April—I suppose the end is near, for there is no more hope for the South to gain her independence. On the 10th of this month we were told by an officer that all those who wished to get out of prison by taking the oath of allegiance to the United States could do so in a very few days. There was quite a consultation among the prisoners. On the morning of the 12th we heard that Lee had surrendered on the 9th, and about 400, myself with them, took the cursed oath and were given transportation to wherever we wanted to go. I took mine to New York City to my parents, whom I have not seen since 1858. Our cause is lost; our comrades who have given their lives for the independence of the South have died in vain; that is, the cause for which they gave their lives is lost, but they positively did not give their lives in vain. They gave it for a most righteous cause, even if the Cause was lost. Those that remain to see the end for which they fought—what have we left? Our sufferings and privations would be nothing had the end been otherwise, for we have suffered hunger, been without sufficient clothing, barefooted, lousy, and have suffered more than any one can believe, except soldiers of the Southern Confederacy. And the end of all is a desolated home to go to. When I commenced this diary of my life as a Confederate soldier I was full of hope for the speedy termination of the war, and our independence. I was not quite nineteen years old. I am now twenty-three. The four years that I have given to my country I do not regret, nor am I sorry for one day that I have given—my only regret is that we have lost that for which we fought. Nor do I for one moment think that we lost it by any other way than by being outnumbered at least five if not ten to one. The world was open to the enemy, but shut out to us. I shall now close this diary in sorrow, but to the last I will say that, although but a private, I still say our Cause was just, nor do I regret one thing that I have done to cripple the North.
Diary of a Tar Heel Confederate Soldier By Louis Léon [53d North Carolina Regiment, infantry]
March—Nothing new. It is the same gloomy and discouraging news from the South, and gloomy and discouraging in prison.
February—The smallpox is frightful. There is not a day that at least twenty men are taken out dead. Cold is no name for the weather now. They have given most of us Yankee overcoats, but have cut the skirts off. The reason of this is that the skirts are long and if they left them on we might pass out as Yankee soldiers.
January—Nothing, only that I fear that our cause is lost, as we are losing heavily, and have no more men at home to come to the army. Our resources in everything are at an end, while the enemy are seemingly stronger than ever. All the prisoners in Northern prisons, it seems, will have to stay until the end of the war, as Grant would rather feed than fight us.
January 1st.—Marched on through Jacinto, Tishamingo County, Rienzi, Tupelo and Saltillo. Reported Jeff Davis dead. Great many glad to hear it. One-fourth of army bare-footed. Worst demoralized army it is possible to see. About two thirds of them declare they are going home. Drew a few shoes, coats and pants. Jeff Davis not dead.
November and December—Nothing, only bitter cold. We dance every night at some of our quarters. Some of the men put a white handkerchief around one of their arms, and these act as the ladies. We have a jolly good time.
October—We have got the smallpox in prison, and from six to twelve are taken out dead daily. We can buy from prisoners rats, 25 cents each, killed and dressed. Quite a number of our boys have gone into the rat business. On the 11th of this month there were 800 sick prisoners sent South on parole.
September—It is very cold, worse than I have seen it in the South in the dead of winter.
August—Nothing worth recording this month, except that the fare is the same as at Point Lookout.
July 29—There are at present some 3,000 prisoners here. I like this place better than Point Lookout. We are fenced in by a high fence, in, I judge, a 200acre lot. There is an observatory outside, and some Yankee is making money, as he charges ten cents for every one that wishes to see the rebels.