Anna Moffett's Civil War - 16
Dear Mother & Elizabeth
I don't know if you were aware of it, but last summer, a group of prisoners, perhaps 4-600 from here were transferred to Charleston Harbor. My friend John has told me about it. When it was announced that some of them were to be transferred to that place, there was a general eagerness to go. It
was represented that it was a paradise as compared to Fort Delaware. So eager were they to go & that they might be exchanged that many gave their watches, chains, rings etc. clandestinely to be put on the list to go.
But we heard recently they were to be brought back & in a day or two they arrived - the most miserable, dilapidated sorrowful set of men imaginable. They are suffering with scurvy, chronic diseases of the bowels & other maladies. They can not eat the bread & beef on which we are fed, with some exceptions. Many died. They, as all of us, have a horror of the prison hospital. Yet many of them as a necessity were sent to the hospital on landing. They craved raw Irish Potatoes, tea, coffee & onions. We appointed Committees to get subscriptions to aid them. Some gave tobacco; some clothing; some money & these committees bought & distributed to them things suited to their condition. But these things were so dear that our subscriptions were soon exhausted.
We then got permission to get up plays etc. for their relief & we were allowed the Mess Hall for the purpose. It was given out that many about the post, officials & others would attend, to aid us. In a
very short time we were ready for the play. We improvised the necessary scenery, announced a play. The attendance was very large, many outside of the prison attending. The play went off with great aplomb. I think a play each day or so was performed. These plays & other amusements were kept up & occasionally repeated until these unfortunates except those too far gone were relieved. Many of them however died.
They said that while near Charleston they were sometimes put under fire & greatly exposed to the burning sun, retaliatory, as was supposed - that they were starved almost to death, suffered from thirst etc. etc. I sicken at the narrative. I give it as I heard it & here I was wishing that if I had to be in prison it could be nearer home.
Love to you all from
Dear Mother & Elizabeth,
We had a bit of excitement this last week. The Prison yard was in a hubbub. It was announced that in a great number of boxes of tobacco were on hand, for distribution. "Box call" rang all over the prison. Here was life & hope despite the terrible weather & our great sufferings. The person who had received the most tobacco had perhaps $175 worth, a millionaire compared to the rest of us. Then we were visited by a tobacco-merchant from Philadelphia who asked for a meeting to talk with the prisoners. The millionnaire was elected chairman for the meeting.
Gentlemen, said he, "I am no speaker. I heard there was a large quantity of tobacco here, perhaps several thousand pounds & I heard that it was for sale. I have had nothing to do with this war. I thought you might not know the market value & sell it for less than it's worth. So I got a permit to come in & buy it, if you wanted to sell.
“You may know as well as I that this untimely war may be over in a few weeks. Perhaps you are not as well posted as I am, for we, dealers in cotton & tobacco have means of information in such matters, unknown to the public. It is in the line of our business. Tobacco in view of this, is falling in the market & if you hold on to it for a rise, you may be heavy losers.
“You will need money, when you are released & sent home. Gentlemen, you are not as well provided for in the way of clothing as I hoped to see & this is very sad & ought not to be so. Now I am no philanthropist but I could but note this sad fact & I hope you will excuse me for the reference. I am here merely to trade with you as I live near by & as a conscientious man to make you a fair offer, I have the money, gold if you prefer, allowing for the premium. It is going up every day.".
"Come to the point," said a voice. "What will you give?"
"As I was saying..."
"Make your offer! Make your offer," from many voices, "How much per pound?"
"Will you not let me explain a little more?"
"No, no, no, no, your offer!"
"Well gentlemen I will not take advantage of your distress, will bid a little over the market price & take the risk. I will give fifty cents a pound for chewing tobacco & forty cents for smoking."
"I move we adjourn" said someone & a unanimous "aye" went up before the motion was put & the merchant sneaked out. We know the tobacco was worth vastly more than the merchant had offered.
But how nice it is to have tobacco to smoke once again.
Love from George.
On March 27th, some of Charleston is very busy celebrating. I will tell you a bit about it although the very thought of it gauls me. I've copied bits of it from the Tribune.
There was the greatest procession of loyalists in Charleston last Tuesday that the city has witnessed for many a long year.
The celebration was projected & conducted by colored men. It met on the Citadel green at noon. Upward of ten thousand persons were present, colored men, women & children & every window & balustrade overlooking the square was crowded with spectators. This immense gathering had
been convened in 24 hours, for permission to form the procession was given only on Sunday night & none of the preliminary arrangements were completed till Monday at noon.
The procession began to move at one o’clock under the charge of a committee & marshalls on horseback, who were decorated with red, white & blue sashes & rosettes.
First came the marshals & their aides, followed by a band of music; then the 21st Regiment in full form; then the clergymen of the different churches, carrying open Bibles; then an open car, drawn by four white horses, & tastefully adorned with National flags. In this car there were 15 colored ladies dressed in white, to represent the 15 recent Slave States. Then followed the children of the Public
Schools, or part of them; & there were 1,800 in line, at least. They sang during the entire length of the march.
After the children came the various trades. First, the fishermen, with a banner bearing an emblematical device & the words, “The Fishermen welcome you, Gen. Saxton.” Second, a society with the banner, “The Union South.” Third, carpenters, masons, teamsters, drovers, coopers,
bakers, paper-carriers, barbers, blacksmiths, wood-sawyers, painters, wheelwrights & the fire companies. The carpenters carried their planes & other tools; the masons their trowels; the teamsters their whips; the coopers their adzes; the bakers' crackers hung around their necks; the paper-carriers a banner & each a copy of The Charleston Courier; the barbers their shears; the
blacksmiths their hammers; the wood-sawyers their sawbucks; the painters their brushes; the wheel-wrights a large wheel; & the fire companies, ten in number, with their banners, their hosemen with their trumpets.
The most original feature of the procession was a large cart, drawn by two dilapidated horses with the worst harness that could be got to hold out, which followed the trades. On this cart there was an auctioneer’s block & a black man, with a bell, represented a negro trader, a red flag waving over his head; recalling the slave days so near & yet so far
Behind the auction-car 60 men marched, tied to a rope, in imitation of the gangs who used often to be led through these streets on their way from Virginia to the sugar-fields of Louisiana. All of these men had been sold in the old times.
Then came the hearse, a comic feature which attracted great attention & was received with shouts of laughter. There was written on it with chalk.
“Slavery is Dead.”
“Who Owns Him?”
“Sumter Dug His
Grave on the 13th of April, 1861.”
Behind the hearse, 50 women marched dressed in black, “with the sable weeds of mourning, but with the joyous faces,” as a natural-born orator from Bunker Hill remarked on the occasion.
Various societies were represented. The procession was more than two miles & a-half
in length, & officers said that it marched in better military style than the great procession on the 6th of March in New-York.
The great procession took one hour & twenty minutes to pass any point. On the return
to the citadel where a stand was prepared for Gen. Saxton & the other speakers, there were at least 10,000 persons assembled. There were 4,200 men in the procession by count, exclusive of the military, the women & the children.
A shower of rain, which began to fall as the procession arrived at the citadel, rendered it expedient to postpone a speech.
The fears so lately expressed that an outpouring of the colored people would produce a riot is thus shown to be unfounded. “Fear the slave who breaks his chain, free the slave & fears are vain,” is a truth which these modern Rip Van Winkles who take the oath here & think that they are Union men do not yet begin to suspect, far less to believe.