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    Chapter 33

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    Chapter 34
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    "POUR PASSER LE TEMPS"--A SET OF CHESSMEN PROCURED UNDER DIFFICULTIES
    --RELIGIOUS SERVICES--THE DEVOTED PRIEST--WAR SONG.

    The time moved with leaden feet. Do the best we could, there were very
    many tiresome hours for which no occupation whatever could be found.
    All that was necessary to be done during the day--attending roll call,
    drawing and cooking rations, killing lice and washing--could be disposed
    of in an hour's time, and we were left with fifteen or sixteen waking
    hours, for which there was absolutely no employment. Very many tried to
    escape both the heat and ennui by sleeping as much as possible through
    the day, but I noticed that those who did this soon died, and
    consequently I did not do it. Card playing had sufficed to pass away the
    hours at first, but our cards soon wore out, and deprived us of this
    resource. My chum, Andrews, and I constructed a set of chessmen with an
    infinite deal of trouble. We found a soft, white root in the swamp which
    answered our purpose. A boy near us had a tolerably sharp pocket-knife,
    for the use of which a couple of hours each day, we gave a few spoonfuls
    of meal. The knife was the only one among a large number of prisoners,
    as the Rebel guards had an affection for that style of cutlery, which led
    them to search incoming prisoners, very closely. The fortunate owner of
    this derived quite a little income of meal by shrewdly loaning it to his
    knifeless comrades. The shapes that we made for pieces and pawns were
    necessarily very rude, but they were sufficiently distinct for
    identification. We blackened one set with pitch pine soot, found a piece
    of plank that would answer for a board and purchased it from its
    possessor for part of a ration of meal, and so were fitted out with what
    served until our release to distract our attention from much of the
    surrounding misery.

    Every one else procured such amusement as they could. Newcomers, who
    still had money and cards, gambled as long as their means lasted. Those
    who had books read them until the leaves fell apart. Those who had paper
    and pen and ink tried to write descriptions and keep journals, but this
    was usually given up after being in prison a few weeks. I was fortunate
    enough to know a boy who had brought a copy of "Gray's Anatomy" into
    prison with him. I was not specially interested in the subject, but it
    was Hobson's choice; I could read anatomy or nothing, and so I tackled it
    with such good will that before my friend became sick and was taken
    outside, and his book with him, I had obtained a very fair knowledge of
    the rudiments of physiology.

    There was a little band of devoted Christian workers, among whom were
    Orderly Sergeant Thomas J. Sheppard, Ninety-Seventh O. Y. L, now a
    leading Baptist minister in Eastern Ohio; Boston Corbett, who afterward
    slew John Wilkes Booth, and Frank Smith, now at the head of the Railroad
    Bethel work at Toledo. They were indefatigable in trying to evangelize
    the prison. A few of them would take their station in some part of the
    Stockade (a different one every time), and begin singing some old
    familiar hymn like:

    "Come, Thou fount of every blessing,"

    and in a few minutes they would have an attentive audience of as many
    thousand as could get within hearing. The singing would be followed by
    regular services, during which Sheppard, Smith, Corbett, and some others
    would make short, spirited, practical addresses, which no doubt did much
    good to all who heard them, though the grains of leaven were entirely too
    small to leaven such an immense measure of meal. They conducted several
    funerals, as nearly like the way it was done at home as possible. Their
    ministrations were not confined to mere lip service, but they labored
    assiduously in caring for the sick, and made many a poor fellow's way to
    the grave much smoother for him.

    This was about all the religious services that we were favored with.
    The Rebel preachers did not make that effort to save our misguided souls
    which one would have imagined they would having us where we could not
    choose but hear they might have taken advantage of our situation to rake
    us fore and aft with their theological artillery. They only attempted it
    in one instance. While in Richmond a preacher came into our room and
    announced in an authoritative way that he would address us on religious
    subjects. We uncovered respectfully, and gathered around him. He was a
    loud-tongued, brawling Boanerges, who addressed the Lord as if drilling a
    brigade.

    He spoke but a few moments before making apparent his belief that the
    worst of crimes was that of being a Yankee, and that a man must not only
    be saved through Christ's blood, but also serve in the Rebel army before
    he could attain to heaven.

    Of course we raised such a yell of derision that the sermon was brought
    to an abrupt conclusion.

    The only minister who came into the Stockade was a Catholic priest,
    middle-aged, tall, slender, and unmistakably devout. He was unwearied in
    his attention to the sick, and the whole day could be seen moving around
    through the prison, attending to those who needed spiritual consolation.
    It was interesting to see him administer the extreme unction to a dying
    man. Placing a long purple scarf about his own neck and a small brazen
    crucifix in the hands of the dying one, he would kneel by the latter's
    side and anoint him upon the eyes, ears, nostrils; lips, hands, feet and
    breast, with sacred oil; from a little brass vessel, repeating the while,
    in an impressive voice, the solemn offices of the Church.

    His unwearying devotion gained the admiration of all, no matter how
    little inclined one might be to view priestliness generally with favor.
    He was evidently of such stuff as Christian heros have ever been made of,
    and would have faced stake and fagot, at the call of duty, with
    unquailing eye. His name was Father Hamilton, and he was stationed at
    Macon. The world should know more of a man whose services were so
    creditable to humanity and his Church:

    The good father had the wisdom of the serpent, with the harmlessness of
    the dove. Though full of commiseration for the unhappy lot of the
    prisoners, nothing could betray him into the slightest expression of
    opinion regarding the war or those who were the authors of all this
    misery. In our impatience at our treatment, and hunger for news, we
    forgot his sacerdotal character, and importuned him for tidings of the
    exchange. His invariable reply was that he lived apart from these things
    and kept himself ignorant of them.

    "But, father," said I one day, with an impatience that I could not wholly
    repress, "you must certainly hear or read something of this, while you
    are outside among the Rebel officers." Like many other people, I
    supposed that the whole world was excited over that in which I felt a
    deep interest.

    "No, my son," replied he, in his usual calm, measured tones. "I go not
    among them, nor do I hear anything from them. When I leave the prison in
    the evening, full of sorrow at what I have seen here, I find that the
    best use I can make of my time is in studying the Word of God, and
    especially the Psalms of David."

    We were not any longer good company for each other. We had heard over
    and over again all each other's stories and jokes, and each knew as much
    about the other's previous history as we chose to communicate. The story
    of every individual's past life, relations, friends, regiment, and
    soldier experience had been told again and again, until the repetition
    was wearisome. The cool nights following the hot days were favorable to
    little gossiping seances like the yarn-spinning watches of sailors on
    pleasant nights. Our squad, though its stock of stories was worn
    threadbare, was fortunate enough to have a sweet singer in Israel "Nosey"
    Payne--of whose tunefulness we never tired. He had a large repertoire of
    patriotic songs, which he sang with feeling and correctness, and which
    helped much to make the calm Summer nights pass agreeably. Among the
    best of these was "Brave Boys are They," which I always thought was the
    finest ballad, both in poetry and music, produced by the War.
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