Tag Archives: The Charleston Mercury
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The Yankee Prisoners at Andersonville (1864)

This item appeared in the August 26, 1864 issue of The Charleston Mercury. This newspaper is part of our Civil War Collection, Part I: A Newspaper Perspective. A Newspaper Perspective contains major articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

A correspondent of the Atlanta Confederacy says:

Andersonville was an interesting and novel spectacle to me. The Yankee prisoners within the stockade, about 30,000 in number, when closely viewed, resemble more in their motions a hive of bees seen through a glass opening that anything else I can think of. The area of the stockade is being rapidly increased by General Winder, who is evidently desirous of doing all in his power to make them comfortable.

Detailed plan of Andersonville Prison Camp, showing Sweetwater Lick to the north, and the Southwestern & Enfaula Railroad to the east. Shows the main forts, stockade and cemetery by Robert Knox Sneden (1832-1918).

Detailed plan of Andersonville Prison Camp, showing Sweetwater Lick to the north, and the Southwestern & Enfaula Railroad to the east. Shows the main forts, stockade and cemetery by Robert Knox Sneden (1832-1918).

They have thousands of little huts and tents, variously constructed, which seem to protect them from the scorching rays of the sun and the inclemency of the weather generally. Gen. W. informed me that very soon the lumber would be procurable to put up temporary shanties for their comfort.

A fine but small stream of water runs through the stockade, supplying them with water for bathing and other purposes. I saw hundreds of them bathing in this stream at once. Others, not engaged in bathing, were walking about among their fellows, each, in the language of the famous ballad of Young Tamerlane, ‘mother naked man.’ I learn that many of them have bartered away nearly all their clothing for tobacco. On the whole, their condition, bad as it is, and bad as it deserves to be, seemed better than could have been expected.

In spite, however, of every effort to treat them with humanity, their mortality is great, averaging about one hundred per day. About 2000 are in hospital. Over 36,000 have been received since the establishment of Andersonville as a military prison.

The prisoners are said to be very docile, but greatly exasperated at the Royal Ape (President Lincoln) for not exchanging them. They were greatly elated last evening at finding a paragraph in one of our newspapers stating that a general exchange of prisoners would soon be resumed.

The defences of Andersonville are admirably planned by the skillful veteran, General Winder. Formidable batteries of artillery bear directly on the prisoners, in the event of an emeute; and strong works, with artillery, defend the place against hostilities from without. A strong force of infantry is there also. Raiders would find themselves woefully mistaken if they were to attempt the liberation of the prisoners.’

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

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Confederate Conscription Exemptions in April 1862

The first general American military draft was enacted by the Confederate government on April 16, 1862, more than a year before the federal government did the same. The Confederacy took this step because it had to; its territory was being assailed on every front by overwhelming numbers, and the defending armies needed men to fill the ranks.

The compulsory-service law was very unpopular in the South because it was viewed as a usurpation of the rights of individuals by the central government, one of the reasons the South went to war in the first place.

Under the Conscription Act, all healthy white men between the ages of 18 and 35 were liable for a three-year term of service. The act also extended the terms of enlistment for all one-year soldiers to three years.

These are the original exemptions included in that first conscription law.  Additional exemptions were added later.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

Exemptions Under the Conscription Law of Congress

The following exemption bill was passed by Congress, and signed by the President just before the adjournment:

A bill to be entitled ‘An act to exempt certain persons from enrollment for service in the armies of the Confederate States:

SECTION 1. The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That all persons who shall be held to be unfit for military service under the rules to be prescribed by the Secretary of War…

  • all in the service or employ of the Confederate States
  • all judicial and executive officers of Confederate or State Governments
  • the members of both Houses of Congress, and of the Legislatures of the several States and their respective officers
  • all clerks of the officers of the State and Confederate Governments allowed by law
  • all engaged in carrying the mails
  • all ferrymen on post routes
  • all pilots and persons engaged in the marine service, and in actual service on river and railroad routes of transportation
  • telegraphic operatives and ministers of religion in the regular discharge of ministerial duties
  • all engaged in working iron mines, furnaces and foundries
  • all journeymen printers actually employed in printing newspapers
  • all presidents and professors of colleges and academies, and all teachers having as many as twenty scholars
  • superintendents of the public hospitals, lunatic asylums, and the regular nurses and attendants therein, and the teachers employed in the institutions for the deaf and dumb and blind
  • in each apothecary store now established one apothecary in good standing, who is a practical druggist
  • superintendents and operatives in wool and other factories, who may be exempted by the Secretary of War, shall be, and are hereby, exempted from military service in the armies of the Confederate States.

