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Anderson Intelligencer

Anderson Intelligencer

Oct 21, 1903




Private Soldier Tells of Cruelties of Yankee Soldiers



George C. Tanner, in Augusta Chronicle


To the Editor of the Chronicle – The Daughters of the Confederacy at Waynesboro came in possession of some of the facts of my two escapes from Yankee durance, and after reading the paper the narrative was published in the True Citizen.


I have never thought it worth giving to the public, but since it has appeared, I beg space in your valuable columns to give the true details as they are retained in my memory after a lapse of forty years.


I was born 12th of March, 1847, hence at the breaking out of the war I was not yet 15 years old.  Yet I was fired by all that intense ardor that pervaded the South, and by a tight squeeze I managed to wriggle into Capt. Sam Crump’s company, the Walker Light infantry, which was soon after incorporated into the First Regiment Georgia volunteers.


It is the opinion of many that this was the finest regiment in the Confederate service.  If true it was the finest in any service.  It was composed mostly of old perfectly drilled and well-equipped companies scattered throughout the State when the war broke out.  Many of the best families in the State belonged to it, and a firmer body of men could not be found.


I cannot forget the vigorous protest my mention of enlistment made in the company, and at my home, and how I had to be attired in a uniform much too big for me because “they had none for babies,” and how on a march I was chucked away in a wagon or astride of a cannon, my gun and equipment weighing nearly as much as I did.  My reply to all this biting criticism was that “I could shoot strong as any of them” proved true, and I was nearly always where the shooting was going on, and believe I did my share of it.


The experience of the First Georgia in the one-year from which we enlisted was terrific in the extreme, and was just about as much as the human anatomy could endure.  After that one year when we were assembled at Petersburg to be mustered out of service, we had lost our former selves, and were all changed as human beings never were before.  But we were full of the fiery ardor for the cause we had espoused, and suffering was not considered when compared with it.  Every man of us deemed it our duty to re-enlist and we did so almost to a man.


Having three brothers in Cobb’s Legion and that being cavalry, and having enough of “footing it” I lost no time in joining that regiment.


General Wade Hampton on all occasions never for one moment hesitated to say that “Cobb’s Legion was the best regiment of cavalry that ever entered any service.”  I have heard him say that any number of times.  To have belonged to two such regiments in a matter of great pride to me.






I was captured at Gettysburg on the last day of the fighting.


As I was being conducted back to the rear a squad of nine prisoners appeared and I was “turned over” to that squad.


Three out of nine prisoners were badly and one slightly wounded.  I was astonished that these men should not have been put in ambulances and sent to the hospital.


We were, however, all marching forward and reaching a bend in the road, came full and direct under a fire from our own lines.  Two of our wounded were killed outright by this fire and two others wounded.  It was terrific in the extreme and might have been avoided.


We were conducted to an old stable in the rear of Gettysburg, where we found many more prisoners awaiting us, and there were squads constantly arriving all containing wounded men, as was the case with the squad I came with.  I was accosted by a fellow prisoner who was remarkably striking in his handsome appearance and fine physique.  His name was Worthington and he was from Baltimore.  He stood nearly seven feet and his appearance would have remarked in any assemblage of men.


“I can’t understand,” said he, “how it is these wounded men of ours are placed in with the ordinary prisoners.  Why are they not sent to the hospital?”


“That same question had occurred to me.”


“It looks to me as if all the Yankee hospitals are full of Yankee wounded,” said a lank fellow, with his head bandaged, and a bloody face, evidently from North Carolina.


“But common humanity would at least give these men’s place to lie down and be quiet.  They are forced to march.”


“I saw one man who besought someone to shoot him to relieve him of his sufferings,” said another.


No one understood the situation.  I had been paroled on the field by the parties who captured me and was told I would be sent out for exchange.  The exchange of prisoners had gone on uninterruptedly up to this time and everybody thought it would continue.


My parole was torn to a thousand pieces by the Yankee officer, who came around to examine us and there was a severity of demeanor and a rigidity of discipline we had never seen before and could not understand.  For the least offense a prisoner was bucked and gagged, or tied to the limb of a tree, so that his toes would just barely touch the ground, and the prison was made hideous by the yells of those poor fellows.


“I have never seen such monsters as these guards are,” said Worthington.

“They are mostly German regulars and we are in rough hands,” said Lindsey, another prisoner.


It was evident there would be no humanity in the case.


All that night prisoners continued to arrive until the stable yard and every crevice was packed.  Above the din and cry of the wounded was the yell of the German guard.  The curse of the Irish was followed frequently by the dull thug of a lick from a musket dealt by the fiery tempered guard.


Sleep was out of the question.  Worthington, Lindsey and myself made ourselves as little conspicuous as possible by huddling up in a corner to escape the barbarity that seemed to reign around.


About 6 a. m. a line was formed; even the wounded gladly falling in to escape the horrors of the stable, hoping vaguely that things would be better.


