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قراءة كتاب The Bright Side of Prison Life Experience, In Prison and Out, of an Involuntary Soujouner in Rebellion

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‏اللغة: English
The Bright Side of Prison Life
Experience, In Prison and Out, of an Involuntary Soujouner in Rebellion

The Bright Side of Prison Life Experience, In Prison and Out, of an Involuntary Soujouner in Rebellion

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

the trade of a tailor, but other employment offered more inducements, and, on August 8, 1862, my occupation was that of postmaster at Blakesburg, Iowa, keeping a small general store in connection with the postoffice. On this date I enlisted with others, and we were sworn in at our place.

Our company was organized at Ottumwa, where we went for the purpose, and my election as first lieutenant gave me much pleasure. Here we spent about two weeks at squad drill, having the usual experience of beginners.

Many of the town girls had lovers, brothers and relatives in our company, and we had many fair critics present at our drills on the south bank of the Des Moines river. The excitement was great at the time, and everybody seemed to be interested very much in our company. For a while we received the criticisms of our fair guests with equanimity, but at last we conceived the idea of turning the tables, and soon had an opposition company so interested in their own drill that the girls gave us some peace. Two of the boys afterwards married members of the competing company.

We rendezvoused at Keokuk, where the 36th Iowa Infantry was finally organized and mustered into the service of the United States on October 4, 1862, Col. Charles W. Kitredge commanding. Our boys were designated Company B.

About November 1 the regiment went to Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, and remained until December 20. After we were ordered to go south all was bustle till we embarked on two steamboats and started on our voyage.

The boats were loaded to the guards with soldiers, hard tack and coffins, the last being piled up in all available space. Said Pat Riley, a member of our company: "Holy Jasus, byes, luk! Luk at that! Hev us ter kerry thim ter hev 'em handy loike?"

The mute suggestion of the many coffins was not pleasant, but our boys were hopeful, and many jokes were bandied about in consequence of their presence.

That sail down the mighty river will never be forgotten. None knew where we were going, and the conflict between hope and fear was in many a breast—hope of success and glory, and distrust of the issue. On board all was confusion; oaths, laughter, witty remarks, hoarse orders, din in general. Looking inboard, one could forget all save the immediate present, and hope was predominant. Looking up at the sky, with its sweeping clouds, like vast billows of dark, stormy sea, rushing on and tumbling over each other in mad haste, one felt the immensity of the universe and the littleness of man, despite his thunders of war. Listening to the asthmatic breathing of the "scape" pipes, and watching the shores gliding by, one half fancied a flight in the grasp of some huge monster that was bearing away its prey. Looking over the side and hearing the sob and swash of the seething water under the guards, one could imagine a restraining hand on the huge mass, the panting breath of exertion, and a moan of regret because of ineffectual effort to keep back the floating giant that was carrying so many human beings away to death and disaster. Fear of the future now became the paramount feeling.

We were halted at Memphis by a signal from shore, and found that the citizens and military authorities were in fear of an attack by Forrest. That night we slept on our arms in Jackson Square.

The next day some mule sheds were emptied of their living contents, and our boys were quartered in the vacated premises. We were then detailed for guard duty at Fort Pickering, which service we performed for several days, still having the privilege of enjoying our commodious quarters. It was hardly fair to turn the mules out into the cold to give shelter to a regiment of new recruits, but as the mules made no "kick" at this change, why should we object?

The spare hours of my first night as officer of the guard were spent in trying to get some sleep on the ground. It was raining hard, and it seemed impossible to find any spots which were not hollows; at any rate, I could not lie down without finding myself in a pool of water when I awoke. My reflections and comments need not be recorded.

Christmas passed with scarcely a knowledge of the fact, and about the first of the year we were sent to Helena, Ark., where General Prentiss had about 20,000 men.

We were landed, had tents issued to us, and camped on the river bank for several days. No stoves were to be had, and the damp, cold weather made fires a luxury. How to have shelter and warmth at the same time was a puzzle.

Spurred on by the emergency, my thoughts ran very fast, until they were brought to a stop and concentrated upon one idea. All my hunting about the neighborhood failed to result in finding any bricks. Some old pieces lay about, and these were gathered up, together with some old camp kettles. The latter were battered as nearly flat as possible, and then a trench was dug from just inside the front of my tent to and under the rear end. The sides of the trench were built up a few inches, the old kettles placed across, and the whole heaped over with sand. We built a sort of chimney upon the outside end of the long tunnel thus made, and a fire was then started at the inner end of the opening. The draught drew the smoke and heat through the extemporized radiator, and before long we had the sand giving out a very satisfactory degree of warmth. Many pleasant hours were spent in spinning yarns while warming out feet on this product of necessity.

The 47th Indiana was soon ordered away on a campaign, and we were moved into the permanent quarters which they had occupied at Fort Curtis. They had left a portable bakery, all their cooking and heating stoves, as well as many smaller conveniences, and of these we took possession, thus finding compensation for some of our hardships.

It is an unwritten military law—at least it was so decided by our general at the time—that property abandoned in quarters becomes the property of the next occupants, by right of possession.

In about ten days after our removal to the cabin I was awakened one morning by a captain in the regiment recently moved out. He announced the fact that they had returned and were in camp on the hill, about half a mile distant. The courteous manners of the man, my realization of what it then meant to be in a dog-tent without fire, and my confidence in my own ability to find a substitute, induced me to give him my stove, formerly his. A little later he came back with some of his men, and was about to take away all the other stoves and things left behind. The company was turned out under arms to resist, but the warfare was confined to words, and the dispute was settled by the decision mentioned.

It is pertinent to state here that I was in command of my company at the time, owing to the absence of our chief on other duty, and that his promotion shortly after gave me my rank as captain.

When the dispute was settled it again became necessary to find some means of warming my hut. With regrets for having been so good-natured, I set about devising another substitute for a stove. More scraps of bricks could not be found, and stones were as scarce. Finally, an old piece of machinery was discovered, which gave some hopes of success. It was a hollow tube, about two feet long and ten inches in diameter, with a small hole quite close to one of the open ends, and this was planted upright upon the earthen floor of my cabin. We procured an old soup kettle, cut a hole in the bottom for a pipe and capped the cylinder with it; but the question of a stove-pipe was a more serious matter. Not a piece was to be found. The next morning my stove had a pipe, and a fire was merrily burning within the old tube, sending out a heat which