Our life between the brick walls of the tobacco warehouses of Danville was of short duration, only six days, when the story was freely circulated, “to be exchanged by way of Charleston. Several of your transports already awaiting you there!" We had not heard of Andersonville, and did not then know that such a place existed. We had heard that some of our officers were very "pleasantly located" at Columbus, but were not aware of any place south of Virginia where private soldiers were confined. We knew that General Grant was pounding away at Richmond in a way that made it very unsafe for prisoners of war to be retained there. We were told by our guard that owing to the proximity of Lee's and Grant's armies they could not exchange us over the old route, by the way of City Point, so we were again made to believe and swallow the "exchange" lie. We left Danville rather elated with the idea of being able to see something of the Southern country as we journeyed to Charleston. I was among the first train-load, and learned subsequently that the prisoners were taken from Danville at the rate of one train-load each day. At that time there were seven or eight thousand in the different Danville prisons.
We were crowded, as usual, into box-cars, sixty in each car, one sentinel posted in-side at each door, and a number upon the top of each car. A special car was attached to the rear of the train for the use of the guard. This was the manner in which all our journeyings were conducted, forward and backward, while within the Confederacy. Lucky were the privileged few who could secure a standing-place by the open doors, or obtain a seat upon the floor of the car, with legs dangling outside. I usually obtained such a seat, reaching it in a quiet way, without any loud assertions as to my rights or superior powers, but squirming and squeezing myself into it in a very unostentatious but persistent manner. I wished to examine the country as we moved along, and it was impossible to do so except from the open door.
After riding a few miles we all left the train and marched sixteen miles over an unfinished section of the road. In going this distance we somewhere crossed the North Carolina line. We were marching to be exchanged, else the insufficient guard would not have succeeded in conducting us through this wild, unsettled country. As it was we took our own time, and on the whole made a comfortable march of it.
One evening we camped in a pleasant spot by the side of a dear stream of water. In the thicket of wild undergrowth that partly surrounded us the magnolia, and sweet-bay trees were in full bloom, which loaded the evening air with a rich, sleepy perfume, very pleasant to the senses. We were hungry and our empty haversacks only laughed at us, but about nine o'clock a quart of flour was issued to each man; no salt to be had. Every other man soon had a fire of small sticks started, and by a careful inventory we discovered that about every third man was the owner of a tin plate, so we quickly formed clubs of three for baking purposes. A stick split at one end would grasp the plate like a pair of pincers, making a handle to our baking-dish. One kept the fire in operation by constantly feeding and blowing it; another procured the water and mixed the dough in our tin cups, and the third attended to the baking. In place of grease for the pan, flour was sprinkled upon it, which answered the purpose very well in preventing the dough from sticking to it. Owing to the unskillful handling of the plate it was frequently upset and its contents dumped into the fire, and the split stick would often burn off, causing a like result; but by eleven o'clock we all managed to eat a hearty supper of unleavened, unsalted cakes. Heavy as dough though they were, yet we hungry men never tasted food that relished better.
The following morning we were again packed into the box-cars and journeyed south. The country in North Carolina through which we passed was desolate and barren in the extreme. It appeared to be a land that once was cultivated, but now worn out and left to grow up with what it would. Occasionally we passed through long stretches of the Southern pine; large, noble-looking trees, but all bearing the scar of the turpentine maker's ax, with here and there an old still, where a few years before the pitch obtained from the pine was converted into turpentine. About them were immense piles of resin. We met many negroes upon our route, but very few white men. The negroes had hardly rags enough about them to cover their nakedness, and when we met white men or women they were almost as shabby. Their houses were mere hovels, and bore no marks of distinction that would distinguish them from the huts of the negroes.
We stopped a few moments at one place that broke the desolate monotony—Charlotte. It was pleasantly located and contained some comfortable residences. Close by the depot, in a beautiful park, was located the female institute of North Carolina. The young ladies crowded the balconies and front yard of the seminary. They waved their handkerchiefs and flags of stars and bars. One young lady, evidently of the right stamp, cunningly grouped a red and blue ribbon with her white handkerchief in such a way as to catch our eyes, and one car-load of us honored her with three cheers. It was very soon hushed, however, by our guards, who inquired what we were cheering at. Of course they obtained no satisfactory reply. We knew that there was one young lady in the seminary who was on our side, and she acknowledged our cheers by a graceful bow, then quickly withdrew.
There were plenty of lone widows who gathered about the train, each with a fragment of something to sell. One had half a dozen ginger cookies in a peck basket for which the modest sum of ten cents each was asked; another had three-quarters of a sweet-potato pie, rather a doubtful compound, and asked only twenty-five cents a quarter for it, in Confederate money. One of my comrades, of the 1st Michigan, dickered with her for it, and finally obtained the whole three-quarters for five cents in silver. They seemed willing to take our greenbacks in exchange for their produce, but asserted that it was a prison offense to do so, and therefore dared not openly take them in presence of our guard. Another of my comrades sold his watch to one of the citizens of the place for $212 of their currency, the watch being worth in ours about six.
Our stop at Charlotte was only about twenty minutes. We crossed the Catawba, and several smaller streams, our approach to them being always anticipated by the swampy nature of the land on each bank. The rivers were sluggish, dark, gloomy-looking streams.
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