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March 31, 1863. Letters and other correspondence, one of which was written by J. J. Andrews two days before his execution


FLEMINGSBURG, KY., March 31, 1863.

 Hon. JO. HOLT,
Judge-Advocate-General U. S. Army, Washington; D. C.

DEAR SIR: Having noticed by the letters of the Washington correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette that you were taking proof of the returned six prisoners of that expedition consisting of twenty-two men sent out by General Mitchel to capture a train in Georgia, and that Parrott received 100 lashes to make him tell [who was] the main engineer that run the train--the main engineer and captain of that detachment was James J. Andrews, a resident of this place. He made a bequest of $1,200 to this county for the benefit of the poor. And in my official capacity as county attorney I proceeded to make the proof and elicited an important letter from Captain Andrews himself, written but two days before his execution, which is authentic and of record, and I inclose you a copy thereof, supposing of course it must aid in making out the case. Andrews was a good man, energetic, faithful and loyal from principle.

I also find a letter from James Pike, of the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, which turned up in some way at Murfreesborough, Tenn., as per printed letter herewith, all which is respectfully communicated to you, hoping it may aid you in the premises.

I remain, yours, truly,


County Attorney.

[Inclosure No. 1.]

FLEMING COUNTY COURT, January [10?], 1863.

In the matter of the estate of James J. Andrews, deceased, a resident of this county.

On motion of the county attorney, David S. McGavic being sworn states that he knew James J. Andrews for more than one year prior to the 17th of February, 1862, when after several conversations with him, being intimate with him, he delivered to me the check before me in substance as follows, to wit:

FLEMINGSBURG, February 17, 1862.

Cashier of the Branch Bank of Louisville, at Flemingsburg, pay to David S. McGavic or bearer in coin twelve hundred dollars.


He was then in the secret military service of the Government of the United States and he remarked to witness that he was engaged in rather a critical business and might never get back and if he should not get back--

I want you to draw this money out of bank, loan it out and the proceeds to go to the poor of Fleming County perpetually.

He left here for Louisville, Ky., and I heard from him no more except from newspaper accounts of his arrest and execution at Atlanta, Ga. Shortly after that I received the letter mailed at Louisville July 3, 1862, which I knew to be in his handwriting and addressed to me in substance as follows:

CHATTANOOGA, TENN., June 5, 1862.

D. S. McGAVIC, Esq., Flemingsburg, Ky.

DEAR SIR: You will doubtless be surprised to hear from me from this place and more surprised to hear that I am to be executed on the 7th instant for attempting to capture and run a train of cars from the Western and Atlantic Railroad to Huntsville, Ala., for the use of General Mitchel. I had a party of twenty-one detailed men from the Second, Twenty-first and Thirty-third Ohio Regiments with me. We succeeded in getting possession of the train and traveled with it some eighty or eighty-five miles when on account of one extra train being on the road we were compelled to abandon the train, the party scattering and trying to make our way back on foot. The whole party, however, were captured. I was taken on the 14th of April. I am satisfied that I could very easily have gotten away had they not put a pack of dogs on my trail. It was impossible to elude them. I was tried by court-martial and received my sentence on the last day of May instant. One week before the time set apart for my execution, on Monday morning, the 2d, I made an attempt to escape. I succeeded in getting out of prison and ran by the guard, they shooting at me but not hitting me. The whole country was immediately swarmed with soldiers. I succeeded in eluding them until Tuesday about 2 o'clock when I was recaptured and will be executed on Saturday. The sentence seems a hard one for the crime proven against me, but I suppose the court that tried me thought otherwise. I have now calmly submitted to my fate and have been earnestly engaged in preparing to meet my God in peace; and I have found that peace of mind and tranquillity of soul that even astonishes myself. I never supposed it possible that a man could feel so entire a change under similar circumstances. How I would like to have one hour's chat with you, but this I shall never have in this life but hope and pray we may meet in heaven where the troubles and trials of this life never enter.

What the fate of the balance of the party will be I am unable to say, but I hope they will not share the fate of their leader. If they ever return some two or three of them will call on you and the rest of the friends and I hope you will receive them kindly. They are noble fellows and will give you a full history of the affair. Please acquaint my friends of my fate. I shall try to write to some two or three more before my execution. Tell J. B. Jackson should there be any little claims that I neglected to settle to pay them and keep the horse. I don't think there are any but may be. In regard to other matters do exactly as instructed before I left. I have received no letters from Flemingsburg since I left. I wrote several but never received any answers. Please read this letter to Mrs. Eckels and tell her that I have thought of her kindness many times and that I hope we may meet in heaven where we shall enjoy the presence of the Lord forever. Give my kindest regards to Mr. Eckels also. According to the course of nature it will not be long until we shall meet in that happy country. Blessed thought. Remember me also to the young ladies of Flemingsburg, especially to Miss Kate Wallingford and Miss Nannie Baxter. Hoping that we may meet in that better country, I bid you a long and last farewell.


CHATTANOOGA, TENN., June 5, 1862.

