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    JOSEPH E. WILKINSON, a respected resident of Piqua, was born in Shelby County, Ohio, in 1844, son of Isaac A. and Ruth R. (Persinger) Wilkinson. His paternal grandfather came to America from near Antrim, in the north of Ireland. The subject of this sketch, who is the youngest of six brothers, was reared on a farm and remained with his parents until reach; the age of eighteen years. He then enlisted on August 1, 1862 in the Ninety-ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company C,, the regiment being organized at Lima. He served with it in the Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia campaigns, and participated in the battles of Stone River and Chickamauga, one of his brothers being killed in the latter engagement.

    On Sunday after this battle, while rendering assistance to a wounded comrade, be was captured by the rebels. After serving a long period of imprisonment he was finally released and returned home in October, 1865. He then attended school for a time and prepared himself for teaching, which profession he followed for about eight years. In 1875 he married Mary A. McKee, of Piqua, Ohio, a daughter of John and Catherine (Kerns) McKee, and soon afterwards located at Sidney, where he engaged in the lumber and planing-mill business. In 1881 he sold his interest in this industry to accept the appointment of postmaster of Sidney. Mr. Wilkinson's family consists of three children, Katherine L., John A., and Thomas R. Mrs. Wilkinson died January 4, 1909.

    Having spoken of his long imprisonment during the war, it is fitting that we speak more fully on the subject, as illustrating some of the horrors and barbarities inflicted by a people of pretended civilization and culture upon the helpless prisoners of war. We will present a sketch of Mr. Wilkinson's life in southern prisons just as he narrated it to us.

    "I was captured at Chickamauga, September 20, 1863, and conveyed to Belle Island, Virginia, where I was confined a few days. I was then taken to the city of Richmond and confined there until in December, at which time it became understood there would be no further exchange of prisoners, and about five thousand of us were transported to Danville, Virginia, and confined in tobacco-houses until the following April. During our confinement at this place smallpox broke out among the prisoners and proved very malignant in type. Unfortunately I was prostrated by the disease, but passed through it and acted as nurse for several weeks in what they called the "hospital." It did not deserve the name, for we had no medicine whatever, except red pepper pods, which we boiled and administered the tea to the sick, with apparently beneficial results, as it seemed to hasten the striking out of the disease. At this time there were twenty three of my regiment with me, but, alas, nineteen of the number died in the prison pen, and only four ever saw the old flag again.

    "In April, 1864, we were moved to Andersonville, Georgia, a distance of about seven hundred miles., We were transported over this distance in close box cars, there being from sixty to ninety of us in each car. The trip occupied seven days, and during that time none of us were permitted to leave the cars for any purpose whatever. When we reached Andersonville a number of dead men were found in each car. The sight of this new prison made many of the boys look down-hearted, as they contemplated the evidences of horrid cruelty, and thought of the government policy which refused exchange of prisoners. The question, can we endure another eight months of this torture? was staring us in the face and demanding an answer we could not give. Arriving April 19, 1864, we found but few prisoners on our arrival, but each day brought in old prisoners from other places of confinement. Andersonville is situated about one hundred and sixty miles south of Atlanta, and is quite an obscure place, scarcely worthy of a village name. The prison pen was out in the open field, in which a number of trees and stumps were yet standing. We made good use of the time laying in a supply of wood, which we buried in the ground, and then slept over it to prevent it being stolen. All the time our number increased by the arrivals each week, until in August the number reached thirty-five thousand.

    We remained until September, 1864, when the advance of Sherman after the capture of Atlanta alarmed the Rebel Government touching our safety, and it was determined to remove us. We were then transported to various points in the south, about one-third being sent to Florence, South Carolina, a similar prison, but one which proved even more destructive to life than Andersonville. With many others I was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, and put in such a position as to defy our government and prevent our army from further shelling the city. After being kept in this position about thirty days, we, too were sent to Florence. My experience at Andersonville is too horrid to relate, and almost beyond belief. It is sufficient to say the rebel history makes this statement touching the fatality in the prison: April, 1864, one in every seventeen died; May, one in every twenty-six; June, one in every twenty-two; July, one in every eighteen; August, one in every eleven; September, one in three; October, one in two; and November, one in every three.

    Think of it for a moment. To realize it fully put yourself in our position and see the increase of the death-rate, until after risking a thousand chances on find in November that the chances are even, and then think of that mortality which carried off thirteen thousand of our boys, actually starved to death in a land of civilization and plenty. To add one more horror to the picture, recall the infamous and diabolical order of John H. Winder, commander of prisons, who, hearing of the capture of Atlanta, and fearing for our safety, issued the following notice, which he posted prominently before the prisoners:

    "Order No. 13"

    "The officers on duty and in charge of the Battery of Florida Artillery at the time, will, upon receiving notice that the enemy has approached within seven miles of this post, open upon the stockade with grapeshot, without reference to the situation beyond these lines of defense.
    Brig.-Gen'l Com'g.

    "Think of a man issuing an order for forty guns to open a deadly fire upon thirty-five thousand unarmed, sick and helpless prisoners. It is an infamy so diabolical that history need not be asked for a parallel. It has been said that this man Winder died a peaceful death. Perhaps so; in such case justice had not yet been meted out to him, and stern must that justice be which will ever pay him back in currency of his own coinage.

    "At Florence the prisoners numbered about eleven thousand. Most of us had already been imprisoned about twelve months, and were wearing the same clothing in which we had been captured. That clothing had become so ragged and tattered that it scarcely covered our nakedness. Winter was approaching and no prospects of release further than the advance of Sherman. Mortality was thing our ranks and our prison was a charnal house. Rations were reduced. For four months one pint of coarse corn meal was a daily ration, no salt or meat of any kind, and half the time no wood to cook it. All we could do was to mix our meal in water and drink it without boiling or otherwise cooking it. Such surroundings, such starvation and exposure told terribly against us, and the monthly mortality footed up forty per cent. In my eighteen months prison life none was more severe than that at Florence.

    "From Florence I arrived at Richmond, March 10, 1865, about one year after leaving it. We were sworn not to take up arms against the Confederate Government until duly exchanged. Six hundred of us were then taken down the James River and turned over to United States officers. Quite a number of these were old prisoners. For myself, it had been eighteen months since I had seen the old flag beneath which I bad marched and fought. We were all sick and weak, but as we came in sight of the starry banner we yelled wildly and crazily at the top of our voices. The rebel authorities threatened to prevent our outbursts of cheers, but we were in sight of our men and could not be restrained. We told them we would yell and every one of us kept our word. The happiest moment of my life was when I stepped ashore. Stepping from the boat we were met by Northern ladies, who had provided sandwiches and coffee for our reception. One of them--she seemed an angel--handed me a cup of coffee, which I gladly accepted and drank, but my stomach revolted at an article it had not known for a year and a half. The lady saw and appreciated my difficulty, and, as if I were her own child, she uttered the words "Poor fellow" so sympathetically that they almost overcame me. Those words were the first I had heard uttered by a woman from the time of my, captivity, and they came like an angel's benediction.

    "This is all long since passed, but while memory lasts I will not forget that the prisons of the South were conducted by heartless and murderous agents. It is needless to add anything to this brief recital. The words convey horror enough, but a more revolting chapter may be read between the lines. We know that the South, with all the dignity of insulted pride, has denied the charge of inhuman treatment of war prisoners; treatment of war prisoners, but the boys who suffered, as well as the thousands who died, attest the truth of the charge with an unanimity which cannot be challenged by a reasonable man."

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