A Trip to Charleston (Examiner Part III)

Published:May 17, 2011 by Brendan Wolfe

As we move from left to right across the May 17, 1864, edition of the Daily Richmond Examiner [pdf], having already heard the news of fierce fighting on the James River, we now learn of the “Arrival in Richmond of Prisoners from the Southside.” These include the aforementioned Union general Charles Adam Heckman of Pennsylvania. The paper already has cast various aspersions upon the blue-coated rank and file (they were vandals and cowardly murderers, etc.), but about this high-ranking prisoner the editors are more generous … sort of.

“Brigadier-General Heckman is a German of full habit, quite gentlemanly, and looks as though he might have been a manufacturer of good lager beer in his peaceful days, and drank a good proportion of his stock from day to day.”

So basically what they’re saying is that he was an alcoholic. That’s nice. I have no idea if that was true, although I do know that he  was a railroad conductor and, as far as I can tell, not German, or at least not particularly German (see, for example, Franz Sigel). But during a brief stay at Libby Prison in Richmond he did threaten his captors and possibly even contracted kidney disease. Then Heckman, four other generals, and forty-five field officers were transferred to Charleston, South Carolina, where they stayed at the lovely home of Colonel James O’Connor at 180 Broad Street. The accommodations were far superior to Libby, apparently, with the officers writing Union officials that “we, at this time, are as pleasantly and comfortably situated as is possible for prisoners of war, receiving from the Confederate authorities every privilege that we could desire or expect.”

There was one small problem though. Charleston was just then being shelled day and night by Sherman’s artillery. General Heckman, the gentlemanly German-looking drunk, had now become a human shield.

My, how quickly fifty Confederate officers could be found to make an exchange!

IN PART IV: The Quakers pool their money to pay each other’s exemption fees, but the Nazarenes might not be so clever.

IMAGE: A Harper’s Weekly illustration of Charleston, South Carolina, looking toward Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter is in the distance on the far right.