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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: 5


A rebel major came up, and, seeing our captors taking from the prisoners all personal property of value, remonstrated with the offenders, in many cases causing the purloined goods to be returned. He then offered to receive in trust any articles which any officer might see fit to deposit with him for safe keeping, and to give his receipt for them. This offer seemed to be so kind that a general rush was made to take advantage of it, and the major was soon loaded up with a general assortment of personal effects. There can be no doubt as to the safe keeping of the valuables, for they are still in his possession so far as known to the depositors.

The sergeant had not interfered with the promiscuous plundering, but he was inclined to be friendly, and we learned that the force that had captured us was a young army of 7000 mounted infantry that had been sent by Kirby Smith, after his defeat of Banks, to help in the effort to gather in General Steele.

Had we crossed the river on Sunday they would have missed us. As it was, we simply marched right into their open arms, and were enfolded as gracefully and fraternally as could have been expected under the circumstances.

Further talk drew from our captor that he had a mother living in Missouri, where Confederate money was no good, and that he was anxious to send her some greenbacks. Knowing that we were booked for a rebel prison, Davis was enabled to supply his mother with the desired funds by an exchange with some of our boys, who brought forth greenbacks from various hiding places when the object was made known, and the man did us several kindnesses in return. We became quite well acquainted before our separation.

Reaching the corral, or bull pen, as it was more generally called, I recovered from the sorrow and despair which only my efforts to get on the right side of our captors had kept from weighing me down, when I found that it was a most general "round-up." Very few of the command had escaped. Of Company B we counted thirty-five, two of whom were wounded. Nearly all the others had had a similar experience, and it soon became apparent that the proper thing to do was to make the best of a bad job and to watch for a chance to get away.

Company B had ten pairs of brothers on the rolls, of whom eight pairs were separated by death; but we will not dwell upon the dark side of matters. Most of our captors had cloaked their robbery of us with a pretense of trading, but in nearly every case the article offered for exchange was of no comparative value.

Some of us began joking each other about our losses, some accepting the jokes in good part, some being angry, and some too dispirited to care what was going on.

It always has been a principle of mine to look at the bright side of matters, and to find it if none such appeared on the surface. Several others were of the same mind, and we had considerable fun—at least I had—until one of the party began questioning me too closely.

Our lieutenant had bought a horse just before the fight, and in the morning, as we had started on our march, I had offered to give him my watch for the animal. He had agreed to this, and I had then given one of my men, who was marching in his bare feet, an opportunity to ride. Soon after, we had found a pair of boots lying just off the road, and the rider once more had his feet encased in a proper covering. When we had gone into action this man had ridden up and taken his place in the line. Having the horse on my hands, and seeing one of our general's black servants standing behind us, I had turned the horse over to him, giving instructions that he should be kept out of the way of harm. Both horse and rider had disappeared, and had kept out of harm, and further, sight as well. There could be no doubt but what my horse was gone for good, either to the rebels or elsewhere. My claim that the rebels had not taken my watch was soon explained by cross-questioning. When I had to admit this, I suddenly remembered that a friend of mine in one of the other regiments had not shown up, and I went off to look for him. Those fellows had no appreciation of humor, anyway, unless someone else was the object of remarks!

The prisoners were herded together and counted, checked off and then recounted. All the male negroes among our troops and with the train had been killed, and the women and children were huddled in with us.

There had been several citizens with the escort, mostly cotton speculators. Two of the latter, with whom I had talked while en route, were now close to me in the counting, and I learned that one had been forced to give up $140,000 in cash to rebel soldiers, who had traded boots with him and had given him a pair so much too short as to necessitate the cutting out of the toes in order to give room to the toes of his feet. He now stood next to me, the most disconsolate-looking person imaginable, with his long toes sticking out of his boots so far as to enable him to touch the ground with them by slight effort. The other had had $120,000 with him, but had buried it during the fight, marking the spot. As we have no more to do with these men, it may be said here that the latter recovered his money later, going for it under the flag of truce while the dead were being buried.

The only event of the day which had the power to overcome the resolution I had made to be cheerful, despite all the horror and disaster, occurred while we were quietly standing there, awaiting the final count, when we suddenly caught sight of an approaching body of rebels bearing a lot of captured flags, among which I recognized our own, all torn and disfigured as it was, the very scars enabling the recognition.

We can talk lightly of a flag as being only a distinguishing mark or emblem, but its true emblematic character is not realized until some occasion arises to impress upon us what is meant by the flag of our country.

When my gaze rested upon that shot-torn flag all the memories of its associations flashed through my mind in an instant, as well as the full realization of what its possession would mean to us and what its absence signified. Words cannot express my feelings. I looked around me for a moment, and, meeting the eye of one of our men looking at me, his countenance twitching and his eyes filled with tears, I broke down completely and sobbed like a child for a few minutes.

O ye men, who have only looked upon our country's flag as a pretty emblem! You, who only think of it as a necessary distinguishing mark among nations! And the many who never think of it as anything except a piece of bunting! Be ye once in a position where inability to possess that strip of colored fabric means privation, loss of liberty, separation from home and friends, possibly death, and you will then realize what it means to you as no language can depict!





After the rebels had paraded and counted us to their entire satisfaction, the prisoners were started on a march to the Washita river. The start was made late in the day, and we were marched fifty-two miles before a halt was ordered on the bank of the river, at a one-wagon ferry, about 4 o'clock the next afternoon. The commander of the forces in charge of the prisoners was a genial, plausible colonel named Hill, who was possessed of a red head and the ability to hold us together by assuring us of our parole when we arrived at our destination. He and his men were very friendly and treated us well; so we marched along, in high hopes of a parole and