Drawn from Memory by Thomas O'Dea, Late Private Co.E 16th Reg Maine Inf' Vol 5 the Litho is by Henry Seibert &Bro.
Warren Street NY
on stone by T.J.S. Lannas
the Litho is 40 x 60
red felt border
History of O'Dea's Famous Picture of Andersonville Prison
Nearly twenty-two years have passed away since the last ill-fated prisoner of Andersonville Prison crawled outside of its gates and breathed the air of freedom.
The war is over, but its memory lives. And it is that memory which has induced the writer to present to the public at the late day, a production which is both pictorial and historical.
The object is not to revive war issues, or sectional animosities, nor is it offered to the public to incite or inflame passions or prejudices, but to give to the world a truthful illustrated description (so far as decency and the law will allow me), of that most celebrated of all Southern Military Prisons, that of Andersonville Prison.
As the author of this sketch, I deem it necessary to give an explanation as to its production, together with descriptive information of its features, so as to make its history intelligible to the public, that they may realize and understand something of the hardships and vicissitudes of a soldier's life.
It is not my intention to write a history, for that I am not capable of. Writing histories is not my vocation, for the trowel is far more familiar to my hand than either the pen of an historian or the pencil of an artist. Able men have written histories of the sufferings endured by our brave soldiers, who, in the late Rebellion, had the misfortune to be taken "Prisoners of War" and were confined in the various "Prison Pens" in the South. Therefore in acknowledging my inability to compile such a history, I have endeavored in my humble way to portray in picture, a description of the sufferings in the scenes of our captivity.
I have seen different pictures of this subject by different authors, no two of whom are alike. The nearest approach to correctness being a photograph now in possession of the Bureau of Military Statistics of this State, but even that is very far from being true, for in it is given the appearance of a well regulated camp with streets laid our at right angles in regular intervals, and nice wall tents erected in regulation style, giving the place an appearance of cleanliness and order.
How far to the contrary of this picture was the reality, as every person who was there can testify. In all the annals of civilization and barbarism, there never was, and I doubt never will be, such another place as ANDERSONVILLE.
No truer sentence ever passed the lips of man, than when this was called the "Hell Upon Earth." In all human probability, such a scene will never occur again.
The inaccuracies of all these pictures induced the writer to try his hand at producing one, hoping in the venture that he would be able to supply the deficiencies, correct the misrepresentations of the rest, and give to the public a true description of the prison, and a view of the sufferings of its inmates.
In executing this work, I have had no picture, map, plan or scale to guide or instruct me, but I have relied upon and drawn the whole subject from MEMORY. To the casual observer, such a thing may be looked upon as absurd, and impossible, that it is impossible after such a length of time for "memory" to retain such a perfect list and line of details as here portrayed, and that I must have had assistance from some other source to be able to present such a vast combination of characters and situations, in so perfect a manner. Ah, my friends, had you been there, and experienced the sufferings that, in common with the thousands of other unfortunates who "were there," you too, like myself, would have the whole panorama photographed in your memory to remain there to your dying day.
I commenced this work in the winter of 1879, and finished it in 1885, devoting to it my leisure moments for over five years. Were I an artist, I could have completed it in a short time. But I am not an artist. I never drew a picture before in my life. I felt the enormity of the task that I had undertaken, and had no idea when I commenced that I should succeed.
To gratify my own desires I resolved to attempt the task, knowing that if successful, my production would be immediately recognized as a faithful and accurate picture of the original prison and vicinity.
My work is done. Could space or time permit, I could further embellish it with numerous other illustrations incidental to prison life, but of the hundreds of notable incidents which took place, I have selected these few on account of their greater familiarity, and occurrence.
To my fellow surviving comrades, I beg of them to carefully scrutinize the drawing, for perhaps many of them will readily and quickly recognize the locality in the prison in which they were placed, and also recognize their "Shebangs," or tent, as I have endeavored to show the construction of the "Camp" in all its originality, showing the patched up tents, Poles, Brush Houses, Dug-outs, &c., as they really were, built in all shapes and confusion imaginable, in the highest and most original style of "Crazy Patchwork." and in which no other picture ever before published, gave a portrayal of. It is of course impossible for to give an exact description of every "tent" that was in the stockade, or its precise location; such a fact can never be reproduced. But I endeavor in the main to give the general appearance of all these things, having in a manner been a close and attentive student to the situations as herein described.
