Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whatever Happened to the Electric Map at Gettysburg?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I miss the electric map. The first two times I ever went to Gettysburg I made sure to keep a time slot open to catch the show...it all its glory. The original map dates back to the 1930s, it was refitted and updated in the 1960s, and entered the National Park Service in the early 1970s. It was spectacular it its simplicity...harnessing all the technology of the mid-twentieth century: multi-colored light bulbs. Millions of people have been charmed by the direct and well paced, if somewhat quaint, narration. I couldn't get enough of it.

In April 2008, under the direction of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latscher, the map closed to the public. Here is what he had to say to the Gettysburg Times concerning his decision:

“My personal reflection, when I first saw it in the 1990s, was that it was boring - I thought it took far longer than what it should have to tell the story that it was trying to tell, and it was telling that story in a fairly antiquated means,” said Dr. Latschar. “But there’s also another aspect to my opinion: I’m red-green-brown color blind…so I have a hard time distinguishing the lights. It’s something that people weren’t thinking about in the 1930s.”

So there you have it. And I still miss the map. Oh sure, it was a little cheesy - but thinking of it brings back fond memories of my first trips to the battlefield. Somewhere in my archives, I have a cassette tape of the narration. I need to dig that up one of these days and give it a listen. As far as I know...the map has now been disassembled and is in storage somewhere in Gettysburg. I asked around last year at the CWI conference, and nobody knew where it might be.

Feel free to chip in your opinions on the map...good or bad.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Does this Shirt Trivialize Soldiering?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Honestly, I haven't made up my mind yet. Sure, there is always room for levity, as evidenced by many of the posts right here on Cosmic America. But this image - as preposterous as it is, got me thinking. Yes...these are cats in Civil War combat regalia. Now I have encountered more than one cat for whom killing seemed a particular gratification. But to illustrate cats as Civil War combat soldiers seems a little on the side of perverse. Perhaps...it may indeed be a trivial representation of the men who fought, struggled for their lives, and died in that war.

Try to imagine the color-bearing cat hit by a dozen or more MiniƩ balls as he led his regiment into a withering fire, or the musket-armed cat lying disemboweled on the ground screaming in agony for his mother, or the musician cats torn to pieces by exploding shells. This was the reality for those who marched into the fray - but it wouldn't make for such a cute t-shirt.

Maybe I am making way too much of this....but maybe not. What do you think?



Monday, January 23, 2012

Remembering Race and Reunion: Ten Years Later – Some Comments on a Review

Those of you who read the web component of the Civil War Monitor this week will undoubtedly have by now seen Brian Matthew Jordan’s thoughtful and compelling look back at David W. Blight’s Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American Memory. Ten years after Race and Reunion got us all thinking about how the Civil War generation remembered the conflict, says Jordan, Blight’s work still resonates. Not so much for its power to provide the last word on Civil War memory, but rather for the groundbreaking path it so eloquently cleared for a host of those (myself included) who directed their scholarly interests toward memory studies.

Race and Reunion was one of two books that convinced me to pursue a career as a historian (I’ll let you guess what the other one was….get it right and I’ll send you an autographed 8X10). But not exactly because I thought Blight got it all right. In fact, quite the opposite happened. Like many other historians have since discovered, It surprised me that those who killed each other in great profusion for four years could not simply let “bygones be bygones” while commemorating on the pedestal of shared racism. Sure enough, the historical record resounds with bitter reflection – from both sides...often with some aspect of the fight for emancipation at the center of what can best be described as a contested commemorative ethos.

Jordan reflects not only on the significance of Blight’s work, but also on the state of the field as it has grown over the last decade, suggesting scholars – even those who have challenged Blight’s thesis – owe a great deal to this monumental achievement of intellectual history. Noting that a handful of historians (again…myself included) have reconsidered the implications of the emancipationist cause in post-war celebrations, he sees the fight for emancipation making a turn back into memory studies – not to lament its disappearance in the commemorative literature, but to do precisely the opposite – and reveal veterans’ persistent efforts to highlight this highly contentious strand of commemoration.

But Jordan’s conclusions offer a cautionary tale. By repositioning slavery at the heart of the conflict, are we running the risk of creating some sort of “morality play that we tell and re-tell in an effort to exorcise white guilt?” Perhaps – but as long as we remember that from a Union perspective, a sense of what historian Thomas J. Pressly called a “moralizing self-righteousness” pervaded the commemorative vernacular – then, remembering the emancipationist cause does not boil down to a one-dimensional “good” war but rather another way, coupled with the memory of treason, to stick it to the Rebs for trying to create a slave-holding republic.

