Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Memoirs of George Albert DeLong (Pt 2)

My second attempt to escape, the last year of the war, also proved futile. I heard some men had commenced digging a tunnel. They found out that two friends and I had money, about seventy-five dollars, and proposed if we divide the money with them, they would let us use the tunnel to escape. This we agreed to do. We waited for a dark night.

We arranged with some men who were to use the same tunnel the following night to answer to the roll call. Our group went through, but the last man did not replace the plank in the floor as planned, and before morning one hundred and sixty-seven prisoners escaped. The first group did not know that others besides their own number had passed through. Will English, Bate Washington and I went to Morrison Hotel, had a fine supper and went to bed. We had not slept on a good bed for a long time. About twelve o'clock the escape was discovered, the hotels were searched and all were arrested who could not prove they were residents. Officers came to our room and demanded entrance, saying every one in hotels and on the streets were being arrested that many had escaped from Camp Douglas.

As we were on the fourth floor escape was impossible, so we opened the door. We were corded together and taken to the police headquarters for the night, and placed in the safest cell, a real dungeon. Here we were searched. The following morning we were taken back to our prison. We were marched under guards of regular troops, subjected to taunts and gibes of people along the street. Fortunately the officers in command had fought against Morgan's men and knew they were brave soldiers. He shielded us as much as he could against the insults, such as " Morgan's horse thiever. "Hand them. Shoot them" The officer said to us, " Do not be uneasy; the first one who tries to do you violence, I will shoot. You soldiers are brave."

Arriving at the barracks we were again searched and they came near getting all our money. Mine was under an extra sole in my boot. Some was sewed inside my cravat. Once an officer had his hand on my neck. I said, "We have been searched twice," and he let go. We were taken to the flag staff, which had a parapet extending around it about twelve feet high. Around this we prisoners were placed, with our backs to the parapet. We were commanded to hold up our hands. A loop was put over each thumb and we were drawn up our full height, only our toes touching the ground. We were told if we would take the oath of allegiance and promise not again to attempt to escape we would be exchanged. This every man refused to do; We were left hanging in this condition until one man fainted. Jack Messisk's thumb was dislocated and all suffered great pain. I was fortunate in having very heavy soles on my boots and inner soles, where my money was hidden. I could press against the boards in such a way the whole weight of my body was not on my thumbs. Our place of abode for thirty days after our capture was in a dungeon, made in the cellar of the prison. A barracks was made about 40 by 60, without windows. We were confined during the coldest winter of the war. Our suffering from cold was so great we only escaped freezing to death by sleeping at different times. Those asleep had the overcoats and shawls over them, while those awake who had loaned them, walked and walked and walked, to keep warm until their time to sleep. We were less able to stand the cold because our food was scant and badly prepared.

Many amusing as well as painful experiences filled my nineteen months in prison. Many punishments were invented for those who disobeyed orders, some just, some unjust. Will English (my chum) and I had experienced many of these for we were full of life and fun, being just boys, and the time hung heavy on our hands. About the only thing we had not had wished upon us was a ride on Morgan's horse made of a fourteen by four scantling, placed fourteen or fifteen feet high. The chap on guard was a jovial and pleasant fellow so we deliberately disobeyed a command, knowing what our punishment would be, but thinking he would not keep us there long. Of course, Morgan's Men wanted to ride the rail named in his honor. Well, the kind guard was called away and a very mean one sent in his place. He kept us two hours and when the first guard returned, we were still riding. We never courted that punishment again.

Many funny incidents happened on some of our scouting expeditions in the early years of the war. Once on a scout near Falmouth, Kentucky, we were guarding an outpost. We were about eight in number. Some got off their horses and were playing a game of " seven up" in the road. I was holding the horses. One man had a winning and when he was about to throw down his card he began to say, High, Low, Jack and the Game", when he looked up and said, " Christ, here comes a thousand Yankees," It is needless to say this little band lost no time returning to their lines to report.

My most dangerous raid was to obtain a telegraph battery. Ellis, our famous operator, had lost his battery in one of our raids and much of the success of our plans was due to the fact that we could lead our enemy wrong by telegraphing incorrect news to the Yankees. Our command was about forty miles from Franklin, Kentucky where Saunders Bruce was
in command of federal forces, about forty thousand strong. Morgan called one out of each company to make this raid. We were in Tennessee. I was chosen from Company D, Duke's regiment. We were ten cavalry men in all who reported to Gen. Morgan, who personally explained the danger as well as the necessity of the raid. He ordered us to dress as Yankees in uniform and cautioned us if caught, we would be shot without trial. We started about dark, rode all night. In the morning we rode up to a house where we had been told we would find a Southern sympathizer. The women at first thought us Yankees, but when we gave her the note from Morgan, she gave us a good breakfast, wished us Godspeed and advised us to go by way of the hills. It was night when we arrived near Franklin. We reconnoitered and found where the sentinels were stationed. I had lived near Franklin and knew the operator, Samules, by name. Johnson, now of Fort Worth Texas and I went to Samuel's house and called him out. We told him we had dispatches from Gen. McCook to Saunders Bruce, who was then at Bowling Green. He took us to the station and when we entered the room, he was ordered to throw up his hands, which he did, as he was covered with pistols. Here he kept him until others disconnected the telegraph instrument. There were stacked in the room many five pound sacks of java coffee. Each on took as many as possible, for coffee was a great luxury to those in Confederate Camps.

We gagged Samuels, put him on behind, and rode out, unmolested. After riding about twelve miles, we left Samuels on the road side, each one hollering as we rode away. "Goodbye Samuels", He answered, "Goodbye Boys" We then rode on into the night. The following morning when we reached the home of the woman who had directed and helped us on our way, she told us how to cross above where we had crossed going, for she had heard our former ford was guarded by the Federals. We went as she directed, and crossed in a boat, making our horses swim. When the enemy discovered we were on the other side of the river, too far away for bullets to hurt us, though we could hear them whistling by.

My twelve-year old brother, Ami, secretly left home by night, on a farm horse, and presented himself for enlistment in the cavalry. General Morgan treated him very kindly, but told him he must return to his home. The general questioned him as to what he thought he could do as a soldier. He replied, "I am very sure I could beat the drum". The General had me take him home. This exemplifies the love young and old had for my daring, gallant Commander.

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