But alas!  A few “hard tacks” were handed to us, and the guards were ordered to load their guns by a beardless boy with lieutenant’s uniform on and mounted on a fine horse.  Soon the command was given, “Forward, march!” and we started forth.  The roads were in an indescribable and inunderstandible condition of mud.  Artillery and the army wagon had ground them deep so that every step we were up to our knees.


The little fellow on the horse never turned his head, and seemed to me utterly indifferent to everything but his own fine self.


It was difficult for the guard to keep at the pace his horse was going and for our wounded!  God in Heaven, what heartless cruelty was shown by the guard!


A German guard knocked one of these wounded men down with the butt of his gun and was stamping him in the face with his foot when Lindsey could stand it no longer, and in a fit of uncontrollable rage gave him a lick in the pit of the stomach that drew him double.  This would have cost him dearly but for the presence of mind of Worthington, who disguised Lindsey so in a second he could not be detected.


“There is another one of them I’ll fix this very night.”  Said Lindsey.  This was a German sergeant who had been very brutal.


“Don’t do it Lindsey,” urged Worthington and I in one breath.


We talked to him and depicted the terrible fate that awaited any attempt at revenge.  We urged him to wait until we were exchanged and we would report the treatment to our government, but in spite of all our persuasive powers we could see a wicked light in Lindsey’s eyes.  That night a German sergeant was killed with a stone, by whom no one knew – except Worthington, Lindsey and myself.


“Tanner,” said Worthington to me, “It is dangerous for us to be with that fellow Lindsey.  He will be detected in this sort of thing and we will come in for our share of blame by being his intimates.”


“Yes, Worthington, I thought of that too, but I like the fellow for his grit, and would take any risk to be with such a man.”


“So would I, but there is trouble ahead for him and us.  They will detect him in this affair.  Some one must have seen him do it, and those fellows would tell on him just to curry favor with the guard, and a large reward will be offered to find the man who did it.  I think we had better shake him.”


“No, Worthington, let’s stand by him to the last, and do the best for him we can, and we can do much if we will act together.”


“What, for example can we do?”


“We can say be was asleep with us, and establish an alibi.”


“Heavens!”  said Worthington, “but suppose it is found out!”


“It is worth the risk for such a fellow.  Let’s stand by him.”


And so we did.  In spite of the greatest possible efforts to find out who killed “the Dutch sergeant” it was all unavailing.  To our utter dismay when we had a quiet talk with Lindsey and remonstrated with him and tried to point out the risk to all of us of his conduct, he almost paralyzed us with the same gleam in the eyes and the quiet announcement that he meant to kill the little lieutenant in charge of the guard and the Irish third lieutenant under him.


“These men are monsters.”  He said with a shake of his fist, and a hideous gleam in his eyes.  “They beat our wounded and they are as cruel as fiends.”


No persuasion could have the slightest effect upon him and Worthington and I had another quiet conference.


It resulted as before.  “We were to stand by Lindsey, come what would, and do the best we could for him, but we were to talk to him once more and try to dissuade him.


That evening, after a killing day’s march, at least a dozen of our men were swung up by their thumbs, and their cries were heartrending.  We were asleep when the camp was suddenly turned topsy-turvy by shots and the whiz and hiss of the minnie balls flying around us.


“It’s Lindsey,” said Worthington; “be perfectly quiet.  Don’t get up, you’ll be shot; lie down,” said he, tugging at me as I was trying to get up.


“Where is he?  I want to help him.  Where is he?”  I asked still half asleep.  The hiss of the minnie balls commingled with the cry of the wounded and the beating of drums and a general alarm, the commands of the officers and the terror of some of the prisoners made up a wild and weird scene.  Confusion reigned supreme.


Finally order sufficient was established for the prisoners to be formed, the guards were even more brutal and the prisoners were in terror.  Such a scene!


Lieutenant Kelly had been assaulted by a Federal soldier, who had attempted also to assassinate the lieutenant of the guard.  Failing in that he had mounted the horse of the commandant and had fled.


This was what Worthington and I could gleam from one of the guards who was a little more civil than his comrades.


“Was it one of your own men, then?” queried Worthington of the guard.


“He was dressed in our uniform and it is supposed so,” was the reply.


We walked apart and each asked at the same time:  “Where’s Lindsey?”  That was the question, and to Worthington and myself a very important one.


“He did it,” Worthington said close in my ear; “do you think they’ll catch him?”


“He has a good horse and my get away.”


“I hope so.”  And so I did, and to this day I do not know if Lindsey was ever captured.  How he got the Yankee uniform or how he ever carried out his plan to kill Lieutenant Kelly I do not know.  There was any amount of carefully suppressed satisfaction at the death of that monster among the prisoners; and the guards themselves shed no tears for him.  There was one very strong circumstantial incident which invited our suspicion to Lindsey apart from his telling Worthington and me of his determination to kill these two officers.  I overheard one of the prisoners tell another that he had exchanged “a brand new Yankee overcoat to one of our men for a Confederate coat and got a good rubber blanket to boot and a plug of tobacco.”  Lindsey had a rubber blanket and a Confederate coat.