Jordan’s own work on the trauma of the Civil War will certainly be another valued addition to the growing collection of scholarly works denoting the various ways Civil War soldiers remembered the war. Like the recent work of John Neff, who reminds us that Union veterans had a hard time forgetting a war in which so many of their comrades were killed, Jordan will undoubtedly shed light on yet another troubling roadblock to reconciliation.

From where I sit – I see a lot coming down the pike in terms of the Civil War and memory studies. I would like to see more people make the distinction (if there is indeed one) between “reunion” and “reconciliation.” Scholars, including Blight, often conflate the terms. I see them as related, but not the same thing. I grapple with this in my own upcoming book – and I would like your thoughts as well. So feel free to chime in.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

For his 205th birthday - Robert E. Lee: A Tragic Figure in the American Experience (redux)

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I have finally sat down to watch The American Experience: Robert E. Lee. Being the avid fan of well-done documentaries, I must say that I was not disappointed - at least not for the most part. We are treated to a mighty fine cast of historians providing the analytical commentary including Peter S. Carmichael, Joseph Glathaar, Gary W. Gallagher, Emory M. Thomas and a number of other first-rate scholars. PBS provides the narration and additional analysis - and as it turns out, a link to a streaming version! So watch and enjoy right here on Cosmic America! Oh, and by the way - you might want to watch the video (if you haven't already) before you continue reading. I wouldn't want to blow the ending.

The emphasis of Robert E. Lee is a move away from the deity in bronze or marble man image that the mighty general has ascended to since his death in 1870. The program paints the Virginia aristocrat as an altogether human figure. A human with an almost obsessive devotion to duty above all else, even family. The film walks us through the life of Lee as a young cadet at West Point, as Winfield Scott's trusted staffer in the War With Mexico, through a religious conversion experience, and as an ardent Confederate nationalist. He is irritable during the 1862-63 winter, at one point humiliating a subordinate in front of others. He experiences a bout of melancholy when he learns of family tragedy, and he suffers from an incapacitating heart condition. In other words - a man with emotions, faults, flaws, idiosyncrasies, and illness...just what we might expect of any other man.

Except that this is Robert E. Lee - and the film is very conscious of letting us know that many - both in the North and South - saw Lee as infallible...a virtuous, honorable soldier in a noble cause.

But Lee is a man who failed. He failed on an epic scale and saw everything that he stood for crumble. No one knew this better than Lee himself. So ultimately, Lee is a tragic figure. A man who on one hand was as virtuous as one can be, but who on the other saw no real problem with slavery and led an army to preserve it. In 1865, his country is defeated, his fortune is gone, his beloved Virginia is in ruins, and his family is only a shadow of what it once was. He spends the few remaining of his life in bitter private reflection.

And thus my critique of Robert E. Lee. The general narration of the film has a somewhat apologetic, even sorrowful tone - it seems to empathize with a man who has lost everything because of a devotion to duty. Do we then walk away from this film feeling as though Lee deserved better than what he got? Even Lee himself once stated that he wished he had not chosen the life of a soldier. Should we wish the same?

Lee is among the most compelling figures in American history. His brilliance and military acumen deserve accolades. But many have a difficult time reconciling this with the fact that a man of such great virtues committed treason against the nation he swore to protect - as does Robert E. Lee.

The film seems to poke a little at this nagging problem. The opening segments - "Lee" reading his pledge of allegiance to the United States as a young army officer bookended by a closing segment of a much older "Lee" reading his oath of loyalty to those same United States suggest that we should think more about his commitment to the national state.

In the end this is the real tragedy - that Lee, with all the promise of a brilliant career, cast his lot with what U. S. Grant would call "the worst cause for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse." One could argue that he stood up to be counted in utter disregard of his devotion to duty - and thus turned his back on his nation and indeed - himself. In this the film only makes slight inroads - ones that perhaps are left for a future documentary.



