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Diary details POW prison life

Traugh keeps track of events at Andersonville

May 22, 2013
By Bob Enoch , WVweb

On May 9, 1864, the men of Co. A of the 14th W.Va. Regiment participated in the battle of Cloyd's Mountain - and lost.

Sgt. Martin Van Buren Traugh was one of many taken prisoner and bound for a Confederate prison.

A week before the battle, Friday, April 29, 1864, Traugh had begun to keep a diary, chronicling his daily experiences. The daily log was maintained for the next year, creating a permanent record of his march to, life in, and release from the infamous Andersonville Prison.

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Traugh’s diary details the hardships of the infamous Andersonville Prison.

Traugh's diary details the hardships of the infamous prison an offers a glimpse of the infamy to which Andersonville is associated.

Andersonville Prison was located near the small town of Andersonville, just south of Macon, Ga. It operated for just more than a year, February 1864 to May 1865.

Deaths were mainly from disease brought on by the water they were forced to use and drink, the only source being from a small stream that ran through the camp. Unfortunately, Camp Sumpter was situated upstream of the camp and all the excrement from the camp and stables emptied into the same stream that was the prisoners' source of water.

Traugh arrived at Andersonville on June 3, 1864.

Designed to hold 13,000 prisoners, by June 1864, more than 26,000 Union soldiers barely existed on the disease-filled grounds.

Traugh's entry for Aug. 28, 1864 reads, verbatim: "vary warm; got the rumatism in my leg; dying at the rate of 165 per day; 8 thousand died in this camp up to this date."

Most every entry in Traugh's diary mentions the weather, camp rumors and occassionally news of the outside world. For June 1864, Traugh documented it rained 21 days, then turned hot.

At that time there were more than 20,000 men living in tents and small huts on the muddy hillsides on each side of Stockade Branch Creek. Traugh often reported there were plenty of rumors in camp, usually about impending prisoner exchanges.

The hopeful rumors of being exchanged only led to more disappointment.

Traugh's entry for July 22 reads: "Vary fine morning an warm; feel vary well; turnips one dollar apiece; just heard the exchange would come off the 27th."

On June 27th, he wrote: "nothing new only vary warm; had mush for breakfast; heard we won't leave here in two weeks."

The July 5 entry reports that at that time, there were about 27,000 prisoners at Andersonville; by July 11, the figure had risen to 30,000. Traugh's entry of Aug. 7 states there were 34,840 men in camp.

On July 9, the diary reads: "not vary well today; is vary hot; UB Duckworth and T Morris die(d) this day; 200 more yanks came; I feel discouraged; had a fine rain; 52 died outside the stockade."

Entries for the rest of July and early August included several hopeful rumors of being exchanged and of Union forces being close to Andersonville. However, as before, the rumors proved false.

Within a month, Traugh seems to have lost hope of leaving Andersonville alive.

"Still here; all hope is gone; 1,000 deaths per week."

He managed to hang on and hold out hope. In February, prisoners got word of Gen. William Sherman's march.

Valentines Day, Feb. 14, brought a nice gift for Traugh and several others.

"Just received marching orders, don't know where; whare likely start in the morning," he wrote.

Traugh's marching orders started them north, crossing the Chesapeake Bay, then west through Martinsburg, Oakland and into Ohio. Traugh's diary indicates they reached Camp Chase on March 5.

March 7, the last entry in his diary reads; "still here yet; sick and impatient." Records indicate Traugh was officially discharged at Wheeling, on July 3, 1865.

Traugh returned to Parkersburg and began farming in the Gihon Road area of south Parkersburg. He became an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, attaining the rank of captain. Traugh died Nov. 7, 1906. He and his wife, who died a few days later, were buried in the Tracewell Cemetery.

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