National Tribune Articles

Written by members of the 101st PA Infantry

22 AUG 1889 - "Battle of Plymouth" by George H. Slaybaugh.

03 OCT 1889 - "Battle of Plymouth, NC" by Jacob D. Brown.

20 MAR 1890 - "Battle of Kinston, NC" by Jacob D. Brown.

05 NOV 1891 - "Treatment of Prisoners" by James B. Kirk.

05 JAN 1893 - "Seven Pines" by Samuel Creelman.

31 OCT 1901 - "Capt. J. B. Kirk's Strategetics" by George Dallas Mosgrove.

09 JAN 1902 - "From Bondage to Liberty" by James B. Kirk.

28 APR 1904 - "Money to Burn. A Great Find of Bank Notes in a NC Town" by James B. Kirk.

03 NOV 1904 - "Pennsylvania Bankers. A Change of Officials in the Elizabeth City Bank" by James B. Kirk.

03 NOV 1904 - "Two Prisoners at Large" by James B. Kirk.

27 SEP 1906 - "Andersonville Memories" by George Hollands.

24 JAN 1907 - "Providence Spring" by Samuel W. Porter.

11 FEB 1909 - "Ex-Prisoners of War" by Thomas R. Stotler.

08 JUN 1911 - "Union North Carolina Soldiers" by John A. Reed.

14 MAY 1914 - "On the Massachusetts. The Midnight Collision on the Potomac Between the Massachusetts and the Black Diamond" by George Hollands.

13 MAY 1926 - "How Cushing Destroyed the Albemarle" by George H. Slaybaugh.

19 AUG 1926 - "His First Three Weeks at the Front" by George H. Slaybaugh. Story continues on 26 AUG & 9, 16 & 23 SEP 1926.



The National Tribune

August 22, 1889

BATTLE OF PLYMOUTH

Gallant Defense of the North Carolina Town

Editor National Tribune: The partial account of the battle of Plymouth, N.C., April 17-20, 1864 contained in your issue of the 1st inst., suggest that a more extended account of the defense and final capture of that place might be of interest to your readers.

Plymouth is located on the South bank of the Roanoke River, about eight miles from its mouth, and was garrisoned at the time of which I write by the 85th N.Y., Col. Fardello; 101st Pa., Lieut-Col. Taylor; 103d Pa., Lieut Col Lehman; 16th Conn., Lieut-Col. Burnham; 24th N.Y. battery, and one company of the 12th N.Y. Cav., about 1,700 in all. Brig.-Gen. H. W. Wessells, who commanded the District of Albemarle, Department of North Carolina, had his headquarters at Plymouth. Col Lehman, of the 103d Pa., being in immediate command of the post, thus devolving upon Lieut-Col. Maxwell the command of that regiment. Two companies of infantry were stationed at Fort Gray, located on the bluff at Warren's neck about three miles up the river. This position was cut off from direct land communication, with the town by an impassable swamp, extending southward from the river about half a mile westward of the west end of town.

The right of the line of defense proper rested upon this swamp, and was held by the 85th N.Y., one company of which occupied Fort Wessells. This fort commanded the approaches by what was known as the Washington road. Fort Williams, the largest of the forts on the line, was in the center, and commanded the Aqua road. This fort was manned by a portion of the 103d Pa., the remainder of the regiment being on the line to the right and left. On the left of the 103d was the 16th Conn., and the 101st Pa. Held the left.

A line of strong and carefully constructed rifle-pits began at the swamp on the right, connected the forts, and continuing eastward from Fort Williams terminated on a line with the eastern end of the town. These earthworks were about two miles long, ran parallel to the river and about three-quarters of a mile distant. Between their eastern end and the river there were no fortifications, except two small redoubts, located a short distance from the town, one on either side of the Columbia road, which enters the town from the east about midway of the space in question. These redoubts were occupied by Cos. D and E, 101st Pa., and were, with the assistance promised from the gunboats in the river, deemed sufficient to defend the place against attacks from the east.

The fleet consisted of the gunboats Miami, Ceres, Whitehead, Southfield, and Bombshell, and was commanded by Lieut.-Commander C. W. Flusser, than whom a braver, more wide-awake and energetic officer did not belong to the navy.

At about 4 p.m. Sunday, April 17, 1864, our pickets on the Washington road were driven in by the advance of Gen. Hoke’s Division of three brigades of infantry, besides artillery and cavalry, making a force of 8,000 men. He at once opened upon the town, though without determination, as his first objective seemed to be Fort Gray, which he simultaneously attacked. The fort, though closely invested and repeatedly assaulted by greatly superior numbers, was successfully defended. In this defense the Bombshell rendered valuable assistance until about dark, when she was disabled by a shot through her steam-chest. Under cover of darkness, the enemy extended his lines and approached within 100 yards of the fort, but it held out until a late hour on Monday, when it was surrendered.

Gen. Hoke consumed the time from Sunday evening until about 5 p.m. Monday in forming his lines, placing his batteries in position and endeavoring to find a vulnerable point on our line. At the hour named he opened with all his guns, and this artillery fire was soon followed by the advance of his infantry in a charge upon our entire front. This was repulsed with great loss to him, as was a second and third attack. In the last of these charges the enemy approached so near to our works that at a number of places hand-grenades were freely used to repel him. During these assaults the gunboats from above, and below the town delivered a heavy and continuous fire upon the enemy, enfilading in part his charging columns, thus contributing material assistance to the garrison in holding its lines intact.

This failure on his part to effect a lodgment within any part of our lines, convinced Gen. Hoke that it was useless to make further efforts from that direction, and but for the appearance of the ram Albemarle upon the scene the next morning, the death of Flusser, and the stampede of our fleet to a safe distance, it is probable that he would then have withdrawn.

The river, however, being now clear of hostile guns, and the approaches to the town from the east being almost entirely without defensive works, he on Tuesday made a detour with the greater portion of his force, and formed about two miles east of the town, with his right resting on the river. To meet this threatened danger the 101st Pa. Was thrown forward as skirmishers. These skirmishers presented so bold a front, that up to dawn on Wednesday he had not succeeded in advancing his lines more than half a mile.

Late on the previous evening he had, however, by massing on his extreme left – our lines having been weakened to stay his advance from the east, and the men being exhausted by their continuous fighting without rest or proper food for 62 hours – succeeded in effecting a lodgment in such an advantageous position, so close to Fort Wessells as to make it wholly untenable, and it was consequently, with a portion of the 85th N.Y., surrendered.

At daylight on Wednesday the enemy opened with his artillery all along the line; that from the east enfilading our line south of the town , that portion which confronted him on the east being then yet so far advanced as to escape a cross-fire from his guns on the south. The 101st Pa. was compelled slowly to retire, and a part of the 16th Conn. was sent to its assistance. A line was formed, having the redoubt [Compher/Comfort] in its center. This line, after staying the progress of the enemy for a time, was charged by Ransom’s Brigade, which, after a loss of upwards of 500 men in killed and wounded, succeeded in pressing it back and carrying the redoubts [Compher & Conaby]. Our men, though deprived of all defensive works, stubbornly contested every inch of the ground, but were compelled to yield to the greater numbers of the enemy. As he entered the town his right was thrown forward, and wheeling, faced southward, and thus advancing, forced our men into and through their camps, where, with their backs to their breastworks, they turned at bay and compelled them to halt.

