Friday, May 01, 2009

The Adventures of George W. Bailey, ( Civil War. )

I have been working on prisoners of war and the statements they give on how they were taken prisoner and what life was like in a enemy prison. Then I ran across the following person ( George W. Bailey ), his story was different then some of the others. His story wasn’t about prison life but about his run for life and the hardships he faced a long the way to freedom. His statement read more like a chapter out of a war novel and he was the heroine, but this was no story but real life, and this is his story.

My name is George Washington Bailey, and this is my story.

I’m at present practicing law in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. I was born here, but have been east at school the greater part of my early life. I enlisted in the first regiment of three years volunteers from the State of Connecticut, (the Sixth Connecticut,) and was mustered into the service of the United States at New Haven, Connecticut, in September, 1861, as a private. I served about one year and a half as a private in the army of the Potomac, near Washington, and in the army of the South, at Hilton Head, South Carolina, and vicinity. I was then promoted to second lieutenant and afterwards transferred from the Sixth Connecticut infantry to the Sixth Missouri infantry, as second lieutenant of company E. I joined the Sixth Missouri infantry while it was before Vicksburg. It was about February, 1863; and remained on its muster-rolls until the end of the war.

I was promoted to first lieutenant and captain in the Sixth Missouri, (company E.) In June, 1864, I was detailed to be aide-de-camp to General Morgan L. Smith, then commanding the second division of the fifteenth army corps, army of the Tennessee, in which capacity I served until mustered out of the service by reason of disability caused by being wounded in the service. I served through the campaigns of Vicksburg, Chattanooga to Atlanta, where I was taken prisoner by the rebels on the 22d day of July, 1864. It was the day of the great fight before Atlanta, when General McPherson was killed. General Smith requested me to go up to the works and see if the enemy were massing. I did so; and was taken while there.

The rebels, by charging through the railroad cut, east of Atlanta, and getting in our rear, were enabled to temporarily carry our works and to take several officers and men prisoners. Two or three of the rebel soldiers came upon me. I did not see them until they were near enough to strike me, the smoke was so thick. One of them grabbed my sword and another attempted to shoot me with his musket and said, “Shoot the son of a bitch, anyhow.” I easily prevented him, because he was very drunk. A rebel officer then came to us, and he, or another, also took hold of my sword and said, “Let go of this sword,” and twisted or wrenched it out of my hand. The officer then called one of his men and told him to take me to the rear immediately, which he did.

As we were marching through Atlanta, Georgia, after having been joined by other prisoners and guards, I observed one of our soldiers who had been shot through the jaws near the cheek bones and appeared to be in great misery. I spoke to him, but he was unable to open his mouth. His face was very much swollen, and he was all covered with dust, (like the rest of us.) I went to the rebel officer, mounted, in charge of us, and called his attention to this wounded man, and asked him to provide an ambulance to convey him to the hospia1, and stated that he was suffering greatly and could hardly walk through the dust with the rest of us. He paid no attention to me, and I know that ho heard what I had said, and I repeated my request, remarking that it was barbarous, and cruel, and unsoldier like, to treat a helpless, suffering prisoner of war in that manner, or words to that effect. He then swore at me and made a motion which I thought was to draw his revolver, and told me to get back in the ranks and keep my damned mouth shut, or words to that effect. I don’t know what was done with the man. I did not say anything more about it to the rebel commander, but I spoke of it to some of our own officers who were prisoners with me. I did not look at the wounded man after that. I could not bear to look at him, being powerless to relieve him.

When we arrived at the general rendezvous of the prisoners in Atlanta, it was about dusk. The officers were then separated from the soldiers and marched a long distance ahead of the soldiers to a place about six miles below Atlanta, called East Point. The march was very dusty and hot; we were hurried along like a drove of sheep, and were not allowed even time to procure water, but were hurriedly forced to wade through a large stream of good water. When we arrived at East Point we were corralled like mules in an open lot, with no shelter and no blankets. I was tired enough to fall asleep on the bare ground. I think we arrived at East Point between 10 and 12 o’clock the same night. The next day we remained at East Point. There were pieces of artillery in full view bearing on us. A rebel brass band was posted near us discoursing rebel airs, among which I noticed “The Bonnie Blue Flag” and Dixie“.

The officers were kept separate from the men. We had nothing to eat given to us for twenty-four hours after we were captured; and when it did conic it was eagerly devoured, yet hardly fit to eat. The “hard-tack” was full of cobwebs and mold, and the bacon required thorough examination before eating. Two “hard-tacks ‘ and a very small piece of bacon, about as large as two good-sized fingers, constituted a days rations.

