Treatment of Prisoners during the Civil War
The Treatment Of Prisoners During The War Between The States.
Compiled by Rev. Wm. Jones, Secretary of
Southern Historical Society
"If I knew the prison life, I would have never surrendered," Union
soldier at Andersonville.
This page discusses the treatment
of prisoners of war during the American Civil War, major Union and Confederate prisons, from daily life to agonizing death in
any Civil War prison, and common neglect at both Union and Confederate prisons.
|Treatment of Civil War Prisoners of War
|Civil War prisoner of war
There is, perhaps, no subject
connected with the late war which more imperatively demands discussion at our hands than the Prison Question. That the Confederate
Government should have been charged in the heat of the passions of the war with a systematic cruelty to prisoners was to be
expected. The pulpits, the press and the Government reports, which were so busy denouncing "Rebel barbarities" that they had
no censure for the McNeils, the Turchins, the Butlers, the Milroys, the Hunters, the Shermans, and the Sheridans, who, under
the flag of "Liberty," perpetrated crimes which disgrace the age, were not to be expected to be over scrupulous in originating
and retailing slanders against the Government and people of the South. But it was hoped that after the passions of the war
had cooled, and the real facts had become accessible, that these sweeping charges would be at least modified, and these bitter
We have been doomed to a sad disappointment. The leader
of the Radical party (Mr. Blaine) has recently in his place in the United States Congress revived all of the charges which
twelve years ago "fired the Northern heart," and has marred the music of the "Centennial chimes," with such language as this:
"Mr. Davis was the author, knowingly, deliberately, guiltily and wilfully, of the gigantic murder and crime at Andersonville.
And I here, before God, measuring my words, knowing their full extent and import, declare that neither the deeds of the Duke
of Alva in the Low countries nor the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, nor the thumb screws and engines of torture of the Spanish
Inquisition begin to compare in atrocity with the hideous crimes of Andersonville."
He then quotes and endorses the following extract from the report of the ex parte committee of Congress who examined this
question at a time when passion was at its flood tide:
"The subsequent history
of Andersonville has startled and shocked the world with a tale of horror, of woe and death before unheard and unknown to
civilization. No pen can describe, no painter sketch, no imagination comprehend its fearful and unutterable iniquity. It would
seem as if the concentrated madness of earth and hell had found its final lodgment in the breasts of those who inaugurated
the rebellion and controlled the policy of the Confederate Government, and that the prison at Andersonville had been selected
for the most terrible human sacrifice which the world had ever seen. Into its narrow walls were crowded thirty five thousand
enlisted men, many of them the bravest and best, the most devoted and heroic of those grand armies which carried the flag
of their country to final victory. For long and weary months here they suffered, maddened, were murdered, and died. Here they
lingered, unsheltered from the burning rays of a tropical sun by day, and drenching and deadly dews by night, in every stage
of mental and physical disease, hungered, emaciated, starving maddened; festering with unhealed wounds; gnawed by the ravages
of scurvy and gangrene; with swollen limb and distorted visage; covered with vermin which they had no power to extirpate;
exposed to the flooding rains which drove them drowning from the miserable holes in which, like swine, they burrowed; parched
with thirst and mad with hunger; racked with pain or prostrated with the weakness of dissolution; with naked limbs and matted
hair, filthy with smoke and mud; soiled with the very excrement from which their weakness would not permit them to escape;
eaten by the gnawing worms which their own wounds had engendered; with no bed but the earth; no covering save the cloud or
the sky; these men, these heroes, born in the image of God, thus crouching and writhing in their terrible torture and calculating
barbarity, stand forth in history as a monument of the surpassing horrors of Andersonville as it shall be seen and read in
all future time, realizing in the studied torments of their prison house the ideal of Dante's Inferno and Milton's Hell."
So industriously have these statements been circulated -- so generally have they entered into the literature of the North
-- so widely have they been believed, that the distinguished gentleman from Georgia (Hon. B.H. Hill), who ventured upon a
calm reply, in which he ably refuted the assertions of Mr. Blaine, has been denounced by the Radical press as a "co- conspirator
with Jeff. Davis to murder Union prisoners," and has been told by even some of our own papers that his speech was "very unfortunate"
As we have in the archives of our Society the means of triumphantly vindicating the Confederate Government from the charge
of cruelty to prisoners, as we have been appealed to by leading men North and South and in Europe to give the facts in reference
to this matter, and as the present seems an opportune time, we have decided to enter upon the task.
We have only to premise that our work is mainly one of the compilation, and that our chief difficulty is which documents to
select from the vast number which we have in our collection.
|Civil War Prison Andersonville
|Andersonville Prison in 1864
THE QUESTION STATED
Let it be distinctly understood
that we do not for a moment affirm, that there was not a vast amount of suffering and fearful mortality among the Federal
prisoners at the South. But we are prepared to prove before any fair tribunal, from documents now in our archives, the following
1. The Confederate authorities always ordered the kind treatment of
prisoners of war, and if there were individual cases of cruel treatment it was in violation of positive orders.
