Showing posts with label Prison Escapes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prison Escapes. Show all posts

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: February 11, 1864

Night before last 109 Federal prisoners, all commissioned officers, made their escape from prison—and only three or four have been retaken! 

The letter of Mr. Sloan, of North Carolina, only produced a reply from the Secretary that there was not the slightest suspicion against Gen. W., and that the people of North Carolina would not be satisfied with anybody. 

Eight thousand men of Johnston's army are without bayonets, and yet Col. Gorgas has abundance. 

Governor Milton, of Florida, calls lustily for 5000 men—else he fears all is lost in his State. 

To-day bacon is selling for $6 per pound, and all other things in proportion. A negro (for his master) asked me, to-day, $40 for an old, tough turkey gobbler. I passed on very briskly. 

We shall soon have martial law, it is thought, which, judiciously administered, might remedy some of the grievous evils we labor under. I shall have no meat for dinner to-morrow. 

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 147-8

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 26, 1864

Gen. Lee recommends the formation of several more brigades of cavalry, mostly from regiments and companies in South Carolina, and to this he anticipates objections on the part of the generals and governors along the Southern seaboard; but he deems it necessary, as the enemy facing him has a vastly superior cavalry force.

The prisoners on Belle Isle (8000) have had no meat for eleven days. The Secretary says the Commissary-General informs him that they fare as well as our armies, and so he refused the commissary (Capt. Warner) of the prisoners a permit to buy and bring to the city cattle he might be able to find. An outbreak of the prisoners is apprehended: and if they were to rise, it is feared some of the inhabitants of the city would join them, for they, too, have no meat—many of them—or bread either. They believe the famine is owing to the imbecility, or worse, of the government. A riot would be a dangerous occurrence, now: the city battalion would not fire on the people—and if they did, the army might break up, and avenge their slaughtered kindred. It is a perilous time.

My wife paid $12, to-day, for a half bushel of meal; meantime I got an order for two bushels, from Capt. Warner, at $10 per bushel.

The President receives visitors to-night; and, for the first time, I think I will go.

Mr. Foote, yesterday, offered a resolution that the Commissary-General ought to be removed; which was defeated by a decided vote, twenty in the affirmative. Twenty he relied on failed him. Letters from all quarters denounce the Commissary-General and his agents.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 135-6

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: December 10, 1864

The grand change has come and a car load of prisoners go away from here to-day. Although the Bucks and myself were the last in prison, we are determined to flank out and go with the first that go. Our destination is probably Charleston, from what I can learn. We three will escape on the road, or make a desperate effort to do so, anyway. Can walk much better now than ten days ago, and feel equal to the emergency. Fine weather and in good spirits, although many here are tired of being moved from place to place. More guards have come to take charge of us on the road, and it looks very discouraging for getting away, & though “Dave” says we will make it all right Place great reliance in him, as he has caution as well as the intention to escape. So like Hendryx, and added to it has more practical quiet common sense. Eli Buck and myself acknowledge him as leader in all things. Now comes the tug of war.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 134-5

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: November 19, 1864

A car load went at about noon, and are pretty well thinned out. Over half gone — no one believes to our lines now; all hands afraid of going to Charleston. Believe I shall try and escape on the journey, although in no condition to rough it. Am going to engineer this thing to suit myself and have a little fun. Would like to be out from under rebel guard once more. When I can look around and not see a prison wall and a gun ready to shoot me, I shall rejoice. Have edged up to another comrade and we bunk together. Said comrade is Corporal Smith, belonging to an Indiana regiment. While he is no great guns, seems quite a sensible chap and a decided improvement on many here to mess with. The nights are cool, and a covering of great benefit. My being the owner of a good blanket makes me a very desirable comrade to mess with. Two or three together can keep much warmer than one alone. It is said that a number of outsiders have escaped and taken to the woods. Another load goes to-night or early in the morning. My turn will come pretty soon. Nothing new in our situation or the prospects ahead Food scarce, but of good quality. More go and I go to-morrow.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 118

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: October 19, 1864

Last night I talked with a guard while Mike Hoare went out of his tunnel and got away safely from the hospital. The guard was on the inside and I hobbled to where he was and engaged him in conversation and Mike crawled away. It seems that Mike learned of some union Irish citizens in the city and his idea is to reach them which he may do, as there are scarcely any troops about the city, all being to the front. Now I am alone, best friends all gone one way or the other. The only acquaintances here now are Land and Sergt. Winn, with whom I became acquainted in Andersonville. Not like my other friends though. It is said there are half a dozen hospitals similar to this in Savannah which are filled with Andersonville wrecks. They have need to do something to redeem themselves from past conduct. Don't believe that it is the Confederacy that is taking such good care of us, but it is the city of Savannah; that is about the way it is as near as I can find out.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 105

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: August 15, 1863

I learn an order has been issued to conscribe all commissary and quartermasters' clerks liable to military service. There will be, and ought to be, some special cases of exemption, where men have lost everything in the war, and have women and children depending on their salaries for subsistence; but if this order be extended to the ordnance and other bureaus, as it must be, or incur the odium of injustice, and the thousand and one A. A. Gr.'s, there will soon be a very important accession to the army.