During the day of the 23d of July many of our officers traded such valuables as they had on their persons for pieces of green watermelon, with the negroes and rebel soldiers. Even the rind was eaten by some of them. It was all that I saw for sale or trade, and I preferred to starve decently rather than to commit suicide by eating green watermelons. I ate what was to last use for the twenty-four hours following the time I received it, in one meal, and was hungry then.

On the morning of the 24th of July we were marched southwardly in the same manner as before, and were corralled in open lots at night and guards posted around us. I endeavored to escape each night, and succeeded in bribing one of the rebel guards with my watch, for which he agreed to allow me to pass by his beat. I went back and informed some of our officers that I was going to leave them, and when I returned, the officer of the guard was there, and he had the guard relieved. I think he suspected something of the kind.

One night, as we were corralled near Griffin, Georgia, about thirty miles south of Atlanta, I thought of a way to escape. About two hours, I think, before daylight I got into a gully in a blackberry patch, and got some of our officers to cover me up with leaves and boughs that I had broken off the trees. They did so, and cut blackberry bushes and stuck them into the ground around me. In the morning the rebels and our prisoners all marched oat and left me there. I was twice stepped upon as they were marching out. (Skipping many interesting incidents not exactly apropos to the object of the taking of this testimony,) I at last found myself but indirectly under rebel influence or control, in the woods, thirty miles inside the rebel lines, with nothing to eat, and wet through by a then continuing rain storm. I was for more than two months wandering through the woods northwardly, endeavoring to reach our lines, and on different occasions narrowly missed raiding parties of General Kilpatrick and others. (Omitting many interesting incidents and escapes from recapture, and mode of traveling, &c.,)

I will state that the negroes were always anxious and ready to clothe and feed me, to render valuable information, and to do anything in their power to aid and assist me, as also were different families of poor whites, who also periled their property and lives by affording me shelter and comfort. On the morning of the 8th day of October. 1864, I had been able to reach a point near Decatur, Georgia, about five miles east of Atlanta. I had a negro guide to guide me. We were resting after daylight. I let my guide go to sleep. We had been marching all night. When he awoke, I told him to watch while I slept. He promised to do so, but fell asleep also, when two men came upon us; and when I awoke one was standing over the negro guide and the other near me, and pointing his rifle at say breast, demanded my surrender. I inquired if I was to be treated as a prisoner of war, and he replied, “Most assuredly ;“ and I became his prisoner, there being no alternative but death.

One of these men wore a military butternut suit, with double-breasted coat and two rows of brass buttons on it. He had, I think, a Henry rifle; at least, lie had one resembling a Henry. The other wore the regular United States uniform—dark blue blouse and light blue pants. I asked him where he got those clothes, and he replied, never mind, or none of your business, or words to that effect. He gave me no satisfactory answer to my question. I asked him what he thought would become of him if he should be caught in that business in our uniform, and ho answered that lie did not intend to be caught. He appeared to have on new clothes, and also new United States army shoes. They then rifled my pockets, and took most all I had, except a diamond ring and some cartridges that were concealed on my person, and some maps of the country that I represented to be handkerchiefs. The cartridges I had for my rifle that I had procured from the dead body of one of our soldiers, of a raiding party, who was drowned while the force were fording South river.

They then marched us through the woods, and said they were going to take us to a place called “the circle,” to turn me over as a prisoner of war. When we were marching through the woods, I remarked that my feet were literally raw, and that it was very difficult for me to walk. The one in butternut replied, ‘ You will not want to use ‘em much longer.” I then expected that I was not to be treated as a prisoner of war, as promised, and as I had worn nothing on the last trip but my uniform, with rank indicated by my straps, I had a right to demand it. When we got further into the woods our captors held a private consultation together, and during that consultation, having my expectations, as I thought, justified, I 1rmed a plan with the negro guide to disarm our captors, but we did not have a favorable opportunity to attempt it before we halted, and the one in butternut, putting my rifle against a tree or stump beside him, and cocking his rifle, said to me these exact words: “My friend, this is as good a place to die as any man could wish !“

I reminded him of his promise to treat me as a prisoner of war. He said that such a promise from him was good for nothing, that some of “ Sherman’s army had stolen his wife’s skillet,” and he hadn’t a damned bit of mercy for any of them, (or words to the same effect.) The one in blue said that I was not the only one they had mustered out, and that that was their business, to which assertion the one in butternut gave an approving grin. The butternut then told me that they couldn’t waste much time with me, (or to that effect,) and that if I wanted to say anything or desired to pray a little, I could have a couple of minutes to do so, or a short time, (or to that effect.)