He now reformed his lines and charged these two regiments, or what was left of them, in their camps, which was met by a counter-charge. This was twice repeated, each time our force becoming less by captures, dead and wounded. Finally he succeeded in penetrating their line, cutting off a greater portion of both regiments and being now virtually surrounded, they surrendered, but not until they had secured their flags from falling into the hands of the enemy; that of the 101st Pa. was separated from its staff and buried, and that of the 16th Conn. was torn to pieces, and the pieces were distributed among the men. (These pieces were preserved, and after the regiment returned from prison collected and put together, and this reconstructed flag is now in the State House at Hartford.)

The enemy having, as already stated, effected a lodgment on our extreme right, he now also advanced from that direction through the town; and from every direction his fire was concentrated upon Fort Williams, the only inclosed earthwork yet remaining. Being thus completely surrounded, and receiving the concentrated fire of the enemy’s artillery and infantry, with about four-fifths of his men already prisoners and no hope of succor by reinforcements, Gen. Wessells, whose headquarters had been transferred during the fight to Fort Williams, at about 11 a.m. requested by flag of truce a cessation of the fighting with a view to surrender. The request was aceeded to, and at 12 am. of Wednesday, April 20, the garrison of Fort Williams marched out with flying colors and grounded their arms.

Nothing need be said in apology or extenuation of the loss of this place to our arms. It was defended with the most heroic bravery, every one of its 1,700 defenders proving himself to be a hero; and though outnumbered five to one, those men kept the enemy at bay from Sunday until Wednesday noon, killing and wounding more of his men than they numbered all told when attacked, and but for the death of Flusser, would have beaten their assailants. Flusser’s death deprived them of their left arm in the unequal contest. No one who ever saw him in battle or within striking distance of the enemy but knows that if living he would have fought the ram as long as she was afloat, or until every one of his vessels or every fragment of one large enough to keep him above the water had gone down, and then he would have swam ashore and shared the fate of his comrades of the garrison.

George H. Slaybaugh, Co. K, 101st Pa., Washington, D.C.

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

Thursday, October 3, 1889

Fighting Them Over

What Our Veterans Have to Say About Their Old Campaigns

PLYMOUTH, N.C.

Another account of its Gallant Defense

Editor National Tribune: When I saw the account of Comrade Flint of The National Tribune in regard to the defense and capture of Plymouth, N.C., by a small force I very naturally expected to meet with facts and figures and correct dates. If my diary tells the truth, and I think it does, as I took notes of the affair at the time, the occurrences are as follows:

April 16, 1864-Our cavalry outposts report rebel scouting parties four miles out on the Washington road. They are also reported this evening by contrabands out on the Columbia road.

Sunday, April 17-After the regular duties of the morning were performed, we were invited to repair to the Chapel for religious services, which were conducted by Col. Taylor of our regiment, 101st PA. About 4 o'clock p.m. our cavalry came dashing in on the Washington Road, they having been driven in by a strong force of the enemy, who soon made their appearance on our extreme right, placed their batteries in position and began to shell Fort Gray, which is situated at a point above Plymouth, on the Roanoke River, called Warneck. Darkness closed their effort to capture the fort, and they withdrew from the range of our guns.

Monday, 18-The enemy seems to have concentrated their entire force on Fort Williams, it being Gen. Wessel's headquarters. This fort is about the center of our lines, and commands the Washington Road. Desultory firing by the infantry all day; artillery dual kept up until 10 p.m. at which time Fort Williams and Wessels both opened with all their guns, and in a few minutes silenced all the rebel guns for the night.

Tuesday, 19-This morning the rebels have withdrawn all their forces except their pickets, but during the day made their appearance at different points in force, and in the evening advanced on Fort Wessels, situated between Fort Williams and Fort Gray, and the weakest point of our entire line. A short, fierce, struggle and our men are overpowered and the rebels have the fort and the 85th N.Y. are prisoners. We are still hopeful, but rumors of an ironclad ram coming down the river makes us feel somewhat despondent.

Wednesday, 20-During last night the rebels were engaged in getting their troops on the Columbia road, and to our left they appeared in force within 800 yards of Fort Compher at daybreak, and in the meantime the Ram Albemarle put in an appearance this morning at 3 o'clock, passing all our batteries unmolested; ran into the gunboat Southfield, sinking her in a very few minutes, and driving the rest of our fleet down the river into the Sound. We are now surrounded on all sides, with no possible chance of escaping with rebels swarming like bees wherever we look. Their final attack was made this morning about 9 o'clock, charging in solid column on Fort Compher three times from the front, and we each time sent flying back with double charges of canister from our heavy guns. After a short lull in their movements they suddenly moved by the right flank, file left, to the river bank; then fronting, with a left half wheel, they came up in the rear of our works with a whoop and a yell that was fairly demoralizing, sweeping everything before them, capturing Fort Compher, rushing through the camp of the 101st Pa, up through town, gobbling up the 103rd Pa; moving on to the right and front they wind up with the 16th Conn. and a small detachment of the 12th N.Y. Cav. We are now all prisoners, except Gen. Wessels and a small garrison composed of the 24th N.Y. Independent battery and two companies of Massachusetts heavy artillery. Gen. Wessels, it seems, does not yet fully realize the hopelessness of holding his fort when no assistance can be expected from any quarter. About 11 o'clock the final assault is made on Fort Williams and our brave little General surrenders.

And now as for numbers. I am satisfied that there are yet a sufficient number of intelligent officers and men of the several commands living that will corroborate my statement. For this part I write from memory. Gen. Hoke, with 12,000 troops, was on his way from Charleston, S.C. to reinforce Gen. Lee at Richmond, with instructions to march through North Carolina and capture Washington and Plymouth. In the first he failed, and brought his entire army against our small ague-stricken force of not a man over 2,200 reported for duty, and yet, had it not been for their ironclad ram, we would never have been taken. Brig. Gen. Martin admitted their loss in killed and wounded to exceed our entire force. I never saw a report of the number of our loss, but hope someone who knows will give the report.

Now, comrades, I want someone to speak out loud and let the world know that we did something more than eat and drink and draw our pay for three and a half years that we served our country. It is so inspiring to see and read something of the work done by those who have been associated together in the defense of our beloved Stars and Stripes; and as it is not possible that we can all come together to talk over that which we did, we have a medium in our soldier paper by which we can almost see each other.