Monday, January 16, 2012

Office Hours: How to Fire a Civil War Musket

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Today's question, or rather - request, comes from Price in Alabama (my home state..Roll Tide!!). Price wanted me to demonstrate the firing a of Civil War era musket. Well....I do not own one, so I can't really do it myself - I believe Price thinks I am an reenactor, which I find curious. Thanks be to Youtube! I found Mike the NPS ranger at Fort Pulaski Georgia giving a splendid demonstration complete with the proper commands.

Now from what I understand, a good soldier could get off three aimed shots in a minute. Seems like a tall order to me, especially when everything around you is exploding. But what do I know? See you next time on Office Hours - and keep the questions coming. I answer all of them...and I might just feature yours right here!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Gouverneur K. Warren Monument at Gettysburg

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

The other day, I posted this picture on my Facebook page and promised to give a shout out to all those who could tell me who it was. So congrats to Ray Ortensie, Scott MacKenzie, and Robby Colby. An honorable mention goes Vicki Gramm, who new where the monument was. And a very special shout out to Coni Constantine....no, it is not Grover Cleveland - but keep at it, sooner or later I'll post a picture of his statue :)

Once upon a time, before Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain became the patron saint of Little Round Top (thanks to Shaara, Burns, Maxwell), the hero of this notable knob was none other than Gouverneur K. Warren - the Army of the Potomac chief engineer who thought it might be a good idea to extend the army's line south of the III corps position and saw to it that some troops were placed there in force. Arguably, his move prevented Longstreet's Confederate I corps from turning the Union left flank. Nice work, G!

Below is a transcription of the monument dedication - by James B. Fiske, Pres. 5th N. Y. Veteran Assn. (Duryee Zouaves). August 8, 1888

With feelings of awe and with memories of the relentless War of the Rebellion passing quickly through our minds, we are here to-day to perform a duty that is both sad and pleasant. Sad, because we regret the absence from life of him whose memory we this day seek to perpetuate. Pleasant, from the fact that it has, and very properly, fallen to our lot as survivors of the Fifth New York Volunteers to offer here for dedication this tribute to the spotless name and memory of Gouverneur K. Warren.

To you, gentlemen, who have passed through the furnace of war, our pilgrimage hither will be no source of wonderment. You fully understand the promptings of love born of patriotism, nursed by trials and dangers, and matured by the fire of battle.

We come as members of one family, and Warren was our brother. We served with him through all the periods of privation and hardship encountered by his command from 1861 until 1865. We are living witnesses of his devotion to the Union cause, and we can testify to his cool and intrepid bravery under many trying circumstances.

Gaines' Mill, Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, Hatcher's Run, and Five Forks are a few of the many fields on which we were led by Warren, and on which he gained imperishable glory and renown.

Our regiment, under his able management, reached a proficiency in discipline and drill, and demonstrated fighting qualities unexcelled by that of any regiment in the United States service during the War of the Rebellion.

We admired his zeal and ability; we gloried in his bravery; and we loved him for his patriotism and loyalty to our flag and country.

It is said " he needs no eulogy.'' Can it not, with equal truth, be said " he needs no monument?"

If we had not listened to the patriotic impulses of our hearts and had never given this memorial a thought, what then? Could it not be said to those who come in after years: "If ye seek his monument, look around!" These grand old hills, " Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; " the vale below, wherein was felt the shock of battle, and all the country circling round are one vast, everlasting monument to the name and fame of Warren.

But, honored Sir, would we be satisfied to take our departure to " that Home not made with hands," without leaving behind us some testimonial of his worth? I think not.

Who, then, could attend to this work more appropriately than those with whom he faced the summer's scorching sun, the winter's fiercest blast, the hardships, fatigues and dangers of a soldier's life.

It would consume too much of time to enter into all the details of this movement. It is sufficient to say that about two years ago the Veteran Association of the Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry, Duryee Zouaves, at one of its regular meetings determined to erect a monument to the memory of their old commander, Gen. Gouverneur Kemble Warren. Our own members contributed liberally, but were not financially able to do the work unaided. We, therefore, through the aid of the press, and through the medium of printed circulars, appealed to the public, more particularly to that portion whose knowledge of the general was gained through service with him in the army.

Subscriptions came slowly for a time, but many words of cheer and encouragement were received which buoyed our spirits, and at last we began to see the dawn of success. From East and West, from North and South, came messages filled with gems of historic truth and praise of Warren.

