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    Chapter 26

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    Chapter 27
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    LONGINGS FOR GOD'S COUNTRY--CONSIDERATIONS OF THE METHODS OF GETTING
    THERE--EXCHANGE AND ESCAPE--DIGGING TUNNELS, AND THE DIFFICULTIES
    CONNECTED THEREWITH--PUNISHMENT OF A TRAITOR.

    To our minds the world now contained but two grand divisions, as widely
    different from each other as happiness and misery. The first--that
    portion over which our flag floated was usually spoken of as "God's
    Country;" the other--that under the baneful shadow of the banner of
    rebellion--was designated by the most opprobrious epithets at the
    speaker's command.

    To get from the latter to the former was to attain, at one bound, the
    highest good. Better to be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord, under
    the Stars and Stripes, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness, under
    the hateful Southern Cross.

    To take even the humblest and hardest of service in the field now would
    be a delightsome change. We did not ask to go home--we would be content
    with anything, so long as it was in that blest place "within our lines."
    Only let us get back once, and there would be no more grumbling at
    rations or guard duty--we would willingly endure all the hardships and
    privations that soldier flesh is heir to.

    There were two ways of getting back--escape and exchange. Exchange was
    like the ever receding mirage of the desert, that lures the thirsty
    traveler on over the parched sands, with illusions of refreshing springs,
    only to leave his bones at last to whiten by the side of those of his
    unremembered predecessors. Every day there came something to build up
    the hopes that exchange was near at hand--every day brought something to
    extinguish the hopes of the preceding one. We took these varying phases
    according to our several temperaments. The sanguine built themselves up
    on the encouraging reports; the desponding sank down and died under the
    discouraging ones.

    Escape was a perpetual allurement. To the actively inclined among us it
    seemed always possible, and daring, busy brains were indefatigable in
    concocting schemes for it. The only bit of Rebel brain work that I ever
    saw for which I did not feel contempt was the perfect precautions taken
    to prevent our escape. This is shown by the fact that, although, from
    first to last, there were nearly fifty thousand prisoners in
    Andersonville, and three out of every five of these were ever on the
    alert to take French leave of their captors, only three hundred and
    twenty-eight succeeded in getting so far away from Andersonville as to
    leave it to be presumed that they had reached our lines.

    The first, and almost superhuman difficulty was to get outside the
    Stockade. It was simply impossible to scale it. The guards were too
    close together to allow an instant's hope to the most sanguine, that he
    could even pass the Dead Line without being shot by some one of them.
    This same closeness prevented any hope of bribing them. To be successful
    half those on post would have to be bribed, as every part of the Stockade
    was clearly visible from every other part, and there was no night so dark
    as not to allow a plain view to a number of guards of the dark figure
    outlined against the light colored logs of any Yankee who should essay to
    clamber towards the top of the palisades.

    The gates were so carefully guarded every time they were opened as to
    preclude hope of slipping out through theme. They were only unclosed
    twice or thrice a day--once to admit, the men to call the roll, once to
    let them out again, once to let the wagons come in with rations, and
    once, perhaps, to admit, new prisoners. At all these times every
    precaution was taken to prevent any one getting out surreptitiously.

    This narrowed down the possibilities of passing the limits of the pen
    alive, to tunneling. This was also surrounded by almost insuperable
    difficulties. First, it required not less than fifty feet of
    subterranean excavation to get out, which was an enormous work with our
    limited means. Then the logs forming the Stockade were set in the ground
    to a depth of five feet, and the tunnel had to go down beneath them.
    They had an unpleasant habit of dropping down into the burrow under them.
    It added much to the discouragements of tunneling to think of one of
    these massive timbers dropping upon a fellow as he worked his mole-like
    way under it, and either crushing him to death outright, or pinning him
    there to die of suffocation or hunger.

    In one instance, in a tunnel near me, but in which I was not interested,
    the log slipped down after the digger had got out beyond it.
    He immediately began digging for the surface, for life, and was
    fortunately able to break through before he suffocated. He got his head
    above the ground, and then fainted. The guard outside saw him, pulled
    him out of the hole, and when he recovered sensibility hurried him back
    into the Stockade.

    In another tunnel, also near us, a broad-shouldered German, of the Second
    Minnesota, went in to take his turn at digging. He was so much larger
    than any of his predecessors that he stuck fast in a narrow part, and
    despite all the efforts of himself and comrades, it was found impossible
    to move him one way or the other. The comrades were at last reduced to
    the humiliation of informing the Officer of the Guard of their tunnel and
    the condition of their friend, and of asking assistance to release him,
    which was given.

