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[George W. Coverston was a private in the 3rd Iowa Infantry. Although he was serving in an Iowa unit, he was born in Ohio so this is probably where his family lived. Prisoner exchanges were stopped at about this time, so if he was exchanged he was among the very last ones. The Gallia County men who were imprisoned at Belle Isle were captured in November 1863 and were eventually transferred to Andersonville Prison in Georgia where many of them died. Coverston mustered out of the army on 5/18/1864 as a sergeant.
N. Elvick]

Story of a Federal Prisoner, Rodney, Gallia county, O., Nov. 6th, 1863

Mr. Harper—Sir:
     Permit me through your columns to corroborate the statements that have been made time and again, in regard to the manner that the rebels treat their prisoners. I have had as good a chance as any one could, to see the internal machinery of the Southern Confederacy, having been a prisoner for ten weeks, and having experienced more hardships during that short time than I had during almost three years on the tented field, therefore I am prepared to testify to the truthfulness of all that has been said in regard to the manner in which our men are treated. I also feel it to be my duty as well as privilege, to give publicity to these facts, as it will give those who have not had a chance to experience, how things are conducted down in Dixie.
     I will therefore begin by stating when and where we were captured. I say we because there was [sic] about one hundred taken at the same time. We were captured at Jackson, Miss., July 12th, 1863, in a charge made by Gen. Lawman, in an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the rebel Gen. Jackson from his works near Jackson. Our Regiment, the 3d Iowa, had advanced to within about one hundred and fifty yards of the enemy's breast-works, when the order was given to retreat, but owing to the incessant roar of artillery and musketry, it was impossible that all could hear the command. And being one of the Regiments that has never yet flinched under fire, we marched up to within seventy-five yards of the rebel artillery, when to our surprise and mortification, we found ourselves in the hands of the enemy. There was [sic] about one hundred in all that was [sic] captured, and about thirty of the 3d Iowa. We were immediately marched to the Provost Marshal's office, and searched. Everything was taken from us except the clothes which we had on. We only remained in that place about three hours, then was [sic] marched to the depot and took the cars to Meridian; from thence by steamboat up to Demopolis, on the Tombigbee river; then we took the cars to Selma, Alabama; from thence by steamboat to Montgomery, where we again took cars, traveled day and night, passing through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, reaching Richmond on the 20th, being nine days on the road, with but three days' rations during the whole time, consisting of hard bread and meat, full of maggots, which to soldiers of the Union army, who had been used to the best of rations, was rather a hard mess.
     And right here, let me state a few facts in regard to the condition of the railroads in the South. So far as my observation extended, I am compelled to say that the roads are about gone up, the railings, which are of the old-fashioned bar railing, are just about worn out. This does not refer to a part only, but to the whole route. The cars look as though they had been used as hog houses for a half century. There are scarcely any passenger cars, and what few there is [sic] are about as good as none at all. And in regard to the crop, I would just say that there are literally no crops at all. I only saw a few pieces of corn that would be pronounced good by our Northern farmers. King Cotton and Lord Tobacco, are no go whatever.
     As I before stated, we arrived at Richmond on the 20th of July. Notwithstanding we only received three days' rations in nine days, yet we fared decidedly better than we did on Bell Island, [sic - Belle Isle] in the James river, near Richmond.—When we first arrived in the rebel Capitol, we were incarcerated in a tobacco warehouse, but were not allowed to remain there but a few hours, it being thought rather commodious for regular Yankee soldiers to rest their weary bones in. From thence we were marched to the Island; there we met with about four thousand Union prisoners from the East, who had been captured at Gettysburg. The Island contains about eight acres of land, but we were confined upon a space of ground containing not over an acre at the furthest. There are strong breastworks thrown up around the whole camp, behind these are a strong guard of infantry, besides six or eight pieces of artillery bearing upon the Island from three points. Thus, you see, to escape was impossible. There were scarcely tents sufficient for half the men, and they were not much better than no tents at all, for they looked like they had been through the revolutionary war. So you see that those who were fortunate enough to get tents, did not fare much better than those who had to sleep upon the bare ground, without blankets or covering of any kind, except the thin clothing which they chanced to have on. Many of the men were bareheaded and barefooted, and thus equipped we were compelled to sleep on the bare ground, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, which was very unpleasant, raining almost every day for two weeks at a time. Such commodities were very repugnant to a soldier who was half starved and half sick in the bargain. The clothing which they had were [sic] alive with the only thing which the rebels can raise successfully—that is, to use a plain term—lice.
     As to provisions, I am almost afraid to mention the facts in regard to the kind and quality, for fear of reversing the digestive organs of some of your more modest readers. First, as to quantity, we got about four ounces of bread and one ounce of beef in the forenoon, and in the afternoon about the same amount of bread with a pint of bean or rice soup, which was scarcely sufficient to keep soul and body together. As to the quality of rations, I cannot master language adequate to describe it. It must be seen and realized before it can be believed. The beef was so poor and thin that it looked more like Spanish sole leather than anything else, and the soup was made of James river water and [a] compound mixture of rice, beans, hair, mud, worms, and lice. Yet that would not have been so bad if we only could have had enough of it. But this was not all we had to endure, for we were treated more like dogs than human beings.—We were taken out several times and searched for fear we might have a few cents left to buy a morsel to sustain life. And if our men did not just move to suit them, they would kick or strike them with whatever came handy.—Several men were shot for getting a few feet out of their range. But it would be impossible for me to give one fourth of the particulars, therefore I will close.
     To my certain knowledge, C. L. Vallandigham stood very high in the estimation of the Southern people.      G. W. Coverston, Co. H, 3d Iowa V.I.

The Gallipolis Journal
November 12, 1863