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    Introduction

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    Chapter 1
    The fifth part of a century almost has sped with the flight of time since
    the outbreak of the Slaveholder's Rebellion against the United States.
    The young men of to-day were then babes in their cradles, or, if more
    than that, too young to be appalled by the terror of the times. Those
    now graduating from our schools of learning to be teachers of youth and
    leaders of public thought, if they are ever prepared to teach the history
    of the war for the Union so as to render adequate honor to its martyrs
    and heroes, and at the same time impress the obvious moral to be drawn
    from it, must derive their knowledge from authors who can each one say of
    the thrilling story he is spared to tell: "All of which I saw, and part
    of which I was."

    The writer is honored with the privilege of introducing to the reader a
    volume written by an author who was an actor and a sufferer in the scenes
    he has so vividly and faithfully described, and sent forth to the public
    by a publisher whose literary contributions in support of the loyal cause
    entitle him to the highest appreciation. Both author and publisher have
    had an honorable and efficient part in the great struggle, and are
    therefore worthy to hand down to the future a record of the perils
    encountered and the sufferings endured by patriotic soldiers in the
    prisons of the enemy. The publisher, at the beginning of the war,
    entered, with zeal and ardor upon the work of raising a company of men,
    intending to lead them to the field. Prevented from carrying out this
    design, his energies were directed to a more effective service. His
    famous "Nasby Letters" exposed the absurd and sophistical argumentations
    of rebels and their sympathisers, in such broad, attractive and admirable
    burlesque, as to direct against them the "loud, long laughter of a
    world!" The unique and telling satire of these papers became a power and
    inspiration to our armies in the field and to their anxious friends at
    home, more than equal to the might of whole battalions poured in upon the
    enemy. An athlete in logic may lay an error writhing at his feet, and
    after all it may recover to do great mischief. But the sharp wit of the
    humorist drives it before the world's derision into shame and everlasting
    contempt. These letters were read and shouted over gleefully at every
    camp-fire in the Union Army, and eagerly devoured by crowds of listeners
    when mails were opened at country post-offices. Other humorists were
    content when they simply amused the reader, but "Nasby's" jests were
    arguments--they had a meaningthey were suggested by the necessities and
    emergencies of the Nation's peril, and written to support, with all
    earnestness, a most sacred cause.

    The author, when very young, engaged in journalistic work, until the drum
    of the recruiting officer called him to join the ranks of his country's
    defenders. As the reader is told, he was made a prisoner. He took with
    him into the terrible prison enclosure not only a brave, vigorous,
    youthful spirit, but invaluable habits of mind and thought for storing up
    the incidents and experiences of his prison life. As a journalist he had
    acquired the habit of noticing and memorizing every striking or thrilling
    incident, and the experiences of his prison life were adapted to enstamp
    themselves indelibly on both feeling and memory. He speaks from personal
    experience and from the stand-paint of tender and complete sympathy with
    those of his comrades who suffered more than he did himself. Of his
    qualifications, the writer of these introductory words need not speak.
    The sketches themselves testify to his ability with such force that no
    commendation is required.

    This work is needed. A generation is arising who do not know what the
    preservation of our free government cost in blood and suffering. Even
    the men of the passing generation begin to be forgetful, if we may judge
    from the recklessness or carelessness of their political action. The
    soldier is not always remembered nor honored as he should be. But, what
    to the future of the great Republic is more important, there is great
    danger of our people under-estimating the bitter animus and terrible
    malignity to the Union and its defenders cherished by those who made war
    upon it. This is a point we can not afford to be mistaken about. And
    yet, right at this point this volume will meet its severest criticism,
    and at this point its testimony is most vital and necessary.

    Many will be slow to believe all that is here told most truthfully of the
    tyranny and cruelty of the captors of our brave boys in blue. There are
    no parallels to the cruelties and malignities here described in Northern
    society. The system of slavery, maintained for over two hundred years at
    the South, had performed a most perverting, morally desolating, and we
    might say, demonizing work on the dominant race, which people bred under
    our free civilization can not at once understand, nor scarcely believe
    when it is declared unto them. This reluctance to believe unwelcome
    truths has been the snare of our national life. We have not been willing
    to believe how hardened, despotic, and cruel the wielders of
    irresponsible power may become.

