Five Months Sufferings in the Stockade - 
Terrible Condition of the Prisoners - 
The "Dead Line"-  The Flight and Escape, &c.

       The following very interesting narrative of the experiences of a Union soldier - a volunteer from the Green Mountain State - in the prisons of the confederacy, is furnished us by the soldier himself, who escaped from . . . the stockade at Andersonville, Georgia.


       In October 1863, the narrator, Mr. Alphonso Barows, was serving in a Vermont cavalry regiment, under General Kilpatrick, and participated in the action at Brandy station [near Culpepper, Virginia], fought on the 11th of October. 

       Of Mr. Barows' squadron a captain, lieutenant and eight men were captured by the rebel General Fitzhugh Lee’s command, and from that spot marched to Culpepper, three miles distant. Here they remained all night. Next morning a muster of prisoners was called, which showed three hundred men, belonging to various commands, the majority being cavalry and members of the One Hundred and Twentieth New York infantry. Here they were put on the cars and hurried to Richmond receiving not the slightest sustenance or nourishment on the way. On the same day: (the 12th October) they reached Richmond, and the whole party was at once marched to Libby prison . . . 

       At Richmond they were first confined in the Libby prison, to the vile dungeons of which they were led in the dark of the autumn evening. Whatever improvement or amelioration of their condition [that] hope, with the morning light, might have promised them was sadly dispelled when the full realization of their situation burst upon them on the following morning.

       The infernal Libby was then more than full, and the first sufferings of Mr. Barows and his fellow captives of Brandy station were intolerable from mere contact with their fellow Union prisoners of an earlier date. The vermin swarmed upon everything, and the mere appearance of the unfortunates, who were emaciated with suffering, foretold privations and tortures that the newcomers dreaded to contemplate, so fearfully prophetic was everything around them of their own coming fate.

       From Libby prison numbers of the latter captives were removed to Pemberton tobacco warehouse, and from thence to another tobacco prison, which had just been vacated by the prisoners captured at the battle of Chickamauga. After being some time confined here they were removed to Belle Isle, where the sufferings of some ten thousand men throughout the winter were intense from cold and hunger - not the slightest attempt, nor the faintest provision, being made to lessen or assuage their sufferings.

       It was only during the day the poor sufferers would seek such repose as the bare earth afforded, the night cold driving all sleep from their eyes, and compelling them to lie in the holes which they had dug in the ground, and in which they kindled the little fires they were permitted to burn. Here our informant remained throughout the winter, up to the month of March, when some seven or eight hundred were put on the cars, destined for Andersonville, Ga.


       Through some falsely excited hopes the ill-fated men fancied they were on their way to be exchanged, and an effort at merriment, melancholy to witness in some of the more debilitated, was the result. But, as the journey lengthened out, and when, to repeated inquiries as to their destination, they were informed they were on their way to Georgia, all hope seemed to die out of the most courageous and sanguine amongst them, and from the third to the eighth and concluding day of the journey it was a train of death. Despair seized upon the strongest. The men were packed sixty to a car, standing as closely as was possible, every means of ventilation closed except at the door, where sentries standing outside left so much open as to enable them to watch their prisoners inside. A horrible heat, as our informant states, generating a sweat that did not break out on face or hands or limbs, but oozed out through our jackets, and parched our mouths and throats, causing the greatest agony. I only survived, I think, "says he, crouching down on the floor of the car and cutting a hole in the bottom, to which I held my head for minutes at a time to inhale breath. "This was the only resource - the only alleviation of their agony the men had. 


       At last they reached Andersonville, several having died on the way in the cars during the seven terrible days of the journey. And here a circumstance may be stated with respect to the relative feelings of the soldiers of the confederacy towards those of the Union army whom the fortunes of war subject to their mercy. Mr. Barows states that himself and fellow prisoners received a great deal more consideration and experienced much more humanity from the South Carolina Guards, who formed as part of the same. There was in consequence a higher regard felt among their less kind and less chivalrous comrades of Virginia. The Georgia soldiers, too, were very anxious to trade with the Yankees, exchanging biscuits for the jacket buttons of the latter. The brass buttons sell at a dollar a piece, the possession of a half dozen buttons being eagerly sought and highly prized. Andersonville was at last reached - Andersonville, now so notorious, and hereafter to be a word of greater reproach and of greater stigma than the Libby or Castle Thunder, or even Belle Isle itself. Here the prisoners, sick and well, were handled out of the cars, and the terrible stockade stood before them. Up to this point for miles the cars ran through a densely pine wooded country, and even here, with the exception of the ground cleared for the stockade, all was lofty pinewood on every side, gloomy, impenetrable, and as sickening to the heart as the despairing thoughts could make it - thoughts too suggestive of the posted lines over the entrance to his inferior: - "All ye that enter here leave hope behind."Andersonville, before the war wasknown only to the travelers on the railroad by name, marked by a log house, the only break on the vast continuity of shade.

