Cyrus Pringle.

Continued from Part One.

This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.

31st., 8th month, 1863. IN GUARD HOUSE. - Yesterday morning L. M. M. and I were called upon to do fatigue duty. The day before we were asked to do some cleaning about camp and to bring water. We wished to be obliging, to appear willing to bear a hand tow ard that which would promote our own and our fellows' health and convenience; but as we worked we did not feel easy. Suspecting we had been assigned to such work, the more we discussed in our minds the subject, the more clearly the right way seemed opene d to us; and we separately came to the judgment that we must not con-form to this requirement. So when the sergeant bade us "Police the streets," we asked him if he had received instructions with regard to us, and he replied we had been assigned to "Fati gue Duty." L.M.M. answered him that we could not obey. He left us immediately for the Major (Jarvis of Weathersfield, Vt.). He came back and ordered us to the Major's tent. The latter met us outside and inquired concerning the complaint he had heard of u s. Upon our statement of our position, he apparently undertook to argue our whimsies, as he probably looked upon our principles, out of our heads. We replied to his points as we had ability; but he soon turned to bullying us rather than arguing with us, and would hardly let us proceed with a whole sentence. "I make some pretension to religion myself," he said; and quoted the Old Testament freely in support of war. Our terms were, sub-mission or the guard-house. We replied we could not obey.

This island was formerly occupied by a company, who carried on the large farm it comprises and opened a great hotel as a summer resort.

The subjects of all misdemeanours, grave and small, are here confined. Those who have deserted or attempted it; those who have insulted officers and those guilty of theft, fighting, drunkenness, etc. In most, as in the camps, there are traces yet of manhood and of the Divine Spark, but some are abandoned, dissolute. There are many here among the substitutes who were actors in the late New York riots. They show unmistakably the characteristics and sentiments of those rioters, and, especially, hatr ed to the blacks drafted and about camp, and exhibit this in foul and profane jeers heaped upon these unoffending men at every opportunity. In justice to the blacks I must say they are superior to the whites in all their behaviour.

31st. P.M. - Several of us were a little time ago called out one by one to answer inquiries with regard to our offences. We replied we could not comply with military requisitions. P.D., being last, was asked if he would die first, and replied peomptly but mildly, Yes.

Here we are in prison in our own land for no crimes, no offence to God nor man; nay, more: we are here for obeying the commands of the Son of God and the influences of his Holy Spirit. I must look for patience in this dark day. I am troubled too much and excited and perplexed.

1st., 9th month. Oh, the horrors of the past night - I never before experienced such sensations and fears; and never did I feel so clearly that I had nothing but the hand of our Father to shield me from evil. Last night we three lay, down together on the floor of a lower room of which we had taken possession. The others were above. We had but one blanket between us and the floor, and one over us. The other one we had lent to a wretched deserter who had skulked into our room for relief, bei ng without anything of his own. We had during the day gained the respect of the fellows, and they seemed disposed to let us occupy our room in peace. I cannot say in quiet, for these caged beasts are restless, and the resonant boards of this old building speak of bedlam. The thin board partitions, the light door fastened only by a pine stick thrust into a wooden loop on the casing, seemed small protection in case of assault; but we lay down to sleep in quiet trust. But we had scarcely fallen asleep befo re we were awakened by the demoniac howlings and yellings of a man just brought into the next room, and allowed the liberty of the whole house. He was drunk, and further seemed to be labouring under delirium tremens. He crashed about furiously, and all t he more after the guard tramped heavily in and bound him with handcuffs, and chain and ball. Again and again they left, only to return to quiet him by threats or by crushing him down to the floor and gagging him. In a couple of hours he became quiet and we got considerable sleep.

In the morning the fellow came into our room apologizing for the intrusion. He appeared a smart, fine-looking young man, restless and uneasy. P.D. has a way of disposing of intruders that is quite effectual. I have not entirely disposed of some misgiving s with respect to the legitimacy of his use of the means, so he commenced reading aloud in the Bible. The fellow was impatient and noisy, but he soon settled down on the floor beside him. As he listened and talked with us the recollections of his father' s house and his innocent childhood were awakened. He was the child of pious parents, taught in Sabbath School and under pure home influences till thirteen. Then he was drawn into bad company, soon after leaving home for the sea; and, since then, has serv ed in the army and navy, - in the army in Wilson's and Hawkins's brigades. His was the old story of the total subiection of moral power and thralldom to evil habits and associates. He would get drunk, whenever it was in his power. It was wrong; but he co uld not help it. Though he was awakened and recollected his parents looking long and in vain for his return, he soon returned to camp, to his wallowing in the mire, and I fear to his path to certain perdition.

