From Belle Isle to warmer climate

Posted on February 19, 2014 by

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Belle Isle. Source: Wikimedia Commons (from the Robert N.  Dennis Collection, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library.

Belle Isle. Source: Wikimedia Commons (from the Robert N. Dennis Collection, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library.

After experiencing life at Belle Isle (even after just a few months), the thought of heading south, to a new POW camp in Georgia may have had its perks. Warmer weather and healthier conditions may have come to the minds of Union prisoners of war, though the thought of being farther from home may have weighed heavy on the mind.

On February 18, 1864, James D. Moore was among those who were loaded into boxcars, for the long ride to Americus, Georgia.

When this day popped up on my radar yesterday, I wondered… when he took the train ride to Georgia, was he in the company of his comrades? After all, he had been captured with five others at Loudoun Heights, and, nine days before, over 30 comrades from Cole’s Cavalry had been captured at Rectortown. I realize there were several inaccuracies in the movie Andersonville, but I also thought back to how so many members of the same company of the 19th Massachusetts made the trip together.

Prisoners being loaded on the cars. From the movie "Andersonville".

Prisoners being loaded on the cars. From the movie “Andersonville”.

To answer this, I turned to the Combined Service Records of Cole’s Cavalry. I didn’t look-up every man who had been captured between January 1 and January 10, but I looked-up a good number. Ultimately, there was a particular document… the Memorandum from Prisoner of War Records… which gives… in addition to other information… details about arrival at Belle Isle and transfer to Americus. Moore’s record follows:

MooreJamesDPOW

Before I get into the particulars of life after arriving at Belle Isle, I think it’s interesting to note when they arrived AT Belle Isle. In fact, all of the men captured at Rectortown, on January 1, were in Belle Isle by January 6… and those captured at Loudoun Heights on January 10 arrived at Belle Isle on January 15. Therefore, in both cases, the men were removed from the scene of action and placed in the POW camp within five days.

Details of life after arriving at Belle Isle varies much, between each man… even though the men (those from Cole’s Cavalry) I reviewed were there a relatively short amount of time.

Of the six men captured at Loudoun Heights, only five would board the boxcars for Georgia. Isaiah Nicewander was ill enough, by February 23, to be removed to the hospital. He would die on April 6.

Of those 30+ captured at Rectortown (I only found records for 25 so far), I have 21 who boarded cars for Andersonville. I can account for some who died at Richmond, at least one who was transferred to and died at Danville, Virginia, and then… others seem to be a bit of a mystery with no clear record of what happened to them after being captured.

When it came time for transfer, it appears these men, in fact, did not all make the trip together. Regretfully, the record of transfers to Americus, Ga. is another point in research where records grow more scant. In fact, I have only 11 records, out of 26, giving the date of transfer. Out of the 11 men, I found transfers made on February 10, February 18, February 28, and March 10… with the majority made on that last date in March.

So, my answer… Moore traveled in the company of at least one other member of Cole’s Cavalry… Jeremiah Switzer, of Co. D (captured at Rectortown). Furthermore, while Moore wasn’t among the first transferred, on February 10, he was still among the first to arrive at Andersonville… and, therefore, was among those who later greeted the rest of the POWs from Cole’s Cavalry, who caught up with him as late as March.

POWs arriving at Andersonville. From the movie "Andersonville".

POWs arriving at Andersonville. From the movie “Andersonville”.

Just today, I asked the good folks at Andersonville National Historic Site about the length of the trip… wondering how long the journey was for Moore… from Belle Isle to Americus. Based on their estimation, 150 years ago tonight, Moore and those who rode with him, likely slept on the ground, somewhere in the Carolinas. How many familiar faces were within his group appears to remain a mystery, and I have to wonder… how lonely the experience may have been, not being in the company of comrades from his own company… some who he may have considered friends.

I’ll have more on Moore and his comrades, later this year…

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