    When the anti-slavery reformers of thirty years ago set forth the
    cruelties of the slave system, they were met with a storm of indignant
    denial, villification and rebuke. When Theodore D. Weld issued his
    "Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses," to the cruelty of slavery, he
    introduced it with a few words, pregnant with sound philosophy, which can
    be applied to the work now introduced, and may help the reader better to
    accept and appreciate its statements. Mr. Weld said:

    "Suppose I should seize you, rob you of your liberty, drive you into the
    field, and make you work without pay as long as you lived. Would that be
    justice? Would it be kindness? Or would it be monstrous injustice and
    cruelty? Now, is the man who robs you every day too tender-hearted ever
    to cuff or kick you? He can empty your pockets without remorse, but if
    your stomach is empty, it cuts him to the quick. He can make you work a
    life-time without pay, but loves you too well to let you go hungry.
    He fleeces you of your rights with a relish, but is shocked if you work
    bare-headed in summer, or without warm stockings in winter. He can make
    you go without your liberty, but never without a shirt. He can crush in
    you all hope of bettering your condition by vowing that you shall die his
    slave, but though he can thus cruelly torture your feelings, he will
    never lacerate your back--he can break your heart, but is very tender of
    your skin. He can strip you of all protection of law, and all comfort in
    religion, and thus expose you to all outrages, but if you are exposed to
    the weather, half-clad and half-sheltered, how yearn his tender bowels!
    What! talk of a man treating you well while robbing you of all you get,
    and as fast as you get it? And robbing you of yourself, too, your hands
    and feet, your muscles, limbs and senses, your body and mind, your
    liberty and earnings, your free speech and rights of conscience, your
    right to acquire knowledge, property and reputation, and yet you are
    content to believe without question that men who do all this by their
    slaves have soft hearts oozing out so lovingly toward their human
    chattles that they always keep them well housed and well clad, never push
    them too hard in the field, never make their dear backs smart, nor let
    their dear stomachs get empty!"

    In like manner we may ask, are not the cruelties and oppressions
    described in the following pages what we should legitimately expect from
    men who, all their lives, have used whip and thumb-screw, shot-gun and
    bloodhound, to keep human beings subservient to their will? Are we to
    expect nothing but chivalric tenderness and compassion from men who made
    war on a tolerant government to make more secure their barbaric system of
    oppression?

    These things are written because they are true. Duty to the brave dead,
    to the heroic living, who have endured the pangs of a hundred deaths for
    their country's sake; duty to the government which depends on the wisdom
    and constancy of its good citizens for its support and perpetuity, calls
    for this "round, unvarnished tale" of suffering endured for freedom's
    sake.

    The publisher of this work urged his friend and associate in journalism
    to write and send forth these sketches because the times demanded just
    such an expose of the inner hell of the Southern prisons. The tender
    mercies of oppressors are cruel. We must accept the truth and act in
    view of it. Acting wisely on the warnings of the past, we shall be able
    to prevent treason, with all its fearful concomitants, from being again
    the scourge and terror of our beloved land.

    ROBERT McCUNE.

    AUTHOR'S PREFACE

    Fifteen months ago--and one month before it was begun--I had no more idea
    of writing this book than I have now of taking up my residence in China.

    While I have always been deeply impressed with the idea that the public
    should know much more of the history of Andersonville and other Southern
    prisons than it does, it had never occurred to me that I was in any way
    charged with the duty of increasing that enlightenment.

    No affected deprecation of my own abilities had any part is this.
    I certainly knew enough of the matter, as did every other boy who had
    even a month's experience in those terrible places, but the very
    magnitude of that knowledge overpowered me, by showing me the vast
    requirements of the subject-requirements that seemed to make it
    presumption for any but the greatest pens in our literature to attempt
    the work. One day at Andersonville or Florence would be task enough for
    the genius of Carlyle or Hugo; lesser than they would fail preposterously
    to rise to the level of the theme. No writer ever described such a
    deluge of woes as swept over the unfortunates confined in Rebel prisons
    in the last year-and-a-half of the Confederacy's life. No man was ever
    called upon to describe the spectacle and the process of seventy thousand
    young, strong, able-bodied men, starving and rotting to death. Such a
    gigantic tragedy as this stuns the mind and benumbs the imagination.

    I no more felt myself competent to the task than to accomplish one of
    Michael Angelo's grand creations in sculpture or painting.

    Study of the subject since confirms me in this view, and my only claim
    for this book is that it is a contribution--a record of individual
    observation and experience--which will add something to the material
    which the historian of the future will find available for his work.

    The work was begun at the suggestion of Mr. D. R. Locke, (Petroleum V.
    Nasby), the eminent political satirist. At first it was only intended to
    write a few short serial sketches of prison life for the columns of the
    TOLEDO BLADE. The exceeding favor with which the first of the series was
    received induced a great widening of their scope, until finally they took
    the range they now have.

