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Confederate prisoners
under guard.


Freed by the Civil War

When he was barely 18 years old, Grandfather escaped his hard life by joining the Delaware National Guard which was ultimately absorbed into the Union Army. He was a private in President Lincoln’s army on its mission toward putting down the South’s rebellion and unifying the country around Lincoln’s antislavery proclamation. From Grandfather’s few stories of his war experience, we see the human side of the prolonged Civil War. This was the last grand war of passion and professional courtesy, as exemplified in two of Grandfather’s stories.

During his war service, Grandfather served as a “screw,” a prison guard for the captured Rebel prisoners, in an island prison camp off the East Coast (probably Delaware). While there, he recalls some Rebel prisoners coming in, half-frozen, gaunt, and with bleeding feet. As they went by, one said to him, “The Confederates are right, we will win, you will see.”

In another incident, he was walking his post one cold night and, being weary from loss of sleep, he paused to rest a moment. The next thing he heard was a Rebel prisoner in a low, but insistent voice calling, “Wake up, Yank, wake up!” He sprang awake and had resumed walking his post when the Captain of the Guard arrived. Had Grandfather been found asleep at his post in war time, he could have received the death penalty. Perhaps because of his own cruel upbringing, Grandfather had been humane to the prisoners under his charge, and this paid off for him that cold night.

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