    The great tunneling tool was the indispensable half-canteen. The
    inventive genius of our people, stimulated by the war, produced nothing
    for the comfort and effectiveness of the soldier equal in usefulness to
    this humble and unrecognized utensil. It will be remembered that a
    canteen was composed of two pieces of tin struck up into the shape of
    saucers, and soldered together at the edges. After a soldier had been in
    the field a little while, and thrown away or lost the curious and
    complicated kitchen furniture he started out with, he found that by
    melting the halves of his canteen apart, he had a vessel much handier in
    every way than any he had parted with. It could be used for anything
    --to make soup or coffee in, bake bread, brown coffee, stew vegetables,
    etc., etc. A sufficient handle was made with a split stick. When the
    cooking was done, the handle was thrown away, and the half canteen
    slipped out of the road into the haversack. There seemed to be no end of
    the uses to which this ever-ready disk of blackened sheet iron could be
    turned. Several instances are on record where infantry regiments, with
    no other tools than this, covered themselves on the field with quite
    respectable rifle pits.

    The starting point of a tunnel was always some tent close to the Dead
    Line, and sufficiently well closed to screen the operations from the
    sight of the guards near by. The party engaged in the work organized by
    giving every man a number to secure the proper apportionment of the
    labor. Number One began digging with his half canteen. After he had
    worked until tired, he came out, and Number Two took his place, and so
    on. The tunnel was simply a round, rat-like burrow, a little larger than
    a man's body. The digger lay on his stomach, dug ahead of him, threw the
    dirt under him, and worked it back with his feet till the man behind him,
    also lying on his stomach, could catch it and work it back to the next.
    As the tunnel lengthened the number of men behind each other in this way
    had to be increased, so that in a tunnel seventy-five feet long there
    would be from eight to ten men lying one behind the other. When the dirt
    was pushed back to the mouth of the tunnel it was taken up in improvised
    bags, made by tying up the bottoms of pantaloon legs, carried to the
    Swamp, and emptied. The work in the tunnel was very exhausting, and the
    digger had to be relieved every half-hour.

    The greatest trouble was to carry the tunnel forward in a straight line.
    As nearly everybody dug most of the time with the right hand, there was
    an almost irresistible tendency to make the course veer to the left. The
    first tunnel I was connected with was a ludicrous illustration of this.
    About twenty of us had devoted our nights for over a week to the
    prolongation of a burrow. We had not yet reached the Stockade, which
    astonished us, as measurement with a string showed that we had gone
    nearly twice the distance necessary for the purpose. The thing was
    inexplicable, and we ceased operations to consider the matter. The next
    day a man walking by a tent some little distance from the one in which
    the hole began, was badly startled by the ground giving way under his
    feet, and his sinking nearly to his waist in a hole. It was very
    singular, but after wondering over the matter for some hours, there came
    a glimmer of suspicion that it might be, in some way, connected with the
    missing end of our tunnel. One of us started through on an exploring
    expedition, and confirmed the suspicions by coming out where the man had
    broken through. Our tunnel was shaped like a horse shoe, and the
    beginning and end were not fifteen feet apart. After that we practised
    digging with our left hand, and made certain compensations for the
    tendency to the sinister side.

    Another trouble connected with tunneling was the number of traitors and
    spies among us. There were many--principally among the N'Yaarker crowd
    who were always zealous to betray a tunnel, in order to curry favor with
    the Rebel officers. Then, again, the Rebels had numbers of their own men
    in the pen at night, as spies. It was hardly even necessary to dress
    these in our uniform, because a great many of our own men came into the
    prison in Rebel clothes, having been compelled to trade garments with
    their captors.

    One day in May, quite an excitement was raised by the detection of one of
    these "tunnel traitors" in such a way as left no doubt of his guilt.
    At first everybody was in favor of killing him, and they actually started
    to beat him to death. This was arrested by a proposition to "have
    Captain Jack tattoo him," and the suggestion was immediately acted upon.

    "Captain Jack" was a sailor who had been with us in the Pemberton
    building at Richmond. He was a very skilful tattoo artist, but, I am
    sure, could make the process nastier than any other that I ever saw
    attempt it. He chewed tobacco enormously. After pricking away for a few
    minutes at the design on the arm or some portion of the body, he would
    deluge it with a flood of tobacco spit, which, he claimed, acted as a
    kind of mordant. Piping this off with a filthy rag, he would study the
    effect for an instant, and then go ahead with another series of prickings
    and tobacco juice drenchings.

    The tunnel-traitor was taken to Captain Jack. That worthy decided to
    brand him with a great "T," the top part to extend across his forehead
    and the stem to run down his nose. Captain Jack got his tattooing kit
    ready, and the fellow was thrown upon the ground and held there. The
    Captain took his head between his legs, and began operations. After an
    instant's work with the needles, he opened his mouth, and filled the
    wretch's face and eyes full of the disgusting saliva. The crowd round
    about yelled with delight at this new process. For an hour, that was
    doubtless an eternity to the rascal undergoing branding, Captain Jack
    continued his alternate pickings and drenchings. At the end of that time
    the traitor's face was disfigured with a hideous mark that he would bear
    to his grave. We learned afterwards that he was not one of our men, but
    a Rebel spy. This added much to our satisfaction with the manner of his
    treatment. He disappeared shortly after the operation was finished,
    being, I suppose, taken outside. I hardly think Captain Jack would be
    pleased to meet him again.
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