Prison Song


Prison Song.

Twas on the thirty-first of May,
In eighteen sixty-two,
The rebels met our Union force,
To see what they could do.

McClellan was near Richmond then,
That nasty rebels den,
Where whites the gentlemen are crowned,
Where Negroes are not men.

They met and fought with iron will
Each eager to obtain
The mend that every solider loves—
The victor’s glorious name.

The cannon sent her iron hall,
The market, showers of lead,
Which filled the air with dying groans,
And strewed the field with dead

The Ninety-Second stood firm in front,
In Palmer’s bold brigade,
Until in “Dixie’s land” they had
Some scores of widows made.

But when they saw they were out-flanked,
They wheeled about and fled,
While many of our Northern braves
Were numbered with the dead

The double guide our soldiers took,
Soon left me far behind—
That aimble step I could not take,
Although so well inclined.

The rebels came with savage yells,
A Yankee they had found,
With curses bid me “face about,”
And march away to town.

They marched me down with many more,
Through mud and mire to town,
And there with bars and prisons walls,
Yours honor did surround.

They [?] tobacco with in those walls,
In times of peace and trace,
But now the bedbugs and the lice
Hold nightly dress parades.

They gave us rations twice each day,
But nothing for our beds,
With fleas and bedbugs without number
Gently crawling round our heads.

Our morning rations were of bread,
A slice of sinking meat,
Which hunger made us soon devour,
And ever lasted sweet.

At night we had a little soup,
Some water bolled with peas,
And then we took our prison beds,
To dream of lice and fleas.

We were confined three days and nights
Within those iron bars,
When, oh! the welcome news then came,
To get abound the cars.

They marched us through their nasty streets,
That all the crowd might see,
The “hiding Yankees” from the North,
That in than land run free.

The crowd was dense on either side,
Composed of whites and blacks,
While many shouted in the crowd,
To shoot them in their tracks.

We traveled all this days and night,
Oppressed by dust and heat;
We got some muddy water,
But nothing for to eat.

At length each man face crackers got,
All counted our with care,
And this they thought a liberal thing,
Considering who we were.

Again we traveled all day and night,
As we had the day before,
With nothing for our rations,
While our seats were getting sore.

Again our scanty breakfast came;
Five crackers as before,
And this thought a heavy draft
On old Jeff’s three years store.

This morning found us all within
The north Carolina state,
With Salisbury’s prison walls ahead,
Where we could read our face,

We found Carolina on the fence,
A leg on either side;
She says it’s Southern fashion
For ladies so to ride.

She sends her troops to help the North,
Then Northern Prisoners keep;
But vengeance sure is on her track,
And Vengeance never sleeps.

Our prison walls were large and high,
For Spinning cotton made,
When “old King Cotton” ruled as king,
And Negroes were in trade.

But when they found his glory gone,
And cotton would not sell,
They turned their fields into burying-grounds,
Their factories into hells.

They fired upon our stars and stripes,
They stole our arms and money,
And then they cried, “let us alone,”
In accents sweet as honey.

The rebels sung throughtout the South,
In Dixie’s land they’d stand,
And, if they ever lived to die,
They’d die in Dixie’s land.

We found them standing when we came,
When not too drunk or tipsy
“Right smost” they’d rather run and live,
Than die to live in Dixie.

The people here are ignorant,
And iced as tools by rouges,
They’ve herded with the blacks so long,
They’ve got the laugh and brogue.

School houses here you never find,
Such sights are seldom seen,
With truant boys and red-checked girls,
A romping on the green.

I’m proud to say I’m from the North,
Where no one lacks for knowledge,
For every mile or two you go,
You’ll find a school or college.

They keep their slave pens and often sell
Their very blood and bone,
For crosses with the negro slave,
There gently never own.

They keep their slaves in ignorance,
They’re never taught to read,
For knowledge and old slavery
Have never yet agreed.

They breed and sell the negro here
As Northern men would cattle,
The whiter they can get the skin,
The more come in the chattle.

They buy our huts, caps, coats and rings,
And trinkets we have wrought,
As keepsakes of those Yankee boys
They, in their battles caught.

The only way they have to live,
And save our preclous lives,
Is to manufacture rings from bones,
And trade for cakes and pies.

If they should get to Heaven’s gate,
And find all Union there,
They would serve at once to Hell,
And Join their kindred there.

And now we’ve sung about the South,
And of their doings there,
Now let us step within the bars,
And learn the prisoners face.

They give us rations twice each day,
Their coarsest negro’s fare,
And this they think is generous,
Considering who we were.

Our morning rations are of bread,
The loves are very small,
A little slice of bacon,
From which the maggots fall.

They take the liquor from this meat,
Stir in a little rice,
And this we have for supper,
Its flavor very nice.

