Mes racines / my roots

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre


Adéline Albina Lesieur


Napoléon Mallette


Louis Émery Beaulieu


Guillaume Saint-Pierre


Joseph Bélanger


Geneviève Saint-Pierre


Jeanne Beaulieu Casgrain


Jean Casgrain


Simone Aubry Beaulieu


Marcel Malépart


Jaque Masson


Édouard Trudeau


Rolland Labrosse


Jacques Cousineau



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A Miraculous Escape
This document, property of Jannice Westfall, great-grand-daughter of Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre, has been copied by Richard Beaulieu, great-great-grand-son of same.
It is followed by a revised chronology of the same events, based on another text, also reproduced.

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre



A Revised Chronology of the events mentionned in this article is available HERE.


Some details about the Florence Prison Stockade History are available HERE.


A MIRACULOUS ESCAPE

BY

H. C. SAINT PIERRE, Esq. Q. C.

published in the Washington Tribune of Jan 10 1895

 

The incident I am about to relate took place in the fall of 1864, about the end of October, just thirty years ago, and forms part of a long serie of adventures I went through during my prison life in the South.

I had sometime previously, been transferred with a number of other prisoners from Charleston's Race Ground to Florence, a small town in South Carolina, some twenty miles distant from the Great Pee Dee River.

In October, there were already eight or nine [thousand] (missing word) prisoners gathered in a camp at Florence, and some were being brought in every day. We were destined to be lodged within the wooden walls of a stockade, which at that time, was in course of construction at a short distance from the camp.

One morning, as the result of a plan concocted during the previous night, some fifteen hundred of them driven by hunger to a state of frenzy, rushed suddenly through their guards and made for the woods which were about a quarter of a mile off.

I was among the number. We dispersed in all directions by small groups of three or four, as chance happened to gather us. The group of which I formed part was composed of two comrades and myself.

After running for about one hour in the woods, we halted and held counsel together. We decided to push on right straight towards the North-East, and to reach North Carolina, if we could, where we expected to find assistance from the population, a good portion of which we had been told, was somewhat in sympathy with the cause of the Union, and not altogether unfriendly to us. Our objective point was Wilmington which we had been told, was then in the possession of a Northern Army.

We knew that we had to cross the Great Pee Dee River and that in all probabilities, every bridge on that river would soon be guarded by some hastily organised squads, militia men; but we decided to anticipate our enemies by cutting down the telegraph wires, and to attempt by a forced march to cross the river on the railway bridge before they had been made aware of our escape from the camp.

This was a daring enterprise, keeping in mind, however the old axiom "Fortune favors the brave" we resolved to try the venture.

I will not entertain my readers with the history of all our perils and narrow escapes on that eventful day: suffice it to say that about one o'clock in the morning, we had reached the endless trestle work which runs over the marshes spreading out along the southern side of the Great Pee Dee River, and that after a most perilous march, by a sombre and cloudy night, over the ties laid on the trestle at an elevation of some twenty five or thirty feet from the water below, we at last neared the railway bridge, the high frame of which was looming up before us in the dark.

This was a solemn moment : Vainly were we straining our eyes and ears, no one appeared in sight and no sound was heard in the stillness of the night, except that of our foot-steps on the planking laid on the bridge, along side of the track.

Filled at the same time with hope and fear, I hardly dared to draw my breath and I could hear my heart throbbing loudly.

We had reached about the middle of the bridge, when all of a sudden, a squad of a dozen men emerging from some hiding place came rushing upon us, shouting to the top of their voice: "Surrender, you d...d Yanks."

As our only weapons were sticks cut out in the forest during our long and painful journey, resistance was out of the question and unconditional surrender our only alternative.

We were marched up along the northern bank of the river which on that side is quite steep, to some distance on the left hand side of the railway track.

There, we found a dozen or so of our comrades, some of whom had been recaptured in the swamps, and others on the bridge in the same manner as we ourselves had been. They were all sitting around a camp fire, roasting sweet potatoes picked up during the march and discussing the various incidents of their day's travelling.

