Prison Life by C. M. Hutton, Chaplain of the 36th Alabama

Confederate Veteran, March, April, and July, 1911

    I have been requested to give some of my four months' experiences in Yankee prisons. As surgeons and chaplains were noncombatants, some may ask why they were subject to capture. I had no explanation of this till I was informed by Judge Ould, our commissioner for the exchange of prisoners, as he and his adjutant, Major Hatch, were conveying me to Petersburg from City Point, Va., where I had just been unconditionally released. He said: "At the beginning of the war it was understood that surgeons and chaplains would not be held. But one of our surgeons was captured while armed, and was held. Our side retaliated by holding all surgeons. The Yankees then held all chaplains in retaliation, and then we held their chaplains. All this grew out of that surgeon's mistaking his duty."

    Permit me first to introduce myself as the chaplain of the 36th Alabama Infantry, Gen. H. D. Clayton commander of brigade. I assumed duty when our regiment was located on Dauphin Way, four miles west of Mobile, in October, 1861, and remained in service till the surrender. We were transferred in 1863 to Tennessee, and served there till a short time before the close of the war, and were near Mobile again when the surrender came.

    My imprisonment was in July, August, and September, 1863, at Nashville, and the following October in Washington City. I was kindly treated at both these prisons. I have always been thankful that an overruling Providence threw me into good hands and into places of usefulness, even though a prisoner. If all our soldiers had so fared, more pleasant memories between the two sections would now be entertained of the terrible times that "tried men's souls."

    I have a most pleasant memory of Dr. T. G. Hickman, of Vandalia, Ill., the surgeon in charge of the prison hospital at Nashville. His uniform kindness for three months greatly endeared him to me. He sought and obtained my release from Gen. R. S. Granger, commandant of the post, who applied to General Rosecrans in my behalf. Our command was in active service in Tennessee. We were first encamped at Tullahoma, but soon moved to Wartra. We were glad when the command, "Halt!" was given. The fatigued men dropped upon the ground to rest, dropping guns pellmell. Colonel Woodruff ordered all gun caps removed. Despite this order, one gun was neglected. A loaded wagon came along, and Colonel Woodruff called out: "Take up those guns!" A soldier requested another man to hand him his gun. The cap had not been removed, and a jutting rock pulled the hammer back and fired the gun into a group of soldiers. One cried out: "O my leg!" It proved to be Private Allen, of Company B, whom I met since the war as a physician of Rockdale, Tex. His thigh bone was broken. It was at the gate of Mr. Huffman's residence, near Normandy, a railroad station. He was carried into the house and his limb was immediately amputated by our surgeon, Dr. Herndon.

    As Allen was recovering from the effects of chloroform he begged me to remain with him. I hesitated, knowing we were on the move and to remain meant capture. Dr. Herndon assured me they would not hold me and that I was the most suitable man to stay, especially as Mr. Huffman's family consisted entirely of ladies and he was a very old man. Private Joe Park agreed to stay with me. The first thing I did was to bury Allen's leg -  a sad duty. Within two days the Yankees were almost upon us, so Joe Park left just in time to escape.

    Two weeks later Allen had rallied sufficiently for me lo leave for my command. I took Mr. Huffman along to testify to the Federal officer in command that he heard the surgeon address me as chaplain. This availed nothing. I had not brought a blanket or any other necessary articles, and I was at once sent to Tullahoma under heavy guard. Soon I was taken to the depot, where stood a train bound for Nashville. I was put aboard and at first in a box car crammed full of standing prisoners. Seats were impossible, for we were as close as sardines in a box. The lieutenant, observing my badge (a Maltese cross), said: "I'll give you a better place." I willingly accepted, yet felt I was no more worthy than any other of the men I left. The "better place" was a car with only one other fellow prisoner, introducing himself as Dr. Lloyd, a surgeon. Not much sleep came to my eyes as I lay without a blanket upon the filthy floor at the heels of a horse, constantly fearing that he might hurt me. I recalled what Paul said: "I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content."

