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    Chapter 35

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    Chapter 36
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    To fully appreciate the condition of affairs let it be remembered that we
    were a community of twenty-five thousand boys and young men--none too
    regardful of control at best--and now wholly destitute of government.
    The Rebels never made the slightest attempt to maintain order in the
    prison. Their whole energies were concentrated in preventing our escape.
    So long as we staid inside the Stockade, they cared as little what we did
    there as for the performances of savages in the interior of Africa.
    I doubt if they would have interfered had one-half of us killed and eaten
    the other half. They rather took a delight in such atrocities as came to
    their notice. It was an ocular demonstration of the total depravity of
    the Yankees.

    Among ourselves there was no one in position to lay down law and enforce
    it. Being all enlisted men we were on a dead level as far as rank was
    concerned--the highest being only Sergeants, whose stripes carried no
    weight of authority. The time of our stay was--it was hoped--too
    transient to make it worth while bothering about organizing any form of
    government. The great bulk of the boys were recent comers, who hoped
    that in another week or so they would be out again. There were no fat
    salaries to tempt any one to take upon himself the duty of ruling the
    masses, and all were left to their own devices, to do good or evil,
    according to their several bents, and as fear of consequences swayed
    them. Each little squad of men was a law unto themselves, and made and
    enforced their own regulations on their own territory. The administration
    of justice was reduced to its simplest terms. If a fellow did wrong he
    was pounded--if there was anybody capable of doing it. If not he went

    The almost unvarying success of the Raiders in--their forays gave the
    general impression that they were invincible--that is, that not enough
    men could be concentrated against them to whip them. Our ill-success in
    the attack we made on them in April helped us to the same belief. If we
    could not beat them then, we could not now, after we had been enfeebled
    by months of starvation and disease. It seemed to us that the Plymouth
    Pilgrims, whose organization was yet very strong, should undertake the
    task; but, as is usually the case in this world, where we think somebody
    else ought to undertake the performance of a disagreeable public duty,
    they did not see it in the light that we wished them to. They
    established guards around their squads, and helped beat off the Raiders
    when their own territory was invaded, but this was all they would do.
    The rest of us formed similar guards. In the southwest corner of the
    Stockade--where I was--we formed ourselves into a company of fifty active
    boys--mostly belonging to my own battalion and to other Illinois
    regiments--of which I was elected Captain. My First Lieutenant was a
    tall, taciturn, long-armed member of the One Hundred and Eleventh
    Illinois, whom we called "Egypt," as he came from that section of the
    State. He was wonderfully handy with his fists. I think he could knock
    a fellow down so that he would fall-harder, and lie longer than any
    person I ever saw. We made a tacit division of duties: I did the
    talking, and "Egypt" went through the manual labor of knocking our
    opponents down. In the numerous little encounters in which our company
    was engaged, "Egypt" would stand by my side, silent, grim and patient,
    while I pursued the dialogue with the leader of the other crowd. As soon
    as he thought the conversation had reached the proper point, his long
    left arm stretched out like a flash, and the other fellow dropped as if
    he had suddenly come in range of a mule that was feeling well. That
    unexpected left-hander never failed. It would have made Charles Reade's
    heart leap for joy to see it.

    In spite of our company and our watchfulness, the Raiders beat us badly
    on one occasion. Marion Friend, of Company I of our battalion, was one
    of the small traders, and had accumulated forty dollars by his bartering.
    One evening at dusk Delaney's Raiders, about twenty-five strong, took
    advantage of the absence of most of us drawing rations, to make a rush
    for Marion. They knocked him down, cut him across the wrist and neck
    with a razor, and robbed him of his forty dollars. By the time we could
    rally Delaney and his attendant scoundrels were safe from pursuit in the
    midst of their friends.

