Thursday, January 19, 2017

Brigadier-General William F. Bartlett to Colonel Francis W. Palfrey, September 20, 1864

Libby Prison Hospital,
Richmond, September 20, 1864.

It was a happy surprise to me to get your letter of the 2d, a day or two since. It came through by the last boat It is the only letter I have had, excepting one from home (August 3d), since I was captured. You didn't think when you wrote, telling me of Arthur's capture, that we should be sitting vis-a-vis partaking the frugal meal together, when it reached me. Such was the case. After I had been here in hospital five or six days, I received a scrap of paper on which was written a hasty salutation from Arthur. Imagine my surprise, not having heard of his misfortune. As I was expecting to go by the boat which went the next day, I asked to have him allowed to come down and see me. He came the next morning, just as I was going. I left with him all the money, etc., that I had, and bade him good-by. After going to the boat in ambulance, and getting nicely on board, an order came from Colonel Ould that I must go back to prison. I could not go until General Walker was sent up, etc. There was nothing to be said. I could not help thinking that it would at least have been considerate in Ould to have spared me the disappointment of going down on board the boat, to return again to prison, when he had no intention of letting me go. When I came to Richmond from Danville and reported to him, he said I was “to be sent North by first flag of truce boat,” and so endorsed the order sending me here. Nothing was said about its depending upon Walker's coming up, and I believe that was an afterthought. It was a sad disappointment to come back within these prison walls and bars after getting so far on my road to liberty. I looked forward then to the next boat, but was doomed to disappointment again.

I hope the next one, which will be here the last of this week, will bring Walker and take me away. Indeed I hope more than I expect. If I was well, I should not be so impatient, and am not so anxious now as when I was so very ill. The Surgeon at Danville recommended that I be exchanged, as I was in a critical condition, and “if I recovered would not be fit for duty for many months.” I am safely through, though, thank God. The thought of dying there in that hospital, with no one to speak to, not a single officer of our army in the place, no one to whom I could trust either effects or messages, was pretty hard to bear. I shall have much to tell you when we meet, which time, I pray, is not far distant. It is a great comfort to me, having Arthur here. He is shamming sick in order to stay here in hospital, where he is of course much more comfortable than “in quarters.” He is very well indeed, and in excellent spirits. I am very anxious to hear from home of many persons, especially Macy. I heard that he was seriously injured internally by his horse falling on him, and Patten has lost a leg! I am very sorry for him ; hope it is not above the knee. Poor Charlie Peirson, his death was very sad. I fear there must be others that I have not heard of yet.

I write this to send by some officer who goes by the next boat. I don't know whether letters sent through the regular channels reach you. They certainly do not reach us. This is contraband, but can easily be smuggled inside a man's coat-lining. I fear you will have trouble in deciphering it. I shall write mother by this boat, but you might let them know that you hear from me in case theirs should miscarry. I am doing comparatively well, remember, and am ready to endure it as long as may be necessary. My experience, I suppose. wouldn't have been considered complete without this phase.

Remember me to any who have not forgotten me.

Ever yours,
Frank B.

SOURCE: Francis Winthrop Palfrey, Memoir of William Francis Bartlett, p. 139-42

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