Prison Echoes of the Great Rebellion

by Daniel Robinson Hundley


Prison Echoes of the Great Rebellion by Daniel Robinson Hundley

From the Introduction

I AM not in the habit of making excuses for my conduct, having long since learned that he who honestly reverences God and loves his fellow-men has nothing to fear from his enemies, and is sure of numbering among his friends all the brave and true, however much they may differ with him about matters of mere opinion; and, consequently, I do not intend to offer any excuse to my readers for the publication of the following pages.

The great Rebellion, no matter from what standpoint we may regard it, is nevertheless a great fact, and whatever helps to throw any light upon the darker pages of its history must ever be of interest to all American readers sincerely desirous to form a correct judgment of the motives which influenced the combatants in that grandest of modern conflicts. It can not be denied that the triumphant North has sought to distort the facts of history in some measure, in order to "make treason odious;" but for all that, the voice of History will speak impartially to the coming generations, of "our late unpleasantness," and will doubtless give to both sections their proper mead of praise, as well as their due proportion of censure.

To aid the future historian to the extent of my humble offering, is the chief motive which induces me to publish the following pages, most of which were written while a prisoner of war on Johnson's Island, and have besides a history of their own which lends to them an additional interest.

As will be found by a perusal of this book I now offer the public, I made my escape from Johnson's Island on the 2d day of January, 1865, and attempted to reach Canada afoot, walking at night and sleeping in hay-lofts during the day. After nearly a week of untold hardships and sufferings, I was recaptured and taken back to my old quarters. On reaching the head-quarters of the commandant of Johnson's Island, I was stripped to the skin, and there being found concealed on my person a journal of prison life, it was taken from me. On making application subsequently to Colonel Hill for my MS., I was informed that it had been sent to the Commissary-General of Prisoners at Washington.

I heard nothing more of my MS. for nine years. In January, 1874, I received notice from the Postmaster at Huntsville, Ala., that a certain Alexander R. Jones, of New-York, desired my address. As I could not remember ever having met such a person, my curiosity was piqued to learn what he wanted of me, so I gave him immediately the information he sought. Pretty soon thereafter, I received from him the following letter:

"NEW-YORK, January 13, '74.

"COL. D. R. HUNDLEY, Editor, etc., Courtland, Ala.:

"DEAR SIR: Yours of 3d inst., giving your address, is received.

"I have seen and read with much interest a journal which you wrote while in Yankee prison during the war. It contains about one hundred and eighty pages, letter size, and fine paper. It struck me as being a valuable souvenir, either to yourself or friends, and the desire to ‘put it where it would do the most good,' is my only excuse for writing you. It is in the possession of a man formerly a soldier of the U. S. Army, now in this city. He would not give it to me, nor do I think he would part with it if he thought it would be returned to the writer of it; but I think I could purchase it of him for a reasonable sum. I have not tried to do so, and will not till I hear front you again.

"I am yours respectfully,

"438 Broadway (up-stairs), New-York."

I will confess this was to me a most agreeable surprise. I had long since forgotten my prison journal, considering it as numbered among the many beautiful and lovely things swallowed up in the vortex of the great Rebellion. I immediately wrote to Mr. Jones, however, and informed him of the facts connected with the unjust seizure of my journal, and wound up by declaring myself too poor to purchase what was mine by right without purchase, and expressing a hope that Mr. Jones would prevail upon the honorable Federal soldier who now had possession of my long-lost MS. to return it to me without favor or reward; and the more especially since, during the war, I was a "foeman worthy of his steel," and since the war claimed to be "thoroughly reconstructed." After that I heard nothing more from Mr. Jones, but in a few weeks my journal was returned to me through the United States mail. It had not been mutilated in the least, but, on the contrary, was well preserved; and I desire here to return my thanks to the unknown friend who did me this act of kindness.

It will be seen that my journal is a thorough rebel production, and I have thought it best to publish it just as it was written, for otherwise it would be like giving a performance of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet left out. I had prepared it for publication in Canada, had I succeeded in reaching that haven so earnestly longed for by distressed rebels during the war. Since 1857, I had been in the habit of keeping a diary, which I continued during the whole war. The first part of my prison journal was only an enlargement of my diary, giving an account of my experiences from Kennesaw Mountain to Johnson's Island. The second part consisted of literal extracts from my diary while in prison. I have now added a third part, giving an account of my escape and recapture, which I believe will also be of interest to the reader.

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