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Schuylkill County PA Civil War POW Letters
Civil War Letters written by Sgt. Francis ReedLetters of Francis Reed of the 7th Cavalry, 80th Regiment, describing his capture and the method of exchange that was used early in the war.
Nashville Tenn. July 19, 1862You no doubt by this time have heard of the Battle of Murfreesboro and are uneasy in regard of me. But I have been fortunate enough to escape without as much as a scratch.
You know doubt will like to now all the particulars of the fight, I will try to give you them as near as possible, I was in it from the commencement till our surrender on Sunday the 13th at about half after 3 O'clock in the morning Gen. Forrest made a dash upon our camp. Discharging their guns into the tents and killing the men in their beds. We were not aware of an enemy near they completely surprised us. Most of our men had gone out on a scout about 12 o'clock or their would have been more killed than was. 4 men out of our battalion were killed and 10 wounded.
The 9th Michigan was encamped behind us and they soon came to our relief and the rebels skedaddled and they took with them a great number of prisoners and took the men out of their beds and would not allow them to put on their clothes. Henry Snyder and eight men of our company were taken barefooted and bare headed and two were taken naked. The rebels made them run 12 miles over the rough stony turnpike and did not allow them to rest till they had gone 28 miles.
I should have been taken prisoner in the first charge if it had not been for the man who slept with me. He pulled down the tent and would not allow me to get out. So I lay under my tent till they were leaving the camp, then I crept out and gave them a good bye shot. There shots fell thick and fast around me for a while but none touched me. We followed them into town were one hundred men fought them from 4 in the morning till 12 o'clock at noon.
When about 25 hundred surrounded us and demanded our surrender. Col. Parkehurst concluded it was best to surrender as our force was to small to hold out. Major Seibert was very angry when it was announced to lay down arms and give our selves up as prisoners of war. He had fought all morning with a private uniform on. He escaped without a wound or a scratch. After we surrendered the rebel General said private property should be respected and we packed up our clothes and put them on our company wagons. The rebels burnt our tents and everything that was in them that they did not want. We were marched 22 miles then put up for the night and the next morning taken 3 miles beyond McMinnville. The next day they Paroled the whole party except the commissioned officers they are to be sent to Atlanta, Ga. The night at McMinnville they took all our clothes from us and broke open the officers trunks and took everything away, they did not leave us as much as a shirt to change.
We got to Nashville on Friday night nearly dead, we had to foot the whole way and from Friday night to Saturday night we had only got three meals.
After being released Reed and the rest of the men stayed in Nashville for 5 days and were then sent to Camp Parole in Annapolis, Md. The following excerpts are from letters Reed wrote while being interred at Camp Parole.
July 31, 1862Camp Parole, Annapolis, Md.
We arrived hear yesterday morning, we heard that exchanging has been stopped. We are all very anxious to be exchanged to go back and square accounts with some of the rebels in the vicinity of Murfreesboro. We are entirely out of money. The rebels took all my clothes they did not leave me anything except what I had on, I have no change and I am pretty dirty. Harry Snyder is situated worse than I am, he has no shoes. He has come about 800 miles barefooted. If we do not get exchanged I shall try and get a furlough from here for a few weeks.
September 3, 1862Camp Parole
Why I did not write to you I was waiting to see what they are going to due with us. I was in hope we should know before this time. All are anxious to be exchanged we have sent several petitions to Secretary Stanton asking to be exchanged, but no attention is paid to our petitions. I have wrote to the Captain to go to General Commanding the Western Division to have us exchanged, but have received no answer yet. I only wish we could get out of this place. Never have I been so discouraged as since being here. Everyone is dissatisfied all want to go home or be exchanged. So their is continual growling, we are comfortably quartered now, the boys will all have blankets and tomorrow they will all get a new suit from head to foot. We have plenty to eat and drink coffee twice a day, we have fresh bread every day, fresh beef three times a week, salt pork three times a week, bean soup three or four times a week and salt beef at any time, so we don't suffer for anything.
On September 9, 1862 Reed states that the camp now has 11,350 men confined there.
September 12, 1862Camp Parole
We all have new clothes and look like soldiers again. George Fraser of Company K tried to leave camp on Wednesday last but was stopped, and is now in jail for mutiny in camp. He was going to take 100 men with him, and if my foot would not have been sore I should have made the attempt with him. We have not been paid yet but are promised from day to day. We know nothing about exchange, fifty different stories are raised daily. Our camp increases every day, we number about 4000 men now.
September 29, 1862Harrisburg, Pa.
We arrived at Harrisburg on last evenings train. We expect to leave for Cincinnati this afternoon, but the boys are coming in so slow I doubt very much that we will get off for two or three days.
Reed left Harrisburg for the seat of war on October 3. Arrived back with his regiment on the 13 of October at Louisville, Ky.
Contributed by Stu Richards
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