Jacob D. Brown, Co. D, 101st PA, Maria, Pa

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

March 20, 1890

BATTLE OF KINSTON

A Little Sarcasm from a Pennsylvania Man

Editor National Tribune: Is it not surprising how the imagination of some people leads them into error, as in the article of Comrade Jas. M. Rogers, Co. H, 10th Conn? (Note: ? was included in the article) In referring to the matter he has spread himself, and has in himself become a mighty host. In valor he has become the peer of the shepherd lad who slew the Giant Prince of Gath. Comrade Rogers is utterly unconscious of the fact that there are yet two of us left of the 12,000 brave boys who were present at the battle of Kinston, N.C. on Dec. 14, 1862. He takes a position that will not be corroborated, and I most respectfully ask him to share the honor and not sweep over all of Gen. Foster's disciplined and courageous lines of battle, and drive the enemy with a wild rush over the blazing bridge, putting out the fire and going into camp two miles in advance of a force of 12,000. The 10th Conn. will not claim anything of the kind, for they are honorable men. There were no three lines of battle at Kinston for this 10th Conn. man to go over. Neither were there any regiments there who preferred distant conflict to close honor. Every regiment, large or small, went to where it was assigned, and stayed there and did its whole duty, regardless of this one man, who, no doubt, at some future time will tell the world that he did it all. For the life of me I cannot comprehend how this 10th Conn man expects to force the impression on the thousands of living comrades that 365 men could drive the enemy when 12,000 equally brave men could not. This man is within himself a delusion and a snare. Comrade, you either dreamed what you say or else you are wholly regardless of honor. To my certain knowledge there was no one regiment that cut off 250 prisoners and then in their eagerness continued their wild rush for nothing could check their martial ardor. Now it so happened that the 16th Conn., 44th Mass., 85th, 92d(?), 98th and 100th N.Y. and 101st and 103d Pa were all close to the bridge when the rebels passed over. The batteries shelled them as they ran pell mell up the hill without any shadow of an organization. The artillery continued its work shelling the town, until the last reb had disappeared and their floating rags were all hauled down in Kinston. Then and not until then began the advance of the first Union troops across the much burning bridge. Except perhaps this 10th Conn. man who was no doubt two miles in advance and had gone into camp making out his report of the victory and recommending himself for promotion for meritorious service. I don't like sarcasm. It always has vinegar in it-but in this case I cannot help it. The epithet is too damaging. Dishonor is heaped upon the heads of the comrades of his own State. Cowardice is flung in the faces of the whole expedition by their preferring distant conflict to close honor. The wild rush for glory, the martial ardor blazing fiercely in this mans breast is perhaps the sole cause of the victory to the Union arms at Kinston Bridge.

Now comrades, my impression is that this 10th Conn. man has not been fairly dealt with. He should have a medal. This medal should be a head, which represents the advance. It should have two long ears indicating two miles in advance and extending from the open jaws a small pendant with the words "ee haw" would be appropriate. Permit me to say that Gen. Foster's expedition from New Berne, N.C. to Kinston, Whitehall and Goldsborough was a success in every respect and that in each of the three engagements the troops, without exception, distinguished themselves by being prompt in obeying every command from their superiors. But far be it for them to have been so cowardly as to refuse to go down through that awful swamp and over that terrible burning bridge perferring distant conflict to close honor.

Jacob D. Brown, Co. D, 101st Pa, Maria, Pa

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

November 5, 1891

TREATMENT OF PRISONERS

A Pennsylvania Officer Gives Some More Facts

Editor National Tribune: This eternal quibble in regard to the treatment of the prisoners of both sides makes me so tired I can't rest. Why is it that in the face of the evidence produced at the Wirz trial, in the face of the fact that Gen. Grant had the exchange of prisoners stopped for the reason that the rebel prisoners were fit to put immediately into Lee's ranks, and that none of our men could be so used? Why is it, in the face also of the fact - and it is a fact coming under my own observation - that parents and wives failed to recognize their own children and husbands at Annapolis, in March 1865, by reason of their wretched condition. Why, in face of all this, and much more, will this useless, foolish argument be kept up, as to what the relative treatment was at Camp Morton and Andersonville; at Elmira and Camp Sorghum, etc? This matter is again opened up in The National Tribune of Aug. 6 by Comrade Gaston. No doubt this comrade has been exasperated by some assertion on the other side. Now, without any desire at all to engage in newspaper controversy, but simply to state a fact as called out by Comrade Gaston, I will say that I was a commissioned officer, and a prisoner of war from April 20, 1864 until March 1, 1865, and I mention this only because Maj. Griswold, commandant of our prison at Columbia, told me that "you are used a great deal better than your men are; not that we wish to treat your men cruelly, but we cannot use them any better, and if there is any difference, officers should have it."

Now let us imagine how the "men" were used. At Camp Sorghum, which was located a mile or two from Columbia, there were about 1,700 commissioned officers confined, ranging from Lieutenant to Colonel in rank. The sinks for our use were located immediately north of the camp, just outside the guard-line. Bear in mind, there was no fence of any kind to obstruct the view of the camp guards, and in addition to this there was a guard around the sinks. Yet in broad daylight only six prisoners were allowed at the sinks at a time. Look at your map, dear reader, and you will see what chance we had to escape. East Tennessee or Port Royal was our nearest chance to get to our lines. Six men in 1,700 allowed to go outside of one guard, or rather through the camp guard inside of another guard; and this while cornmeal and sorghum were our main -- I might almost say our only--food. I saw one morning one prisoner pay $20 in Confederate money to another man for his turn to go to the sinks. The same morning I thought for curiosity's sake I would count the line. I did so, and when I took my place I was the 84th man in line.

In Charleston, S.C. I was confined in the jail yard from Sept. 17 to Oct. 4, 1864. While there part of the time we had no wood; our rations (?) [his question mark-not mine] were furnished uncooked, and we were compelled to tear the door frames, floor and seats out of the brick water-closet in the yard, to serve us as fuel.

We put our water and cornmeal in whatever we could get to cook it in, lit the fire, but the stench from the burning wood was unendurable, and we had to retire while it cooked. Do you fellows want my affidavit to this? You can have it in a holy minute.

Rise up, old "sorghum suckers," and tell me if I am lying; and recollect, both of these were the officers' prisons. Get right up, boys, and speak out in meetin'; settle this thing up, and then drop it.

J. B. Kirk, Co. H, 101st Pa

730 W. Wayne St. Lima, O.

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

October 31, 1901

CAPT. J. B. KIRK'S STRATEGETICS

How He Kept 150 North Carolina Home Guardians from Attacking His 15 Men in Blue

     EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: My humourous and gallant "friend the enemy," Capt. J.B. Kirk, of the 101st Pa., recently called to me from his picket post inviting me to visit him at a designated spot between the lines. Knowing that he always had something good, I dropped my gun and with great alacrity met him "half way." We cordially shook hands, no bloody chasm in sight. The blue and the gray were "all quiet along the Patomac tonight." The sentinal stars having set their watch in the skies, Kirk and I thought it was needless for us to hold our respective forts -- or picket posts. We had met before and made trades, and almost invariably I "bested him." The game was usually about even until we began swapping war stories, and then I was not "in it" -- not even "a little bit." I just let him "spin his yarns," while I drank from his canteen and stored his narratives away back in the treasure safe of memory.

