but one of
them darned queer Lost Ducks would eat a varmint like a water snake."

Major Albert Bogle, of the Eighth United States, (colored) had fallen
into the hands of the rebels by reason of a severe wound in the leg,
which left him helpless upon the field at Oolustee. The Rebels treated
him with studied indignity. They utterly refused to recognize him as an
officer, or even as a man. Instead of being sent to Macon or Columbia,
where the other officers were, he was sent to Andersonville, the same as
an enlisted man. No care was given his wound, no surgeon would examine
it or dress it. He was thrown into a stock car, without a bed or
blanket, and hauled over the rough, jolting road to Andersonville.
Once a Rebel officer rode up and fired several shots at him, as he lay
helpless on the car floor. Fortunately the Rebel's marksmanship was as
bad as his intentions, and none of the shots took effect. He was placed
in a squad near me, and compelled to get up and hobble into line when the
rest were mustered for roll-call. No opportunity to insult, "the nigger
officer," was neglected, and the N'Yaarkers vied with the Rebels in
heaping abuse upon him. He was a fine, intelligent young man, and bore
it all with dignified self-possession, until after a lapse of some weeks
the Rebels changed their policy and took him from the prison to send to
where the other officers were.

The negro soldiers were also treated as badly as possible. The wounded
were turned into the Stockade without having their hurts attended to.
One stalwart, soldierly Sergeant had received a bullet which had forced
its way under the scalp for some distance, and partially imbedded itself
in the skull, where it still remained. He suffered intense agony, and
would pass the whole night walking up and down the street in front of our
tent, moaning distressingly. The bullet could be felt plainly with the
fingers, and we were sure that it would not be a minute's work, with a
sharp knife, to remove it and give the man relief. But we could not
prevail upon the Rebel Surgeons even to see the man. Finally
inflammation set in and he died.

The negros were made into a squad by themselves, and taken out every day
to work around the prison. A white Sergeant was placed over them, who
was the object of the contumely of the guards and other Rebels. One day
as he was standing near the gate, waiting his orders to come out, the
gate guard, without any provocation whatever, dropped his gun until the
muzzle rested against the Sergeant's stomach, and fired, killing him
instantly.

The Sergeantcy was then offered to me, but as I had no accident policy, I
was constrained to decline the honor.

John McElroy