My residence in the "Prison Pens" of the South, as a "Guest" of the "Confederacy" for the period of twelve months, in which time I was coerced into accepting the hospitalities of such rusticating places as Danville, Virginia; Andersonville, Georgia; Charleston Jail, Race Course and Florence, South Carolina, gives me the right to repeat the phrase, "WE SPEAK THAT WE DO KNOW, AND TESTIFY THAT WE HAVE SEEN" LIFE AND DEATH IN REBEL PRISONS.
Other men have written works on this subject, and written them ably, and while I cannot enter into details as closely as they have done, my purpose is to give a general idea of prison life as experienced by us who "were there," and therefore write the following statement, explanatory of the scenes and characters presented in the drawing.
To my friends, and the public in general I heartily and cheerfully recommend for they perusal the following standard works which treat entirely on the subject, and which have received high encomiums from the Press throughout the country.
"McElroy's Andersonville," " A Soldiers Story," by Warren Lee Goss, "Life and Death in Rebel Prison," by Robert H. Kellogg, " Andersonville," by John L. Ransom, and "Capture, Prison Pen, and Escape," by Willard Glazier.
But the pen has not been manufactured that can truly write, the brush or pencil has not been made that can portray on canvass or paper, the man is not born that can accurately describe the scenes and sufferings of those who were imprisoned in those southern hells.
One had to be there to witness and understand it.
Cohoes, N.Y., February, 1887
ANDERSONVILLE AS IT WAS
My picture is made to correspond with the scene of the prison as a stated time, that of August 1st, 1864, when it contained very near its largest number of prisoners, about 35,000, and when there was but one stockade.
My object in so doing, is to show the surrounding outside the prison as they appeared previous to the erection of the second and third line of stockades.
Standing on either hill within the prison, one could see the Camps of the Rebel Guards, the Batteries of Artillery trained so as to rake the prison at all points; the line of Rifle Pits on the north side to be used as a means of defense by the guards in repelling an outbreak; the "Rebel Flagstaff," which when erected was received with howls of derision from the prisoners; the "Bake House," situated near the "Branch," between the north and south gates; the "Brush Dead House" directly opposite the south gate, the one-story house occupied as a headquarters by General Winder, the military commandant; the sandy plain between the hills extending to the railroad situated a half-mile away; the long train of freight cars loaded with new prisoners coming in, ("Fresh Fish" they were called), their unloading and marching across the plain and up the hill to headquarters for final search and distribution into detachments previous to their entrance to the prison; the Rebel Camp at the Depot with guards drawn up in line to receive prisoners; the Rebel Troops in the camps on the hills turning out in force to prevent any attempt to over throw the guards; the vast Wilderness of Famous Georgia Pine encircling us all around; the stumps of trees and loose brush scattered on the hillsides; the "Branch" in its various windings running through a marshy portion of the sandy plain, all these presented a scene of picturesque beauty that is worth reproducing, the most of which was removed from sight when the second and third lines of stockade were erected as a better means of defense to the Rebs, and also to prevent the almost nightly occurrence of tunneling.
The camps were changed, the artillery removed to forts which had been erected, the forest being rapidly reduced to supply the vast amount of logs required for the erection of stockades, and when the last line appeared completed, a wail of anguish and despair ascended from the unfortunate prisoners as it seemed as if the last "Gate of Hell" had closed upon them from which there was no deliverance, only death.
The prison was rectangular in form being about 1800 feet long, and 800 feet wide, and contained about thirty-six acres, of which about six acres was a swamp entirely uninhabitable.
The prison lay due north and south and was situated upon two hills with a valley between. The hill on the north side being the highest, with an altitude of about forty-five feet above the level of the swamp.
The stockade was formed of immense hewn logs standing on end, being into the ground some six feet below the surface, and twenty feet above, near the top of which sentry boxes for the guards were placed every one hundred feet apart.
There were two gates to the prison, one on the north, and one of the south hill on the west side. Inside the stockade and twenty feet from it was the "Dead Line," to pass which was to invite death from the many guards perched in the sentry boxes. The swamp which covered six acres was the receptacle for most of the filth accumulations of the prison, and the deadly stench which arose therefrom is indescribable.
Almost daily, prisoners nearly naked would be wading through this hideous mass searching for roots, etc. which they would dry in the hot sun, and use for fuel to cook the scant rations dealt out to them.
