Introduction to Part TwoHarvey Hogue, the brother of my great-great-grandfather, Clinton Hogue, published this Civil War memoir in 1900. Part One describes his family background, his induction into the Ohio 115th Regiment of the Union Army, and several fascinating adventures during his first few years of service. This page describes his capture by Confederate forces, his shipment to Andersonville, and his harrowing escape.
Civil War Reflections 1862-1865by Harvey S Hogue of Company G, 115th regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry
To begin with, we served three years in the 115th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, from July, 1862, to July, 1865. Our Colonel was J. A. Lucy who resigned during the first year's service when Lieutenant Colonel T. C. Boone succeeded him and remained with us to the close of the war. Our company, G, was officered by Captain D. N. Lowry, Lieutenants A. L. Conger and Sumner Nash.
We cannot refrain from brief mention of the sterling qualities inherent in the make-up of Captain Lowry. He was a strict disciplinarian, impulsive, but brave, and had the tender heart of a woman. He was among the unfortunate two hundred of our regiment captured near Nashville, Tennessee, December 4th, 1864, and the following April after exchange and enroute for home, was on the ill-fated Sultana which exploded her boilers a short distance from Memphis. It is said of Captain Lowry that he remained on the sinking craft to the very last, throwing boards and such things as would be of use to those struggling in the water, when he might have saved himself by leaving earlier. He went down never to rise.
Col. Conger was also a most excellent and efficient officer, and in time became one of Ohio's distinguished sons, serving a number of years as a member of the National Republican Committee. He has for many years been a resident of Akron, Ohio, and owns large interests in various manufacturies of the city, and was one of the first to boom and engage in the manufacture of tin, which industry was placed on its feet in the United States by the McKinley tariff law.
We will now, however, begin with our experiences as a prisoner of war, which interesting and rather rocky period of our military service began four days after the stubborn and bloody fight between the union forces under General George H. Thomas, and Confederates commanded by General John B. Hood at Franklin, Tennessee, November 30th, 1864.
On December 3rd, 1864, three days after the Franklin fight, General Hood's forces, for multitude, apparently as the sands of the sea, surrounded a little unpretentious looking block house, built of logs, for the protection of thirty men of our company who had been detailed to guard a bridge on the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad nine miles out from the former city. They quickly, however, learned the distance out our rifles could establish a dead line, and just beyond this they maintained a line of battle with great bravery, and for three or four hours wasted great quantities of ammunition on us.
At 3:00 P.M. they sent in a demand for surrender which, of course, was refused. They then began to use some artillery on our position, but without effect. Unfortunately for us, however, we had failed to burn a log house only three hundred yards away, and, under cover of a hill just back of it, they succeeded in planing some twelve pound guns in that log house.
This move cost them a number of men, but once in it, they had the advantage and from then on, until nightfall, they hammered seventy seven guns, shot into one wing of our building, tearing away the outer casement and sending in an occasional splinter and bursting shell. This had a tendency to appreciatively lower our erstwhile exuberant spirits and confidence in the position we occupied. During the night an examination of our damages revealed the not altogether cheering probability that an early morning would see us put to an open shame.
Dawn came at last and with it active and distressingly familiar business on the part of our neighbors. True, it was a December day, albeit as warm, if not pleasant, as May, and the peculiar and increasing sultriness was not wholly due to the "sunny clime." A constant stream of fire seemed to pour from the old log house into the now commodious aperture of our domicile, and the occasional shell which waited till a guest in our kitchen, before bursting proved terribly harrowing to our piece of mind.
As yet, though several had received slight wounds, not one was killed and at about eleven o'clock came a lull in the fire and our merciful enemy sent in another flag of truce with a demand to surrender, accompanied with which was a threat to repeat Fort Pillow on us if we refused! Conference then ensued between Captain Lowry and General Hood, during which F. S. Thorp, H. G. Beardsley and the writer filled a hard tack box with our valuables such as surplus cash, watches, our best clothing, etc., and buried it in the cook house.
The officers' parley being ended, all but four of our boys, F. S. Thorp, George Brower, Delos Doty, and another one, voted to surrender. This, however, was on the condition that our personal effects, save arms, should be respected, which agreement was kept to the letter as will appear presently. No sooner had we stacked arms and surrendered revolvers and such other things as might be considered dangerous weapons, than "respect" for our personal effects manifested itself in a peculiar affecting and most "searching" way.