They liberally shared their food with us. After partaking of a copious meal, overcome by fatigue and exhaustion, we stretched ourselves on the bare ground, with our feet towards the fire and soon fell into a deep slumber.

On waking up in the morning, we discovered that our number had been increased during the night by the addition of twenty six new victims, making altogether a total number of forty one prisoners in all.

So far, our adventure had savoured somewhat of the tragical, but it soon assumed a totally different complexion.

At about eight o'clock, we received the visit of the rebel officer in charge of the post. He was marching proudly at the head of a company of about thirty men, recruited hastily amongst the farmers of the neighbourhood.

These poor fellows were the most comical figure imagineable in their absurdly improvised military costume and their exagerated endeavour to appear soldierlike and ferocious.

But the most comical of them all was unquestionably their commanding officer. I believe he styled himself a major, but from the appearance of his shaven face, his brass mounted spectacles, the rounded shape of his shoulders, and more particularly from his language, we all formed the idea, (and I for one have had no reason since to alter my mind on the subject,) that he must have been a country school-master.

He had on a coat of some gray home-spun material ornamented with large yellow buttons, such as are found upon old tunics worn at the time of the continental war. His epaulets, the sign of his military distinction and authority, were made of pieces of coarse red flannel, bordered by a heavy stitch of a common yellow wollen thread, in guise of gold braid. He bore with it an air of indescriptible vanity a black felt hat on the crown of which waved the feathers of a common red rooster's tail.

He was a man of slender frame and short stature, but the sword which he dragged at his side was fully the length of that used by "General Boum" in the play of "La grande Duchesse" and would have suited a man six feet high.

There stood before us, in the gorgeousness of his costume and the pride of his triumph, the man who had conquered us the night previous.

Before removing us to the place which was to be our temporary prison, the major succeeded by means of some words of command unknown to the military code, and which I never heard either before or since, in getting his company all around us.

This strategic movement once accomplished, he stepped forward and commenced the delivery of a violent harangue against the Yankees and every thing appertaining to their kin and kindred.

It would be difficult for me, at this distance of time, to recall any considerable portion of this memorable speech; but this I can say, that throughout, it was manifestly intended to be as insulting and vituperative as he could possibly make it.

"You, Yanks, he said, you think yourself very smart, but you are not smart enough for us. We have caught you in a good trap and we will take good care that you are sent back safely to your camp. In a couple of weeks, the stockade which is being prepared for you at Florence, will be ready. It is a fit place for you. We will see the spring how many of you will again attempt to escape."

"In the mean time, I will keep you in a safe place. I have lived in the North once, and I have learned all your Yankee tricks during my stay there. It takes smarter men than Yankees to slip through my fingers."

He wound up his peroration with the announcement that he was going to take us into a shed close by, under the vigilant eyes of his soldiers and that the first one of us who would attempt to escape would be remorselessly shut down like a dog.

We cheered him lustily.

The major was as good as his word. The command was giving the "Forward, March!" and five minutes afterwards, we were in the shed which was to be our temporary military prison, until the train came on, which was to take us to Florence. This was to be sometimes in the evening.

The major counted us carefully as we entered the building and found that we were exactly forty one.

This shed was only a few paces on the left hand side of the railway track, going North. The only means of entrance,(at least the only one we could see as we went in), was a sliding door right in front of the track.

Having made sure that we were all securely in, by counting us a second time inside, the great commander posted his force in the following manner: He placed two men in the rear of the shed, two in the front, and one at each end. The remainder or "corps-de garde" was grouped together opposite the entrance, on the other side of the track, within six or seven yards from the sliding door. He then told us that he was going to Marion, some fifteen miles further, North, to see about obtaining for us the necessary supply of rations and that he would be back at three o'clock in the afternoon with our food.

