The general conditions within the stockade were much the same as those at Andersonville. We retained the same "chief of police," as he was termed, that did such efficient service at Andersonville in suppressing the "raiders." "Big Pete" was the only name we knew him by, a big-hearted, generous fellow, but rough upon those disposed to make our lot any worse than necessary by petty thieving or abuse of any kind. All disputes were referred to him; and the fact that he was thoroughly respected, and even loved by the great mass of prisoners, was sufficient proof of the fairness and justice of his decisions. He was a godsend to us.
Tunneling was indulged in but very little; personally I did not know of an instance. A deep, wide ditch was dug outside the stockade, and the soil from it, thrown against the stockade, was heaped high enough to form a walk for the sentinels and to allow their heads and shoulders to reach above the timbers.
This ditch effectually checked tunneling, and the few escapes that were made from Florence were accomplished by members of the working squads while outside on parole. Under the rules of civilized warfare enlisted men, or all that part of the army below the rank of the lowest commissioned officer, which is a second lieutenant, are not considered competent to give a parole; and if an enlisted man is paroled it is at the risk of the captor. But an officer who breaks his parole and is recaptured may be put to death.
But those prisoners who did break their parole and were recaptured were usually punished in some manner during the first months of our prison life, by "bucking and gagging," stocks, ball and chain, or were tied up by the thumbs, till the authorities at Washington began to take notice of this treatment and retaliated or threatened to retaliate, which put a stop to it.
My comrade George Ray, who was left behind in the jail at Charleston when Dennis Short and I crawled through the window, escaped by breaking his parole, and succeeded this time in reaching the Union lines, but he had a rough experience, as he has since related to me.
visits since 02/21/2004.
Page updated 05/23/2004