     At the recent meeting meeting I again "lay for a story." After a preliminary skirmish with gentle words, negotiations opened.

     "Johnny, have you got any 'tobacker' about them ole butternut 'close' o'yourn?"

     "Yes 'Yank.' Have you got any store coffee?"

     "Yes. Say, Johnny, what's in your canteen?"

     "Cain-seed. What's in yourn?"

     "Some drops the doctor gave me for my rheumatism. But, say, Johnny, I haven't got any 'rheumatics.' The canteen is nearly full. Take 'suthin.' Maybe you've got 'rheumatics.'"

     Of course I had 'em. Well we "swapped around" until, the time being propitious, I suggested that he give me a story, I having none to give in return. I got the story all right, which is somewhat as follows:

     Some time in the Fall of 1863, while what was left of our brigade was stationed at Plymouth, N.C., the Lieutenant-Colonel of my regiment came to my quarters and informed me that Gen. Wessells wanted to see me. Reporting to "Old Pap" -- the name by which all the boys affectionally called the General -- he told me that there were two Confederate soldiers at home on furlough about 10 miles beyond our lines, and that he wanted me to take 13 men and go and bring those rebs into camp. He also gave me a guide, brother to one of the men whom I was to "arrest." Now, the country was infested with what we called 'guerrillas;' that is to say that along the route I was to travel there were about 150 old men, boys, and discharged 'Johnnies,' who, while not soldiers, were armed and, by some sort of grapevine-telegraph, could get themselves together in short order, and make things pretty warm for us if "we'uns" went "foolin' round" their haunts in small bodies. The next morning my little army, with Springfields and 200 rounds for each man, marched out in battle array. Just outside our lines I halted my command and ordered my men to load the guns, at the same time reading an order, on dress parade, to wit: "No unnecassary noise on this trip." About a mile from the lines we met a buggy and I lifted up a loud voice, crying "Halt!" The buggy promptly came to a standstill and I discovered therein a sharp-looking old man whom I would not select to conduct a prayer meeting. The interview was something like this:

     "Where are you going?"

     "To see a sick woman."

     "Are you a physician?"

     "Certainly, sir."

     "Is the lady dangerously ill?"

     "Well - yes- she is very sick."

     "Let me see your medicine case."

     "I don't carry any."

     "Have you any material thing about your person or in the buggy to offer in evidence that you are a phsician?"

     "Unfortunately, I have not."

     "Are you well, yourself?"

     "I think so. Why?"

     "Because," I replied, "if you are not well I think a ride in the direction we are going will be good for you, and as I have a man here who has had considerable experience in 'anatomy,' and who would be delighted to converse with you concerning matters'threaputical,' I suggest that you invite him to take a seat beside you in the buggy. He is a good soldier, a dead shot, and will see that you do not - get hurt." "Bill" having climbed into the buggy, I ordered the command to resume the interesting march. Meeting a mounted "citizen," I ordered him to "fall in," and on we went. Presently we ran up against a man leading a mule; then a boy with a cow; two more mounted men; another buggy. They all "fell in." "Bill" and the alleged doctor consituted a sort of rear guard, especially "Bill." Men kept "fallin' in." Finally we captured one of the furloughed soldiers, one of the objects of the expedition - found him in a garden pulling weeds. Not a shot was fired; no blood was shed. In passing a log house we were charged by a bob-tailed little yellow dog. He dashed at us bravely as would Custer or "Jeb" Stuart. One of my men was in the act of repelling the charge with his bayonet, when the old lady of the house appeared at the door. Pushing her brass-framed "specs" to the summit of her head, and removing her clay pipe from her mouth, exlaimed: "La, boys, don't be afraid of Sancho. He won't bite 'nuthin' but bread an' meat." The dog almost immediately turned and, if he had not been bob-tailed, would have "tucked his tail."

     We soon captured the second furloughed man, brother to my guide, and, as he was a conscript, he wanted to move his family within our lines. I wanted to be accomodating, but how to arrange matters was poblematical. I put soldiers on the horses of the "mounted citizens." The captive's wife and children I put into the buggy with "Bill," making the doctor (?) walk. It was a grand procession. There was a two-wheeled cart drawn by a yoke of oxen and the captive's cow, also harnessed to a cart, hauling household and kitchen furniture. Three pigs and a calf were also along. Returning to camp I ordered the men who had "fallen in" to "fall out" when they severally came to the places where they had "fallen in." At the crossroads I told the doctor (?) to go home. He wanted to know why I had made him make the round trip with me. "For the same rason," said I, "that I took the others - to keep 150 men from attacking 15." - Geo. Dallas Mosgrove.

[George Dallas Mosgrove was born 1844 in Louisville, Kentucky, and enlisted in the 4th KY Cavalry. Through service as a clerk and orderly in both regimental and brigade headquarters, he became familiar with the environment of officers and command, but it is unclear how he made aquaintenance with Capt. Kirk. In 1895 his book was published - Kentucky cavaliers in Dixie or The reminiscences of a Confederate cavalryman]

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

January 9, 1902

FROM BONDAGE TO LIBERTY

Scenes Incident to the Transition in North Carolina

Editor National Tribune: It was the Fall of '62 the hard marching and fighting between Lee and McClellan was over, and the Army of the Potomac had fallen back to Fortress Monroe, when Gen. J. G. Foster, then in command of the Department of North Carolina, in addition to what troops he then had, asked for a brigade to assist him in the destruction of the railroad bridge at Goldsboro.

The remains of the brigade, (Second Brigade, Second Division of the old Fourth Corps) was sent, and after they came back from this raid, it became evident that we would remain with him at least temporarily, and as the sequel proved permanently.

Gen. Foster then set about garrisoning the various important points in his department. Headquarters were at New-berne, while Morehead City, Cape Hatteras, Roanoke Island, and Plymouth, on the Roanoke River, each received its quota of troops in proportion to its importance.

The "tithe law," which was rigidly enforced, required producers to pay one-tenth of their product to the Confederacy, this tenth was collected and sorted in large buildings which had formerly done service, I presume, as tobacco and cotton warehouses.

This tenth was held subject to order of the proper officers of the Confederate Government. As these officers could not always be there to see to this matter, we occasionally looked after it ourselves. This old brigade of ours consisted of the 85th and 96th N.Y., 101st and 103d Pa, and about this time the 16th Conn. was added to it. These were the men sent to Plymouth.

