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    Description

    "They captured 6 of our company. I was one of the number"

    [Civil War]. P.O.W. Archive, Containing the Diary and Confederate Parole Document of William H. Grape, among many other documents. Sergeant William Grape of Baltimore was a twenty-six-year-old carpenter when he enlisted in the Union cause in 1861. He served in the Purnell Legion and Co. K, Maryland 1st Infantry. On August 21, 1864, at the Battle of Weldon Railroad during the Siege of Petersburg, Grape was captured by the Rebels and subsequently moved to three different P.O.W. camps - Libby, Belle Isle, and Salisbury - within the next six months. This diary begins on May 2, 1864, and ends on December 18, 1864. The entries are daily until November 6, when breaks lasting several days occur between Grape's entries.

    According to the diary, Grape left Baltimore with his company on May 2 for Washington. He then records their march south into Virginia, where Grape's regiment participated in the Siege of Petersburg. There, Grape was often close enough to Lee's army to notice that they "look worn out." Life in the trenches was difficult and precarious since "the Rebels artillery fire is kept up most all the time."

    On August 18, Grape marched to "Weldon railroad and commenced to tear up the track. . . . We met the Rebels and had a big fight. We holt our ground." The Battle of Weldon Railroad, south of Petersburg, lasted over the next three days. On the third day, Grape was captured: "Early this morning the Rebels attacked our lines. It was a complete surprise on our pickets. They captured 6 of our company. I was one of the number." The next day, August 22, he and fifty others were taken by the Rebels into Petersburg where Grape notes his initial impression of his captors, "The Rebels are not so bad as some people say." According to the next few entries, the P.O.W.s were moved north by rail to Richmond "and were quartered in the Libby Prison." But they didn't remain long, for on August 24, they were "marched through the streets of Richmond then across the James River through Manchester then on to Belle Isle where we are not quartered. There is 3,500 prisoners here. I am in charge of No. 64 squad of fifty men."

    Over the entries of the next several weeks, Grape records the conditions and daily routine in the Belle Isle prison. Conditions were harsh as the P.O.W.s had little shelter from the rain and sun. Most were without tents or blankets. Rations were scare while illness was frequent; those who attempted to escape were shot. "This is a hard place. Some of the men seem to be glad they are here. Gambling and stealing is going on. There are exceptions however. Some of the men hold prayer meetings every night which are largely attended" (September 4). Meanwhile, the numbers of prisoners swelled to 5,700, according to the diary.

    Beginning in October, Grape reports that squads of prisoners were being moved south: "Report says we are all going to Georgia" (October 5). Two days later he notes that he, along with 900 others, were being transported by crowded rail cars to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina.

    The Salisbury prison was a three-story brick cotton mill, where, Grape writes, "Men die off like sheep" (October 27). Still, prisoner numbers swelled throughout the fall of 1864: "500 of our men took the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States and enlisted in the army. I hope that I will be able to stand it out without doing that" (November 5). Grape was able to withstand it, recording at the end of the diary that he was "paroled from prison on Sunday the 19th of February by George Booth of AAG on General Bradley T. Johnson's staff. A clever fellow." Nine days later, he arrived at Union lines, reporting that for "6 months and 7 days prisoner in the Rebel lines." The leather journal measures 3" x 6" and contains penciled entries. Some dampstaining, though pages are very readable.

    Also included:
    Civil War-dated documents: Parole of Honor Document, given by the Confederate States Military Prison at Salisbury, North Carolina, granting Grape a "parole of honor" if he confine himself "to such limits as the Commandant of the Post or Prison, shall designate"; eleven letters written by Grape to his mother and other family members, some with envelopes (one dated June[?] 7, 1862, describing the Battle of Harpers Ferry, the first time Grape was under fire); an image of Grape; Grape's commission as a sergeant, dated February 1864 and signed by Colonel Samuel Graham; a letter recommending the promotion of Grape, dated April 1865; Grape's discharge from Purnell's Legion, dated February 1864; various Civil War-dated envelopes, receipts, military forms, and letters.

    Post-Civil War-dated documents: Military forms and orders; letters written by Grape and others. Additionally included are research materials that include a transcription and photocopy of the diary.


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    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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