Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Journal of POW Sgt. John C. Ely: Curse on Copperheads after Lincoln death

(Library of Congress)

Sgt. John Clark Ely saw highs and lows over the next week. The member of the 115th Ohio Volunteer Infantry mourned the loss of President Abraham Lincoln while at the same time seeing comrades being sent to freedom from their parole camp near Vicksburg, Ms. The former Andersonville POW awaited his turn. (Journal entries courtesy of Andersonville National Historic Site.)

April 15, 1865 (Saturday)
Very heavy rain in night but cleared up through day. P.M. prisoners from Andersonville had meeting and passed resolutions expressive of thanks to the sanitary and Christian commissions for their good things so generously given.

April 16, 1865 (Sunday)
Beautiful morning and day, wrote to Julia. The Illinois men were paroled today and getting ready for going North to Benton Barracks St. Louis.

(top of page torn off)
sad, sad (  ) of this morning our president, honest old Abe was shot by J. Wilks Booth in Washington on Friday night in theater and also W.H. Seward, Secr. of State, his throat cut from ear to ear and cannot live. The greatest man of the day and the best friends of the South, none would do for them as they. Oh, may the curse of Almighty fall upon northern sympathizers and copperheads who by their aid and countenance have helped this thing, our president gone, can it be true, too true

April 19, 1865 (Wednesday)
Fine morning, Mosuria men parolled today.

April 20, 1865 (Thursday)
Fine day, the men who have been parolled were sent away today, some 1600, may our turn come soon.  Reported that Secr. Seward is likely to recover. Hope he may so as to still preside over the affairs of our nation.

April 21, 1865 (Friday).
Camp reorganized, each state troops put in same company. Have charge of Co. I, all eastern and middle state troops parolled today.


By the time of these journal entries, Ely had been away from Andersonville for a little more than three weeks. What were conditions like in April 15-20, 1865, back at the infamous camp in central Georgia? Here's what Stephanie Steinhorst of Andersonville National Historic Site tells the Picket:

"Prisoners are being pushed in and out of Andersonville, they get repeatedly marched out, loaded on trains and then turned back to the stockade proving the chaotic nature of the last weeks of war. …

"Prison population remains about 3,400 men, with single deaths reported. The last part of the week most of the 3,000 men are moved to Macon and Jacksonville. By the 21st, there are 361 in the stockade and for the rest of the month less than 50"

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