We shall ever remember with exceeding pleasure and gratitude the kindly co-operation of friends in Baltimore; and when our mental vision takes an easterly view we see as if by magic, seated tranquilly in Narragansett Bay, within hearing of the melancholy sound of old ocean's surge and roar, and defended by that grim old citadel, Fort Adams, Newport, the beautiful city by the sea. We, in thought, are led to its suburbs, to its place of graves; we stand in silent contemplation around the tomb of our beloved commander, and our hearts are filled with gratitude and our pulses beat livelier when we remember the generous hospitality of the friends in Newport, and their sturdy efforts to assist us, and to which we in a great measure attribute our success. They, and all others who aided us, have our heartiest thanks.

And now the memorial is here. Upon the rock on which it stands the immortal Warren stood, and by his quick forethought, his acuteness of perception, thwarted the enemy's movements which, if successful, would have brought disaster to our arms and incalculable injury to the nation.

Through you, Sir, we desire to extend to the gentlemen composing the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association our warmest thanks for the setting apart of this historic spot for the erection of this statue, and for the other courtesies extended us through our committee.



Friday, January 13, 2012

Yes...I Believe They Mentioned Slavery

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

There has been a lot of hullabaloo over at Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory concerning a recently discovered secession document. We are familiar with other secession papers - those that discuss in explicit detail the threat to the institution of slavery. Well, this document from Florida is consistent on the slavery position...and it has stirred up a fuss.

I would like to direct you to both the posts and especially the comment threads following. Click HERE for the January 10th entry discussing Florida's Declaration of Causes and HERE for the January 11th follow up piece featuring a video by historian Dwight T. Pitcaithley discussing Florida's secession.

I am intrigued by those who insist that this document (and others like them) are presented "out of context" and that southern states were not seceding to defend slavery. I am more than a little interested in what context they are thinking of.

So - if any of you out there can specify exactly what the southern states thought was more important to protect than slavery please do so. And if you say "their rights" you get a C-. I want to know what "rights" (from a white southern perspective) trumped the right to own slaves and why they would go to war to protect them. You can give me the top three...that would do just fine. Anyone who writes me off as a "revisionist" gets a D. I like to go straight to the source and let the secessionists do the talking when it comes to cause.



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

News From Fort Delaware

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I posted this letter with the others in my collection of the Civil War letters of Henry A. Allen - a Confederate POW who was captured at Gettysburg and spent the rest of the war moving from prison to prison.

I thought I might as well go ahead and post this particular one in both places - putting it here gives me a chance to add a few of my own thoughts. This is among the most telling letters in the collection in terms of Confederate nationalism and loyalty. Written from Fort Delaware Prison on April 28, 1865 - the letter to his wife Sarah illustrates Allen's steadfast determination not to sign any loyalty oath to the United States so long as a Confederate government existed or any Confederate army was in the field. (I wonder if he knew his wife had already signed one?)

Allen was in the minority here. As he mentions, two-thirds of the officers imprisoned at Fort Delaware, and apparently all the private soldiers, had signed the oath and were returning home. Read on...and be sure to check out the rest of the collection HERE. You might get a little insight in to Allen's character and begin to understand why such a vociferous veterans' organization such as the Immortal 600 might have been appealing to him later in life.

Fort Delaware Friday April 28th 1865

Dear Dear Sarah

Yours of the 24th came to hand last evening and gave me much pleasure to again hear from those so dear to me. Your letters always come although detained for a long time but I mistake I always get your letters in three or four days after they are mailed but mine must be some time getting to you as it is always ten or twelve days before I receive an answer therefore the detention must be caused here but I suppose the authorities have so many to examine that it cannot be helped. I am still enjoying fine health and suppose have increased twelve or fifteen pounds since arriving here. Yesterday John Lewis, Weaver & John Vermillion arrived here from Point Lookout where they had been since Mch 24th. My Col, Jim Robinson & Tobe Phillips I learn are at Johnsons Island. I expected Jim and Frances would go home I suppose all from P will do the same. I am sorry to say a large majority of our officers here are taking the oath or have consulted to do so as the rolls have been called and they have responded to the call the privates have all done the same numbering between three & five thousand. We have about twenty one hundred officers here and I suppose nearly two thirds will take the oath you will no doubt see some of our Portsmouth officers home soon as several have or will take it. I do not think the time has yet arrived for one to do so it is true I can do no good myself while in prison still we have yet the shadow of a government and while we have an army in the field I cannot think it right for me to do so. I know our course in hopeless and I expect to have to take the oath still I must wait I could not bear to be censured by my friends. I may be punished but I must abide this decision. I wrote to you a few days ago as I though you had not received my letter you could have sent the box although I do not know that I would have gotten it as none here have received since President Lincoln’s death. If you send if do not fail to send the permit on it. Kiss my dear little children for me my love to all home tell Jim to write to me I have a ring for you and one for Ida & Lucy. My love to all my friends & relatives good bye yours in love


Division 35

And there you have it. Allen sees the writing on the wall to be sure - I suppose he just wants to get the timing right.