Our rations here are always fresh,
Because they have no salt,
And if they hear a man complain,
He’s told it’s his even fault.

At night we sleep upon the floor,
We often lay in tiers,’
While body lice in whose battalions,
Charge upon our fronts and rears.

They turn us out a while each day,
Upon our prison health,
To pick the lice from off our clothes,
The maggots from our teeth.

They keep a bake house near our den,
To bake our daily bread,
You’d think some children had the dough,
To make some from cats heads.

The bakers lake our flour and rice,
To make sweet cake and pie,
The half-starved Yanks think they must eat,
So to bakers fly.

They give the prisoner scanty fare,
To rob them of their money;
They say our hungry boys must have,
Some cakes as sweet as honey.

Our generous keeper says to us,
Tells to us one and all,
I fear your dally rations
May sometimes be too small.

If any want more rations here,
To keep your souls alive,
Just step into my sutler’s shop,
And buy sweetmeats and ples.

If any lack the dime of scrip,
Or think his fare is hard,
Just take him to the guard-house,
Or “buck” him in the yard.

And now we’ve sung about our den,
And how we live in there;
Now let us sing about our dead,
In “Dixie’s land so fair.”

When any of the prisoners die,
No matter what their grades,
They get a negro with his cart
To take him to the shades.

They’d get a negro with his cart,
Drawn by a stubborn mule,
To show their height of chivalry
If southern power could rule.

The fifteenth of August Carolina called,
And to the prisoners said,
Just jump aboard my cattle cars,
With some of my “nice bread.”

I’m pledged to take you to your lines,
My pledges seldom fall,
You’ll find my seats are rather hard,
But easier than my rail.

With bounding hearts we heard her through,
Then through the gate did spring,
And when aboard her cattle cars,
We made the welkin ring.

In highest glee we started off,
No joys our tongues could tell;
But instead of going to our lines,
We went to “Island Belle.”

Belle Island is a sandy plain,
Without a tree or shade,
Or cooling spring to quench the thirst,
That heat and hunger made.

Our rations here are very small,
Some bread and stinking beef,
Which only sharpens appetite,
And gives but saint relief.

When beef is scarce we sometimes get
A soup of hugs and files;
And if perchance there should be bears,
They seldom show their eyes.

This nasty, stinking, scorch fare,
We often fail to get;
And then with rage we’d gnash our teeth,
Like madmen in a fit.

Here many of the prisoners lie
Upon the burning sand;
Two weak by far to walk around,
While many cannot stand.

Starvation stares us in the face,
His laws are open wide;
Unless our friends send quick relief,
We down his throat must glide.

Our numbers here grow less and less,
The strongest soon must fall,
For old Grim death is on our track,
And soon will on us call.

Some six or eight die every day,
This face none can deny;
While many with their dying breath,
For food and rations cry.

It’s hard to die in distant lands,
Without a kindred near,
To wipe the death sweat from our face,
Or drop one friendly tear.

A lady came into our camp,
To bring us small supplies;
They dragged her to the old guard-house,
For selling cakes and pies.

They “gagged” and “bucked” a prisoner here
Until he could not stand,
The blood flowed freely from his mouth
Upon the burning sand.

The only crime he did commit,
The only wrong he’d done—
His Northern pride it would not stoop
To [?] those southern guns.

We are ragged set of men,
This prison has no charms;
But “Uncle Sam” will own his boys,
And give them all a farm.

I long to see my friends again,
Of which I fondly dreampt;
But I’d rather see my country free,
And old Jeff. pulling hemp.

Old Jeff. you’d better pack your kit,
For Richmond soon must fall,
For little Mac is stepping back
To mount upon your wall.

Your only hope, “the Old Stone Wall,”
Must soon to ruin go;
He’s run around your land so long,
You thought all safe you know.

And now your health is failing fast,
And your blood is getting low;
You’d better call your boys all home,
Before you go below.

The Stars and Stripes again must float,
O’er Dixie’s sunny land:
And Southern rebels must soon obey,
Old Abram’s just demands.

Now here’s a toast for Uncle Abe,
May he live one thousand years;
And for his firmness in this war,
We’ll give three hearty cheers.

Now here’s another for Jeff.—
May the gallows claim its own:
And when he dangles from the rope,
We’ll give three doleful groans.

Farewell old Richmond’s prison wall,
Farewell old Salisbury too;
And now farewell to Island Belle—
Four weeks on you will do.

And now you’ve heard my story through,
That happy day has come,
When I can bid Secesh farewell,
And leave this Isle for—ANNAPOLIS.

Item Information help

  • Item ID
  • Genre
  • Illustrated
  • DCMI Type
    Still Image
  • Extent
    49 cm x 32 cm
  • Title
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