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    AC Benus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 63. John McElroy "Love in Andersonville Extermination Camp, Part 1"

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Love in Andersonville Extermination Camp, Part 1

 

“Illincy [Illinois],” said tall, gaunt Jack North, of the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois, to me, one day, as we sat contemplating our naked, and sadly attenuated underpinning; “what do our legs and feet most look like?”

“Give it up, Jack,” said I.

“Why – darning needles stuck in pumpkin seeds, of course.”

I never heard a better comparison for our wasted limbs. The effects of the great bodily emaciation were sometimes very startling. Boys of a fleshy habit would change so in a few weeks as to lose all resemblance to their former selves, and comrades who came into prison later would utterly fail to recognize them. Most fat men, as most large men, died in a little while after entering, though there were exceptions. One of these was a boy of my own company, named George Hillicks. George had shot up within a few years to over six feet in height, and then, as such boys occasionally do, had, after enlisting with us, taken on such a development of flesh that we nick-named him the “Giant,” and he became a pretty good load for even the strongest horse. George held his flesh through Belle Isle [C.S.A. internment camp for U.S. soldiers], and [through] the earlier weeks in Andersonville, but June, July, and August “fetched him,” as the boys said. He seemed to melt away like an icicle on a Spring day, and he grew so thin that his height seemed preternatural. We called him “Flagstaff,” and cracked all sorts of jokes about putting an insulator on his head and setting him up for a telegraph pole, braiding his legs and using him for a whip lash, letting his hair grow a little longer and trading him off to the Rebels [to use] for a sponge and staff for the artillery, etc. We all expected him to die, and looked continually for the development of the fatal scurvy symptoms, which were to seal his doom. But he worried through, and came out at last in good shape, a happy result due as much as to anything else to his having in Chester Hayward, of Prairie City, Ill.,—one of the most devoted chums I ever knew. Chester nursed and looked out for George with wife-like fidelity, and had his reward in bringing him safe[ly home] through our lines. There were thousands of instances of this generous devotion to each other by chums in Andersonville, and I know of nothing that reflects any more credit upon our boy soldiers.

—John McElroy, [i]

1879

 

 

 

 


[i] “Love in Andersonville Extermination Camp, Part 1” John McElroy Andersonville: A Story of Rebel Military Prisons, Fifteen Months a Guest of the So-Called Southern Confederacy; A Private Soldier’s Experience (Toledo, Ohio, 1879), from Chapter XLV, ps. 338-339

https://archive.org/details/andersonvilleas01mcelgoog/page/838/mode/2up

– McElroy’s use of “chums” to describe the relationship status of George Hillicks and Chester Hayward is by no means arbitrary. It’s a term borrowed, like “chicken,” from seafaring men to denote sailors who were in permanent, romantic partnership with one another, as Herman Melville made explicitly clear to the general public in his autobiographical novel Redburn. In this 1849 book, he relates what his own experience shipping for the first time as a 19-year-old was like.

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Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
  • Love 3
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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George and Chester saw one another through the hell that was Andersonville. This is significant evidence that love is one of the most potent survival traits we possess. It matters not one whit who we love. 

  • Love 1
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6 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

George and Chester saw one another through the hell that was Andersonville. This is significant evidence that love is one of the most potent survival traits we possess. It matters not one whit who we love. 

Thanks, Parker. Fortunately for us, John McElroy decided to detail a few more of the "thousands of instances" of such love in his book. Also fortunate for us is how well McElroy writes. His entire 654 page testimony of Southern atrocities is easy to read, if not to bear without anger that his accounts are not generally taught to American schoolkids  

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