    Next morning our train stopped just before pulling into the station at Nashville. When a little boy came up to see the prisoners, Lloyd asked: "Buddy, can't you bring us some breakfast?" "Yes," he said, "if you are Rebels." We told him we were. He soon came with a nice, warm breakfast which we ate with relish. Lloyd said: "Let's write a note of thanks, but I haven't anything to write on." I readily assented and handed him a small company book that Captain Carpenter, of Company B, had intrusted to my care at Hoover's Gap. After writing the note, Lloyd inadvertently placed the little book in his own pocket. This escaped my attention also, but it was directed as a link in a wise, overruling providence to prepare the way for a place of usefulness to which I was led in about twenty four hours.

    In the confusion of falling into line with my fellow prisoners I lost sight of Lloyd. We were marched to the penitentiary. I found citizen prisoners there who were imprisoned for their sympathies being with the South. Among these was an intelligent lawyer who advised me to apply to the provost marshal for release. I took his advice. Before word came from the provost marshal I thought of that company book Lloyd had forgotten to return to me. I asked some fellow prisoners if they knew a prisoner named Dr. Lloyd who came with us yesterday. One man replied: "Yes, but he is not a doctor, but is a private who on the eve of capture jerked on a surgeon's uniform, so as to have an easy time." He also told me that I could find him at the prison hospital, claiming to be a surgeon. While in the penitentiary a prisoner of the 36th Alabama told me of Bunch's being there dressed in the uniform of a Yankee captain who had been a spy among us and whom Colonel Woodruff, judging from his soldierly bearing, had made our color bearer. In another article I shall have more to say of Bunch and the so called "Dr." Lloyd.

    . . .

    At the close of the last article mention was made of Bunch, our color bearer, and of Lloyd, a private, who put on a surgeon's uniform on the eve of being captured, and passed for a surgeon. I met Bunch at the penitentiary dressed in a Federal captain's uniform and endeavoring then to induce men to desert and unite in making up a company. As to his success, I have no information. The morning of the day at Hoover's Gap, near Wartrace, our men spoke of the bravery of Bunch. He had obtained a gun from one of our sharpshooters and fired it several times toward men in the enemy's lines, and said he thought he had killed a man and went down to their lines to see, Evidently this was a pretext in order to communicate with them. Possibly this led to the stampede referred to when our regiment came near being cut off.

    In his interview with me while in the Nashville penitentiary he candidly confessed that he had been sent among us to spy the fortifications about Mobile. He held a lieutenant's place then in one of our regiments. This regiment being ordered elsewhere, he got up a quarrel with the captain, so as to frame an excuse for a transfer to the 36th Alabama, then stationed near Mobile. We have already referred to Colonel Woodruff's making him our color bearer. Colonel Woodruff ultimately became better acquainted when Bunch stole his fine horse, Zollicoffer, and also his negro and took both into the Federal lines.

    As to the so called "Dr." Lloyd, who had been taken to the prison hospital, I determined to see him in order to recover the little company book that Captain Carpenter had intrusted to my care. I am a firm believer in God's providence. See his wonderful leadings here! The seeking of that little book led to a place of usefulness in this way: An order reached me from the provost marshal to report at his office. I was allowed to pass through the prison door and go unguarded to this office. I felt like a bird out of a cage, yet my rejoicing was premature. Still it was a great relief to be paroled within the limits of the city, with an order to report from time to time. I asked if the prison hospital was within the lines. I was told that it was. A two mile walk brought me to it. I found it to be a brick Baptist church used as a prison and hospital. I asked the two sentinels at the door if they knew of a prisoner named "Dr." Lloyd, who had been brought there the day before. As I didn't think it right to give him away, I thus referred to him. I was told that he had just gone to see some ladies in company with Dr. Hickman, the surgeon
in charge. It occurred to me that he was all sorts of a man a prisoner one day and calling on ladies the next.

    Before I could answer this lovely lady and accept her generous offer Dr. Hickman said to me: "We need a chaplain at the prison hospital. Your own men are there, sick, wounded, and dying. I will furnish you a room, give you a seat at my table and access to the bunks of the men as often as you like, and you may hold whatever services among them you like."

    All this was said within five minutes after I entered, and this place was offered the second day after my arrival in prison. How else can this be explained except it was done by a divine leading Hand? I thanked the lady and told her I would do all I could for her son, but must take the Doctor's offer, it being a place of wider usefulness. Drs. Hickman and Higgins, the surgeons, provided in all respects for my comfort. I made daily visits to the sick and wounded men, supplying each bunk with a Bible, and often praying with them in their dying moments, taking messages from their lips to communicate to some bereaved wife, mother, or sister, and thus about thirty letters conveying sad messages were written after I returned within our lines. On Sundays I preached to the men, I shall never forget that during the delivery of one of these sermons a man died.