Now the astonishing feat I am about to relate, consists in the fact that out of this shed thus guarded on every side by six men and a "corps-de-garde" of over twenty more, in broad day time, from nine o'clock in the forenoon, to three in the after noon, every one of those forty one prisoners escaped unperceived, and that when the proud commandant returned at three o'clock in the afternoon, with his rations, in that building thus guarded, on every side, there was not as much as a corporal's guard to greet him, nor even a single soul to do him reverence.

By what manner of Yankee trick was this accomplished?

That is what I have now to relate.

Before I do so, however, in order to make my narrative intelligible to the reader, I must give two words of explanation: the first one is in reference to the description of the shed and of its surroundings including the topography of the place; the second one is concerning the habits of the Southerners and more particularly of the country people, whenever they happened to come into contact with us.

It appears that at the beginning of the war, gun-boats had been constructed near the mouth of the Great Pee Dee River, the railroad being utilised for the purpose of bringing in the materials necessary for the construction. As there were no depot near the river, the shed in which we were had been built on the Northern bank, to be used as a store-room for those materials.

In contrast to the Southern side of the river, which is a low ground over which the river overflows and spreads into an immense marsh, the Northern bank is quite high and very steep. The ground on this side is a light greyish sand.

At the beginning of the war, the track was bordered near that shed by a forest of high trees, but these also had been utilised, no doubt for the same purpose, and quite a number of them had been cut down.

Gun-boat building having ceased, the shed had been locked up and abandoned, and all along the track, young shoots had grown in profusion around the stumps of the cut trees, to a considerable height.

On the rear of the shed, at a distance of no more than three feet from it, there was a siding track which was no longer used and upon which an old dilapidated box-car had been abandoned and left exactly opposite the middle of of the shed. This box-car had an opening on each side which was provided with a sliding door. It was occupied by an old negro and his wife, who used it as a cabin. They kept the sliding door shut on the side of the shed and used the other side for their entrance door. In order to supply themselves with the means to penetrate into the interior of their improvised cabin, four planks had been propped side by side against this car as a sort of stairway leading to their door.

Wild weeds and high grass had grown profusely and in thick clusters all around the shed as under and around the old box-car.

So much for the description of the shed and the topography of the place; now for the habits of our friends the "Rebs" when they in contact with us.

The Southerners were brave and good fighters. This, not one of us ever denied, but they were as ignorant as they were brave, (I am speaking of course of the country-people), and as talkative as they were ignorant. They never missed an opportunity of engaging in a discussion with us about the war, and this generally began with the question: "Why do you uns come to fight we uns here for?" The reply was never slow to come and then the wrangling began. Being aware of their dispositions to talk, it was always the easiest thing in the world for us to entice them into a lively discussion, whenever we felt so inclined.

With these explanations the reader will now easily follow the sequel of my story.

We had not been in our improvised prison above ten minutes but a complete survey had been made of the place.

The first thing which met our gaze and attracted our attention was a big lot of old scraps and pieces of iron of all shapes and sizes which had been piled at the North-East corner. This was, no doubt, a remnant of the materials used for gun-boat building.

A complete set of burglars tools would not have been more handy for us, nor more thankfully received at this moment, than was this pile of old scraps of iron.

The shed was of an oblong form its greater length stretching along the track. The flooring was composed of thick planks laid lengthwise and reaching to the middle of the buildings, where they were nailed to a cross-beam.

We discovered that, in addition to the door opposite the main track, there were two others, first a large sliding door on the rear similar to the one in front, which was closed by means of an iron bar thrown across on the outside, and a small door hanging upon hinges at the Northern end and quite near to the rear of the shed. This latter door opened from the inside and was closed by means of a big lock fashioned with screws.

Through the splits between the boards which enclosed the building we could see the guards outside.

We observed that the two sentries in the rear were walking their beat with a regular steady stride, facing one another as they came towards the middle of the building opposite the old box-car, and then after turning on their heels, receding back to back, each as far as the corner he had come from.

Now, any one who had been a military man knows that two sentries stationed as these were, will keep on pacing with a regular step, sometimes for hours, without either stopping, turning around or in any way altering their galt.

