The 4th day of December, 1864 was the longest day I ever saw, the almanac to the contrary notwithstanding—I thought it was impossible for the Confederate Picket Guard to avoid seeing me; then I thought they had seen me and were playing cat with me for the mouse, and it was up to me to play dead. They kept their faces toward me constantly because I was between them and the road they were watching.
My feelings and imaginations carefully written out would make a good sized book. About four o'clock in the afternoon musket firing commenced in the distance my special squad of Pickets became very uneasy. The firing increased and came nearer. [following sentence cut off] 'Johnnies limbered up, and lit out to 'carry the news to Mother.'
I was too stiff to get up until I heard pigs squealing, chickens squalling and other signs of welcome to the yaukees [sic].
Then I staggered to a fence fell over it and approached some men butchering hogs, one of them was Sergt. Clark 12th Mich. Inft. He invited me to camp, I went, everything looked good to me, all the men in camp were brothers of mine. I had no further cares, supper tasted good to me, particularly the coffee, which I had quit drinking nearly ten months before. I slept by the fire without a dream, was called to breakfast next morning for the first time since '61, while eating I was notified to report to the Provast Marshall at Brigade Headquarters when I did so I reconized [sic] Col. Smith 16th Ill Inft., and recalled myself to his remembrance. He vouched for me to the Provast Marshall, and both invited me to call on them when camped at night and they would divid clothing with me. This caused me to take note of my personal appearance which I had ceased to take any pride in for several months previous. My shoes were almost entirely worn out. My pantaloons, made from stolen meal sacks, had become knee pants. I had the relics of a woolen shirt a pretty good gray vest, recently acquired, a very ragged gray jacket, part of an old wool hat and the rest of my clothing was hair and beard. My skin needed patching and scouring also. I was nearly naked but not ashamed. I felt just as good as any in the army, and had as little fear of the future as any of them. As I marched along that day and the boys called out, 'How are you Johnnie, though you would come in, did you.' I enjoyed their hilarity, and their jokes and laughter made no more impression on me then if I had been the unstuffed [sic] scarecrow I looked to be. Before night I feel in with the 78th Ill., Capt. Riddels Co., was made up near my home and I knew a great many of the boys. They furnished me with more money then I could use. A second Lieut. who had gone back sick after the column started from Atlanta had left his uniform with the baggage wagons. This I purchased and also a whole outfit of underclothing, shoes and hat of the quartermaster, then I got sheared, bathed and clothed and gradually came to my right mind.
After an interview with Gen. Sherman and another with the Paymaster, I had a picnic all the way to McAllister on the Ogechee River, thence to Hilton Head S. C. by boat, and on to New York by Ocean Steamer Orago. There were sixty-five officers on board who had escaped from southern prisons.
Most of us kept together until we reached Washington D. C. We spent part of the holidays in New York. I heard Henry Ward Beecher's New Year's sermon in Brooklyn, and took the train for Washington D. C. That evening, attended President Lincoln's reception on Monday, January 2nd, 1865 and shook hands with him for the last time. He said he was glad to see me and surely the feeling was reciprocal. I was glad there was enough of me left to be visible to the naked eye of anybody.
I called at the war department and received orders to report to my regiment at Eastport, Tenn., with the privilege of delaying thirty days on the way. After my return to the regiment I was court martialed [sic] for absence without leave; found guilty, but with no blame attached, which ended my prison experience. It took me three months to regain my normal 200 pounds weight; and I have not yet recovered the nerve, strength and vitality I lost while following the flag.
#1 photo of H. R. Hubbard (shown)