2. The orders were to give prisoners the same rations that our own soldiers
received, and if rations were scarce and of inferior quality it was through no fault of the Confederacy.
3. The prison hospitals were put on the same footing precisely as the hospitals
for our own men, and if there was unusual suffering caused by want of medicine and hospital stores, it arose from the fact
that the Federal authorities declared these "contraband of war," and refused to accept the Confederate offer to allow Federal
surgeons to come to the prisons with supplies of medicines and stores.
4. The prisons were established with reference to healthfulness of locality,
and the great mortality among the prisoners arose from epidemics and chronic diseases which our surgeons had not the means
of preventing or arresting.
A strong proof of this is the fact that nearly
as large a proportion of the Confederate guard at Andersonville died as of the prisoners themselves.
5. The above reasons cannot be assigned for the cruel treatment which Confederates
received in Northern prisons. Though in a land flowing with plenty, our poor fellows in prison were famished with hunger,
and would have considered half the rations served Federal soldiers bountiful indeed. Their prison hospitals were very far
from being on the same footing with the hospitals for their own soldiers, and our men died by thousands from causes which
the Federal authorities could have prevented.
6. But the real cause of the suffering on both sides was the stoppage of
the exchange of prisoners, and for this the Federal authorities alone were responsible. The Confederates kept the cartel in
good faith. It was broken on the other side.
The Confederates were anxious
to exchange man for man. It was the settled policy on the other side not to exchange prisoners. The Confederates offered to
exchange sick and wounded. This was refused. In August, 1861, we offered to send home all the Federal sick and wounded without
equivalent. The offer was not accepted until the following December, and it was during that period that the greatest mortality
occurred. The Federal authorities determined as their war policy not to exchange prisoners, they invented every possible pretext
to avoid it, and they at the same time sought to quiet the friends of their prisoners and to "fire the Northern heart" by
most shamelessly charging that the Confederate Government refused to exchange, and by industriously circulating the most malignant
stories of "Rebel barbarities" to helpless veterans of the Union.
7. But the charge of cruelty made against the Confederate leaders is
triumphantly refuted by such facts as these: The official reports of Secretary Stanton and Surgeon General Barnes show that
a much larger per cent of Confederates perished in Northern prisons than of Federals in Southern prisons. And though the most
persistent efforts were made to get up a case against President Davis, General Lee, and others (even to the extent of offering
poor Wirtz a reprieve if he would implicate them), they were not able to secure testimony upon which even Holt and his military
court dared to go into the trial.
It may be well, before discussing the question in its full details,
to introduce the
TESTIMONY OF LEADING CONFEDERATES
who are implicated in this charge of cruel treatment to prisoners. And first
we give a recent letter of ex President Davis in reply to Mr. Blaine's charges:
NEW ORLEANS, January, 1876.
HON. JAMES LYONS:
My Dear Friend -- Your very kind
letter of the 14th instant was forwarded from Memphis, and has been received at this place. I have been so long the object
of malignant slander and the subject of unscrupulous falsehood by partisans of the class of Mr. Blaine, that, though I cannot
say it has become to me matter of indifference, it has ceased to excite my surprise even in this instance, when it reaches
the extremity of accusing me of cruelty to prisoners. What matters it to one whose object is personal and party advantage
that the records, both Federal and Confederate disprove the charge; that the country is full of witnesses who bear oral testimony
against it, and that the effort to revive the bitter animosities of the war obstructs the progress toward the reconciliation
of the sections? It is enough for him if his self seeking purpose be promoted.
It would, however, seem probable that such expectations must be disappointed, for only those who are wilfully blind can fail
to see in the circumstances of the case the fallacy of Mr. Blaine's statements. The published fact of an attempt to suborn
Wirz when under sentence of death, by promising him a pardon if he would criminate me in regard to the Andersonville prisoners,
is conclusive as to the wish of the Government to make such charge against me, and the failure to do so shows that nothing
could be found to sustain it. May we not say the evidence of my innocence was such that Holt and Conover, with their trained
band of suborned witnesses, dared not make against me this charge, the same which Wirz, for his life, would not make, but
which Blaine, for the Presidential nomination, has made?
Now let us review the
leading facts of this case. The report of the Confederate commissioner for exchange of prisoners shows how persistent and
liberal were our efforts were to secure the relief of captives. Failing in those attempts, I instructed General R.E. Lee to
go under a flag of truce and seek an interview with General Grant, to represent to him the suffering and death of Federal
prisoners held by us, to explain the causes which were beyond our control, and to urge in the name of humanity the observance
of the cartel for the exchange of prisoners. To this, as to all previous appeals, a deaf ear was turned. The interview was
not granted. I will not attempt from memory, to write the details of the correspondence. Lee no longer lives to defend the
cause and country he loved so well and served so efficiently; but General Grant cannot fail to remember so extraordinary a
proposition, and his objections to executing the cartel are well known to the public. But whoever else may choose to forget
my efforts in this regard, the prisoners at Andersonville and the delegates I permitted them to send to President Lincoln
to plead for the resumption of exchange of prisoners cannot fail to remember how willing I was to restore them to their homes
and to the comforts of which they were in need, provided the imprisoned soldiers of the Confederacy should be in like manner
released and returned to us.
