PRISON EXPERIENCES FOR CONSCIENCE’ SAKE—OUR PRISON
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 toward 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 opened to us; and we separately came to the judgment that we must not conform 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 “Fatigue 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 us. 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, submission 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, hatred 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 promptly 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.