    This state of things had become unendurable. Sergeant Leroy L. Key,
    of Company M, our battalion, resolved to make an effort to crush the
    Raiders. He was a printer, from Bloomington, Illinois, tall, dark,
    intelligent and strong-willed, and one of the bravest men I ever knew.
    He was ably seconded by "Limber Jim," of the Sixty-Seventh Illinois,
    whose lithe, sinewy form, and striking features reminded one of a young
    Sioux brave. He had all of Key's desperate courage, but not his brains
    or his talent for leadership. Though fearfully reduced in numbers, our
    battalion had still about one hundred well men in it, and these formed
    the nucleus for Key's band of "Regulators," as they were styled. Among
    them were several who had no equals in physical strength and courage in
    any of the Raider chiefs. Our best man was Ned Carrigan, Corporal of
    Company I, from Chicago--who was so confessedly the best man in the whole
    prison that he was never called upon to demonstrate it. He was a
    big-hearted, genial Irish boy, who was never known to get into trouble
    on his own account, but only used his fists when some of his comrades
    were imposed upon. He had fought in the ring, and on one occasion had
    killed a man with a single blow of his fist, in a prize fight near St.
    Louis. We were all very proud of him, and it was as good as an
    entertainment to us to see the noisiest roughs subside into deferential
    silence as Ned would come among them, like some grand mastiff in the
    midst of a pack of yelping curs. Ned entered into the regulating scheme
    heartily. Other stalwart specimens of physical manhood in our battalion
    were Sergeant Goody, Ned Johnson, Tom Larkin, and others, who, while not
    approaching Carrigan's perfect manhood, were still more than a match for
    the best of the Raiders.

    Key proceeded with the greatest secrecy in the organization of his
    forces. He accepted none but Western men, and preferred Illinoisans,
    Iowans, Kansans, Indianians and Ohioans. The boys from those States
    seemed to naturally go together, and be moved by the same motives.
    He informed Wirz what he proposed doing, so that any unusual commotion
    within the prison might not be mistaken for an attempt upon the Stockade,
    and made the excuse for opening with the artillery. Wirz, who happened
    to be in a complaisant humor, approved of the design, and allowed him the
    use of the enclosure of the North Gate to confine his prisoners in.

    In spite of Key's efforts at secrecy, information as to his scheme
    reached the Raiders. It was debated at their headquarters, and decided
    there that Key must be killed. Three men were selected to do this work.
    They called on Key, a dusk, on the evening of the 2d of July. In
    response to their inquiries, he came out of the blanket-covered hole on
    the hillside that he called his tent. They told him what they had heard,
    and asked if it was true. He said it was. One of them then drew a
    knife, and the other two, "billies" to attack him. But, anticipating
    trouble, Key had procured a revolver which one of the Pilgrims had
    brought in in his knapsack and drawing this he drove them off, but
    without firing a shot.

    The occurrence caused the greatest excitement. To us of the Regulators
    it showed that the Raiders had penetrated our designs, and were prepared
    for them. To the great majority of the prisoners it was the first
    intimation that such a thing was contemplated; the news spread from squad
    to squad with the greatest rapidity, and soon everybody was discussing
    the chances of the movement. For awhile men ceased their interminable
    discussion of escape and exchange--let those over worked words and themes
    have a rare spell of repose--and debated whether the Raiders would whip
    the regulators, or the Regulators conquer the Raiders. The reasons which
    I have previously enumerated, induced a general disbelief in the
    probability of our success. The Raiders were in good health well fed,
    used to operating together, and had the confidence begotten by a long
    series of successes. The Regulators lacked in all these respects.

    Whether Key had originally fixed on the next day for making the attack,
    or whether this affair precipitated the crisis, I know not, but later in
    the evening he sent us all order: to be on our guard all night, and ready
    for action the next morning.

    There was very little sleep anywhere that night. The Rebels learned
    through their spies that something unusual was going on inside, and as
    their only interpretation of anything unusual there was a design upon the
    Stockade, they strengthened the guards, took additional precautions in
    every way, and spent the hours in anxious anticipation.

    We, fearing that the Raiders might attempt to frustrate the scheme by an
    attack in overpowering force on Key's squad, which would be accompanied
    by the assassination of him and Limber Jim, held ourselves in readiness
    to offer any assistance that might be needed.

    The Raiders, though confident of success, were no less exercised. They
    threw out pickets to all the approaches to their headquarters, and
    provided otherwise against surprise. They had smuggled in some canteens
    of a cheap, vile whisky made from sorghum--and they grew quite hilarious
    in their Big Tent over their potations. Two songs had long ago been
    accepted by us as peculiarly the Raiders' own--as some one in their crowd
    sang them nearly every evening, and we never heard them anywhere else.
    The first began:

    In Athol lived a man named Jerry Lanagan;
    He battered away till he hadn't a pound.
    His father he died, and he made him a man agin;
    Left him a farm of ten acres of ground.

    The other related the exploits of an Irish highwayman named Brennan,
    whose chief virtue was that

    What he rob-bed from the rich he gave unto the poor.

