The Civil War: Grandfather Held Prisoner at Rock Island

Grandfather was in the Confederate Army
and was taken prisoner. I have a drawing of the prison at Rock Island where he was. It was drawn by a
fellow prisoner and dated 1863. Following are excerpts from letters which
Grandfather wrote home to his family.

Mississippi, Jan. 2, 1863: I am tolerable well. We heard there had been a fight
at Murfreesboro, Tenn., and we had taken 16,000 prisoners and
30 cannon. I hope it is so.

Mississippi, Feb. 7, 1863: We have had no fight here yet. The enemy is camped
on the other side of the river. There was one gunboat went down the river. We
shot at it like everything, but she went ahead. We haven’t much chance with
their gunboats. Provisions are powerful high. Pork without salt is worth 50 and
bacon one dollar. Corn very high. I heard yesterday there had been another
fight at Murfreesboro,
and we whipped them. The talk is that the Yanks are leaving here going to re-enforce

Misssissippi, Feb. 27, 1863: Times is as hard as you ever heard of. We are
getting beef and corn bread, but the best kind of beef is so poor it reels as
it walks. The corn is just hominy. There is nothing to sell and what there is
so high a private can’t buy anything to eat. Bacon is one dollar per pound,
potatoes four dollars a bushel, chickens two dollars a piece and eggs a dollar
twenty-five a dozen.

Yanks sent one boat down the river, and we took it about the mouth of the Red
River and then they sent another one, and the one we had captured of theirs and
another one of ours got after it and sunk it and took all the men. There was
twelve guns on the two boats.

Mississippi, April 14, 1863: I have been sick about five weeks. I can just go
about the camp. For about three weeks I could not go about at all. The boys
waited on me the best they could but there is nothing a sick person can eat.
The Yanks are still over the river. There is some cannonading occasionally.
Tell the boys to work hard at home. Now is the time one man at home can make as
much as ten in the army. I am very lonesome and sick.

Island, Illinois, Oct. 24, 1864: I have been here eleven months. I seen a very
hard time. It is the worst part of my life so you can guess what kind of fare
we have in prison. Some of the Roane
County boys have joined
the Union Army. I will give you their names.

Among his letters and papers is one
from the secretary of war granting a leave to paroled prisoners at Richmond, Virginia,
March 12, 1865.

When he was a very old man, Grandfather was spry enough to
dance a jig when they played “Dixie.”

James E. Hall
Lamar, Colorado

Back in 1955 a call
went out from the editors of the then
CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of
letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in
their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell.
So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and
in 1956, the first
My Folks title – My
Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the
shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the
My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true
tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available
to our growing online community.