Galloway's Travels: An Arkansas Rebel's Journey Through the North

    Captain Morton Gilmour Galloway of the 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles was captured in the closing moments of the Battle of Pea Ridge. While a prisoner, Galloway kept a journal in which he recorded the daily events of his experience which included stops at St. Louis, Alton Penitentiary, Camp Chase, and ultimately Johnson's Island near Sandusky, Ohio. Even though the journals are lost to history, Galloway provided a digest of them in the following letter which he wrote to one of his brothers back in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Confederate prisoners of war at Camp Chase near Columbus, Ohio.

    One item that Galloway briefly touches upon is the unexpectedly "soft" treatment he received in Ohio, particularly at Camp Chase. Galloway arrived at Camp Chase on April 2, 1862 in the midst of a public uproar about how Federal authorities were treating the Confederate prisoners in their custody. The Federal victories at Forts Henry and Donelson and Pea Ridge had swollen the camp population to roughly 1,300 prisoners. "At almost an hour of the day, the Rebel prisoners in secession uniforms may be seen at the hotels, on the streets, or in the halls of the Legislature communing with a button-hole friends, usually a citizen of Columbus," one observer commented. "Quite a number of the prisoners have their wives with them and some few their whole families." Another observer noted that "they came wearing their side arms, stopped at the principal hotels of the city, registering their names as Colonel, Major, or Captain, with the significant letters C.S.A. added, and appeared day to day in Rebel uniforms (some of these gaudy, all of them noticeable) in the offices and parlors and at the public tables of these hotels, in the streets and drives of the city, frequenting the theater and other places of public amusement and visiting the Senate and House chambers, where, with marked consideration, they had been invited to privileged seats within the bar. At all these places and on all these occasions they gave expression to sentiments of continued adherence to the Rebel cause and of bitter hostility to the Government and people of the United States." 

    A third observer pointed out that the welcome given these Rebels at arms went beyond basic hospitality: it was actual support for the Rebellion. "The merchants of our city have manufactured uniforms with all the gaudy trappings called for by the Rebel army regulations," he stated. "A high county officer took Rebels to his home and feted them, a certain lady has been in the city in conference with these [Rebels] and has made frequent trips as far south as Nashville and returned, giving money to her "boys" and her "pets." Roughly 50 slaves were among those at Camp Chase, nearly all of them listed as cooks or servants; their presence invoked the very problem at the core of the Dred Scott decision: that even though slavery was prohibited in Ohio, slaves did not become free upon crossing the border into the state. 

    The behavior of the Rebel prisoners raised such a stink that the Ohio Legislature protested directly to Secretary Edwin M. Stanton (an Ohioan) of the War Department and to President Lincoln. "The feelings of the loyal people of Ohio have been outraged by the appearance in the streets of their capital of Rebel officers in Rebel uniforms released on parole and by the fact that Rebel prisoners in Camp Chase prison had been permitted to retain and use their former slaves as servants, practically nullifying our state constitution and legalizing slavery in Ohio. We do most solemnly protest against this mistaken clemency to the guilty and this outrage upon the feelings of the loyal people of Ohio," the resolution stated. 

    On April 20th, Secretary Stanton "cut the Gordian knot" and ordered the first contingent of the Confederate officers from Camp Chase sent to Johnson's Island near Sandusky, Ohio, Captain Galloway being one of the number. "Moreover, the servants which they have been allowed to have with them are not allowed to accompany them," a report noted. That evening, Colonel Lewis D. Campbell of the 69th Ohio received orders to conduct the prisoners there, and upon his return was directed to move his regiment to Nashville, Tennessee for active service. Colonel Granville Moody and his 74th Ohio, also part of the Camp Chase garrison, were also ordered South soon thereafter. 

