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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 15
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    HOPING FOR EXCHANGE--AN EXPOSITION OF THE DOCTRINE OF CHANCES
    --OFF FOR ANDERSONVILLE--UNCERTAINTY AS TO OUR DESTINATION--ARRIVAL AT
    ANDERSONVILLE.

    As each lagging day closed, we confidently expected that the next would
    bring some news of the eagerly-desired exchange. We hopefully assured
    each other that the thing could not be delayed much longer; that the
    Spring was near, the campaign would soon open, and each government would
    make an effort to get all its men into the field, and this would bring
    about a transfer of prisoners. A Sergeant of the Seventh Indiana
    Infantry stated his theory to me this way:

    "You know I'm just old lightnin' on chuck-a-luck. Now the way I bet is
    this: I lay down, say on the ace, an' it don't come up; I just double my
    bet on the ace, an' keep on doublin' every time it loses, until at last
    it comes up an' then I win a bushel o' money, and mebbe bust the bank.
    You see the thing's got to come up some time; an' every time it don't
    come up makes it more likely to come up the next time. It's just the
    same way with this 'ere exchange. The thing's got to happen some day,
    an' every day that it don't happen increases the chances that it will
    happen the next day."

    Some months later I folded the sanguine Sergeant's stiffening hands
    together across his fleshless ribs, and helped carry his body out to the
    dead-house at Andersonville, in order to get a piece of wood to cook my
    ration of meal with.

    On the evening of the 17th of February, 1864, we were ordered to get
    ready to move at daybreak the next morning. We were certain this could
    mean nothing else than exchange, and our exaltation was such that we did
    little sleeping that night. The morning was very cold, but we sang and
    joked as we marched over the creaking bridge, on our way to the cars.
    We were packed so tightly in these that it was impossible to even sit
    down, and we rolled slow ly away after a wheezing engine to Petersburg,
    whence we expected to march to the exchange post. We reached Petersburg
    before noon, and the cars halted there along time, we momentarily
    expecting an order to get out. Then the train started up and moved out
    of the City toward the southeast. This was inexplicable, but after we
    had proceeded this way for several hours some one conceived the idea that
    the Rebels, to avoid treating with Butler, were taking us into the
    Department of some other commander to exchange us. This explanation
    satisfied us, and our spirits rose again.

    Night found us at Gaston, N. C., where we received a few crackers for
    rations, and changed cars. It was dark, and we resorted to a little
    strategy to secure more room. About thirty of us got into a tight box
    car, and immediately announced that it was too full to admit any more.
    When an officer came along with another squad to stow away, we would yell
    out to him to take some of the men out, as we were crowded unbearably.
    In the mean time everybody in the car would pack closely around the door,
    so as to give the impression that the car was densely crowded. The Rebel
    would look convinced, and demand:

    "Why, how many men have you got in de cah?"

    Then one of us would order the imaginary host in the invisible recesses
    to--

    "Stand still there, and be counted," while he would gravely count up to
    one hundred or one hundred and twenty, which was the utmost limit of the
    car, and the Rebel would hurry off to put his prisoners somewhere else.
    We managed to play this successfully during the whole journey, and not
    only obtained room to lie down in the car, but also drew three or four
    times as many rations as were intended for us, so that while we at no
    time had enough, we were farther from starvation than our less strategic
    companions.

    The second afternoon we arrived at Raleigh, the capitol of North
    Carolina, and were camped in a piece of timber, and shortly after dark
    orders were issued to us all to lie flat on the ground and not rise up
    till daylight. About the middle of the night a man belonging to a New
    Jersey regiment, who had apparently forgotten the order, stood up, and
    was immediately shot dead by the guard.

    For four or five days more the decrepit little locomotive strained along,
    dragging after it the rattling' old cars. The scenery was intensely
    monotonous. It was a flat, almost unending, stretch of pine barrens and
    the land so poor that a disgusted Illinoisan, used to the fertility of
    the great American Bottom, said rather strongly, that,

    "By George, they'd have to manure this ground before they could even make
    brick out of it."

    It was a surprise to all of us who had heard so much of the wealth of
    Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to find the soil a
    sterile sand bank, interspersed with swamps.

    We had still no idea of where we were going. We only knew that our
    general course was southward, and that we had passed through the
    Carolinas, and were in Georgia. We furbished up our school knowledge of
    geography and endeavored to recall something of the location of Raleigh,
    Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta, through which we passed, but the attempt
    was not a success.

    Late on the afternoon of the 25th of February the Seventh Indiana
    Sergeant approached me with the inquiry:

    "Do you know where Macon is?"

    The place had not then become as well known as it was afterward.

    It seemed to me that I had read something of Macon in Revolutionary
    history, and that it was a fort on the sea coast. He said that the guard
    had told him that we were to be taken to a point near that place, and we
    agreed that it was probably a new place of exchange. A little later we
    passed through the town of Macon, Ga, and turned upon a road that led
    almost due south.

    About midnight the train stopped, and we were ordered off. We were in
    the midst of a forest of tall trees that loaded the air with the heavy
    balsamic odor peculiar to pine trees. A few small rude houses were
    scattered around near.

    Stretching out into the darkness was a double row of great heaps of
    burning pitch pine, that smoked and flamed fiercely, and lit up a little
    space around in the somber forest with a ruddy glare. Between these two
    rows lay a road, which we were ordered to take.

    The scene was weird and uncanny. I had recently read the "Iliad," and
    the long lines of huge fires reminded me of that scene in the first book,
    where the Greeks burn on the sea shore the bodies of those smitten by
    Apollo's pestilential-arrows

    For nine long nights, through all the dusky air,
    The pyres, thick flaming shot a dismal glare.

    Five hundred weary men moved along slowly through double lines of guards.
    Five hundred men marched silently towards the gates that were to shut out
    life and hope from most of them forever. A quarter of a mile from the
    railroad we came to a massive palisade of great squared logs standing
    upright in the ground. The fires blazed up and showed us a section of
    these, and two massive wooden gates, with heavy iron hinges and bolts.
    They swung open as we stood there and we passed through into the space
    beyond.

    We were in Andersonville.
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