Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 10.djvu/40

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

Many of the men were suffering sadly for want of tents to keep them from the fierce rays of the sun and the equally fierce rain which often fell for ten or twelve hours together. It will here be asked, as it has often been asked before, "Why did not the Confederate authorities at Andersonville give our men wooden huts in a woody country?" This question has been often asked, and never answered. Yet it can be fairly, if not quite satisfactorily, explained.

Day after day in May and June the papers were bringing us authentic reports that exchange was at hand. Exchange became a fixed fact for some time. The commissioners had met at City Point, and General Grant had gone to Fortress Monroe, and the basis of exchange, as arranged by the commissioners, had been approved by the Lieutenant-General. But disappointment was sure to follow, and no exchange was visible. At one period, during a long interval of disappointment, I saw a plan drawn up at headquarters for the erection of wooden barracks, so ingenious and comprehensive that 40,000 men could be conveniently housed in prison; and the wood was commenced to be cut down for the purpose. In mid-career an official report reached headquarters that exchange would be commenced in ten days from date, and wood-cutting was given up as superfluous. In a few weeks, toward the close of July, General Stoneman's raid at Macon took place, and the Confederates immediately commenced, with their available help of niggers, to fortify Andersonville, which they certainly believed was to be immediately attacked. At this very period Dr. White, who had started for Macon to hurry up medicine, was stopped at Fort Valley, half-way between Andersonville and Macon; and, instead of coming back with medicine, came to his office armed to the teeth, announcing to the surgeons that they must help to defend the place, according to the instructions of General Winder, as the prison was to be immediately attacked. We, Federal paroled prisoners, it was announced, were to be sent down to the hospital. The cannon planted around headquarters, which dominated the prison, were charged and manned, and everything ready for defense. During the previous week of rumors of attack, huge breastworks were thrown up by niggers who labored at them night as well as day. Stoneman was, however, himself captured, and the excitement passed away. Thoughts of changing the location of the prison occupied the minds of the authorities, as they did not know what moment the prison would be attacked and the prisoners carried off. Confusion, apprehension and dread filled the minds of the Andersonville officers.

Things, however, soon calmed down. A few weeks previously, a great movement had taken place in the prison. The great paramount