Saturday, January 7, 2012

Waiting to Attack

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

As I continue to read about Gettysburg I keep finding little snippets of interest - various writings by the participants that help bring the battle to life. There is of course no way we can recreate the felt experiences shared by the soldiers who fought at Gettysburg, but through recorded testimony, we can get a glimpse of what veterans tried to impart about battle - about what it must have felt like to march into a fight, charge the enemy, or simply wait for orders to advance forward.

This short piece is courtesy of Decimus et Ultimus Barziza (my favorite name of any Civil War soldier on either side), captain and commander of Company C, 4th Texas Infantry, as he waited with his men to attack the Union III Corps at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Barziza and his men were by now hardened veterans, so they knew what they were in for. Nevertheless, the anticipation of battle must have been troubling...to say the least.

"The enemy's shells screamed and bursted around us, inflicting considerable damage. It is very trying upon men to remain still and in ranks under a severe cannonading. One has time to reflect upon the danger, and there being no wild excitement as in a charge, he is more reminded of the utter helplessness of his present condition. The men are all flat on the ground, keeping their places in ranks, and as a shell is heard, generally try to sink themselves into the earth. Nearly every face is overspread with a serious, thoughtful air, and what thoughts, vivid and burning, come trooping up from the inner chambers of memory, the soldier can only realize."

Barziza survived the battle and the war and in 1865 returned to Huston Texas where he headed a successful law practice until his death - after a long illness - in 1882.



Thursday, January 5, 2012

Give Hipsters a Chance

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I was inspired to write this post yesterday while waiting in line at the Petco on LaBrea and 3rd. The guy in front of me, who was waiting to purchase some dog treats, was in his mid-20s, stood about 5'6", weighed around 140, and sported a full beard. Not a nicely manicured respectable beard mind you, but a ratty long unkempt hipster beard. As he sped off in his Prius - probably to a coffee house or something - in occurred to me: hey - that guy totally fits the Civil War soldier profile...I mean - exactly.

Living in Hollywood, it also occurred to me that this could be a boon to the makers of period films - especially Civil War epics (we could always use more of those). More often than not, Civil War soldiers are portrayed by reenactors - with the notable exception of Cold Mountain - a film that used Romanian soldiers to portray Confederates. Many of these boys fit the bill pretty well...undernourished with rotten teeth (nice touch).

But what we see in most Civil War films are a lot of very well fed...often abundantly so...individuals who do not look like they could make a march from Culpepper to Gettysburg in late June if their lives depended on it. What's worse, a lot of them have ridiculous fake beards and are way too old to be Civil War soldiers. The film Gettysburg offers several examples of this - Longstreet's beard and the Rebel soldier on picket duty in the film's opening scenes come immediately to mind. 

So pay attention directors, producers, and casting agents. Why not head out to a Silverlake dive bar, coffee house, or dog park and put up a casting call flyer. I am sure some of those guys could use the cash, and if not, I am certain they would find the irony (if any really exists) in portraying people who grew beards with no sense of irony. So ironic it isn't...so unironic it is. Besides, I hear the 19th century is the new 21st century. So there should be bearded fellows around for a while to come.



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Henry A. Allen Update...Are Things Looking Up?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Those of you following along with the continuing sage of Confederate prisoner of war Henry A. Allen will know that he is about to be transferred from Fort Delaware to a new prison in South Carolina - Port Royal Harbor, to be precise. Allen anticipates a speedy exchange. You can guess from the unusual flourishes in his handwriting that he is happy about this prospect.

If this is news to you, check out Allen's letters to his wife HERE. I just posted one from August 1864. I don't want to give away too much - but I can tell you this. Allen's hopes will soon be dashed. His Union captors are about to use him and his fellow prisoners as human shields! War is indeed Hell .



