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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: 6

with excuses for the lack of food during our journey. The prisoners were ferried across the river that night, and we burrowed in the sand on the river bank for sleeping accommodations until morning, but were awakened about 11 o'clock by a call for dinner. We had received nothing to eat up to this time, and had no objections to the hour selected, but we were regaled with cornmeal mush, the quantity apparently being determined upon with a due regard for the supposed ill-effect of too much food in the case of men who were extremely hungry. The negroes who accompanied us were more hungry than we, and the rebels were so careful of them as to give them nothing to eat at this halt.

I found out afterwards that their apparent fear of overloading hungry stomachs developed in an exact proportion to the scarcity of food among the rebels, and it is but justice to say that they exhibited the same regard for their own health that they did for ours.

The next morning we breakfasted upon the memories of our meal of the previous night, and at this time I noticed a pitiful scene. Several negro children, scarcely old enough to talk, were going from fire to fire and poking among the ashes with sticks, their great eyes rolling around at us as if they were committing some depredation. On closer observation, it was found that ears of corn had in some way gotten into the possession of some of us, and that they had been roasted in some of the fires. The children were hunting for the stray kernels of corn left in the ashes, and were greedily eating them when found.

While waiting here for the wagon train to cross the river, several of us went down to bathe. The lack of blankets and clothing among us had been a hardship, and seeing the wagons crossing put an idea into my head. Determining to test the scheme, I took one of my companions with me and hunted around until we found Colonel Hill. He was as busy as a bee, here, there and everywhere, and practically doing all the work himself. Awaiting a favorable moment, we approached him, I assuming a matter-of-fact manner, and, in a business-like way, saying:

"Colonel, our blankets and things are in one of those captured wagons and we need them. Can you not send us under guard to look for them?"

"Certainly, certainly. Here, sergeant, send a couple of men with these gentlemen, to help search the wagons and get their stuff for them," and he was off in a rush to hurry up the crossing of the train.

Two men were detailed to accompany us, with instructions to help us to get our things, and we started.

Going down the road into a strip of woods, and beyond a convenient curve, we waited until a wagon reached us from the ferry boat.

Our guards halted the lumbering vehicle, which was heavily loaded with captured goods of all kinds, and told me to get up and see if I could find our stuff. The driver cursed and swore, but the leveled guns of our escort brought him to terms, and he got down.

I entered the wagon, and found a miscellaneous assortment of personal property, of which I appropriated all the blankets and clothing, as well as a number of small articles, throwing them out in a heap at the side of the road. In starting the thing my plan had been simply to get some few blankets and a coat or two, but the ready permission and able support had caused me to see the possibilities of the case, and I was now prepared for a wholesale business.

Dismounting, I said to the guards:

"It isn't all here, boys; we had a big lot. These little things we don't want as prisoners, so will just keep the blankets and clothes, and you can have the rest. Here comes the next wagon; there may be more of our stuff in it, so this fellow should be ordered to go on."

The two guards looked at me, then at the heap of plunder, then at each other, and broke into broad grins of appreciation and delight. The driver was ordered to move on, which he finally did, with many oaths and threats, but our escort was now as much interested as we, and we took our pick of the things in several wagons, until twenty blankets and numerous articles of clothing lay piled up beside a heap of small luxuries. We could have plundered the whole train so far as our guards were concerned, but there was a blanket for each two of my men, and, while the wagons were forced on ahead as fast as we finished inspecting them, it was becoming more and more likely that some officer would ride up from the ferry; so we desisted.

One of my appropriations was a very long linen coat, with a huge collar, enormous cuffs, and large flaps over the pockets, a relic of former days. This, and a large Confederate hat, I donned as we returned with our captured goods, and my appearance was the source of much amusement to the boys and wonderment to others. Until this attire was discarded I passed for a citizen prisoner, and many questioning remarks of an amusing character were overheard as I walked to and fro.

Late in the afternoon we were marched about three miles out in the country, and there we camped for the night, being well fed for the first time, but it being the first opportunity of the rebels to feed us well. Our meal was of ash cakes, made of dough rolled in leaves and baked in the ashes of the fires by the negroes. This was the first food given to the negroes with us, and, during the march, I saw a colored woman walking painfully along with a child in her arms and two small ones holding to her skirts, the fear of being killed if they fell behind having kept them up.

The next morning we were separated from the negroes and marched to Camden, which place, in the meantime, had been evacuated by General Steele, reaching there on Saturday morning.

Several days were spent here in arranging for a guard and in registering the prisoners.

The soldiers were all sent to an old cotton press, and there were robbed of what few things the admirable effort already made in this direction had allowed to remain in their hands, or, rather, concealed in their clothing.

Colonel Polk was provost marshal, and the officers and citizens were taken before him for registration. He asked the names, regiment, etc., of each, entering the replies in a large book. At last he came to a tall, fine-looking fellow, who stood on my right, and this young man gave his name—"J. J. Jennings, 5th Kansas Cavalry."

Colonel Polk laid down his pen and looked up, with a flushed face and swelling veins, blurting out:

"You're one of the d—d gang that burned my house and cleaned out my plantation; I've a notion to hang—no, you're a prisoner. Next!"

He resumed his pen and returned to his writing, but one could see that he harbored much resentment for a legitimate act of warfare which had happened to come home to him.

After we had been duly examined and registered we were sent to the cotton press, where the men were, and here we remained for several days, our promised parole not being forthcoming.

Finally, a sufficient guard was secured, and we were started off for Shreveport, the talk of the parole, having served its purpose, now being forgotten.

The march to Shreveport occupied about a week, and attempts to escape were numerous. Each night several men would get away by having comrades cover them up with leaves so that they would be left behind in the morning. I devised a scheme to capture our guards and liberate ourselves in a body, but most of the men were fearful of failure, and sufficient co-operation could not be secured.

One night, four men dug a hole beside the road and concealed themselves in it, being covered over with leaves and brush. The guards had missed so many by this time that they had resolved to