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Archiver > ALDALE > 1999-08 > 0935440496

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Subject: John R. King's Elmira experience part 1
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999 16:34:56 EDT

I want to explain why I am writing this little sketch. In the first place I
have never seen anything written about life in Northern Prisons and have
always had a great desire that the world be better informed regarding the
treatment of prisoners during the war. No doubt many of my comrades in prison
could have written about our prison life much better than I, but it seems
none of them have ever made the attempt. My own children and grandchildren
have often expressed a desire that I write my experience, and last but not
least, I can say the real cause of my undertaking such a thing is that my
cousin, Mrs. George C. Stone, of Clarksburg, President of the Stonewall
Jackson Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, has desired me to write
something of this nature for their chapter; this I have done to the best of
my ability and will cheerfully give it into the hands of their Historian,
hoping that it may have something in it worthy of publication.

Being a carpenter by trade I can use a saw and square much better than I can
a pen, but in writing this there is one particular thing which has helped me
more than anything else, and that is, I have an excellent memory. This is a
blessing to me. I could have written a great deal more from memory, but have
written only some of the most important happenings. Many things happened
every day in the army and in the prisons of which I might have spoken and
which would be new to the younger people. I could have told how we built
breastworks, how we fortified and picketed along the Rapidan, how pickets
were captured on post and how, while we were building breastworks at Germania
Fort, there was a religious revival going on behind us in the pine woods. I
could have told about our camping on the Chancellorsville Battlefield,
walking over the ground where our beloved Stonewall Jackson fell and how we
saw human skulls and human bones bleaching on top of the ground. I might have
told of many painful sights on battlefields in the midst of shot and shell
and mangled human beings, of death bed scenes in prison, meetings and
partings on battlefields, of messages to loved ones at home and many other
minor happenings, but it was too much of an undertaking for my awkward pen
and so I ended with my return home. If all who were in the war and in the
various prisoners were to write their experiences, there would be much work
for the publishers.

There have been all sorts or reports abroad ever since the Civil War in
regard to the feeding and general treatment of Southern prisoners in Northern
Prisons and I will say here, as I said before, I was one of these prisoners
for more than a year and what I have stated in this little sketch is all from
actual experience and from my own observation; it is absolutely true.

I could have made our sufferings and many other things which I mentioned a
great deal blacker and more bitter, but my aim has been to give everyone all
the credit they deserve, for I feel a number of our officers in charge of the
prisons had the welfare of the prisoners at heart; however, they were in a
position where they could not prevent our suffering. I have often looked back
over the period just after the close of the war when the poor confederate
soldiers were sent home to face the world without money, often without credit
and with but few clothes. They were not allowed to vote, had to pay taxes,
could expect no pension, often crippled. It was a gloomy outlook, but I have
lived to see the confederate veterans honored everywhere, thousands of them
have fine homes of their own, they are surrounded with the comforts of life,
our dear old southland has come to the front and has prospered beyond what
the fondest heart ever expected to see. I have had a great desire ever since
the close of the Civil War that people in general and my own children in
particular might be better informed regarding the South and the Southern side
of the Civil War. In this little sketch I have endeavored to uphold our
Southern side and to create a respect for the South and for Southern people
as I do at all times. None have ever done more in uplifting the South and
creating a universal respect for her people than the noble Southern women. In
all ages women have been heroic in war and in suffering and I can say in
truth that our own dear Southern women bore their share of privations and
suffering with a heroism born in the South and it does my heart good to speak
of our dear children, the Daughters of the Confederacy, who have pledged the
best of their lives and have banded together for the good work of uplifting
and aiding the south, caring for our old veterans, their widows and orphans.
Surely God will reward them for their unselfish work and I will pray that God
may protect everyone of them and bless them in all their efforts.

Finally, to my honored cousin Mrs. George C. Stone, I respectfully present
this little sketch and sincerely hope that she may find something in this
that may be suitable for publication.

John R. King, Roanoke, W. Va., February, 1916

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