In an August 15, 1863 diary entry, Union solider Horace Smith complained of his declining health while held captive at Virginia's Belle Isle Prison during the Civil War. Even though he could hardly “muster strength enough to crack a louse,” he lamented, “necessity compels me to muster all the strength I can twice a day for that purpose.” This compulsion—both to keep his body from becoming “one mass of filth,” as Nehemiah Solon would describe it a year later, and to record his attempts to do so—speaks to the varied ways prison life threatened the very identities of soldiers throughout the war (80). As Charles Lee stated during an 1864 excursion that allowed him outside Andersonville, “the fresh air and the green fields and forests made me feel almost like one risen from the dead” (45). Exposed to disease and hunger, subjected to unwelcome noise, and surrounded by the smell...
Living by Inches: The Smells, Sounds, Tastes, and Feeling of Captivity in Civil War Prisons
Rebeccah Bechtold is an associate professor of English at Wichita State University where she specializes in soundscape studies of early and nineteenth century American literature.
- Share Icon Share
- Views Icon Views
- Search Site
Rebeccah Bechtold; Living by Inches: The Smells, Sounds, Tastes, and Feeling of Captivity in Civil War Prisons. The New England Quarterly 2021; 94 (2): 289–292. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/tneq_r_00894
Download citation file: