"One Month a Prisoner"
Benjamin L. Johnston
Company H

Source:  Brookville Republican, July 15 and 29, 1863

Courtesy of Patricia Steele

We have been furnished by Rev. James Johnston of Winslow township, with the following extracts from letters of his son, Mr. B[enjamin] L. Johnston, of Company H, 105th P. V., who was wounded in the battle of Fair Oaks and at Gettysburg received a contusion on the right leg with a grape shot, and a bullet through the right shoulder when he was captured and remained a prisoner a month. He writes as follows:
"I came to be taken as follows: Our regiment was retreating; I stopped a moment to fire and then tried to catch up with the regiment, loading on the run. My leg was quite painful from a bruise I had received about half an hour before, from a grapeshot. While in this situation, I received a ball through my shoulder. It did not knock me down, but staggered me so that it was difficult to keep my feet, so I layed down behind a trtee among some other wounded, when the rebel line ran a short distance past us, and sent us to the rear. They halted us on the top of a hill for the night, but my wounds was so painful that I could not sleep. Early next morning I saw Gen. Lee. He appears to be about 65 years of age; I saw him several times afterwards, and took care to notice his bearing towards others. As to his character, I do not admire him; for, in the face of facts, he published to his army the most unblushing falsehoods. He told them they had gained a compete victory at Gettysburg, while at the same time I could see his defeat as early as the morning of the 3d, for they were sending empty wagons to the front, and on the same road, wagons were going to the rear, loaded with all kinds of baggage and in the greatest disorder.

"They kept us here there till the 4th, and then marched us, through rain and mud, six or eight miles. I had nothing to cover me except my coat, and when it became wet it was so heavy on my shoulder that I could scarcely keep up under it. On the evening of the 6th, after marching all day, we passed through Waynesboro a little after dark. They still marched us on in the rear of the wagon trains so slowly, that when daylight came, we had only made six miles, having been on our feet all night. About 9 o'clock we passed through Hagerstown, and shortly afterwards came to where our cavalry had fought them the day before; some of our dead were lying on the road and the fields, stripped of pants and coats, and some entirely naked. About noon they halted us near Williamsport, and lay there till the 10th; they then ferried us over the river, and there separated the wounded from the well, and brought us back to Williamsport, sending the well to Winchester. The citizens of Williamsport took good care of us for three days. On the evening of the 13th we were marched down to Falling Water, and crossed the river on a pontoon bridge just before dark. At dark it began to rain, and we had to march through the rain and mud eleven miles and then lie down on the wet ground.

"During the first nine days, they just gave us 24 ounces of flour and about 2 lbs. of fresh beef. We could not have lived on this had we not bought from the guards at ruinuous prices; for instance, a piece of bread--half what one would eat at a time--one dollar. Sometimes we would see one of them with a small piece of bread, and ask him what he would take for it; on his replying "one dollar," some one would reach over and say, "There, I'll give you two."

"On the 15th we got to Bunker Hill, and lay there four days; we then started for Richmond, and passed through Berryville, Milwood, Front Royal, Gainesville, and Culpepper, we taking the cars at the latter point for Richmond. On the 25th we were put on Belle Island, and were there just one week, leaving it on the evening of August 1st. On the 2nd we took the cars for City Point, where we went aboard the flag of truce boat, "New York," and reached Fortress Monroe before dark, and a little after dark started for Annapolis, where we arrived on the morning of the 3d at 9 o'clock. They took us about half a mile from the warf (sic), and gave us first an entire suit of clothing, including blankets, then some soap and sent us to the water to take off the rags and filth of the Southern Confederacy. We threw off our old clothing, and with it, of course, the Belle Islanders.

"I had been in rebeldom just one month, and will just mention a fact or two, as a contrast between the U. S. and C. S. When we left Richmond, they took every thing from us--tin cups and all; so we had to do without water till we got on the boat. Well, when the rebel prisoners left our boat, our men gave among 750 of them, 500 tin cups and a days rations of bread and beef.

"The rations on Belle Island were 5 ounces of bread, one of fresh beef, or one ounce of beef and a pint of muddy water with a few beans, or a little rice in it, twice a day; breakfast at 11, and dinner at 4. This was the best fare I got while with them, and, I tell you I got hollow checks; but I think I shall soon begin to feel right, for we are well fed, have plenty of room for exercise, and salt water to bathe in at any hour of the day. The hour I have chosen is just before sunrise. I have tried it three or four times and the effect upon my wound is remarkable."






U. S. C. T.

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