Pvt. David Barrett, Co. H, 8th Iowa Calvary

His capture and confinement to Andersonville, GA and Florence SC prisons.
Submitted by Keith Brandon, 8/2/02

"My great great grandfather, David Barrett was born April 27, 1845 in Belmont, Ohio. David was the second oldest of ten children in the James Stephen Barrett family. Sometime between 1845 and 1860 the Barrett family migrated to the recently formed state of Iowa, where farm land could be purchased from the federal government for $1.25 per acre. The Barretts settled on a farm located in Appanoose County in the small community of Cincinnati which is located five miles north of the Missouri state border and about equidistant between Illinois and Nebraska.

On April 12, 1861, the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter and the Civil War began. All over the Northern States, armies were being organized. Many of the units of the U.S. Army consisted of militia groups formed in rural areas. One such group was the Southern Border Brigade of Iowa Volunteer Cavalry that was formed in Appanoose County, Iowa. On October 7, 1862, James S. Barrett, David's father enlisted in Company B of the Southern Border Brigade. On February 3, 1863, David Barrett at age seventeen also enlisted in Company B of the Southern Border Brigade. At the time it was a common practice for a soldier to be able to pay a bounty for someone to take his place in the military, so it is possible, although not proven that David took his father's place in the Border Brigade. David's discharge and muster out records do show that he received a $25.00 bounty payment but the records do not indicate what the bounty was for. In light of the fact that David's brother John, who was two years older, was already in the military and that their father still had a farm to maintain and a wife and eight children to provide for, it is likely that James S. Barrett was not with the Brigade on the 6th of April 1863, when it was placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. War Department.

At Camp Roberts, Davenport, Iowa on September 30, 1863, twelve companies of Iowa Volunteer Cavalry, including the Southern Border Brigade were mustered into the United States Army and became known as the Eighth Regiment of Iowa Cavalry. An additional ten companies were added to bring the Eighth to full strength at more than two thousand troops. While at Camp Roberts, the Eighth underwent training until October 17th, when they were loaded on trains and transported to Louisville, Kentucky, arriving there on October 22nd. After a few more days of training, the unit made a twelve?day march to Nashville, Tennessee, arriving there on November 16, 1863. Military records obtained from the National Archives show that from October 31st until November 12, 1863, David was confined to the hospital with some sort of fever, so apparently his unit had proceeded to Nashville without him and after his release from the hospital he then rejoined the Eighth in Nashville. On December 1, 1863, the regiment under the command of a Colonel Dorr was assigned the task of protecting the railroads west of Nashville from Rebel guerilla bands. With headquarters at Waverly, Tennessee the Eighth protected the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad until March 13, 1864, at which time Colonel Dorr was ordered to return the regiment to Nashville. Arriving at Nashville on March 17th, the regiment was re?equipped and supplied with new mounts where needed. On the 1st of April with 1050 enlisted men in the saddle and a full complement of officers, the Eighth commenced their march to Chattanooga and then on to Cleveland, Tennessee where on April 13th it joined the First Brigade, First Division of Cavalry, commanded by Brigadier General E.M.McCook. As a part of the First Brigade, the Eighth remained in camp at Cleveland until May 3rd, at which time the entire Division departed for the front lines and the real war. The First Division of Cavalry was only a small part of the huge army that had been assembled at Cleveland, Tennessee under the leadership of General William Tecumseh Sherman. This was the staging area for the largest campaign of the Civil War, known as Sherman's march to the sea.