3d., 9th month. - A Massachusetts major, the officer of the day, in his inspection of the guard-house came into our room to- day. We were lying on the floor engaged in reading and writing. He was apparently surprised at this and inquired the name of our books; and finding the Bible and Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ, observed that they were good books. I cannot say if he knew we were Friends, but he asked us why we were in here.

Like all officers he proceeded to reason with us, and to advise us to serve, presenting no comfort if we still persisted in our course. He informed us of a young Friend, Edward W. Holway of Sandwich, Mass., having been yesterday under punishment in the c amp by his orders, who was today doing service about camp. He said he was not going to put his Quaker in the guard-house, but was going to bring him to work by punishment. We were filled with deep sympathy for him and desired to cheer him by kind words a s well as by the knowledge of our similar situa-tion. We obtained permission of the Major to write to him a letter open to his inspection. "You may be sure," said E. W. It. to us at W., "the Major did not allow it to leave his hands."

This forenoon the Lieutenant of the Day came in and acted the same part, though he was not so cool, and left expressing the hope, if we would not serve our country like men, that God would curse us. Oh, the trials from these officers! One after another c omes in to relieve himself upon us. Finding us firm and not lacking in words, they usually fly into a passion and end by bullying us. How can we reason with such men? They are utterly unable to comprehend the pure Christianity and spirituality of our pri nciples. They have long stiffened their necks in their own strength. They have stopped their ears to the voice of the Spirit, and hardened their hearts to his influences- They see no duty higher than that to country. What shall we receive at their hands?

This Major tells us we will not be tried here. Then we are to be sent into the field, and there who will deliver us but God? Ah, I have nursed in my heart a hope that I may be spared to return home. Must I cast it out and have no desire, but to do the wi ll of my Master. It were better, even so. O, Lord, Thy will be done. Grant I may make it my chief delight and render true submission thereto.

Yesterday a little service was required of our dear L.M.M., but he insisted he could not comply. A sergeant and two privates were engaged. They coaxed and threatened him by turns, and with a determination not to be baffled took him out to perform it. Tho ugh guns were loaded he still stood firm and was soon brought back. We are happy here in guard-house, - too happy, too much at ease. We should see more of the Comforter, feel more strength, if the trial were fiercer; but this is well. This is a trial of strength of patience.

6th., 9th month. - Yesterday we had officers again for visitors. Major J. B. Gould, 13th Massachusetts, came in with the determination of persuading us to consent to be transferred to the hospital here, he being the Provost Marshal of the island and hav ing the power to make the transfer. He is different in being and bearing from those who have been here before. His motives were apparently those of pure kindness, and his demeanour was that of a gentleman. Though he talked with us more than an hour, he l ost no part of his self-control or good humour. So by his eloquence and kindness he made more impression upon us than any before. As Congregationalist he well knew the courts of the temple, but the Holy of Holies he had never seen, and knew nothing of its secrets. He understood expediency; but is not the man to "lay down his life for my sake." He is sincere and seems to think what Major Gould believes cannot be far from right. After his attempt we remained as firm as ev er. We must expect all means will be tried upon us, and no less persuasion than threats.

AT THE HOSPITAL, 7th. [9th month.] Yesterday morning came to us Major Gould again, informing us that he had come to take us out of that dirty place, as he could not see such respectable men lying there, and was going to take us up to the hospital. We ass ured him we could not serve there, and asked him if he would not bring us back when we had there declared our purpose. He would not reply directly; but brought us here and left us. When the surgeon knew our determination, he was for haling us back at onc e; what he wanted, he said, was willing men. We sat on the sward without the hospital tents till nearly noon, for some one to take us back; when we were ordered to move ineto the tents and quarters assigned us in the messroom. The Major must have interpo sed, demonstrating his kindness by his resolution that we should occupy and enjoy the pleasanter quarters of the hospital, certainly if serving; but none/the less so if we declined. Later in the day L.M.M. and P.D. were sitting without, when he passed th em and, laughing heartily, declared they were the strangest prisoners of war he ever saw. He stopped some time to talk with them and when they came in they declared him a kind and honest man.

If we interpret aright his conduct, this dangerous trial is over, and we have escaped the perplexities that his kindness and determination threw about us.

