Saturday, May 21, 2011

Captivity and Google Books

All of the prisoners taken captive in the Battle of Belmont were sent to Tuscaloosa via Mobile, Alabama then to a Camp Oglethorpe in Macon, Ga.  Of this trip, Andy Felt who was a well known newsman of the time, writes:

“That camp was another name for Hell with a big capital H.  It was a place of torment.  Major Rylander had charge.  He was not a soldier, He was a bushwacking, cowardly “home guard.”  He was not “a man” but simply a “thing” in boots and spurs.  He had no heart and only an apology for a gizzard.  He is probably still living.  The Devil wouldn’t accept him, no bullet could find him and no alligator would eat him.  When thinking of Camp Oglethorpe I try to exercise a Christian spirit, but its memories make me feel like the Devil.

Hundreds of our brave fellows were literally starved to death.  Many were shot on the dead line.  The water was filthy.  The food would upset the stomach of a Hottentot.  The sand, the blankets, the clothing, the air, literally alive with vermin.  Several thousand prisoners were there that year, 1862, coming and going……….Amid all its horrors I never heard a company “B” man utter a word that denoted failing courage.  Hope inspired each of them.  July fourth, 1862, will never be forgotten by those living who were there in Camp Oglethorpe that day.  The boys grouped together and sang the Star Spangled Banner and America.  They entered into the spirit of the glorious day.  They were in bondage but the spirit of freemen burned within them.

From there they were taken to Libby Prison in Richmond, Va.  
The food given to the sick and the well would nauseate a carrion crow.  After a rain the sick were taken from cattle cars and laid between railroad ties to dry.  Andy Feldt knew personally twenty men who walked to the “dead line” to be shot rather than endure in prison.
  Andersonville was not established until 1864.
William was a man of prayer at home and his petitions were a rich feast to his hearers and full of scripture.  He never lost his Scottish accent and never failed to rebuke kindly but faithfully the vices that surrounded him in camp, and it was never found that he lost by this means, any friendship of his comrades.  Some of them took sweet counsel with him in Heavenly things.  The story was told of how the men were dying for water.  William, upon seeing the men walking to the “dead line” to be shot, called them together for prayer, asking for water.  As the story goes, an hour after their prayer, the rain came and gave them the desperately needed water.  Later a spring opened from the ground and they had running water.
They were in prison one year and one week and had no change of clothing.  When the war was over the prisoners were taken to Washington to be mustered out.  They wore the same clothes they had arrived in by then only rags and tatters.  Most were so ill they could not walk and there was only one wagon to convey them.  William got off the wagon and gave his place to those he felt were worse off than he was.  He was one of only 2 or 3 who were able to walk the gangplank when liberated from Libby Prison.  Shortly after obtaining his freedom he ate some food, but because of the condition of his body, was unable to consume good food in any amount and he took sick and died 3 days later in Annapolis, Maryland.  

Not long ago, I attended a class on Google and learned about Google Books.  When I went searching I found a book, "History of the Seventh Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War"

In this little book was a chapter written by Andy Felt wherein he describes the conditions and the treatment of the prisoners.  He also mentions William Tannahill and was with him when he died.


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