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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Joseph W. O'Neall - Civil War Prisoner

Dallas Bogan on 26 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
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JOSEPH W. O'NEALL, former Probate Judge, was born in Wayne Twp., Warren Co. Ohio, April 6, 1846. He was the son of James Smith and Martha A. (Salee) O'Neall, the former a native of Warren Co., and the latter of Woodford Co., Ky. Our subject received very little education and worked on the farm until the age of 15.
He enlisted at this age in Company H, 54th O.V.I., at that time barely able to read and write. He took part in the battle of Shiloh, but was discharged because of his youth. On the 12th of August, 1862, he reenlisted in Capt. Joseph L. Budd's Company A, 35th Reg. O.V.I., and joined his regiment at Decherd, Tenn. He was with the regiment and participated in the skirmishes and battles at Shepherdsville, Harrodsburg, Perryville, Hoover's Gap, Tallahoma and Chickamauga, in the latter of which he was wounded three times, once in the hand, and once in the head. He was left on the battlefield unconscious, and captured by the rebels, who took him to Atlanta Ga., and thence, via Augusta, Branch Hill, Columbia, Charlotte, Raleigh and Petersburg, to Richmond, Va., where for forty five days they confined him in Castle Pemberton. He was one of four prisoners detected in digging a tunnel from the prison, which resulted in the famous "Sugar Raid", and for this was deprived of all rations for forty eight hours and forced to stand erect twenty four hours.
He was afterward removed to Danville, Va., where he was confined six months. While here, a general escape, planned by all the prisoners, was betrayed, and the leaders, expecting to be court martialled and put to death, determined to make another and a more desperate effort to escape. Accordingly, our subject and six others concealed themselves in the vault and made their way down the drain as far as possible, and then tunneled out. In this, Mr. O'Neall and two others succeeded, while the rest were recaptured.
After three days wandering through the woods, he was recaptured, but, escaping from the guards, had almost reached the Union lines, when he was captured with blood hounds and taken back to Danville. To prevent his further attempting to escape, he was deprived of all his clothes, and for six months, remained in almost a nude condition, only having part of the time an old shirt given him by a fellow prisoner; he was then taken to the jail at Greensboro, and from there to the State Penitentiary at Raleigh S.C., where, with twelve others, he was fastened to the "Bullring."
He was afterward moved to the penitentiary at Columbia, thence to Macon Ga., and from there to Andersonville, where he was confined four months, after which he was taken to Charleston, where he was for fourteen days under the fire of Union guns.
From Charleston he was removed to Charlotte, S.C., and, on the 15th of December, 1864, succeeded in again making his escape, and, reaching the Union lines at Savannah, was sent on a Government vessel to Annapolis, Md. Here he obtained a furlough and returned home, much to the astonishment and joy of his people, who had long since supposed him dead, and who could hardly recognize in the wasted and emaciated figure before them, the healthy farm boy who left them thirty months before. When captured, he weighed 155 pounds; when he reached home, he weighed 84 pounds. While in Andersonville prison, he had the varioloid and scurvy.
He was engaged in digging eight tunnels, and, at one time went nine days without rations.
On the 19th of May, 1865, he received a Lieutenant's commission, but was mustered out of the service before being assigned for duty.
After the war, he taught school. Later, he studied law with John E. Smith and was admitted to the bar April 13, 1877. On the 9th of February, 1879, he became Probate Judge of the county.
He was married November 25, 1869, to Miss Laura A. Van Horne, daughter of Andrew and Sarah (Dilatush) Van Horne.

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This page created 26 August 2004 and last updated 23 June, 2009
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