Confederate POWs Fill Camp Douglas

by Tali Gleiser

Dear Mama,

Every day I wake up at Camp Douglas feels more like I’m falling asleep and drifting into a nightmare. I don’t mean to worry you though, I’m brave and I’m gonna be coming home real soon. I’m trying to hold on to the small bits of hope I have left, you taught me that Mama. When I left home at the start of the war, I thought I was a man for serving the confederacy and defending our southern ways. I was proud. I’m not proud anymore, I’m afraid. I watched almost every man in my platoon fall into a field as I aimlessly fired at the Yankee’s who turned our army into lost souls hovering over their bodies. I stood as one of the last confederate soldiers in a mass grave. I still don’t know why the men who captured me didn’t just shoot me on sight. I know you always said the Lord has a plan for us, but as I sit on the dirty, cold, wet ground of my windowless cell, I can no longer see a Path for me. I drift through my days here guided by the hope that I’ll come home again, I’ll see you and Mary and little Joe and I’ll never complain about doing my chores. I miss the hot southern sun warming my skin and lighting the world. Everything seems gray now and it’s the middle of the coldest winter you could imagine. I really don’t want to worry you Mama, but as I look around at all the others here and see the men who were once strong, brave soldiers dying from disease, I cant help but worry myself.

Throughout the day I swear there are over ten more men who fall ill, and the moon doesn’t rise without another soul lying to rest. I’m scared, Mama. I left home believing I was a man, only to find I was a boy tangled up in true Hell on earth. I’m sad and confused. I don’t understand why my brothers died that day and I was left to struggle for survival. Going through each day is a harder fight then any battle in any war. In battle you’re not just fighting for your life, in battle you feel like there’s something more. Here I’m fighting for my life, I’m fighting for my sanity, and I’m fighting to keep my faith from wavering. I’m a boy, Mama; I’ve seen more tragedy at fourteen than most grown men before me. If and when I come home, I know I’ll be a man. But if I don’t make it back, know that whatever end this war takes the southern soldiers and I never fought in vain. I don’t think the Yanks are right, but I don’t know that everything we’re fighting for is right either. But don’t let this all worry you, I can tell you myself in person when I get home. Send everyone my love and tell them not to be sad for me. I’m sorry if my letters have made you cry, I just need to tell someone my story. You’re strong Mama, you taught me not to lose hope and you raised me to be strong too. I love you, Mama, tell Mary and Joe their big brother loves them and is gonna come home real soon. Keep me in their prayers.

Your son,


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