Berrien Minute Men at Johnson’s Island Prison, Ohio

This post includes previous material along with additional information about the experience of officers of the Berrien Minute Men held as prisoners of war at Johnson’s Island Military Prison, Lake Erie, Ohio. Events during the 1864-1865 period of their incarceration included induction into the prison, daily life, a tornado, shootings, a plot to liberate the prison, swimming in Sandusky Bay, baseball games, minstrel shows, soldiers dining on rats, cats and dogs, escape attempts, funerals, a Confederate officer giving birth, “swallowing the eagle,” and finally, exchange.

The Berrien Minute Men, a Confederate Infantry unit raised in Berrien County, GA were among those troops engaged in the Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864 near Decatur, GA. The Berrien Minute Men had made their campfires and campaigns in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi. Among the officers captured in that battle were Captain Edwin B. Carroll, Captain Jonathan D. Knight, 2nd Lieutenant John L. Hall, 2nd Lieutenant Simeon A. Griffin, 2nd Lieutenant Jonas Tomlinson, and others of the 29th Georgia Regiment (Captain Edwin B. Carroll and the Atlanta Campaign). These officers were transported to the Louisville Military Prison at Louisville, KY then to the U. S. Military Prison at Johnson’s Island. Sergeant John W. Hagan was reported dead, but actually had been captured and sent along with the rest of the captured Confederate enlisted men to Camp Chase, OH.

In all, sixty-two of the Confederate officers captured at Atlanta on July 22nd entered the Johnson’s Island prison population on August 1, 1864. Officers of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment already held as prisoners of war at Johnson’s Island included Lieut. Thomas F. Hooper, Berry Infantry.

Johnson's Island Prison during the war.

Johnson’s Island Prison during the war.

Captured Confederate officers destined for Johnson’s Island prison were transported to Sandusky, OH and  ferried by steam tugs across an arm of Lake Erie three miles to the island. Johnson’s Island is a strip of land one and one-half miles in length, and containing about 275 acres, lying near the mouth of Sandusky bay.

1862 Map of Johnson's Island Prison, Johnson's Island, Lake Erie, OH.

1862 Map of Johnson’s Island Prison, Johnson’s Island, Lake Erie, OH. Image source:


Johnson's Island Prison as seen from the bay.

Johnson’s Island Prison as seen from the bay.




ORDER NO. 1.- It is designed to treat prisoners of war with all the kindness compatible with their condition, and as few orders as possible will be issued respecting them, and their own comfort will be chiefly secured by prompt and implicit obedience.

ORDER No. 2.— The quarters have been erected at great expense by the government for the comfort of prisoners of war; so the utmost caution should be used against fire, as in case of their destruction the prisoners will be subjected to much exposure and suffering for want of comfortable quarters, as others will not be erected and rude shelters only provided.

ORDER No. 3.— All prisoners are required to parade in their rooms and answer to their names half an hour after reveille and at retreat.

ORDER No. 4.— Meals will be taken at breakfast drum, dinner drum, and half an hour before retreat.

ORDER No. 5.— Quarters must be thoroughly policed by 10 o’clock in the morning.

ORDER No. 6.— All prisoners will be required to remain in their own quarters after retreat, except when they have occasion to visit the sinks; lights will be extinguished at taps, and no fires will be allowed after that time.

ORDER No. 7.— Quarrels and disorders of every kind are strictly prohibited.

ORDER No. 8.— Prisoners occupying officers’ quarters in Blocks 1, 2, 3, and 4 will not be permitted to visit the soldiers’ quarters in Blocks 5, 6, 7, and 8, nor go upon the grounds in their vicinity, nor beyond the line of stakes between the officers and soldiers’ quarters, nor will the soldiers be allowed to go upon the ground in the vicinity of the officers’ quarters, or beyond the line of stakes between the officers’ and soldiers’ quarters.

ORDER No. 9.— No prisoners will be allowed to loiter between the buildings or by the north and west fences, and they will be permitted north of the buildings only when passing to and from the sinks; nor will they approach the fences anywhere else nearer than thirty feet, as the line is marked out by the stakes.

ORDER No. 10.- Guards and sentinels will be required to fire upon all who violate the above orders. Prisoners will, therefore, bear them carefully in mind, and be governed by them. To forget under such circumstances is inexcusable, and may prove fatal.

By order of William S. Pierson.

B. W. Wells, Lieutenant and Post Adjutant.


The experience of newly arriving Confederate prisoners was documented in the diary of Lt. William B. Gowen, 30th Alabama Infantry:

“The Officers on Guard who recd us when we landed fairly dazzled ones eyes to look upon with their uniform of blue cloth and white gloves and brass ornaments enough to furnish the old bell maker in Coosa (I forget his name) for the next five years if he only had them. I suppose these fellows have never seen service in the field. If we had them down in the Missippi Swamps a while we could soon take the starch our of them. At Head quarters the roll was called and as each mans name was called, he was required to step up to a table and deliver up his money, if he had any, the amounts were carefully noted, and he was assured that his Confederate money would be returned to him whenever he left the island and that his U.S. money would be held subject to his order, whenever he wished to use it. This ceremony being over with we were marched through a door and found ourselves inside the prison walls. The grounds enclosed by this wall is ten acres square in extent. The wall is about 12 feet in height of plank set up end ways, around the outside of the walls and about three feet from the top is a walk for sentinels on duty. The U.S. Government has gone to considerable expense here in fixing up for the accommodation of Prisoners of War. For this purpose houses have been erected in two rows parallel to each other with 6 houses in each row and a street between about 50 yards in width, also one house in the middle of this street at one end making 13 in all. The buildings are framed, two stories in height with glass windows of good size and sealed inside. They are about 120 ft. in length by 30 ft. in width…These are divided into rooms…each room being furnished with a stove and bunks for the accommodation of five & six men on each bunk a straw matress and one blanket.

Just inside the stockade wall a ditch was constructed around the compound except along the bay side. This ditch facilitated drainage and curtailed the excavation of escape tunnels. Thirty feet inside the stockade wall was the “dead line,” marked out by stakes.  “No prisoner could cross this line without being shot; and they were.”