Collection: The Civil War – Part I: A Newspaper Perspective
Publication: The Charleston Mercury
Date: April 26, 1862
Top Image: Southern “Volunteers” by Currier & Ives ca. 1862


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What Shall be Done with the Yankee Prisoners? [1862]

This letter to the Editor of the Charleston Mercury, published under the pseudonym “Philanthropos,” ran on July 12, 1862.

To the Editor of the (Charleston) Mercury:

The possession of an immense number of Yankee prisoners, captured during the flight of the grand army of Gen. McClellan from the lines before Richmond, makes it an important matter to decide how the said captives can be used to most advantage. It is suggested:

  1. To exchange for Confederate prisoners held by the enemy.
  2. To give the foreigners (composing the larger part, probably of the late United States troops now held as our captives) for the first class to be exchanged.
  3. To hold the native Yankee prisoners in our custody, and put them to manual labor in factories, to make brooms, leather, shoes, buckets, thread, cloth, clocks, etc., until they shall be exchanged for the negros stolen from the plantations.
  4. That for each negro who has been sold or worked to death by the Yankees (exchange being impossible) a ransom of $800 be substituted
  5. That the Yankee prisoners held for this purpose shall be subject to the negro law of the State in which they are imprisoned, or until exchanged or ransomed. The object of this is to recover the negros stolen, and to prevent future loss and injury to southern masters and servants.
  6. That the negros be returned to their owners and the money distributed among those whose negros shall not be recovered.

I am, sir, &c.,

PHILANTHROPOS.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

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Charleston under Fire

As many Southern port cities had been closed off by the Union blockade, Charleston became an important center for blockade running. Repeated attempts by the Union Navy to take Charleston proved fruitless. The city resisted military occupation for the majority of the war’s four years.

With the development of newer, longer-range artillery, and as Union forces were able to place batteries even closer to the city. The bombardment that began in late 1863 continued on and off for 587 days.

This bombardment would destroy much of the city. The defenders were finally beaten back and the Union was able to capture the city, only a month and a half before the war ended.

Charleston under Fire

From the Columbia Carolinian:

We take the liberty of presenting to our readers the following extract of a private letter just received. Its genial description of the present aspect of the city and bay of Charleston will repay perusal. The brief sentences which allude to General Ripley assert nothing more of that bold, ardent and able soldier than we know he deserves. We hope, with all heart, that the hour of his long merited promotion has arrived at last:

Can you come and see us? The city is very safe and interesting now. A visit to the ‘district excites the most varied and strangest emotions. The dreariness of winter has passed away, and the vivifying touch of spring has brought out the green glories of our trees and crowded our gardens with flowers of all hues. They were never more beautiful. The silent air is rich with perfume. But the solitude seems in strange contrast with this lavish infusion of beauty. The rose especially seems to solicit the presence of the man, and crave a witness for its charms. Other flowers may properly grace the solitudes of the wilderness and decorate the pathless prairie, but the rose, the ‘rose, asks for human companionship, and when blooming unseen, suggests the idea of utter desolation and abandonment. Our gardens are sad in their solitude, and in the absence of those more graceful and beautiful flowers, their proper companions, which gave them life and cheerfulness, and all their value, their bloom and perfume is wasted. What is the rose, what the japonica, without the maidens to add to their beauty and sweetness, and to give and take beauty from the fellowship.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.
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The Progress of the Southern Revolt

(The Charleston Mercury – January 3, 1861) Every effort of the General Government to avert its dissolution, only hastens on its fate. Major Anderson abandons Fort Moultrie and garrisons Fort Sumter. The President approves and the Northern press praises the achievement. The New York Evening Post even declares that this step to coercion raises the price of Stocks in New York. But what follows in the South, where the great game of disunion is going on?

The people of South Carolina are made more resolute in their determination to throw off the Government. Our city is like an armed camp. Martial music fills the air. Offers of assistance come by thousands from the neighboring States. Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, Fort Johnson, and the United States Arsenal, are occupied with our troops. Disciplined companies are arriving by the railroad from the interior of the State.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.
(more…)


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