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Chapter 61

THE REBELS FORMALLY PROPOSE TO US TO DESERT TO THEM--CONTUMELIOUS
TREATMENT OF THE PROPOSITION--THEIR RAGE--AN EXCITING TIME--AN OUTBREAK
THREATENED--DIFFICULTIES ATTENDING DESERTION TO THE REBELS.

One day in November, some little time after the occurrences narrated in
the last chapter, orders came in to make out rolls of all those who were
born outside of the United States, and whose terms of service had
expired.

We held a little council among ourselves as to the meaning of this, and
concluded that some partial exchange had been agreed on, and the Rebels
were going to send back the class of boys whom they thought would be of
least value to the Government. Acting on this conclusion the great
majority of us enrolled ourselves as foreigners, and as having served out
our terms. I made out the roll of my hundred, and managed to give every
man a foreign nativity. Those whose names would bear it were assigned to
England, Ireland, Scotland France and Germany, and the balance were
distributed through Canada and the West Indies. After finishing the roll
and sending it out, I did not wonder that the Rebels believed the battles
for the Union were fought by foreign mercenaries. The other rolls were
made out in the same way, and I do not suppose that they showed five
hundred native Americans in the Stockade.

The next day after sending out the rolls, there came an order that all
those whose names appeared thereon should fall in. We did so, promptly,
and as nearly every man in camp was included, we fell in as for other
purposes, by hundreds and thousands. We were then marched outside, and
massed around a stump on which stood a Rebel officer, evidently waiting
to make us a speech. We awaited his remarks with the greatest
impatience, but He did not begin until the last division had marched out
and came to a parade rest close to the stump.

It was the same old story:

"Prisoners, you can no longer have any doubt that your Government has
cruelly abandoned you; it makes no efforts to release you, and refuses
all our offers of exchange. We are anxious to get our men back, and have
made every effort to do so, but it refuses to meet us on any reasonable
grounds. Your Secretary of War has said that the Government can get
along very well without you, and General Halleck has said that you were
nothing but a set of blackberry pickers and coffee boilers anyhow.

"You've already endured much more than it could expect of you; you served
it faithfully during the term you enlisted for, and now, when it is
through with you, it throws you aside to starve and die. You also can
have no doubt that the Southern Confederacy is certain to succeed in
securing its independence. It will do this in a few months. It now
offers you an opportunity to join its service, and if you serve it
faithfully to the end, you will receive the same rewards as the rest of
its soldiers. You will be taken out of here, be well clothed and fed,
given a good bounty, and, at the conclusion of the War receive a land
warrant for a nice farm. If you"--

But we had heard enough. The Sergeant of our division--a man with a
stentorian voice sprang out and shouted:

"Attention, first Division!"

We Sergeants of hundreds repeated the command down the line. Shouted he:

"First Division, about--"

Said we:

"First Hundred, about--"

"Second Hundred, about--"

"Third Hundred, about--"

"Fourth Hundred, about--" etc., etc.

Said he:--

"FACE!!"

Ten Sergeants repeated "Face!" one after the other, and each man in the
hundreds turned on his heel. Then our leader commanded--

"First Division, forward! MARCH!" and we strode back into the Stockade,
followed immediately by all the other divisions, leaving the orator still
standing on the stump.

The Rebels were furious at this curt way of replying. We had scarcely
reached our quarters when they came in with several companies, with
loaded guns and fixed bayonets. They drove us out of our tents and huts,
into one corner, under the pretense of hunting axes and spades, but in
reality to steal our blankets, and whatever else they could find that
they wanted, and to break down and injure our huts, many of which,
costing us days of patient labor, they destroyed in pure wantonness.

We were burning with the bitterest indignation. A tall, slender man
named Lloyd, a member of the Sixty-First Ohio--a rough, uneducated
fellow, but brim full of patriotism and manly common sense, jumped up on
a stump and poured out his soul in rude but fiery eloquence: "Comrades,"
he said, "do not let the blowing of these Rebel whelps discourage you;
pay no attention to the lies they have told you to-day; you know well
that our Government is too honorable and just to desert any one who
serves it; it has not deserted us; their hell-born Confederacy is not
going to succeed. I tell you that as sure as there is a God who reigns
and judges in Israel, before the Spring breezes stir the tops of these
blasted old pines their Confederacy and all the lousy graybacks who
support it will be so deep in hell that nothing but a search warrant from
the throne of God Almighty can ever find it again. And the glorious old
Stars and Stripes--"

Here we began cheering tremendously. A Rebel Captain came running up,
said to the guard, who was leaning on his gun, gazing curiously at Lloyd:

"What in ---- are you standing gaping there for? Why don't you shoot the
---- ---- Yankee son---- -- - -----?" and snatching the gun away from
him, cocked and leveled it at Lloyd, but the boys near jerked the speaker
down from the stump and saved his life.

We became fearfully, wrought up. Some of the more excitable shouted out
to charge on the line of guards, snatch they guns away from them, and
force our way through the gate The shouts were taken up by others, and,
as if in obedience to the suggestion, we instinctively formed in
line-of-battle facing the guards. A glance down the line showed me an
array of desperate, tensely drawn faces, such as one sees who looks a
men when they are summoning up all their resolution for some deed of
great peril. The Rebel officers hastily retreated behind the line of
guards, whose faces blanched, but they leveled the muskets and prepared
to receive us.

Captain Bowes, who was overlooking the prison from an elevation outside,
had, however, divined the trouble at the outset, an was preparing to meet
it. The gunners, who had shotted the pieces and trained them upon us
when we came out to listen t the speech, had again covered us with them,
and were ready to sweep the prison with grape and canister at the instant
of command. The long roll was summoning the infantry regiments back into
line, and some of the cooler-headed among us pointed these facts out and
succeeded in getting the line to dissolve again into groups of muttering,
sullen-faced men. When this was done, the guards marched out, by a
cautious indirect maneuver, so as not to turn their backs to us.

It was believed that we had some among us who would like to avail
themselves of the offer of the Rebels, and that they would try to inform
the Rebels of their desires by going to the gate during the night and
speaking to the Officer-of-the-Guard. A squad armed themselves with
clubs and laid in wait for these. They succeeded in catching several
--snatching some of then back even after they had told the guard their
wishes in a tone so loud that all near could hear distinctly. The
Officer-of-the-Guard rushed in two or three times in a vain attempt to
save the would be deserter from the cruel hands that clutched him and
bore him away to where he had a lesson in loyalty impressed upon the
fleshiest part of his person by a long, flexible strip of pine wielded by
very willing hands.

After this was kept up for several nights different ideas began I to
prevail. It was felt that if a man wanted to join the Rebels, the best
way was to let him go and get rid of him. He was of no benefit to the
Government, and would be of none to the Rebels. After this no
restriction was put upon any one who desired to go outside and take the
oath. But very few did so, however, and these were wholly confined to
the Raider crowd.

John McElroy