    Treatment at Johnson's Island would be harsher than at Camp Chase; the easy nights of going to the theater or being feted by local politicians was at an end, but Captain Galloway uttered no complaint. "We have a full and beautiful view of Lake Erie. The fence next to the lake is made of posts six or seven inches square and about four inches apart through which we can see the lake shore. I go down every evening and set on the green grass, thinking of home and those loved ones there- listen to the music of the waters and witness the huge waves as they come one by one dashing against the shore. The scenery here is most beautiful; a prisoner as I am cannot but enjoy it," he wrote.

    Major William S. Pierson, commandant at Johnson's Island, issued an order directing that "no person will be allowed to land on Johnson's Island without the written consent of the Commanding Officer. No one will be permitted to visit the prisoners except nearest relatives in the case of severe sickness." By early May, more than 1,000 prisoners of war were on the island. "They are a motley crowd both in dress and personal appearance," a Sandusky resident commented. "Their dress is all colors and styles with a large admixture of butternut and gray. They seem to enjoy themselves better than prisoners usually do, spending their time in walking, jumping, playing ball, euchre, and similar innocent pastimes. Most seem joyous and happy; some are sullen and morose. Numerous visitors are coming every day from the South to see their friends, but they generally find it very difficult to get beyond the string of red tape that stretches around the island."

    As for Captain Galloway, his sojourn at Johnson's Island was short: less than a week after writing this letter, he was exchanged and returned to the 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles. He was wounded in the arm December 31, 1862 at Stones River and wounded again July 28, 1864 at Ezra Church. He was later promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel commanding the regiment and led it all the way through the end, even serving as brigade commander at Bentonville in March 1865. After the war, he returned to farming near Little Rock but died October 11, 1873, only about 36 years of age. He is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock. 

Captain Morton Gilmour Galloway, Co. F, 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles

Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky, Ohio

May 11, 1862

          Dear brother,

Since my imprisonment I have written two letters to you and knowing the great uncertainty attending to their safe arrival, will write you again. It is reported here in prison that the 2nd Kentucky regiment will soon be exchanged for an Iowa regiment captured at Corinth [Shiloh]; if such be the case, I will send this by some member of that regiment and the probability is you will receive it. I will here state to you in a very brief manner what has transpired since I was taken prisoner.

          On the 6th day of March the Battle of Pea Ridge as the Federals call it, or Elk Horn which is the name given by the Confederates, commenced and it was on the 8th while following on in the rear of my regiment while withdrawing from the field that I was cut off and taken prisoner by a portion of the enemy’s cavalry. The particulars of that battle you have long since seen. Suffice it to say the Feds claim it as a victory but it was a dearly bought one. Had not the brave General McCulloch and the daring and gallant McIntosh have fallen, the whole of Curtis’ command would either have been killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. It does really seem that the fates were against is that day, but if it was the will of an all-wise and overruling Providence that such should be the case, then I submit and bow with reverence: ‘His will, not ours, be done.’

The 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles did not participate in the Battle of Pea Ridge, but Captain Galloway was captured by Federal cavalry the following day as the Confederate forces were retreating from the field. Captain Galloway blamed the death of General McCulloch for the defeat.

          I remained two days in Federal camp after the fight then was sent to Springfield, Missouri in company with Colonel [William C.] Mitchell (14th Arkansas) and Captain J.L. Hallowell of McRae’s regiment [15th Arkansas Infantry] and Lieutenant [William M.] Washburn of the 3rd Louisiana, and some 23 other commissioned officers of our army and about 300-350 privates, including citizens, the sick and wounded who were able to travel, and those who were at the hospital attending to the sick and wounded. The day before we left the Federal camp, a flag of truce came in from General [Earl] Van Dorn, taking our names and informing us that it was the wish of both generals that a speedy exchange of prisoners should be effected; of course, we were all in good spirits at the idea of being exchanged soon and that we would not go farther than Springfield, Missouri before the exchange would be effected. In this we were sadly disappointed.