       Since then it has been chosen on account of the remoteness from the contending lines - being in the centre of Georgia – as a prison, or Golgotha, for Union prisoners. Here a clearing in the deep pine wood was made, first of fifteen acres, and afterwards as the number of prisoners increased, extended to ten acres more. The stockade is a rough, but strong construction of pine wood, oblong in shape, and having inside its outer limits - that is, within the twenty feet of the outer surrounding fence (fifteen feet high) - another open fence or palisading. The twenty feet space between is the dead one - a name too sadly recited every day by the slaughter of Union soldiers - in the immolation of those unconscious of the prohibition and the penalty and often in the fate of many who accept the doom of disobedience as a relief from the slow agony of a living death. Into this stockade, within a space of about eighteen acres, were penned together, when our informant escaped from it - the 6th of August last - from thirty-five thousand to forty thousand, without a hut or tent or shred to shield them from the harming sun or shelter them from the pitiless storm. Thousands of these victims are semi-naked and half starved, and such torture effects haste their accumulated sufferings had aged them that many hundreds have become bereft of reason. Mr. Barows says: - "I cannot give you even a faint plea of the appearance of these men sitting or standing their heads are always bowed upon their breasts, their hair matted, their fingers crooked, their bare arms, hands and feet emaciated. Their manner of moving about, and the unnatural silence which most of them maintain, have left them but a semblance of humanity." The sad condition into which these unfortunates have fallen - and many of them were remembered as the most cheerful and daring men in camp and field - has a terribly depressing effect upon all the others. The deaths, on an average, amount to seventy-five or eighty a day, the imbecile furnishing a large quota, the principal disease to which almost all succumb being dysentery. This is brought on from the coarse corn flour which is doled out to them, great numbers having to eat the dough made from this flour and the sickening water which runs through the centre of the camp, raw, the facilities for making bread in the bakehouse being barely sufficient to supply the small allowance to two thirds of the camp a day. Salt is also very sparingly and capriciously served out, almost every third day the few grains permitted being withheld from them. The water is a fruitful source of their suffering. A small brook runs through the centre of the camp, broad margins of swamp lying on either side. Into this brook all the water from the bakehouse or cookhouse is thrown; the rebels was clothes in it, and much of the refuse of the camp finds it way to it, infecting the waters with disease and death. The dead are not every day brought from the camp.

       Sometimes two days are permitted to elapse before removal, and the sight of so many brave fellows, who sought honorable deaths on the battle fields of the Union, being thus ignominiously thrown into wagons by slaves, to be consigned to unknown grave pits, after such lingering torments, Mr. Barows says, is the most harrowing of their gloomy days to the survivors. The camp is guarded by four regiments of conscripts and one skeleton Georgia regiment (the Fifty-fifth), the whole under the command of a German officer, a Captain Waurtz, who is represented as cruel in the extreme. Besides this force within, there is a Georgia battery of sixteen guns outside, planted so as to command the interior. A precaution is taken to prevent the poor victims inside meditating an escape en masse by overpowering by a rush and force of numbers their guards. This is by driving posts at short distances into the ground all through the camp, so that it would be impossible for any entire body of men to keep together close enough to make a dash effective. The conscript troops are far more cruel and relentless than the regular rebel soldiers. 

       The line known as the line-marks a limit prescribed to the prisoners within. On the camp side of this limit is the palisading before referred to, on which at distances of about ten rods are small platforms or stands for sentries who guard against all encroachment on the space between these palisades and the outer work or stockade, with strict orders to shoot down all who invade it. Many of the prisoners of late arrivals, anxious to get breathing room from amid the stifling wedge of humanity around, elbow their way outside, and, seeing this free space, make for it. Well, should it be a conscript sentinel who is at that point, he gives no warning, but waits till the poor captive is within the men from advancing, and it is only in the cases of the poor maniac, or the hopeless man seeking death, the one unconsciously remaining and the other refusing to retire, that he makes it the dead line of the stockade. Mr. Barows saw men shot in the dead line while he was there, who went in defiantly and with taunts, so as to be released by the inevitable bullet of the conscript from further suffering. 


