“Captain Walter MacRae of the 7th North Carolina Regiment wrote:
“On the 7th of September we disembarked at Morris Island and when we finally came out into the light of day and had a look at one another we were astonished to note the ravages made by the terrible heat and the nauseous confinement. One could scarcely recognize his best friends. There were six of us from Wilmington…all badly damaged.”
The rumors of the [600 Confederate] officers being put in the line of fire had become fact as they saw the stockade pen and had never thought that a civilized nation would use prisoners as human shields. They would be held there for forty-five days with artillery fire from their own batteries screaming over their heads and threatening immediate death. Additionally, a battery of Billinghurst-Requa machine guns were trained on the camp in case the prisoners became unruly.
On the evening of September 9th an artillery duel between Morris Island and Fort Moultrie occurred, and most of the firing would be at night. The gunners at Moultrie fired well but occasionally a shell would burst overhead and scatter fragments in the camp. The greatest danger to the prisoners came from the Northern batteries behind them as shells fired could burst prematurely – and throw huge shrapnel into the camp. After one of these incidents a horse was killed by fragments and a man’s leg sliced off. One night “the whole heavens were illuminated and the mortar shells were darting through the heavens in all directions as though the sky was full of meteors.
On September 10, General Jones in Charleston wrote the Northern commander that he had received word that numerous Confederate officers were under fire from Sumter “because I believe you are retaliating on those officers for a supposed disregard of the usages of civilized warfare in the treatment extended to U.S. officers, prisoners of war, now in this city. Those officers are comfortably housed and receive the treatment due prisoners of war.” He urged his opponent to bring his actions within the confines of accepted rules of war.
Though the Northern officers in Charleston had little complaint of their prison fare of fresh meat, rice, bread, meal and beans, the rations accorded the Confederate officers would barely sustain life. Captain MacRae recorded that “Some of the prisoners for the sake of the record complained to the [Northern] colonel. He replied that it was all right; there was meat enough in the meal, bugs and worms, and that if he had his own way he would be only too glad to feed us on greasy rags.”
A Virginia captain wrote about “the amount of dead animal matter in the shape of white worms, which was the mush given us.” Another said they received “one-half pint bean soup, two crackers, wormy and full of bugs. Rations for supper, two ounces of bacon, two crackers, wormy as usual.” The daily ration would change about three weeks later, altered to one-quarter of the previous amount – resulting in severe weakness and intestinal disorders in the prisoners. Water ration was cut as well, and the men began to catch rain or dig for water.
Another Virginia officer said “they are starving us by degrees.”
From Free North Carolina