Bereft of our guns and accoutrements, we were ordered in line and surrounded by a guard of Confederates, marched a hundred yards distance, halted, front faced, and the rear column ordered four feet back, and here began, as our captors evidently understood it, the enforcement of that portion of our terms of surrender which said "all prisoners personal property be respected." Then an officer stepped to the head of each single column and began a search for "concealed weapons." But a few days prior to our capture we had received several months back pay and had not been able to send it home as was the custom with many. The cash, of course, was dangerous as it might purchase an opportunity to escape, and then, there were watches, pocket cutlery, gold pens, the latter mightier than the sword, and every conceivable thing about the person, of a nickel's value that might prove "dangerous" in our hands, beside burdening us on the march
It was all "respected" as per contract, that is everything their search revealed, but in the boot leg of Frank Thorp still remained a good sized butcher knife, and in the waist band of one of the writer's under garments was concealed sixty odd dollars in green backs, which later on in our humble opinion saved the life of one fellow if not two, in supplying nourishment and healthful food, a thing lacking in our daily bill of fare. We were then informed that in the sunny clime, to which we were destined, rubber blankets and extra woolen ones would not be needed, hence they were taken.
A fresh detail of guards then took charge of us, but before leaving, the commanding officer of the old one, with supreme irony, informed us that, of course, all property taken would be carefully preserved and restored when we were exchanged. Again falling into line we were marched probably half a mile and another search was made for "deadly weapons." Of course, our pockets had been emptied, but each man yet retained one blanket, his overcoat, a good hat, and many had new clothes, boots, and shoes.
The kindly solicitude of our captors, however, was not exhausted. They would not have us overburdened for the coming forced march south, and accordingly our blankets and overcoats were taken, to be returned, of course, when we were exchanged. Many of the boys had just drawn new clothing, boots, and hats, and the Confederates were wretchedly clad so with the mutual understanding between robber and the victim, a general swap was made.
Occasionally one would protest so strongly that in some cases he was permitted to retain what he had. Frank Thorp had on a pair of new boots and was ordered to take them off but coolly replied that he needed them in his business and could not for a moment entertain such a cold blooded proposition; when he was invited to look into the hidden depths of his captor's gun barrel and told to take off those boots or die, but the coolness and gall of a native Kansan, he said, "My dear sir, when a youth I always had an aversion to going barefoot even in summer and now in the most adverse circumstances and in winter I cannot with justice to myself think of acceding to your request. If you get the boots you must get me first."
And the fellow went away without them. On several other occasions Frank's boots proved the center of some needy guards envy, and each time, though his life was threatened he managed to talk his tormentor into good nature and retain his boots. For his success in this line he was, no doubt, apprised of a native talent which later on he put to good use and for many years has been a successful lawyer in the territory now state of Washington.
The novelty of so sudden a change in our circumstances had quickly disappeared giving place to a stern realization of our situation. It had dawned upon us with a terribly depressing dawn that we were now in the sacrificing business for the country's sake, up to our necks, so to speak. From the proud well-armed, clothed and fed soldiers, inside of a brief hour, we had reached opposite extremes. Wealth, arms, blankets, clothes, even to the shoes on our feet in many instances, gone, and with all, a painful consciousness of being at the mercy of what? An army of victorious cavaliers? Chivalrous southern-bred gentlemen whose vaunted "hona" was immaculate? No, but per contra, a mob of hungry vandals who deliberately in winter, stripped us of clothing without which we must suffer untold torture.
In this article we have criticized with some severity the inhuman policy applied by the Confederacy so disastrously to our boys, and especially the Johnnies who had us in charge, but later on it was our fortune to find many kind-hearted men among our guards who granted us every privilege in their power.
Three of us 115th Ohio boys had upon our capture, promised ourselves and each other to escape at the first favorable opportunity. Several reasonably fair chances had been permitted to pass unimproved and now our case was getting desperate, for once inside that death trap in our weakened condition and our fate would be sealed.
