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P.O.W. John A. Bering’s Account of Camp Ford, Texas


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131.     [CIVIL WAR]. SOLDIERS’ AND SAILORS’ PUBLISHING COMPANY. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Half-Dime Tales: Of the Late Rebellion. New York & Philadelphia: Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Publishing Co., 150 Fulton Street; Philadelphia: 125 South Third Street, 1868. [1-3] 4-32, [2], [33] 34-152 pp., printed in double column, numerous wood-engraved text illustrations (some signed in print by N. Orr). 12mo (19 x 13.3 cm), original tan wrappers with illustration (uniformed soldier with wounded foot and sailor with amputated arm, shaking hands, military camp in background, foreground with smoking bomb and mortar), sewn. First 32 pages very browned, lower right corner of upper wrap and first few pages slightly dog-eared, and one minor chip to rear wrap, otherwise fine, the wrappers very well preserved. Uncommon in commerce.

     First collected edition, originally issued in parts in a weekly magazine the same year. The present volume consists of five issues continuously paged, the first two having similar title pages, the last three having the caption title: Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Tales of the Rebellion. Nevins, Civil War Books I:161 (citing the parts issues in 1868): “A series of sixteen weeklies that contributed more fiction and legend to the story of the war.” Sabin 86329: “A reissue of The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Half-Dime Tales of the Late Rebellion, nos. 5-9.”

     Though there is plenty in this volume to satisfy readers seeking military fancy, the present volume includes John A. Bering’s genuine account of his service with the 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in Texas, in the sections, “Prison-Life in Texas” (April 1864 battle and capture at Sabine Cross-Roads, march to Mansfield, imprisonment at Camp Ford, escape to Indian Territory, recapture in Arkansas, march to Shreveport, return to Camp Ford, and release to Shreveport and New Orleans). His account of life as a prisoner of war and escapee is lively and detailed. He had the misfortune to be part of the group of Union prisoners that swelled Camp Ford to the breaking point in April, 1864. His descriptions of the struggles of daily life seem to be accurate and realistic. He notes in one instance, for example, that the beef eaten by both the prisoners and the guards was so bad that the latter buried theirs with military honors. Life on the run was also filled with perils, which Bering and his companion met with both fortitude and resilience. One trick, for example, was to rub soap on their shoe soles to throw off the bloodhounds, a ruse which apparently really worked in their case. They were recaptured, however, by a freak coincidence magnified by their own carelessness, and marched back to Camp Ford.

     Bering (1839-1922) was a descendant of Danish navigator and European discoverer of Alaska, Vitus Bering. John A. Bering enlisted as a private in 1863 in the 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and rose in rank thereafter. After the war, he held various public offices and was a businessman. He also wrote a regimental history in 1880 (Nevins I, p. 58).

     Many of the engravings are signed N. [Nathaniel] Orr, younger brother of John William Orr (1815-1887), who studied with William Redfield in New York City in 1836. The two brothers set up their business and worked together until at least 1846. Nathaniel partnered briefly with James H. Richardson, but worked on his own during the fifties and “was one of the leading wood engravers in the country” (Groce & Wallace, p. 479). See also Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers, 1670-1870, Vol. II, p. 127 (and various entries for works to which he contributed engravings).


Sold. Hammer: $150.00; Price Realized: $180.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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