We were at once struck with the idea that a good chance for escaping was offered to us, and I can vouch that we were no means slow to taking advantage of it.

For the purpose of giving us some fresh air and a little light, the sliding door in the front had been left partly opened.

After holding a short consultation together, our plan of escape was quickly laid out. It was decided that the group of our people would gather close to the door and start a discussion with the guards around the camp fire, in order to draw their attention and deter them from noticing anything of what would be going on, whilst the necessary preparations were being carried on inside.

This was easily affected; in fact that part of our scheme succeeded beyond our expectation; for, before ten minutes had elapsed, not only were the men around the camp fire deeply engaged in discussion with the group near the door, but the two sentries posted at each end of the building being attracted by the lively conversation, soon came forward and stood leaning against the corner of the building, listening to what was said.

The position of the enemy could not be better for us.

By means of some bars of iron, in an instant, two or three planks of the flooring were quietly lifted in the middle of the building close to the rear. It was then discovered that the shed was resting upon six posts planted in the ground and that between the flooring and the earth below there was a space of over two feet on the rear side. All around the building a small embankment covered with thick grass and high weeds partly dried up was concealing the hallow space underneath.

A little scooping with a piece of sheet-iron soon sufficed to dig out a deep furrow reaching to the embankment on the rear of the building opposite to the old car. Watching the moment when the two sentries were walking with their backs turned to each other, a large square piece of the embankment was cut clean off leaving a hole large enough for a man to pass through.

Then the active operation of escaping began.

As soon as the two sentries had their backs turned to each other this piece of turf would be quitely removed, grass, weeds and all, and as a quick as lightning, one, two or three prisoners would crawl out on their hands and feet and hide themselves under the improvised stairway of the old box-car. The moment following, the square piece of turf was again placed in position until the next opportunity came.

From under the car, the escaped adventurers would quietly reach to some thick bushes growing around a stump and thence would make for the woods.

I could not say whether the old negro couple who were in the box-car noticed what was going on, but we observed that whenever the two sentries in the rear were wheeling around and turning their backs to each other, precisely at the same moment, wood splitting or some other noise was sure to be heard inside of the old box-car.

Besides, the cracking of the dried up weeds under the feet of the two sentries as they stalked along contributed in no small degree in deadening what little noise was made by the escaping prisoners.

For fully an hour's time this new fashioned trap worked almost without any interruption, except during the first minutes when the two sentries were facing one another.

This however, was too good to last long. Suddenly, we heard the call: "Guards, fall in." At first, as men with a guilty conscience, we suspected that our scheme had been discovered, but we soon found out that our apprehensions were groundless and that the call was simply for the purpose of releaving the guards on duty.

For about twenty minutes, every thing now was quiet, and we contented ourselves with watching on every side through the slits between the boards of our prison.

We observed very much to our disappointment, that the two new sentries in the rear of the shed would not give us as favourable an opportunity as their predecessors had done.

Instead of meeting in the middle of the building, they were quitely walking, following one another, in such a manner that whilst one would start from the middle of the shed after turning in order to resume his march towards the North-Western corner, the other would start from the North-Eastern corner and follow his mate as far as the middle of the shed. When both would turned together and walk towards the opposite direction.

This spoiled our game. The success of the morning enterprise, however, had contributed to embolden us considerably and we lost no time in brewing some new scheme.

Very soon the discussion at the front door began anew, and in a very short time it became as lively as ever.

Following the example set to them by those they had replaced, the two sentries at the ends of the building, again came to the front corners and remained there listening to the lively conversation.

Now a plan still bolder than the first one had been was divised and was successfully carried out. By means of a little pieces of sheet iron which we used as a screw-driver, the lock inside of the small door, at the northern end of the building was removed.

Then selecting the moment when the two sentries in the rear were going towards the North-Western corner, and making sure that the man at the end had his back turned and was intent upon listening to the discussion going on in the front, one, two, or three of us would slip out quietly around the corner, one after the other, and would rush underneath the old box-car, penetrating through the high weeds under the end of the car.