    I know that what is contained herein will be bitterly denied. I am
    prepared for this. In my boyhood I witnessed the savagery of the Slavery
    agitation--in my youth I felt the fierceness of the hatred directed
    against all those who stood by the Nation. I know that hell hath no fury
    like the vindictiveness of those who are hurt by the truth being told of
    them. I apprehend being assailed by a sirocco of contradiction and
    calumny. But I solemnly affirm in advance the entire and absolute truth
    of every material fact, statement and description. I assert that, so far
    from there being any exaggeration in any particular, that in no instance
    has the half of the truth been told, nor could it be, save by an inspired
    pen. I am ready to demonstrate this by any test that the deniers of this
    may require, and I am fortified in my position by unsolicited letters
    from over 3,000 surviving prisoners, warmly indorsing the account as
    thoroughly accurate in every respect.

    It has been charged that hatred of the South is the animus of this work.
    Nothing can be farther from the truth. No one has a deeper love for
    every part of our common country than I, and no one to-day will make more
    efforts and sacrifices to bring the South to the same plane of social and
    material development with the rest of the Nation than I will. If I could
    see that the sufferings at Andersonville and elsewhere contributed in any
    considerable degree to that end, and I should not regret that they had
    been. Blood and tears mark every step in the progress of the race, and
    human misery seems unavoidable in securing human advancement. But I am
    naturally embittered by the fruitlessness, as well as the uselessness of
    the misery of Andersonville. There was never the least military or other
    reason for inflicting all that wretchedness upon men, and, as far as
    mortal eye can discern, no earthly good resulted from the martyrdom of
    those tens of thousands. I wish I could see some hope that their
    wantonly shed blood has sown seeds that will one day blossom, and bear a
    rich fruitage of benefit to mankind, but it saddens me beyond expression
    that I can not.

    The years 1864-5 were a season of desperate battles, but in that time
    many more Union soldiers were slain behind the Rebel armies, by
    starvation and exposure, than were killed in front of them by cannon and
    rifle. The country has heard much of the heroism and sacrifices of those
    loyal youths who fell on the field of battle; but it has heard little of
    the still greater number who died in prison pen. It knows full well how
    grandly her sons met death in front of the serried ranks of treason, and
    but little of the sublime firmness with which they endured unto the
    death, all that the ingenious cruelty of their foes could inflict upon
    them while in captivity.

    It is to help supply this deficiency that this book is written. It is a
    mite contributed to the better remembrance by their countrymen of those
    who in this way endured and died that the Nation might live. It is an
    offering of testimony to future generations of the measureless cost of
    the expiation of a national sin, and of the preservation of our national
    unity.

    This is all. I know I speak for all those still living comrades who went
    with me through the scenes that I have attempted to describe, when I say
    that we have no revenges to satisfy, no hatreds to appease. We do not
    ask that anyone shall be punished. We only desire that the Nation shall
    recognize and remember the grand fidelity of our dead comrades, and take
    abundant care that they shall not have died in vain.

    For the great mass of Southern people we have only the kindliest feeling.
    We but hate a vicious social system, the lingering shadow of a darker
    age, to which they yield, and which, by elevating bad men to power, has
    proved their own and their country's bane.

    The following story does not claim to be in any sense a history of
    Southern prisons. It is simply a record of the experience of one
    individual--one boy--who staid all the time with his comrades inside the
    prison, and had no better opportunities for gaining information than any
    other of his 60,000 companions.

    The majority of the illustrations in this work are from the skilled
    pencil of Captain O. J. Hopkins, of Toledo, who served through the war in
    the ranks of the Forty-second Ohio. His army experience has been of
    peculiar value to the work, as it has enabled him to furnish a series of
    illustrations whose life-like fidelity of action, pose and detail are
    admirable.

    Some thirty of the pictures, including the frontispiece, and the
    allegorical illustrations of War and Peace, are from the atelier of Mr.
    O. Reich, Cincinnati, O.

    A word as to the spelling: Having always been an ardent believer in the
    reformation of our present preposterous system--or rather, no system--of
    orthography, I am anxious to do whatever lies in my power to promote it.
    In the following pages the spelling is simplified to the last degree
    allowed by Webster. I hope that the time is near when even that advanced
    spelling reformer will be left far in the rear by the progress of a
    people thoroughly weary of longer slavery to the orthographical
    absurdities handed down to us from a remote and grossly unlearned
    ancestry.

    Toledo, O., Dec. 10, 1879.

    JOHN McELROY.
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