We were reinforced very soon by two companies of the 12th N.Y. Cav., two companies of the 2d Mass. H.A., and Capt. Cady's 24th Independent Battery, N.Y. L.A., six Napoleons, making about 2,000 men, all under the command of Brig. Gen. Henry W. Wessels ("Old Pap"). Of this number about 300 were usually absent on sick leave, in hospitals, etc. so that we had about 1,700 men for duty. With this, then, we began life among the "Tar Heels" and on Jan 1, 1863, Lincoln's proclamation went into effect, and then we had the kind of a time the parrot spoke to his mistress about in relation to a misunderstanding with a monkey. Quite a number of the slaves could read a little; those who could not read thought a little, and many of them were - to use a North Carolina term "right smart peart." So that altogether they knew as much about the proclamation and as soon as anybody.

Perhaps some account of the way we managed in the matter of taking the slaves away from the plantations may be interesting.

On Judge Donald's (or perhaps his name was Donnolly) plantation, which lies on the north side of Albemarle Sound, 150 slaves, ranging in age from, we'll say, a few days to 100 years, and I am satisfied that one of them had reached the latter age.

Their complexions varied about as much as their ages, ranging in color all the way from New Orleans molasses to a few saddle. The owner had "seen de smoke way up de ribber, whar de Lincoln gunboats lay," and had taken his departure for more congenial latitudes, leaving the slaves in charge of the overseer. One of their number turned up at Plymouth one day and requested "Old Pap" to send to the plantation for them. A pretty strong detail was ordered in charge of Lieut. Col. Maxwell of the 103d Pa. For the purpose; but as the Colonel was going to look after some provisions gathered under the tithe law, he entrusted me to look after the slaves. Having everything ready, we took "Joe," our guide, and started. In due time we landed and proceeded up to the Judge's plantation. Our road lay along a ditch or canal that Joe told me ran up into the "Great Dismal Swamp." It appeared as we got near the slave quarters that we were on the other side of the canal from them, but there was a temporary bridge there and across this bridge 20 or 30 came to meet us.

Joe was marching at the head of the detail with me, and had pointed them out to me some time before, but when they recognized him they went wild. About five or six girls, of say, 18 or 25, led the van, shouting as they came over: "Oh! It's Joe; it's Joe! And, bress de good Lawd, de Yankees is come at last." So without more ado, one of the girls charged on Joe in front, another behind some more on the sides, and altogether they were too much for him, and as it had been raining recently and the ground was somewhat slippery, Joe's feet slipped and, the girls holding on, the entire outfit slid down the bank, some six or eight feet, mixed up in an indescribable mass. This was good as a n____r show. When they got untangled and came up we crossed over to the main body, and their different ways of expressing their joy would be hard to forget.

Some of the more devout, with uplifted hands, praised God and thanked "Uncle Abe" in almost the same breath; some of them danced, others shouted, and we had a time to get them to work at getting things collected that we wanted them to take, for they stopped every few minutes to jolify.

I remember particularly one who thought the news too good to be true. She was casting her eyes toward me very often. At last she concluded she would settle the matter. She came up to me and said, "Now, boss, ye izzent makin' b'lieve dat you-all's Yankees, is yer? Yer is yankees fer suah, izzent yer?"

I assured her that there was no doubt but that we were the Simon Pure article when upon she gave me one of the most - I think I can safely say the most - emphatic embraces I ever received in my life, and such as I fervently pray I shall never receive again, for she was surely able to have handled two such fellows as me - and, besides that, she chewed tobacco. I was afraid she was going to kiss me. I explained to them that they were free, and that we can come to take all of them who wished to go to Roanoke Island; that they should get their families together, as far as they could, also, that their clothing, beds, axes, spades, provisions, and everything that would be useful must be got aboard of the boat before dark. And here arose a new trouble, for it was as difficult to keep them from taking useless articles as it was to get them to take the useful, and it required the united work of Joe and a "committee" he selected to keep them steady.

While all this was going on Col. Maxwell was busy getting corn and pork from these warehouses on board, and what remained he burned.

When at last, however, the boat started, I saw what kind of a night was ahead of us, and so I divided the sheep from the goats, as it were. I gave the cabin to the religiously inclined and the lower deck to the - well, the goats. The former held divine service, while the latter danced. The music embraced all keys and all kinds from "Before Johovah's Awful Throne" to "My Rip Tarin Johnny's Gone Away."

Thus the night passed and thus 150 slaves passed from bondage to liberty.

J.B. Kirk, 101st Pa.

730 W. Wayne St.

Lima, Ohio

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

April 28, 1904

MONEY TO BURN

A Great Find of Bank Notes in a NC Town

Editor National Tribune: I scouted a great deal over the country north of the North Carolina Sounds and through Edinton, Columbia, North Carolina, Hyde County, etc., having at any place between 14 and 175 men with me. I have often been requested by some of the boys to write it all, but I have been somewhat diffident because of the disposition of a lot of -- well, cranks, I guess is the right word -- who can hardly wait till the next issue to arise and say, "The comrade is off his base - for it was Co. "X" of the 675th R.I., and not Co. Q, 700th Ind., that stole those chickens."

I have been amused and annoyed by references which have been made to an expedition to Elizabeth City, N.C., made in 1863, which I had the pleasure, and perhaps, the honor, to command. These references have been made by Kellogg in his "Prison" book, and by two or three spies who used the money and occasionally by writers in The National Tribune. None of them tell it right. It is not necessary that it be straightened up; they may as well go on erring about it as they do about other things but -- well, I don't like to read so many different stories about it.

The facts are these: Gen. H. W. Wessells was in command at Plymouth, N.C., and had sent me with about 100 white soldiers of his force to establish picket posts and otherwise to pave the way for a colored regiment that went with us, but did not have the steamer till we got ready to leave the town.

When the boat landed I took my own men and marched into the town. Seeing a brick building that had the appearance of being unoccupied, I concluded that we would stay there during our visit.

We marched into the building, which proved to have been "The Bank of Elizabeth City."

I took enough men to properly picket the approaches, and after having posted them returned to the reserve.

Just as I entered the large hall one of the men, who had been exploring the place, returned and threw a large roll of paper on the tile floor, cut the strings and unrolled, perhaps, 80 or 100 large sheets of bank notes in blank, just as they had come from the presses. Therefore no date, no signature. While we were contemplating with horror the atrocity of the crime, another and still another soldier returned, each bringing in a similar parcel.

I have not the least doubt there were anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 of these bills. I never knew the amount and I am satisfied that no one else ever did.

I suggested that the bills were of no use, as they were not signed; but the Pennsylvania and New York stockholders knew a thing or two about finance, and they were taken with us to Plymouth, and when the Tarheels outside the lines found that we had good old tarboiler money -- why, every product, eggs, pork, honey, grapes, etc., came to the trading post ad libitum. Some of this money was passed on the sutler at Andersonville. One of my own men told me afterward that his Elizabeth City money saved his life.

Let me call attention to one peculiarity of this money. There were bills for $1.00, $1.25, $1.50, $1.75, $2.00, $2.25, and so on up to $10. Whoever heard, before, of a $6.00 or $7.25 bill? Yet, here they were!

Our work over at Elizabeth City, I notified the Colonel of the colored regiment, and he relieved my picket and we left.