13th. -Last night we received a letter from Henry Dickinson, stating that the President, though sympathizing with those in our situation, felt bound by the Conscription Act, and felt liberty, in view of his oath to execute the laws, to do no more than de tail us from active service to hospital duty, or to the charge of the coloured refugees. For more than a week have we lain here, refusing to engage in hospital service; shall we retrace the steps of the past week? Or shall we go South as overseers of the blacks on the confiscated estates of the rebels, to act under military commanders and to report to such? What would become of our testimony and our determination to preserve ourselves clear of the guilt of this war?

P.S. We have written back to Henry Dickinson that we cannot purchase life at cost of peace of soul.

14th. - We have been exceeding sorrowful since receiving adviceas we must call it - from H. D. to enter the hospital service or some similar situation. We did not look for that from him. It is not what our Friends sent us out for; nor is it what we came for. We shall feel desolate and dreary in our position, unless supported and cheered by the words of those who have at heart our best interests more,than regard for our personal welfare. We walk as we feel guided by Best Wisdom. Oh, may we run and not er r in the high path of Holiness.

16th. Yesterday a son- in-law of N.B. of Lynn came to see us. He was going to get passes for one or two of the Lynn Friends, that they might come over to see us today. He informed us that the sentiment of the Friends hereabouts was that we might enter t he hospital without compromising our principles; and he produced a letter from W. W. to S. B. to the same effect. W.W. expressed his opinion that we might do so without doing it in lieu of other service. How can we evade a fact? Does not the government b oth demand and accept it as in lieu of other service? Oh, the cruelest blow of all comes from our friends.

17th. Although this trial was brought upon us by our friends, their intentions were well meant. Their regard for our personal welfare and safety too much absorbs the zeal they should possess for the maintenance of the principle of the peaceableness of ou r Master's kingdom. An unfaithfulness to this through meekness and timidity seems manifest, - too great a desire to avoid suffering at some sacrifice of principle, perhaps, - too little of placing of Faith and confidence upon the Rock of Eternal Truth.

Our friends at home, with W.D. at their head, support us; and yesterday, at the opportune moment, just as we were most distressed by the solicitations of our visitors, kind and cheering words of Truth were sent us through dear C.M.P., whose love rushes o ut to us warm and living and just from an overflowing fountain.

I must record another work of kind attention shown us by Major Gould. Before we embarked, he came to us for a friendly visit. As we passed him on our way to the wharf he bade us Farewell and expressed a hope we should not have so hard a time as we feared . And after we were aboard the steamer, as the result of his interference on our behalf, we must believe, we were singled out from the midst of the prisoners, among whom we had been placed previous to coming aboard, and allowed the liberty of the vessel. By this are we saved much suffering, as the other prisoners were kept under close guard in a corner on the outside of the boat.

FOREST CITY UP THE POTOMAC. 22nd. [9th month.] It was near noon, yesterday, when we turned in from sea between Cape Charles and Henry; and, running thence down across the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, alongside Old Point Comfort, dropped anchor off Fortress M onroe. The scene around us was one of beauty, though many of its adornments were the results and means of wrong. The sunshine was brighter, the verdure greener to our eyes weary of the sea, and the calm was milder and more grateful that we had so long to ssed in the storm.

The anchor was soon drawn up again and the Forest City steamed up the James River toward Newport News, and turning to the left between the low, pine-grown banks, passed Norfolk to leave the New Hampshire detachment at Portsmouth.

Coming back to Fortress Monroe, some freight was landed; and in the calm clear light of the moon, we swung away from shore and dropping down the mouth of the river, rounded Old Point, and, going up the Chesapeake, entered the Potomac in the night-time.

OFF SHORE, ALEXANDRIA. 23d. - Here we anchored last night after the main detachment was landed, and the Vermont and Massachusetts men remained on board another night. We hear we are to go right to the field, where active operations are going on. This see ms hard. We have not till now given up the hope that we were not to go out into Virginia with the rest of the men, but were to be kept here at Washington. Fierce, indeed, are our trials. I am not discouraged entirely; but I am weak from want of food whic h I can eat, and from sickness.I do not know how I am going to live in such way, or get to the front.

P.S. We have just landed; and I had the liberty to buy a pie of a woman hawking such things, that has strengthened me wonderfully.

CAMP NEAR CULPEPER. 25th. My distress is too great for words; but I must overcome my disinclination to write, or this record will remain unfinished. So, with aching head and heart, I proceed.

Yesterday morning we were roused early for breakfast and for preparation for starting. After marching out of the barracks, we were first taken to the armory, where each man received a gun and its equipments and a piece of tent. We stood in line, waiting for our turn with apprehensions of coming trouble. Though we had felt free to keep with those among whom we had been placed, we could not consent to carry a gun, even though we did not intend to use it; and, from our previous experience, we knew it would go harder with us, if we took the first step in the wrong direction, though it might seem an unimportant one, and an easy and not very wrong way to avoid difficulty. So we felt decided we must decline receiving the guns.