Running through the edge of the swamp from west to east is the continuation of a shallow brook or "Branch" as it was termed, which takes its source from the swamp on the other side of the railroad, and in the direction of the so called town of Andersonville, supposed to exist about two miles from the railroad station.
This Branch used to receive all the filth and scum from the Rebel Camps outside, and the emptying of the offal vaults and other drainage, and it was from this source that we depended for out supply of water for drinking, cooking, washing, etc. The branch was from four to ten feet wide and about six inches deep, and to secure water that would be clear enough to drink, the crowd would surge up near the little foot-bridge close to the Dead Line, and when in attempting to reach with a cup or pail to where the water looked the clearest, many a poor fellow was shot by the sentries for reaching his hand under the dead line. The "Dead Line," consisted of thin strips of fails nailed on to stakes driven in the ground, and was about three feet high.
The scene of indescribable confusion among the prisoners presents them in every imaginable position, standing, walking, running, arguing, peddling, gambling, going to or coming from the Branch with cups, dippers, canteens, or rude pails with water, lying down, dying, praying, giving water or food to the sick, crawling on hands and knees, or hunkers, making fires and cooking rations, splitting pieces of wood almost as fine as matches, the sick being assisted by friends, others "skirmishing for graybacks," washing clothes and bodies in the branch, trading in dead bodies, fighting, snarling, shouting, police keeping back crowds from the gates, and where large groups of prisoners are congregated together it denotes the issuing and dividing of rations among the different messes.
Every rag was called a tent, and prisoners may be seen in all attitudes, sitting, sleeping, crawling out and in, in front, rear or sides, cooking, fighting and begging, while the sutlers and traders are shouting and vending their articles for sale.
Notable among the objects inside the prison, are the famous "Providence Spring," the sutler's bake oven, police headquarters, barber shops, private walls and springs, groups of prisoners discussing rumors of exchange, "Market street," full of peddlers and traders, "Limber Jim's" sour beer depot, Ellis and Gordon, leading sutlers, and a fair stand up fight often indulged in.
Taken altogether a similar sight will never be seen again in this or any other country.
The illustrative scenes on the margin of the Picture shows incidents of prison life. I have selected a few out of hundreds that occurred, and of which I was a witness or a participator in.
Number 1, represents the graveyard or cemetery. The manner in which the dead was disposed of, was as indicated in the drawing. The dead were thrown promiscuously upon a wagon the same as cord wood, and whatever way the body fell it remained so, until unloaded in the cemetery. Heads, legs and arms, would hang over the sides of the wagon, coming in contact with the wheels, but such matters occurring every day, no attention was paid to it and therefore regarded as a matter of course. When unloaded at the cemetery they would be placed in a row, while a trench from one hundred to three hundred feet long and two feet deep would be dug, where they would be laid together as close as clothes pins in a box, after which the trench would be filled up and small boards placed at the heads, indicating the name and rank of the soldiers, and the number of the graves. The same wagon that carried the dead reeking with filth and vermin, would be employed in bringing in the rations to the starving skeletons in the “Pen,” without washing or cleaning. In that vast graveyard nearly 15,000 of our brave comrades sleep, after suffering tortures most cruel in the annals of civilization.
Number 2, represents one of the many cases of brutal murder, that of being “shot at the Dead Line” while procuring a dipper of water from the loathsome branch that ran through the swamp.
Number 3, represents the dying prisoner’s last thoughts, “Those little ones at home.” He struggles to raise himself, and resting upon one arm, he looks upon a photograph he holds in his hand, to take one last glance of his loved ones. His thoughts carry him back to the happy home he had left to fight the battles of his country, to his loving wife and children and aged parents, whom hi will see no more. A vision floats before his eyes and he beholds his boy on his knees at his mother’s side praying for the safety of his father. His little girl is looking upon her papa’s picture which he had taken and sent home previous to his capture. The last letter which he had written to his loved ones, lay open upon the table, having been read over and over again. The infant baby laying in the cradle which is rocked by “Grandpa,” cooing away, innocent of its father’s fate and the aged Grandmother coming to inquire if any news has arrived of her loving son. All this the dying prisoner sees, and with one last lingering look, he falls back dead. What a contrast.
Number 4, represents the different stages of sickness and diseases which produced such awful havoc among the prisoners. Figure1, indicates Scurvy; figure 2, Diarrhoea and Dysentery; figure 3, Gangrene in the arm, the flesh being entirely eaten away and the bones of the hand and forearm left glittering in their whiteness.
