Experiences in the Civil War of John Marshall Stewart 75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Placed on the web by Larry Stevens

Web Publishing Copyright © 1999 Larry Stevens

The following manuscript was transcibed from a handwritten copy written by Nettie Stewart Barron in about the year 1901. This transcript was later copied and typewritten by Laurence E. Barron, May 01, 1982. Mr. Clyde Roger Barron saw fit to give me a copy while I was at a reenactment at Gallipolis, Ohio, April, 1999. I present it here for your consideration and contemplation. Neil R. Hamilton, Lockbourne, Ohio.

Experiences in the Civil War of John Marshall Stewart

In the fall of 1861 at the age of 16 years I volunteered in the Union Army, our first camp was Camp Wool at Athens, Ohio. I was volunteered into the 79th Ohio, Co. L under Col. Constable, then at Cincinnati. The 79th was consolidated into the 75th and here we drew our arms; we went from here to New Creek, Va.; here we drew teams for the regiment. We went from here to Huttonsville, Va. I was taking the measles when I left camp and we had to wade Tiger River and we were starting through and Clum Pierce took me on his shoulders and carried me across as I had a high fever and he knew if I went into the cold water it would kill me. We were in camp about 2 months and then went over Cheat Mountain and at Crab Orchard get into the rebels winter quarters, and at this place one of the boys got into some Trouble with a woman about some chickens, we left this place and a Mont. Array got into a Racket with the rebels and two of the boys were wounded. From Mont. Array we went to McDowell and had a battle; from there we went to Franklin; from there to Winchester; from there we skirmished with the rebels to Cross Keys; from here to Stafford Court House; from here to Brooks Stations; from there to Gettysburg; from there to Hagarstown; from there to Alexandria; from there to Newport News; from there took vessel to Morris Island. We were on Cole Island, Johns Island, Falla Island and Carway Island. We went from Falla Island to Jacksonville Florida; here to St. Augustine; from here we went on a raid to Indian River, Florida; from here we came back to Jacksonville; from here to Gainsville, Florida where I was Captured.


