Andersonville to Tahiti The Story of Dorence Atwater
Beverly discovered this court-martial and was amazed. "This soldier just got out of Andersonville and is now being sent to a Union prison!" In one of the most remarkable tales of the war, a year of research showed a young Connecticut cavalryman who kept a secret list of the 12,000 Union men who died at Andersonville, and brought it north so that 12,000 Union families could learn what had happened to their loved ones. Atwater made two copies, one for the War Department and one to be printed for the public. In a remarkable bit of bureaucratic pettifogging, an assistant adjutant general demanded both copies, "to be put in the files," and not published. When Atwater kept one copy, he was court-martialed and sent to prison.
Though weak from starvation, malaria, and diphtheria, he was put to hard labor when not in his cell. From this almost fatal low point he rose to unimaginable heights. At the end of his life he was embraced by a Royal family, proprietor of coffee, citrus, and sugar plantations, owner of a fleet of pearl schooners, and, with famous author Robert Louis Stevenson, co-owner of a steamship line. His life was one of astonishing triumphs and setbacks. His most precious possession vanished in the great San Francisco earthquake and fire. His wife's Tahiti home was blown up by German armored cruisers in 1914. His remarkable circle of friends included Red Cross founder Clara Barton, crusading editor Horace Greeley, and litterateur Henry Adams. An 8,000 pound cannon marks Atwater's memorial in Connecticut. His story is no fairy tale, but rests entirely on original documents and old photographs, in a narrative dramatically told. 2008, BookSurge Publishing, 130p.