    And this was the villainous chorus in which they all joined, and sang in
    such a way as suggested highway robbery, murder, mayhem and arson:

    Brennan on the moor!
    Brennan on the moor!
    Proud and undaunted stood
    John Brennan on the moor.

    They howled these two nearly the live-long night. They became eventually
    quite monotonous to us, who were waiting and watching. It would have
    been quite a relief if they had thrown in a new one every hour or so,
    by way of variety.

    Morning at last came. Our companies mustered on their grounds, and then
    marched to the space on the South Side where the rations were issued.
    Each man was armed with a small club, secured to his wrist by a string.

    The Rebels--with their chronic fear of an outbreak animating them--had
    all the infantry in line of battle with loaded guns. The cannon in the
    works were shotted, the fuses thrust into the touch-holes and the men
    stood with lanyards in hand ready to mow down everybody, at any instant.

    The sun rose rapidly through the clear sky, which soon glowed down on us
    like a brazen oven. The whole camp gathered where it could best view the
    encounter. This was upon the North Side. As I have before explained the
    two sides sloped toward each other like those of a great trough. The
    Raiders' headquarters stood upon the center of the southern slope, and
    consequently those standing on the northern slope saw everything as if
    upon the stage of a theater.

    While standing in ranks waiting the orders to move, one of my comrades
    touched me on the arm, and said:

    "My God! just look over there!"

    I turned from watching the Rebel artillerists, whose intentions gave me
    more uneasiness than anything else, and looked in the direction indicated
    by the speaker. The sight was the strangest one my eyes ever
    encountered. There were at least fifteen thousand perhaps twenty
    thousand--men packed together on the bank, and every eye was turned on
    us. The slope was such that each man's face showed over the shoulders of
    the one in front of him, making acres on acres of faces. It was as if
    the whole broad hillside was paved or thatched with human countenances.

    When all was ready we moved down upon the Big Tent, in as good order as
    we could preserve while passing through the narrow tortuous paths between
    the tents. Key, Limber Jim, Ned Carigan, Goody, Tom Larkin, and Ned
    Johnson led the advance with their companies. The prison was as silent
    as a graveyard. As we approached, the Raiders massed themselves in a
    strong, heavy line, with the center, against which our advance was
    moving, held by the most redoubtable of their leaders. How many there
    were of them could not be told, as it was impossible to say where their
    line ended and the mass of spectators began. They could not themselves
    tell, as the attitude of a large portion of the spectators would be
    determined by which way the battle went.

    Not a blow was struck until the lines came close together. Then the
    Raider center launched itself forward against ours, and grappled savagely
    with the leading Regulators. For an instant--it seemed an hour--the
    struggle was desperate.

    Strong, fierce men clenched and strove to throttle each other; great
    muscles strained almost to bursting, and blows with fist and club-dealt
    with all the energy of mortal hate--fell like hail. One-perhaps
    two-endless minutes the lines surged--throbbed--backward and forward a
    step or two, and then, as if by a concentration of mighty effort, our
    men flung the Raider line back from it--broken--shattered. The next
    instant our leaders were striding through the mass like raging lions.
    Carrigan, Limber Jim, Larkin, Johnson and Goody each smote down a swath
    of men before them, as they moved resistlessly forward.

    We light weights had been sent around on the flanks to separate the
    spectators from the combatants, strike the Raiders 'en revers,' and,
    as far as possible, keep the crowd from reinforcing them.

    In five minutes after the first blow--was struck the overthrow of the
    Raiders was complete. Resistance ceased, and they sought safety in

    As the result became apparent to the--watchers on the opposite hillside,
    they vented their pent-up excitement in a yell that made the very ground
    tremble, and we answered them with a shout that expressed not only our
    exultation over our victory, but our great relief from the intense strain
    we had long borne.

    We picked up a few prisoners on the battle field, and retired without
    making any special effort to get any more then, as we knew, that they
    could not escape us.

    We were very tired, and very hungry. The time for drawing rations had
    arrived. Wagons containing bread and mush had driven to the gates, but
    Wirz would not allow these to be opened, lest in the excited condition of
    the men an attempt might be made to carry them. Key ordered operations
    to cease, that Wirz might be re-assured and let the rations enter.
    It was in vain. Wirz was thoroughly scared. The wagons stood out in the
    hot sun until the mush fermented and soured, and had to be thrown away,
    while we event rationless to bed, and rose the next day with more than
    usually empty stomachs to goad us on to our work.
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