First Sergeant William A. Hope of the 98th Illinois, Company E, related his experience as a POW in Andersonville during a reunion held on December 12, 1898 at Palestine, Illinois. The following was his experience as he told it.
"At Dalton. Ga. in May 1864 we made a feint on the rebels in order to draw them off, so as to attack Rome. Wilder's brigade, on the left two to three miles of Dalton, found the rebels in force and we fell back. I was sent on a foraging expedition. Though if I would get a long distance away for line would get better forage. Several miles from the lines came to a large barn, where there was plenty of everything, and while in the barn hear the picket shot----Formed my men in line-six of us, 20 rebels; we were forced to run dismounted but was too late, I attempted to mount but two guns were leveled at me and I was forced to surrender. I was taken to Dalton and put in guard house. I had nothing to eat for two days. Many rebels came to talk--all wanted to know what we did with rebel deserters. Told them we disarmed them and sent them home...met a man whom I knew; he was in the rebel army but wanted to get away. (Comrade Hope then exhibited a small wooden spoon he made at Dalton, which was afterwards used to distribute rations at Andersonville prison) In leaving Dalton we were put in stock cars and were packed so close we had to stand up all the way to Andersonville from six in the morning until after dark. We marched into the pen and many we completely exhausted. I was put in charge of a squad of 90 men--had to be accountable for them, and divide rations out to them, which were so meager I divided them with my wooden spoon. A gang of prisoner known as "raiders" had committed several murders and became so bold in thefts, Wirz (Andersonville Commander Henry Wirz) ordered other prisoners to arrest and try them which was done--found guilty and hanged. The suffering of the prisoners was horrible-no shelter, no clothing, food scarce and of very inferior quality, water filthy. Just beyond the "deadline" water was cleared pure but any prisoner reaching beyond the "deadline" was shot; and the rebel that did the shooting got 30 days furlough. One day there came an awful rain and right in the middle of camp there burst forth a spring of pure water which we name Providence Spring; as it was regarded as an act of God. This supply of pure water prevented much suffering. Our rations consisted of a species of cow peas and meal which cooked in a large iron pan and stirred with a wooden paddle! Millions of flies covering it! The more flies that fell in the better the food; answered he purpose of meat. For lack of proper food, clothing and shelter prisoners suffered as no human could imagine without having witnessed it.
"Of out our two companies Joseph Shaw of D and Joseph Hook and Moses Leatherman of E were in this prison with me, and all of them died. Their sufferings were awful; Leatherman was dying by inches and very much dispirited. Almost his last words to me were; "if I could only get a bit from the slop bucket at home, I would die happy." I gave these three comrades all my spare time and did all in my power to alleviate their misery. Every morning the dead wagon would come inside the stockade and the dead were piled like cordwood. It was a gruesome sight, hauled out and hurled in trenches. One morning a prisoner "played off dead" but in piling them in the trench they found one short. After that Wirz ordered that a bayonet be run into each body so that it would not occur again. I was fortunate in being placed in charge of a squad as it entitled me to an extra ration, and by this means could divide with our most deplorable cases of sickness, and I thank God that thought this instrumentality much distress was relieved. After a long confinement in this prison, in company with one thousand others, I was sent to Florence and was exchanged."
NOTES: Speaker William Hope was in Andersonville for nine months, and was an invalid for nearly nine years requiring constant attention. He is buried Crawford County, Illinois.
1st Sgt. Joseph Hook, Company E, was the first mention to die of scurvy on 6-17-1864 and is buried in Grave 2098. He was 31.
Pvt. Joseph B. Shaw of Company B 98th Illinois was captured ay Buzzard Roost Gap and died 8-30-1864. The GAR Post 135 at Annapolis, Illinois was named after him. He is in Plot 7315. He enlisted at age 19.
Pvt. Moses Leatherman, a 25 year old blacksmith from Palestine, Illinois, died 10-14-1864 and is buried in Grave 10,896