[The writer has seen a number of cases Gangrene in the feet and legs of prisoners confined there, but this case that he gives illustration of, is the most noticeable, from the fact that he with others attempted to alleviate the poor fellow’s sufferings by using tobacco juice in order to kill and destroy the myriads of maggots which were eating away the flesh, but which it was impossible to get rid of.]
Figure 4, Dropsy, figure 5, Fever, to all of which the only medicine offered or administered, was sumach berries.
Number 5, represents the manner of cooking rations. The little stores of wood-roots and chips or anything that would burn were guarded with miserly care, and the utmost economy was practiced in their use. Pocket knives, case knives and wedges were brought into use, and the wood to be used in cooking the “mush,” or “baking the cake,” was reduced to the smallest fragments as the no unnecessary waste would occur. The scarcity of wood in the prison made the prices for it run up to extravagant and exorbitant figures, notwithstanding there was within sight of us and our surroundings thousands of acres of the best timber in the world. One comrade would go on errands, such as bringing water, borrowing a dipper, frying pan, (a half canteen), etc., for which, if he had no wood of his own, he would be allowed the privilege of cooking his mush or “skilly gallee.” Another, who was the possessor of a small stick, would be allowed the use of the fire by his contributing the stick. Another, would be on his hands, elbows and knees, blowing the fire with his breath to make the green or wet wood burn, and he would swallow as much smoke as he would blow out wind. The luckless comrade who had neither wood, utensils, or friends, was obliged to eat his meals, or wormy peas raw, and trust to nature for digestion.
Number 6, represents the execution within the stockade on July 11th, of the “Raiders,” who were tried by court martial by our own men, and sentenced to be hung, for murder, robbery, and assaults among the prisoners. The scene represents them after the trap was sprung, when the rope that was around the neck of “Mosby,” the chief of the gang, broke, and he fell to the ground. Another rope was immediately procured and he was again swung off, making six of them swinging together. The good priest, Reverend Father Whelan, seen in the rear, offering up prayers for their salvation.
Number 7, represents the breaking away of the stockade at the place where the brook entered the prison through the swamp, during a violent storm that occurred. The waters flooded the swamp and carried off the mass of putrid matter which had for months accumulated there. Prisoners are seen wading in the water to save the logs for fuel, which were afterwards taken away from them and replaced in the stockade, which was at once repaired, during which time the entire Rebel Garrison was under arms to repel any attempt of escape or outbreak.
Number 8, represents the digging of a well, not only for the purpose of procuring a private supply of water for the favored few who formed the corporation, but to dig for a tunnel also, which was the only means of escape offered. After digging the well from ten to twenty feet deep, the tunnel would be started on the side nearest the stockade, and would be pushed forward as fast as the strength of the men and the quantity and quality of the utensils would allow. The scene represents the prisoners hoisting up the earth to the surface, and carrying it away in bags, etc, to the swamp.
Number 9, represents the completion of the tunnel, the “breaking out” and escape.
Number 10, represents the discovery of the tunnel, and the pursuit and recapture of the prisoners by a squad of men accompanied by a pack of Bloodhounds. “Come down Yank” would be the first command from Johnny Reb, and hounds called off, and the luckless prisoner marched back to the prison to meet the punishment dealt out by the infamous Captain Wirz.
Number 11, represents Captain Wirz making his daily visit to the bloodhound’s hut. He whistles for them and they come bounding to his side; the celebrated hound “Spot,” a dog of immense size, is standing in the foreground.
Number 12, represents the different methods of punishments inflicted on the prisoners fro attempting to escape, and for other causes that would take place inside the stockades. The writer makes mention of some of those that he had experience of under the treatment of Wirz at Andersonville, and the fiend-like cruelty of Lieutenant Barrett, at Florence, South Carolina. Figure one indicates the “Sitting Stocks,” figure two, the “Buck and Gag,” figure three, the “Ball and Chain,” figure four, “Hanging by the Thumbs.”
Number 13, represents the manner of distributing rations. The Sergeant of the mess divides the rations as equally as possible into as many piles as there are members in the mess. They are spread out upon a piece of tent cloth, blanket, blouse, or anything else that will keep them from the ground, regardless of the cleanliness of the article, for quantity was looked after instead of quality. When everyone was satisfied as to the evenness of the piles, so that one man may not receive more than another, the Sergeant calls for someone to turn his back and “Call off.” Each man has his number, and as it is called when the Sergeant points to a pile, he takes this ration and devours it ravenously. The scene represents the Sergeant pointing to a pile and asking, “Who’ll have this.”