    Some interesting providences occurred during my stay. As I looked across the room one day, to my utter surprise and delight I saw Dr. George Reid, who had served as a family physician on my father's farm in Greene County, Ala. A familiar face at such a time afforded untold delight. On learning that I had been paroled within the limits of the city he invited me to his home, where I spent a night. He had married a wealthy lady, and was also engaged in a lucrative cotton business. Knowing that I had been deprived in the South of the purchase of a good pocket knife, he took me to a hardware store and asked for the finest knife they had, and bought for me one costing two dollars and a half. I met him several times afterwards. On my leaving Nashville he generously loaned me $100 with which I was enabled to supply myself with many needed articles such as could not then have been purchased in the South, among which was a cloth suit in which I was subsequently married. Letters of introduction from him were of service in Louisville and Cincinnati.

    Another incident of God's providence was an acquaintance with Mrs. M. L. Cartwright, at that time a Catholic and a member of the Church served by a priest named Rosecrans, a brother of the Federal general. This gave Mrs. Cartwright great influence, and, being a warm Southern sympathizer, she often provided clothing and other needed articles for our suffering prisoners. Dr. Hickman gave her free and constant access to the prison hospital for this purpose. Learning that I was a paroled Chaplain, she entertained me one day at her home at dinner.

    A very singular circumstance just here may be interesting, illustrating the power of little things. As an expression of appreciation of her hospitality I printed by hand on a small card these words: "To Mrs. M. L. Cartwright, the soldier's friend. C. M. Hutton."

    At the close of the war I owned some real estate in Birmingham, Ala. An unknown man named Cartwright became associated with my agent. When this Cartwright was visiting his brother in Nashville, he saw this card upon the wall of his brother's parlor. He wrote me inquiring if I had printed it, and stated further that his mother was then in heaven, and that this little card was the only remaining souvenir they had of her association with Southern soldiers and that she had become a Presbyterian, her funeral being preached by Dr. McNeilly. At the Reunion of the veterans at Birmingham in 1908 a cordial greeting was extended by the two sons and daughter of Mrs. M. L. Cartwright, and I accepted invitations to their homes, and especially to one that I might see again that little card placed upon the wall and adorned with flags, a precious keepsake of their departed mother.

    Two other ladies (Germans), Mrs. Kossuth and her sister, Mrs. Tovell, Southern sympathizers, also supplied our soldiers with clothing and delicacies for the sick at the prison hospital. A very striking providence in the case of Mrs. Tovell will be reserved for our next article.

 . . .

    As mentioned at the close of the last article, we will now consider the case of Mrs. Tovell, one of the kind German ladies who, with her daughter, Augusta, and her sister, Mrs. Kossuth, made constant visits to the prison hospital, giving clothing and other needed articles to our sick and wounded men. Mrs. Tovell's husband was a Baptist preacher, and owing to his preaching the funeral of a man that the Federals had put to death, he was sent at once to the South, not even being permitted to take leave of his family. All communication between him and his family was thereby cut off, and for several months they had not heard from each other.

    Through Dr. Hickman's kindness my release had been sought. He took me before Gen. R. S. Granger, commandant of the post, who applied to General Rosecrans in my behalf. My release was ordered, but I could not then be sent directly through owing to disturbed conditions of the lines in front. Accordingly General Granger kindly gave me an order to go on parole of honor to Washington City and to the provost marshal, who was requested to further my progress South. Transportation was furnished me. As I was seated in an ambulance to be taken to the railroad station Mrs. Tovell appeared, standing near by. I called her to me to take leave of her. To her inquiry as to where I was going, I told her that I was going South. In her deep anxiety she asked me to tell Mr. Tovell about the family if I ever met him in the South. Of course I consented, and yet felt that to deliver the message to an unknown man in the South would be like "looking for a needle in a haystack."