I got out through that side door.

At the moment when I escaped, our number had become much thinned out, and I should judged that hardly more than ten or fifteen were yet in the shed. I was fortunate enough to meet my two companions of the previous day, who had both escaped before me and who had promised to wait for me on the border of the forest.

The history of our adventures during the following ten days, when we travelled together mostly by night, would be sufficient to form a whole volume of itself.

I was recaptured in North Carolina some thirty miles from Marion.

Finding my two companions and myself, that we had been discovered and that we were hemmed in on every side by horsemen in the woods, we separated each one taking a different direction. I succeeding in sliping through, but my success was of but short duration. I was recaptured a couple of miles further on, dying with hunger and exhaustion at a short distance from a little village, the name of which I have since forgotten.

This was about nine o'clock in the morning.

I was taken to the village where my presence excited no small degree of curiosity more especially amongst the women and children, and conducted to a log-house, where a good meal was served me. After about half an hour's rest, a horse harnessed to a two-wheel car was brought up to the door and I was ordered to take a place on the seat by the side of a tall slanky farmer who was to take me back to Marion. Not satisfied with the guarantees which my emaciated form and the state of exhaustion in which I was would vouchsafe them: the villagers tied my hands and feet and then secured me firmly to the seat of this cart by means of a strong rope. To make surety double sure, my companion was provided with a fowl piece, which (no doubt with the hope of producing a favourable impression upon me), he took the care to load in my presence with murderous looking buckshot.

About ten o'clock we left the village and set out for Marion.

The roads were in excellent condition and the weather splendid. This trip, I must admit, turned out to be a much more agreable one to me that the ten days journeying during which, I had been travelling by night, woods and swamps.

My companion though somewhat grim looking at first proved a much kinder man than I had anticipated. I begged him to unloosen my hands and feet. He did so, and we talked quite merrily together along the road.

We arrived at Marion very late, at night. I was immediately handed over to the sheriff who lodged me in the common Jail of the district. I found this building crammed with recaptured prisoners, so much so indeed, that there was hardly room enough for us to lie down on the bare floor.

On the next morning, some military officers came in and inquired of me whether I had been in the shed near the Pee Dee River.

Fearing to be subjected to some such torture as being hanged by the thumbs or linked to a chain-gang for many weeks, I swore by the memory of the Holy Mother of Moses that I knew absolutely nothing about that shed and that I did not understand the meaning of their question.

The investigation was not pushed any further.

We were kept, my companions and myself, for several days in the Marion Jail; and those among them, who may be still living, will probably remember the young French Canadian who was drawing pencil portraits of our leading generals on the white washed walls of the jail.

It was there that I learned from some of my comrades what had taken place in the shed after I had escaped from it.

"After you were gone, said one of them, several of us succeeded in escaping from the side-door. Finding that our number was now reduced to four or five, we pretexted to be tired and in need of sleep. We pushed the sliding door and shut it entirely. We leaned a heavy piece of iron against the side-door and then watched our opportunity at the hole in the rear of the shed. We waited for a considerable time, but at last we got our turn, when a new set of sentries came in, and we left the shed quite empty, taking care to pull up the piece of turf in he hole, behind us, in order to avoid being detected."

I did not again see the high-crested major; but I was told from some of our guards, whilst we were being taken back to Florence on board of the cars, that on finding his shed empty at three o'clock in the afternoon, on the day of our escape, he made use of language so profane, that it would be not fit to be repeated in this narrative.

Evidently the major had not lived long enough in the North, and there was a trick or two which he failed to learn from his friends the Yankees.


Copy of a Single-lined typed document of ten full-scap pages
Some spelling and syntax corrections were done



REVISED CHRONOLOGY OF THE EVENTS MENTIONNED IN THIS ARTICLE

This revised chronology of the events described in the above letter is based on the dates given in the following article, which are given in blue. The dates inferred from them based on the Wahington Tribune text are given in purple.

