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A POW Letter From Johnson's Island

Benjamin Berry Mullins was born on October 11th, 1825 in the Menzie Bottoms along the Licking River in Pendleton County, Kentucky. Benjamin was the seventh child of Richard and Rebecca Berry Mullins. Father Richard would eventually marry three times and have seventeen children and 114 grandchildren. Benjamin would marry Sarah Ann Daugherty in 1856 and this union would lead to eight children.

Benjamin did not initially join the Confederate cause when the Civil War started. Instead, he would wait until the Confederates invaded Kentucky during the late summer of 1862. Mullins would enlist on September 17th at a place known as Big Eagle, Kentucky,[1] and would be elected as captain of Company C, First Battalion Mounted Rifles on October 10th.[2] The captain would be mustered into Confederate service on November 20th, 1862, to serve for three years. He was described as having a florid complexion, standing nearly six feet in height, with brown hair and hazel eyes.

Mullins’ service can be difficult to trace. According to one source[3] he resigned his commission on January 1st, 1863, yet his service records indicate that he was captured near Farmington, Tennessee on October 7th, 1863.[4] His Confederate officers card shows that he was captured at McMinnville (no date given), which is sixty miles from Farmington. And yet another source mentions that he was captured near Shelbyville. Regardless of his place of capture, Mullins’ name appears on the Roll of Prisoners of War at Nashville on October 13th and the next day he was sent to Louisville, Kentucky to await exchange. On October 15th Mullins would start the trek to the Confederate prisoner of war camp on Johnson’s Island, Ohio. On May 19th, 1865, after spending nineteen months as a prisoner Mullins would take the oath of amnesty and be released.

While on Johnson’s Island, Mullins would keep a correspondence with his wife Sarah Ann, who was back home in Pendleton County and caring for three young children (the other five Mullins children were born after the war). On Sunday, August 28th, 1864, Mullins would pen the following letter to Sarah Ann. Paper was at a premium, so Mullins filled a page from edge to edge and did not use paragraphs while using some interesting phonetic spelling.

My dear wife…youre kind letter of the 21st was gladly received yesterday. I had began to feel very uneasy at it had bin so much longer this time then any other time between youre letters since I have bin here. Knowing of the troubles in that country which you can but no increased my anxiety to here from you. I expect if you could now my feelings for the last week you would think me chilais or like some wemin I have seen that is always imajing a gloomy picture a head. I had began to think you was prohibited the privalege of writing to me or you surely would have written although I received Suse letter of the 19th stating you was all well but Etta, though she did not say whether you had bin writing regular or intended to or not & I thought you wuld have had her say something about it if you had not bin writing reguler.[5] This has bin desidedly the lonsomest & aperenty the longest week I have expereanced since I have bin here on that acount. I was very much received as you may imajin by the recept of youre letter & to learn that you are all getting along even as well as you are. This leaves me in the enjoyment of my usuel good health & fine spirits again & I hope I will receive youre letters reguler though if it is not conveniant of you havent the spare time to write so often as you have bin in the habit of writing let me no it & I will not be uneasy. I have bin writing reguler as usuel to you since I have hered from you before & will continue to if promited & nothing hapens to me as I am very fond of writing to you judging of youre anxietys by my owne & I have nothing else to do or think of or I could pas the time much better. The letter I wrote on Sunday last & started it with Marys brest pin in it it came back on Wednesday as it had no counterband marks on it I thought it was returned threw mistake & sent it out the second time & it was returned yesterday just as I sent it out.[6] I have hered since there was an order in the Buliten bord last week stating prisners woud not be allowed to send anything out in letters if that is so it is all explained.[7] I will make some enquirys & ascertain if it is the case if so tell Mary she will have to waite until I have a chance to express Etta necklis & I will send it along if not promited to send it in a letter tell her I think I have made a tolerable good job of it without disfiguring the coin any & had Ed carved on it Sarah there is some little talk of exchange again which is inspiring some of us with a livly hope of a spedy return to oure several postes in oure much loved Dixie land. I am as even among the most hopful & redy & will to beleive any good nuse & enjoy it until it is contradicted I do hope & feel confident we will be exchanged this fall sometime although I think I can bare imprisonmet as well as any one I nevr could becom contented & used to it. The longer I stay the wors I want to get back. May God guide & protect you from all harm & dainger is the constant prare of youre husband.

B. B. M.

[1] Big Eagle is most likely Big Eagle Creek, north of Lexington, that winds its way west, then north, then west before emptying into the Kentucky River south of Carrollton. [2] Researching Confederate Kentuckians often leads to confusion or dead ends due to ever changing unit designations and reorganizations. The First Battalion Kentucky Mounted Rifles is one example of a unit that had two designations as it was also known as the Third Battalion Kentucky Mounted Rifles. [3]Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky, Confederate Kentucky Volunteers, War 1861-65, 1915. [4] As there is a requisition for fifty-five haversacks and fifty canteens and other items received on February 20th, 1863, and signed for by Mullins, the resignation of January 1st is most certainly incorrect.

[5] It is unknown who Suse might be, but Etta is Benjamin’s daughter, born August 6th, 1863. [6] Mary is Benjamin’s sister Mary Frances, who had married William H. Bullock at the age of sixteen. [7] The bulletin board was the main source of communication for the prisoners in the camp.

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