I asked for a chance for my life with my carbine and one cartridge in it, to try with the best marksman of them. They refused. I asked for ten steps start to run for my life. Butternut replied, “No, sir, you can’t have a damned inch!’ I thought that my time had come, and knew that no logic would convince men who claimed to be “in the business” of murdering in cold blood unfortunate Union soldiers who fell into their hands, that they were wrong, so I denounced them as cowardly, cold-blooded murderers, and placed my blood upon their heads in very emphatic language; which appeared to amuse rather than to excite them I, in speaking to them, occasionally stepped toward them. They stood about six feet apart, and the one in butternut frequently brought down his rifle to an aim at my breast, and warned me not to attempt any of my ‘ Yankee tricks” there.

On one or two occasions, he brought down his rifle so suddenly, and took such a good aim, that I momentarily expected to feel the sharp sting of the “miniĆ©” passing through me. I claimed the allotted time to pray. I was told that my time was up, and that I “must die ;“ that I could have a moment to pray if I desired it, but “ must hurry.” As I knelt to pray both of them took deliberate aim at my breast. When I arose I requested the moment promised. I was told to “be quick.’ As I bent my knees pretending to kneel, (but really for another purpose,) I suddenly sprang backwards and ran in a zig-zag manner from them. My spring was the signal for their fire.

The three rifles were discharged at me in rapid succession, and one of them was reloaded, or the fourth shot might have been fired from a small-arm that I did not discover. The first shot missed me, The second, fired by the one in blue from a Springfield rifle, took effect, penetrating my body near the right shoulder, passing through the scapula, and fracturing one of the upper ribs. I was knocked flat. It appeared as if the earth suddenly came up and struck me in the face violently; I never went down so quick in my life as then. I had no sooner fallen, than I made arrangements, immediately, to get up. The shot had entirely paralyzed my right arm, and I aided myself with my left one.

The blood spurted out fitfully at every pulsation, and I knew that I was shot in a dangerous place. I also bled from my mouth. As I was getting up, the third shot came very near killing me, and I think that the ball took my hat off my head. It went off very suddenly just as the shot was fired, and I thought I saw the blue cloth of which it is composed fly. I believe that my cap was shot from my head, but having other matters, to me, at that time, more important to notice and to think of, I was not paying particular attention to my cap, but to what it covered. The fourth shot scattered the leaves near me. I ran about a mile through the woods without stopping, and walked about two miles or more after that. The negro guide followed after me as soon as the guns were emptied and in his company I laid down in the woods on the ground, bleeding and exhausted, with my clothes saturated with blood, and fell asleep, believing that it probably would be “the sleep of death,” yet thankful to die free from the clutches of stony-hearted, cold-blooded murderers.

I awoke at dusk and requested the negro (“Jim” was his name) to take me to a house near by, which, after some hesitation, he did. I first imagined, in my weakness, that I could travel to Atlanta, (a distance of ten miles,) but nearly fainted in making the attempt. When we arrived at the house we were met by two ladies on the porch. I said to them, “Ladies, I am an enemy, but wounded and help less. They burst into tears immediately upon beholding me, and, with warm-hearted assurances of welcome, assisted me into the house and gave me something to eat, and some coffee to drink, which did me a great deal of good. The negro told them the story of the treatment I had received at the hands of the men referred to, and they most sincerely and emphatically condemned them as “villains” and “cut-throats,” &c. I was treated at this house with great tenderness.

They were poor people. The name of the widow lady who was, and is, proprietress of the house is Mrs. Carrie E. Hambrick, and the house is near Decatur, Georgia, and a letter directed to her at Decatur will reach her. During the night I directed the negro “Jim” to take my compass and proceed to Atlanta and inform our pickets where I was, and of my condition, and the next morning a squadron of our cavalry with an ambulance drew up before the door and I was conveyed to Atlanta, where, under the good old flag, I slowly recovered, and although still suffering at times from my wound, and crippled for life, I am thankful that I am alive to write this narrative for the perusal of those interested.

I have since learned the names of the two men (guerillas) referred to, and know where they live and what they are doing, and can give their names and whereabouts, if desired, and the only reason I have for not doing so is, that it might cause some serious trouble or danger to the lady, Mrs. Hambrick, who cared for me alter being wounded. These men (guerillas) know that she cared for me, and I have Corresponded with her since the war, and it was for her’ safety that I caused a letter to be written stating to her my death. She considered this necessary for her personal safety.

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