The Eighth Iowa Cavalry saw action in all of the battles that started in early May 1864, capturing the Georgia towns of Dalton, Resaca, Cassville, Altoona and Kennesaw Mountain as they advanced toward Atlanta. The fighting was extremely hard and the advancement was a slow and bloody process. By the end of May, Sherman's army of more than one hundred thousand men had gotten to the town of New Hope, a distance of a little more than one hundred miles from where it started and had suffered more than nine thousand casualties. It was estimated that the Rebel army, commanded by General Johnston, had about the same amount of losses. During the months of June and July, Sherman's army is slowed to a near stop between New Hope and Atlanta. Part of the reason for this is that Sherman now has to use a large part of his army in protecting his supply line back to Chattanooga but by the end of July 1864 he is gaining a slight advantage and is stockpiling men and material for a massive attack on Atlanta. On July 27th, Colonel Dorr and the Eighth were part of a group led by General McCook who was ordered to move around the western edge of Atlanta and on to the town of Fayetteville which lies due south of Atlanta and is an important railroad junction of the West Point ? Atlanta Railroad. Their assignment was to destroy the rail lines that served Atlanta from the south. This railroad was vital in supplying the Confederates with men and material. At the same time, the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry and other units were sent from the west with the mission of destroying the tracks leading west from Atlanta. The two units, after completing their missions were supposed to join forces and move back to the New Hope and Marietta area. Both units were successful in their efforts but before they could rendevous, McCook's army was attacked by a group of Confederates led by General Wheeler and was unable to join the Tennesseans as scheduled. The Tennessee group had problems of their own but after two days of hard fighting and heavy casualties they managed to reach Marietta. Meanwhile, McCook decided that it was futile to try to get to New Hope or Marietta and started a retreat southwest toward the town of La Grange and safety. Shortly after daylight of July 30th, the Eighth encountered an overwhelming force of Wheeler's army at Newnan, Georgia. The fight continued until the afternoon and after several attempts to break through Wheeler's lines Colonel Dorr decided that he should surrender. Regimental records of the Eighth Iowa Cavalry show that a total of two hundred ninety?two enlisted men and twenty officers were assigned to this mission and only twenty men and officers returned safely. Two hundred fifty?nine were taken prisoner and thirty?five are presumed to have died. Pvt. David Barrett was among the two hundred fifty nine captives destined for Andersonville Prison.

Confederate Captain Wm.Sidney Winder was sent to the small village of Andersonville, Georgia in November of 1863 to assess that area for the feasibility of a prison for captured Union military personnel. The population of the village of Andersonville was less than twenty persons and for obvious reasons they were not enthusiastic about having a prison located in their neighborhood, but their objections were quickly overlooked. The area had the qualifications that Winder was looking for; located deep in the heart of Georgia, where it was supposed that the Yankee Army would never reach, access to the Southern Railroad was nearby and there was fresh water available. Captain Wm. Sidney Winder had been sent on this mission by his father, General John Henry Winder who was later in command of all Confederate prisons east of the Mississippi River. The site was selected and in late December 1863 another Winder, namely Captain Richard B. Winder, who was a nephew of General John Henry Winder, arrived at Andersonville to design and build the prison. In January of 1864 construction was started on the prison. The heavy labor of cutting trees and digging the deep trenches needed for the stockade was done by slaves from the local farms. The original structure enclosed 16.5 acres with a small stream running through it. It was later enlarged to a total of 26.5 acres. It was designed to hold about ten thousand prisoners, but by August 1864 there was approximately thirty?three thousand occupying the 26.5 acre compound. There were no buildings within the compound. The prisoners were not provided with tents nor any other kind of shelter from the elements. For shelter they had to improvise from material that they brought into the prison when captured. Blankets, ponchos, overcoats and scraps of wood were used in their attempt to create some sort of protection. Some even dug shallow holes in the earth to sleep in. In the summer the heat was unbearable and in the late fall and winter, many died of hypothermia due to their weakened condition caused by dysentery, scurvy, gangrene and malnutrition. For prisoners at Andersonville the daily ration was one teaspoon of salt, three teaspoons of a beans and ½ cup of cornmeal, made from corn that had been ground along with the cob. On rare occasions some beef or bacon was provided, but usually the meat was so old and rotten that it couldn't be eaten. At times there were no daily rations issued at all, either because the supply train had not arrived or as a form of punishment by the local commandant, Captain Henry Wirz. Wirz became the commandant of the camp in June of 1864 and was under the command of General John Henry Winder. Captain Henry Wirz was a native of Switzerland whose inhumane treatment of prisoners resulted in his being the only Confederate officer, after the war, to be tried, convicted and hung as a war criminal. The commandant was terrified of the prospect that the thousands of prisoners might unite in a rebellion against their captors and by sheer weight of numbers overpower the five hundred or so Rebel guards. As a deterrent against this possibility, he had cannons loaded with grape shot mounted and aimed at the prisoners. He made it clear that he would not hesitate to fire on them. About twenty feet inside the stockade, short posts were sunken at regular intervals around the entire interior perimeter and a wooden railing placed on top of the posts. This was known as the "deadline" and any prisoner that ventured into the area between it and the stockade wall was immediately shot by the guards that were stationed in guardhouses atop the stockade. There were no water wells inside the stockade. The only water supply was from a few seeping springs and the small creek that flowed through the enclosure. The creek, before entering the prison area, flowed through the Confederate guard's camp, where the stream was used for bathing, laundry and disposing of the camp sewage. The use of this stream by the prisoners undoubtedly was a huge contributor to the illness and disease that took the lives of thousands of men. There was no hospital to care for men who could no longer care for themselves. There was a daily "sick call" where the sick would line up by the hundreds in the heat and cold, in hopes of being given some medicine to alleviate their suffering. About the only medicines dispensed were local home remedies such as roots and herbs. The guards did not receive much better treatment, as there just wasn't any medicine available in most of the Confederacy. By the end of August 1864 the death rate inside the prison was averaging eighty to one hundred per day. Each day the same team and wagon that delivered the daily rations would pick up the corpses of the newly dead, stack them on the wagon like cord wood and deliver them to the "dead house," outside the stockade where they lay until buried by a burial detail of prisoners. To compound the misery of the captives, several groups of thugs started preying on individual prisoners who were usually the sickest and weakest and either by threat or by force, the gangs took anything that they wanted from the prisoner. They would steal the man's rations, his blanket or anything of value that he might have smuggled past the guards when entering the prison. This situation eventually became so bad that a group of "Regulators" was formed by some of the stronger prisoners to curtail the criminal activities of the gangs. In July 1864 the Regulators had pretty well put a stop to the gangs. They had captured six of the worst offenders and with the sanction of the camp commandant, Captain Wirz, they held a trial of the six men and sentenced them to die. On July 11, the six were hanged by the Regulators. Within the camp there was very little discipline. None of the captured officers were imprisoned with the enlisted men. Upon arriving at Andersonville, the officers were confined in a smaller stockade outside the walls of the main facility from where they were transferred to other prisons that the Confederates maintained for officers. There were no camp guards within the stockade, so with the exception of a daily roll call, the prisoners could do as they pleased, as long as they did not cross the "deadline." General William Tecumseh Sherman's assault on Atlanta was slowly meeting with success. This success was having a direct effect on the prisoners at Andersonville. General Winder and Captain Wirz made it known that should Sherman's Army approach Andersonville, orders would be given to fire on the prisoners with the mounted cannon, in an effort to kill as many as possible. It was this situation that Pvt. David Barrett as well as the several hundred other Union soldiers captured near Newnan, Georgia would face when they arrived at Andersonville.

