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2nd Vermont Infantry

Prison Memoirs


As experienced by one who spent thirteen
months in Richmond "black hole," Charleston
jail, Castle Pinckney, Columbia jail,
Richmond hospital, Salisbury prison, Bell
Island, and a few other holes.

By Capt. J. T. DREW



A few of us went to work, and with a saw made a case knife, cut a hole...

A few of us went to work, and with a saw made a case knife, cut a hole through the floor near the wall, and then with an old file worked out the mortar between the bricks, and made a hole into the cellar of the next building. In that building were several Union men cooking for us. We watched our chance and dropped a note to one whom we could trust, as he came near the hole. He gave us a crow-bar, we then removed all the bricks between two beams, and made a place large enough to get through. We had to do this work in the night, and work noiselessly, for guards were within five feet of where we were working. The hole was made under the cot of Lieut. Nevins, who was sick thus we could be out of sight. The men in the cellar were left there only day times, and were then fully guarded, so no help could come from them. It was slow work taking out brick after brick, by digging away the hard mortar and cement, but after a week we got a free passage through the walls of the cellar, into the street beyond. Then came the night to start. With eagerness we made our preparations, and one after another our little company of six glided into the cellar, moving through it and on to the hole that would let us into the street, we groped darkly! When I came to the spot and removed the bricks noiselessly and looked out, it was raining hard and was as dark as a dungeon." A glorious night, boys," whispered I," are you all ready?"


"Com on then."

At that moment, a flash of lightning lit up the darkness, and I saw clearly the dusky forms of armed men waiting in the street.

"Hold, the partrol is here." We waited to see them move off. Ten, twenty, fifty minutes passed and not one stirred.

"Betrayed," was the muttered word as we saw that a file of soldiers had been placed to guard this alley. Fixing back the bricks and making all things as before, we again sought our prison, with hearts filled with gloom and hate. We watched every night for a long time, but the guard were always there every night.

It is likely that someone told that an attempt would be made to escape, but did not inform how it would be done, not wishing to have us butchered in the attempt. The informer was doubtless a fellow from Baltimore, a pretended Union man but a sympathiser with the rebels.

The rebels are very glad to get United States money and gave us two dollars Confederate for one of the United States Treasury. Gold sold at 2.40 per cent.

The following is a list of prices paid by us for articles purchased in the city for us by one of our guards:

Sugar: 60 cents per lb.
Coffee: $1.50 per lb.
Butter: $1.00 per lb.
Lard: 50 cents per lb.
Potatoes: $5.00 per bushel
Onions: $1.50 per doz.
Pepper: $1,00 per oz.
Thread: $1.50 per oz
Mustard; $1.50 per bottle
In case of sickness, on Surgeons certificate;
Brandy: $10.00 per pint
Whiskey: $5.00 per pint
Quinine: $25.00 per ounce

P.S. The blockade don't hurt them any!

From my journal of April 1862:

"There are thousands of poor people here who have tasted nothing but "Hog and Homminy" for months. Even the wealthy can find but a small variety. Luxury and even comfort seems to have seceded from the Union. Board of hotels here ranges as high as $23 per day, and little can be had at that. But what seems worst of all is the severities of the authorities toward the starving poor and the laxity towards the rich and industrious. I have seen from my prison window a poor girl whose father and brothers have been killed fighting rebel battles, whose distress and want should have been sufficient protection, taken up by saying she wished those who started the war had to suffer as she had, and thrown into a prison and left to the tender mercies of a renegade from Baltimore, who had run from home for "murder" and "gambling," and a charge of rape. This is but one of the many instances of outrage. All the males away in the army, the women of this cursed city, has little chance of protection when it is full of all the vilest from many cities of the North and all the libertines and gamblers and thieves and murderous of the South.

"Robbery, murder, theft, outrages of all kinds are daily and nightly occurrences."

"Truly, Richmond is paying dearly for the secession whistle."

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Transcribed by Deanna French.