From the New York Sunday Mercury, 9/13/1863


[Beginning of letter relates the author’s capture at Gettysburg and subsequent journey to Richmond.]… The men could hardly be got along and a great many had fallen out exhausted. The guards would hallo: "You, Yanks, go along dare! get in ranks! doggon, you Yanks!" On the 17th, we reached Mt. Sidney, and on the 18th, Staunton; having marched in thirteen days 168 miles, over a turn-pike, the majority of the men barefoot, no blankets, and no hats in some cases. At Staunton, they took all the India-rubber blankets from the men, and on the 19th, we took the train for Richmond, arriving there on the morning of the 20th. Daylight, they marched us to Libby – 700 of us – and kept us three hours. While here, we got a ration of bread and meat (rather small), and one of the chivalry shot a Kentucky soldier, who was deaf, in the arm – since died – for looking out of the window. After this, they searched us; took all our money, writing-paper, haversacks, etc., allowing us only our blankets and caps. We were then marched over to Belle Island, a miserable, hot place, an acre of ground, about 4,000 men in it, and full of lice and vermin. Here we lived on ten ounces of bread and two ounces of fresh meat per day. Breakfast at 9, 10, 11 and 12 o'clock, just as it suited the Quartermaster; dinner at 3½, slop rice soup and bread. Almost two and three times a week we were turned out and counted, and put in messes of a hundred each. On the 10th of August, they played a sharp game upon the Yanks. A citizen came over from Richmond, and offered $8 in silver for $10 greenbacks. A great many of the boys having large bills - 10's and 20's - got them changed; and I suppose, $500 so exchanged. The next day, the men were all turned out and searched, and the silver confiscated. On the 14th, they deliberately murdered a member of the Ninety-first Pennsylvania. He had just come in, and was sitting near the bank inside, when the guard ordered him up. He simply asked him, "Where will I go? I have no tent." "You Yankee son of a b---" leveling his piece, and shot him dead, wounding two others. The brute and murderer was taken before the officer in command of the post, nothing was done to him, and the Union soldier lies buried on Belle Isle unavenged. A great deal of trading with the guard at nights was done. They seemed perfectly crazy for greenbacks, offering $10 of their money for $1 of ours; for $7 of our money would buy as much as $10 of their money. Those that had money speculated considerable, and, I must say, a great many of our men completely robbed the boys by selling a small five cent loaf for $1; pies they would buy for twenty-five cents a-piece, they would charge $1 for; tobacco, a plug for fifty cents, worth 10 cents; and a canteen full of whiskey, $5-cost them $1! The camp had any quantity of these speculators, who would sit up all night, buy off the guards, and sell to our own men, some realizing a small fortune-one man having $1,000 in greenbacks.

     We were subjected to all kinds of treatment while we were in the Rebel clutches and thank God we were released from their hands on Friday, August 28, leaving Richmond at daylight, August 29, stopping two hours at Petersburg, arriving at City Point at 11, delivered upon the flag-of-truce boat City of New York. Once more under the good old flag, the Stars and Stripes, we arrived at Fortress Monroe at 4½ P.M., and reached Annapolis Sunday morning, August 31. Upon the free soil of the United States, we received our clean clothes, of which we were very much in need, got our dinner, wrote to our friends and relations, thank Almighty God for our safe deliverance to our homes and firesides. We are now in the new barracks, Camp Parole. I will drop you a line, in my next, about this place. It is under the control of Colonel [Adrian] Root, and all we want is Uncle Sam to pay us two months' pay, give us a furlough until we get exchanged, which, by the way, is very doubtful, as the Rebels will not exchange negro soldiers. However, I hope that this will find you well, and I remain yours truly,

J. F. W.

     P.S. - I forgot to mention what I have seen of the inside of Rebeldom. The bogus Confederacy is nearly played out; then, provisions they have none; their large, boasted armies are all fudge. Vicksburg and Port

     Hudson stunned them; Charleston, Mobile, and Savannah, will kill them; and our Government ought and can take Richmond any day, if they have a mind to; no soldiers around there nearer Fredericksburg. The city militia does not amount to anything, and the people of Richmond will help us as soon as our forces near the city.                 J. F. W.

John F White, Jr., age 28, enlisted in the 9th New York State Militia (83rd N. Y. Infantry) on Sept. 18, 1861. He was promoted to corporal on Oct. 21, 1863 and served until his discharge on Jan. 10, 1865. In 1867, he enlisted in the 31st U. S Infantry and was discharged at Fort Stevenson, Dakota Territory in 1870. He died in Kansas City on February 8, 1902. From Writing & Fighting the Civil War : Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, by William B. Styple, et al., 2000.

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