In the hurry and bustle of equipping a detachment of soldiers, one attempting to explain a position and the grounds therefor so peculiar as ours to junior, petty officers, possessing liberally the characteristics of these: pride, vanity, conceit, and an arbitrary spirit, impatience, profanity, and contempt for holy things, must needs find the opportunity a very unfavourable one.

We succeeded in giving these young officers a slight idea of what we were; and endeavoured to answer their questions of why we did not pay our commutation, and avail ourselves of that provision made expressly for such; of why we had come as far as that p lace, etc. We realized then the unpleasant results of that practice, that had been employed with us by the successive officers into whose hands we had fallen, - of shirking any responsibility, and of passing us on to the next officer above.

A council was soon holden to decide what to do with us. One proposed to place us under arrest, a sentiment we rather hoped might prevail, as it might prevent our being sent on to the front; but another, in some spite and impatience, insisted, as it was t heir duty to supply a gun to every man and forward him, that the guns should be put upon us, and we be made to carry them. Accordingly the equipment was buckled about us, and the straps of the guns being loosened, they were thrust over our heads and hung upon our shoulders. In this way we were urged forward through the streets of Alexandria; and, having been put upon a long train of dirt cars, were started for Culpeper. We came over a long stretch of desolated and deserted country, through battlefields of previous summers, and through many camps now lively with the work of this present campaign. Seeing, for the first time, a country made dreary by the war-blight, a country once adorned with groves and green pastures and meadows and fields of waving gra in, and happy with a thousand homes, now laid with the ground, one realizes as he can in no other way something of the ruin that lies in the trail of a war. But upon these fields of Virginia, once so fair, there rests a two-fold blight, first that of sla very, now that of war. When one contrasts the face of this country with the smiling hillsides and vales of New England, he sees stamped upon it in characters so marked, none but a blind man can fail to read, the great irrefutable arguments against slaver y and against war, too; and must be filled with loathing for these twin relics of barbarism, so awful in the potency of their consequences that they can change even the face of the country.

Through the heat of this long ride, we felt our total lack of water and the meagreness of our supply of food. Our thirst became so oppressive as we were marched here from Culpeper, some four miles with scarcely a halt to rest, under our heavy loads, and through the heat and deep dust of the road, that we drank water and dipped in the brooks we passed, though it was discoloured with the soap the soldiers had used in washing. The guns interfered with our walking, and, slipping down, dragged with painful w eight upon our shoulders. Poor P. D. fell out from exhaustion and did not come in till we had been some little time at the camp. We were taken to the 4th Vermont regiment and soon apportioned ,to companies. Though we waited upon the officer commanding th e company in which we were placed, and endeavoured to explain our situation, we were required immediately after to be present at inspection of arms. We declined, but an attempt was made to force us to obedience, first, by the officers of the company, the n, by those of the regiment; but, failing to exact obedience of us, we were ordered by the colonel to be tied, and, if we made outcry, to be gagged also, and to be kept so till he gave orders for our release. After two or three hours we were relieved and left under guard; lying down on the ground in the open air, and covering ourselves with our blankets, we soon fell asleep from exhaustion, and the fatigue of the day.

This morning the officers told us we must yield. We must obey and serve. We were threatened great severities and even death. We seem perfectly at the mercy of the military power, and, more, in the hands of the inferior officers, who, from their being far removed from Washington, feel less restraint from those Regulations of the Army, which are for the protection of privates from personal abuse.

26th. (9th month.) - Yesterday my mind was much agitated: doubts and fears and forebodings seized me. I was alone, seeking a resting-place and finding none. It seemed as if God had forsaken me in this dark hour; and the Tempter whispered, that after all I might be only the victim of a delusion. My prayers for faith and strength seemed all in vain.

But this morning I enjoy peace, and feel as though I could face anything. Though I am as a lamb in the shambles, yet do I cry, "Thy will be done," and can indeed say, -

Passive to His holy will  
Trust I in my Master still
Even though he slay me.

I mind me of the anxiety of our dear friends about home, and of their prayers for us.

Oh, praise be to the Lord for the peace and love and resignation that has filled my soul today! Oh, the passing beauty of holiness! There is a holy life that is above fear; it is a close communion with Christ. I pray for this continually but am not free from the shadow and the tempter. There is ever present with us the thought that perhaps w e shall serve the Lord the most effectually by our death, and desire, if that be the service He requires of us, that we may be ready and resigned.