A Story of Rebel Military Prisons

Cover image for


Author: John McElroy
Published: 1879
Language: English
Wordcount: 190,437 / 549 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 59.1
LoC Category: CT
Downloads: 4,678
Added to site: 2006.08.23 14288
Genres: War, History, Biography

The author, when very young, engaged in journalistic work, until the drum of the recruiting officer called him to join the ranks of his country's defenders. As the reader is told, he was made a prisoner. He took with him into the terrible prison enclosure not only a brave, vigorous, youthful spirit, but invaluable habits of mind and thought for storing up the incidents and experiences of his prison life. As a journalist he had acquired the habit of noticing and memorizing every striking or thrilling incident, and the experiences of his prison life were adapted to enstamp themselves indelibly on both feeling and memory. He speaks from personal experience and from the stand-paint of tender and complete sympathy with those of his comrades who suffered more than he did himself. Of his qualifications, the writer of these introductory words need not speak. The sketches themselves testify to his ability with such force that no commendation is required.

Show Excerpt

se and detail are admirable.

Some thirty of the pictures, including the frontispiece, and the allegorical illustrations of War and Peace, are from the atelier of Mr. O. Reich, Cincinnati, O.

A word as to the spelling: Having always been an ardent believer in the reformation of our present preposterous system--or rather, no system--of orthography, I am anxious to do whatever lies in my power to promote it. In the following pages the spelling is simplified to the last degree allowed by Webster. I hope that the time is near when even that advanced spelling reformer will be left far in the rear by the progress of a people thoroughly weary of longer slavery to the orthographical absurdities handed down to us from a remote and grossly unlearned ancestry.

Toledo, O., Dec. 10, 1879.


We wait beneath the furnace blast The pangs of transformation; Not painlessly doth God recast And mold anew the nation. Hot burns the fire Where wrongs expire; Nor spares the hand That


Average Rating of 4 from 3 reviews: ****
J.David Knepper

Federal Private John McElroy had the misfortune to be captured by Confederate forces during the War Between The States and spent over a year in several prisoner of war camps, including Camp Sumter near Andersonville, Georgia.

His experiences, recorded for newspaper serialization fourteen years after his release, were apparently typical for prisoners in that conflict. His memories record a few instances of Christian charity in action in a god-forsaken place, but many more instances of men reduced by circumstance to an animal-like existence. Raiders, low-life New Yorkers were such vicious, murderous predators within the camp that the prisoners sought and received permission to arrest and try the leaders of the pack. In consequence, they convicted and hanged six prisoners for murder.

The author is convinced that the Confederate authorities could have done much at very low cost to alleviate the suffering of its prisoners. However, his testimony is colored by his admitted hatred of the Confederacy, its leaders and Southerners, black and white alike. A tedious read.

Peter Gitta

I can't say how glad I am that I came across this book. I stayed up way too late for a few nights.

The most amazing thing about it is the humor! Considering the subject matter, this writer made me laugh out loud the whole way. And you need to laugh a little, or you'll cry at what these men had to endure.

Think about how rough you have it...then read this book.


Amazing. I'm halfway through this and can barely put it down to eat. A matter-of-fact, day-to-day telling of life at the Andersonville prison in Georgia during the Civil War.

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