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Civil War and Reconstruction
Civil War Soldiers' Stories
Captured During Longstreet's Charge at Gettysburg

John H. Robertson was born in Quincy, Florida, in 1845. He served in the Confederate Army and, after the war, settled in Texas. Below is an excerpt from an oral history interview conducted with him by the Federal Writer's Project. What does John say about his experiences as a prisoner of war? What would it be like if you did not hear from or about a close family member for more than two years?

View the entire interview with John Robertson from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


" . . . I was a soldier in the Confederate Army and served under Maury's division of the Army of Tennessee. I was captured at the battle of Gettysburg in Longstreet's charge and was taken to Fort Delaware, an island of 90 acres of land where the Union prisoners were kept. We were detailed to work in the fields and our rations was corn bread and pickled beef. However I fared better than some of the prisoners for I was given the privilege of making jewelry for the use of the Union soldiers. I made rings from the buttons from their overcoats and when they were polished the brass made very nice looking rings. These I sold to the soldiers of the Union Army who were our guards and with the money thus obtained I could buy food and clothing. The Union guards kept a commissary and they had a big supply of chocolate. I ate chocolate candy and drank hot chocolate in place of coffee until I have never wanted any chocolate since.

"I was in this prison when Lincoln was killed and great was the sorrow among the troops who guarded us when the news came. I made an attempt one time to escape and was captured so did not make another attempt. This was during a storm and in the confusion I tried to roll out of the camp, it came up while we were asleep and I was sleeping in my blanket, but the guard heard me and caught me before I could make my escape. After the end of the conflict I returned home, found that I had been reported missing for two years and had changed so much that my own people did not know me. When I left home I was sixteen and during the period of my absence I had grown and completely changed. Finally my sister identified me by my teeth. During this time I had grown a beard and this alone changed my appearance.

"At the end of hostilities I returned to my home and lived there for five years and as so many were seeking their fortune in the state of Texas I left my home in Florida and came to Texas in 1870."
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View the entire interview with John Robertson from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.