Major Joseph B——, who was lately confined with over 1000 of our officers, prisoners, on Johnson Island, Lake Erie, proposes a plan to the Secretary of War whereby he is certain the island can be taken, and the prisoners liberated and conveyed to Canada. He proposes that a dozen men shall seize one of the enemy's steamers at Sandusky, and then overpower the guards, etc. It is wild, but not impracticable.

We hear nothing to-day from the enemy on the Rappahannock or at Fortress Monroe.

Our army in Western Louisiana captured some forty Yankee cotton-planters, who had taken possession of the plantations after driving their owners away. The account states that they were “sent to Texas.” Were they not sent into eternity?

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 15

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: July 12, 1864

Good order has prevailed since the hanging. The men have settled right down to the business of dying, with no interruption. I keep thinking our situation can get no worse, but it does get worse every day and not less than one hundred and sixty die each twenty-four hours. Probably one-fourth or one-third of these die inside the stockade, the balance in the hospital outside. All day and up to four o'clock P. M., the dead are being gathered up and carried to the south gate and placed in a row inside the dead line. As the bodies are stripped of their clothing in most cases as soon as the breath leaves, and in some cases before, the row of dead presents a sickening appearance. Legs drawn up and in all shapes. They are black from pitch pine smoke and laying in the sun Some of them lay there for twenty hours or more, and by that time are in a horrible condition. At four o'clock a four or six- mule wagon comes up to the gate and twenty or thirty bodies are loaded on to the wagon and they are carted off to be put in trenches, one hundred in each trench, in the cemetery, which is eighty or a hundred rods away. There must necessarily be a great many whose names are not taken. It is the orders to attach the name, company and regiment to each body, but it is not always done. I was invited today to dig in a tunnel, but had to decline. My digging days are over. Must dig now to keep out of the ground, I guess. It is with difficulty now that I can walk, and only with the help of two canes.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 85

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: June 23, 1864

My coverlid nobly does duty, protecting us from the sun's hot rays by day and the heavy dews at night. Have no doubt but it has saved my life many times. Never have heard anything from Hendryx since his escape. Either got away to our lines or shot. Rebels recruiting among us for men to put in their ranks. None will go — yes, I believe one Duffy has gone with them. Much fighting. Men will fight as long as they can stand up. A father fights his own son not ten rods from us. Hardly any are strong enough to do much damage except the raiders, who get enough to eat and are in better condition than the rest. Four or five letters were delivered to their owners. Were from their homes. Remarkable, as I believe this is the first mail since our first coming here. Something wrong. Just shake in my boots — shoes, I mean, (plenty of room) when I think what July and August will do for us. Does not seem to me as if any can stand it After all, it's hard killing a man. Can stand most anything.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 70

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: June 10, 1864

The whole camp in a blaze of excitement. Plans for the outbreak known to Capt. Wirtz. Some traitor unfolded the plans to him Thirty or forty pieces of artillery pointed at us from the outside, and stockade covered with guards who shoot right and left. Thirty or forty outsiders sent inside, and they tell us how the affair was found out. A number of the ring leaders are undergoing punishment. Hendryx has made his escape, and not been heard of since yesterday. It is said he went away in full Confederate dress, armed, and furnished with a guide to conduct him. Dr. Lewis died to-day. Jack Walker told us about his death. Capt. Wirtz has posted up on the inside a notice for us to read. The following is the notice:


Not wishing to shed the blood of hundreds not connected with those who concocted a plan to force the stockade, and make in this way their escape. I hereby warn the leaders and those who formed themselves into a band to carry out this, that I am in possession of all the facts, and have made my arrangements accordingly, so to frustrate it. No choice would be left me but to open with grape and cannister on the stockade, and what effect this would have in this densely crowded place need not be told.

