Visitors in a Guard House
ALL classes and
grades of society were represented within our prison—a few negro soldiers,
that were captured at New Berne; New York Bowery roughs, the worst class of
all; mechanics, clerks, farmers; gamblers and light-fingered gentry;
back-woods men and hunters. For several months formed a community of
ourselves, representing as well the different grades of humanity as the
whole North, only upon a smaller scale and in a very wretched manner. Here
were displayed the finest sentiment and feeling that ever actuated the human
heart. The passions were but slightly cloaked, and were exhibited in the
form of the highest virtue attained by man, and all down the grade to the
lowest vice. Until about the 1st of August there was absolutely no check to
rascality of any kind, except our own individual physical strength; the
authorities outside concerned themselves but little in regard to what was
going on within the stockade so long as trouble was not made for them.
I saw a very sharp dodge played upon the unsuspecting by one of the numerous sharpers. The sharper had a friend, or brother shark. Working their way into a crowd where some little excitement had called the prisoners together, the one would have a pocketbook in a side pocket partly in sight; the other would crowd up behind, and, with all the pretense of being very sly, take the pocketbook. At first he would examine the contents of the wallet secretly, yet making sure that several others did really see him; and finding only be one copper cent, he would affect to become so disgusted as to change his mind completely from being a pickpocket to playing the rôle of friend and adviser to the one whose pocket he had picked, as well as to make some fun all for the crowd at his expense. After pocketing the one cent from the pocketbook, and shaking it well to assure the crowd that nothing more was in it, he would approach the apparent stranger and replace the pocketbook. Then tapping him on the shoulder, he would remark, “Stranger, don't you carry your pocketbook rather carelessly in such a crowd as this?"
"No," the pal would say; “there is nothing in it worth stealing. It contains only one cent."
"But are you sure, stranger, that it contains a cent?"
“Yes, for I placed it there but a short time ago."
In this manner they would discuss the pocketbook until the crowd became interested, when the one who had pocketed the penny would offer to bet any amount that there was no penny in the pocketbook at all. The other would exhibit a watch, and offer to put it against anything of equal value that there was a cent in the pocketbook. It would soon turn out that the one who took the penny had nothing to bet with; but the crowd, thinking there was a sure chance to obtain a watch, would offer their bets. Finally the highest bet would be accepted by the owner of the pocketbook, who would open it, and take penny number two from under the lining of one of its compartments; then he would pocket the bets and move off to another part the stockade to play the same game again, while the one who played the pickpocket was nowhere to be found,
There was a class skulkers and gamblers brought into Andersonville from both the Eastern and Western armies, captured in the rear by the rebel raiders. Those from the Western army were brought into the prison with their ill-gotten gains upon their persons. Another class included a thousand or more of Sherman's veterans who were captured while on their way home on furlough, each with his many dollars of bounty.
visits since 02/21/2004.
Page updated 05/25/2006