Flemingsburg, Fleming County, Ky.:

You will find one trunk and one black valise. The valise has my name in red letters on the end and the other had my name on a paper pasted on the end. These are at the City Hotel, Nashville, in care of the old porter, on third floor. These with contents I present to you. Mr. Hawkins, you will find at the Louisville Hotel a large lady's trunk, no mark on it and is entirely empty. Please take it to Mr. Lindsey's, near Mill Creek Church on the Maysville and Flemingsburg pike, and request him to present it to Miss Elizabeth J. Layton for me, and much oblige


I certify that the foregoing is a true copy as it purports from the record thereof as it remains on file in my office.

Given under my hand this 1st day of April, 1863, as clerk of the Fleming County court.




[Inclosure No. 2.]


I have been all the forenoon at headquarters copying the following letters. I have not time before the express leaves to write even a few sentences by way of introduction; but of Pike I would say he was captured at Bridgeport, Tenn., April 24, 1862. I had not time to write out his account of his defense and capture. What I give, however, is copied verbatim from his own written statements.

The second letter, of January 3, I give as an illustration of the general feeling of Tennesseeans relative to the rebel defeat at Stone's River. Bragg and others may disguise their feelings as much as they please before the public but the sentiments of this letter are the true ones among the great majority of the Tennessee officers.




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I was taken to Chattanooga and confined in a jail. This was a two-story building. The upper story where I was confined was twelve feet square. In this room were confined nineteen Tennesseeans, a negro and myself. In the dungeon, which was only ten feet square, were confined twenty-one men out of the Second, the Twenty-first and the Thirty-third Ohio Infantry, charged with being spies. They were under the command of Captain Andrews, who was then under sentence of death by a court-martial held at Chattanooga. They were waiting for the Secretary of War at Richmond to ratify the proceedings of the court-martial previous to executing the captain, and they said they were satisfied the rest would certainly be hung. I was afterwards informed by the rebels that Andrews and six of the men were hung at Atlanta, Ga. Another time I was told by the rebel citizens that they hung Andrews and seventeen men. I went down into the dungeon to where these men were and found them handcuffed with close irons and chained in pairs by the neck, with a heavy chain locked around each man's neck with a padlock that would weigh two pounds. These padlocks were larger than a man's hand.

We were fed twice a day on tolerably good bread and spoiled beef, with coffee made of cane seed. There was no sink in the jail, so that our offal stood in a bucket in the room where we were confined day and night. This bucket was only emptied twice a day and of course the stench was intolerable. We were denied the privilege of washing our clothes or having it done. The jail was literally swarming with vermin, nor was it ever cleaned out.

From Chattanooga I was taken to Knoxville to another jail and confined in an iron cage. Here I was told by a man named Fox, the jailer, that I was brought to Knoxville to be tried by a court-martial as a spy and if I was tried I would no doubt be hung. This court-martial as did the one at Chattanooga adjourned without bringing me to trial. From there I was sent to Mobile, where another court-martial was in session; but after keeping me there about eight days I was sent to Tuscaloosa, Ala. From this place I was taken in company with all the prisoners at that post to Montgomery, Ala. The first day out I was taken sick with pneumonia and typhoid fever. The rebel surgeons refused me any medicines and even a bed and I was left for twelve days lying on the deck of the boat with nothing to eat but corn bread and beef which the rebels said had been packed five years. At Tuscaloosa they shot a man for looking out of a window and wounded another in the face for the same offense. At Montgomery they refused to let me go to a hospital although in a helpless condition. Here they shot a lieutenant for us under the following circumstances: He had been allowed to go out for milk accompanied by a guard. They were waiting for a woman to hand the milk out through a window when the guard gave the order to "come on." "Wait a moment till I get my milk," said the lieutenant. The guard made no reply but shot him in the breast with a shot-gun, killing him instantly. From Montgomery I was taken to Macon, Ga., in company with 1,200 others. Here we were allowed seven pounds of corn meal and two and a half pounds of bacon of bad quality for seven days. We were allowed two surgeons and but very little medicine. Our men fared badly, being punished severely for the most trifling offenses. One man named Cory was kept tied up three days by the wrists to a tree just so that his toes touched the ground. This was because he helped kill a yearling calf that got into the camp. A Floridian and two Kentuckians, political prisoners, were confined in the jail at Macon on quarter rations for twenty-two days. The only offense they had committed was to escape from the prison lot. Our men were pegged down on the ground for any misdemeanor. This was done by stretching out the limbs and driving a forked stick down over them. The operation was completed by driving one down over the neck. It would be impossible to tell all of the hardships to which we were subjected. I have endeavored to portray a few of them. They may be summed up thus: We were confined in bad quarters; our dead were left unburied for days together; some were left unburied entirely, at least to our knowledge; we were denied medical attendance; our chaplains were forbidden preaching to us or praying for us (by order of Major Rylander); our men and officers were shot without cause; an insane man was shot at Macon, Ga., for no offense; we were compelled to bury men in river banks where their bodies were liable to be washed out; we were beaten with clubs (this was done on board of the steamer en route for Montgomery, Ala.); we were fed on foul and unwholesome diet, frequently left without any rations two or three days at a time, and our exchange was delayed as long as possible; we were kept confined in camp surrounded by swamps, as the rebels said, that we all might die. I find it impossible to enumerate all the hardships put upon us, but have enumerated such as were the most intolerable.


Company A, Fourth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

The war of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Series 2 - Volume 5, 1899, U.S. Government Printing Office





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