    Strange to relate, I met the man and delivered the message before reaching my home in Alabama. It was in this remarkable way: On reaching Selma I learned that there was an interval of seven hours before I could get a train. As I was only seventy five miles from home, this delay seemed unfortunate. It was wisely directed, however. I sought the home of Mrs. Chancellor Fellows, an old friend, who had often entertained me. When I had only a few minutes more before train time, I took my hat to leave. "O," she said, "you have not met our pastor, Rev. Arthur Small." (This man was killed in the trenches in defense of Selma in Sherman's raid almost at the close of the war.) I remarked that I would not have the time to see him, for I must not miss my train. She said: "You will not miss it. He lives on the way near by. I'll get my bonnet and go with you."

    We had been in the parlor not more than five minutes when a lady unknown to me called. In my hearing she asked a gentleman: "How did you like the address of Mr. Tovell?" The singular name caught my ear, and I asked: "Who is this Mr. Tovell?" The reply was: "He is a Baptist preacher sent South for preaching the funeral of a man the Federals had put to death, and he is delivering lectures about it." I said: "How remarkable this is!"

    When Rev. Mr. Small learned that I had such a message, he said, "You must certainly see him," and he pointed out the house of the local Baptist preacher, where I met and delivered the message to Mr. Tovell. to his utter delight. This cannot be accounted for in any other way but that it was by an overruling Providence. True, the message was delayed a month owing to my detention at Washington City, yet it was his first information of his family.

    Soon after my imprisonment in Nashville a striking act of kindness was shown me by the provost marshal. Now it was the custom of soldiers in my regiment to bring to me for safekeeping articles of value in prospect of an engagement. Just preceding my capture a fine gold watch was intrusted to me. This, with my own, I carried through my entire imprisonment, one under each arm for concealment. The late Dr. L. S. Handley, [private from Company B and] of the Central Presbyterian (church, Birmingham, then a private in my regiment, brought me his purse, to which others added their money, till about $400 was placed in my care. This and a few articles of clothing were left with Allen, the wounded man whom I was attending. I had expected to return. Instead, however, I was sent on to prison. On application to the provost marshal he issued an order for these things. To get them required a special trip of six miles in the country from the nearest railroad station, Normandy. They were all safely delivered to me by express, and this kindness is surely worthy of note.

    After three months, I left Nashville. On reaching Washington City I sought the office of the provost marshal to whom I had been ordered to report. He was overwhelmed with business. The large crowd surrounding him were kept at a distance and were waited on by little pages. Every man thought his time ought to be next. After considerable time, my paper was delivered to the provost marshal, and I was admitted through the gate. He said to me: "I see you have brought a prisoner to me by the name of Hutton." I told him I was the man mentioned. "How did you come here?" he asked. I replied: "I came on parole of honor." "Well," said he, "I'll give you further attention." Whereupon he sent the paper upstairs, but it was returned without any favorable answer. I was ordered to follow a man who led me to old Capitol Prison and passed me by the sentinels into a room where I found two other chaplains and two surgeons that had been there a month or more.

    It has been said that "misery loves company." I was glad in one sense to have good company, but I was much discouraged as to a speedy release, for I was sure then that noncombatants were not exempt from imprisonment. In my first article I explained the reason. We called each other "brother," for the surgeons too seemed like brothers. One taught me to play chess, which beguiled some of the tedious hours. One day I preached the funeral of one of our men. Superintendents Wood and White took a Confederate captain and myself to the interment in the old Congressional graveyard. One of the chaplains drew up a very drastic application to the commissary for the exchange of prisoners, demanding our release. After others had signed it, they asked me to do so. I refused, saying such an application would do no good, but rather harm, and that if I had my hand in a lion's mouth I would get it out as easily as possible. I surely would not enrage him. They agreed that as I had come on parole of honor my case was more favorable than theirs.

    I got the address and wrote a very different kind of application, telling all the circumstances of my capture and that my release had already been ordered, referring to Gen. R. S. Granger as proof. An account of my release will be given in the next and concluding article.

    The very next day after my application for release had been sent Superintendent White came to our room and said: "Chaplain Hutton, get ready to leave in five minutes." After a hurried leave of friends, I was taken first to the main prison, I presume, in order that Superintendent Wood might deliver $1,500 (Confederate money) for me to take to Chief Justice Humphrey Marshal] in behalf of Federal prisoners at Belle Isle. Here I met Belle Boyd, the Confederate spy, who asked in vain to be allowed to accompany me. She then requested me to take her trunk. I confess I agreed to do so reluctantly after Wood had arranged it for me.