  1. Late August to early September 1864: The prisoners of Andersonville are told they will be transfered to be paroled: some are sent to Charleston Race Course.
  2. End of August 1864: Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre is sent to Charleston Race Course
  3. 14th of September 1864: Arrival of the first contingents from the Charleston Race Course due to the spread there of Small Pox & Yellow Fever; the prisoners are kept in open camps as the Florence stockade is still under construction.
  4. Soon after the 14th of September 1864: Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre arrives at Florence.
  5. Around the 20th of September 1864: Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre escapes with about 1500 prisoners.
  6. Around the 21st of September 1864: Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre is captured on the Great Pee Dee River Railway Bridge.
  7. Around the 22nd of September 1864: Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre escapes with 41 fellow prisoners from a compound next to the Great Pee Dee River Railway Bridge.
  8. 2nd October 1864: The Florence stockade is finished and prisoners are moved in it.
  9. First days of October 1864: Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre is recaptured close to Marion, North Carolina.
  10. Around the 5th of October 1864: Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre is sent back to Florence from Marion with other escapees.



The original of this text is found online HERE

Florence Prison Stockade History:

The Florence Prison Stockade was in operation for approximately 5 months during the time period of Sept 1864 through Feb 1865. During this time, as many as 15 - 18,000 Union soldiers were held captive. Of these, approximately 2,802 Union soldiers died; most of whom are buried as unknowns in the Florence National Cemetery.

The idea of building a stockade at Florence, SC began when General Sherman, after capturing Atlanta, posed a great threat towards liberating the Union soldiers held captive at Andersonville and other southern Georgia stockades. It was determined that the prisoners had to be moved out of the path of Sherman's advancing troops. Florence was chosen by Confederate authorities for the site of a new stockade due to the fact that there were three railroads that centered in the town, which would ease the operation of transporting and receiving prisoners.

Major General Samuel Jones ordered Major Frederick F. Warley, who had been recently exchanged from a Northern prison camp, to construct a stockade in Florence. Work began with approximately 1,000 slaves being assigned to the project from the local area.

At Andersonville in late August and early September 1864, thousands of Union prisoners were told by Captain Wirz that they would all be paroled, except for those who could not walk and were unable to travel. The talk of parole was merely a way to keep the prisoners under control and a way of trying to prevent escape during their relocation. The prisoners being relocated were divided into three groups. One group was sent to Savannah, GA, another to Charleston, SC and the last group went directly to Florence, SC. Left behind at Andersonville were those who could not walk and who would be no threat if liberated. Many of these died off rapidly.

Most of the prisoners that were sent to Savannah would eventually find themselves back at Andersonville after being held captive in various prisons in Georgia. Although, some of these did end up at Florence. Those that arrived in Charleston were mainly held at the Charleston Race Course, which today is known as Hampton Park. Some were also held in the jailyard of the Charleston City Jail and the Workhouse. All of these were holding areas for the prisoners until the building of the stockade at Florence could be completed. Most, if not all, of the Enlisted prisoners at Charleston were sent to Florence.

During the construction of the stockade, there was a rapidly deteriorating situation in Charleston due to the spread of such diseases as Small Pox & Yellow Fever. Due to this situation, 5 to 6,000 of the prisoners were sent to Florence before the completion of the stockade, arriving in Florence on the 14th of September. Since the stockade was far from complete when the prisoners began to arrive, they were gathered into a field close to the train tracks. Being assembled in an open field made the possibility of escape a reality and was of great concern to Major Warley, not to mention the fact that the prisoners were "in a state of mutiny" and could cause major problems in the surrounding area; including the possible destruction of the railroads. Warley requested assistance from Major General Roswell S. Ripley, the commander at Charleston, to help with the situation. Due to the imminent danger involved, Warley couldn't wait and sent out trains to the surrounding community to gather every available man to assist in the completion of the stockade. The prisoners were finally moved into the stockade on the first Sunday of October 1864. [This is 2nd October 1864.]

