View Full Version : Late war exchanges, in verse

09-08-2006, 10:26 AM
"Asa Hartz", a wonderful Confederate newspaper correspondent of the humorous vein, landed at Johnson's Island prison after being captured near Jackson, MS. While in prison he wrote a poem asking for someone to do something, anything, to get him out. Here's the response, also in verse, and it really does address the major points that held up exchanges in mid to late war. For a serious discussion, see _While In the Hands of the Enemy: Military Prisons of the Civil War_, by Charles W. Sanders, Jr., LSU Press, 2005. Unfortunately for me, this book does not address any Southern prison not under the control of Richmond, so Camp Ford and Camp Groce in Texas are only mentioned to say why they aren't mentioned. Anyway, to the poem:


“Uncle Bob’s” Reply to “Asa Hartz.”
Pine Grove, June 23d, 1864.

Editor Clarion: Fearing that Asa Hartz’s Uncle Bob may not have time to reply to Asa’s recent letter in equally “poetic lingo,” and knowing that he would much prefer to do so, I have made bold to write for him the following, which he can use as his own and nobody will be the wiser.

With the assurance that you and “Asa,” and “Uncle Bob,” and the rest of mankind are the recipients of my most distinguished consideration, I have the honor to be,

Yours truly,
Jack O’Spades.

Dear Asa Hartz: Your letter’s come,
And I have thought and pondered some
To find a new and splendid plea,
By which to gain your liberty.
‘Tis very true our “Dixie cages”
Have many a score of Yankee “Majes”
That would delight, I have no doubt,
To aid in getting Asa out.
But Lincoln thought a while ago,
“He had us dead,” “I guess” you know,
And so he put his pedal down
And swore with diabolic frown,
That nary “Reb” should ever slip
Who once was gobled [sic] in his grip.
When told about the rules of war,
He only laughed a loud Haw! Haw!!
And told Bill Seward, Chase, and Stanton,
To listen how the rebels cant on
“Those silly Rules” then with a poke,
Into their ribs he told a joke.
But Chickamauga came you see,
And Abraham, to himself, says he,
“Gosh, dang it, how these rebels fight;
I guess I’ve been a leetle tight
Upon these Rebs, who might some day,
“Get even with me in this way.”
And then the Yanks began to swear,
About Confederate prison fare—
And every Dutchman had his “vrow”
A writing to Old Abra’m how,
Her lusty lord was getting thin
“As never was,” oh such a din
‘Twas really quite a treat to hear,
So Abe, he said, “send better cheer,”
Or else they’ll all “go up the spout,”
Oh then such loads of sour krout,
And Lager Beer and Apple Sass,
And dessicated “fixins” too
Was sent by every Marm and lass,
You never saw; but ‘twouldn’t do.
I sent them back, and told the Yanks
They couldn’t play that sort of pranks,
And nary Fed should have a drop
Until they’d make an even swap,
Then Mumford came and said he’d do it,
“But ‘twas our fault, and well we knew it
As how we hadn’t swapped before.”
But when we talked the matter o’er,
The everlasting “nigger” got
Slightly cross-wise in the plot
And stopped the plans for your exchange.
I hope you will not think it strange.
What! swap a nig for Asa Hartz!!
A man of so much “vim and parts?”
“Forbid it Heaven!!” I hear you say,
“I’d be a pris’ner till judgment day!!”
Then Abraham sent B. F. B.
And thought he’d fool Mass Jeff and me,
Because the sneaking cunning “Brute”
Had been so sly and devilish “cute”
He’d cheated even the Yankee nation.
Well, Butler with insinuation,
Sleek, smiling face and ogling eye,
Came down his tricky hand to try—
We spurned him like a filthy thing.
What! let so foul a creature bring
Dishonor to our country’s fame?
He! the “Brute,” with cursed name,
The bleared-eye “Beast,” with reeking hand,
That shed the best blood in our land,
The out-lawed, foul, and hated demon,
That dared insult our Southern women,
Hold intercourse with such as he?
Forbid it God of Liberty!!
No! better let the prison chain,
Still rankling in your heart, remain;
Better bid a long farewell
To earthly joys, and in your cell
Live lingering out Eternity
Than on such terms gain liberty.

But Asa, dear, you need not fear
So hard a lot; I ‘spose you hear
How Mr. Grant has set a day—
‘Tis July 4th (the Yankees say)—
To have a mighty barbecue
In Richmond town; but when he’s through
With our boys and Robert Lee
I think Mass Abe will willing be
To set you and all others free
That have for such a lengthy while,
Been pining ‘way on Johnson’s Isle.

Spades are trumps now, in these parts,
But none forget old Asa Hartz;
And when the “hands” are running “hard”
We sorely miss so good a card.
Give my love to Mr. Terry,
And tell him not to be contrary
And keep you always in the jail,
I’ll “jine” George D, in giving bail.
“Yours,” till cruel death shall rob
One of the other.

Your Uncle Bob.

Vicki Betts