    On reaching the wharf where I was to take the flag of truce steamer the men who had me in charge discovered they had left my papers at the prison. We were told that Major Munford ford was uptown, but wouldn't wait five minutes on, his return. I was taken back hurriedly, yet by the time we returned the steamer, though near by, had gone.

    They left me to take a tug with the hope of overtaking the steamer should it stop to coal at Alexandria. All hope was gone, as we saw that the steamer had passed this point. I had then to take a street car and return to Wood, report my disappointment, return the $1,500 and trunk, and go back to prison. The chaplains and surgeons laughed, but I saw nothing merry about it.

    Wood kindly promised to arrange as early as possible for my return South. In two weeks he took me to Baltimore to dinner at a fine hotel and left me on parole of honor that he might return to Washington on business, telling me to be ready for the steamer to Fortress Monroe at 4 P.M. A few minutes before this hour the proprietor of the hotel, observing my name on his register marked C. S. A., inquired in my hearing for me. I told him I was the man he was seeking, He grasped my hand cordially and said: "I am in sympathy with the South, and if you will consent, I'll take you to some ladies who will gladly furnish you with a suit of clothing." I thanked him, but declined for want of time, telling him that Wood would soon come to put me aboard the steamer, and that my progress South was better than a suit.

    Our trip was at night. On our arrival early next morning at Fortress Monroe, Wood took me to General Mead's office and asked him to parole me. To this Meade said: "Then he will have to provide his own meals." Wood said: "I will look after that. You parole him." Wood kindly ordered the ambulance driver to take me to the Ocean Hotel and gave me $10 (greenbacks) to pay expenses, a letter to Justice Marshall, and $40 in Confederate money for railroad fare to Richmond, and then we parted, never to meet again. The letter was in behalf of Federal prisoners at Belle Isle.

    In an hour or less at this hotel where I dined the same men who took me there called for me to put me aboard a tug on which I was taken to the flag of truce steamer New York. As I ascended the steep side of this vessel on a rope ladder Major Mumford, the commander, met me, his only prisoner, and asked: "Are you not the chaplain that missed the steamer at Washington two weeks ago?" I replied that I was. "Why didn't you remain till I came?" I told him my papers had been left. To this he said: "I didn't need your papers, for I was present when your release was ordered."

    He was very kind and social on the way, but the most pleasant thing to me was the sight of our flag at half mast as we reached City Point, on the James. A ride of nine miles to Petersburg in the carriage in company with Judge Ould, commissary for the exchange of prisoners, and with his adjutant, Major Hatch, ended my four months' experiences as a prisoner, with profound gratitude to God for his wonderful providence over me.

    Now a few more lines in reference to Dr. T. G. Hickman, of Vandalia, Ill., the surgeon in charge of the prison hospital at Nashville. As already related, on the second day of my imprisonment he gave me the position of chaplain for this hospital, where I received the utmost kindness at his hands for three months. At his intercession I was released. He wrote for the VETERAN of December, 1904, an article setting forth his treatment of the prisoners in his hands, and he mentioned my name. I learned this by a personal letter to me in 1890 while I was pastor of a Church in Temple, Tex., he having obtained my address from Rev. J. H. McNeilly, D.D., of Nashville. This was twenty seven years after I left the prison. He told me of his marriage to a sister of Maj. Charles W. Anderson, the adjutant general of Gen. N. B. Forrest.

    I determined then to plan a union with him. After much correspondence, this was finally effected at the U. C. V.  Reunion at Nashville in 1898. Comrade Cunningham pointed him out to me. I could have thrown my arms around him.

    Thirty five years had left its marks upon us both, so that neither would have know each other had we met elsewhere. First we visited the prison hospital, now a fine brick Baptist church. Here we recalled many events of the past. We next went to Thuss' gallery and had our photos taken in a group, a literal union of the blue and the gray. We parted, never to meet again on earth.

    Since these articles were begun Comrade S. A. Cunningham wrote the following: "You will be sorry to learn that your old friend, Dr. Hickman, died some twelve years ago, and his good wife has joined him on the other shore. They had two nice boys whom I know very pleasantly. Will inclose a page giving the article about Mrs. Hickman." Since the date given of Dr. Hickman's death and of our meeting in 1898 are the same, he must have died soon after we parted. May we have a more glorious reunion beyond.

        Prison life in Nashville by Chaplain Hutton

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