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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: 7

investigate; so, when we had marched just clear of our camp, we were halted, and a couple of officers went back, with drawn swords, and commenced prodding all piles of leaves and likely places of concealment. Soon the point of a sword penetrated through the boughs and leaves over the hole and to the fleshy portion of the anatomy of a man beneath them. A smothered yell and a convulsive spring revealed the place of concealment, and the poor fellows were hauled out and escorted with scant ceremony back to the crowd. Not a man of us but who wished that they had escaped; but the desire to forget our own misery was too great for our sympathy, and the crestfallen men were greeted with shouts, yells, laughter and all sorts of jokes. The guards viewed these attempts good-naturedly, but they had their duty to perform, and their vigilance put a stop to further attempts of this sort. Just before we reached the Red River a young fellow suddenly made a magnificent leap, clearing the fence by the side of the road, and ran like a deer toward a neighboring clump of timber and underbrush. Several shots were fired at him, but he dashed on and gained the timber, two guards following him into it. A short time after the guards came back and said they had killed him, but I afterwards learned of his escape and return to his home.

It is worthy of note that I had become rather popular with our rebel guards, and that by an apparently strange method.

When we were first captured I had made up my mind to make the best of a bad job, and had, therefore, lost no opportunity to be sociable with our captors, while my natural tendencies led me into conversations of raillery and criticism whenever a chance was offered. The desire to forget unpleasant reflections increased both my desire to talk and my ability to do so, and, during the march, I was constantly moving about among the prisoners, interviewing the guards, finding out all I could learn and discussing the situation of the country with every rebel who would talk to me. It had soon become apparent to me that nearly all our guards were not only sociably inclined, but rather disposed to enjoy my comments upon the Confederacy, and the daily talks and discussions, in which I freely gave vent to my ideas, were at once the cause of many fears for my safety, among my comrades, and of increasing popularity among the rebels. The boys held their breath on many occasions, expecting me to be shot for my impudence and candor, reproving me for it as they had a chance; but, whether because the rebels liked criticism, or liked the way in which it was made, I was sought out by them and encouraged in my talks, receiving many tokens of friendship.

One day, as we were wearily plodding along, a strange-looking figure rode up beside me and opened up a conversation. The rider was an ungainly, poorly-dressed, ugly specimen of a country doctor, and his mount was one of the sorriest-looking steeds to be seen in a day's journey among many poor specimens of horseflesh. This man rode along the line, examining the prisoners with an air and look which were gall and wormwood to us. For some reason best known to himself he selected me as his intended victim, and, as he rode up beside me, I was saluted with some remark about d——d Yankees, which brought forth a tirade of raillery from me, in which I expatiated very fully upon stay-at-homes, and negro equality as I knew it to exist in the South. The man was furious, but the several guards within hearing nodded and grinned when I looked toward them, and one of them got close enough to murmur:

"Go it, Yank! Give him h——l!"

The man finally rode off, and I forgot all about the matter, until at noon, when we halted, and one of my fellow-captains came up to me, in a flutter of excitement, and gave me the pleasant intelligence that he had heard them talking of hanging me to the next tree. I did not believe it, and, as the next tree was out of sight ahead, my reception of the information was of a careless nature. It turned out later that the doctor had demanded that I should be hung as one of the blackest-hearted villains he had ever heard talk, and that an investigation had caused him to be sent about his business. This is mentioned as an illustration of the fact that our guards were not looking for chances to shoot prisoners.

We finally reached the Red river, on the bank of which we stood in the rain for over two hours before we were ferried across, and marched through the main street of Shreveport on an old plank road. The whole town turned out to see us, but we were a hard-looking crowd to put on exhibition, yet they halted us for a much longer time than was desirable, while the citizens satisfied their curiosity about Yankee prisoners.

Here I met a rebel major, Lazwell, from Iowa.

After our inspection by the natives we were marched beyond the town to a place called Four Mile Springs, where we camped for the night in the rain, and rested as well as we could upon the soil of white clay, which ornamented our persons and showed many evidences of attachment.

When we again started it was with the knowledge that our destination was a stockade at Tyler, Texas, and all hopes vanished save those based upon the prospect of a long imprisonment.

During the march all our boys were constantly regretting that we had made no attempt to escape, and calling themselves idiots for being hoodwinked by the clever Colonel Hill and his talk of parole.

To show the current ideas of Confederate money it will be appropriate to relate an incident of this journey to Tyler:

One day, while we were halted for rest and water, two rebel officers commenced to talk "hoss swap." After each had made a careful examination of the other's horse, one said: "Well, Captain, you'll have to boot me." "All right, Kunnel," said the captain; "how much do you want?" The "kunnel's" answer made me gasp for breath. "Give me a thousand dollars, Captain, and it's a go." "No, that's too much," said the captain; "I will give you five hundred." "All right," said the "kunnel," who evidently thought five hundred "dollars" a small matter of difference in a "hoss swap," "strip your hoss." In the meantime I, with others, had looked the horses over with considerable care and could see but little difference in value between them; they were both very much alike—stout, pony-built sorrels, and in Iowa would have sold for from $75 to $80 in greenbacks.

Just at this time a rebel officer rode by on a beautiful little dapple "dun" pony; he was pacing along at a fine rate, and called forth many expressions of admiration. One of the officers remarked: "The kunnel got a big bargain in that hoss; he done paid only $5000 for him." This horse may have been worth $100 in greenbacks. I had never seen the relative values of the two moneys so well illustrated before.

 

 


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