I also dispatched an officer to Charlotte by the first train to select a suitable locality for an officers' prison. In the evening Colonel William J. Hoke, commanding post at Charlotte, telegraphed me:
Sufficient guard must accompany Federal officers to guard them after they get here, as there are but sixty men here. No shelter can be furnished.
And Lieutenant-General Holmes dispatched me:
I have no soldiers here and can furnish no guards. Greensborough would be a better position for prisoners. Can feed the prisoners with bread; no meat or molasses.
Being still unadvised of the probability of an early exchange, and feeling strongly impressed by General Beauregard's views as to the superior advantages presented by Southwest Georgia as to both security and subsistence, and the impolicy of adding so greatly to the already heavy demands for subsistence pressing on North Carolina, I telegraphed to General Gardner:
General Beauregard advises to move prisoners to Southwest Georgia. Will not subsistence be difficult in North Carolina? Answer by telegraph.
My instructions having only suggested certain points in North Carolina for the reception of the prisoners, and leaving me invested with discretionary powers as to the point for their location, and further anticipating that the objections to North Carolina mentioned in my telegram to General Gardner would decided the Department to prefer Southwest Georgia, I dispatched an officer to Alston to make the necessary preparations for removing the Florence prisoners via that place and Abbeville. Every necessary preliminary was promptly arranged, but the rapid changes occurring in the situation rendered the whole plan nugatory. A telegram dated Florence, February 15, from Lieutenant-Colonel Iverson, commanding prison, stated that General Clayton telegraphed from Kingsville "that no trains could pass there after to-day." This at once put an end to the idea of moving the Florence prisoners to Georgia and necessitated their prompt removal to North Carolina. I therefore directed Lieutenant-Colonel Iverson by telegraph to commence their removal via Wilmington to Raleigh and notified General Holmes at Raleigh of the steps taken.
The officers at Columbia were removed to Charlotte, part on the night of the 14th and the remainder on the night of the 15th. The pressure on the railroad for transportation was so great that no train could be obtained for this purpose until 8 p. m. on the 14th.
The night was intensely dark and the guard force altogether inadequate. The prisoners had to be marched some distance through streets crowded with refugees fleeing from Columbia, and in the darkness and confusion a considerable number succeeded in escaping--from the best data I can obtain I should estimate about fifty. No more transportation could be had until 11 p. m. on the 15th, when the remainder of the prisoners were shipped. I have since ascertained that a number again succeeded in effecting their escape by burrowing in tunnels they had dug in the prison camp and hiding in the roofs of the barracks and hospital, remaining there until after our evacuation of Columbia. That the loss of these prisoners could have been altogether avoided I am not prepared, considering the darkness, inefficiency of guards, and general confusion prevailing, to assert; but still I think that sufficient diligence was not exercised by the commanding officer of the prison, or the escapes could not have reached, as they did, to so large a number as 144, which is the number unaccounted for. Of the first detachment of 515 shipped to Charlotte but 509 reached