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James M. Laughlin -POW Civil War


Posted By: Barry Mateer (email)
Date: 11/30/2017 at 08:03:32

Letter from James M. Laughlin
Of the 6th Iowa, Inft.
Annapolis, Md. Sept. 24
Who was captured at Jackson, Miss. in July last.

“I have again come to the land of the living and will write to let you know that I am well. I suppose you are aware that I was captured, or killed at Jackson. I was cut off from my command there and captured, but had the good luck not to be hurt.

I have traveled all through the Southern Confederacy from the Miss. River to the Chesapeake Bay, passing through Miss. Georgia, Tennessee to Virginia, where I was released and have come through Maryland so far.

I got to Richmond July 25th, where I was kept in Libby prison till Aug. 6th then we were transferred to Bell Island where we stayed till Sept. 21st, when I and three others tried our hand at bribery, and succeeded in getting out before our turn, which I think would not have come for 6 months.

It cost us $25 to buy out, but as I had plenty of money, I did not care for that. Though we were searched four or five times for our money, I not only managed to keep mine but, by the way, brought out more than I took in with me, besides it cost me on an average of about 2.50 per day for grub on the Isle.

You have no idea of how much I have suffered since I last wrote you. We did not get one fourth enough to eat, and what we did get was not fit to eat. We had about 4 ounces of bread per day, with about one ounce of meat in the morning and our pint of soup, made of James River water weakened and seasoned sometimes with rice, beef or beans.

Our meat was supposed to be of the long eared persuasion, but I could eat a mule with better grace than I could ever eat beef before, and only wished I had more of it. Some of the boys tried to make long faces at it, but I could not. There was one consolation, and that was that the mule we were eating had died, or was not fit for service by reason of wounds or disease, for I hardly think any Government would have killed good mules for meat especially when they cost from four to six hundred dollars apiece.

I have often skimmed a good ten spoonful of bugs off one pint of bean soup, but what did I care for that when I had an appetite worse than a saw mill. At the time I got so weak I could not get up without taking hold of something; and our bones wore through so we could hardly step. We had to lay on the bare ground, and if you know anything of southern nights especially on an Island, in September, at that you may know it was not very comfortable.

I must now quit for a while and clean up and draw my clean clothes, for we cannot get into barracks until we get rid of some of our travelers which we have in abundance. I imagine you will think it is all useless for a well man to ‘be lousy’, but go to Bell Isle and you will not wonder at it, for you would stand and count them by thousands in the sand and four thousand of us were crowded into a place about the size of the square at Hopeville, with no change of clothing, and no soap to wash with.
1 o’clock R.M.

I have had a fine time eating oysters and getting new clothes. I went down to the Bay last night, took a wash, put on new clothes and then took a walk through the streets of Annapolis feeling very much as though I had been born again. I need nothing, for money can get anything that man can ask for here, and very reasonable at that. We have all the privileges that soldiers ever have, and in fact more than is generally allowed in cities.

I understand we are to be sent west before long, and if I go to St. Louis I shall try to go home. Should I fail in this, and have no show for joining the regiment soon, I shall buy a Scholar-ship in Bryant’s commercial college and go to school until exchanged.

The writer then speaks of passing through Jonesborough, where he met many who enquired about Mr. Keplinger, of Hopeville, and others who formerly resided in that country. He says...
they seemed bound to converse with me in spite of the guard. While talking with one man, the guard came up and commanded us to desist. The man told the guard that I was an old friend and nephew of his, and he wanted to talk to me a little while. He told me that if it was in his powers to deliver me from rebel custody he would do it. I had a mind to try and make an escape, but this old man told me I would stand no chance to do so, as they had a large cavalry force there to keep the Tennesseeans from escaping to our lines.

The people seemed to be pleased to hear that Boring had got to be so popular as to get a commission in the U.S. army. They hoped he might have the pleasure of helping to rescue his native state from the hands of the oppressors.

I had no idea that east Tennessee was half so nice a country as it is. The mountain scenery and villages as well as those in N.C. through which we passed, are beautiful. Crops were tolerably good in those states but not so good in Miss. and Alabama from what I could see.

I found one of my relatives going from Atlanta, Georgia, to Richmond. He cold tell me more about my friends than I knew myself. He knew my Grandfather’s name and that I did not know. I could not help laughing when I would consider the fix we were placed in – he guarding me with his old gray suit on, and I, one of the most despicable of men just because I differed with him in opinion. But he treated me very kindly, and I believe he would have done better, could he have done so without criminating himself. I thought I could see quite a resemblance between him and myself, though perhaps it was my imagination.

I have $300.00 which I wish you had at home, for the solders are such confounded thieves you can hardly call your soul your own. I must tell you how I managed to save my money when I was being searched every day. I was captured with $54.00 which I managed to put under the morocco band inside my hat, before they got me. We were searched and put on the cars for Mobile Ala. That night I cut a hole in the collar of my blouse, and put the money in it and escaped with it in this condition, until I got to Bell Isle, I then cut off my U.S. coat buttons, pried off the tops of these, and putting a twenty dollar bill in one I would replace the top. In this way I kept it until it began to increase so much I had not buttons enough to hold it when I had to sew up my pants.

I will try and write again soon giving you all the details of my confinement.

James M. Laughlin

from the scrapbook of...
Mary Osmond, teacher in Hopeville, County Superintendent of schools, owner and editor of the Osceola Gazette, first woman to vote in Clarke County.

Civil War and Iowa


2 battles of Jackson

Clarke Documents maintained by Brenda White.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

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