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6th Vermont Infantry
Letter to the Editor
Letter from John T. Drew.
[The following letter to the editors of the Burlington Free Press, is from Capt. John T. Drew, formerly of Barton, taken prisoner at the battle of Bull Run, and now confined as a prisoner of war in Columbia jail. We are happy to see that, like all Vermont boys, he is "grit" to the eyes:--ED.]
COLUMBIA, S.C., Feb. 14, 1862
DEAR FREE PRESS:
The thick fog which has for the past two weeks enveloped us, was yesterday swept away by a westerly wind, and the genial sun shines in a clear and serene sky. The little jail yard which has long been to muddy to walk in, again swarms with officers eager to stretch their legs on land once more. Last Sabbath we had another funeral. One more has been set free by death. Capt. Shiver gave him a good coffin, a military escort, and a quiet resting place. The goodness of heart that prompted this you will better appreciate when you learn how men have been disposed of in other places.
It is a strange coincidence that every one of our number who have died, have been buried on Sunday, and five of the six had letters arrive for them the day they were buried. And what seemed saddest, all those letters were full of hope and joy. One was from a mother to her only son, and breathed a prayer in every line for that son's health and safety.-Another was from a sister, whose unchanging love seemed to grow stronger by absence and time. I never realized how much misfortune makes us feel for another's sorrows till I saw officers and men, old and young, dropping a tear of sympathy over those letters, which, alas! Would only be answered by strangers!
The health of the men is generally good. Only ten sick. But if we remain here during the warm season, so many are crowded together in a small jail, that sickness and death to an alarming extent, must surely follow. We are rather more crowded here than at Castle Pinckney, and yet I like this place better. It was pleasant there, but-
'I only heard the reckless water roar-
Those waves that would not bear me from the shore;
I only marked the glorious sun and sky,
Too bright, too blue for my captivity."
Letters to some of the prisoners inform us that Hon. Alfred Ely, M. C., from New York, has the naming of those who are to be exchanged first. All very fine! After those get away who will be able in New York to further his interests he may possibly remember that there are other states represented. I am certain that a general exchange could be had at once, if Gen. Wool could be allowed to arrange one with Gen. Huger at Norfolk. There are many reasons why we are all painfully interested in exchanges which it will not do for me to mention. And if at times I seem impatient, you must not attribute it to a want of endurance, or an unwillingness to suffer privations and hardships, for I tell you these are trifles to other things that must be borne. We know that our comrades are in the field; but cannot tell how they succeed. We know that other nations are watching for a chance to strike to the heart of the young Giant Republic; but cannot tell how he is prepared to ward off the blow. And so we feel as though we were chained to a rock on some volcanic mountain, where we can feel the heaving of the earth beneath, and know that she is shaken from summit to base; and yet cannot know whether her consuming fires and crushing rocks fall on friends or foes. Oh, for one day to go out into the world of light, and learn how things stand!
Three officers have been exchanged from here since we came. Chills and fevers seem to be the general complaint here, but if we stop here many months longer we shall not have life enough to do the "shaking" with any sort of efficiency. "The bone business" has become quite profitable. Many of the men sell rings and other trinkets enough to buy all the tobacco, food and clothing they need. Men are constantly coming to the officers in charge of us for them to procure them a "Yankee curiosity." I went into the business for a while, and after layng by a competency-(of bone rings I mean,) I retired from the business. I "kill time" now by writing.
J. T. D.