After dark a guard was detailed to march us to Orange Court House, distant twenty-five miles. We were all exhausted with the day's fighting and heat, and the march before us did not look very promising; for go we must, and that, too, at the point of the bayonet.
Our thoughts upon this lonely, tiresome march were anything but pleasant and comfortable. Only one month more and my term of service would expire. I had been thinking very strongly of the home I had left three years before, and during the whole of that time had not seen it, or even been outside the lines of the Army of the Potomac. Now we were marching the opposite way, towards the rebel prisons—of which we had already heard too much.
Our guard used us well, and I would say here that during our whole captivity we always experienced good usage from an old soldier—from all those who had fought and met us upon the many battlefields of the war. It was left for the "home guards" to maltreat and abuse the prisoners of war, and to heap insult upon injury. No truer statement was ever made than "A brave man is always humane and generous, while a coward is cruel and vindictive." The brave men of the South were mostly at the front with their armies.
We were told by our guard that we should be exchanged in a few days by way of Richmond and City Point. We believed it, and therefore none of us made any attempt to escape. We arrived at Orange Court House about one o'clock the next morning—to use an army phrase, "completely played out"—and were there crowded into the jail yard, our number just packing it full. Distributing ourselves upon the ground, we made the best of our circumstances, and generally slept till nine o'clock in the morning. Before noon we began to realize the meaning of the word "prisoner." We had been used as brother soldiers by Lee's army, but at the Court House we fell into the hands of the dreaded "home guard."
We were searched, and robbed of everything valuable—watches, money, knives, extra blankets, and shelter tents, they telling us we should soon be exchanged, and could get more of the same kind. All that we were allowed to keep, except the clothing upon our backs, was our choice of an overcoat or a woolen blanket. Some of my comrades succeeded in secreting their money and in some instances their watches. I saved my own watch by slipping it into my shoe under the sole and instep of my foot; and my money (about eight dollars) went into the lining of my jacket—both saved for a time. One poor fellow, with more pluck than discretion, tore his rubber blanket into shreds, but was rewarded by a blow upon the head from the sword of an officer. I saw the blow and was told that it caused his death in an hour.
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