From the Shirleysburg (PA) Herald, 8/21/1862
From the Twelfth Reserves.
John J. Sneath, a private in Co. I, 12th Pa. Reserves, was captured by the Rebels in the seven days’ battles before Richmond. In a letter to his mother, living in this village, which we are kindly permitted to copy, he writes as follows, from Harrison’s Landing, Va., under date of the 8th inst.:
I was in the grand fight before Richmond on Thursday and Friday. On Friday evening, about dusk, we were ordered to fall back. Not being very well all that day, I could not keep up close. A body of Rebel cavalry got in front of me and seven others (New York boys) with me. Seeing them first, I got under some brush, by a log, and escaped, while the others were made prisoners. About 12 o’clock at night I went about 300 yards from the road and lay down till morning. I shall never forget that night. The screams and moans of the wounded lying on the field, close by where I lay, I tell you was awful. At break of day on Saturday morning I started to make good my escape. I got along through the bushes about one mile; when I heard horsemen in front, coming directly towards me. Seeing I was done for, I put my gun in the fork of a small tree and bent the barrel, so that it would do them no service. They took my haversack, and distributed all my grub among themselves. They then took me to Gaine’s Mill, where they had about two hundred of our boys. From there we were all taken to Richmond and put in some kind of a prison. We were not given any food till Sunday evening; then we got, each, five ounces of hard bread, without salt. I hadn’t a bit to eat from Thursday till Sunday evening. They kept us fifteen days in Richmond, then took us two miles out of the city to Bell Island. There were over four thousand of us on the Island. Most of us had to lie on the sand, and out in all the rain without blankets, for we had lost them on the battle-field. All we got to eat on this Island was ten ounces of sour bread a day, and often not any for 36 hours. Shannon was with us on the Island. Many of our men died for want of food. The dead were left to lie three days in the hot sun before burial. I was a prisoner in their hand forty long days. I am now only two days in Uncle Sam’s Camp, and am feeling much better, having plenty to eat. J. J. SNEATH