Prisoner of War
Tilton Reynolds fought in the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) along the Chickahominy River in Virginia, May 31-June 1, 1862, and was taken prisoner. Doctor Crawford wrote his aunt Juliana on June 14, 1862, following the defeat. He began the letter mourning the loss of life, including the death of Juliana's cousin, H. P. Sprague. He continued with what little news he had been able to piece together regarding Tilton.
I search the field over and over again to find Tilton and I was with the first that went on the field and the last time I heard from Tilton he was lying behind a log. Joe Dickey was wounded and was making his way of[f] the field and saw him and told him had better retreat as the rebels were surrounding us. He told him he could not move as the balls were coming from front and both side of him then. This is the last was heard of him and all the Regt knows him and I had every one look to find him. There was four men of the Regt taken prisoner. I know this will be a hard shock on you and Uncle Thomas and his brothers and sisters and you have my heart felt sympathy and I think he will turn up all right yet.
Tilton had, in fact, been taken prisoner. He was held at the Libby and Belle Isle prisons in Virginia and the Salisbury prison in North Carolina. An agreement on the exchange of prisoners of war was negotiated and Tilton was released in early fall. Within months, Tilton returned to service with the Wild Cat Regiment.
A family friend held prisoner near Richmond wrote Mrs. Reynolds on August 6, 1863, from Camp Parole. The letter included a description of the diet in the prison camp at Richmond:
…Do you know how much one gets to eat at Richmond, if you don't I can tell you. As long as we was there we got just half a pound of bread, one ounce of poor meat and a pint of slop called by them, bean soup. It was made of a poor quality of beans. (Some called them locust beans, they were small & very dark looking) and muddy water out of the river James. …The cooks would take a pail and scoop it up half sand & half water and in that delightful condition went in the kettles…
Read McCracken's letter, as well as Tilton's letter from the parole camp written in October 1862. What can you learn about being a prisoner of war from these letters? Conduct additional research to find out more about life in both Confederate and Union prison camps. How did the treatment of prisoners change over the course of the war?