On this day in 1864: Capt. Conley of the 101st Pennsylvania Volunteers, escaped prisoner of war, describes the Union sympathizers with whom he is hiding in Transylvania County:
“We found them to be rugged stalwart mountaineers; most of them had little culture, but . . . seemed to be determined to die rather than serve in the rebel army. All the men who were liable to military duty and consequently to conscription, spent most of their time in the woods, only coming home for supplies. All of them were heavily armed. I met a number of men here who carried, each, two guns and two revolvers.
“Posses of rebels had frequently been sent in there to hunt up these people, but had almost invariably met with defeat, as these mountaineers would band together and ambush them. We were told that they also tried to capture them with bloodhounds, but that also proved a failure; as not one bloodhound brought in ever got out alive.
“I have never anywhere else known such bitterness as existed between neighbors here. The persecution and hardship that the Union men had been subjected to, very naturally, brought a spirit of retaliation. It was not unusual, as we learned, for persons to be waylaid, and assassinated when passing along the public highways.”
On this day in 1865: Prisoner of war A.O. Abbott, first lieutenant in the 1st N.Y. Dragoons, recalls his release in Wilmington:
“We laughed, cried, hurrahed, hugged, kissed, rolled in the sand, and — rejoiced generally. Many declared it was the happiest day of their lives.
“The 6th Connecticut was encamped on the bank of the
[Cape Fear] river, and at the end of the pontoon bridge they had erected a bower of evergreens. In the centre of the arch was a card, surrounded by a beautiful wreath of evergreens, on which was printed, WELCOME, BROTHERS.”
On this day in 1865: A.O. Abbott, first lieutenant in the 1st N.Y. Dragoons, recalls the arrival in Goldsboro of a trainload of 700 fellow Union prisoners, these from Salisbury and Florence, S.C.:
“They had ridden all night in open flatcars, without a particle of shelter or fire. It was . . . a bitter cold, damp night, and, scantily clothed as they were, they had suffered beyond account. Three had died during the night, and were still on the train. Not one of them had a whole garment on, while nearly all were destitute of shirts or coats. A ragged or patched pair of pants, and a piece of an old blanket, constituted the wardrobe of the majority. Their faces were blackened by the pitch-pine smoke from the fires over which they had cooked their rations, while traces of soap and water were lost altogether. Hair and beard in their natural state. Yet all of this was nothing compared to their diseased, starving condition.
“In short, no words can describe their appearance. The sunken eye, the gaping mouth, the filthy skin, the clothes and head alive with vermin, the repelling bony contour, all conspired to lead to the conclusion that they were the victims of starvation, cruelty, and exposure to a degree unparalleled in the history of humanity.”