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PRISON LIFE AMONG THE REBELS: RECOLLECTIONS OF A UNION CHAPLAIN Edward D. Jervey From November 1864 through June 1865 a remarkable series of letters appeared in Zion's Herald, a fiercely independent Methodist newspaper read widely throughout the New York and New England areas.1 The author, Henry Sumner White, was a northern Methodist Episcopal minister who had been a member of the Providence Conference since 1855. In January 1863, while pastor of the Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church in Providence, he was appointed chaplain of the Rhode Island Regiment Heavy Artillery. For the next sixteen months, except for a brief furlough home, White ministered to his regiment, which was stationed most of the time in North Carolina. On May 4, 1864, White received permission to visit Croatan Station, a small fort on the railroad, east of New Berne, North Carolina. The following day he was captured, and with other prisoners was taken on a forced march to Evans Mill, where they were imprisoned in an old block house. Other than these letters little else has been discovered of White's experiences . Moreover, he does not relate anywhere whetherhe wrote everything from memory or whether he made periodic notes. After the warhe was an agent of the Freedman's Association in 1865; he then transferred to the Detroit Conference, and, for a brief period, to Wisconsin. He died in 1915 as a respected member of the Detroit Conference.2 1 Edward D. Jervey, "Zion's Herald: The Independent Voice of American Methodism," Methodist History, vol. 2 (Jan. 1987): 91-1 10 [Zion's Heraldhereinafter cited as ZH.] For White's letters, dealingwith his imprisonment in the officers' prison at Macon, see Edward D. Jervey, 'Ten Weeks in a Macon Prison, 1864: A New England Chaplain's Account," Georgia Historical Quarterly, (Winter 1986) 669-702. Minutes of the Providence Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1855-1863; General Minutes of the Annual Conferences , 1855-1863. John K. Burlingame, comp., History of the Fifth Rhode /siand Heavy Artillery (Providence: Snow & Farnham, 1892), 121, 124. 2 Minutes of the Providence Conference, 1865; General Minutes of the Annual Conferences 1866-1916; Minutes of the Wisconsin Conference 1873, 1874; Minutes of the Detroit Conference 1916. The author is indebted to the following persons for furnishing a detailed Civil War History, Vol XXXIV, No. 1, © 1988 by The Kent State University Press PRISON LIFE AMONG THE REBELS23 The date at the beginning of each letter in the text indicates when and from where White wrote. The date at the end of each letter indicates the date of publication in Zion's Herald. The letters were all written for the edification of the readers of the Herald. The letters reveal White's eye for detail and his keen interest in the state of affairs in the South. He seldom missed an opportunity to draw pointed comparisons between the officers and men of the two armies. In his first letter he predicted that the "rebellion [was] near its end," as the "men of the South that intend to go in the army are now in it, and those who are not in it have left the country." The Confederates had abandoned all hope of foreign intervention but believed that McClellan might be elected and thus leave the door open for a negotiated peace. They could not arm the blacks, whom they deemed untrustworthy. As for the blacks themselves, White wTote that "I never met one that did not understand this struggle. I never met one that I spoke to on the subject that was not loyal to the Yankees, as they call us." White also claimed to have met many Union men who urged "us to hold on and be firm, and the thing will soon be over." However, the major weakness of the Confederacy was its very system . As White put it: "The people of the South have little reverence for any general government, ours or Jeff's. They go for the sovereignty of the States. Do you ask wherein lies the strength of the Confederate Government ? I answer, Davis has got control of the State's armies. The strength of the rebellion is its army. Press that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 22-45
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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