Johnson's Island Prison guard shoots a Confederate. Scraps from the Prison Table

Johnson’s Island Prison guard shoots a Confederate. Scraps from the Prison Table

About twenty acres of Johnson’s Island were enclosed in the stockade. “Within this enclosure were fifteen buildings – one hospital, two mess halls, and twelve barracks for the prisoners. The stockade was rectangular, and there was a block-house in each corner and in front of the principal street…The guards… had five block houses with several upper stories pierced for rifles and the ground floors filled with artillery. Moreover, outside the pen there were enclosed earth-works mounting many heavy guns. and the gunboat Michigan with sixteen guns lay within a quarter of a mile.”


Block House Johnson’s Island, OH

Of the twelve barracks within the enclosure, one housed only “those prisoners who had taken the Oath of Allegiance, swearing to support, protect , and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The other 11 barracks were for general housing.  Initially, in each of the barracks, Lieutenant Gowan wrote, “there is a cook room furnished with a good cooking stove and utensils to cook in, a table and cupboard & several long shelves, adjoining to this is a dining room furnished with tables and benches. Tin plates, tin cups, table spoons, knives and forks.” But about the time the officers of the Berrien Minute Men arrived, “two large mess halls were built to remove the messes from the individual blocks and to accommodate the increased numbers of prisoners.

Reproduction of sketch of Confederate officers’ mess at Johnson’s Island Prison in January 1864 by William B. Cox, no date

Reproduction of sketch of Confederate officers’ mess at Johnson’s Island Prison in January 1864 by William B. Cox, no date

The stockade also contained a bath house, and on the inland side of the prison, behind the barracks were constructed the latrines. “The latrines were often mentioned in the medical inspection reports due to their offensive and unsanitary nature.” – Latrines of the Johnson’s Island Prison

Outside of the prison wall were forty structures built for the prison staff comprised of barracks, officers’ quarters, band room, lime kiln, express office, post headquarters, stable, storehouses, barn, powder magazine, laundress quarters, and sutler’s store. A redoubt with artillery surrounded the prison facility to
ensure that no riot or insurrection occur.

Company of Johnson's Island Prison guards at roll call. The barracks building was the same type built for the prisoners. The lean-to buildings on each end were kitchens. In the background is a portion of the stockade wall showing the parapet used by the guards while on duty.

Company of Johnson’s Island Prison guards at roll call. The barracks building was the same type built for the prisoners. The lean-to buildings on each end were kitchens. In the background is a portion of the stockade wall showing the parapet used by the guards while on duty.

Despite the presence of the prison fortress, Johnson’s Island continued to be a destination of organized boat excursions from nearby towns, which brought picnickers to the island and a brass band for entertainment.

Sixty-two  of the Confederates captured at Atlanta on July 22nd, including officers of the Berrien Minute Men entered the Johnson’s Island prison population on August 1, 1864.  The indignant prisoners were searched before being taken into the prison.


Sketch of U. S. Military Prison at Johnson's Island, Lake Erie.

Sketch of U. S. Military Prison at Johnson’s Island, Lake Erie.

When the captured officers of the Berrien Minute Men arrived in the pen of Johnson’s Island Prison they found the prisoners there  already included Lieut. Thomas F. Hooper of the Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment . Hooper had been captured June 19, 1864 at Marietta, GA. Details of Hooper’s capture were documented when a letter addressed to him reached the Berry Infantry days after he became a prisoner of war.  The letter, addressed to Lieut Thomas F. Hooper, 29th Reg Ga Vol, Stevens Brigade, Walkers Division, Dalton, Georgia, was initially marked to be forwarded to the Army of Tennessee Hospital in Griffin, Georgia. But when it was discovered that the addressee had been captured, it was forwarded a second time back to Okolona, MS with ‘for’d 10’ added on the envelope for the forwarding fee. Lieutenant  Thomas J. Perry, added a lengthy notation on the back of the envelope.

“Marietta, Ga June 22, 1864 The Lt was captured on the 19th inst out on skirmish. He mistook the enemy for our folks and walked right up to them and did not discover the mistake until it was too late. As soon as they saw him, they motioned him to come to them and professed to be our men. I suppose Capt [John D.] Cameron has written you and sent Andrus on home. The Lt was well when captured. Thos J. Perry.”

Thomas F. Hooper, Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment

Thomas F. Hooper, Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment


Thomas J. Perry writes about capture of Thomas F. Hooper near Marietta, GA on June 19, 1964

Thomas J. Perry writes about capture of Thomas F. Hooper near Marietta, GA on June 19, 1964

Upon his arrival at Johnson’s Island, Hooper had not particularly endeared the Georgian’s to their fellow prisoners.  Capt. W. A. Wash wrote, “Lieut. T. F. Hooper, of Georgia, came into our room by order of Major Scoville, but he did not prove to be an agreeable room mate, and did not stay with us vary long. He had been raised in affluence and indolence, consequently petted and spoiled, and seemed to ignore the fact that there were any duties to perform, or that he was under any obligations to his fellow prisoners. Our room was an institution carried on in a systematic way, every one having his share of duties to discharge. Hooper generally took care to be out of the way when his time came, and, as we were unwilling to wait on him, and neither weak hints nor strong ones had the desired effect, it became disagreeable, and nobody shed tears when he was sent South with a squad of invalids.” – Camp, Field and Prison Life

Prison Life

Each day for the prisoners began with an early morning formation and roll call, regardless of the weather. An evening version of the same process ended the formal day. Between roll calls and in the evening the prisoners were free to move within the stockade and do whatever they pleased with a few restrictions. -Johnson’s Island Historic Landmark interpretive materials.

All prisoners were required to be in their quarters by sundown. Any prisoner caught outside after dark would be fired upon by the guards.

Arriving in the heat of summer, the men had the unfortunate experience of dealing with the bedbugs that infested the camp.

Any description of Johnson’s Island which contains no mention of bedbugs would be very incomplete. The barracks were cieled, and were several years old. During the cool weather the bugs did not trouble us much, but towards the latter part of May they became terrible. My bunk was papered with Harper’s Weekly, and if at at any time I struck the walls with any object, a red spot would appear as large as the part of the object striking the wall. We left the barracks and slept in the streets…When I get my logarithmic tables and try to calculate coolly and dispassionately the quantity of them, I am disposed to put them at one hundred bushels, but when I think of those terrible night attacks, I can’t see how there could have been less than eighty millions of bushels.

