I know, I’ve hardly even been back, but I must sadly announce a hiatus until after May 21st as I am going to be on vacation with family. Stay morbid while I’m away!
Today’s Starving Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Between February, 1864 and April, 1865 it is estimated that 45,000 Union prisoners were confined in the Confederate stockade, Camp Sumter, near Anderson Station, Georgia, forever to be remembered as Andersonville. Of that number, approximately 25,000 men survived their prison experience and returned home to tell their tale of suffering. It is unknown how many survivors, with their health and lives shattered, died as a direct result of their captivity after returning to civilian life. Close to 13,000 Union soldiers did “give up the ghost” at Andersonville, and it was the ghost of Andersonville that haunted the survivors for the rest of their lives.
The following is an excerpt from the account of Private George Weiser, who arrived in Andersonville on May 25, 1864.
And now it is the last week of August, we have had our hardest thunder storms in this month; it flooded the prison and washed off the filth and dirt; the ground was cold and damp and the men dying off by hundreds, the days were hot but the nights were chilly and all the men beg the Rebs to give them shelter for the sick. The Rebs sent us in two or three wagon loads of boards and we put up two sheds open in the front and closed in the back and ends, these sheds were only for the sick that was helpless which were thousands. Many of the sick men had nothing of any kind to cook with not even so much as a tin cup or a tin plate; many of the sick and well, both, were without anything to cook with for the Rebs gave us nothing to cook in and if the men could not borrow a tin cup or plate from their friends they had to eat their food raw. It was now the first of September, the sheds were completed and the sick was being carried to them. All that could walk was called well and all that could not walk was called sick, the four in my tent was able to walk up to this time. Kay was sick from eating raw meal, Hilyard was failing fast, MacIntosh and I were in good health. In the mud hole or tent behind my tent where three men lived, all were dead. The tent on the right side of my tent where two men lived, one was dead and the other one in good health. The tent on the left side of my tent where three men lived, two were dead and one in good health. This is the way things were about the first day of September, when we heard a strong rumor that the prisoners were going to be exchanged. About this time Phil Hilyard said to us, “do you men ever expect to get out of this prison alive?” I told him that I hoped to get out all right. He said that he was sure that he would die before he got home; he failed fast after this and at midnight on the third of September he died. Kay got so weak that he gave up all hope and said that he believed that he too would soon die. On the seventh of September the Rebs said we would be exchanged and they began to take the prisoners out of the prison. On the eighth of September we carried Kay up and put him in the shed; he was alive when I left the prison. On the ninth of September my old friend MacIntosh got uneasy and slipped out with another detachment and left me alone. On the tenth of September my detachment or thousand was ordered out. We were taken to the railroad and put in boxcars and started North. Now I was very sad indeed; my three comrades gone, my clothes ragged and torn, I did not know what to do. I soon found two men that had lived along side of me and were in the same car with me, one of these men was Frank Beegle of the Fifteenth regiment, New Jersey Vol., and the other was Orlando Gallagher of my regiment. Both of the men had a wool blanket but I had none; we had only one blanket at our tent and when Phil got sick we sold it to get him something to eat, so these men said that I should go with them and that they would let me sleep in the middle. This was very good news indeed to me, but still I was sad to think that we had left so many behind. It is said that thirty thousand died in Andersonville Prison Pen, but if each man had been truly counted the dead would number many more than fourteen, fifteen or even sixteen thousand.
Orland Gallagher’s Partner that he had at Andersonville died and left him with a silver watch valued at fifty dollars. I had a gold ring worth about two dollars which I had not parted with. On the fifteenth of September we landed at a place called Florence, South Carolina. Here we were taken from the cars and put in a large field and a strong guard put over us. About eight or ten thousand prisoners had now arrived here and it was two days since we had eaten our last food. I now traded off my ring for a peck of sweet potatoes, Orlando bought some meat and corn meal, Frank hunted up some pieces of wood and we soon had a good feed. The Rebs said that they did not know that we were coming and that nothing had been prepared to feed us, so that night and the next day made three days since we had food. The men began to starve and die and we commenced to carry the dead up and lay them on the ground near the guards, some of the guards would say “what’s the matter with that man.” We would say that the man has starved to death and every one of us will starve to death if we are kept without food another day. The Rebs thought that there were some truth to this and they started out through the country and gathered up three or four wagon loads of corn cake and sweet potatoes; this was divided with the men and the next day the Rebs began to give us our corn meal and meat regular. It was in this place that I saw three men lay on the ground and crying, “o’ for a spoonful of meal to save my life!” and the next morning I went to see if they were still there and the three men lay cold and stiff in death.
George Weiser eventually made his escape near Wilmington, N.C. on February 22, 1865. He died in 1928.
If you’re a long-time reader, you’ve probably seen my travelogue to Andersonville before, but if you’ve never taken a gander, perhaps you’ll find it subtly entertaining?