John Trout survived five months in a Confederate prison. He was one of the lucky ones.
After leaving Danville prison by train on or about February 17th, 1865, Union soldiers – and John Trout – spent three or so days in Libby Prison.[i] They then had to walk three miles to reach Aiken’s Landing and a flag of truce steamer like the “George Leary” that would take them to Annapolis.[ii] Records disagree, but compiled military service records (CMSR) show that John Trout was paroled at the James River, Virginia either on February 20th or February 22, 1865.[iii] According to Daniel Carroll Toomey in The Civil War in Maryland, on February 17th, two steamers arrived in Annapolis with 1600 exchanged prisoners.[iv] It is possible that John Trout was in that group, and perhaps notations in his CMSR are incorrect since different cards show different dates.
Flag of Truce Steamships; Courtesy of LOC Prints and Photographs Division
Many soldiers, alive when released, were too weak to make the final leg of the trip and died in Libby, just prior to boarding the boat, or on the trip to Maryland.[v] By this time, according to Lonnie Speer, they were “walking skeletons.”[vi] In fact Speers sites that one soldier went into prison at 175 pounds and came out at 65 pounds.[vii]
For John Trout release came just in time. Prior to and during the steamer trip, he must have been terribly sick because upon arrival in Maryland, he was admitted to hospital division number two on February 22, 1865, in Annapolis, Maryland.[viii] Toomey connects Hospital Division No. 2 with the College Green Barracks at St. John’s College in Annapolis.[ix] As soldiers recovered they were often transferred to “Camp Parole.” John Trout’s records show notations for both the College Green Barracks and Camp Parole.[x]
It seems to me that conditions at Camp Parole were maybe slightly better than those in Confederate prison. Camp Parole, established in 1862 to handle prisoner exchanges, was from its inception overcrowded. As a result, the location of the camp moved three times in its duration. Even by January 1865, the hospital provided tents in order to handle the large amount of newly arriving sick and wounded exchanged prisoners.[xi] Apparently, healthy soldiers could also easily leave the grounds wreaking havoc on businesses and residents in town. In A Low, Dirty Place: The Parole Camps of Annapolis, MD 1862-1865, author R. Rebecca Morris describes that, “men were arrested every day for drunk and disorderly behavior, assault and robbery…insolence and insubordination.”[xii]
Private Philip Hattle, pictured below, was admitted to the same hospital as John Trout – Hospital Division No. 2 – on June 6, 1865. He died less than twenty days later due to his condition. It is unclear how emaciated John Trout became during his prison experience, but he too, had suffered in extreme starvation conditions.
Private Philip Hattle, Co I, 31st PA Volunteer Infantry
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
In fact, on hospital muster rolls, John Trout is marked as “present” from February 22, 1865, through July 1865 as a “patient.” During that time he received a furlough beginning on March 10 for thirty days, so apparently by that time he was well enough to travel. Presumably, Trout visited home in Frederick County. He would have just returned to Camp Parole when Booth assassinated Lincoln on April 14, only five days after Grant received Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Trout remained at Camp Parole until it closed on July 18, 1865.[xiii]
On July 19, 1865, a transportation requisition shows that John Trout traveled to Baltimore to rejoin his regiment, Cole’s Cavalry.
Image courtesy of fold3.com.
While John Trout languished in the Danville prison and then later recuperated in Annapolis, Cole’s Cavalry had first been fighting in the Shenandoah Valley and later protecting the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad route into West Virginia. The regiment mustered out on June 28, 1865, in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.[xiv] The troops then marched to Baltimore[xv] where apparently John Trout met up with them. He was discharged in Baltimore on August 17, 1865: “The Government no longer requiring his services.”[xvi]
John Trout served a prison sentence of five and half months in Danville and nearly five months of “recovery” at Camp Parole. What gives some soldiers the ability to endure horrible circumstances while others die in the folds of such misery?
Is it just luck?
One thing I can say with certainty: John Trout never gave up. To me, the fact that he survived is a tribute to his mental determination, emotional willpower, physical stamina, and maybe…. just a little luck.
In the midst of winter, I found deep within me an invincible summer.
[i] (Compiled Military Service Records for Andrew J. Trout); Roe’s narrative states his group went to Pemberton Prison across the street from Libby.
[ii] (Roe, 1899), p. 359
[iii] (Compiled Military Service Records for Andrew J. Trout).
[iv] (Toomey, 2004), page 144
[v] (Roe, 1899), p.357
[vi] (Speer, 1997), p. 294
[vii] (Speer, 1997), p. 290
[viii] (Compiled Military Service Records for Andrew J. Trout); Roe’s narrative stated they arrived on February 24, 1865.
[ix] (Toomey, 2004), page 144.
[x] (Compiled Military Service Records for Andrew J. Trout, 1864-1865)
[xi] (Morris, 2012), p. 67.
[xii] (Morris, 2012). p. 49.
[xiii] (Cox, 2008), p. 90-94.
[xiv] (Newcomer, 1895), p. 160; (National Park Service Soldiers and Sailors Database, 2014)
[xv] (L. Allison Wilmer, 1898), p. 662.
[xvi] (Compiled Military Service Records for Andrew J. Trout, 1864-1865), accessed September 2012 from www.fold3.com.
Compiled Military Service Records for Andrew J. Trout. (1864-1865). Retrieved Fall 2013, from www.fold3.com.
Cox, R. P. (2008). Civil War Maryland: Stories from the Old Line State. Charleston: History Press.
L. Allison Wilmer, e. a. (1898). History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers, War of 1861-6, Volume 1. Baltimore: Guggenheimer, Weil & Co.; accessed online February 2014 at http://msa.maryland.gov.
Morris, R. R. (2012). A Low, Dirty Place: The Parole Camps of Annapolis, MD 1862-1865. Linthicum: Anne Arrundell County Historical Society.
National Park Service Soldiers and Sailors Database. (2014). Retrieved February 2, 2014, from 1st Regiment, Maryland Cavalry, Potomac Home Brigade: http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm
Newcomer, C. A. (1895). Cole’s Cavalry or Three Years in the Saddle in the Shenandoah Valley. Baltimore: Cushing and Company; Accessed online Fall 2012 at www.archive.org.
Speer, L. R. (1997). Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Toomey, D. C. (2004). The Civil War in Maryland. Linthicum: Toomey Press.