In the summer, upon giving parole that they would not attempt escape, the prisoners were allowed to bath in Sandusky Bay.

“Six hundred of us, unarmed, are splashing, dashing, diving, and ducking, and a few disciples of old Isaac Walton, are fishing, and it is a piscatorial fact, that fish were caught by Confederates, in spite of the antics and noise incidental to the bathing of six hundred prisoners. A line of bayonets bristled at intervals on the beach, and now and then one would be lowered, and a bead drawn on some unwary prisoner, who had swam a little beyond the limits allowed. But bathing, as well as all material things, must have an end, and one by one the prisoners come out of the once limpid bay, arrange their toilet, and prepare for the inner walls.” – Scraps from the Prison Table.

The ice wagon began its summer visits and we gladly welcomed it. We got ice at five cents per pound, and from five to eight pounds daily was enough for a mess of from six to ten men, so the tax was not very heavy – nothing compared with the luxury. The larger messes of from twenty to fifty kept their water in barrels and bought ice accordingly. – Camp, Field and Prison life

In September of 1864, a Confederate plot to free the prisoners at Johnson’s Island was discovered. The plan was to seize the U.S.S. Michigan (the only armed vessel on Lake Erie) and force the garrison on Johnson’s Island to release the prisoners.

To support the escape plot inside the prison , Major General Isaac Trimble “organized among the prisoners a society known as “The Southern Cross,” having for its emblem a wooden cross twined with the Confederate colors. Its members were bound by iron-clad oaths, administered on the open Bible, to hold themselves in readiness, when the time came, to strike at once a blow for personal liberty and the Southern cause. They were also bound to most solemn secrecy.”  -Sketches and Stories of the Lake Erie Islands

Although the attempt was thwarted, it, and previous rumors of attack, led the Union forces to build a lunette and a redoubt on Johnson’s Island and an artillery battery on Cedar Point.  – Latrines of the Johnson’s Island Prison

Redoubt at Johnson's Island, circa 1863.

Redoubt at Johnson’s Island, circa 1863.

On the night of September 24, 1864 a tornado struck the Johnson’s Island prison, destroying half the buildings, ripping roofs off three of the barracks and one wing of the hospital, and flattening a third of the fence.  But in the midst of the gale the Federal guards maintained a picket to prevent any escape. One of the mess halls was wracked and four large trees were blown down in the prison yard. Ten prisoners were injured, only one severely.  The stockade fence was repaired by September 29 but it was weeks before the camp was sound again.

Prison Food

“From the prison’s opening until 1864 food was fairly abundant and the prisoners ate about as well as Federal soldiers in the field.  [In addition], A sutler store was established within the stockade which sold newspapers, food, clothing, stationary, pens and ink. Almost everything that could be found in a Sandusky store was available in exchange for sutler money. Prices were about twice what was charged across the bay but the prisoners had little choice.” -Johnson’s Island Historic Landmark interpretive materials.

The Sutler’s Store inside Johnson’s Island Prison, drawn by a prisoner in 1864. The prison housed captured Confederate officers, including officers of the Berrien Minute Men.

“Sick” prisoners were allowed to receive packages from home and, according to Capt W. A. Wash, Company I, 60th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, prisoners did receive “nice box[es] of good things to eat” from relatives, including coffee, flour, ham, dried fruit, sweet potatoes, butter – even whiskey and wine, which was prison contraband.

As the war dragged on, outrage grew both sides over the treatment of prisoners of war.  Following newspaper reports of the mistreatment of U.S. Army soldiers in Confederate prisons, the U.S. Commissary General of Prisons ordered that Confederate prisoners of war held at Johnson’s Island and other prisons “be strictly limited to the rations of the Confederate army.” Furthermore, the previous practice of allowing prisoners to purchase food from vendors on the prison grounds was disallowed. “On October 10, Hoffman ordered that the sutlers should be limited to the sale of paper, tobacco, stamps, pipes, matches,
combs, soap, tooth brushes, hair brushes, scissors, thread, needles, towels, and pocket mirrors.”

In this period prison meals  typically consisted of “pork and baker’s bread” although occasionally the prisoners received codfish and flour. A prisoner at Johnson’s Island wrote,

“Our rations were six ounces of pork, thirteen of loaf bread and a small allowance of beans or hominy – about one-half the rations issued to the Federal troops. The pork rarely had enough grease in it to fry itself, and the bread was often watered to give it the requisite weight. Such rations would keep soul and body together, but when they were not supplemented with something else, life was a slow torture. …the prisoners were not to buy anything [to eat]. The suffering was very great. Men watched rat holes during those long, cold winter nights in hopes of securing a rat for breakfast. Some made it a regular practice to fish in slop barrels for small crumbs of bread, and I have had one man to point out to me the barrel in which he generally found his “bonanza” crumb. If a dog ever came into the pen he was sure to be killed and eaten immediately.”  Capt.  John Ellis, St. Helena Volunteers, 16th LA Regiment reported cats were also eaten, at least on one occasion.

One group of prisoners collected sap from “sugar trees” growing in the enclosure and attempted to make maple syrup, ending up with maple sugar instead.

For Christmas Day, 1864, Capt Wash, who was on cook detail, recorded in his diary: “We had ham and biscuit for breakfast, pudding for dinner,and will have ‘fish in the dab’ tomorrow morning – I made ‘fish in the dab’ out of out lake shad, and all the scraps of bread, meat, onions, &c., that we had, conglomerated into a batter and fried or baked. I flavored it with sage and pepper, and the boys said they didn’t want anything better. We never wasted an ounce of anything edible.”

Passing the Time

Boredom was a major enemy but the resourceful prisoners managed to combat it in a variety of ways.

Baseball was played in the open area along the southeast stockade wall and the YMCA had provided some 600 books, mostly classical and religious works since books on war and politics were forbidden…On the less cultural side, a poker game could usually be found using worthless Confederate currency which was not even confiscated upon registration.  -Johnson’s Island Historic Landmark interpretive materials.