H. Wirtz.
June 10, 1864

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 65-6

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: June 9, 1864

It is said that a grand break will occur soon, and nearly the whole prison engaged in the plot. Spies inform the rebels of our intentions. Rains yet.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 65

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: June 4, 1864

Have not been dry for many days. Raining continually Some men took occasion while out after wood, to overpower the guard and take to the pines. Not yet been brought back. Very small rations of poor molasses, corn bread and bug soup.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 64

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: May 16, 1864

Two men got away during the night and were brought back before noon. (Was going to say before dinner) The men are torn by the dogs, and one of them full of buck shot. A funny way of escape has just been discovered by Wirtz. A man pretends to be dead and is carried out on a stretcher and left with the row of dead. As soon as it gets dark, Mr. Dead-man jumps up and runs. Wirtz suspecting the trick took to watching, and discovered a “dead man” running away. An examination now takes place by the surgeon before being permitted out from under guard. I hear a number of men have gotten away by this method, and it seems very probable, as dead men are so plenty that not much attention is paid to them.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 58

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: April 30, 1864

Very small rations given to us now. Not more than one quarter what we want to eat and that of the poorest quality. Splendid weather, but too warm; occasional rains. The Flying Dutchman (Wirtz) offers to give any two at a time twelve hours the start, and if caught to take the punishment he has for runaways. The offer is made to intimidate those thinking to escape. Half the men would take the consequences with two hours start.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 53

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: April 26, 1864

Ten days since I wrote in my diary, and in those ten days was too much occupied in trying to dig a tunnel to escape out of, to write any. On the 21st the tunnel was opened and two fellows belonging to a Massachusetts regiment escaped to the outside. Hendryx and myself next went out. The night was very dark. Came up out of the ground away on the outside of the guard. We crawled along to gain the woods, and get by some pickets, and when forty or fifty rods from the stockade, a shot was fired at some one coming out of the hole. We immediately jumped up and ran for dear life, seemingly making more noise than a troop of cavalry. It was almost daylight and away we went. Found I could not run far and we slowed up, knowing we would be caught, but hoping to get to some house and get something to eat first. Found I was all broke up for any exertion. In an hour we had traveled perhaps three miles, were all covered with mud, and scratched up. I had fell, too, in getting over some logs, and it seemed to me broken all the ribs in my body. Just as it was coming light in the east we heard dogs after us We expected it. and so armed ourselves with clubs and sat down on a log. In a few moments the hounds came up with us and began smelling of us. Pretty soon five mounted rebels arrived on the scene of action. They laughed to think we expected to get away. Started us back towards our charnel pen. Dogs did not offer to bite us, but guards told us that if we had offered resistance or started to run they would have torn us. Arrived at the prison and after waiting an hour Capt. Wirtz interviewed us. After cussing us a few minutes we were put in the chain gang, where we remained two days. This was not very fine, but contrary to expectation not so bad after all. We had more to eat than when inside, and we had shade to lay in, and although my ancles were made very sore, do not regret my escapade. Am not permanently hurt any We had quite an allowance of bacon while out, and some spring water to drink. Also from the surgeon I got some elder berries to steep into a tea to drink for scurvy, which is beginning to take hold of me. Lewis is sick and can hardly walk around. His days are few. Have taken another into our mess, named Swan, from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Is a fresh looking boy for this place and looks like a girl.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 52-3

Friday, June 2, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: April 11, 1864

Dr Lewis is very bad off with the scurvy and diarrhea. We don't think he can stand it much longer, but make out to him that he will stick it through. Our government must hear of our condition here and get us away before long. If they don't, its a poor government to tie to. Hendryx and myself are poor, as also are all the mess. Still in good health compared with the generality of the prisoners. Jimmy Devers has evidently sort of dried up, and it don't seem to make any difference whether he gets anything to eat or not. He has now been a prisoner of war nearly a year, and is in good health and very hopeful of getting away in time. Sticks up for our government and says there is some good reason for our continued imprisonment. I can see none As many as 12,000 men here now, and crowded for room. Death rate is in the neighborhood of eighty per day. Hendryx prowls around all over the prison, bringing us what good news he can, which is not much. A very heavy dew nights, which is almost a rain Rebels very domineering. Many are tunneling to get out. Our tunnel has been abandoned, as the location was not practicable. Yank shot to-day near our quarters. Approached too near the dead line. Many of the men have dug down through the sand and reached water, but it is poor; no better than out of the creek.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 50