          We made the journey from the battlefield to Springfield on foot the weather being very cold and wet. Our men were taken upon the field and of course had nothing but what they had on. At night, when camped, had not even a blanket to put around their shivering bodies or a tent to protect them from the cold rains and sleets of March, and had not more than half enough to eat a greater portion of the time. Our captors issued us nothing but flour and then nothing to cook it in. Time and again I have stopped at night, nearly worn out, would make up a little flour, wrap it around a stick and hold it to the fire till a little crust would form on it, then eat it and draw my overcoat closely around me, laying down on the cold wet ground before the fire and sleep or try to sleep until morning. Such were some of the hardships we had to endure. I have stood more than I ever expected I could possibly stand. I have been and am yet blessed with a strong constitution; had I not been, the hardships that I have endured would long since have ended my earthly career.

          Arriving at Springfield, I remained two days when the prisoners were again sent forward to St. Louis, undergoing the same hardships and fatigues that we did while on the way to Springfield. Arriving at Rolla, Missouri, we took the cars for St. Louis. Rolla is the terminus of the railroad about 130 miles from St. Louis and some 150 or 175 miles from Pea Ridge. When we got to Rolla, the cars were waiting for us; we got on and were soon on our way for St. Louis and arrived there the same day that we left Rolla about 9 o’clock that night. We were taken to McDowell’s College and confined there under a strong guard.

The next morning, my first view of St. Louis was through iron-barred windows. The morning after our arrival, several ladies of St. Louis came to see us- they took our names and what we wanted in the clothing line and said the articles would be brought to us in a few days. God bless the ladies of St. Louis. We have many true friends there. That evening we were ordered to be ready by 4 o’clock to go to Alton, Illinois, thereby depriving us of receiving from the hands of the kind ladies articles we stood so much in need of. One of the ladies who came to see us was Eva Bryant whom I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with; her whole heart and soul seemed to be set on the ultimate success of the Southern cause. I passed a few minutes very pleasantly conversing with here. Just as she was leaving, she asked me for one of the Arkansas buttons which was on my vest. Of course, if gave me the greatest pleasure to comply with her request. She wanted it for a necklace which she was having made composed of one button from each of the Southern states- that was glory enough for me for one day. I now have the consolation of knowing that a button once worn by me and which bears upon it the coat of arms and motto of the state of Arkansas, the banner state in defense of Southern rights and Southern honor, now decks the necklace of a fair maiden of my own sunny South.

Arkansas State button (Shiloh Relics)

We left St. Louis about 5 p.m. for Alton, Illinois, taking deck passage on the steamboat City of Alton and arrived at Alton about 8 o’clock the same evening. Alton is on the Mississippi River about 25 miles above St. Louis. It was nearly 10 o’clock before we left the boat and marched to Alton Penitentiary. The huge gate opened, we marched in, the huge gate closed, and we were prisoners of war, incarcerated in a convict’s prison. After getting in the inside of the walls, before breaking ranks, we were taken to the mess room, capable of accommodating all of the prisoners where upon the tables sat tin cups filled with coffee.

We were then put in a large room where bunks were provided for sleeping. As we passed through the door, a Federal officer was standing by to select our bunks; there was not much selecting to be done for they were all alike. They had no blankets on any of them, nothing but the cold hard planks to lay upon. Captain Hallowell had one blanket with him. He, Lieutenant Washburn, and myself occupied one bunk, laid upon the blanket, and slept till morning. For breakfast we had coffee with no sugar, Ohio baker’s bread or what we call gun wadding, and some cold boiled beef. The bread and meat was put on tin plates, just enough for one man to eat, and a tin cup about half full with coffee. If you ate what was on your plate you could get no more. The penitentiary is about the size of the one in Little Rock, surrounded by a stone wall 25 feet high.

Alton Penitentiary, the long structure in the foreground of this image, was located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River and housed Confederate prisoners of war throughout the conflict. The 77th Ohio Infantry had guard duty in Alton for a period of time. 