The train which was to convey us to Andersonvile was composed of about forty box freight cars and one flat car was last save the caboose. We left our boys at the head of the train and got on the flat car, having had an understanding that at a signal to be given by the writer, we would all jump off. A guard was stationed at each corner and we were all set down in the center, but the trio above mentioned, worked ourselves over to the edge with feet hanging over.
A few miles out of Demopolis and just after crossing a long trestle which spanned a swamp, the jump was made. The moment we left, of course, that caboose was between us and our guards. On this we had calculated and it worked well, for we do not think a shot was fired at us. Pulling ourselves out of the mud with considerable effort, for we were both sick and weak, we started north. Soon after our jump the brakes were whistled on and the train stopped, but we preferred to walk and did not thank them for trying to accommodate us.
It was growing dark rapidly and we were traveling faster than our knowledge of the country would warrant, when suddenly all tumbled into a washout or ditch at least ten feet deep, and with our fall a lot of night owls roosting in some bushes near by, set up such a hooting that we were nearly scared to death. We had no compass and could be certain of going north only as guided by the north star and this was hid behind dense clouds, but we kept o until after midnight when lo! we found ourselves crossing the railroad we had left.
Providence however, is always on the side of the righteous, and to our joy it began to clear up. Another start was made and we marched on unmolested till morning, having, during the latter part of the night, passed over two or three miles of swamp land. This proved another intervention of Providence, for with the dawn began the braying of blood-hounds, and during the morning it rained heavily and so covered that swamp that our tracks could not be scented. We were in the enemy's country; the woods were full of bands of Hood's scattered army. To have undertaken to travel by daylight would have insured our recapture, so daylight found us concealed under an old log on the banks of a stream. It rained a good part of the day and through the following night, compelling us to remain in our place of hiding.
The following morning, January 21st, rain was still falling in torrents and high water from the now swollen stream compelled us to find other shelter. In doing so we encountered a colored man who at once seemed to recognize us. He said the country was full of blood-hounds gathering up men who had jumped from the train we did, some of whom they had caught and he was not surprised to see us. His thorough knowledge however, of causes producing the war naturally made him our friend, and though he aided us at the risk of his life, he did it cheerfully and secreted us in an old cotton gin
At dark he brought us a sack of corn pone, some meat and baked sweet potatoes, and with instructions as to the country and descriptions of plantations and friends farther north, started us on our way rejoicing; for his provender had found us very hungry, weak and much discouraged. We plodded on through the rain and mud until about midnight, having traveled probably five miles, when owing to exhaustion and clouds which concealed our star, we sought a hiding place in the heavy timber, making our bed of wet leaves in the shelter of a fallen tree top. Here, owing to continuous rain, we remained two days and a night, subsisting on what we expected to get in way of food later on.
On Monday evening, January 23rd, wet to the skin, cold and hungry, we again start but are unable to go far. Early in the night going to a Negro's cabin we are made welcome to such as he has, which consists of corn bread. He conceals us in a cotton gin and the weather having changed to very cold, we suffer intensely and for the first time I freeze my feet.
Early in the evening, clouds having disappeared, we again started north taking the public highway. This we soon find is not favorable to our self imposed isolation from the society of white people and without the ceremony of a formal introduction, a Confederate cavalryman patrol met us squarely in the road sing out a "halt" that fairly made our hair stand. He ordered us to about-face and march into camp, but the importance of our business just at that time made the delay necessary, even to a visit among our brethren, impossible. We told him, of course, all about who we were, and that we must reach Huntsville, Alabama, by a certain date and declined his proffered hospitality. He insisted, but, besides our argument, we each had a good stout hickory club and gave the gentleman to understand that we must be on our journey. His reserve guard fire was but a short distance off, and to this he went on the gallop and we, feeling that perhaps our destination could be reached sooner by going across lots, started off that way and in a very short time found ourselves in a swamp. Cold had been sufficient to freeze a thin ice over the surface where there was water and in our weakened and half-naked condition life proved somewhat of a burden. We had cause to be thankful, however, for we were still free and from ten to twelve miles farther north.