Baseball was a popular prison pastime. Two of the teams were the Confederates and the Southerners. A match game on August 27, 1864 drew considerable interest and significant wagers were placed on the outcome. The Southerners came out on top 19-11 in a nine inning game.

The prison “library” was a popular institution, supplemented by books, magazines, and newspapers contributed by the prisoners. Prisoners could join the library by donating volumes or subscribing for 50 cents per month.

The prisoners provided all kinds of services for themselves; There were cooks, tailors, shoe-makers, chair-makers, washer-men, bankers and bill-brokers, preachers, jewelers, and fiddle-makers. So much was the demand, that a “chair factory” was established in the pen. One enterprising prisoner became a photographer, using a camera he managed to construct from available materials. Another had a washing machine and operated a laundry service. Some prisoners produced and peddled baked goods – apple pies and biscuits.

We had schools of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Theology, Mathematics, English, Instrumental Music, Vocal Music, and a dancing school. The old “stag-dance” began every day except Sunday at 9 a.m., and the shuffling of the feet would be heard all day long till 9 p.m.”

“Tailoring was well done at reasonable rates. Our shoe-makers, strange to say were reliable and charged very moderate prices for their mending. The chair-makers made very neat and comfortable chairs, and bottomed them with leather strings cut out of old shoes and boots. Our washer-man charged only three cents a piece for ordinary garments, and five cents for linen-bosomed shirts, starched and ironed. Our bankers and bill-brokers were always ready to exchange gold and silver for green-backs, and even for Confederate money till Lee’s surrender.”

We had also a “blockade” distillery which made and sold an inferior article of corn whiskey at five dollars, in green-backs, per quart. It was a very easy matter to get the corn meal; but I never could imagine how they could conceal the mash-tubs and the still, so as to escape detection on the part of the Federal officers who inspected the prison very thoroughly two or three times each week.

John Lafayette Girardeau, a slave owner and proponent of white supremacist theology, was famous for his ministry to enslaved people.

John Lafayette Girardeau, a slave owner and proponent of white supremacist theology, was famous for his ministry to enslaved people.

We had many preachers, too. Dr. Girardeau, of South Carolina, one of the ablest preachers in the South preached for us nearly every day. Our little Yankee chaplain was so far surpassed by the Rebs that he rarely showed his face.

Major George McKnight, under the nom de plume of “Asa Hartz,” wrote:

There are representatives here of every orthodox branch of Christianity, and religious services are held daily.

The prisoners on Johnson’s Island sent to the American Bible Society $20, as a token of their appreciation for the supply of the Scriptures to the prison.

A theatrical group known as the “Rebel Thespians” wrote and performed original material with great success. Their plays included a five-act melodrama called “Battle of Gettysburg.

It seems incredible today, but the Confederate prisoners at Johnson’s Island prison were allowed by their Federal captors to create and perform minstrel shows, presumably in blackface makeup. In 1848, Frederick Douglas had called blackface performers, “…the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens.” 

The “Island Minstrels” in addition to songs, jig dancing and music, performed “the astonishing afterpiece, ‘The Secret, or The Hole in the Fence.‘”  The “Rebellonians” gave their debut performance on April 14, 1864; They gave a minstrel performance and concluded with “The Intelligent Contraband,” an original farce written expressly for the “Rebellonians.” Another theatrical group was the Ainsagationians.


These groups somehow even managed to produce printed handbills. According to the Wilmington Semi-Weekly Messenger,  “The price of admission to these performances was 25 cents and reserved seats 50 cents. In one of the bills it is announced ‘Children and Niggers Half Price.’  The proceeds of the shows were for the benefit of the Confederate sick in the prison hospital.

We have a first-class theater in full blast, a minstrel band, and a debating society. The outdoor exercises consist of leap-frog, bull-pen, town-ball, base-ball, foot-ball, snow-ball, bat-ball, and ball. The indoor games comprise chess, backgammon, draughts, and every game of cards known to Hoyle, or to his illustrious predecessor, “the gentleman in black.”  There were a number of ball clubs which competed in the various sports. Other games played in the prison yard included “knucks” and marbles. Other prisoners took up gardening in the prison yard.

There was a Masonic Prison Association, Capt. Joseph J. Davis, President, which sought to provide fresh fruit and other food items to sick prisoners in the prison hospital. The hospital was staffed by one surgeon, one hospital steward, three cooks, and seven prisoner nurses. Medical and surgical treatment was principally provided by Confederate surgeons.

The cemetery at Johnson’s Island was at the extreme northern tip of the island, about a half mile from the prison.

Digging graves in the island’s soft loam soil was not difficult. However, between 4 feet and 5 feet down was solid bedrock. It was officially reported that the graves were “dug as deep as the stone will admit; not as deep as desirable under the circumstances, but sufficient for all sanitary reasons.” The graves were marked with wooden headboards. – Federal Stewardship of Confederate Dead

Major McKnight described funerals at the prison, poignantly referring to the dead as “exchanged” (released from prison):

Well! it is a simple ceremony. God help us! The “exchanged” is placed on a small wagon drawn by one horse, his friends form a line in the rear, and the procession moves; passing through the gate, it winds slowly round the prison walls to a little grove north of the inclosure; “exchanged” is taken out of the wagon and lowered into the earth – a prayer, and exhortation, a spade, a head-board, a mound of fresh sod, and the friends return to prison again, and that’s all of it. Our friend is “exchanged,” a grave attests the fact to mortal eyes, and one of God’s angels has recorded the “exchange” in the book above. Time and the elements will soon smooth down the little hillock which marks his lonely bed, but invisible friends will hover round it till the dawn of the great day, when all the armies shall be marshaled into line again, when the wars of time shall cease, and the great eternity of peace shall commence.

Confederate burial ground, Johnson's Island. Here in a spot as lonely as was ever selected for the burial of the dead, under branches low bending, amid shadows and silence, appeared long rows of sodden mounds, marked only by wooden headboards bearing each the name and age of deceased, together with the number of the command to which he had belonged.

Confederate burial ground, Johnson’s Island. Here in a spot as lonely as was ever selected for the burial of the dead, under branches low bending, amid shadows and silence, appeared long rows of sodden mounds, marked only by wooden headboards bearing each the name and age of deceased, together with the number of the command to which he had belonged.

