Memphis, TN Area Sultana Disaster book - part 2
we were landed at Selma, where we took cars again for Meridian, Mississippi.
The "Pullmans" on which we were loaded were of the kind commonly used for four-footed passengers, and the more active of us took upper berths on top of the cars. This proved rather dangerous, for our car had an accident and some of the boys were thrown off and badly bruised. I escaped injury by jumping to the car ahead. We had another transfer to a steamboat on the Tombigbee river, and then cars again to Meridian, where we were informed that we would have to make the rest of our journey on foot. They simply turned us loose, and directed us to the road to Vicksburg, near which the parole camp was located.
After a wearisome march we came to the Big Black, which was the Jordan for us, but with no Joshua to command the waters to roll back. We had to wait till the ferryman had orders to take us over, and we were probably more patient in doing so because we could see the Stars and Stripes floating over the parole camp. It was too far away to see even the stripes, but we knew it was "the old flag," and as it floated out I felt that I loved it as I never had before. Perhaps every American would appreciate it more if he were obliged to live for a while out from under its protection. "Long may it wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
In a few hours we were in camp, and soon had some coffee, and surprised our stomachs with other good things. The camp was under the command of rebel officers, but was guarded by colored Union troops. This was due to the fact that we were to be paroled, not exchanged, as has sometimes been stated. The authorities had stopped the exchange of prisoners, on the ground that we were releasing sound men who could at once take their places in the ranks, and receiving men who were hopelessly incapacitated by starvation and disease. The parole system had been instituted in its place. The rebel officers continued in command until the news of the assassination of President Lincoln came, and then they were wisely advised to get across the Big Black, which they did before the news was communicated to the men.
The day after our arrival I got a pass and went into the city, and found, to my surprise, that Captain Owens' company of the Ninth Indiana cavalry was stationed there. The boys in that company were nearly all from about Indianapolis, and a better-hearted set of men than they never lived. I shall never forget their kindness, and I had need for it. The truth is that at Andersonville we had no modern conveniences, such as bathtubs, soap, towels, or change of apparel, and it was not long until we became inhabited worlds. No microscope was needed to discern what sort of beings those inhabitants were, and they are not included among those catalogued as being in the ark. I long since came to the conclusion that they were descendants of those spoken of in the third plague of Egypt, and that after inhabiting the land of Moab they came over and settled with the first families of Virginia. By the laws of evolution they are of larger size and more intellectual than their progenitors, being "near man."
But they certainly had the instincts of a Moabite, and were of the first blood, for the boys who formed their acquaintance used to say that some of them were of ripe age, running back before the Christian era. They classed them by different names, "bluebacks, greybacks, and half-breeds, but all of them inflationists." I am sure Oliver Rice will never forget the time he marched me down to the little creek in Vicksburg, and, seeing that I had for
The Sultana disaster by E.J. Hecker, Indianapolis, 1913, pages 165-166