       Mr. Barows, who is quite a young man, and who evidently enjoyed a very strong constitution, but who, nevertheless, still boars the traces of his sufferings, was fortunate enough to be selected by the rebel officers as one of the detail of prisoners to out and bring wood to the camp. He improved his opportunity so well that except at night he was permanently employed outside, and had frequent access to the bakehouse. One of his companions in this kind of work was John Wolcott, of the Fifth Michigan, whom Mr. Barows describes as a brave, determined man, prepared to meet all risks in pursuit of his freedom. The bloodhounds, nine of them, with their mounted keepers, who patrol the circle of the camp outside, did not, therefore, deter Wolcott from projecting an escape, and Barows joined him in the attempt. It is proper to state here that many attempts are made to escape from the inside by undermining, but these inevitably fell through the watchfulness of the patrol and their terrible associate bloodhounds. The severest punishment is inflicted upon the detected. They are all chained together, no matter how many there may be at atime, by the neck, waist and ankles, besides which each man has a heavy chain and ball from one leg. The sufferings of these poor fellows, with their galled necks and excoriated flesh, are enough to deter the bravest in incurring the risk of flight. But Barows and Wolcott, working outside, had a more hopeful chance, and they set about preparing for their flight. They purchased empty bags - the material being in every respect as good for pants as that worn by the rebels - they concealed a quantity of biscuits, and by the assistance of some negroes they provided themselves with some onions and turpentine to apply to their feet, so as to destroy the scent of the bloodhounds as they fled. Besides the latter precaution the essence bag of a skunk was also provided for the purpose.

       Everything being prepared, the friends, on the fifth of August, being outside bringing in wood, watched their opportunity, and succeeded in getting out of the sight of the guards. They immediately broke into a fast run, got to the spot where their treasures were concealed (among which was a pocket compass), secured them, and again started off. But at the very outset their hopes were almost dashed to the ground as they encountered a patrol of conscripts. Wolcott presence of mind, however, saved them, and, representing themselves as belonging to the regulars - the Fifty-fifth Georgia - they were allowed to pass on. With the aid of their compass they struck a line for Atlanta, allowing for a divergence that would enable them to flank the city. With two hundred miles before them, they never faltered, but held on all that night and the whole of the next day, and so on day and night, through canebrakes and swamps and over rivers, and through thick woods, for eight days and nights, resting but two hours at a time through each twenty-four of fatiguing flight. But the distance gradually lessening between them and freedom gave them energy and strength to persevere to the triumphant and, on the seventh day they crossed the Chattahoochee, forty miles below Atlanta. The next evening (the 14th) they approached the Union lines about dusk but for a time feared to show themselves to their friends, their hearts beating all the while with hope and joy restored, as from their hiding places they beheld the sentinels of Sherman, their companions in arms, keeping vigilant watch and ward on the picket ground. The poor fugitives at last gave vent to their emotions in proclaiming themselves friends. Three hastily raised deadly muskets were lowered again, after a moment survey of the worn and emaciated forms, which proclaimed them at once to be escaped Unionists; and all the sympathy and encouragement and welcome of brave men was once more extended to them, and once more they felt themselves men and free. 


       Here they remained with the army for a few days, General Kilpatrick visiting them and hearing from them the history of their capture that day at Brandy station, and the terrible scenes they had gone through since. He showed them every kindness, and intended to have rehabilitated them, but he had work before him, and the next day they ascertained he had started on a road, but Mr. Barows expressed the highest esteem for the young chief, whose banner he had so often followed on the banks of the Potomac. 


       Mr. Barows, while working outside the stockade, had frequent conversations with rebel officers, as well as with the soldiers, on the probabilities of peace, and the one prevailing belief among all is that at the next election in the North democrats will elect a President that will help us. "This belief or feeling is universal, and beyond that the result is never canvassed. The probability of the North not doing anything of the sort, but putting a war democrat at the head of the nation or the next four years seems so unlikely an event to them that its discussion will not be tolerated. The conscript troops are composed entirely of boys and old men, and the fatality among them is very great. 


       Mr. Barows furnished the foregoing statement of facts in regards the condition of so many thousands of the bravest men in the land - in the horrible Aceldama of Andersonville, Ga., in the hope that through him his fellow sufferers will receive the prompt consideration of its government before it is altogether too late.


Author of the above narrative, from the 18 September 1864 edition of The New York Herald, appears to be the 21-year-old Alphonzo BARROWS listed in the 1860 census living in Burlington, Chittenden County, VT. He's found in the household of George BARROWS, 55, a Burlington merchant, and his wife Harriet, 39, and is listed as a clerk. The order in which the children are listed makes it appear Alphonzo is not a son, though he is obviously a relative.

    Civil War records show Alphonzo and his brother William H. enlisted at Highgate, VT, 23 September 1861 in Company B, 1st Vermont Cavalry Regiment. Alphonzo was taken prisoner in early 1863 at Broad Run, VA, and paroled six days later, only to be taken prisoner again 11 October 1863 at Brandy Station, VA. The brothers were mustered out in November 1864.

[Note: Alphonzo and William H. BARROWS appear by the 1850 census to be the sons of an Augustus H. BARROWS, 39, living in Danby, Rutland, VT (wife not listed). I imagine Augustus and the George BARROWS with whom Alphonzo was living 10 years later were brothers, because one of George's sons was named Augustus. However, I could not find a family tree to substantiate that guess.]


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