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Chapter 55

WHY WE WERE HURRIED OUT OF ANDERSONVILLE--THE OF THE FALL OF ATLANTA
--OUR LONGING TO HEAR THE NEWS--ARRIVAL OF SOME FRESH FISH--HOW WE KNEW
THEY WERE WESTERN BOYS--DIFFERENCE IN THE APPEARANCE OF THE SOLDIERS OF
THE TWO ARMIES.

The reason of our being hurried out of Andersonville under the false
pretext of exchange dawned on us before we had been in Savannah long.
If the reader will consult the map of Georgia he will understand this,
too. Let him remember that several of the railroads which now appear
were not built then. The road upon which Andersonville is situated was
about one hundred and twenty miles long, reaching from Macon to Americus,
Andersonville being about midway between these two. It had no
connections anywhere except at Macon, and it was hundreds of miles across
the country from Andersonville to any other road. When Atlanta fell it
brought our folks to within sixty miles of Macon, and any day they were
liable to make a forward movement, which would capture that place, and
have us where we could be retaken with ease.

There was nothing left undone to rouse the apprehensions of the Rebels in
that direction. The humiliating surrender of General Stoneman at Macon
in July, showed them what our folks were thinking of, and awakened their
minds to the disastrous consequences of such a movement when executed by
a bolder and abler commander. Two days of one of Kilpatrick's swift,
silent marches would carry his hard-riding troopers around Hood's right
flank, and into the streets of Macon, where a half hour's work with the
torch on the bridges across the Ocmulgee and the creeks that enter it at
that point, would have cut all of the Confederate Army of the Tennessee's
communications. Another day and night of easy marching would bring his
guidons fluttering through the woods about the Stockade at Andersonville,
and give him a reinforcement of twelve or fifteen thousand able-bodied
soldiers, with whom he could have held the whole Valley of the
Chattahoochie, and become the nether millstone, against which Sherman
could have ground Hood's army to powder.

Such a thing was not only possible, but very probable, and doubtless
would have occurred had we remained in Andersonville another week.

Hence the haste to get us away, and hence the lie about exchange, for,
had it not been for this, one-quarter at least of those taken on the cars
would have succeeded in getting off and attempted to have reached
Sherman's lines.

The removal went on with such rapidity that by the end of September only
eight thousand two hundred and eighteen remained at Andersonville, and
these were mostly too sick to be moved; two thousand seven hundred died
in September, fifteen hundred and sixty in October, and four hundred and
eighty-five in November, so that at the beginning of December there were
only thirteen hundred and fifty-nine remaining. The larger part of those
taken out were sent on to Charleston, and subsequently to Florence and
Salisbury. About six or seven thousand of us, as near as I remember,
were brought to Savannah.

.......................


We were all exceedingly anxious to know how the Atlanta campaign had
ended. So far our information only comprised the facts that a sharp
battle had been fought, and the result was the complete possession of our
great objective point. The manner of accomplishing this glorious end,
the magnitude of the engagement, the regiments, brigades and corps
participating, the loss on both sides, the completeness of the victories,
etc., were all matters that we knew nothing of, and thirsted to learn.

The Rebel papers said as little as possible about the capture, and the
facts in that little were so largely diluted with fiction as to convey no
real information. But few new, prisoners were coming in, and none of
these were from Sherman. However, toward the last of September, a
handful of "fresh fish" were turned inside, whom our experienced eyes
instantly told us were Western boys.

There was never any difficulty in telling, as far as he could be seen,
whether a boy belonged to the East or the west. First, no one from the
Army of the Potomac was ever without his corps badge worn conspicuously;
it was rare to see such a thing on one of Sherman's men. Then there was
a dressy air about the Army of the Potomac that was wholly wanting in the
soldiers serving west of the Alleghanies.

The Army, of the Potomac was always near to its base of supplies, always
had its stores accessible, and the care of the clothing and equipments of
the men was an essential part of its discipline. A ragged or shabbily
dressed man was a rarity. Dress coats, paper collars, fresh woolen
shirts, neat-fitting pantaloons, good comfortable shoes, and trim caps or
hats, with all the blazing brass of company letters an inch long,
regimental number, bugle and eagle, according to the Regulations, were as
common to Eastern boys as they were rare among the Westerners.

The latter usually wore blouses, instead of dress coats, and as a rule
their clothing had not been renewed since the opening, of the campaign
--and it showed this. Those who wore good boots or shoes generally had to
submit to forcible exchanges by their captors, and the same was true of
head gear. The Rebels were badly off in regard to hats. They did not
have skill and ingenuity enough to make these out of felt or straw, and
the make-shifts they contrived of quilted calico and long-leaved pine,
were ugly enough to frighten horned cattle.

I never blamed them much for wanting to get rid of these, even if they
did have to commit a sort of highway robbery upon defenseless prisoners
to do so. To be a traitor in arms was bad certainly, but one never
appreciated the entire magnitude of the crime until he saw a Rebel
wearing a calico or a pine-leaf hat. Then one felt as if it would be a
great mistake to ever show such a man mercy.

The Army of Northern Virginia seemed to have supplied themselves with
head-gear of Yankee manufacture of previous years, and they then quit
taking the hats of their prisoners. Johnston's Army did not have such
good luck, and had to keep plundering to the end of the war.

Another thing about the Army of the Potomac was the variety of the
uniforms. There were members of Zouave regiments, wearing baggy breeches
of various hues, gaiters, crimson fezes, and profusely braided jackets.
I have before mentioned the queer garb of the "Lost Ducks." (Les Enfants
Perdu, Forty-eighth New York.)

One of the most striking uniforms was that of the "Fourteenth Brooklyn."
They wore scarlet pantaloons, a blue jacket handsomely braided, and a red
fez, with a white cloth wrapped around the head, turban-fashion.
As a large number of them were captured, they formed quite a picturesque
feature of every crowd. They were generally good fellows and gallant
soldiers.

Another uniform that attracted much, though not so favorable, attention
was that of the Third New Jersey Cavalry, or First New Jersey Hussars,
as they preferred to call themselves. The designer of the uniform must
have had an interest in a curcuma plantation, or else he was a fanatical
Orangeman. Each uniform would furnish occasion enough for a dozen New
York riots on the 12th of July. Never was such an eruption of the
yellows seen outside of the jaundiced livery of some Eastern potentate.
Down each leg of the pantaloons ran a stripe of yellow braid one and
one-half inches wide. The jacket had enormous gilt buttons, and was
embellished with yellow braid until it was difficult to tell whether it
was blue cloth trimmed with yellow, or yellow adorned with blue. From
the shoulders swung a little, false hussar jacket, lined with the same
flaring yellow. The vizor-less cap was similarly warmed up with the hue
of the perfected sunflower. Their saffron magnificence was like the
gorgeous gold of the lilies of the field, and Solomon in all his glory
could not have beau arrayed like one of them. I hope he was not. I want
to retain my respect for him. We dubbed these daffodil cavaliers
"Butterflies," and the name stuck to them like a poor relation.

Still another distinction that was always noticeable between the two
armies was in the bodily bearing of the men. The Army of the Potomac was
drilled more rigidly than the Western men, and had comparatively few long
marches. Its members had something of the stiffness and precision of
English and German soldiery, while the Western boys had the long,
"reachy" stride, and easy swing that made forty miles a day a rather
commonplace march for an infantry regiment.

This was why we knew the new prisoners to be Sherman's boys as soon as
they came inside, and we started for them to hear the news. Inviting
them over to our lean-to, we told them our anxiety for the story of the
decisive blow that gave us the Central Gate of the Confederacy, and asked
them to give it to us.

John McElroy