This foul accusation, though directed specially
against me, was no doubt intended as, and naturally must be, the arraignment of the South, by whose authority and in whose
behalf my deeds were done. It may be presumed that the feelings and the habits of the Southern soldiers were understood by
me, and in that connection any fair mind would perceive in my congratulatory orders to the army after a victory, in which
the troops were most commended for their tenderness and generosity to the wounded and other captives, as well the instincts
of the person who issued the order as the knightly temper of the soldiers to whom it was addressed. It is admitted that the
prisoners in our hands were not as well provided for as we would, but it is claimed that we did as well for them as we could.
Can the other side say as much?
To the bold allegations of ill treatment of
prisoners by our side, and humane treatment and adequate supplies by our opponents, it is only necessary to offer two facts
-- first, it appears from the reports of the United States War Department that though we had sixty thousand more Federal prisoners
than they had of Confederates, six thousand more of Confederates died in Northern prisons than died of Federals in Southern
prisons; second, the want and suffering of men in Northern prisons caused me to ask for permission to send out cotton and
buy supplies for them. The request was granted, but only on condition that the cotton should be sent to New York and the supplies
be bought there. General Beale, now of St. Louis, was authorized to purchase and distribute the needful supplies.
Our sympathy rose with the occasion and responded to its demands -- not waiting for ten years, then to vaunt itself when it
could serve no good purpose to the sufferers.
Under the mellowing influence
of time and occasional demonstrations at the North of a desire for the restoration of peace and good will, the Southern people
have forgotten much -- have forgiven much of the wrongs they bore. If it be less so among their invaders, it is but another
example of the rule that the wrong doer is less able to forgive than he who has suffered causeless wrong. It is not, however,
generally among those who braved the hazards of battle that unrelenting vindictiveness is to be found. The brave are generous
and gentle. It is the skulkers of the fight -- the Blaines -- who display their flags on an untented field. They made no sacrifice
to prevent the separation of the States. Why should they be expected to promote the confidence and good will essential to
When closely confined at Fortress Monroe I was solicited to add
my name to those of many esteemed gentlemen who had signed a petition for my pardon, and an assurance was given that on my
doing so the President would order my liberation. Confident of the justice of our cause and the rectitude of my own conduct,
I declined to sign the petition, and remained subject to the excusable privations and tortures which Dr. Craven has but faintly
described. When, after two years of close confinement, I was admitted to bail, as often as required I appeared for trial under
the indictment found against me, but in which Mr. Blaine's fictions do not appear. The indictment was finally quashed on no
application of mine, nor have I ever evaded or avoided a trial upon any charge the General Government might choose to bring
against me, and have no view of the future which makes it desirable to me to be included in an amnesty bill.
Viewed in the abstract or as a general question, I would be glad to see the repeal of all laws inflicting the penalty of political
disabilities on classes of the people that it might, as prescribed by the constitution, be left to the courts to hear and
decide causes, and to affix penalties according to pre existing legislation. The discrimination made against our people is
unjust and impolitic if the fact be equality and the purpose be fraternity among the citizens of the United States. Conviction
and sentence without a hearing, without jurisdiction, and affixing penalties by ex post facto legislation, are part of the
proceeding which had its appropriate end in the assumption by Congress of the Executive function of granting pardons. To remove
political disabilities which there was not legal power to impose was not an act of so much grace as to form a plausible pretext
for the reckless diatribe of Mr. Blaine.
The papers preserved by Dr. Stevenson
happily furnish full proof of the causes of disease and death at Andersonville. They are now, I believe, in Richmond, and
it is to be hoped their publication will not be much longer delayed. I have no taste for recrimination, though the sad recitals
made by our soldiers returned from Northern prisons can never be forgotten. And you will remember the excitement those produced,
and the censorious publications which were uttered against me because I would not visit on the helpless prisoners in our hands
such barbarities as, according to reports, had been inflicted upon our men.
Imprisonment is a hard lot at the best, and prisoners are prone to exaggerate their sufferings, and such was probably the
case on both sides. But we did not seek by reports of committees, with photographic illustrations, to inflame the passions
of our people. How was it with our enemy? Let one example suffice. You may remember a published report of a committee of the
United States Congress which was sent to Annapolis to visit some exchanged prisoners, and which had appended to it the photographs
of some emancipated subjects, which were offered as samples of prisoners returned from the South.