Two prisoners of Johnson’s Island were released  by order of President Abraham Lincoln, issued on December 10, 1864. The Tennessee men were released after their wives appealed to the President, one pleading her husband’s case on the basis that he was a religious man.

When the President ordered the release of the prisoners, he said to this lady: “You say your husband is a religious man; tell him when you meet him that I say I am not much of a judge of religion, but that, in my opinion, the religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their Government because, as they think, that Government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread in the sweat of other men’s faces, is not the sort of religion upon which people can get to heaven.”

On November 9, 1864, Sandusky bay froze over. In early December the prison got a blanket of snow.  Monday, the 12th of December was the coldest day of the year, and perhaps one of the strangest at Johnson’s Island Prison. That night a group of prisoners rushed the fence, perhaps thinking they could make their escape over the ice. The guards managed to push them back; the next day four corpses were placed in the prison dead-house. Ohio newspapers reported Lt. John B. Bowles, son of the President of the Louisville Bank, was among the dead.

Birth at Johnson’s Island Prison

Earlier in the day on December 12, 1864,  a Confederate officer gave birth to a “bouncing boy.” The woman and child were paroled from the prison. Northern newspapers ran the story.

Woman posing as Confederate officer gives birth at Johnson's Island Prison - The Tiffin, OH Weekly Tribune, December 15, 1864

Woman posing as Confederate officer gives birth at Johnson’s Island Prison – The Tiffin, OH Weekly Tribune, December 15, 1864

Strange Birth. – We are credibly informed that one day last week, one of the rebel officers in the”Bull Pen,” as our soldiers call it: otherwise, in one of the barracks in the enclosure on Johnson’s Island, in which the rebel prisoners are kept, gave birth to a “bouncing boy.” This is the first instance of the father giving birth to a child we have heard of; nor have we read of it “in the books.” The officer, however, was undoubtedly a woman and, we may say it is the first case of a woman in the rebel service we have beard of, though they are noted for goading their own men into the army, and for using every artifice, even to their own dishonor, to befog, and befuddle some of our men. It was in all probability profit, not patriotism, or love, as is the case with the girls that go into the United States service disguised as men, which led this accidental mother into the rebel ranks. The ladies of chivalry are prodigal of their tongues, and chary and choice of their persons. Sandusky Register 13th.

The question has been asked whether the young rebel just ushered into the world on Johnson’s Island, draws rations in the regular way: Another question is, is he doomed to involuntary servitude, his parent being a “Confederate”? prisoner? Does he follow his mother’s condition or his father’s? The Cleveland Herald thinks his father would be hard to find but his mother knows he’s out! -Register, 14th

Does the little stranger promptly answer at roll call, and make his reports regularly? With the true spirit of the Southerner, does he cry for vengeance or over “spilled milk?”

Berrien Minute Men Second Lieutenants James A. Knight and Levi J. Knight, Jr. , and Capt. John W. Turner, Berry Infantry, arrived at the prison on December 20, 1864;  From the 30th GA Regiment, which had been consolidated with the 29th GA Regiment, the arrivals that day were Lt. Daniel A. Moore, Lt. William L. Moore, Capt. Hudson Whittaker, and Capt. Felix L. Walthall.  All had been captured at the Battle of Franklin, TN on December 16, 1864.

Col. William D. Mitchell, 29th Georgia Regiment. Image Source: Tim Burgess

Col. William D. Mitchell, 29th Georgia Regiment. Image Source: Tim Burgess

December 22, 1864 was snowy, windy and bitter cold at Johnson’s Island. New arrivals at the prison on that day included Col. William D. Mitchell, 29th, GA Regiment; Lacy E. Lastinger; 1st Lieutenant Thomas W. Ballard. Captain Robert Thomas Johnson, Company I, 29th Regiment, arrived at the prison.  Lastinger, 1st Lieutenant from Berrien Minute Men, Company K, 29th GA Regiment and Ballard, Company C, 29th GA  had been captured December 16, 1864 at Nashville, TN.   Other arriving prisoners from the 29th GA Regiment included 2nd Lieutenant Walter L. Joiner, Company F.

Edwin B. Carroll and the other prisoners passed Christmas and New Years Day on Johnson’s Island with little to mark the occasion.

Lieutenant Colonel John W. Inzer, 58th Alabama Regiment, wrote

Saturday, January 21, 1865
Received letter from Sister Lou, written Oct. 30th. Mailed Ft. Monroe January 16th. Not quite so cold. Hill Yankee published an order this morning ordering the small rooms, the best quarters, or enough of them to be evacuated by the present occupants, to accommodate the oath takers and men who do not wish to go South on exchange. It is hard to be thus imposed on by traitors and scoundrels. A man must be very corrupt, indeed, to be a member of this villainous crowd. I fear we will have to move. I never expect to give my consent to swallow the oath. – “Tales from a Civil War Prison

By February 1865, Confederate POWs at Johnson’s Island were being exchanged for the release of Federal POW’s imprisoned in the South.

On March 29, Major Lemuel D. Hatch, 8th Alabama Cavalry, wrote from Johnson’s Island,

For several months we suffered here very much for something to eat, but all restrictions have now been taken off the sutler and we are  living well… The extreme cold of last winter and the changeableness of the climate has been a severe shock to many of our men. I notice a great deal of sickness especially among the Prisoners captured at Nashville. Nearly all of them have suffered with rheumatism or pneumonia since their arrival.

The end of the war came with Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865 and, for Georgians, the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army to General William T. Sherman at the Bennett Place, April 26, 1865.

The surrender of Genl. Joe Johnston near Greensboro N.C., April 26th 1865

The surrender of Genl. Joe Johnston near Greensboro N.C., April 26th 1865

To leave Johnson’s Island a prisoner was required to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, as by accepting Confederate citizenship they had renounced their citizenship in the United States. The Confederate prisoners called taking the oath “swallowing the eagle,” and men who swore allegiance to the United States were called “razorbacks,”  because, like a straight-edged razor whose blade can be flipped every which way, they were considered spineless by their fellow inmates.

