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2nd Vermont Infantry
As experienced by one who spent thirteen
months in Richmond "black hole," Charleston
jail, Castle Pinckney, Columbia jail,
Richmond hospital, Salisbury prison, Bell
Island, and a few other holes.
By Capt. J. T. DREW
THE CALEDONIAN: DECEMBER 26, 1862
From Manassas to Richmond:
Manassas was one vast Hospital. In front of half a dozen houses were piles of legs and arms that would fill a dozen carts. Broken down wagons, gun carriages and ambulances, shattered guns, tattered flags. And mangled men were lying in every yard and under every tree, and beside every fence. All these things had been hastily brought from the field, as they feared another advance of our army the next day, not dreaming we were whipped.
Every one who spoke of the fight told of the awful carnage made by our artillery. A Captain of a Mississippi regiment told me he was the only officer left on the right wing of his regiment, and that he went into battle with 74 men, and came out with 14. Said he, "Had you held on one hour longer, we could not have saved our army As it was we shall not be able to do anything for a month." All declared McDowell a good fellow, and said he would not feel very badly as he was at heart a Southern man.
They seem to have a great hatred to Col. Wilcox. Acting Brig. Gen. a Colonel said of him: "D--n him; he tried to get Michigan to put all her available forces in fighting them as long ago as we talked of seceding. If all the Northern states had followed his advice, they would have cut our throats, for fear we would secede": They said Gen. Beauregard had his horse killed under him, and came near going himself. They showed us his bloody saddle and some of his horse's mane. I told the little pompous lieutenant who was showing it, there was one lock in Beauregard's head that all the ladies north wanted. "Ah!, what one is that?" said he. "The scalp lock" answered a grim lieutenant from Wisconsin before I could reply. But it was all the same, as the lieutenant and myself were thinking of the same thing.
It was in Beauregard's barn I first met Hon. Alfred Ely, M.C. The Hon. Alfred was decidedly unpleasantly situated. He was, however, promised that when we were all hung he should have the honor of the first ascending the platform; Consoling to the tired and hungry member of Congress, wasn't it?
At 9 o'clock on Monday morning (July 22d) we were marched for the cars to be sent to Richmond. On our way we were hooted by the rebels, and Capt. (James A.) Farrish, 79th N.Y., was set upon by a ruffian with a pistol, who took him for Gen. O. B. Wilcox. But as the officer in charge of us was a soldier every inch of him, he soon put down this kind of annoyance. The officer was Major Brandos, of New Orleans, and a nobler hearted fellow, than he never got into bad company.
All along the road to Richmond, hundreds of people came out to see the "Yankees'" "Whats yer come ye'or for"? "Did y'r think you uns could subjugate we uns"--" How bout old Abe now", "How bout the nigger?", and a thousand like expressions came from the excited crowd.
Little was said on our side. One Lieutenant Clark from Maine, politely invited him to go to "the place" and Capt. Farrish offered to talk when they would use decent English. The mildest wish I heard any of them express was that we might be "skinned alive," a death they have doubtless often their niggers to.
Richmond was gloomy in spite of the feverish joy their victory brought. Want, grim, ghastly want, was there; the lean and hungry look was in the faces of the poor; the long, bony arms and skeleton fingers, and wolfish eyes of ragged men and women, told of poverty, uncared for by charity, and left o hunt up her twin sister Despair.
There was another look the city had. One of guilt. No matter how loud were the shouts, or how deep the boom of cannon to commemorate the victory, yet on every face stamped with intelligence there was a look of doubt, a dread of something yet to come, a look that told that conscience had not left them wholly free from her scrounge --- a look that said " On that the end was here; On that the blood could sink to earth; without such hideous cries for vengence; On for light to seed down into the pit that yawns before is".
The tobacco warehouse in which we were confined was about 80 by 40 feet; we had half of one story. It was dirty and disgusting. We had no benches, chairs or beds. My own cot, give me because I would not go to the hospital and was too sick to stand up, was the only one in the room. The rest slept on the floor with blocks of wood for pillows. They fed us in two tubs, beef in one, bread in the other. The first night one man had his leg run through for smoking after lights were ordered out, and the guard fired three times in among the prisoners, one ball going in the heal of a boot under Col Corcoran's head. This was when the officer were in the garret; they were next day brought to the lower floor. For the first three weeks we were treated tolerably well, and allowed the papers. Many came in to visit, among them Gen Wigtall, who joked Hon A. Fly, M.C. very severely. He asked if we were satisfied now, and some one said "yes" and called him "a man puppy to come in here and abuse prisoners." But in justice to the General, let me say he was drunk.
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Transcribed by Deanna French.