When a copy of that report was received, I sent it to Colonel Ould, commissioner for the exchange of prisoners, and learned,
as I anticipated, that the photographs, as far as they could be identified, had been taken from men who were in our hospital
when they were liberated for exchange, and whom the hospital surgeon regarded as convalescent, but too weak to be removed
with safety to themselves. The anxiety of the prisoners to be sent to their homes had prevailed over the objections of the
surgeon. But this is not all, for I have recently learned from a priest who was then at Annapolis that the most wretched looking
of these photographs was taken from a man who had never been a prisoner, but who had been left on the "sick list" at Annapolis
when the command to which he was attached had passed that place on its southward march. Whatever may be said in extenuation
of such imposture because of the exigencies of war, there can be no such excuse now for the attempts of Mr. Blaine, by gross
misrepresentation and slanderous accusation, to revive the worst passions of war; and it is to be hoped that, much as the
event is to be regretted, it will have the good effect of evoking truthful statements in regard to this little understood
subject from men who would have preferred to leave their sorrowful story untold if the subject could have been allowed peacefully
to sink in oblivion. Mutual respect is needed for the common interest, is essential to a friendly union, and when slander
is promulgated from high places the public welfare demands that truth should strip falsehood of its power for evil.
I am, respectfully and truly, your friend,
|List of Civil War Prisons
|Principal Union and Confederate Prisons
We next introduce
THE TESTIMONY OF GENERAL R. E. LEE,
who was Commander in Chief of the Confederate armies, who has been widely
charged with being particeps criminis in this matter, but whom the world will ever believe to have been as incapable of connivance
at a cruel act as he was of the slightest departure from the strictest accuracy of statement.
The following is an extract from his sworn testimony before the Congressional Reconstruction Committee:
"Question. By Mr. Howard: 'I wish to inquire whether you had any knowledge
of the cruelties practiced toward the Union prisoners at Libby Prison and on Belle Isle?'
Answer. 'I never knew that any cruelty was practiced, and I have no reason
to believe that it was practiced. I can believe, and have reason to believe, that privations may have been experienced by
the prisoners, because I know that provision and shelter could not be provided for them.'
Q. 'Were you not aware that the prisoners were dying from cold and starvation?
A. 'I was not.'
Q. 'Did these scenes come to your knowledge at all?
A. 'Never. No report was ever made to me about them. There was no call for
any to be made to me. I did hear it was mere hearsay -- that statements had been made to the War Department, and that everything
had been done to relieve them that could be done, even finally so far as to offer to send them to some other points -- Charleston
was one point named -- if they would be received by the United States authorities and taken to their homes; but whether this
is true or not I do not know.'
Q. 'And of course you know nothing of the scenes of cruelty about which
complaints have been made at those places' (Andersonville and Salisbury)?
A. 'Nothing in the world, as I said before. I suppose they suffered for
want of ability on the part of the Confederate States to supply their wants. At the very beginning of the war I knew that
there was suffering of prisoners on both sides, but as far as I could I did everything in my power to relieve them, and to
establish the cartel which was agreed upon.'
Q. 'It has been frequently asserted that the Confederate soldiers feel more
kindly toward the Government of the United States than any other people of the South. What are your observations on that point?
A. 'From the Confederate soldiers I have heard no expression of any other
opinion. They looked upon the war as a necessary evil, and went through it. I have seen them relieve the wants of Federal
soldiers on the field. The orders always were that the whole field should be treated alike. Parties were sent out to take
the Federal wounded as well as the Confederate, and the surgeons were told to treat the one as they did the other. These orders
given by me were respected on every field.'
Q. 'Do you think that the good feeling on their part toward the rest of
the people has continued since the close of the war?'
A. 'I know nothing to the contrary. I made several efforts to exchange the
prisoners after the cartel was suspended. I do not know to this day which side took the initiative. I know there were constant
complaints on both sides. I merely know it from public rumors. I offered to General Grant, around Richmond, that we should
ourselves exchange all the prisoners in our hands. There was a communication from the Christian Commission, I think, which
reached me at Petersburg, and made application to me for a passport to visit all the prisoners South. My letter to them I
suppose they have. I told them I had not that authority, that it could only be obtained from the War Department at Richmond,
but that neither they nor I could relieve the sufferings of the prisoners; that the only thing to be done for them was to
exchange them; and, to show that I would do whatever was in my power, I offered them to send to City Point all the prisoners
in Virginia and North Carolina over which my command extended, provided they returned an equal number of mine, man for man.
I reported this to the War Department, and received for answer that they would place at my command all the prisoners at the
South if the proposition was accepted. I heard nothing more on the subject.'"
The following private letter to a friend and relative was never intended
for the public eye, but may be accepted as his full conviction on this subject:
"LEXINGTON, VA, April 17, 1867.
