Transcribed from the Friendship Chronicle, September 15, 1880.



A Soldier From Allegany County

EDITORS CHRONICLE—While looking over your paper the other day I came across a name that called up recollections of war times, in which a brother of your townsman, Mr. Wellman, figured. His name I think was Galusha Wellman. He was a Sergeant of company “L” 24th New York Vols.

At the first battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, our regiment was one of the first engaged and suffered severely. In the very heat of the battle I heard someone yell out that Wellman was killed. Soon after our Colonel, Gen. H.W. Slocum, was wounded and carried to the rear, and in what seemed then to be a very short time (afterwards it proved to be more than three hours) all was confusion. A comrade directed my attention to a portion of the field from where we had come in; there our troops seemed to be running at full speed. Our company officers remarked that a retreat had commenced and that we had better follow suit. Our Brigade had now become a panic stricken crowd and we all started on a dead run leaving our dead and wounded strewed upon the battle field. Upon our arrival at the Stone Bridge about sixty of my regiment were captured, myself among the rest.

We were hurried off to Manassas Junction where the enemy had about 2,000 prisoners already corraled.

The next morning in talking up the incidents of the battle, one man said he was near Wellman when he fell and was sure he was not killed. During the three succeeding days the rain came down in torrents and the rebels were bringing our wounded to the cars in wagons for transportation to Richmond. We did our best to find out if Wellman was one of the fortunate ones but could not see nor hear anything of him. A great many of our wounded that we questioned were sure that Wellman was dead and finally we gave it up.

In a few days all of the prisoners of Manassas were forwarded to Richmond and we were the first inmates of Libby Prison. We have been there but a short time when I made efforts to cross the street to the building where some of our wounded were lying (a large tobacco factory). I finally succeeded in “running the guard” of my own prison and crossed over. A rebel sentinel was posted at the hospital entrance, and in order to get in, feigned lameness and told the guard that I belonged to the hospital but had been let out by the Surgeon on duty to exercise while another guard was at the door. After some talk he admitted me remarking that “them darned Yanks were so tricky that they were always getting the guards into trouble.”

There was a horrible stench in the building, but I soon became accustomed to the atmosphere and started around the large room to see if I could find anyone I knew. The patients were lying on single iron [bedsteads] with the space of about two feet between, thus making over twenty narrow Isles. I walked up and down until I came to the center of the room and there lying on a cot with eyes partly closed looking like a dead man was Galusha Wellman. One leg bandaged, and swollen to a disgusting size, lay outside of the bed I called him by name and he opened his eyes as quickly as a flash and shoved out his hand for a shake. Although he was suffering terribly, he was as composed as though he was in Allegany County and surrounded by home comforts. He related his experience while lying on the battlefield and the subsequent removal to Richmond. He was such a frail looking fellow that it seemed miraculous that he had lived through it, but his pluck and fortitude was like steel.

He informed me that one of our Surgeons who had been captured Dr. [LeBoutillier], of the 1st [Minnesota] Vol., was attending to him and doing the best he could with the small means at his command.

I knew that Wellman while in the regiment carried a very fine watch, and asked him where it was. He said that on the morning of the battle he gave it, for safe keeping into the hands of an old teacher of his from Alfred who had come out to the front with Congressman Ely and others to witness the fight. As Mr. Ely had been captured in the retreat that followed the battle, he was afraid at first that the professor had shared the same fate but, as his name had not appeared in the list of prisoners published, he had made up his mind that his friend and watch were safe.

While talking with others that I knew the rebel Officer of the Day discovered by some means that I did not belong there and at once escorted me over to the Provost Marshal's office where I was questioned by the officer on duty. Thinking that I have better own up how I got into the hospital and out of my own building, I told him all about running the guard of our prison and hoaxing the guard at the hospital entrance expecting that it would be considered a good joke; but he had nothing humorous in his composition and sternly directed the Officer of the Day to take me back to prison and tie me up to the window gratings for two hours. The Officer of the Day being a North Carolinian was not so savage as his superior and let me off with a caution for the future.

Soon after I was drafted with a lot a 500 to be sent to New Orleans for confinement where we were kept a few months and thence to Salisbury N.C. where we were ultimately exchanged.

Since the war I have been away from this part of the country until recently and have never seen Wellman since that day in Richmond.