Colonel Thomas Hardeman, Jr
Georgia UDC Chapter 2170 Macon
www.georgiaudc.com

 

 

THE IMMORTAL SIX HUNDRED 

 

BRIEF STRONG HISTORIC FACTS.

Judge H. H. Cooke, one of the "Immortal Six Hundred," in an address to his fellow sufferers at the Memphis Reunion said:

Comrades:

I am indeed pleased to meet you again. Since our last meeting at Birmingham in 1908 we have had cause for sorrow.

Comrades George W. Finley, George K. Cracraft, W. H. Frizzell, J. L. Lytton, A. J. Kirkman, W. E. Allen, and U. G. Demas have passed from the trials and sorrows of this world.

Since we first met as the Six Hundred on the Crescent City at Fort Delaware more than forty four years ago many of our number have passed to the land of spirits. About five hundred and forty are on the other side of the river, and only forty two remain to tell the story of the Six Hundred. May we not say that the Six Hundred are all present with us to day, for how can the brave, the faithful, the conscientious, and the true ever be separated? 

You ask me to repeat again the story of the Six Hundred, but why repeat it, for we all know it too well? Many of the Six Hundred were cut off from this life by starvation in young manhood. Who can or will say that it is wrong or improper to repeat a true story of 1864 and 1865? The truth must bring good and not evil results.

On the 20th of August, 1864, six hundred Confederate officers were selected at Fort Delaware and sent to Charleston, S. C., and placed under fire of the Confederate guns. Our breakfast was four moldy crackers and one ounce of meat, and our dinner was one half pint of bean soup, we had no supper. This treatment upon Morris Island continued for about forty days. What led up to this cruel retaliation is not very clear. The Washington government did not then inform us, and has not since done so. From the official records such as have been made and preserved we can learn that much credence was given the stories of deserters and negroes and no effort made to verify the truth of these statements.

There never were any Union soldiers of war under fire of their own guns at Charleston. There never were any prisoners of war treated harshly or cruelly by order of the Confederate authorities.

The truth is that the Confederate government was not intentionally responsible for the suffering of Federal prisoners. The Richmond government was at all times willing and anxious to exchange prisoners, and was willing to do and did do all that was possible to be done to feed and care for Federal prisoners.

 We are indeed rejoiced to make this statement without the fear of successful contradiction.

It is love, sympathy, and pity that distinguish men from the brute.

 

It will some day be declared that the South had a much higher and a more refined Christian civilization than did the North. This point will be settled to a great extent by the manner in which the two governments carried on the war and the manner in which prisoners were treated.

Which government, the Washington or the Richmond, displayed the highest standard of Christian civilization? Having more provocation, yet we fought and conducted the great war more in accordance with the high and humane principles of Christianity! 

There is one matter about which I feel that I must speak. We were sent to Fort Pulaski and then a portion of the Six Hundred were sent to Hilton Head, and during the months of December, 1864, and January and February, 1865, we were fed upon ten ounces of rotten corn meal and pickles. The corn meal was ground at Brandy Wine Mills in 1861. It was a brutal mind that conceived the corn meal and pickle diet.

On this diet of rotten corn meal with no meat or vegetables scurvy soon came to add to our sufferings. We could not eat the pickles. It took stout hearts to bear the cruelties practiced upon us. But our little band remained true and faithful almost to a man. This will forever be a monument more durable than brass to the honor, virtue, patriotism, and sincerity of the Southern soldier.

On the 6th of February, 1865, medical officers came from Savannah and inspected our condition and reported that we were in a condition of great suffering and exhaustion for want of food and clothing, but it was sometime after this, and about the 15th of February, 1865, before we received relief.

Had this treatment continued two weeks longer, there would not have been one of us left alive.

When we left Morris Island, we supposed we were to be treated as prisoners of war, and our treatment was good for about ten days. Why the Washington government ordered, sanctioned, or permitted this cruel and inhuman treatment at this time has not been explained and cannot be justified or excused.  

On August 27, 1864, General Grant ordered that the Six Hundred should not be exchanged. He preferred to feed Southern soldiers to fighting them, even if his own men must suffer in Confederate prisons, where there was not sufficient food to give them.

The government at Richmond had made every effort to relieve the condition of the prisoners of war, but the Washington government had rejected every proposition. At this time the Confederate government was offering to return all sick and disabled Federal prisoners without exchange. The Washington government had only to send ships to receive from Southern prisons all of the sick and disabled.

I am proud that in the midst of all this suffering we were true and faithful to our ideals, that we were willing  to meet death upon the battlefield and from starvation in prison in defense of local self government and our rights as citizens of the States. We know what has been and we know what is, but we do not know what might have been.

It is well with those who have passed over the river to the shades of peaceful rest. We know not what the coming hour veiled in thick darkness brings to us. If we say what is, is best, then indeed there is no incentive to improve conditions. We submit to what is from necessity, and as good citizens cheerfully accept present results and energetically join in every effort to improve conditions.

 

BY VIRGINIA FRAZER BOYLE.

 

Forty two days under fire of our own guns, Morris Island, Charleston Harbor. Sixty five days on rotten corn meal and pickle. Eighteen days on Prison Ship Crescent.

I would sing a song of heroes, where grim courage opened  wide

The throttle valve of valor with a test past human ken,

I would hang a golden scroll of fame where each Immortal  died

And where that ragged line of gray stood forth the kings of men.

They shall troop through History's pages, when eternal truth  shall write

The screed of their integrity through agony and grief.

The world shall know the glory and the story of their might

The might of their endurance through the strength of their belief.

In the fever heat of battle men have died for what they thought,

Have rotted in the trenches or have filled an unknown grave,

Have gangrened in the still white wards but after fields well  fought

In the clash of honest warfare for the cause they sought to save.

These are heroes, and we hail them, whether on the road of  life

Or sleeping in the low green tents that honor proudly keeps,

But grander still the warriors held as captives of the strife,

Who kept their knighthood spotless through the slime the dungeon steeps.

Tossed on the crest of hatred, helpless targets of man's rage,

With hope deferred and hunger gnawing through their  vitals' core,

With grim starvation stalking where death only could assuage,

These men of battle kept their faith and told it o'er and o'er.

But they lived to tell their story in the sunlight of to day

Lived to twine a fadeless garland for their fallen ones bereft,

And with heads bowed low in reverence gentle homage we  would pay

To the dauntless old Six Hundred, to the remnant that is  left.

I would sing a song of heroes, where grim courage opened  wide

The throttle valve of valor with a test past human ken,

I would hang a golden scroll of fame where each Immortal  died

And where that ragged line of gray stood forth the kings of men

 

 

 

Virginia Frazer Boyle was a busy woman during the Reunion, performing her duties with the

C. S. M. A, looking after her Drum and Fife Corps, and reading four poems during the three days.
Of course Confederate poems are spontaneous with her. They would make a large book.
Some one said she could write one of those when asleep, and in reply she said she would be awake ere it was finished.

The foregoing was read at the luncheon the Harvey Mathes Chapter gave to the

 "Immortal Six Hundred" at Mrs. Collier's. Mrs. Boyle in referring to the survivors said:

"These brave old fellows, after all they have suffered, have the grit to want to erect a
monument to their fellows before they die. So after I read the poem as a member of the
Memorial Association I volunteered a subscription, and in less than five minutes nearly
$200 was subscribed as a beginning. I think that the South has produced the greatest people the world ever saw."

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This site last updated 01/16/2011                                      Col. Thomas Hardeman, Jr.  UDC Chapter 2170 Macon, Ga.

 

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