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    Chapter 59

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    Chapter 60
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    OUR NEW QUARTERS AT CAMP LAWTON--BUILDING A HUT--AN EXCEPTIONAL
    COMMANDANT--HE IS a GOOD MAN, BUT WILL TAKE BRIBES--RATIONS.

    In the morning we took a survey of our new quarters, and found that we
    were in a Stockade resembling very much in construction and dimensions
    that at Andersonville. The principal difference was that the upright
    logs were in their rough state, whereas they were hewed at Andersonville,
    and the brook running through the camp was not bordered by a swamp, but
    had clean, firm banks.

    Our next move was to make the best of the situation. We were divided
    into hundreds, each commanded by a Sergeant. Ten hundreds constituted a
    division, the head of which was also a Sergeant. I was elected by my
    comrades to the Sergeantcy of the Second Hundred of the First Division.
    As soon as we were assigned to our ground, we began constructing shelter.
    For the first and only time in my prison experience, we found a full
    supply of material for this purpose, and the use we made of it showed how
    infinitely better we would have fared if in each prison the Rebels had
    done even so slight a thing as to bring in a few logs from the
    surrounding woods and distribute them to us. A hundred or so of these
    would probably have saved thousands of lives at Andersonville and
    Florence.

    A large tree lay on the ground assigned to our hundred. Andrews and I
    took possession of one side of the ten feet nearest the butt. Other boys
    occupied the rest in a similar manner. One of our boys had succeeded in
    smuggling an ax in with him, and we kept it in constant use day and
    night, each group borrowing it for an hour or so at a time. It was as
    dull as a hoe, and we were very weak, so that it was slow work "niggering
    off"--(as the boys termed it) a cut of the log. It seemed as if beavers
    could have gnawed it off easier and more quickly. We only cut an inch or
    so at a time, and then passed the ax to the next users. Making little
    wedges with a dull knife, we drove them into the log with clubs, and
    split off long, thin strips, like the weatherboards of a house, and by
    the time we had split off our share of the log in this slow and laborious
    way, we had a fine lot of these strips. We were lucky enough to find
    four forked sticks, of which we made the corners of our dwelling, and
    roofed it carefully with our strips, held in place by sods torn up from
    the edge of the creek bank. The sides and ends were enclosed; we
    gathered enough pine tops to cover the ground to a depth of several
    inches; we banked up the outside, and ditched around it, and then had the
    most comfortable abode we had during our prison career. It was truly a
    house builded with our own hands, for we had no tools whatever save the
    occasional use of the aforementioned dull axe and equally dull knife.

    The rude little hut represented as much actual hard, manual labor as
    would be required to build a comfortable little cottage in the North,
    but we gladly performed it, as we would have done any other work to
    better our condition.

    For a while wood was quite plentiful, and we had the luxury daily of warm
    fires, which the increasing coolness of the weather made important
    accessories to our comfort.

    Other prisoners kept coming in. Those we left behind at Savannah
    followed us, and the prison there was broken up. Quite a number also
    came in from--Andersonville, so that in a little while we had between six
    and seven thousand in the Stockade. The last comers found all the
    material for tents and all the fuel used up, and consequently did not
    fare so well as the earlier arrivals.

    The commandant of the prison--one Captain Bowes--was the best of his
    class it was my fortune to meet. Compared with the senseless brutality
    of Wirz, the reckless deviltry of Davis, or the stupid malignance of
    Barrett, at Florence, his administration was mildness and wisdom itself.

    He enforced discipline better than any of those named, but has what they
    all lacked--executive ability--and he secured results that they could not
    possibly attain, and without anything, like the friction that attended
    their efforts. I do not remember that any one was shot during our six
    weeks' stay at Millen--a circumstance simply remarkable, since I do not
    recall a single week passed anywhere else without at least one murder by
    the guards.

    One instance will illustrate the difference of his administration from
    that of other prison commandants. He came upon the grounds of
    our division one morning, accompanied by a pleasant-faced,
    intelligent-appearing lad of about fifteen or sixteen. He said to us:

    "Gentlemen: (The only instance during our imprisonment when we received
    so polite a designation.) This is my son, who will hereafter call your
    roll. He will treat you as gentlemen, and I know you will do the same to
    him."

    This understanding was observed to the letter on both sides. Young Bowes
    invariably spoke civilly to us, and we obeyed his orders with a prompt
    cheerfulness that left him nothing to complain of.

    The only charge I have to make against Bowes is made more in detail in
    another chapter, and that is, that he took money from well prisoners for
    giving them the first chance to go through on the Sick Exchange.
    How culpable this was I must leave each reader to decide for himself.
    I thought it very wrong at the time, but possibly my views might have
    been colored highly by my not having any money wherewith to procure my
    own inclusion in the happy lot of the exchanged.

    Of one thing I am certain: that his acceptance of money to bias his
    official action was not singular on his part. I am convinced that every
    commandant we had over us--except Wirz--was habitually in the receipt of
    bribes from prisoners. I never heard that any one succeeded in bribing
    Wirz, and this is the sole good thing I can say of that fellow. Against
    this it may be said, however, that he plundered the boys so effectually
    on entering the prison as to leave them little of the wherewithal to
    bribe anybody.

    Davis was probably the most unscrupulous bribe-taker of the lot.
    He actually received money for permitting prisoners to escape to our
    lines, and got down to as low a figure as one hundred dollars for this
    sort of service. I never heard that any of the other commandants went
    this far.

    The rations issued to us were somewhat better than those of
    Andersonville, as the meal was finer and better, though it was absurdedly
    insufficient in quantity, and we received no salt. On several occasions
    fresh beef was dealt out to us, and each time the excitement created
    among those who had not tasted fresh meat for weeks and months was
    wonderful. On the first occasion the meat was simply the heads of the
    cattle killed for the use of the guards. Several wagon loads of these
    were brought in and distributed. We broke them up so that every man got
    a piece of the bone, which was boiled and reboiled, as long as a single
    bubble of grease would rise to the surface of the water; every vestige of
    meat was gnawed and scraped from the surface and then the bone was
    charred until it crumbled, when it was eaten. No one who has not
    experienced it can imagine the inordinate hunger for animal food of those
    who had eaten little else than corn bread for so long. Our exhausted
    bodies were perishing for lack of proper sustenance. Nature indicated
    fresh beef as the best medium to repair the great damage already done,
    and our longing for it became beyond description.
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