From the National Tribune, 9/2/1882
BRUTAL MURDERS AT BELLE ISLE.
To the Editor NATIONAL TRIBUNE:
I am an ex-soldier of the late war; was a member of company E, Ringgold cavalry, Pennsylvania volunteers, afterwards company F, Twenty-second Pennsylvania cavalry volunteers. Enlisted when but sixteen years of age, for three years; was taken prisoner, after serving one year, at Moorefield, West Va., September 4, 1863; was shortly after ushered into and partook of the hospitalities of “Libby Prison,” and subsequently was transferred to “Belle Isle,” where I remained over eight months, and saw and endured the cruelties perpetrated there. I became reduced to a mere skeleton through starving and exposure. While there I saw the rebel Lieutenant Boisseux, in charge of the prisoners, set three men on what resembled a sawhorse, sharp edged, with legs about eight feet high; each were bucked and gagged, their hands tied behind them, a rope attached to each ankle, and then a man at each rope stretched their legs apart to the utmost limit, and then tied the ropes to pegs driven into the ground, and the officer’s hellish heart allowed them to remain in that position until two of them fell off dead. It matters not what they had done, such brutality was uncalled for. We were powerless, however and I must tell the way we revenged ourselves. The lieutenant had a pair of white bull-dogs which he thought a great deal of. They mysteriously disappeared, and we hungry fellows actually ate and relished the steaks sliced from their hams. I wonder if any of my fellow-companions that ate some of those bulldog steaks are in the land of the living. If there is one, whose eyes may catch these lines, for the love of the memories of 1861 and 1865 he will drop me a line.
There was at the same time I was taken prisoner three others with me, and in a few days after eight more of our company were added to our number, and nine of the twelve paid the debt of their lives in those loathsome dens. No costly marble monument marks their resting place. The dead were piled in trenches, and no ceremony took place to solemnize the occasion. It was a southern rule, a rebel boast, that no soldier should leave prison in a condition that would permit him to do active service again, and this rule they invariably kept. They did what they could to weaken our armies by starving poor, helpless prisoners to death.
Are not those men who, through the effects of a long term of confinement, as much entitled to a pension, as those who were but slightly wounded and well cared for in our hospitals? Did the thousands who starved to death in those miserable dens suffer less than those comrades who were shot down in the many hard-fought battles? Pensions for ex-prisoners? Yes! They cannot be repaid for the sacrifices they have made. Old veterans, the passing years are fast thinning our ranks; let us bask in each other’s halo of reminiscences while we tarry, standing shoulder to shoulder, not excluding the Johnnies, for we are now all under the same dear “Old Flag.”
I am well pleased with THE NATIONAL TRIBUNE, and all ex-soldiers should take an interest in it, and write some of the adventures they were engaged in in that great struggle for freedom. I am a member of Post No. 10, G. A. R., an order that is growing rapidly in this State, and hundreds of old soldiers are flocking into its ranks. I am doing all I can to advance the interests of those who served their country in her hour of danger, and I hope the day will soon come when justice and equity will be meted out to them.
JOHN W. MANNING,
Late of Co. E, Riggold Cav., Pa. Vols.
SALINEVILLE, O., August 15.