On the evening of the 25th, having gone without food for two days and a night, we started out before it was quite dark and barely escaped being caught, but we got away and that night made fully fifteen miles in a northerly direction and on the following morning daylight found us on the banks of an overflowed stream which we expected to have to ford or swim, but before attempting to do so two dusky friends appeared and piloted us across over a fallen tree. They had gone out for a day's logging, taking their dinners and this they insisted on giving to us, themselves working all day without. Our journey was resumed a little earlier in the evening than usual and again we were saved from capture by the colored fellows who apprised us of the approach of General Forest's troops which we were about to meet. This made it necessary to change our course somewhat and in consequence we made but five or six miles advance that night.
On the following morning it was our good fortune to find an old colored miller who was able to give us much information concerning the remainder of our route and necessary means to adopt to avoid the Confederate forces, under Generals Hood and Forest, which were now going southward and to be found on most of the public road.
We had now again been without food nearly two days and a night, and having, by activity and freedom with plenty of pure air, largely thrown off our prison contracted ailments, our appetites had returned. Here was a chance. We were in sight of a farm house and between us and it was a large apple orchard in which we discovered a pile of hogs. Thorp still carried the butcher knife in his boot leg; we reconnoitered the premises and waited until midnight, when a jump, a scramble of pigs, a single squeal and the law of confiscation of the enemy's supplies is obeyed. The two hams are all we can take. With these we again start northward eating warm fresh pork as we go, raw and without salt, but it was good.
Morning dawned very cold, but clear. We secret ourselves and rest until noon, then start through another pinery and thicket. Toward evening we reach a "logging" where a fire, (log burning) the first to which we dared approach during our trip of eight days. Here we roast our pork, after which our journey is resumed. The weather was still freezing cold and my feet were very sore from freezing and bruises. At day break we start, but soon found a colored fellow who said the country was full of Confederates, and were kindly secreted by him and fed on the best the plantation had in store - real flour biscuit and sassafras tea sweetened with molasses. Our colored friend then mapped out our best route, giving very definite instructions, following which we made a night's run of eighteen mils. The next evening it is quite cloudy and we lose our way, going east toward Montgomery, Alabama, instead of north, and to add to our perplexity, find a large rebel camp which it requires the entire night to get around and out of harms way.
Another rainy season retarded our progress and for two days we were secreted in a cotton gin and near the road where General Forest's troops were passing southward. During these two days and nights our food supply came from a near by turnip patch, except one mess of sweet potatoes, but towards evening of our second day the rain ceases and a flock of sheep sheltered under the lower part of our cotton gin, went out to pasture. In passing over the bards, one of them caught its leg and was securely held until dark, when we, in pity, released him. We each took a quarter, and with renewed hope and thankfulness, made a fresh start for liberty.
We had now learned that all slaves were our friends and that we were not the first escaped prisoners they had aided, and more that they were reliable in every instance. Having learned how to utilize their assistance, the last half of our journey improved each day.
One man, and a cripple at that, accompanied us eight or ten miles one night, piloting us across the country to another road, that we might avoid a force of Confederates directly north of us, and he had to make the back track and be on hand at daylight prepared for his day's work. Here was exhibited a degree of loyalty, patriotism and a self-sacrificing manliness which would be highly commendable to a white man; why should it be any less to a black one? It may be my lack of discrimination, but really I could never see why unselfish nobility under a black skin should be inferior to its counterpart under a white one. Superiority is a condition inherent in the man's soul and bears no relation to the color of his skin.
On the morning of February 6th, we visited a slave's cabin and got our lamb meat boiled, which removed, to a certain extent, that rank taste, and then we found a hiding place in an open field, where last year's grass was six feet high. Here we lay all day in a cold soaking rain sheltered only by the tearful sky above. In the evening we found another colored nobleman's cabin who cheerfully entertained us with a supper of baked sweet potatoes and corn bread. The rain, however, descended incessantly all night and we remained with him, drying our clothes and getting some rest. At daybreak, the 7th, we sought the seclusion of a swamp, communing with nature until evening, when our friend came with some supper and accompanied us to another colored gentleman who piloted us around the town of Elyton. The night was clear and the following morning we found ourselves twenty miles further north. The weather was very cold, the ground frozen hard, and my feet were badly frozen again.