The answer is returned, “Number 15,” and the man who bears that number, stoops to receive his rations.
Number 14, represents the famous Providence Spring, which burst out of the ground near the base of the hill on the north-west side of the swamp, and just inside the Dead Line, immediately after the big storm which had broken away the stockade. It yielded a supply of wholesome, pure, cool water, and its appearance at the time was looked upon as a miracle and regarded as such by the prisoners, who christened it “Providence Spring.” Visitors to the ground occupied by the prisoners, at this late day, describe the spring as flowing with as much force as it did when it first made its appearance. The Rebel authorities caused a box to be formed around it, and by a few lengths of troughs, the water was conveyed under the dead line so that the prisoners could obtain it. The crowd, however, would be so great around it, that the prison police were obliged to take charge, and the men were compelled to form in line and take their turns.
Number 15, represents “Rumors of Exchange.” Nothing would create more excitement than some rumor which had an authentic bearing. The prisoners would forget their sufferings in the happy thought that they would goon be liberated, and enjoy freedom and happiness in “Gods Country” once more, where they could enjoy at least “One good square meal.” They would fling their ragged caps or hats into the air, embrace one another in their wild exuberance of emotion, run as fast as their diseased limbs and feeble nature would allow, to impart the glad tidings to their sick and dying companions, hold prayer meetings, sing songs, and go to sleep in heaven as it were, waiting patiently for the appointed day to arrive. And when the time had passed and no signs of exchange would appear, the scene would be entirely the reverse. Ambition and hope would give way to despondency. Curses and threats would take the place of prayers, and our government would be roundly anathemized for deserting us in our extremity. Numbers of our poor comrades could not stand the shock; despair of ever seeing their families and friends again would settle upon them, and they would die in numbers like cattle during a pestilence.
Number 16, represents a daily scene at the gate.
Those who died during the night and morning would be brought stripped of all clothing that was wearable, and placed in rows or piled on each other ready to be brought to the brush dead house outside, and from there carried in loads to the Cemetery, as before described. To give some idea of the numbers of deaths that occurred during the heated term in Andersonville, I give the number taken from the prison record and now on file in the War Department in Washington, as printed in the Diary of John L. Ransom: June, 1,201; July, 1,817; August, 3,076; September, 2,794; October, 4,590.
In August, one in eleven died; in September, one in three; in October, one in two; in November, one in three of the remainder. Thus it will be seen by the record of such mortality that I do not exaggerate my picture in the least.
Number 17, represents the good Priest, Reverend Father Whelan, of Savannah, Georgia, praying among the dead and dying. Of all religious denominations, he was the only Minister of the Gospel who ever made an appearance among the army of suffering humanity. All creeds, color, and nationalities were alike to him, and he gave spiritual consolation and prayers to all. He was admired and respected by all for his gentleness and devotion to the sick and distressed. He was indeed the “Good Samaritan.”
Number 18, represents the “Goddess of Justice holding the Scales.” Standing in front of a deserted and neglected grave whose headstone bears the inscription “Sacred to the memory of 15,000 martyrs who perished in Andersonville,” while laying upon the grave is an open book on whose blank leaves is inscribed, “The unwritten history of Andersonville Prison.” Yes, unwritten, and forgotten. Twenty odd years have passed away, and the Government who doomed the unfortunates in those prisons to death in accordance with the order of General Grant, who stated “that it was human to those left in the ranks to fight our battles, that those confined in Rebel prisons should be sacrificed to their fate,” rather than agree to ay system of exchange at the time; have forgotten those who survived that terrible order of sacrifice; have forgotten whose who played the most important part in the late war, have forgotten its own promises of protection and recognition, have almost forgotten that such things actually occurred.
But the soldier had not forgotten. The soldier gave up his home, his blood, his life, for his country.
The bondholder gave his dollar from which he reaped his Shylockian interest of a hundred fold. In order to pay the bondholder the soldier must again be sacrificed. Hence the contest with the “scales.” The Bonds win.
There is a history in the allegory. Give it thought, and draw your own inferences.
Number 19, represents the Author, who, among others has been denied that recognition by his government which is his right by services rendered.
The whole forms a pictorial combination of twenty pictures in one.