Experiences of John Marshall Stewart in Civil War Prison Camps

About the 14th or 15th of August 1864 about 300 of us started on an expedition from Jacksonville, Florida to destroy a rebel commissary at Gainesville, Florida. We arrived there at daylight on the morning of the 16th of August 1864. Through spys the rebels heard that we were coming and 1500 of them had surrounded the city ready to fight us. They charged on us but we drove them back and held the city till three o'clock in the afternoon and looking for reinforcements every minute.
My horse had been killed in among the first fires in the morning so I was left to use my own legs. One of Company "B" boys and myself saw our men rallying at the upper end of town and started to go to them. We went into a yard to a big well to get us a drink. I got a drink first and handed him the tin cup to get him a drink. I started out on the street but the sharp report of a revolver behind me caused me to look around, and there on his back by the well lay my companion, and a woman was standing on the porch with a smoking revolver in her hand.
I started on up the street and saw the Colonel forming a line back of town. I started on the run to get to him, when I saw a horse coming rapidly up the street behind me. I looked around and saw to my relief that he had no rider. I ran out in the street to catch him and tried to catch his bridle, but he jumped past and as luck would have it I did get a hold on the stirrup. By the time I got straightened up on the horse I was to a cross street, here I saw Lias Thompson coming up the street with the headquarters team and the rebels after him. He was coming toward me; before he got to me a lot of rebels came out of another alley on him. He surrendered and they shot him down dead. Four or five of them commanded me to surrender but my horse was running and I dropped down on the side of the horse opposite the rebels. They shot at me but missed me and my horse both.
I got to the Colonel and he had sixty of the boys in line and they had one piece of artillery. We charged the rebel lines and on our way out we fought over the one piece of artillery four or five miles. Part of the time the rebels would have it, and then we would drive them back and get it, but finally we had to give it up. Four or five of our horses gave out and couldn't keep up with the others, so the boys had to take to the swamps. Among those who hid in there were C.C. Pierce of Marshfield, and myself. The swamp was soon surrounded and as there was no way of getting out alive, something had to be done. C.C. Pierce and the others went out and surrendered, but I hid in the grass and by seeing my horse they knew there were others in the swamp, so Pierce called to me to come out and I, seeing no chance of escape, came out and surrendered.
We started from there to Gainesville, Florida and had not gone far when we met a body of rebels. Some of them wanted to hang us, and some wanted to shoot us. One man drew his gun on me because I did not want to give him my gum blanket. Soon thirty or forty of our boys came up, having been taken as prisoners. So we all camped there till morning, when we were started for Gainesville.
When we got there we came across several of the boys who had been captured, then we were all started from Gainesville, Florida to Tallahassee the capital. We lodged for the night in a log pen 15' ' 20' built for prisoners. The occupants of the pen was an old man and woman about 75 years of age, and their daughter and a small baby. Their furniture was an old quilt. I said Grandpa what are you and Grandma in such a place as this for. He said, my son I fought for the same flag your are fighting for. We are Union people, and because we won't tell where my two sons and my son-in-law are they have put me and mother and our daughter in here to try and make us tell.
The next day about one hundred of us started for Andersonville Prison. We arrived there about the 26th of August 1864. Having got to the prison we were marched in between two ranks of rebel soldiers facing each other. There we were made to strip off everything but our shirts and drawers. They took our clothes and searched them and took all our knives, photographs, combs, watches and boots and shoes, and handed us back what they did not want. Then they turned us into the Prison where no tongue can describe the scene.
The Prison was located on two beaches with a swamp in the middle. I judge there was about 20 acres inside of the Prison walls with an acre or two of swamp. The stream of water that we used from ran through the rebel camp situated just above the Prison. The water was a greasy scum so dirty that it was nearly impossible to drink it. The swamp was covered with from 6 inches to a foot of human filth, it being covered with white maggots about an inch long. The stench from the prison was so awful it was almost impossible to endure it. The wall Of the Prison was made of logs set on end in the ground, and was 15 ft. from the top of ground on the inside to the top, and an embankment thrown up on the outside for the rebel guard to walk on and be above the prisoners and could see over the prison. Ten feet from the inside wall there was stakes drove in the ground, and poles put on top of the stakes. This was called the Dead Line and anybody who was found between it and the wall was instantly shot down.
In a big storm in July a spring broke out between the Dead Line and the wall of pure clear water. The stream was about as big as a persons small finger. The rebel authority allowed the men to fix a pipe from the spring through under the Dead Line, and those who wanted a drink had to fall in line and wait their turn to get water, and any time you would look in daytime or at night you could see the poor men waiting for water.
When I was there, there was about 36,000 men in this hole, and out of this number there was about 13,000 hauled and thrown in the trenches, among them numbers of our 75th boys. About the first one I met when I went into the prison was an old neighbor and friend of mine who had lived on my fathers place before the war, Andy Cagg of the 116th and his son Ed, who afterwards died in Florence Prison. I met Abe Gabriel of Athens who didn't have any thing on but an army shirt without any sleeves. I divided my clothes with him, giving him a pair of drawers. I met some of our boys who had been captured at Bull Run, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.
If a prisoner was caught trying to get away he was put in the stocks, which consisted of boards with notches cut in them so as to fit over a mans arms and legs. He was made to lie down on his back with his arms spread down on the ground and the boards were fastened over their arms and ankles and made fast in the ground. Every morning a pack of blood hounds were let loose to track those who might have got away in the night. A man would mount a pony and blow a horn and the hounds would scatter in every direction and you could hear their deep baying miles away. If anyone was found they were brought in torn and bleeding and would in most cases die.
Our grub consisted of cornbread, pork and beans. A days rations would be a piece of cornbread about two inches thick, 4 inches wide, and about 6 inches long; a piece of pork 2 inches wide, and 3 inches long, and a teacup of beans, bugs, dirt and all. They were steamed in sacks and brought in, in ten bushel boxes and divided to the thousand, then were divided to the hundreds and then into squads of 25 men. I had the luck of getting into the prison with a frying pan, which I don't think was cold while I was there.
A few days after we were put in prison Hiram Davis of our company was also brought in, he gave Clum Pierce and I five dollars, having succeeded in hiding his money some place where the rebels did not get it. Clum and I bought 5 bran sacks which we sewed together and made us a kind of shed, and we could keep dry by laying spoon fashion and when one turned, all turned. One stormy night Abe Gabriel came and sit down at our feet, all but froze to death, then I got up and gave him my place and we took turn about staying up till morning, and by that way saved his life. There were a great many that never seen daylight the next morning.
