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    Chapter 16

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    Chapter 17
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    WAKING UP IN ANDERSONVILLE--SOME DESCRIPTION OF THE PLACE--OUR FIRST
    MAIL--BUILDING SHELTER--GEN. WINDER--HIMSELF AND LINEAGE.

    We roused up promptly with the dawn to take a survey of our new abiding
    place. We found ourselves in an immense pen, about one thousand feet
    long by eight hundred wide, as a young surveyor--a member of the
    Thirty-fourth Ohio--informed us after he had paced it off. He estimated
    that it contained about sixteen acres. The walls were formed by pine
    logs twenty-five feet long, from two to three feet in diameter, hewn
    square, set into the ground to a depth of five feet, and placed so close
    together as to leave no crack through which the country outside could be
    seen. There being five feet of the logs in the ground, the wall was, of
    course, twenty feet high. This manner of enclosure was in some respects
    superior to a wall of masonry. It was equally unscalable, and much more
    difficult to undermine or batter down.

    The pen was longest due north and south. It was divided in the center
    by a creek about a yard wide and ten inches deep, running from west to
    east. On each side of this was a quaking bog of slimy ooze one hundred
    and fifty feet wide, and so yielding that one attempting to walk upon it
    would sink to the waist. From this swamp the sand-hills sloped north and
    south to the stockade. All the trees inside the stockade, save two, had
    been cut down and used in its construction. All the rank vegetation of
    the swamp had also been cut off.

    There were two entrances to the stockade, one on each side of the creek,
    midway between it and the ends, and called respectively the "North Gate"
    and the "South Gate." These were constructed double, by building
    smaller stockades around them on the outside, with another set of gates.
    When prisoners or wagons with rations were brought in, they were first
    brought inside the outer gates, which were carefully secured, before the
    inner gates were opened. This was done to prevent the gates being
    carried by a rush by those confined inside.

    At regular intervals along the palisades were little perches, upon which
    stood guards, who overlooked the whole inside of the prison.

    The only view we had of the outside was that obtained by looking from the
    highest points of the North or South Sides across the depression where
    the stockade crossed the swamp. In this way we could see about forty
    acres at a time of the adjoining woodland, or say one hundred and sixty
    acres altogether, and this meager landscape had to content us for the
    next half year.

    Before our inspection was finished, a wagon drove in with rations, and a
    quart of meal, a sweet potato and a few ounces of salt beef were issued
    to each one of us.

    In a few minutes we were all hard at work preparing our first meal in
    Andersonville. The debris of the forest left a temporary abundance of
    fuel, and we had already a cheerful fire blazing for every little squad.
    There were a number of tobacco presses in the rooms we occupied in
    Richmond, and to each of these was a quantity of sheets of tin, evidently
    used to put between the layers of tobacco. The deft hands of the
    mechanics among us bent these up into square pans, which were real handy
    cooking utensils, holding about--a quart. Water was carried in them from
    the creek; the meal mixed in them to a dough, or else boiled as mush in
    the same vessels; the potatoes were boiled; and their final service was
    to hold a little meal to be carefully browned, and then water boiled upon
    it, so as to form a feeble imitation of coffee. I found my education at
    Jonesville in the art of baking a hoe-cake now came in good play, both
    for myself and companions. Taking one of the pieces of tin which had not
    yet been made into a pan, we spread upon it a layer of dough about a
    half-inch thick. Propping this up nearly upright before the fire, it was
    soon nicely browned over. This process made it sweat itself loose from
    the tin, when it was turned over and the bottom browned also. Save that
    it was destitute of salt, it was quite a toothsome bit of nutriment for a
    hungry man, and I recommend my readers to try making a "pone" of this
    kind once, just to see what it was like.

    The supreme indifference with which the Rebels always treated the matter
    of cooking utensils for us, excited my wonder. It never seemed to occur
    to them that we could have any more need of vessels for our food than
    cattle or swine. Never, during my whole prison life, did I see so much
    as a tin cup or a bucket issued to a prisoner. Starving men were driven
    to all sorts of shifts for want of these. Pantaloons or coats were
    pulled off and their sleeves or legs used to draw a mess's meal in.
    Boots were common vessels for carrying water, and when the feet of these
    gave way the legs were ingeniously closed up with pine pegs, so as to
    form rude leathern buckets. Men whose pocket knives had escaped the
    search at the gates made very ingenious little tubs and buckets, and
    these devices enabled us to get along after a fashion.

    After our meal was disposed of, we held a council on the situation.
    Though we had been sadly disappointed in not being exchanged, it seemed
    that on the whole our condition had been bettered. This first ration was
    a decided improvement on those of the Pemberton building; we had left the
    snow and ice behind at Richmond--or rather at some place between Raleigh,
    N. C., and Columbia, S. C.--and the air here, though chill, was not
    nipping, but bracing. It looked as if we would have a plenty of wood for
    shelter and fuel, it was certainly better to have sixteen acres to roam
    over than the stiffing confines of a building; and, still better, it
    seemed as if there would be plenty of opportunities to get beyond the
    stockade, and attempt a journey through the woods to that blissful land
    --"Our lines."

