Life In Rebel Prisons
By Henry M. Cline
The following articles are excerpts from a series of forty that Henry M. Cline, a sergeant in Company B of the 45th OVI, wrote for a Bellefontaine, Ohio newspaper more than two decades after the end of the war. Discovered by Diane Wright, a genealogical and historical researcher specializing in Logan County, these articles represent an important addition to the history of not only the regiment, but Confederate prisons.
After his capture by Confederate forces at the Battle of Philadelphia on October 20, 1863, Cline was first sent to Belle Isle prison in Richmond, Virginia and then, in March of 1864, to Andersonville prison in Andersonville, Georgia. He was paroled on April, 5, 1865, after spending nearly nineteen months in Rebel captivity. Cline later claimed that, of twenty men in his mess who had been captured with him at Philadelphia, he was the only survivor.
After mustering out and returning home, Cline ran a grocery store in New Hampshire Ohio, until 1875, when he moved to Belle Center, in Logan County. He worked there as a grain dealer for one year and then tried his hand at merchandising. His first wife Martha, whom he had married in 1853 and by whom he had had five surviving children, died in 1867. A year later Cline married again, to Margaret Conley of his native Auglaize County. Together they had six children.
Cline was active in local politics, serving as justice of the peace, mayor of Belle Center and, from 1881 to 1885, sheriff of Logan County. He also took a prominent role in regimental affairs, serving as secretary and president of the regimental association. Cline died on April 14th, 1899, at the age of 65. His biography, published in The Historical Review of Logan County, describes him as being "strong in native intelligence, possessed (of) literary tastes and...always an omnivorous reader" who in the months of his final illness "read many volumes of standard history and literature in addition to the leading periodicals of the day."
These qualities are apparent in his articles, which combine keen observation, fluency of expression and occasional wry humor, despite the long passage of time since the events he was describing. The Logan County History Museum in Bellefontaine has published the articles in book form to raise funds for museum activities. Copies can be purchased at The Logan County Historical Society Web site or at the Society's office at 521 E. Columbus Ave., Bellefontaine
They told us how strict the order was from Gen. Burnside that there should be a camp guard at all hours. And to prove what they said they took me out to the guard line and pointed to Jenks Heston, of my company, who had been put on guard to carry out the order, lying asleep under a tree.
The command consisted of four mounted regiments commanded by Col. Wolford. We did duty
some two weeks at Philadelphia, Sweet Water, Loudon, Charleston, and different places, the
rebels chasing us some way one day and we them the next. While in camp at Sweet Water, about the 10 of October, I was ordered to take 24 men from my company, and together with squads from other companies, all commanded by Col. White of an Illinois regiment, to go into camp at Charleston, on the Hiawasee River. We went into camp at Charleston, threw out our pickets and scouts, and were having a good time in camp, with plenty of beef cattle and all kinds of vegetables to eat, when suddenly, one day, shells began falling around us, scouts and pickets came riding in, closely followed by the rebels. I was lying asleep at the commencement of the shelling, but very suddenly awoke, and ordered our boys to immediately saddle up. We were encamped on the top of a high hill, and had a clear view of the bottom lands in the direction from which the rebels were coming. All our boys made the ford in safety, and as we had no cannon, and there seemed to be a good many rebels, and as I had been home so long, I was very glad when Col. White ordered us to retreat. The rebels followed us very close on the retreat to Sweet Water.
The next day we turned on them in force and drove them back to Charleston. We then fell back to Philadelphia, within six miles of our infantry support, when suddenly on the 20th of October we were surrounded by 1,600 rebel cavalry, commanded by Gen. Stevenson, in advance of Longstreet's army, thrown into East Tennessee against Gen. Burnside, after the battle of Chickamauga. We fought them for about an hour, with no hope of maintaining our ground. Col. Wolford ordered a charge in the direction of our infantry. Our command now escaped with the exception of about 500 of us, who were captured. Capt. Stanley of Co. I was desperately wounded within a few feet of me. Our orderly sergeant was wounded, Jenks Heston, of my company, was killed. I saw quite a number of others killed and wounded.
In the retreat I attempted to mount my horse, being then on foot. The horse was excited and very high-lifed, and in rearing and plunging, he struck his fore foot against the calf of my leg, hurting it badly, and thus succeeding in getting away from me. He ran in the direction our force had taken, and I learned afterward, went into camp with them at Loudon. I hobbled off to the woods which was but a short distance. Crossing a ravine at the edge of the woods, I saw the horse of Sergeant Jas. Pollock of Co. D. shot under him. In entering the woods I saw a great many men, both afoot and on horse back, yet trying to make their escape. Among them I remember Billy Ferguson, the Irishman of Huntsville, Damon, of Kenton, Jimmie Gilroy, and Dan and Abe Musser, of Waynesfield, Auglaize County, probably one hundred in all, making every attempt to escape. Some crept under brush, some climbed up bushy trees. Those who were hidden under brush were hunted by bayoneting, and when found in this way, Billy Ferguson is reported to have made some remarks which he never learned at Sunday school.
I struck out in a northeast direction by myself -- a direction at the time there was the least
shooting. I had gone but a short distance when the shooting opened up in my front, heavier that in any other direction. I was now completely exhausted and disgusted. I took off my cartridge box and accouterments and hid them in a log, and then went to another log and hid my gun, and then went on about four rods further and sat down on a cannon that was wedged between two trees, the cannon, horses and all being abandoned by our men in their retreat. I was not there to exceed a minute when a rebel Captain, probably ten rods in advance of his company, came riding toward me on a gallop, yelling at the top of his voice for me to surrender. As I had no gun, and only one of us, I quietly surrendered. Almost at the same time another company came up from the opposite side, and they commenced shouting "surrender." The Colonel now rode up and said to his men, "What a great and glorious victory we have gained over the Yanks, let me see how quickly you can form in line right here in the woods, my good boys."
They immediately formed in line, whether it was to over-awe me or for their own benefit I never
learned. A quarrel now began between the Captains of the two companies. Each captain claimed that he captured the horses and cannon. I quietly remained seated on the cannon. The Colonel was now called to settle the dispute. Each one giving his version of the capture, the Colonel said to me, "to which of these officers did you surrender?" I said to the small man that came from the direction I had come. He then said, "that settles it, the cannon and horses were captured by you" -- calling him by name -- "and you are entitled to them."
They now moved off toward London, and I was taken with the cannon and horses back to
Philadelphia. On the way back we fell in with several squads of our boys. We passed one
of our Commissary wagons upset, and flour and meet scattered for several rods. The
driver had neglected to get down and right his wagon after it had upset, but just drove on.
Guns, spurs, tents, clothing, and accouterments of all kinds were now being brought into
town and piled up in a confused mass. A series of trades now commenced with our boys.
You remember that I had been in Ohio for the last nine months, and had drawn neither
clothing or money from the Government, but had brought my own clothing.