The fact that Gen. Prentiss exercised the rare gift of oratory with which he is endowed, by making a speech to the people of Memphis, while a prisoner in that city, has been alluded to by some of the papers, but none have given the words he uttered. – Some men, who recently escaped from Memphis, were present when the voluble General delivered himself, and thus, they say he talked:
A few blackguard endeavored to create an excitement, when Gen. P. exclaimed: “I am a prisoner of war, it is true; but if I speak at all, I will speak my mind.” (Great applause and some hisses.)
“Hiss on you vipers! It is your time now, but mine will soon come. We have, with 75,000, whipped your army of 125,000 under your best General. And in less than one month the stars and stripes will float over this city.” (Cheers.) “Union men and women of Memphis, take courage! Get your American flags ready. You will soon need them all.”
Here the Provost Marshal of Memphis interrupted him, and said: “General, I can not permit you to talk so.” Gen. P. replied, “Sir, you must excuse me; but you see I am among friends. Yes, thank God! to the immortal honor of my command, be it known, they were the first to pull down the greasy, filthy old rag. I glory in that act. You promised to whip us five to one. Now, I am part Yankee, and I say I guess we have whipped you two to one, and can do it all the time.” Here he was again interrupted, when he remarked: “You called on me for a speech; I am giving you one – the only words of truth you have heard for months. Look how cowardly your Generals ran at No. 10, and left 300 or 400 prisoners there entirely unprovided for. What do your leaders care for you. They have basely deceived you.” (Loud cries of that’s so.) Here he was told he could speak no longer, and as he jumped down from the box on which he stood, some one cried out three cheers for Gen. Prentiss. They then gave him three rousing cheers, and accompanied him in a crowd all the way to the cars. He was sent to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Saturday Morning, May 17, 1862, p. 2