Charles Johnson of Endicott - Part 2
a $10 bill, one $2 and one $1 bill, along with some currency. Tbe bills I saved by folding very tightly and placing them between my teeth next to my cheeks . When it was my turn to be searched I was leisurely eating Johnnie cake. I afterward had occasion to be thankful that I had saved this money.
Our three weeks being up, we were taken to Petersburgh where we lived under an old tobacco factory for a period of two weeks. At this camp everything was taken from us, therefore I was unable to keep a diary, which I would like to have done.
The next move was from Petersburgh to Salisbury, North Carolina. This prison or stockade was built on a site which consisted of about seven or eight acres. The stockade was built of timber about one foot thick by sixteen feet long. It was built about four feet under ground and twelve feet above, and was continually guarded by rebels, who were looking down upon us all the time. For the first few weeks of our stay here, we had but very little shelter. And the nights by this time, were becoming very cold and rainy most of the time. We would sleep in piles, about a hundred in a pile. Some would sleep under for a while, then those on top of the pile would root down so as to take their turn at getting warm. This went on for some time, until they took mercy and gave us a few of their condemned tents. Although these were not very good, and far from enough, still we considered them better than nothing. We made the best of them by sleeping with our feet to the center of the tent and our heads to the outside, in this way we were enabled to get a larger number in the tents. Those of us who were less fortunate dug holes underground, where we spent the winter. It was not long, however, before we had plenty of room in our tents, our comrades were dying off by the hundreds.
When ration time came we were put into divisions, about 1,200 to a division. These twelve divisions, divided into companies of 100 men and a sergeant. The sergeant was detailed to see about drawing our rations. My company was quite aways from the cook house and in that way many times distance served a purpose and other times it did not.
Each day the rebel lieutenant would come through to count us for that day’s rations. He would start in at one end of the line and after he had counted us a great many would slip around and be counted again; in this way we would receive two rations They were aware of this, but somehow or other failed to catch the guilty parties.
The sergeant had two men detailed to help him distribute the rations, which were passed out once a day. Usually this was only a very small piece of Johnny cake and sometimes soup, made of peas or beans, the soup being carried to us in a barrel with holes through each side where a stick was placed through and in this way carried by two men.
They would deal out to the men near the cook house first, and work on down the line. In this instance distance did us more harm than good. Many times the rations would run out before the lines had received their rations, so we would have to go without that day and many others. Some would go for three days without a thing to eat, but I always managed to buy something with the money I had saved. With the money I could always find something.
When we first went into camp there was no way of getting water, except from a creek about 15 rods away. Two men guarded, were allowed to take a barrel and get water from the creek. I always tried to get out on that detail, because I could buy hoe cake from the peddlars for a confederate dollar. When we got back to our camp, I would sell and double the value. This I would save, so I could buy again.
There was one time, though, I bought a meat pie, which was almost my undoing. I always thought it was made of horse meat. I surely was never able to finish that pie, the piece I ate made me deathly sick.
Inside this stockade in which we were was an old tobacco factory about three stories high. Around this were log cabins where darkies lived. This old tobacco factory was used as a hospital, and here I was taken. It was not long before I became acquainted with the man who had charge of the place. Through him I used to receive a little extra to eat. He would give me small chunks of something I thought was opium. This I would make into pills.
The water and food of this hospital caused practically all who ever reached there to die of chronic diarrhea.
After we had been in the prison for some time some of our men dug a hole about 16 feet deep. This would allow the surface water to run in and we got our water in this way. To get the water l took a regular army cup and put a bail in it. The bail being made from a strip of leather cut from an old boot leg. Each morning, early, before the water was riled, l would go and draw water. The fevered patients would ask for water, and if l could get a chew of tobacco for a drink I would exchange the tobacco for rations as I never used the tobacco. The guards were old union farmers and when no one was around I would get tobacco from them, too.
When our men died during the night the other men in the tent would take anything which they could wear from the dead men. They did this because they were nearly naked themselves and suffering from cold and exposure. The dead were taken to the deadhouse, being thrown any way into the wagon. A squad of men were taken out to a rise of ground where they dug a trench and put the dead bodies in three deep and covered them. . When we got out in the spring, the place looked like a plowed field. I shall never forget the ghastly sight. of men’s hands and heads dragging over the wheels of the wagon as they were being conveyed from the deadhouse to their graves.
Source: E.- J. WORKERS’ REVIEW (August 20, 1919), page 21. STORY OF A CIVIL WAR VETERAN
By A. B.
Submitted by Debbie Barnes
Submitted by Debbie Barnes