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: April 8, 1864

We are digging with an old fire shovel at our tunnel. The shovel is a prize; we also use half of canteens, pieces of boards, &c. Its laborious work. A dozen are engaged in it. Like going into a grave to go into a tunnel. Soil light and liable to cave in. Take turns in digging. Waste dirt carried to the stream in small quantities and thrown in. Not much faith in the enterprise, but work with the rest as a sort of duty. Raiders acting fearful. Was boiling my cup of meal to day and one of the raiders ran against it and over it went. Give him a whack side of the head that made him see stars I should judge, and in return he made me see the whole heavens. Battese, a big Indian, rather helped me out of the scrape. All of our mess came to my rescue. Came near being a big fight with dozens engaged. Battese is a large full blooded six foot Minnesota Indian, has quarters near [us], and is a noble fellow. He and other Indians have been in our hundred for some weeks. They are quiet, attend to their own business, and won't stand much nonsense. Great deal of fighting. One Duffy, a New York rough, claims the light weight championship of Andersonville. Regular battles quite often. Remarkable how men will stand up and be pummeled. Dr Lewis daily getting worse off. Is troubled with scurvy and dropsy. If he was at home would be considered dangerously ill and in bed, but he walks around slowly inquiring for news in a pitiful way. I have probably fifty acquaintances here that visit us each day to talk the situation over. Jimmy Devers, my Michigan friend whom I found on Belle Isle, Sergt. Bullock, of my regiment; Tom McGill, also of Michigan; Michael Hoare, a schoolmate of mine from earliest recollection, Dorr Blakeman, also a resident of Jackson, Michigan, a little fellow named Swan, who lived in Ypsylanti, Mich.; Burckhardt from near Lansing; Hub Dakin, from Dansville, Mich., and many others, meet often to compare notes, and we have many a hearty laugh in the midst of misery I dicker and trade and often make an extra ration. We sometimes draw small cow peas for rations, and being a printer by trade, I spread the peas out on a blanket and quickly pick them up one at a time, after the manner of picking up type. One drawback is the practice of unconsciously putting the beans into my mouth. In this way I often eat up the whole printing office. I have trials of skill with a fellow named Land, who is also a printer. There are no other typos here that I know of.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 47-8

Friday, May 12, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: April 7, 1864

Capt. Wirtz prowls around the stockade with a rebel escort of guards, looking for tunnels. Is very suspicious of amateur wells which some have dug for water. It is useless to speak to him about our condition, as he will give us no satisfaction whatever. Says it is good enough for us ------ yankees. I am deputized by half a dozen or so to speak to him as to the probabilities of a change, and whether we may not reasonably expect to be exchanged without passing the summer here. In his position he must know something in relation to our future. At the first favorable moment shall approach his highness. Prison is all the time being made stronger, more guards coming and artillery looking at us rather unpleasantly from many directions. Think it impossible for any to get away here, so far from our lines. The men too are not able to withstand the hardships attendant upon an escape, still fully one-half of all here are constantly on the alert for chances to get away. Foremost in all schemes for freedom is Hendryx, and we are engaging in a new tunnel enterprise. The yankee is a curious animal, never quiet until dead. There are some here who pray and try to preach. Very many too who have heretofore been religiously inclined, throw off all restraint and are about the worst. Tried and found wanting it seems to me. Those who find the least fault, make the best of things as they come and grin and bear it, get along the best. Weather getting warmer, water warmer and nastier, food worse and less in quantities, and more prisoners coming nearly every day.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 46-7

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: April 4, 1864

Same old story — coming in and being carried out; all have a feeling of lassitude which prevents much exertion. Have been digging in a tunnel for a day or two with a dozen others who are in the secret. It's hard work. A number of tunnels have been discovered. The water now is very warm and sickening.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 46

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: March 24, 1864

Digging a tunnel to get out of this place. Prison getting filthy. Prisoners somewhat to blame for it. Good many dying, and they are those who take no care of themselves, drink poor water, etc.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 43

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: February 24, 1864

Pemerton Building, Richmond, Va. — We are confined on the third floor of the building, which is a large tobacco warehouse. Was removed from the island yesterday. Was a warm day and it was a long walk. Came across the “long bridge,” and it is a long bridge. Was not sorry to bid adieu to Belle Isle. Were searched last night but our mess has lost nothing, owing to the following process we have of fooling them: One of the four manages to be in the front part of the crowd and is searched first, and is then put on the floor underneath and we let our traps down through a crack in the floor to him, and when our turn comes we have nothing about us worth taking away. The men so ravenous when the rations were brought in, that the boxes of bread and tubs of poor meat were raided upon before dividing, and consequently some had nothing to eat at all, while others had plenty. Our mess did not get a mouthful and have had nothing to eat since yesterday afternoon, and it is now nearly dark. The lice are very thick. You can see them all over the floors, walls, &C., in fact everything literally covered with them; they seem much larger than the stock on Belle Isle and a different species. We talk of escape night and day — and are nearly crazy on the subject. No more news about exchange. Papers state that Richmond is threatened, and that Kilpatrick's cavalry is making a raid on the place for the purpose of releasing us and burning the town. Unusual bustle among them.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 34