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

War Horse: It's Hard to Look Cool in the Theater Lobby After Seeing This Film

Greetings Cosmic American!

Try as I might, I could not keep my composure during this film. Maybe I am just a sucker for animal movies (Marley and Me, anyone?). Fortunately, I had sunglasses to cover my puffy eyes as I exited through the theater lobby into the hustle and bustle of the Grove in LA.

For today, I am going to take a rare leap from the Civil War to the Great War...yeah I know, but sometimes I like to step outside of the box a little.

I suppose cynics will lambast War Horse as a trite boy-meets-horse gut-wrenching epic set against the backdrop of war-torn Europe...the near-perfect cinematic canvas for Spielberg to work his magic - his sublime period realism. Whatever. Cynics will be cynics.

I am not going to do that, but rather, highly recommend this film. Why?? Because of its historical accuracy with uniforms, equipment, all that?? No - one of my pet peeves is taking historical dramas to task for attention to accuracy (or lack there of) when the purpose of such films is to provide entertainment.

Maybe, being a Civil War historian, I just have a soft spot in my heart for stories about animals drafted into military service. Horses were killed by the thousand in the war I study - they came under fire as officer's mounts, artillery animals, etc. Animals did much the same work fifty years later - so I can relate.

What's more - War Horse offers a damn good story. I am not going to give away any plot developments or spoil the ending but - suffice to say - some things just matter...even in a world that has gone to shit. It's a valuable lesson for then, now, whenever.

So go see it - but think twice about taking the little ones. There are some pretty rough scenes.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Prison Life at Johnson's Island

Greetings Cosmic Americans! And....HAPPY NEW YEAR!

You all probably know that I have been working with a collection of letters written by Confederate POW Henry A. Allen to his wife Sarah. I was looking through my files on Allen this morning and found this newspaper article from the Valley Virginian (Staunton, Va.) dated April 8, 1868. This article deals primarily with how Confederate prisoners of war occupied their time while interned at Johnson’s Island Prison in Sandusky, Ohio - one of the several stops on Allen's "tour of Yankee prisons" between July 1863 and May 1865. While the author expressly states that he is not attempting to dwell on the harshness of prison-camp life, suggesting that these memories should be swept aside, he nevertheless attacks Stanton’s policy on exchange and mentions repeatedly the multiple privations suffered by Confederate prisoners. Following the descriptive passages is a lengthy poem written by a former prisoner (later killed in action) who similarly condemns the conditions of Johnson’s Island through the sarcastic repetition of the sentinel’s call, “All is well.” The captive protagonist only finds true liberty and an escape from the spirit breaking prison life upon death. You can find this article and many others on the Valley of the Shadow website - I transcribed this article for the site back in 2007ish.

“Little Gate,” cried the soldier on the top of the wall, and the sergeant in charge opened the door seven feet by two, and one hundred Confederate officers filed into the “pen” of Johnson’s Island. just as sun was going down one Sabbath evening, august 2nd 1863. “Fresh fish” was the cry that greeted us on the inside, and we were instantly surrounded by eager enquirers to know where we were from what was the news &c. many of us found comrades who took us into their “messes,” others found bunks where they could. Some of us who were wounded were conducted to a building which by way of distinction from the rest was called a “hospital,” but which was provided with neither medicine doctors nor diet.

There are perhaps few of our readers, who, if they can transmit to their children the honor of having served their country in her time of peril, that had not at some time during the contest, the misfortune to become prisoners of war. While the cartels of exchange were on operation this did not amount to more than a short absence from your command, but when Stanton, the heartless wretch persisted in his advice to Lincoln that it was “cheaper to feed the Confederates than to fight them,” all cartels were broken, they stopped fighting us, and for our rations were cut down would sustain life, the sutlers were taken out of the prison yard and the exercised over them into the “pen,” lest they should be bribed to smuggle in something to us

Johnson’s Island is about one mile long and half a mile wide, is situated in the mouth of Sandusky Bay as it enters Lake Erie, and three miles out from the city of Sandusky – On the Eastern end of the Island was a lot of about ten acres enclosed by a wall fifteen feet high, which we styled the “pen.” Inside were thirteen buildings arranged in two rows about eighty yards apart, these were the prisoners quarters, and on the wall a line of our “guardians” kept eternal peace, and every half hour during the night they cried the time with “all’s well."

