An Orphan’s War – Part 3

Having focused on Andersonville Prison in three January posts (01/16,15, 01/23/15, 01/30/15), it is now time to relate the last part of the singular of Private William H. E. Mott. It might be helpful to review the first two parts for better understanding of the context before reading this last part. Mott arrived at Andersonville about mid-June 1864.In early September, after the fall of Atlanta, Mott was among the many thousands who were sent from Andersonville to other prisons such as Savannah or Millen, Georgia, because the Confederate authorities believed Sherman would try to liberate Andersonville Prison.

Private John A. Cain was aboard one of the first prison trains to arrive at Andersonville from Richmond. He survived the war and served as a strong witness for the prosecution of Captain Henri Wirz, commandant of Andersonville Prison. His testimony is therefore, in my judgment, credible. I include the following information included in the Epilogue of Diary of a Dead Man, because it specifically mentions Mott. What we don’t know is the motives behind Mott’s “defection.”

Note: The material below is from background material included in The Diary of a Dead Man, 1862-1864, the unedited diary and letters of Private Ira Pettit, compiled by J. P. Ray. Mott was instrumental in preserving Pettit’s diary for Pettit’s parents.

It becomes quite evident from subsequent events that Private Cain was one of those thousands who was shuttled back and forth from Andersonville to Savannah, to Millen, and back again to Andersonville during the last four months of 1864. From St. John’s College Hospital on June 3,1865, Private Cain corresponded with the Secretary of War. His letter to the Honorable E. M. Stanton read, in part:

“Deeming it my duty to myself and my country, I here send you a partial list of Union prisoners who left the Stockade prison at Camp Lawton near Millen, Ga. on, or about the 10th of November last; and is supposed to have taken the ‘Oath of Allegiance’ to the late ‘Confederate Government.’ Should this be of any service to you in bringing them to justice I shall consider myself amply compensated for my trouble.

I am, sir, your most humble and obedient servant,
Jno. A. Cain, Co. E, 2 Mass Cav.,
Ward 8, St. Johns College Hospital, Annapolis, Maryland.

List of Prisoners of War, who left the stockade at the Solicitation of rebel authorities at Millen, Ga., on or about the 10th, November 1864 for disloyal purposes. …Wm. E. Mott, F., 14 Conn;…”

Private Cain’s list contained the names of one hundred and thirty-four persons, and in nearly all cases he listed the company, regiment, and state or Federal unit in which the individual had served. Aside from William E. Mott, Company F, Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut, Private Cain listed two other men from the Fourteenth Regiment’s Company F, Connecticut, and four members from Companies A, B, L, and M, Second Massachusetts Cavalry, who allegedly embraced allegiance to the Confederate government on that day.

The information provided by Private John A. Cain in reference to Private Mott was duly noted in the appropriate categories of the War Department’s military files, and note was also made that Mott reached the Union lines on March 20, 1865, at New Bern, North Carolina.

According to Mrs. John Gregory of New York City, Private Mott had come ‘home’ in April, 1865, on furlough after having spent eight months as a prisoner, and having been transferred from one prison to another. Mr. Mott would later assert to the Federal government that he had spent over ten months in Andersonville, which was an exaggeration, after which he had escaped and joined Sherman on his march through the South. While in New York, Mott gave Mrs. Gregory Private Pettit’s diary and she sent by mail to Pettit’s parents in upstate New York.

There could have been several reasons why Wm. H. E. Mott would have sworn allegiance to the Confederacy. The most likely reason, in my opinion, was a matter of personal survival, and whatever else Mott was, he was certainly a survivor. By removing himself from the deadly prison stockades, he instantly enjoyed better water and food, and healthier living conditions. Opportunities for escape, and the probability of success, were also much higher outside the prison walls. When Mott did finally escape, he headed north toward the Union lines. It is also worthy of note that although the war department had John Cain’s list, no steps were taken to prosecute Mott, and he received the standard veteran’s pension of $72 per month.

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