William had received his war wound on October 19, 1864 in the Battle of Cedar Creek and was hospitalized from October 23 to November 14 when he was furloughed. William most likely traveled back to his hometown of Burnsville to see his family. His freedom was short lived as on January 18, 1865, William was captured near Iuka by forces under Major General Thomas, commanding officer, Department of the Cumberland. William spent the next six months as a prisoner of war, first in Nashville Tennessee at the Department of the Cumberland. He was then transferred to a military prison in Louisville, Kentucky then on to Camp Chase, Ohio.
Milton Asbury Ryan, a member of the 14th Mississippi Regiment, at the urging of his grandchildren, wrote about his time at Camp Chase:
Camp Chase was situated four miles west of Columbus, Ohio, the capitol of the state. The prison had a wall around it sixteen feet high. There was a partition wall that divided the prison into two apartments, and was known as Prison No. 1 and No 2. I occupied Prison No. 1. Each prison contained seven or eight acres of land and each held 4,000 prisoners. No. 2 was called by the prisoners in No. 1 the Razorbacks.
I found this image of Camp Chase on the website www.forgottenoh.com.
The gates to the two prisons stood side by side and opened into each prison. When we arrived at the gates we were told if we would take the oath of allegiance to the United States and to into Prison No. 2 they would have bountiful rations, plenty of blankets and fires to keep them warn, but if they went into Prison No. 1, they would have no promises to make. As a matter of regret many went into the Razorback Prison. The guards were placed on the wall with loaded guns with instructions to shoot to kill with the least infringement of prison rules. The barracks were on the pattern of Camp Douglas prison with three narrow bunks, one above another on each side of the barracks. By spooning two could like in one bunk. We slept on the naked planks straw being allowed. Some poor bony fellows hipbones were through their skin sleeping on the naked plank. We were not allowed fires in our stove after night. In our emaciated and rundown condition with nothing to wear but our light southern clothing and many of us in rags, you can imagine our terrible condition with zero weather almost half the time. We had no chairs or benches and when we sat we sat on the floor. We were guarded by a heartless set of wretches. They had never been to the front and baptized in the fire of battle; therefore they were cruel and mean in the extreme often shooting unsuspecting prisoners without the least provocation. After taps, as they call it, no lights were allowed and after that all was quiet as death until morning.
As to our rations: there was just enough to keep us ravenously hungry all the time; a one half loaf of bakers bread eight inches long divided between eight men, one inch to the man twice a day; with that one tablespoonful of navy beans with a piece of pickled beef or salt port about the size of a person’s forefinger. We had a kitchen sergeant who had the cooking done for his barracks. When ready it was handed to us through a window in a tin cup, with the liquor it was cooked in. The guards would throw down apple cores and peelings and enjoy seeing our poor starving boys scuffle for them. The hospital was just outside the prison wall. There was a ditch four feet wide and three feet deep. It was planked up side and bottom and from the hospital it passed through our prison and in it all the filth of the prison was deposited, including the scraps from the hospital, such as scraps of meat, bakers bread, onions and beef bones, etc. At the head of the ditch was a large tank. It was pumped full of water every day by a detail of prisoners. We all knew when the flood gates would be raised and the water turned loose. It would come sweeping down, bringing the garbage with other filth deposited in it during the day. Our boys would be strung along th sides of the ditch and as it came floating by they would grab it and eat it like hungry dogs. Beef bones was a choice morsel. We would take them and pound them up and place them in tin cups and boil them until the marrow was boiled out. When cold there would be a thin cake of tallow on top. We would spread it on our bread like butter. Had Lazerus been laid out at (our) gate he would not have gotten a crumb. A little snowbird would have starved to death at our feet. I now, after fifty years, recall some of the fitful scenes of the starved, emaciated young men. Those once proud Southerners who had been victorious in many a battle kicked and cuffed, starving and sick at heart, and in despair with no hope sitting waiting for the scraps from the hospital to be washed to their feet with the garbage and excrement all clumped in the same ditch together.
There are no words adequate to depict the outrageous cruelties and barbarities perpetrated upon helpless prisoners by some of those who had them in charge. The small pox was raging all the time but we cared nothing for that. We did not have vitality enough to produce a scab. I used the blanket of one of my comrades that was carried to the pest house and was glad to get it. The scurvy was also terrible, eating the gums away and the teeth falling out, leaving the victim a perfect wreck, all for the want of proper food. There was another species of suffering that befell the tobacco users. It was pitiful to see them following those who were lucky enough to have a little money to buy tobacco, watching until they threw it out of their mouths to pick it up off the ground and put it in their own mouths or take it to their quarters and dry and smoke it.
Private James W. Anderson from McNairy County, Tennessee wrote “every prisoner was issued one blanket, one changing of under clothing and one suit of common gray pants and coat. They were allowed to buy from the prison supply rooms tamps, writing materials, tobacco, cigars, pipes combs, hair brushes, tooth brushes, clothes brushes, scissors, thread, needles, handkerchiefs, towels, soap, pocket looking glasses and matches.” By the time William had arrived in camp, newspapers and candles were also offered. (Ohio History, the Scholarly Journal of the Ohio Historical Society).
On June 13, 1865, William signed an “Oath of Allegiance” to the United States. On this oath, he lists his place of residence as Cocke County, Tennessee on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. He is listed as 6’1″ 34 years of age, dark hair and blue eyes, born in Alabama. This trait of dark hair and blue eyes was carried forward to my father, Charles Edward, also black hair and blue eyes.
The reason William chose to relocate from Tishomingo County, Mississippi to Cocke County, Tennessee after being released in 1865 is not known. It is known he was in Iuka in January 1865 and in Haywood County, North Carolina in November 1865. Did William know there was nothing left for him in Tishomingo County with both his wife and children gone he knew not where? Did he meet another prisoner while there and decide to start a new life in Cocke County? Or did he decide to return to his extended family that lived in Sevier County, Tennessee which was next to Cocke County?
Return to Shoults Genealogy Index.
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