Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 02.djvu/318
Southern Historical Society Papers.
January 3d—We landed on the wharf at Washington at 9 o'clock A. M., and found it covered with snow and ice. In this uncomfortable place, with no shelter from the bleak wind, standing on the frozen snow, we remained under guard from 9 o'clock till 5 o'clock P. M. We had no fire, and only a few crackers and some wretched coffee for food. At dark we were carried in ambulances to the Old Capitol. This prison, situated on the corner of A and First streets, is an old brick building, erected in 1817, for the use of Congress, as the capitol building proper had been destroyed by fire by the British army under General Ross, August 24th, 1814. It was used by Congress until the capitol was rebuilt, and then fitted up as a boarding house. Honorable John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, died in it. This pure and illustrious patriot and statesman— twice elected Vice-President of the United States, and the greatest of the great "Triumvirate," Calhoun, Clay and Webster, the only one who has left any enduring work to perpetuate his fame—never dreamed that his own room, in sight of the Goddess of Liberty on the dome of the capitol, would some day be used as a prison dungeon for the victims of rampant, fanatical abolitionism and the advocates of a higher law than the constitution which they had sworn to uphold and support. Prisoners are taken into the office, near the entrance, on their arrival, questioned, their answers being written in a book, and rigidly searched by some officious and offensive subordinate officer. While my party was being searched, their pockets emptied, and their persons felt, I quietly and unobserved put my knife in my hat, and placed the latter on the floor. I surrendered to the fellow who did the searching about $20 in Confederate money, concealing the remainder in my drawers' pocket. The knife was saved, to the great joy of myself and room-mates, none of whom saved theirs. We reached Old Capitol at 7 o'clock P. M., and about two hours after nine of us were assigned to "room 9," second floor. This room is about twelve feet by fourteen in size, and contained in one corner five sleeping berths or bunks, like those used in canal boats, one above the other, and about eighteen inches apart. The bunks are made of rough plank, three feet wide and six feet long. My comrades are Lieutenant James P. Arrington, A. D. C. of Forkland, Alabama; Captain M. Russell, Sixtieth Georgia infantry, Lafayette, Georgia ; Captain J. G. Rankin, Thirty-eighth Georgia, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Lieutenant S. R. Murphy, Thirty-first Georgia, Hamilton, Georgia; Lieutenant Arthur Bryde, Fifth Louisiana, New Orleans, Louisiana;