The prisoner had to first apply to take the Oath. He was then segregated from the prison population and assigned to a separate prison block. This was done for the safety of those taking the Oath as they were now repudiating their loyalty to the Confederacy. Until 1865, only a small number of prisoners took the Oath because of their fierce devotion and loyalty to the cause for which they were fighting. However, in the Spring of 1865, many prisoners did take the Oath, feeling the cause for which they fought so hard was dead. The following letter written by prisoner Tom Wallace shows that “swallowing the eagle” (taking the oath) was not done without a great deal of soul searching.

Thomas Wallace, 2nd Lieutenant in the 6th Kentucky Regiment wrote from Johnson’s Island in 1865 about taking the Oath of Allegiance:

My dear mother,
Perhaps you may be surprised when I tell you that I have made application for the “amnesty oath”. I think that most all of my comrades have or will do as I have. I don’t think that I have done wrong, I had no idea of taking the oath until I heard of the surrender of Johnston and then I thought it worse than foolish to wait any longer. The cause that I have espoused for four years and have been as true to, in thought and action, as man could be is now undoubtedly dead; consequently I think the best thing I can do is to become a quiet citizen of the United States. I will probably be released from prison sometime this month.

Wallace took the Oath on June 11, 1865. Captain Felix L. Walthall, 30th GA Regiment, “swallowed the eagle” on June 17, 1865

 Oath of Allegiance of Captain Felix L. Walthall, 30th GA Regiment, Wilson's Brigade, Walker's Division. June 17, 1865.

Oath of Allegiance of Captain Felix L. Walthall, 30th GA Regiment, Wilson’s Brigade, Walker’s Division. June 17, 1865.

I do solemnly swear that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign; that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution, or laws of any State, Convention, or Legislature notwithstanding; and further, that I will faithfully perform all the duties which may be required of me by the laws of the United States; and I take this oath freely and voluntarily, without any mental reservation of evasion whatever.

From early on at Johnston’s Island, Confederates who swore the Oath of Allegiance were immediately moved into a separate barracks to protect them from attacks from zealous rebels. Prisoners who accepted the Oath received special treatment. Capt. William L. Peel wrote:

“They draw more commissaries, however, than we do. Their ration being 20 oz. bakers bread, 16 oz. meat and small quantities of beans or hominy, salt, vinegar, etc. per day.”

Archaeological evidence associated with the barracks where the Oath takers were housed documents such special treatment. “The vast quantities of wine, whiskey, champagne, and beer bottles attest to the “special” treatment that these prisoners were receiving.Latrines of the Johnson’s Island Prison

Edwin B. Carroll swore the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America on June 14, 1865 at Depot Prisoners of War, Sandusky, OH. He was then described as 24 years old, dark complexion, dark hair, hazel eyes, 5’11”

After spending almost a year in the Johnson’s Island prison, Edwin B. Carroll was released in June 1865.

When the War ended, and he returned home, he could find no employment but teaching, in which he has been engaged almost every year since… In October, 1865, he was married to Mrs. Julia E. Hayes, of Thomasville, Georgia.

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Reward Offered for Confederate Deserters

The first commercial activity at Ray City arose during the Civil War when Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray constructed  a millpond and grist mill on Beaverdam Creek in Berrien County, GA. Captain Levi J. Knight, an old Indian fighter, raised the first company of Confederate soldiers to go forth from Berrien County, the Berrien Minute Men.

After enlisting at Nashville, GA in 1861 the Berrien Minute Men mustered in near Savannah, GA as a company of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment.  Following this organization, Captain Knight resigned and the company came under the command of John C. Lamb.   In the first months after mustering in, the regiment trained and served picket duty on the Georgia coast.  The campfires of the Berrien Minute Men were made   on the coastal islands and marshes, first at Sapelo Battery, off the coast of Darien, GA, then in Chatham County, GA at Camp Tatnall, Camp Causton’s Bluff, Camp Debtford, Camp Mackey, and Camp Young.

At times the conditions in the Confederate camps of Chatham county were nearly intolerable. The weather was cold in the winter and hot and muggy in the summer.  Men were apt to become irritable. One soldier of the 29th Georgia Regiment killed another over a game of marbles. Some men were bored with picket duty. Some were frustrated and longed for action. Others just longed to go home to their farms and families. At Camp Young the harsh realities of Army life in the field would test the commitment of volunteer soldiers in the 29th Georgia Regiment.

The likely location of Camp Young was on Wylly Island about eight miles southeast of Savannah , on a tract of 110 acres which had been acquired  by Judge  Levi Sheftall D’Lyon at some time prior to 1860.  Judge D’Lyon was a prominent citizen and city court judge of Savannah. He was also the father of Isaac Mordecai DeLyon and Leonorean DeLyon, who edited and published the South Georgia Watchman newspaper at Troupville, GA and later at Valdosta, GA.  Lenorean DeLyon is credited with giving Valdosta its name.    Judge D’Lyon himself was an enigma. He took great interest in supporting the Chatham Dispensary, “a free medical clinic and pharmacy for the poor.” He devoted much of his professional legal career to assisting free African-Americans in acquiring their own property, but he also profited from the business of buying and selling slaves.  In 1859 he called for a “vigilance committee for the better preservation of Southern Rights.” In 1861 he was acting as guardian for 48 “free persons of color” in Savannah, while at the same time working to establish a district court system in the new Confederate States of America.  In his will D’Lyon directed that five of his slaves be freed, but another 21 were sold in 1863 to liquidate his estate.

Wylly Island is a river island formed by a bifurcation of the Herb River.  According to a Civil War map of the defenses of Savannah,  Wylly Island was between Thunderbolt Battery, a Confederate artillery emplacement on St. Augustine Creek, and  Battery Daniels at Parkersburg on the Skidaway River.  Battery Daniels had several supporting batteries on the Herb River and Grimball’s Creek.

There is no remaining trace of these Confederate locations or of Camp Young. Some descriptions of Camp Young are found in the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight, son of Levi J. Knight.