This prison was set apart for the confinement of officers, and usually its population numbered about three thousand. Once inside all that was left was to kill time, and to do this all kind of enjoyment was resorted to, such as the making of trinkets from gutta percha and shell, with which the yankees could be bribed to supply us, reading, card playing, debating, playing at various games that gave us exercise &c. In winter we had snow battles with a thousand fighting on each side all day long. Gen Tremble on his crutches, Jeff Thompson and old gray headed veterans joined in the contest with the same spirit as if they were school boys. And at night we all in turn watched beside our sick comrades. How hard it was to see a strong man yield up his spirit in so desolate a spot, so far from home and loved ones, with no soft hand to smoothe his dying spirit, no one shed a tear of regret over the soul that was gone to God who gave it.

we were allowed to bury our own dead and we marked each grave with the name, rank, command, age, and date of death, and some were the most beautifully and tastefully executed – The principle events of the day were the calling of the rolls in the morning, the issuing of our scanty rations and the bringing in of our mail, and what joy it carried in our hearts when the cry of “Dixie man” was raised, well do I remember how I forgot all my hunger, all my nakedness, and all the troubles which surrounded me, when I held and a letter from a loved one away my native land. And at night we gathers quarters and discussed the news of the armies, as the yankee paper the prospects of exchange, and we over our old battles, and marches, and triumphs.

I will not tell you now of our suffering from hunger, from cold, and from the wanton cruelty of our that is all past and the memory of our pleasant intercourse with the fellow prisoners and fellow sufferers who are scattered over the country rises uppermost as the prison life. Friends there whose association prevented prison from being a Hell must always hold a warm place in the heart.

No one can imagine, except by experience, the joy with which on the 14th of March 1865, I again heard the sentinel cry “Little Gate,” and two hundred of us marched forth and once again breathed the free open air and how proud and almost bursting with gladness was the heart when eight days afterwards we once more stood on Dixie soil, and once more under our noble old leader Gen. Lee confronted defiantly the yankees who had for so many long, weary months kept a cruel and tyrannous watch over us.

Here are some verses written by a fellow prisoner: Lieut Howard C. Wright, of the 30th Va. Regt, from New Orleans, he was a gallant soldier and fell in the last fighting of the war.


Silence, deep, profound, mysterious,
Gains her sway with subtle power
O'er the mind She holds imperious
Court within this solemn hour,
And the sable sky is teeming
With her starry courtiers, gleaming,
And the vestal moon is beaming
There as well.

Silence over Erie's waters,
Restling in the ambient air:
Silence over prison quarters -
Melancholy silence there.
Hark! The spell at last is broken!
Shrill the cry by sentry spoken;
What may not those words betoken? -
"All is well."

In Half past ten o'clock! and calling
"All is well!" Ah, whence that sigh?
'Twas like grief in cadence falling
from some o'ercharged heart close by;
Like a weary zephyr dying
Yet the sentries are replying
"All is well!"

From you light house comes a glistening
Like a ray of hope it seems
Eager hearts to false hopes listening -
Hope that only comes in dreams.
Oh that hope of home returning!
Hoping on and with a burning,
Feverish fire of ceaseless yearning.
"All is well."

See - a bridge of silver glossing
Spans the lake from shore to shore;
Eager fancy o'er it crossing
Seeks to wander evermore -
Seeks to stroll 'midst childhood's flowers,
'Midst affection's changeless bowers,
Or with love in moonlight hours,
"All is well."

But the present still intruding,
With its harsh, repulsive truth,
Comes unbidden here, excluding
Sweetest dreams of buoyant youth;
Sweetest dreams forever fleeting,
Fancy's self forever cheating,
And the sentry still repeating
"All is well."

"All is well!" The prisoner sleeping
In his bunk so rude and bare
See an aged mother weeping,
Hear a young wife's whispered prayer.
"All is well!" While hopes forsaking
Leaves behind it only aching;
"All is well?" - While hearts are breaking,
"All is well?"

"All is well!" A spirit tiring
Of its chains will soon be free;
Yes, a captive now expiring
Soon shall find his liberty!
"All is well ! - A soul is fleeting -
Angels hover round with greeting;
And the sentinel's repeating,
"All is well!"

Peace and a happy and prosperous new year to you!