We travel the "big" road now, and at dusk, on the 8th, resumed our march, getting along well until about two o'clock in the morning when we came to a ford on the Warior river and it was swollen from recent heavy rains, but our only way to get on the north side is by fording, and though it was freezing, we slipped off our rags, and "clothed upon with chastity" with shivering bodies and chattering teeth, with our clothes bunched and held above our heads, we grappled with this obstacle and won, of course, but the stream reached our necks, and while in the midst of it I stepped on a rolling stone and lost my balance and in swimming to shore my alleged clothing was soaked. The boys helped me wring the water out of the apparel and we started on a double quick in an endeavor to warm up again, but with me it was a futile effort. We kept on, however, until I was exhausted, when secreting ourselves in a ravine, one of the boys exchanged clothes with me, and lying down between the two, I was soon fast asleep.
This is now the evening of the 9th and this night's travel we pass around the town of Bluntsville and in the outskirts of it we went to the cabin of a negro to whom we had been directed and who was engaged in the laudable pursuit of distilling corn juice. Though it was after midnight he responded cheerfully to our call and while we were warming at his fire, he prepared us a breakfast of baked sweet potatoes, meat and corn pone with liquid corn for a beverage. We were much revived, perhaps stimulated would be a better word, for between two o'clock until daylight we made better time than had been our custom. Our colored friend is found again and like all the rest, seemed pleased to be able to assist Massa Lincoln's men, and after hiding us, brought us a breakfast of flour biscuit, also brought us dinner and supper. It was the first day we had three square meals for months.
This is Friday morning, February 10th, 1865. The weather is very cold, my feet are so swollen and sore that every step sends a painful protest to the brain center. The response, however, comes back "liberty is but three or four days ahead at most. Go forward."
Understanding that there is a small force of Confederate troops in the neighborhood we seek a safe retreat in a dense pine thicket. Several times during the day we hear both musketry and cannon firing and about mid-afternoon after some heavy cannonading a squad of perhaps two hundred rebel cavalrymen go scampering by us southward and not more than a hundred yards away, but we are not noticed and feel much relieved after they have passed. We are greatly encouraged for the tilt at arms just previous, indicates that the Union forces are not far away and as soon as it is safely dark we start for the plantation to which our last negro friend had directed us and reach it in about an hour. Our man is soon found and we are soon filling an "aching void" with corn pone, sweet potatoes, biscuit and molasses at a slave cabin. We are here informed that the firing we had heard was between some rebel bushwackers and a United States gun boat plying the Tennessee river, and much to our delight the further information that the gun boat at dark anchored not more than two miles away.
After supper we are accompanied to the river by three negroes, two of whom we induce to make a break for liberty and they go with us. It was a beautiful moonlit evening and near eleven o'clock when we were made inexpressibly happy at sight of "Old Glory" proudly waving over a Yankee gun boat anchored in mid-stream. Under ordinary circumstances, the man who has never been deprived of his liberty can have but an inadequate idea of the joy experienced by a released prisoner. Ours, however, was no ordinary imprisonment. Our crime consisted in an effort to save the honor of our nation and flag. For sixty-eight days we had been at the mercy of those engaged in a treasonable effort to destroy both. Now before us, in all her beauty, waves the emblem of liberty. Never before had I looked upon the Stars and Stripes with that degree of appreciation and pride as at this supreme moment and with a spontaneity evidently inborn we all burst out in shouts until those on board might have imagined that the entire inhabitants of Tennessee were doing the prodigal act or possibly Joshua's Israelitish army was again assailing the walls of Jericho. After much parleying, the boat's crew heavily armed were sent to shore and we five, three Yanks and two colored boys, were taken aboard the gun boat "General Grant."
The last hour of this 11th day of February, 1865, is indelibly impressed upon my memory as one, if not the happiest and proudest of my life. In a few days we had returned to our regiment at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and soon thereafter each secured a thirty days furlough to visit our respective homes. Before going we visited the scene of ourblock house service and capture and dug up the cracker box of valuables we had buried.
One matter of some interest and almost forgotten was our condition in personal appearance and clothing when we first reached the Union forces. Much of our journey had laid through timber and brush thickets and our pants to the knees, coat tails, and sleeves to the elbows, were represented only by shreds of their former beauty. In fact, we were so nearly naked, that though urged to have ourselves photographed in that condition, we refused, possibly from a sense of decent propriety. We have, however, since all lived to regret it and had the picture been secured and preserved I would consider it one of my most valued souvenirs of the war.
Photographs courtesy of Carl Roberts.