|Private Horace A. Killiam of Boxford, Massachusetts of the 59th Massaschusetts on April 16,1864 until his death October 14,1864. While recovering in a parole camp in Annapolis describes the hoorors of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania as well as his time as a prisoner of war in Libby Prison less than a month after his enlistment.
Killiam was an 18 year old farmer would be thrown into one of the most horriffic battles of the Civil War at the Wilderness. This was the opening salvo of Ulysses S. Grant's massive push to capture Richmond, Virginia after his appointment to commmand the Army of the Potomac. On April 29,1864 Horace writes his family from Washington "9 o'clock Friday morning we marched about two miles down to the Potomac, and went aboard a steamer & went down the river on the other side of the river 5 miles to Alexandria. We are here now but expect to hear the orders to move every mimute. We don't know where but probably we shall remain in the Army of the Potomac the word is now that we shall have to go right to the front..." Five days later he would be in the thick of the Wilderness in which his regiment lost 9 killed and 46 wounded . The following week he would witness evven more carnage at Spotsylvania Court House.
On May 24, after crossing the North Anna River , Killiam was captured and taken prisoner . He remained in Richmond until he was paroled in late August. On August 25,1864 from parole camp in Annapolis he writes his parents " It has been a long time since you have heard from me and even longer since I have heard from you. Well I have has some pretty hard times since I saw you last what did you think had become of me. Well I have spent most of my summmer in Richmond the Great Capital of the Southern Confederacy. The 24th of last May we were croosed the North Anna River about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The Rebels had crossed early in the morning burning the bridge as they crossed. When we come up to the river they commenced throwing Shells and Railroad Iron down into us well the Bridge was destroyed but we had orders to cross and cross we did right through the Drink. it was not very deep about up to our waists. It was a laughable sight to see some of the Boys they would slip up an down they would go under waterall over. Well we got over the river and formed in a line of battle and charged them well they skedaddled back about a mile & then stopped and formed into a line. We charged them again, and again they fell back and got into the Brestworks . Well we laid down and fired into them for about an hour. When all of a sudden the Balls began to come xx our river . We looked around and see any quanity of the Johnnys coming out of a piece of woods there was only one Brigade of us and there was about 5 times the number of them. So we got up and Retreated. I had had the Diaroreah about a fortnight & I was as weak as a brat. I couldn't run so fast as some of the boys and the Johhnys got a hold of abou 150 of us, about 25 from our Regiment . The first Lieutant of our company got a Ball through his neck. He fell as Dead as a Stone. There was a good many killed there,on both sides. Well they took us back through their lines into the woods & took our clothes, all away from us all but what we had on. They kept us there 2 0r 3 days and it rained all of the time & was cold too. I had no blankets or anything to put on & and being weak got an awful cold. On the 3rd day they put us aboard the cars and took us to Richmond by the time we got there I was pretty sick. They put up into prison ,and gave us a bit of bread the first they had given us, I couldn't eat a mouthful but the rest of the boys were hungry enough & I gave it to them . The docror came in the next day I told him I was sick & he said he would send me to the Hospital & that was the last I heard of him in 8 days. When he came in again I was so sick I could hardly stand & then he sent me to the Hospital. I had a kind of Rheumatic Fever & Dioreah & was very sick. I didn't exoect that I should ever get well and haven't yet but I am a good deal better. I think you would scarcely know me now,if you should see me. I was in Richmond 8 month lacking 2 days & I tell you that I suffered awfully more from hunger than anything else. We used to get a piece of corn Bread twice a day each piece was about 2 inches long and 2 wide and 1 thick. 2 of them sometimes a little meat and a little slops they called soup we used to get in a day and that was all. The cornbread was the most miserable stuff you ever see the way it was made they would take the meal and without sifting it mix it up with water & Bake it & it was most always Dray & sour.
The way they made the soup was boil a little fat Pork or rotten meat in the water & a little Indain meal. I have looked into my cup many times after I had drank my soup & see the worms that came out of the meat,but there, we were glad to see get that & could have eaten a piece of dog if we could have had it. Nobody knows how I sufferd from hunger after I began to get better but I have got out of it now and got to a land of plenty better, when they got us to the prison they took our money and anything of value from us. I had 2,500 in my Pocket Book ,they took that,my watch knife and many other things,in fact anything of any account. We were Paroled last Sunday & started Monday morning & and got to Annapolis about noon Tuesday and had a good ride on the boats. We shall have a chance to lay still for a while now we are pretty certain of 3 months, & may a year, we can not go into the field again until we are exchanged & there is no way of knowing when that will be, but the mail goes out soon & I am tired & I will not write much more now.."'
In an undated letter he tells about his experience and also speculates about some mutual acquantances.." You spoke about Henry M. Croon. I don't remember anything about him but one thing I know if he is at Macon, Georgia, he is Suffering. I know that. I was reading an appeal to the President from the prisoners in Ga. a few days ago. I tell you they tell hard stories. They don't get enough to eat & the water is very bad. You heard that I was at Andersonville, Ga that place is as bad. The Rebs have about 3500 of our men a bit south of them there. Averages about 150 deaths per day so they say but keep sending more there if I had been well in Richmond I should probably Died in Georgia. I was in the Libby Prison. There was no one I knew except those who were taken with me. Rugg & Morse had been priosners a long time and I expect they were held as hostages in fact I know they were as well as I want to for they keep no prisoners in Richmond so long as they have been as useless as they are . They were in "Castle Thunder." I expect I could hear nothing from them. You say Morse starved to death. I don't doubt it. I supose it sounds hard to you to hear about but I have SEEN so many starved to death. I got used to it & so it does not seem much to hear of one man's starving it was a daily occurance to have men die of starvation.. We had apologies for Beds in the Hospital on R, but they were so full of lice they was not better than the floor... At one time there was about 2000 prisoners in the Hospitals at Richmond... Tell Martha that there is plenty of cripples out here, what kind of a one does she want, one with his leg or arm off or if she prefers I will send her one that had his nose, or stll another with his ear tore out of his head with a piece of shell, just let her name the kind & she will recieve him.."
I will post more from Private Killiam later.