Although the records that I have do not show an exact date, it is safe to assume that within a day or two after their capture on July 30, 1864, the men of the Eighth Iowa Cavalry were loaded on to railroad cars for their trip to Andersonville. These prison?trains were usually made up of several box cars and livestock cars, in addition to one or two passenger cars to accommodate the confederate soldiers acting as guards. Guards that were on duty were stationed on top of the cars to see that none of the prisoners managed to escape while the train was under way. In addition to the prisoners from McCooks armies that had come from the northern states, there were many that belonged to the Tennessee regiments that had attacked Atlanta from the west. There were several of my Brandon ancestors who served in the Fourth Regiment of Tennessee Cavalry that were captured at Newnan on July 30th, and they were also sent to Andersonville.

By this time the war was going badly for the Confederacy. General U.S. Grant's army had captured Natchez, Mississippi. When the Rebels had controlled Natchez, they controlled the boat traffic on the Mississippi River which was a supply line for the South. After Sherman's capture of Atlanta, supplies from the South could no longer reach the Confederate armies in Virginia and the east coast. The arms and ammunition that the South had been receiving from England were cut off by the naval blockades of the U.S. Navy. The food supplies were extremely short due to the destruction of crops by the Northern armies and the fact that most of the able bodied men were serving in the military, thus unable to operate their farms. All of these things contributed to the desperate situation of the Union prisoners in all of the Southern prisons. In November of 1863, President Lincoln promoted Grant to be General in Chief of the Armies of the United States. Grant's promotion created a disaster for thousands of U.S. prisoners. Prior to Grant being put in charge, it had been the practice of both armies to arrange for prisoner exchanges, but Grant knew that the South had a severe shortage of manpower and that the return of the Rebel prisoners benefitted the South much more than the return of Federal prisoners benefitted the North. As a result, Grant put a stop to all prisoner exchanges. Without the exchanges the Southern prison population grew enormously and conditions in the prisons became unbelievably bad. The Rebels were forced to build more prisons to accommodate the increasing numbers of Union soldiers. During the summer of 1864, Confederate General John Henry Winder ordered prisons built at Florence, South Carolina and Millen, Georgia. Florence is located in the northeast section of South Carolina, about sixty miles inland from Myrtle Beach and Millen, also known as Camp Lawson, is about fifty miles north and a little west of Savannah, Georgia. At Savannah, another stockade known as "The Savannah Prison Pen" was also built.

