Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/278

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

Others found in the barrels of refuse fat, which were accumulated at the cook-house, and in the pickings of the bones, which were cut out of the meat and thrown out in a dirty heap back of the kitchen, to be removed once a week, the means of satisfying the craving for meat, which rations would not satisfy. I have seen a mob of hungry "rebs" besiege the bone-cart, and beg from the driver fragments on which an August sun had been burning for several days, until the impenetrable nose of a Congo could hardly have endured them.

Twice a day the camp poured its thousands into the mess-rooms, where each man's ration was assigned him; and twice a day the aforesaid rations were characterized by disappointed "rebs" in language not to be found in a prayer-book. Those whose appetite was stronger than their apprehensions frequently contrived to supply their wants by "flanking"—a performance which consisted in joining two or more companies as they successively went to the mess-rooms, or in quietly sweeping up a ration as the company filed down the table. As every ration so flanked was, however, obtained at the expense of some helpless fellow-prisoner, who must lose that meal, the practice was almost universally frowned upon; and the criminal, when discovered, as was frequently the case, was subjected to instant punishment.

This was either confinement in the guard-house, solitary confinement on bread and water, the "sweat-box" or the barrel-shirt. The war has made all these terms familiar, except the third, perhaps; by it I mean a wooden box, about seven feet high, twenty inches wide and twelve deep, which was placed on end in front of the major's tent. Few could stand in this without elevating the shoulders considerably; and when the door was fastened all motion was out of the question. The prisoner had to stand with his limbs rigid and immovable until the jailer opened the door, and it was far the most dreaded of the peines fortes et dures of the pen. In midsummer, I can fancy that a couple of hours in such a coffin would inspire Tartuffe himself with virtuous thoughts, especially if his avoirdupois was at all respectable.


Rev. Dr. I. W. K. Handy, of the Presbyterian Church of Virginia, who was arrested on an utterly frivolous charge and made a prisoner at Fort Delaware, and whose evangelical labors among the prisoners were so greatly blessed, has published a volume of 670 pages, entitled "United States Bonds," in which he gives a vivid account of the indignities, cruelties and sufferings to which the prisoners there were subjected. We regret that we have only space for a brief extract. Under date of November the 6th, 1863, Dr. Handy thus writes in his diary:

A letter is found in the Philadelphia Inquirer of to-day, giving a terrible account of the sufferings of the Yankee prisoners at Rich-