To our dismay the guards were reinforced and the barbarity and cruelty went on.  We after two days of terror, reached Frederick, Maryland, where we were to take the cars for Baltimore.


Worthington was well known in Baltimore and stood in great dread of his people (who sympathized with the Yankees) seeing him in his woeful plight.


We were being marched along the street when a scream from a female voice pierced the air and looking we saw a beautiful young woman endeavoring to make her way through the throng of idle gazers.  She seemed to come straight toward Worthington and myself.


Looking at Worthington I saw a tremendous change in his face.  He was as white as chalk and seemed puzzled what to do.


When the young lady came to the guard he leveled his bayonet at her in order perhaps to stop her progress, but in a moment Worthington sprang upon him, wrenched his gun from his grasp and would have annihilated him with his own weapon but for a rush of the police who seized both parties.  The young lady was abruptly hastened away by the police and poor Worthington was taken.


Three minutes would have covered this entire transaction.  I was inert and stunned at what had happened.  As Worthington was marched away my first thought was: “Oh, for Lindsey.”  I had a vague idea of what even he could do in such a case, but I would have rejoiced to have had him on had at that time.


I was only a boy and though I would have freely made any sacrifice for Worthington, seeing the noble part he had acted and how deeply wronged he was yet my wits were dull and I did not know what to do.


But I was resolved to make some effort.  At this moment a Yankee officer on horseback rode up and I placed myself with my hand up to my cap in military salute directly in front of his horse, so that he could not proceed without riding over me.


“General,” I said, “let me as a human being say one word to you.”


“What do you want, sir?” he snapped out.  In a moment a crowd was packed around on the outside of the pavement eagerly trying to catch what was going on.


“I want to speak in behalf of the man who was just hand-cuffed and marched off to be severely dealt with for doing nothing more than a man with the slightest spark of manhood would have done.”


“What do you know, sir, and how do you know this?” said he, in a very austere voice.


“Know it!”  I exclaimed; “I saw everything that has just happened to my friend!”


“Who is the man you speak of, and where is he?”


“He is Worthington, a prisoner who has been handcuffed and marched away because he tried to defend a young lady from the barbarity of your men.”


There were murmurs of approval at what I had said by the throng packed like sardines around.


“I know nothing of this matter,” said General Patrick, for it was the general, and he commanded the provost guard.


Then continuing, he said “These are sever words of yours, young man, and must be verified.”


Then turning to the guard he commanded them to take charge of me and report with Worthington at his headquarters within and hour.  He rode on.


Whatever effect my course had had on General Patrick, the greater part of the crowd in the streets of Baltimore was unquestionably almost solid for Worthington, and I believe things could have been wrought up in an ugly mood for the guard if the same tyranny had been shown there that we had endured on the march.


When we were brought to General Patrick’s headquarters Worthington, without hand-cuffs, was there, and as we entered we saw a young lady to our right seated near General Patrick.  Worthington exchanged glances with her and seemed embarrassed.  I was not in speaking distance of Worthington.  Soon a tall, commanding figure entered and was admitted to a place near the general, and they soon engaged in a whispered conversation, which lasted about twenty minutes.  Then the tall gentleman beckoned to Worthington and he advanced to a corner of the room and had a very earnest conversation.  I could see a resemblance between this man and Worthington, and guessed it might be his father.


Worthington turned so that I could see his face, and he looked pale and troubled.  Soon he returned to me and the tall gentleman, pale, trembling and much agitated, returned to General Patrick and said something to him and then the general, in an excited manner, rose and commanded the guard “take these two rebels back to the guard and turn them over with the other prisoners.”


Here was a puzzling situation.  Worthington, when he was marched out, soon made it clear by taking my arm and saying; “Tanner, that gentleman you saw there is my father.  He wanted me to renounce the Southern cause, take the oath of allegiance and be free, and threatened me that unless I did he would no longer own or recognize me as a son.  Of course, I refused.  The young lady – the only woman I have ever loved, or can or will ever love – whom you saw, came on the same mission; and I have given up father, mother, sister, brothers, every earthly thing for the South.”


“What noble words these are, Worthington.  When we succeed you will be rewarded for all this,” I said, seeing what a great sacrifice he had made.  Noble fellow, how I worship that man.


His family saved Worthington from the most severe punishment by the guards.  Had it only been any of the rest of us we would have perhaps been ball and chained until the war ended.


That march from Gettysburg to Fredericksburg, Md., was a memorable one marked by all the savage ferocity and barbarity of man’s nature.


Things would have been serious for me but for Worthington’s family influence.  This caused the whole affair to be dropped.


Washington, D. C.





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