"DR. CHARLES CARTER,
"No. 1632 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa.:
"My Dear Dr. Carter -- I have
received your letter of the 9th inst., inclosing one to you from Mr. J. Francis Fisher, in relation to certain information
which he had received from Bishop Wilmer. My respect for Mr. Fisher's wishes would induce me to reply fully to all his questions,
but I have not time to do so satisfactorily, and for reasons which I am sure you both will appreciate, I have a great repugnance
to being brought before the public in any manner. Sufficient information has been officially published, I think, to show that
whatever sufferings the Federal prisoners at the South underwent were incident to their position as prisoners, and produced
by the destitute condition of the country, arising from the operations of war. The laws of the Confederate Congress and the
orders of the War Department directed that the rations furnished prisoners of war should be the same in quantity and quality
as those furnished enlisted men in the army of the Confederacy, and that the hospitals for prisoners should be placed on the
same footing as other Confederate States hospitals in all respects. It was the desire of the Confederate authorities to effect
a continuous and speedy exchange of prisoners of war; for it was their true policy to do so, as their retention was not only
a calamity to them but a heavy expenditure of their scanty means of subsistence, and a privation of the services of a veteran
army. Mr. Fisher or Bishop Wilmer has confounded my offers for the exchange of prisoners with those made by Mr. Ould, the
Commissioner of the Confederate States. It was he that offered, when all hopes of effecting the exchange had ceased, to deliver
all the Federal sick and wounded, to the amount of fifteen thousand, without an equivalent, provided transportation was furnished.
Previously to this, I think, I offered to General Grant to send into his lines all the prisoners within my department, which
then embraced Virginia and North Carolina, provided he would return me man for man, and when I informed the Confederate authorities
of my proposition, I was told that, if it was accepted, they would place all the prisoners at the South at my disposal. I
offered subsequently, I think to the committee of the United States Sanitary Commission, who visited Petersburg for the purpose
of ameliorating the condition of their prisoners, to do the same. But my proposition was not accepted. Dr. Joseph Jones has
recently published a pamphlet termed `Researches upon Spurious Vaccination,' etc., issued from the University Medical Press,
Nashville, Tenn., in which he treats of certain diseases of the Federal prisoners at Andersonville and their causes, which
I think would be interesting to you as a medical man, and would furnish Mr. Fisher with some of the information he desires.
And now I wish you to understand that what I have written is for your personal information and not for publication, and to
send as an expression of thanks to Mr. Fisher for his kind efforts to relieve the sufferings of the Southern people.
"I am very much obliged to you for the prayers you offered for us in the days of trouble. Those days are still prolonged,
and we earnestly look for aid to our merciful God. Should I have any use for the file of papers you kindly offer me I will
let you know.
"All my family unite with me in kind regards to your wife and
children. And I am, very truly, your cousin,
(Signed) R.E. LEE."
VICE PRESIDENT ALEXANDER HAMILTON STEPHENS,
in his "War Between the States," declares that the escorts which have been
made to "fix the odium of cruelty and barbarity" upon Mr. Davis and the Confederate authorities "constitute one of the boldest
and baldest attempted outrages upon the truth of history which has ever been essayed." After briefly, but most conclusively,
discussing the general question, Mr. Stevens continues as follows in reference to the Federal prisoners sent South:
Large numbers of them were taken to Southwestern Georgia in 1864, because it was a section most remote and secure from the
invading Federal armies, and because, too, it was a country of all others then within the Confederate limits, not thus threatened
with an invasion, most abundant with food, and all resources at command for the health and comfort of prisoners. They were
put in one stockade for the want of men to guard more than one. The section of country moreover, was not regarded as more
unhealthy, or more subject to malarious influences, than any in the central part of the State. The official order for the
erection of the stockade enjoined that it should be in "a healthy locality, plenty of pure water, a running stream, and, if
possible, shade trees, and in the immediate neighborhood of grist and saw mills." The very selection of the locality, so far
from being, as you suppose made with cruel designs against the prisoners, was governed by the most humane considerations.
Your question might, with much more point, be retorted by asking why were Southern prisoners taken in the dead of winter with
their thin clothing to Camp Douglas, Rock Island and Johnson's Island -- icy regions of the North where it is a notorious
fact that many of them actually froze to death?
As far as mortuary returns afford
evidence of the general treatment of prisoners on both sides, the figures show nothing to the disadvantage of the Confederates,
notwithstanding their limited supplies of all kinds, and notwithstanding all that has been said of the horrible sacrifice
of life at Andersonville.
It now appears that a larger number of Confederates
died in Northern than of Federals in Southern prisons or stockades. The report of Mr. Stanton, as Secretary of War, on the
19th of July, 1866, exhibits the fact that, of the Federal prisoners in Confederate hands during the war, only 22,576 died;
while of the Confederate prisoners in Federal hands 26,436 died. This report does not set forth the exact number of prisoners
held by each side respectively. These facts were given more in detail in a subsequent report by Surgeon General Barnes, of
the United States Army. His report I have not seen, but according to a statement editorially, in the National Intelligencer
-- very high authority -- it appears from the Surgeon General's report, that the whole number of Federal prisoners captured
by the Confederates and held in Southern prisons, from first to last during the war, was, in round numbers, 270,000; while
the whole number of Confederates captured and held in prisons by the Federals was in like round numbers, only 220,000. From
these two reports it appears that, with 50,000 more prisoners in Southern stockades, or other modes of confinement, the deaths
were nearly 4,000 less! According to these figures, the per centum of Federal deaths in Southern prisons was under nine! while
the per centum of Confederate deaths in Northern prisons was over twelve! These mortality statistics are of no small weight
in determining on which side was the most neglect, cruelty and inhumanity!