J. B. Kirk, Captain, 101st Pa.

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

November 3, 1904

PENNSYLVANIA BANKERS

A Change of Officials in the Elizabeth City [NC] Bank

Editor National Tribune: In 1863 Gen. Henry B. Wessels, "Old Pap," as we familiarly call him, was stationed at Plymouth, N.C., and while there he occasionally sent me forth to reconnoitre certain rebellious sections of the "Old North State." a service that was not altogether uncongenial to a man of my temperament. A reconnaissance made to Elizabeth City lingers in memory.

With about 70 men I marched boldly into the city, there being no rebels in battle array my right to dispute. Expecting to tarry a while, I was somewhat anxious to secure commodious and comfortable quarters for my little army of occupation and finally concluded that the "Elizabeth City Bank," a substantial and pretentious building, whence all the officials had fled, would admirably "fill the bill." The men stacked their guns on the solid floor, artistic tilting and forthwith became self-constituted "bank examiners." Very soon one of them bearing a huge roll of paper came to me, and without properly saluting his commander, imperiously said:

"Gimme your knife. I want to cut the string."

"What is it?" I asked.

"Damfino." said he.

Not being a West Pointer, I neglected to have that fellow court-martialed and executed for using unbecoming language, but I did "cut the string." The roll consisted of some 150 or 200 sheets of bank notes, neither dated or signed. The denominations of the bills were peculiar. They were as follows: $1.00, $1.25, $1.50, $1.75, $2.00, $2.25 and so on up to $10. Never before had I seen 6, 7, 8 and 9-dollar bills. Presently other "examiners" appeared, all bearing rolls of alleged money, some of large denominations. The boys said there was wealth enough in that bank to make each of them a millionaire. "No," said I, "these notes are not worth a continental." They are neither signed nor dated." A few bright fellows retired to the Directors' room for consultation. When they reappeared, the spokesman said: "Captain, these notes will be good money when properly dated and signed. We Pennsylvanians are in undisputed possession of this North Carolina monetary institution. We shall now proceed to install a President, Cashier, and other necessary officials. These attractive notes will then be dated and signed, and forthwith be put in circulation. The stringency in money matters will be instantly relieved."

"Go ahead, boys" said I.

The Pennsylvania stockholders of the Elizabeth City Bank installed the necessary officials and one of them, a rapid penman, wrote dates and signature until he became very tired. When he stopped to rest every Pennsylvania stockholder had a plethora of North Carolina money. Then they went a-foraging. The people recognized and honored these peculiar bills whenever and wherever they were presented. The boys readily exchanged them for pigs and poultry, hams and honey, fruits and dairy products. The "tar boilers" had confidence in paper money issued by a State Bank. One dollar issued by the "Elizabeth City Bank" would buy more than a $10 bill printed by the Confederate Government.

The reconnaissance to Elizabeth City was a notable success, viewed from a financial standpoint, but if "Old Pap" Wessel ever heard of that banking episode he made no audible comment. He must, however, have done a lot of thinking. We had a sufficiency of the "paper of the realin" to purchase silence that is golden, but I know "Old Pap" was not bribed to saw wood and say nothing.

Soon after I had established quarters in Elizabeth City I was accosted by a gentleman who said he would be glad to entertain me at his home. He said he was a discharged Confederate soldier, but he hoped that fact would not prevent him from entertaining me like a gentleman. I gladly accepted his invitation. His wife greeted me pleasantly saying she had no doubt we would be friends. I gave her a pound or two of coffee, and when I ate my first meal in that hospitable home I knew there was some one in the house who could make good coffee.

J. B. Kirk, Captain, 101st Pa.

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

November 3, 1904

TWO PRISONERS AT LARGE

Selling a Watch and Negotiating for Milk.

Editor National Tribune: In the Spring of 1865 myself and other officers, prisoners of war, were temporarily detained at an old conscript camp in North Carolina, known as Camp Holmes.

I had "procured" an antique silver watch that was somewhat out of repair, its most serious defect being a missing wheel. Not particularly needing a watch of that description, I was willing to exchange it for a reasonable sum of current Confederate money. After exhausting all my eloquence in commendation of the alleged time-piece, and making some Ananias-like representations, I succeeded in selling the watch to a Johnny for the satisfactory sum of $180. He failed to note the "internal vacancy," but suspiciously called my attention to the self-evident fact that the watch had "stopped." I explained by saying that it simply had "run down;" that all it needed was "winding up," but unfortunately I had lost the key. When the transfer was made and he withdrew from my presence, I hoped I would see that Johnny nevermore. I am glad to say I never saw him again.

Having now a plethoric purse, I suggested to my chum, Capt. Grafton, of the 64th Ohio, that we should go beyond the confines of the camp and "have a time." He was willing, but doubted that we could pass the guards. I thought, however, that we could overcome the suggested difficulty.

We sauntered down to the guard, who stood near the woods, and I gave him a $5 bill as an inducement for him to walk slowly to the other end of his beat. He was very accommodating, and the Captain and I passed over the line and through the woods that sheilded us from observation. Meeting a "reliable contraband," I stopped him and made inquiry:

"Uncle, does anybody live near here?"

"Yes, Sah; Missus Whitakuh lives down dat-a-way."

When we reached the Whitaker residence we rapped at the front door, which was opened by a rather good-looking girl, probably 20 years old.

"Will you kindly sell us some milk?"

"No, you are Yankees. We have nothing for Yankees."

The inhospitable maiden then very emphatically slammed the door in our faces.

"That settles it," said Grafton.

"I think not," said I; "when a front attack fails, we may succeed by making a flank movement."

Passing around the corner of the house, we saw an old lady and two colored girls busy at a dairy not far distant from the dwelling. We went down to the milk-house and made our best bow. Said I: -

"This is Mrs. Whitaker, I believe."

"Yes," said she, "that is my name."

"Mrs. Whitaker, we want to buy some milk."

Before the old lady had time to reply, two girls came running from the house, and one of them, the one who had rejected us at the front door, cried:

"Mother, those men are Yankees. Don't let them have one drop of milk."

"Is it true," asked the old lady; "are you Yankees?"

"Yes," said I, "it is true. We are Yankees; that is to say, we are what you people call Yankees, but in fact, neither of us is a Yankee. My friend, Capt. Grafton, is from Ohio, and I am from Pennsylvania. We belong, however, to what you call the 'Yankee Army.' We are prisoners of war -- defenseless strangers in a strange land, and we are hungry."

"I never sold any milk in my life," said she, "and I'm too old to begin now; but I will give you as much as you can drink."

"Mother, mother! Didn't I tell you not to let those Yankees have anything?"

"Yes, I heard you; but I am capable of attending to my own business. I intend to give these men all the milk they want. By so doing I will not materially aid the Yankee army, nor will I embarrass our own soldiers who are in the field."

I was greatly pleased with the old lady's speech, and told her that her reasoning was good. In reply she said she had a son with Lee, and she hoped some good Northern woman would treat him kindly if he should ever apply for so simple a favor as we were asking of her.

