Our numbers within the stockade at Florence varied from five to nine thousand. Whatever record may have been kept by the prison authorities never came to light. One-third of this number, or about three thousand, died during the four months that this place was used as a prison.
Details were made from the ablest of the prisoners, about one hundred and fifty in all, to cut and bring wood from the heavily wooded swamp in the immediate vicinity of the stockade. I belonged to this detail for about two weeks. It was divided into about fifty choppers and one hundred carriers. We were marched out every morning, except when it was very stormy, about nine o'clock, and paroled each day. This parole amounted to taking an oath to keep within half a mile of the stockade and not to commit any act, by word or deed, against the Confederacy, and was considered binding for twenty-four hours, but we were usually returned to the prison each day about four o'clock.
Each squad of eight men was required to bring out of the swamp one cord of wood during the day. Other squads took it within the stockade, while still others were required to cut a definite amount each day. Being one of a squad to carry the wood out of the swamp after it was cut, I remember that part of the work very well. Some of the squads were sharp enough to have their full complement made up of able men, and the result was that their task of bringing out a cord would very frequently be accomplished in two hours, while for others it made a serious day's work. We received for our labor an extra ration, which was usually a more generous one than those issued within the stockade; besides, I always carried in an extra stick of wood, begged a little tobacco of some Confederate, gathered some scattering “cow peas” left in an adjoining field, with an occasional stray ear of corn, and also plenty of pine-needles for bedding, thus keeping my messmates in better condition than the average. After about two weeks of wood carrying I contracted a severe cold, and was too ill to keep upon the detail, but managed to have my comrade Snow take my place, so that during the gloomiest, dreariest month of all, December, my mess managed to obtain about two thirds of a proper supply of food and wood to cook it with.
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