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    Description

    Confederate Prisoner of War Thomas C. Skinner Autograph Signed Letters. Seven letters, various sizes, from various Union prison camps, from February 25 to August 25, 1862. His letters, addressed to family members and friends, provided updates on his location, his health, quality of living conditions and daily life in Union prisoner of war camps.

    Skinner's first letter, dated February 25, 1862, was written to his mother from Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Indiana, soon after his capture at Fort Donelson on February 16. He reported on his capture, blaming Confederate General Gideon Pillow, and his present situation: "Cousin Hye [?] and myself are stopping at the 'Washington Hotel' how long we will remain here I am not able to say....Meals served up to us regularly which consists of Biled [boiled?] Beef-one tub full, Baked bread-one large Willow Basket full, Coffee-one half barrel. There are about twenty five or thirty of us staying in one room. We are not permitted to go out only on 'Special' business. I have been sleeping until today in a place smaller to that which 'Christ' was born....I would give you a description of our 'Battle' but I suppose you have heard of it-long since. When you hear anyone speaking of it remember that we did not surrender ourselves but it was that Cowardly Pillow."

    By the end of May 1862, Skinner had been transferred to Johnson's Island, located in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. The prison camp opened in April 1862. In a May 27 letter to his mother, Skinner bemoaned the fact that he had received few letters from home and wrote that he was doing much reading to get through the boredom of idleness. "You write that you want me to pay all my attention to my books. I have reviewed some of my Latin and a little of my Algebra. I have spent the most of my time in reading History. It seems almost impossible for me to concentrate on anything for any length of time. Sometimes I sit down and read for an hour or two....We have preaching and prayer meeting regular. I always attend. It is enough to melt one in tears to sit and listen at their prayers that are offered up for our Army (By Some) for their Wives and Children." June 14, 1862 was Skinner's eighteenth birthday. Writing to his mother from Johnson's Island, he assured her that his brief bout with illness was over and that he was cooking for himself. "This is my Birth day. Just to think I am Eighteen Years Old. I can hardly realize it. This is my cook day also. We have got to cooking for Ourselves. They found that it was most expensive to hire Cooks and I think we are much neater than the Cooks we have had lately."

    Skinner was still confined at Johnson's Island on June 19 when he wrote a letter to his friend James Murphy. He informed Murphy that there were a number of preachers in camp and they were praying for Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. "We have some twenty four or five preachers confined here. They are all strong in the Cause and pray for Jeff Davis-the Confederacy and Our [?] as hard as you ever heard any one pray in your life." In a letter to his aunt from Johnson's Island, dated June 26, Skinner wrote of hearing that his father is on trial for treason and expressed hope that his father would take the oath of allegiance to the Union. "I do hope and pray that Pa will take the Oath if he has not already done so as there is no hope for Kentucky and all the property he has is there." Skinner also expressed his hope for a prisoner exchange between Union and Confederate armies so he can regain his freedom. "I am getting sick, sick of prison life. And I think our Government stands in her own light by not exchanging prisoners for I believe the prisoners here would do better service than any we have got if they were only released."

    Skinner was moved from Johnson's Island to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, named for former Governor and Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, which opened as a military training and prison camp in May 1861. During the Civil War more than 25,000 Confederate prisoners passed through the camp. In a letter a friend, dated July 19, 1862, Skinner claimed that Camp Chase compared unfavorably with Johnson's Island. "Johnson's was and is a much better place than this in every respect. More roomy and healthy. We get plenty to eat and good water to drink; must say we are treated very well by Our Captors. There are a great many Kentuckians here (political prisoners)." He also warned his friend to keep his opinions regarding the Union to himself when writing. "When you write to me, you must not say any thing about the war. If your opinions are not with them and cannot say any thing good of the USA, you must not say anything to the contrary, for it might bring you into trouble. You might get into Camp Chase."

    The last letter in the collection was written to Skinner's parents from Camp Chase on August 25, 1862, what appears to be his last day in captivity. "We leave in about five minutes for Dixie. Have not time to write. Hope I may visit you soon." A nice collection of letters from a Confederate prisoner of war who was fortunate enough to survive his plight and achieve his freedom via prisoner exchange.

    Condition:
    The letters have the horizontal folds. One letter, dated July 19, 1862, shows weakness at the folds with the center crease that is separated at the upper half of the letter. Overall, the condition of the letters is good. The letters are accompanied by typed transcriptions and a photocopy of the transcripts.


    More Information:

    Thomas C. Skinner was a private and then a quartermaster sergeant in the Kentucky 8th Mounted Infantry Regiment. He was among the approximately 3,000 Confederate soldiers captured at Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862 and was sent to three prison camps: Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Indiana; Johnson's Island, Ohio; and Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio.

    The Kentucky 8th Mounted Infantry Regiment was organized in September 1861 at Camp Boone, Tennessee. The regiment was captured by Union forces at Fort Donelson, and of the 312 men engaged, 99 were killed or wounded. After the regiment was exchanged, it was attached to Tilghman's and Buford's Brigades, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana. It participated in engagements at Coffeeville and around Jackson, Mississippi. In the spring of 1864 the regiment was attached General Lyon's Battery, Kentucky Light Artillery. The regiment surrendered in May 1865.



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