The design of the stockade was much like that of Andersonville. Upright un-hewn timbers were sunk about 5 feet into the ground encasing about 23 1/2 acres; six of which were swamp. The walls of the stockade were roughly 1,400 by 725 feet and approximately 12 - 16 feet tall. Like Andersonville, a stream (Pie Branch) ran through the center of the stockade. This stream was slightly larger than the one at Andersonville, but still proved to be inadequate.

One major difference in the design changes between Andersonville and Florence is that a deep trench was dug around the Florence Stockade to eliminate prisoners from trying to tunnel out. The soil from the trench was then pushed up against the outer walls of the stockade, which provided a platform for the guards to man their posts and also added stability to the log walls. Some accounts also state that there was an inner trench or furrow, as well as a row of boards, used for the deadline.

An additional difference, in comparing Andersonville to Florence, was that the trees previously within the boundaries of the walls had recently been cut, leaving many stumps behind, which were used as firewood. There were also several smaller trees left inside, which were put to the same use. Also, wood was supplied to the stockade, although in small amounts. This wood was gathered during the winter months by a prisoner wood squad.

Major Warley had been wounded prior to his imprisonment and the building of the Florence Stockade. His wounds began to bother him and he requested to be relieved of his duties at the stockade, being replaced by Colonel George P. Harrison, Jr. of the 32nd GA by the 20th of September, with Lt. James Barrett of the 5th GA in command of the interior of the stockade. Harrison became known for his fair treatment of prisoners. While, on the other hand, Barrett was known for being the most brutal. Many accounts state that Lt. Barrett was far more brutal than Capt. Wirz.

By October 12th of 1864 there were 12,362 prisoners at the stockade, with a death rate of between 20 & 30 per day. At this time, three-fourths of the prisoners were without blankets, and quite a few were close to being naked. Luckily, a supply of goods and clothes were delivered to the stockade from the Sanitary Commission about the middle of October.

Around the first of November, another supply of clothes arrived at the stockade from the Sanitary Commission. These items were dispersed to the prisoners who were in most need of them. Also, around this time, the northwest corner of the stockade was separated from the main part for the construction of a hospital, which consisted of rude barracks.

The prisoners totaled 11,424 for November, and towards the end of the month, orders came to make out parole rolls for the most severely sick and wounded prisoners. Any prisoner wishing to be paroled had to undergo an inspection to determine if his case was severe enough to be paroled.

On December 6, 1864, public criticism led to the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel John F. Iverson as the commander of the stockade. During the first half of December the prisoners who were selected for parole were sent by rail to Charleston where they would stay for a few days before boarding the flag-of-truce boats. After their parole, they were shipped to Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland. Due to these paroles the number of prisoners had decreased to 7,538 with the death rate decreasing to 6 per day for January 1865.

Brigadier General John H. Winder, commander of all of the Southern prisons east of the Mississippi, was at Florence when he died of a heart attack in front of the Sutler Tent on February 6th, 1865. Due to an inadequate water supply and its close proximity to Federal cavalry, Winder had been trying to close the stockade at Florence. After Winder's death, Colonel Henry Forno made preparations to have the prisoners relocated. Sherman had cut the last railroad link to southwest Georgia, so it was decided to have the prisoners relocated to North Carolina. After much discussion about what to do with the prisoners, all able-bodied prisoners were sent to Greensboro, where they would be paroled and sent to Camp Parole, Annapolis, MD. Most of the sick and wounded prisoners were sent to N. E. Ferry at Wilmington to be paroled as well. By the end of February 1865, the stockade was empty.

Capt. Wirz was later hung for war crimes related to Andersonville, but Lt. Barrett escaped this same fate by fleeing to Germany where he married and remained many years. He would die later of natural causes in 1910 at Augusta, GA.

The Florence Stockade has not received the same notoriety as Andersonville, but the conditions were very much the same. In fact, by many accounts, Florence was worse. It must also be realized that most of the prisoners at Florence had already survived a hard summer at Andersonville and now faced going through the winter with little to no clothing or shelter.






Jacques Beaulieu
jacqbeau@canardscanins.ca
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