the question in this matter is, upon whom does this tremendous responsibility rest of all this sacrifice of human life, with
all its indescribable miseries and sufferings? The facts, beyond question or doubt, show that it rests entirely upon the authorities
at Washington! It is now well understood to have been a part of their settled policy in conducting the war not to exchange
prisoners. The grounds upon which this extraordinary course was adopted were that it was humanity to the men in the field,
on their side, to let their captured comrades perish in prison, rather than to let an equal number of Confederate soldiers
be released on exchange to meet them in battle! Upon the Federal authorities, and upon them only, with this policy as their
excuse, rests the whole of this responsibility. To avert the indignation which the open avowal of this policy by them at the
time would have excited throughout the North, and throughout the civilized world, the false cry of cruelty towards prisoners
was raised against the Confederates. This was but a pretext to cover their own violation of the usages of war in this respect
among civilized nations.
Other monstrous violations of like usages were not
attempted to be palliated by them, or even covered by a pretext. These were as you must admit, open, avowed and notorious!
I refer only to the general sacking of private houses -- the pillaging of money, plate, jewels and other light articles of
value, with the destruction of books, works of art, paintings, pictures, private manuscripts and family relics; but I allude,
besides these things, especially to the hostile acts directly against property of all kinds, as well as outrages upon non
combatants -- to the laying waste of whole sections of country; the attempted annihilation of all the necessaries of life;
to the wanton killing, in many instances, of farm stock and domestic animals; the burning of mills, factories and barns, with
their contents of grain and forage, not sparing orchards or growing crops, or the implements of husbandry; the mutilation
of county and municipal records of great value; the extraordinary efforts made to stir up servile insurrections, involving
the wide spread slaughter of women and children; the impious profanation of temples of worship, and even the brutish desecration
of the sanctuaries of the dead!
All these enormities of a savage character against
the very existence of civilized society, and so revolting to the natural sentiments of mankind, when not thoroughly infuriated
by the worst of passions, and in open violation of modern usages in war -- were perpetrated by the Federal armies in many
places throughout the conflict, as legitimate means in putting down the rebellion, so called! -- War Between the States, vol.2,
pp. 507- 510.
We next present the
TESTIMONY OF HON. ROBERT OULD, CONFEDERATE COMMISSIONER OF
The following paper was published
by Judge Ould in the National Intelligencer in August, 1868. It is a calm, able, truthful exposition of the question, which
has not been and cannot be answered:
RICHMOND, VA., August 17, 1868.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCER:
Gentlemen -- I have recently
seen so many misrepresentations of the action of the late Confederate authorities in relation to prisoners, that I feel it
due to the truth of history, and peculiarly incumbent on me as their agent of exchange, to bring to the attention of the country
the facts set forth in this paper:
The cartel of exchange bears
date July 22d, 1862. Its chief purpose was to secure the delivery of all prisoners of war.
To that end, the fourth article provided that all prisoners of war should be discharged on parole in ten days after their
capture. From the date of the cartel until the summer of 1863 the Confederate authorities had the excess of prisoners. During
the interval deliveries were made as fast as the Federal Government furnished transportation. Indeed, upon more than one occasion
I urged the Federal authorities to send increased means of transportation. It has never been alleged that the Confederate
authorities failed or neglected to make prompt deliveries of prisoners who were not held under charges, when they had the
excess. On the other hand, during the same time the cartel was openly and notoriously violated by the Federal authorities.
Officers and men were kept in confinement, sometimes in irons or doomed to cells, without charge or trial. Many officers were
kept in confinement even after the notices published by the Federal authorities had declared them exchanged.
In the summer of 1863 the Federal authorities insisted upon limiting exchanges to such as were held in confinement on either
side. This I resisted as being in violation of the cartel. Such a construction not only kept in confinement the excess on
either side but ignored all paroles which were held by the Confederate Government. These were very many, being the paroles
of officers and men who had been released on capture. The Federal Government at that time held few or no paroles. They had
all, or nearly all been surrendered, the Confederate authorities giving prisoners as equivalent for them. Thus it will be
seen that as long as the Confederate Government had the excess of prisoners matters went on smoothly enough, but as soon as
the posture of affairs in that respect was changed the cartel could no longer be observed. So, as long as the Federal Government
held the paroles of Confederate officers and men, they were respected, and made the basis of exchange but when equivalents
were obtained for them, and no more were in hand, the paroles which were held by the Confederate authorities could not be
recognized. In consequence of the position thus assumed by the Federal Government, the requirement of the cartel that all
prisoners should be delivered within ten days was practically nullified. The deliveries which were afterwards made were the
results of special agreements.
The Confederate authorities adhered to their
position until the 10th of August, 1864, when, moved by the sufferings of the men in the prisons of each belligerent, they
determined to abate their just demand. Accordingly, on the last named day, I addressed the following communication to Brigadier
General John E. Mulford (then Major), Assistant Agent of Exchange:
Richmond, August 10, 1864.
