The SHC contains a number of collections that document the lives of Confederate prisoners at Johnson’s Island Prison near Sandusky, Ohio. [Click here to see a listing of catalog records of SHC material on the subject.]
The image above comes from the SHC’s Joseph Mason Kern Papers (SHC collection #2526-z). Kern (b. 1842), of Romney, Va., served in the C.S.A. 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, and was imprisoned for several months at Johnson’s Island. Kern compiled a scrapbook that documents his Civil War experiences and his time at Johnson’s Island, and includes this colored map of the prison.
A second example: The SHC preserves two diaries of Robert Bingham (1838-1927) kept, 1863-1864, while he was a prisoner at Norfolk, Va., Fort Delaware, Johnson’s Island, Ohio, and Point Lookout, Md. The diary describes prison life, including quarters, gambling, work, escape plots, sermons, food, illness, and hospitals at various prison camps. Here’s his diary entry from August 26, 1863 (while imprisoned at Johnson’s Island):
Two months. Yes it is a long time to be in prison. I have not heard a word from my wife in two months. It is very long. How my heart has yearned for her in these two months! & for my child. God bless them – & keep them. The Lord make his face to shine upon them & be gracious to them. The Lord lift up his countenance upon them & grant them peace. Two months in prison. I have suffered – some from sickness, much from anxiety about home – much from looking thro[ugh] bars & across bayonets – but I have much to be thankful for. I have had money – not in abundance, but enough. I have had books – & several very kind letters & have been very much more comfortable than I expected to be. I wrote to Dell to day assuring her of this & I do hope the letter may get thro[ugh]. Other have got letters thro[ugh] both ways.
Once in a while, the SHC acquires intriguing artifactual items. Normally these artifacts are acquired during the acquisition of a greater collection of related manuscript material. One such artifact was acquired at the time of the gift of the Pettigrew Family Papers (SHC Collection #592): a framed portrait, in oils, of General James Johnston Pettigrew.
James Johnston Pettigrew (July 4, 1828 – July 17, 1863) was an author, lawyer, linguist, diplomat, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was a major leader in the disastrous Pickett’s Charge and was killed a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg during the Confederate retreat to Virginia.
Our records indicate that the Pettigrew portrait was painted by William Garl Brown in 1866. The portrait hangs on a wall within the SHC Curator’s office suite. It’s just another great thing about working for the SHC – enjoying the many historical treasures that surround us as we go about our daily work. We are pleased to offer this “behind-the-scenes” look at this portrait.
Often, while clicking around in the library catalog, we stumble on these intriguing little pockets of content among the holdings of the SHC. Sometimes it’s a matter of rediscovering what we forgot we had, or finding stuff that seems to be ‘hidden in plain sight.’ These serendipitous finds remind us of the great breadth and depth of the Collection and provide some fun topics to discuss and share.
John Y. Beall Papers – “Two volumes, dated ca. 1865-1899 and ca. 1935-1942, documenting the trial and execution of John Yates Beall, acting master in the Confederate Navy, for espionage and breaking the laws of war.” According to our biographical information, Beall was accused of attempting to free fellow Confederate soldiers from the confines of the prison at Johnson’s Island at Sandusky Bay, Ohio.
Letters concerning Sam Davis, 1863 – “Three letters, November-December 1863, from Union soldiers in Tennessee, concerning the execution of Sam Davis at Pulaski, Tenn., on 27 November 1863, as a Confederate spy.”
Here is a portion of a letter that was written 145 years ago today (October 13, 1863). Due to time constraints, we provide here only a partial transcript. We welcome you to visit us in order to read the entire letter in person. The letter comes from our collection of “Confederate Papers”, from Unit #23 and is labeled as “Letter, 13 October 1863, from Rhoda Casey in Pendleton, S.C., to her husband noting a wagon accident and other news.”
[Note: Punctuation and capitalization have been added for the sake of the reader. Other mistakes appear here as they occur in the original letter.]
Pendleton So. Ca.
Oct. the 13th. 1863
I’ve again seat myself to write you a few lines but then I can not say that we are all well. Walter has got his foot hurt very bad. He was at Mrs. Burnes'[?] last Thursday and Friday a helping to haul in corn and just [?] as he was going in with a load, the oxins scard and turned and threw the wagon againts a tree and his foot was smash up betwixt the tree and wagon and was hurt right bad. He has not walked after since – only on chruches. But it is a great deal better now and I think he will be walking again soon.
Then I have had no letter this week. I must know. There come one last night but it has bin raining all day so that I could not go to the office and daddy went to Pickens last Sunday and has not come back yet I think maby he will come by the time I git done writing and if he does he will will come by the office.
Then I went to Anderson last Saturday and took some things and left with Mr. Dobbins for Capt. Moore to take to you. I did not take so much for I could not git them ready. I took your one shirt and pair of drawers and two pairs of socks and some thread and two twist of tobackco and then I sent your old yellow vest that you sent home. I thought it would do you a little good maby. I did not think of sending it till a few minits before I started or I would have washed it. Then I don’t know that the clothes will suit. The drawers are very coarse, I did not make it for that, but I thout it would be very warm and would last a little while. I intend to make you some more clothes just as soon as I can. […]