Daniel B. Hutchins journals  1864, 1866
full text File Size: 23 K bytes

Biographical/Historical Note

Hutchins, Daniel B.

Rank : Sergeant

Regiment : 111th New York Infantry Regiment. Co. D (1862-1865)

Service : 1861 August 20-1865?

Daniel B. Hutchins was raised in Wayne County, N.Y., and worked as a school teacher prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Like his father and brother, who served in the 9th New York Heavy Artillery, Hutchins enlisted in the army in 1861, apparently driven by a sense of patriotism. Originally assigned to the 98th New York Infantry, he was discharged for ill health during the Peninsular Campaign in June, 1862, but when he recovered, he wasted no time in reenlisting. In August, 1862, Hutchins was mustered into the 111th New York Infantry, and again found himself in Virginia.

Hutchins was a religious man who attended Bible service while in the Army and was fond of citing Scripture. His strong religious ethic carried into his soldiering. Hutchins exhibited a self-discipline that many of his fellow soldiers lacked, and while he was good humored and enjoyed a good time, he was highly conscientious in carrying out his duty. During the winter of 1863-64, Hutchins was assigned to duty under General Hays with the provost guard of the 3rd Division. This comparatively light duty ended late in March, when Hutchins' regiment was reassigned to the 1st Division, 2nd Corps, and the Provost Guard was disbanded.

Breaking camp on May 3rd, the 111th marched into the Wilderness where they met with a "severe fight" on May 5, sustaining 17 casualties, but this was only the beginning. The regiment was thrown into a nearly continuous series of engagements through the 9th when they were ordered to the Po River. The heavy shelling they sustained was exceeded many times over at Spotsylvania on the following day, when the regiment was driven back in disorder. Although most of Company D ran out of ammunition and retreated to the rear, Hutchins and a few others remained to fight with the 52nd New York. In the resulting debacle, Hutchins and 20 other members of the 111th New York were captured by soldiers of the 11th Mississippi Infantry.

Taken to Lee's headquarters on short rations and dispossessed of any protection from exposure, Hutchins soon got his first taste of hardship as a prisoner. After boarding trains in Gordonsville, Hutchins was processed as a prisoner at the converted tobacco manufactory in Danville on May 21st, but remained only two days before being shipped south to Andersonville, here he was admitted on May 29th.

Andersonville, "this miserable prison," was described by Hutchins as "40 rods square, containing about Twenty Thousand prisoners &... the filthiest place I ever saw human beings kept in." From the outset, he complained that rations were inadequate to maintain body and soul, consisting on a good day of only 1/3 of a loaf of corn bread, 3 to 4 ounces of cooked bacon and a gill of boiled rice or pudding. The misery of the place immediately assailed his senses, but he and his friends, D.W. Larnson and W. Lowry, were able to wash their shirts (for the first time in nearly a month) and put up a tent to protect themselves. Like most of the other prisoners, Hutchins contracted a chronic case of dysentery, but still he considered himself to be comparatively fortunate. Even after the arrival of another member of his company, Bert Snedaker, put a fourth man in their small tent, Hutchins' sympathy and concern for other prisoners never waned. He agreed at one point to take a "young boy" into their crowded tent to keep him dry, and on another occasion gave up his spot in the tent so that a sick friend could be more comfortable. He seems to have become inured to camp routine and learned quickly to secure sufficient food to survive, enough medicine( when it could be had), and to acquire the occasional bucket or piece of wood to make life bearable.

Although he was often detailed to work on fatigue parties filling in marshy ground around the camp, the mind-numbing idleness of prison life was a particular hardship for Hutchins. "I am very uneasy," he wrote, "& feel very low spirited when I have nothing to do for 'doing nothing is hard work.' We are all very badly off in this 'Bull Pen' for our sufferings are very great" (1864 August 8). And still, despite the overcrowding and filth, prisoners continued to flood in to the "miserable hole" kept by the "irreligious rebels" (1864 June 7). As Hutchins put it, "God is very good to us, but man is vile" (1864 August 14). In July, he recorded that as many as 90 men were dying each day, and during the dog days of August, mortality rose even higher. Adding to the mortality lists, on July 11, his 25th birthday, six men were executed for theft.

Several of his fellow members of the 111th took ill and were hospitalized, Hutchins was sick on and off throughout his imprisonment and took medication occasionally. By the beginning of September, he suffered from the effects of malnutrition and dysentery. On the 13th of that month, he finally received orders to prepare for his parole. Boarding the train in Macon, the soldiers were transported to Charleston where they were greeted kindly. In Charleston, the prisoners were set into conditions that nearly matched Andersonville in misery, if not in scale, yet still the soldiers could at least find solace in the change of scenery and food. During their stay in the city, Charleston was under constant shelling, which perversely cheered the spirits of the prisoners, though they knew they could not make their way across lines. Amid these conditions and further cuts in rations, it was easy for Hutchins to imagine that no one cared for the prisoners, although he excepted the women of Charleston, who did "a great deal for the sick in the hospital" (1864 September 29). By early October, he was reduced to selling his watch for $100 Confederate, complaining that his captors, "don't allow us enough to keep soul & body together & want to cheat us out of half of that" (1864 October 2).

Suddenly on October 3, the prison at Charleston was evacuated, and Hutchins was remanded to Florence, S.C., which he considered even worse than Andersonville. The cold and mind numbing misery, he reported, induced many prisoners to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy simply to get better food. Hutchins bought rations, near the end of October, his rations stood at a meager 1/2 spoonful of samp, 1/2 pint of flour, 1/2 pint meal, and 3 spoonfuls of beans.. By this point, he was convinced that the Confederates were conducting a calculated plan to force the men to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, or starve to death. Hutchins occupied himself with any menial task he could muster, "to keep the train rolling," but never considered taking the oath, pitying those who did and their souls.

The paroling of prisoners from Florence recommenced briefly late in November, with the sickest called out first, and the exchanges picked up in early December, slowly. As the years closed, however, Hutchins was still imprisoned, still crying, "Oh God have mercy on us poor starved wretches & restore us to the bosome of our friends." (1864 December 31).

After the war, Hutchins fought his feelings of depression and loneliness, and a pervading sense that he was not half as good a man as when he entered the army. During the spring, he scouted for a suitable school to continue his education, and decided upon the University of Michigan.