The train ride from Newnan, Georgia where David Barrett was captured, to Andersonville was less than one hundred miles and should have taken but three or four hours but due to the wartime conditions it probably lasted much longer. Upon arrival at Andersonville, the prisoners, after being unloaded, were thoroughly searched by the guards and stripped of any contraband and whatever else that the guards wanted for themselves. Most of the guards were old men and young boys that were unfit for military duty, many of them recruited locally. They did not hesitate to take watches, rings, wallets and anything else of value from the prisoners. When the looting of the prisoners was completed, they were marched about a quarter of a mile from the railroad siding to the stockade, then unceremoniously herded inside. Once inside, they were on their own. By now there were more than thirty thousand men within the twenty?six and one half acre stockade at Andersonville. This amounts to less than forty square feet per man, barely enough room for all of them to lie down at the same time. The situation that David Barrett now found himself in, must have come as a terrible shock to a nineteen year old, Iowa farm boy. Surrounded by half starved and dying men, he would now have to learn to scrounge for shelter, food and firewood in an effort to stay alive. The Union officers that up to now had provided direction and encouragement, had been separated from the enlisted men after getting off the train and would soon be sent to other prisons. David's pension records show that at least two acquaintances from Appanoose County, Iowa, Private Daniel Campbell and Private Eli Farnsworth were imprisoned along with David and I would assume that the three of them stayed together for mutual protection. Nothing is known of how David and his comrades spent the long days and nights or how that they managed to survive all of the privations of prison life. They must have been sustained by the hope that the war would soon be over or that Sherman's army would come south out of Atlanta and set them free. Neither thing happened. The war was to last for another nine months and instead of Sherman's army moving south it turned south and east towards Savannah.

By early September 1864, the new prisons at Florence, South Carolina, Millen and Savannah Georgia were nearly completed and by order of General Winder, thousands of the inmates of Andersonville began to be transferred to the new facilities. In an attempt to minimize the desire to escape, the prisoners were told that they were being sent east, where they would be a part of a large prisoner parole program. Andersonville commandant, Captain Wirz, divided all of the prisoners that could walk into three groups, one group to be sent to Florence, another group to Savannah and the third group to Charleston. The prisoners who could not walk were considered to be no threat if liberated and they were left at Andersonville. Many of these soon died. David Barrett was one of the several thousand men assigned to the Florence Prison and about the middle of September they were loaded aboard trains to make the three hundred fifty mile trip to Florence, South Carolina. The route of the trip would take them through Macon and Augusta Georgia, then through Columbia, South Carolina and finally to Florence. They were packed into boxcars and livestock cars, many of which still had floors covered with the manure of the animals that had recently occupied them. Upon their arrival at Florence, it was found that the stockade was not yet complete and that there was already more than five thousand Federal prisoners there that had been sent there from Charleston because of an epidemic of Smallpox and Yellow Fever in that city. All of the nearly twelve thousand prisoners were gathered in a field near the railroad track and kept under heavy guard until the stockade was completed. The officer in charge of building Florence Prison, Major Frederick Warley sent out trains in all directions to surrounding communities to gather all available men to complete the building. It was the first Sunday in October when the prisoners were finally moved into the stockade. By the 12th of October of 1864 Florence Prison contained twelve thousand three hundred sixty two prisoners and was experiencing a death rate of nearly thirty men per day.

Conditions at Florence were no better than they had been at Andersonville. Colonel George P. Harrison was in command of Florence and Lieutenant James Barrett of the Fifth Georgia Regiment was in command of the interior of the stockade. History states that Harrison was known for his fair treatment of prisoners but that Lt. James Barrett was far more brutal than Wirz had been at Andersonville. It appears that these poor prisoners had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. They did get some relief in the middle of October and again around the first of November when a supply of clothes, blankets and other goods was delivered by the Sanitary Commission, an agency of the U.S. Government.