We remained at Alton one week and left there on the first day of April for Camp Chase, Ohio, arriving on the evening of the 2nd. It is located about four miles from Columbus, the capital of Ohio. There are between 800 and 1,000 prisoners, most of them officers taken at Fort Donelson, Fort Henry, etc., and a few privates who have been there seven or eight months, yet their long confinement has not lessened their love for the Southern cause. They seemed to be more anxious to get out and rejoin their respective regiments and meet the Yankees again than those who have been there but a few days. Every day longer the Yankees keep us confined is just that much worse for them. The prisoners for every day they are confined claim a Yankee at Camp Chase.

We are comfortably fixed, a great deal more so that I expected we would be; good comfortable houses have been built for the prisoners capable of accommodating from 12-15 in a mess. Each house is provided with a small cooking stove which facilitates the cooking very much; ‘tis not much trouble to cook on one. While there I became a pretty good cook and can make as good a biscuits and coffee and fry as good a beef steak as any woman. When I am released from prison and this war is over, should I be so fortunate as to win the hands and heart of some fair girl, she can’t fool me about cooking. Camp Chase contains about four acres enclosed by a plank fence some 10-12 feet high and on the outside some four feet below the top, a scaffold is erected all around upon which sentinels are posted night and day to guard us. 

Johnson's Island prisoner of war camp was located on an island about three miles from Sandusky, Ohio in Sandusky Bay. The camp was in operation from 1862 through the end of the war and as Galloway notes in his letter, is a truly beautiful location. 

We remained at Camp Chase until the 20th of April when about 200 of us were sent to this place. The prison is on Johnson’s Island in Sandusky Bay about three miles from the city of Sandusky. I am now sitting by a window writing and cook look out and see the city way across the water. We have a full and beautiful view of Lake Erie. Some few miles from here is where Commodore Perry fought his naval battle in September 1813 in which he defeated an English fleet. The prison is located on the east side of the island and is enclosed by a plank fence 10-12 feet high containing about 15 acres of ground, sentinels on guard all of the time. The fence next to the lake is made of posts six or seven inches square and about four inches apart through which we can see the lake shore. I go down every evening and set on the green grass, thinking of home and those loved ones there- listen to the music of the waters and witness the huge waves as they come one by one dashing against the shore. The scenery here is most beautiful; a prisoner as I am cannot but enjoy it, yet it is not sufficient to retain me here for one moment could I get away. In the language of the poet, ‘If paradise were my prison, I would long to leap its crystal walls, and breathe again the pure air of liberty.’

          I am getting very tired of having so many federal bayonets around me. We are very well treated here, much better than I expected. The officers are more kind and courteous than any I have met with. This is a very healthy location; I do not know of one sick man within the prison. There is a strong breeze blowing from the lake all the time. I must close-I cannot in this letter say anything more of my adventures. Since leaving Little Rock and up to this time, I have kept a journal of all that has transpired during that time with all the dates given. When I have time I intend writing them out- it will form quite a volume.

          I am very well and through all my exposure have not been sick a day. I hope the day is not far distant when I will again tread upon Southern soil. I wish to see you all at home very much, but do not wish to remain here more than a few days while this question between the North and South is yet unsettled. 

Your brother,

M.G. Galloway

P.S. Major [William S.] Pierson, commander of this post, had just come in the prison and says Lieutenant Washburn has been exchanged. He will leave in a few moments and I will send this by him.


Letter from Captain Morton G. Galloway, Co. F, 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles, Arkansas True Democrat (Arkansas), June 12, 1862, pg. 2

"Columbus Correspondence," Pomeroy Weekly Telegraph (Ohio), April 4, 1862, pg. 1

"Report of the Camp Chase Committee," Daily Ohio Statesman (Ohio), March 26, 1862, pg. 2

"News from All Quarters," Bucyrus Journal (Ohio), April 25, 1862, pg. 2

"The Rebels at Johnson's Island," Fremont Weekly Journal (Ohio), May 9, 1862, pg. 1

"The Rebel Officers at Camp Chase," Steuben Republican (Indiana), May 10, 1862, pg. 2

"About Rebels and Rebel Sympathizers," Highland Weekly News (Ohio), May 15, 1862, pg. 1


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