The dead were carried to the South Gate and layed in rows, and the same wagon that would bring in our load of corn bread, would take out a load of the dead that were loaded up like you would load up cord wood. They would haul the dead to the trenches and come back past the cook house and bring another load of bread, unload the bread, and then take back dead till all were hauled away. After the cold stormy night I have seen as high as 300 hauled away in one day.
Then there came an order one day that a thousand men was to be exchanged, and among that number Clum and I slipped out. We were to be taken to Savannah to be exchanged so the rebels told us. We were all so eager to get away that we crowded into box cars and started for that city, and if a man died he was thrown out to give more room for the living. A few miles from Mason, Georgia our old engine gave out and the men were allowed to get out on the ground. They were there three or four hours fixing the engine, and if we had known then what we found out the next day, a great many would have been found missing. When they got ready to start they blew the whistle and we all piled back into the cars and the next day we arrived in Savannah, and there we found we were fooled, and was sent to Charleston, S.C., under strong guard. We layed there about a week.
There I missed my frying pan when I came to cook my grub for I had, when I left Andersonville thought I was going home and would need no pan, so I gave it to another man. But as we were marching through Charleston, Clum happened to pick up a piece of sheet iron, and out of this we made us a pan, and he borrowed a knife from a comrade and made us a wooden spoon apiece. We was at this city two weeks and then we were put into the cars and taken to Florence Prison.
We was in the cars all night without water and when we were turned loose in the prison we all ran to a stream to get water. I ran to the stream and put my foot on a log that layed across it, and heard a cap snap. I looked up and a rebel guard had his gun pointed in two feet of my back, and I would have been shot dead if the gun had went off.
The stockade was about the same as that at Andersonville. And our grub there consisted of a half pint of cornmeal, ground cob and all, and about two tablespoon full of nigger beans for a day's ration. About once a week we would get a slice of mule meat.
To try and make the boys tell where the tunnels were they would starve the camp three days. We had a tunnel about 7 ft. deep and about 30 or 40 ft. long; we were over a month digging it, and there was some one constantly at work on it, day and night. We dug with a case knife and hauled it out with a spade. We had dug under the stockade and was under the trench when we found out where we were and was waiting for a dark night to get out. If a man told where a tunnel was they would take him out on parole of honor, and give him extra rations. Some fellow reported that we had a tunnel and the authorities came in and found it. That ended our tunnel business.
There were several got away and one was captured, and because he would not tell where the other were he was hung up two hours by the thumbs.
There was an exchange of the sick and there Clum Pierce left me and got back home again. I knew of lots that got out by giving a watch and if I had had a watch maybe I could have got out.
When I went in there one dollar of our money would buy ten dollars of Confederate money, and before I came out one dollar of our money would buy one hundred dollars. I saw John Higgins of Athens give a hundred dollars for a turkey, and that much for a bushel of sweet potatoes. He ran a soup stand inside the stockade and I have seen our boys come in out of our lines, who would eat $15.00 worth of soup before they would quit.
A dutchman had a dog about as big as a large cat, and he stole him and made soup out of him, and the next day I saw a fellow knawing at the dog's head. I saw him sell an old brass watch to a rebel for five hundred dollars Confederate money.
One day they was carrying a dead comrade past where I stayed when they stopped to rest. One man said, let me show you something, and as the dead man had long hair, he lifted his hair up and the lice had knawed his flesh to the bone clear around his hair about an inch wide.
I seen a man take his own leg off at his knee. He had been wounded below the knee and the gangrene had set in and the flesh had rotted and all the bones had dropped off, but the big bone, and he took a knife and set down and cut it off.
There were two brothers in there and their blanket had got wet, and one was hanging it on the Dead Line to dry when the guard shot him dead.
The way we could tell when Sunday come they always counted us on Sundays. We were run on one side of the prison and went back across in two ranks past the officers. They would count the two ranks till they came to a hundred, and then we would stop till they put that down, and so on till all was counted. If a man was lame and couldn't keep up they would run in and kick him up.
The rebels would throw a half bushel or a peck of sweet potatoes into the prison to see the boys scramble and fight to get them. Barret, the commander, would come in and kick and knock the boys around when they would get to crowding, and he stuck his knife into Wm. Francis shoulder of our company, because Will asked who in Hell he was, and to save a lot of us from being killed I caught him by the arms and kept him from striking because the guards seen him and would have shot into us.
When our forces came to Charleston the rebels commenced to run us out of that prison and I was among the last squad that got out. And the day before I left there I was taken sick and we were put on the cars and started for Wilmington, N.C., and got there in the morning, Our fellows had captured Ft. Fisher and the gun boats were coming up Cape Fear River shelling Wilmington. The boys began cheering and what couldn't cheer, cried. That was the first time I had seen the old flag for 7 months.
We were ferried across the river into Wilmington and them that was able to walk was put one on each side of a Cavalryman and to hold to his stirrups, and the orders were if one let go to hit him over the head with a sabre. The sick were put on trains and run to Goldsboro, N.C. We were paroled at that place and they run us back to Cape Fear River where we was picked up by one of our boats.
I was carried into the boat and they layed me down by the side of a cracker box. I stole about a dozen and slipped them under my side and in a little while I was given a pint of coffee, and I took some of it and a bite of cracker and it made me sick and I didn't eat any more till morning. A great many of the boys ate so much they died before morning. The next morning we were taken to Wilmington and there as two men were carrying me off the boat, an old citizen said to let him give that boy a little swallow of brandy. He gave me a swallow and it liked to have killed me.
We were taken to the basement of an Odd Fellows Hall and there two men would take one of the boys, and a bar of soap, into a tub of water. After a good scrubbing and our hair cut and hair lice, dirt and clothes burnt, we were given a suit of under clothing. And in that condition we arrived at Grant Hospital in New York, about the last of March 1865 and received our clothes, and the night Abe Lincoln was assassinated I started for home sweet home.
This is a brief sketch of 7 months prison life written about 36 years after the time it transpired, from memory. The half has not, and never will, be told of the hardships and scenes I have witnessed in this dreadful time of my life.

John Marshall Stewart
Born: December 27, 1844
Died: January 25, 1913

The above information was provided by Clyde Roger Barron, 122 Bastiani Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio 45631-1645, phone nr. 740-446-3843.

Web Publishing Copyright © 1999 Larry Stevens

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Last updated August 8 1999