According to Florence Stockade History, at the end of November, the prison rolls showed eleven thousand, four hundred twenty four prisoners. At that time orders came to make out paroles for the most severely sick and wounded prisoners. All prisoners wanting to be paroled had to be examined to determine the seriousness of their condition. Our David Barrett was among those that qualified for parole. The stockade history says that the parolees were sent by rail to Charleston, South Carolina where they would be put on flag?of?truce boats bound for Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland, but the records for David Barrett show that he was paroled at Savannah, Georgia November 30th, where he boarded a ship that arrived at Annapolis, Maryland on December 5th, 1864. David immediately reported to the hospital at College Green Pike, Maryland [Annapolis] where he was confined and treated for scurvy and malnutrition until his release and transfer to Camp Parole on December 10th. On December 12, 1864 David was given a thirty day furlough and put on the train for Benton Barracks Missouri, located at St. Louis. Benton Barracks records list him "absent, sick" until March 10, 1865. David may have been sick but he was not too sick to marry my Gr Gr Grandmother, Sarah Vandike on February 26, 1865. After March 10th he was ordered to report to the Chief Muster Officer of the State of Iowa for discharge from service. David was discharged July 10, 1865 at Davenport, Iowa.

After he was discharged, David returned to the Appanoose County area where he resumed farm life. On March 1, 1867 my Great grandmother was born in Appanoose County and soon thereafter according to family legend, David signed on with an ox train going to Montana. David's obituary says that the wagon train's scout was the famous Jim Bridger and that does make a great story, but after doing some research on Bridger, I find that in 1867 Bridger was an old man, nearly blind and living with one of his daughters in Kansas City. Never the less David evidently did go to Montana, leaving wife Sarah and daughter, Arminda behind. The story goes, that he stayed in Montana for about three years with little or no contact with the family in Iowa and then around 1870 returned to Iowa. In 1871 the Barrett family, including the father, James S. Barrett, David and wife Sarah and several of David's younger brothers and sisters moved to Douglass, Butler County, Kansas. I have never been able to determine what motivated them to choose the Douglass area. They apparently did not have any other relatives or close friends that preceded them there. David's older brother, John eventually settled at Mapleton, Bourbon County, in eastern Kansas near the Missouri line. Brothers, Morgan, Britton,and Henry migrated to Montana as did sister Ellen after the death of her first husband, Francis Campbell while living in Kansas. David and Sarah lived on a farm just a few miles north of Douglass in a community called Walnut City, where they had four more children, James, Russell, Earnest and Effie.

In 1889 much of Oklahoma Territory was opened to homesteading. David made the run into the Sac and Fox Indian land in present day Lincoln County, about fifty miles east of where Oklahoma City is presently located. He filed under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Homesteads Act of June 8, 1872, for 160 acres in Lincoln County, Oklahoma Territory and moved the family into a log cabin that he built near the community of Arlington. The remains of that cabin is still standing even though the family no longer owns the land. I have a photocopy of the land grant to David. The original is in the possession of a cousin, Joe Barrett of Pryor, Oklahoma, as is David's Discharge from the Army. In 1901 The Fort Smith and Western Railroad was being built from Fort Smith to Oklahoma City and would pass through Lincoln County about ten miles south of Arlington and a new town was platted there and named Prague because of the large number of Czechoslovakians that had homesteaded there. The town lots went on sale May 20, 1902 and David and Sarah bought several lots. They soon built a building on one of the lots, which they leased to the U.S. Postal Department for use as a Post office for a rent of $ 96.00 a year. David became Prague's first Postmaster. The family then built a hotel called The Arlington Hotel that they operated for many years. Even though David and Sarah lived in Prague the family still farmed the original homestead at Arlington for many more years. It was owned by David's heirs until the 1990s before it was finally sold. Sarah passed away in 1923 and David died July 5, 1926. They are both buried at the Prague cemetery.

As I mentioned earlier, David applied for a disability pension in 1866. He pursued this on a more or less regular basis for nearly fifty years. I have obtained the file containing his applications, correspondence, affidavits from his commanding officer and other cavalry comrades attesting to his terrible physical condition. Some of these statements would nearly make you cry!! Finally, after over fifty years of proving that he might die at any moment, in 1919 his pension of 72.00 per month was approved and he drew his $864.00 per year until his death in 1926."

Prepared January 28, 2001
© 2001, 2002 Keith W. Brandon