Major John E. Mulford,
Assistant Agent of Exchange:
Sir -- You have several times
proposed to me to exchange the prisoners respectively held by the two belligerents -- officer for officer and man for man.
The same offer has also been made by other officials having charge of matters connected with the exchange of prisoners.
This proposal has heretofore been declined by the Confederate authorities, they insisting upon the terms of the cartel, which
required the delivery of the excess on either side on parole. In view, however, of the very large number of prisoners now
held by each party, and the suffering consequent upon their continued confinement, I now consent to the above proposal, and
agree to deliver to you the prisoners held in captivity by the Confederate authorities, provided you agree to deliver an equal
number of Confederate officers and men. As equal numbers are delivered from time to time, they will be declared exchanged.
This proposal is made with the understanding that the officers and men on both sides who have been longest in captivity will
be first delivered, where it is practicable.
I shall be happy to hear from you
as speedily as possible whether this arrangement can be carried out.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Robert Ould, Agent of Exchange.
The delivery of this letter was
accompanied with a statement of the mortality which was hurrying so many Federal prisoners at Andersonville to the grave.
On the 22d day of August, 1864, not having heard anything in response, I addressed a communication to Major General E.A. Hitchcock,
United States Commissioner of Exchange, covering a copy of the foregoing letter to General Mulford, and requesting an acceptance
of my propositions.
No answer was received to either of these letters. General
Mulford, on the 31st day of August, 1864, informed me in writing that he had no communication on the subject from the United
States authorities, and that he was not at that time authorized to make any answer.
This offer, which would have instantly restored to freedom thousands of suffering captives -- which would have released every
Federal soldier in confinement in Confederate prisons -- was not even noticed. Was that because the Federal officials did
not deem it worthy of a reply, or because they feared to make one? As the Federal authorities at that time had a large excess
of prisoners, the effect of the proposal which I had made, if carried out, would have been to release all Union prisoners,
while a large number of the Confederates would have remained in prison, awaiting the chances of the capture of their equivalents.
In January, 1864, and, indeed,
some time earlier, it became very manifest that in consequence of the complication in relation to exchanges, the large bulk
of prisoners on both sides would remain in captivity for many long and weary months, if not for the duration of the war. Prompted
by an earnest desire to alleviate the hardships of confinement on both sides, I addressed the following communication to General
E.A. Hitchcock, United States Commissioner of Exchange, and on or about the day of its date delivered the same to the Federal
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT,
RICHMOND, VA., January
MAJOR GENERAL ETHAN ALLEN HITCHCOCK, (g-son of Ethan Allen, Am.Rev.War)
Agent of Exchange:
Sir -- In view of the present
difficulties attending the exchange and release of prisoners, I propose that all such on each side shall be attended by a
proper number of their own surgeons, who, under rules to be established, shall be permitted to take charge of their health
I also propose that these surgeons shall act as commissaries, with
power to receive and distribute such contributions of money food, clothing and medicines as may be forwarded for the relief
of prisoners. I further propose that these surgeons be selected by their own Governments, and that they shall have full liberty
at any and all times, through the agents of exchange, to make reports not only of their own acts, but of any matters relating
to the welfare of prisoners.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
CSA Agent of Exchange.
To this communication no reply
of any kind was ever made. I need not state how much suffering would have been prevented if this offer had been met in the
spirit in which it was dictated. In addition, the world would have had truthful accounts of the treatment of prisoners on
both sides by officers of character, and thus much of that misrepresentation which has flooded the country would never have
been poured forth. The jury box in the case of Wirz would have had different witnesses, with a different story. It will be
borne in mind that nearly all of the suffering endured by Federal prisoners happened after January, 1864. The acceptance of
the proposition made by me, on behalf of the Confederate Government, would not only have furnished to the sick medicines and
physicians but to the well an abundance of food and clothing from the ample stores of the United States.
The good faith of the Confederate Government in making this offer cannot be successfully questioned; for food and clothing
(without the surgeons) were sent in 1865, and were allowed to be distributed by Federal officers to Federal prisoners.
Why could not the more humane proposal of January, 1864 have been accepted?
When it was ascertained that
exchanges could not be made, either on the basis of the cartel, or officer for officer and man for man, I was instructed by
the Confederate authorities to offer to the United States Government their sick and wounded without requiring any equivalents.
Accordingly, in the summer of 1864, I did offer to deliver from ten to fifteen thousand of the sick and wounded at the mouth
of the Savannah river, without requiring any equivalents assuring at the same time the agent of the United States, General
Mulford, that if the number for which he might send transportation could not readily be made up from sick and wounded, I would
supply the difference with well men. Although this offer was made in the summer of 1864, transportation was not sent to the
Savannah river until about the middle or last of November, and then I delivered as many prisoners as could be transported,
some thirteen thousand in number, amongst whom were more than five thousand well men.
More than once I urged the mortality at Andersonville as a reason for haste on the part of the United States authorities.
I know, personally, that it was the purpose of the Confederate Government to send off from all its prisons all the sick and
wounded, and to continue to do the same, from time to time, without requiring any equivalents for them. It was because the
sick and wounded at points distant from Georgia could not be brought to Savannah within a reasonable time that the five thousand
well men were substituted.