"Mother, mother! I tell you I don't want these Yankees to receive any favors from any member of our family."

The gentle old lady, ignoring the imperiousness and uncharitableness of the younger one, turned to the colored girls, and said:

"Hannah, skim a crock of that sweet milk and bring it over here."

"Then said I: "Mrs. Whitaker, I beg your pardon, but I think you need not impose additional work on Hannah for our sake. We are willing to drink the milk without removing the cream."

"Well," said she"you are a jolly fellow. Take the milk as it is. Just help yourselves to all you want. If there is not enough in that crock, call for another."

We called for another.

J. B. Kirk, Captain 101st Pa.

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

Thursday, September 27, 1906

ANDERSONVILLE MEMORIES

Hanging of the Raiders -- The Bursting Out of Providence Spring

Editor National Tribune: I was much interested in the article written by Comrade John S. Howard, Co. K. 11th Vt., in your issue of Aug. 23, in regard to Andersonville Prison. I wish to corroborate some of the things he says, but like him, I am somewhat in the dark concerning some things that have been written in reference to that notable place. I was one of the Plymouth Pilgrims who registered at Hotel Andersonville on the 1st day of May 1864, after a week's sojourn on the way from Tarboro, N.C., packed in box cars like sardines in a box. In regard to the hanging of the six raiders, Comrade Howard is right as regards the man who broke away and ran down the hill and across the swamp in his endeavor to escape. I was standing near the edge of the swamp on the north side watching the hanging, and just after the six prisoners were brought in at the south gate and marched up to the gallows, which was erected on the brink of the hill about 20 yards from the entrance, one of the prisoners, a big, stout-looking fellow, after looking at the gallows, and doubtless for the first time being convinced that those in authority meant business, broke away and ran down the hill and across the swamp. It was with difficulty that he got through the swamp, the filth being almost knee deep. I remember clearly seeing him pull off his coat as he was plowing his way across the swamp, and when he reached the south side he found a gang of men ready to arrest his further progress, who marched him back to the gallows, in spite of his entreaties to be let go. In the meantime the other five men had been prepared for the gallows by being bound, and sacks put over their heads. As he approached the gallows he evidently became convinced that the trial had been a farce, and that they must all pay the penalty for the awful crimes they had committed. When all was completed the six men were marched up an incline plank on to the platform, the noose adjusted to each; at a given signal the plank on which they stood was knocked from under them, and five of the six men were launched into eternity. The sixth man, whose position was on the east end of the gallows, was Mosby, the leader of the gang, and he being a larger, heavy man, when the drop came his rope broke and he fell to the ground. He was picked up, the rope again adjusted about his neck and he was again pushed off into space. Thus ended the fearful tragedy which brought peace and safety to the balance of the inmate of the prison for some time to come.

Regarding the washing out of the stockade, I find, upon reference to my diary, that on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 9, we had a fearful rain storm, which washed down portions of the stockade in several places on the west side in the vicinity of where the small steam (now augmented to a raging torrent) came through. I remember well seeing some of the boys wading out into this raging stream to grapple some of the stockade timbers as they were floating down the stream, for the purpose of converting them into firewood, but much to their disappointment, the rebel authorities came in and deprived them of their booty by taking the timber from them and placing it back into its original position in the stockade.

I have read much, and heard it proclaimed many times from the platform, that the so-called Providence spring burst forth into existence at this time, but I never could credit the assertion, for I went down past the spot where they say the spring was, almost every day, and some days several times a day and I never heard of the Providence spring until long after the war was over. I remember the stump that stood between the deadline and stockade about two or three rods up the hill from the creek; also, the swampy nature of the ground about the stump but no flowing spring existed there that I ever saw or heard of prior to Sept. 11, when my detachment was taken out, and we started on our way to the new bull pen (as we called it) at Florence, S.C., stopping on our way for a couple of weeks' sojourn at Charleston, S.C. being confined there within the limits of the old race course, until the stockade at Florence was completed and ready for occupancy. We rather enjoyed this change, because we could hear the sound and see the big shells burst round about us and hear them go crashing through the buildings in the city; they were being thrown from Uncle Sam's guns in Charleston Harbor.

I do not wish to be understood that there was no such thing as the so-called Providence spring but it must have broken out after the big storm of Oct. 3, of which Comrade Howard speaks, and not after the big storm of Aug. 9 as many would have us believe. If I am not right in which I have said I stand willing to be corrected.

George Hollands, Co. B, 101st Pa

Hornelisville, N.Y.

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

January 24, 1907

PROVIDENCE SPRING

Editor National Tribune: I am much surprised at the statement of Comrade George Holland, Co. B, 101st Pa., as to the Providence Spring. He says he left Andersonville on Sept. 11. He is correct as to the date of the storm and washout of the stockade, and there was a break-in on both sides of the prison. The washout was a great blessing, as it cleaned out the filth we could not otherwise get rid of. I was located on the north side of the stream, and was close to the gallows when the six men were hung on the 11th day of July. Now I have this to say about the spring, and my diary to prove it as to time: it was the morning of Aug. 13 that a little stream of water was discovered running down the path or within the dead line, and it was one-third of the distance from the gate to the creek. The spring-house now there is about 50 feet below where the water came up out of the ground. Many a morning have I sat in my hovel, trying to count the string of men waiting their turn to get water at the spout put there to carry the water over the dead line. I went to see the old place at the dedication of our monument, and it brought back many sad memories as I stood on my old place viewing the changes which had been made. How strangely old scenes return by closing the eyes. They all came back to me as I stood on the old spot. I am one of the Plymouth Rats. I was also a member of the 101st Pa. of Co. H. I entered Andersonville May 3, and our detachment left Sept. 10 by way of Macon, Savannah and Augusta to Charleston. Then, Oct. 1, we were run up to Florence Prison, which place I left by parole Dec. 12, 1864. So ended my imprisonment --

Samuel W. Porter, Co. H, 101st Pa.,

Beaver Falls, Pa.

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The National Tribune

February 11, 1909

Ex-Prisoners of War

     T. R. Stotler, Bernardo, Cal., is deeply distressed over the attitude of Chairman Sulloway towards the prisoners of war bill. He feels that this is the last chance of the prisoners of war, who have been knocking at the doors of Congress for 28 years. He belonged to Wessel's Brigade, Fourth Corps, and enlisted Sept. 21, 1861. After the Peninsular Campaign his brigage was sent to North Carolina, and was taken prisoner at Plymouth. It would have been better for him if he had been shot on the last day of the fight than to have gone to Andersonville. He was a walking skeleton when he reached Annapolis after his release, and three days more would have finished him entirely. He has been unable to do any labor since, and has been suffering for 40 years.

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The National Tribune

June 8, 1911

Union N.C. Soldiers.

