The Immortal Six Hundred
By Bobby J. Mitchell

In a relatively little known episode of the War Between the States the Federal forces took 172 captains, 393 Lt., 6 enlisted men and one civilian from Ft. Delaware, Del. prison and forwarded them to Charleston, SC where the Confederate officers thought they were to be exchanged for 600 Union officers. A similar swap involving 50 officers from each side had already occurred. The swap did not come to fruition because Gen. Grant, on Aug. 21, 1864 prohibited any further exchanges. The 600 Confederates were placed in a 2 acre stockade in front of the Union position at Ft. Morris. The southerners controlled Ft. Sumter across from them.

The Federals were using the Confederate soldiers as a shield against CSA artillery fire, since any shot from the Confederate's might land among their own men, the Union troops opened fire with glee, expecting no return fire. They were mistaken. The Confederate artillerists were extremely accurate and fired over the heads of their compatriots in the holding pens. At night the southern officers watched as the cannon balls or "bombs" with lighted fuses passed over head. To make matters worse, whenever ten men were seen together in the stockade they were to be fired upon by the sentinels. It is hard not to be considered a group of ten when 600 men are enclosed in two acres, but that was the standing order, plus many of the guards could not count, which compounded the problem for the Johnny Rebs.

Rations fore each day were four army crackers, green with mold, one ounce of fat mean and one half pint of bean or rice soup per day. The men were called the Immortal Six Hundred because one night Confederate bombs dropped within their containment area, but none exploded.

Included in the 600 were Col. Van Manning of Holly Springs, who served as a member of the US House of Representatives several terms after the war, R. J. Howard of the 1st Miss. Infantry, a native of Byhalia, John R. Cason of the 17th Miss. and a native of Holly Springs, and William Thornwell Dunlap of Holly Springs of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. Manning was captured at the Battle of the Wilderness, Howard was captured at Port Hudson, LA., Cason at Gettysburg, & Dunlap in Ohio.

See R. J. Howard Obituary

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