Bibliographic information: Ernul, J[ohn]. B. Life of a Confederate Soldier in a Federal Prison (Vanceboro, N.C.: s.n., n.d. ), 16 p.
Describes the experiences of a Craven County resident while in a northern prison camp during the Civil War.
John B. Ernul (May 28, 1843-January 13 or 14, 1918) enlisted in 1st Co. I, 10th Regiment, NCST, on September 17, 1861, at the age of 18. On April 16, 1863, he was transferred to Company A, 1st Battalion, N.C. Local Defense Troops (Whitford's Battalion N.C. Partisan Rangers). That company was formed into Company A, 67th Regiment, NCST, on January 18, 1864 [Lewis Manarin, et als., North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865 (Raleigh, N.C.: NCDAH, 1966), 14 vols to date, 1:142 and 3:88].
Ernul appears to have been wounded and captured on March 7, 1865, and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland. He was discharged from prison on June 11, 1865, returning to New Bern on June 23 (taken from his narrative).
After the war, Ernul moved to New Bern, where he was listed as a shingle dealer in the 1880 Craven County census. He married Nancy Potter (April 7, 1852-September 18, 1899) on May 7, 1876 [Beauchamp, 1880 Craven County Census (New Bern, N.C.: Beauchamp, 2002), p. ?; Craven County Marriage Register 5].
Ernul died on January 13, 1918 (or on January 14, 1918, according to his tombstone), at the age of 74, and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern. He was survived by one daughter, Delve Ernul (Mrs. John W.) Rawls [New Bern Morning New Bernian, January 15, 1918, Cemeteries of Craven County, North Carolina, vol. 1, City of New Bern (New Bern: ENCGS, 1993?), p. 170].
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LIFE OF A CONFEDERATE SOLDIER
By J. B. ERNUL, Vanceboro, N. C.
As the greater number of the boys of ‘61 and ‘65, who donned the Gray and fought for the Right as they saw the right, have passed over the mysterious river Styx and are at rest under the shade of the Tree of Life, and those who still remain must soon follow, I have decided to write a sketch of my life as a Confederate soldier.
In the spring of 1861, while the men and boys were gathering at every crossroad and station to enlist as soldiers to drive out those who were oppressing the South, I became anxious to cast my lot with the rest. So I obtained the consent of my parents and joined Co. I, 10th N. C. Regiment, Artillery, but later on was transferred to Infantry.
When not at drill the time was spent in the vices of army life. A gambling epidemic broke out which spread with great rapidity and but few made escape
On the 14th of March, 1862, I got my first experience in real war, but as I am writing mainly of my life in prison camp, Point Lookout, and how I was captured by a Yankee, I’ll go back to March 7, 1865.
It was reported that Schoefield’s Army Corps was advancing. We marched
We lay around for a short time with the “Yanks,” eating and playing cards. Their food became scarce, then our troubles began. We were put on board a transport and started for the “summer resort.” There were about eight hundred of us prisoners. After we had gotten out to sea they began to issue rations of raw pickled beef and hard tack to us of which we all ate heartily. The sea was awfully rough, the waves rolling high and soon it was very evident that almost every prisoner was suffering dreadfully with seasickness, while their cries for water were pitiable to hear. After several days we arrived at our “summer resort.” We were taken from the barge to the headquarters of the officers. There were many ladies present. I suppose they were members of the officers’ families. I saw some of the ladies pointing at us and remarking,
After I had been in prison a few days I began to suffer from hunger. I saw some of the boys eating broiled rats, they smelled very appetizing, but I
While walking about one day I accidently passed the guard at the hospital gate Passing through the wards down to the dead house I saw thirty or forty of the poorest objects I had ever seen before. There were two that looked rather fleshy. Seeing a fellow standing near I thought I’d ask some questions, so began: “How long have you been here, brother?” “Eight months,” he replied. “Of what kind of sickness did those men die?” He replied, “They
Now I am coming to the toughest thing I had ever struck. After leaving the dead house I came to the guard. He told me to halt. I told him that I belonged to the other side and must go. Holding his gun up so that I could see down its barrel, he said, “That ball is whirling fast, it wants to get out.” He then called a white man, who came and talked to me awhile, and then said, “You need some jewelry, something like a twelve pound ball and chain.” Oh! horror of horrors, if any of my piney-woods friends could have heard me then. But my pleadings were all in vain. I sat down and received the
The greatest difficulty in prison was the necessity of getting through the first few days with nothing to do. These hours dragged slowly. Some were able to pass a great number in sleeping. Those of less nerve slept fifteen or more hours, but others found such indulgence impossible and were forced to seek other methods of enduring the tiresome days and nights.
There were some very amusing things happened in camp. Now to think of such as toting barrels and boxes every day, but to see thousands of the
One amusing feature of prison life was a barber who would daily walk through the camp and repeat, “Here goes your good old Tar Heel barber, will shave you for a chew of tobacco. If anyone will shave you cheaper, I’ll give you a chew to let me shave you.”
In prison camp I belonged to Company I, Sixth Division, near the big cross ditch.
On the 11th of June, 1865 a notice was put on the bulletin board that all the prisoners were to be discharged. This notice brought forth the most joyous yells I had heard in months. About twenty thousand men and boys made a rush for the gate. Each man gave his name, company, regiment and State, the same as when he entered prison, then received his discharge. My name happened to be among the first called.
We got transportation by way of Danville, Va., Greensboro, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and New Bern, N.C. The next day after we reached New Bern I got to my home June 23rd 1865
Well, it is all over now, and I do not feel unkindly toward the Northern soldier who fought because he felt it his duty to fight. We only differed in opinion. Some one is to blame though for placing black, ignorant brutes as guards over Confederate prisoners. I don’t think there are many of those prisoners who can forgive and forget that much of the past. I can’t understand who or why any Southern white man can vote any ticket except the Democratic ticket today. It seems to me that there must be something wrong in the upper-story of the Republican voters of the South. But that too, is, I suppose, just a difference in opinions.
[p. 16 and inside back cover]
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Images scanned by Dean Knight
Text prepared by Victor T. Jones, Jr.
Last edited: August 19, 2009