Editor National Tribune: In the officers' stockade at Macon, Ga., where there were about 1,300 officers, including Gens. Wessells, Heckman, Seymour and Palmer, each morning we were driven to one end of the stockade, containing about four acres. I was Second Lieutenant, Co. B, 2d N.C., captured at Plymouth April 20, 1864, and not quite 19 years old.

On July 4 a small flag appeared. It had been smuggled in by a Union lady of Macon to her relative, who was a prisoner. Capt. Skimmerhorn, of the 3d Ohio, a Strait raider, sang the "Star-Spangled Banner," and all joined in the chorus. We had other songs and speeches. Capt. Kellogg, of Iowa, made an address, "Declaration of Independence." Finally an order was given by the commander of the prison that our celebration would have to cease. Two 12-pounder guns were planted on an elevation for emphasis. For fireworks in the evening we secured a piece of board about two feet long and 10 inches wide, with holes making the following figures and letters. Seventy-six made pins about four inches long of pitch pine, drove them into the holes, and when the night came nailed the board to trees and set fire to the pines, and when they burned down showed the figures and letters like gas jets.

About July 27 I was one of 600 sent to Charleston, and I belonged to the secret pack for the purpose of escaping. We had tunnels, but they were discovered. On leaving Macon we determined to overpower the guards and take the train, but it failed. We arrived at Charleston, and were held there until Oct. 2, then taken to Columbia, S.C., where were about 1,400.

This was the worst place by far. We were put in an open field, with no shelter and one cupful of cornmeal and a little sorghum. We called the place Camp Sorghum. I was paroled on Dec. 9 with 199 others, and sent back to Charleston to our hospital fleet. My feelings when I got under our flag and smelled coffee and cooked meats cannot be described. I enlisted Oct. 7, 1861, in Co. H, 101st Pa., and was appointed Second Lieutenant, Co. B, 2d N.C., in December, 1863, a large portion of which had served in the Confederate army and had deserted. So far as I know we had three regiments of infantry and one company of cavalry in the Union army from North Carolina. In February, 1864, Pickett's Division tried to take Newbern, but failed. However, he captured Co. F of the 2d N.C., and 27 of them were hung at Kingston. - John A. Reed, Historian, 101st Pa., Pittsburg, Pa.

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The National Tribune

Washington, DC

May 14, 1914

ON THE MASSACHUSETTS

The Midnight Collision on the Potomac Between the Massachusetts and the Black Diamond.

Editor National Tribune: I was very much interested in the description of the collision on the Potomac in your issue of Jan. 29 by Comrade William H. Nolt, 16th Conn., which regiment was unfortunately captured at Plymouth, N.C., April 20, 1864, together with my regiment, the 101st Pa., two companies of heavy artillery, a company of cavalry and the 24th N.Y. Ind'p't Battery.

The whole brigade was taken to Andersonville, arriving there on May 1, 1864. In September, on account of the close proximity of Sherman's army, we were removed to another prison, or "bull pen," as we called it, at Florence, S.C., and the following December, under a cartel of exchange effected between the Commissioners of exchange of both North and South, about 10,000 of those who were suffering most were paroled and taken to Camp Parole, Annapolis. We remained there until after the assassination of President Lincoln in April, 1865, when, as Comrade Nolt says, we were ordered to Alexandria, Va., to take a boat for the North Carolina Coast, where recruits had been sent to fill up our depleted ranks.

On Sunday, April 23, 1865, about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, about 400 of us boarded the steamer Massachusetts and started down the Potomac for Norfolk, Va.

We glided along down the river very nicely until a little after dark, when a strong wind began to blow and the river became very rough, and, as our boat was an old one and unfit to carry more than half the number she had on board, the outlook was not very encouraging. About 10 o'clock at night, when we were all cuddled down for a night's sleep, part on the upper deck and part below -- myself and my bunkmates were streched out on the lower deck -- we heard an awful crash and felt a sudden jar. We all sprang to our feet, pulled on our coats and ran up on deck to see what the trouble was. All was confusion and excitement, as we discovered we had crashed into the side of another boat, striking her amidship.

I ran to the bow of our boat, as most of the others had done, and found her bow was settling fast. The Captain was shouting to us to go aft, so as to keep her bow out of the water as much as possible. In the meantime we were shouting to the boat we had run into -- the Black Diamond -- to come to our assistance. She circled around and came up alongside of us, and about 150 jumped from the Massachusetts to the deck of the Black Diamond. I was among the first to board her, and I ran immediately to the man at the wheel and asked him if the boat was all right. He said: "No; she is sinking." I then made up my mind that we had "jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire." I immediately turned to go toward the stern of the boat, and in going I stumbled onto a stepladder which had been torn from the hurricane deck. I grabbed up the ladder and was about to jump overboard with it -- scores of the boys had already jumped overboard to avoid the suction of the boat as she went down -- when all of a sudden the thought came to me that the river was not deep enough to engulf the masts and all, so I threw down the ladder, grabbed one of the guyropes and began climbing up toward the mast.

I soon landed my foot on the yard-arm and got my arms around the mast, and about that time the boat struck bottom, with her deck only about two feet under water. I found three or four of the crew among the rigging, so they evidently were of the same mind as I concerning the depth of the river.

We clung to our positions all night, and could hear the cries for help in all directions from the boys who had jumped overboard.

A drummer boy of the 16th Conn. had been washed overboard and had grasped hold of the keel of the boat, or something else, and was hanging on for dear life and calling for help. One of the crew up in the rigging got hold of a rope and time and time again threw it to where the boy was, telling him to grab for it. The boy couldn't get hold of it. Every now and then a wave would wash over him and strangle him, and as he would emerge from it he would call for the rope. He finally became exhausted and cried out to us that he could hold out no longer. He told us his name, but I have forgotten it. [George W. Carter] He said he was a drummer of Co. D, 16th Conn., and asked us to inform his mother that he was drowned. He bade us goodby, and as the next wave washed over him he loosened his hold and sank beneath the waves.

We clung to our position until daylight, when we were discovered and picked up by a small United States gunboat or revenue cutter and transferred to our old boat, the Massachusetts, which, with one wheel out of commission and part of her bow carried away, had floated about in the vicinity during the night and picked up those she could of our comrades who had jumped overboard.

After we were safe onboard the Massachusetts made her way slowly down the river, and about 11 o'clock a.m. she sighted a large steamer lying at anchor. She steered for her and ran alongside, and we were immediately transferred to the larger boat.

In making the transfer we were counted off and were found to be 65 short. Our new boat at once steamed away for Norfolk, Va., arriving there about 4 o'clock p.m., where we were unloaded and sheltered in an old theater over night.

The next morning we were loaded on a small steamer and ran thru the canal to Roanoke Island, where we found the recruits that had been assigned to our different regiments.

In closing I wish to say that Comrade Nolt's article is the first and only mention I ever saw of it in print. We watched the New York papers a few days following the accident for an account of it, but I never saw any mention of it. In those days, however, the loss of a ship and a few men was not considered worth mentioning.

George Hollands, Co. B, 101st Pa., Hornell, N.Y.

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