    We settled down to make the best of things. A Rebel Sergeant came in
    presently and arranged us in hundreds. We subdivided these into messes
    of twenty-five, and began devising means for shelter. Nothing showed the
    inborn capacity of the Northern soldier to take care of himself better
    than the way in which we accomplished this with the rude materials at our
    command. No ax, spade nor mattock was allowed us by the Rebels, who
    treated us in regard to these the same as in respect to culinary vessels.
    The only tools were a few pocket-knives, and perhaps half-a-dozen
    hatchets which some infantrymen-principally members of the Third
    Michigan--were allowed to retain. Yet, despite all these drawbacks, we
    had quite a village of huts erected in a few days,--nearly enough, in
    fact, to afford tolerable shelter for the whole five hundred of us
    first-comers.

    The wither and poles that grew in the swamp were bent into the shape of
    the semi-circular bows that support the canvas covers of army wagons, and
    both ends thrust in the ground. These formed the timbers of our
    dwellings. They were held in place by weaving in, basket-wise, a network
    of briers and vines. Tufts of the long leaves which are the
    distinguishing characteristic of the Georgia pine (popularly known as the
    "long-leaved pine") were wrought into this network until a thatch was
    formed, that was a fair protection against the rain--it was like the
    Irishman's unglazed window-sash, which "kep' out the coarsest uv the
    cold."

    The results accomplished were as astonishing to us as to the Rebels,
    who would have lain unsheltered upon the sand until bleached out like
    field-rotted flax, before thinking to protect themselves in this way.
    As our village was approaching completion, the Rebel Sergeant who called
    the roll entered. He was very odd-looking. The cervical muscles were
    distorted in such a way as to suggest to us the name of "Wry-necked
    Smith," by which we always designated him. Pete Bates, of the Third
    Michigan, who was the wag of our squad, accounted for Smith's condition
    by saying that while on dress parade once the Colonel of Smith's regiment
    had commanded "eyes right," and then forgot to give the order "front."
    Smith, being a good soldier, had kept his eyes in the position of gazing
    at the buttons of the third man to the right, waiting for the order to
    restore them to their natural direction, until they had become
    permanently fixed in their obliquity and he was compelled to go through
    life taking a biased view of all things.

    Smith walked in, made a diagonal survey of the encampment, which, if he
    had ever seen "Mitchell's Geography," probably reminded him of the
    picture of a Kaffir village, in that instructive but awfully dull book,
    and then expressed the opinion that usually welled up to every Rebel's
    lips:

    "Well, I'll be durned, if you Yanks don't just beat the devil."

    Of course, we replied with the well-worn prison joke, that we supposed we
    did, as we beat the Rebels, who were worse than the devil.

    There rode in among us, a few days after our arrival, an old man whose
    collar bore the wreathed stars of a Major General. Heavy white locks
    fell from beneath his slouched hat, nearly to his shoulders. Sunken gray
    eyes, too dull and cold to light up, marked a hard, stony face, the
    salient feature of which was a thin-upped, compressed mouth, with corners
    drawn down deeply--the mouth which seems the world over to be the index
    of selfish, cruel, sulky malignance. It is such a mouth as has the
    school-boy--the coward of the play ground, who delights in pulling off
    the wings of flies. It is such a mouth as we can imagine some
    remorseless inquisitor to have had--that is, not an inquisitor filled
    with holy zeal for what he mistakenly thought the cause of Christ
    demanded, but a spleeny, envious, rancorous shaveling, who tortured men
    from hatred of their superiority to him, and sheer love of inflicting
    pain.

    The rider was John H. Winder, Commissary General of Prisoners,
    Baltimorean renegade and the malign genius to whose account should be
    charged the deaths of more gallant men than all the inquisitors of the
    world ever slew by the less dreadful rack and wheel. It was he who in
    August could point to the three thousand and eighty-one new made graves
    for that month, and exultingly tell his hearer that he was "doing more
    for the Confederacy than twenty regiments."

    His lineage was in accordance with his character. His father was that
    General William H. Winder, whose poltroonery at Bladensburg, in 1814,
    nullified the resistance of the gallant Commodore Barney, and gave
    Washington to the British.

    The father was a coward and an incompetent; the son, always cautiously
    distant from the scene of hostilities, was the tormentor of those whom
    the fortunes of war, and the arms of brave men threw into his hands.

    Winder gazed at us stonily for a few minutes without speaking, and,
    turning, rode out again.

    Our troubles, from that hour, rapidly increased.
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    Chapter 17
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