At first, the Berrien Minute Men found fresh food was in short supply at Camp Young. Soldiers supplemented their camp diet either with food purchased in Savannah with their own money, or had food sent from home. William W. Knight’s  letter of January 4, 1863 written from Camp Young and addressed to his wife, Mary,  mentioned that fellow soldier J. P. Ponder had delivered a box of potatoes sent by her father. Knight wrote of being deployed without rations and of spoiled provisions – “blue beef that will stick to your hands equal to adhesive plaster.”  He asked her to send more potatoes, and pork if the weather was cold enough. Knight remarked on the high prices being gotten in Savannah for peanuts, corn, and bacon, and the shortage of bread. He also requested Mary send his mattress bed cover, iron shoe heels, “vial oil”, and carpet bag.

Deadly infectious diseases of all kinds were rampant in the crowded Confederate camps. The river delta land was low lying and prone to malaria. On February 28, 1862 Knight wrote, “We have a good many sick now with cold or pneumonia. Nineteen of our company on the sick list  this morning…” In early March, Knight himself was incapacitated by fever.

By mid-March soldiers’ letters home indicated that the supply of food at Camp Young was much improved.  But by the end of March Knight wrote of worsening weather conditions; “It is the worst time we have had this winter. The wind and rain from the North East. There is very little timber in that direct. It has all been cut down in front of the Batteries for over a mile.”

At Camp Young, the 29th Georgia Regiment  became part of a Brigade which also included the 25th and 30th Georgia Regiments, First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, and 4th Louisiana Battalion. In a Brief History of the Thirtieth Georgia Regiment, August Pitt Adamson, 1st Sergeant, Company E wrote about Camp Young:

Camp life at Savannah was far from being dull and was not at all monotonous.  Many little incident of a humorous nature occurred.  Sports of various kinds were engaged in, which were shared by both officers and men. Occasionally some of the boys would “run the blockade,” as it was called, and go to Savannah without leave, thus running the risk of being put upon double duty, or digging stumps, which were the usual punishments inflicted. One man of Company E [30th Regiment] could so well imitate the signature of the commanding officer, that he frequently gave himself and others leave to go to the city.  In such cases they always returned in time for drill, and but few knew of it. On one occasion at night, soon after we went to Savannah, a false alarm was given, the men were hastily aroused and called into line with their old flintlock guns; much confusion followed; some could not find their companies, some ran over stumps and against each other, and two or three of Company B fell into and old well, which was, however, very shallow, but they yelled loudly for help.  It was soon found to be a false alarm, gotten up by some of the officers to try the men and have some fun. We were provided good tents and, for the most part comfortably cared for, with plenty to eat, but some of the boys wanted a change of diet, and, discovering a flock of goats belonging to Judge De Lyon, a wealthy old gentleman who had a farm near the camps, the result was nearly all the goats disappeared, leaving the owner quite angry.  The boys would say the goats tried to run over them, and they had to act in self-defense.

While at Camp Young, William Knight reported the Berrien Minute Men  spent a great deal of the time in drill. They drilled in Company formation and as a Battalion and Brigade. When they weren’t drilling or on dress parade, they attended “Regimental School.” When they could get leave they went into Savannah to get personal provisions or to be entertained. When they couldn’t get leave some went absent without leave;  John W. Hagan wrote from Camp Young on March 19,  “I cannot get a pass to visit Savannah, and when I go I have to run the blockade and risk getting caught, but I will manage to slip the block.”

This is not to say the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th GA Regiment were idle.  Like the 30th Georgia Regiment and other units in their Brigade, they probably were engaged in the construction of fortifications, mounting artillery, and placing obstructions in the river channels.  They were certainly conducting picket duty, patrolling the islands below Savannah on the lookout for Federal scouts who might be probing the line of Confederate defenses around the city.  They made brief excursions by train into Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina to strengthen coastal defenses where Union forces threatened to attack.

The 29th Regiment remained at Camp Young through April; by May 12, 1863 they had rolled out to Jackson, MS in preparation for the Battle of Vicksburg. But before that departure, while stationed at Camp Young, twenty men of the 29th Georgia deserted the regiment. From the weeks and months the Special Order 15 was advertised, one can judge these were not men who just sneaked off to Savannah,  but were long gone.  Four of the deserters were from Company K, the Berrien Minute Men, including Elbert J. Chapman, Albert Douglas, Benjamin S. Garrett, and J. P. Ponder.

A reward of $30 was offered for each man  apprehended, $600 for the bunch.

Reward offered for capture of deserters from the 29th Georgia Regiment, Confederate States Army, including four deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, Company K. Advertised in the Savannah Republican newspaper.

Reward offered for capture of deserters from the 29th Georgia Regiment, Confederate States Army, including four deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, Company K. Advertised in the Savannah Republican newspaper.

$600 REWARD.
Headq’rs 29th Reg’t GA. Vols.,
Camp Young, near Savannah, March 12, 1863.
No. 15.
Deserted from this Regiment at Camp near Savannah, the following named enlisted men:

      Private FREEMAN BRIDGES, Co. B, is 22 years of age, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches high, has dark complexion, black eyes and dark hair.   Enlisted in Franklin county, Ga.
      Private DAVID CLAY, Co. C, 28 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, has dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
Private JOSEPH W. SINGLETARY, Co. C., 38 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, sallow complexion, blue eyes, dark  hair. Enlisted at Thomas county, Ga.
Private PATRICK FITZGERALD, Co. E, 46 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair.  Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private EDWARD ROTCHFORD, Co. E, 45 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private JOHN MULLER, Co. E, 26 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, dark hair, dark complexion and dark eyes. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private DAVID WILLIAMS, Co, E, 40 years of age, 5 feet high, brown eyes, light brown hair, and reddish complexion. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.

     Private S. A. HALL, Co. F. 20 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  Enlisted at Thomasville, Ga.
     Private WM. HARVEY, Co. F, 45 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, gray hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     SYRE CHRISTIAN, Co. F, 40 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, light hair.  Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     JAMES M. TOHEL, Co. F, 85 years of age 5 feet 9 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, dark hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     Private C. R. OLIVER, Co. H, 29 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted at Stockton, Ga.
      Private J. R. JACOBS, Co. H. 22 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted at Stockton, Ga.
      Private F. F. F. GRIFFIN, Co. I, 40 years of age, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches high, dark complexion, black eyes, and dark hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
     Private N. P. GANDY, Co. I, 30 years of age, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
     Private WM. BARWICK, Co. I, 38 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, grey eyes.  Enlisted in Thomas County.
     Private ELBERT J. CHAPMAN, Co. K, 31 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, sandy hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private ALBERT DOUGLAS, Co. K, 32 years of age, 6 feet high, fair complexion, grey eyes, auburn hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private BENJAMIN S. GARRETT, Co. K, 25 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes, black hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private J. P. PONDER, Co. K, 31 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, sallow complexion, blue eyes, and sandy hair.  Enlisted at Savannah.

A reward of thirty dollars is offered for the apprehension of either of the above named men, delivered at these headquarters or confined in a safe jail.
By order of W. J. Young,
Col.Comd’g 29th Reg’t Ga. Vols.
Geo. P. McRee, AdjL

After deserting from the 29th Georgia Regiment:

  • Elbert J. Chapman fled to the west where he joined another unit and fought with determination. He was later charged with desertion from the 29th Georgia Regiment, court-martialed and executed by firing squad.  After the war, a pension for his indigent wife was denied.
  • Benjamin S. Garrett was later shot for being a spy.
  • Albert Douglas left the Berrien Minute Men “absent without leave” in December 1862 and was marked “deserted.”  After deserting the 29th Regiment Douglas enlisted in the 26th Georgia Infantry fighting with Army of Northern Virginia in Virginia, where his unit was engaged in the Battle of Brawners Farm. He subsequently served in a number of units beforedeserting and surrendering to the U. S. Army.  He was inducted into the U. S. Navy, but deserted that position in March 1865.  In 1870, and in subsequent census records his wife is identified as a widow. There is no record she ever applied for a Confederate Widow’s Pension.
  • J. P. Ponder left little historical record, other than the military muster rolls which document his enlistment and desertion. Even his name is confused, alternately given as Ponder or Powder  Both variations are listed in his Confederate military service records. The letters of William W. Knight indicate Ponder traveled back to Berrien county and returned to Camp Young in February 1863, and that Ponder was back in Berrien in March. In any case, it does not appear the man ever returned to the 29th Georgia Regiment.

Other Berrien County soldiers, such as N. M. McNabb who served with Company D, 12th Georgia Regiment, would be pressed into service to hunt fugitive deserters. According to a sworn statement by Mr. McNabb, “late in the year, perhaps September 1864, the Georgia Militia were  at Griffin, Ga Ordered by the Governor to stack arms and return home until further orders, which we did. After getting home, the Enrolling Officers here at home pressed us in to aid them in hunting Deserters.”

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Berrien Minute Men and Civil War Stories

Found the following account by Alexander Paris Perham concerning General Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men and the execution of Elbert J. Chapman in the March 22, 1887 edition of the Atlanta Constitution:


As Told by an Officer in Command of the Zhooting Jquad. [sic]
    One of the first of the Constitution’s War Stories was an account of the execution of “Yaller Jacket” or “Old Yaller” for desertion.  Below is an account written by Captain A.P. Perham of the Quitman Free Press. Captain Perham commanded the squad that executed Old Yaller. He says:
Chapman was the man’s proper name, but we called him “Old Yaller” on account of the peculiar color of his hair, beard, and complexion. This nickname was given very soon after he enlisted, and he was known by no other, except on the roll of his company. I think he came from the northeastern portion of Berrien County. At any rate he belonged to the “Berrien Minute Men,” the company that General Levi J. Knight carried into service.
During the second year of the war, the Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Georgia Regiment were ordered from Savannah to Jacksonville to repel the enemy, whom it was thought were trying to effect a landing at that point.  Returning a few weeks later  “Yaller” stepped off the train at the station on the Savannah, Florida, and Western  [Atlantic & Gulf] railroad nearest his home — probably Naylor, and went to see his family.
He was reported “absent without leave,” and when he returned to his command at Savannah, he was placed in the guard tent and charges were preferred against him. It was from the guard tent that he deserted and went home the second time.
After staying home a short while he joined a cavalry command and went west.  It is said that he was in several engagements and fought bravely, and this fact was made known to the court martial that tried him.
A few months before the fall of Vicksburg the troops from Savannah were ordered to the west, and soon after reaching Mississippi, a man by the name of Bill Warren who belonged to Company I, twenty-ninth Georgia regiment discovered “Yaller” in a cavalry company and reported the fact to Colonel Young. “Yaller” was arrested and soon after tried by court martial; I think at Canton. There was probably not a day nor night, from the time of his trial until he was executed, that he could not have easily escaped.
During the retreat from Yazoo to Jackson he made great complaint that he could not keep his guard together, and on the retreat from Jackson he procured a cow bell, and it is a fact, that with this he often collected the scattered, retreating and tired men, who should have been taking care of him.
At Morton the army rested somewhat demoralized, discouraged

 [text obscured]

forehead. Life’s pathway has not aways been strewn with flowers for me, nor yet have thorns continually beset me. My experience has probably been similar in a general way to that of most others, but I do not believe that there are many who have passed through what I did on that memorable day. The army understood the situation and knew the evidence and circumstances surrounding the whole case. We were all aware that Chapman had not deserted the “cause” and was simply being shot that discipline might be enforced. His execution could not, under these circumstances,  have the desired effect. It was a military mistake instead of a “military necessity.”
The condemned man stated to the writer that he left the guard tent at Savannah because he thought injustice was being done him, but that thought of deserting to the enemy never entered his mind. Chapman had a wife and several children in Berrien county. Perhaps some of our old war friends, the Knights or the Lastingers can tell us what became of them.
During the sad and solemn march from the camp to the place of execution the condemned man assured the guard and the officer in command the he had nothing but the kindest feelings for us, and appreciated the fact that we were doing our duty. “Old Yaller” was a stranger to fear and met his death and terrible preparations  for his execution in the coolest and most perfectly indifferent manner possible. There was no blanching of the cheek, no trembling of the knees, no excitement of any kind visible about the man. He possessed a certain kind of manhood that enabled him to meet the grim monster without a tremor and apparently without a fear. At the time of Chapman’s execution I was second lieutenant of company F twenty-ninth Georgia regiment, and have given the facts as I remember them.

A. P. Perham