Although the terms of my offer did not require the
Federal authorities to deliver any for the ten or fifteen thousand which I promised, yet some three thousand sick and wounded
were delivered by them at the mouth of the Savannah river. I call upon every Federal and Confederate officer and man who saw
the cargo of living death, and who is familiar with the character of the deliveries made by the Confederate authorities, to
bear witness that none such was ever made by the latter, even when the very sick and desperately wounded alone were requested.
For, on two occasions at least, such were specially asked for, and particular request was made for those who were so desperately
sick that it would be doubtful whether they would survive a removal a few miles down James river. Accordingly, the hospitals
were searched for the worst cases, and after they were delivered they were taken to Annapolis, and there photographed as specimen
prisoners. The photographs at Annapolis were terrible indeed; but the misery they portrayed was surpassed at Savannah.
The original rolls showed that some thirty five hundred had started from Northern prisons, and that death had reduced the
number during the transit to about three thousand. The mortality amongst those who were delivered alive during the following
three months was equally frightful.
But why was there this delay between the
summer and November in sending transportation for sick and wounded, for whom no equivalents were asked? Were Union prisoners
made to suffer in order to aid the photographs "in firing the popular heart of the North?"
|Civil War Prison Life
|Civil War Prisoner of War
In the summer of 1864, in consequence
of certain information communicated to me by the Surgeon General of the Confederate States as to the deficiency of medicines,
I offered to make purchases of medicines from the United States authorities, to be used exclusively for the relief of Federal
prisoners. I offered to pay gold, cotton or tobacco for them, and even two or three prices if required. At the same time I
gave assurances that the medicines would be used exclusively in the treatment of Federal prisoners; and moreover agreed, on
behalf of the Confederate States, if it was insisted on that such medicines might be brought into the Confederate lines by
the United States surgeons, and dispensed by them. To this offer I never received any reply. Incredible as this appears, it
is strictly true.
General John E. Mulford is personally
cognizant of the truth of most, if not all, the facts which I have narrated. He was connected with the cartel from its date
until the close of the war. During a portion of the time he was Assistant Agent of Exchange on the part of the United States.
I always found him to be an honorable and truthful gentleman. While he discharged his duties with great fidelity to his own
Government, he was kind -- and I might almost say, tender -- to Confederate prisoners. With that portion of the correspondence
with which his name is connected he is, of course, familiar. He is equally so with the delivery made at Savannah and its attending
circumstances, and with the offer I made as to the purchase of medicines for the Federal sick and wounded. I appeal to him
for the truth of what I have written. There are other Federal corroborations to portions of my statements. They are found
in the report of Major General B.F. Butler to the "Committee on the Conduct of the War." About the last of March, 1864, I
had several conferences with General Butler at Fortress Monroe in relation to the difficulties attending the exchange of prisoners,
and we reached what we both thought a tolerably satisfactory basis.
that I left there General Grant arrived. General Butler says he communicated to him the state of the negotiations, and "most
emphatic verbal directions were received from the Lieutenant General not to take any step by which another able bodied man
should be exchanged until further orders from him;" and that on April 30, 1864, he received a telegram from General Grant
"to receive all the sick and wounded the Confederate authorities may send you, but send no more in exchange." Unless my recollection
fails me, General Butler also, in an address to his constituents, substantially declared that he was directed in his management
of the question of exchange with the Confederate authorities, to put the matter offensively, for the purpose of preventing
The facts which I have stated are also well known to the officers
connected with the Confederate Bureau of Exchange.
At one time I thought an
excellent opportunity was offered of bringing some of them to the attention of the country. I was named by poor Wirz as a
witness in his behalf. The summons was issued by Chipman, the Judge Advocate of the military court. I obeyed the summons,
and was in attendance upon the court for some ten days. The investigation had taken a wide range as to the conduct of the
Confederate and Federal Governments in the matter of the treatment of prisoners, and I thought the time had come when I could
put before the world these humane offers of the Confederate authorities, and the manner in which they had been treated. I
so expressed myself more than once - - perhaps too publicly. But it was a vain thought.
Early in the morning of the day on which I expected to give my testimony, I received a note from Chipman, the Judge Advocate,
requiring me to surrender my subpoena. I refused, as it was my protection in Washington. Without it the doors of the Old Capitol
Prison might have opened and closed upon me. I engaged, however, to appear before the court, and I did so the same morning.
I still refused to surrender my subpoena, and thereupon the Judge Advocate endorsed on it these words: "The within subpoena
is hereby revoked; the person named is discharged from further attendance." I have got the curious document before me now,
signed with the name of "N.P. Chipman, Colonel," &c. I intend to keep it, if I can, as the evidence of the first case,
in any court of any sort, where a witness who was summoned for the defence was dismissed by the prosecution. I hastened to
depart, confident that Richmond was a safer place for me than the metropolis.
Some time ago a committee was appointed by the House of Representatives to investigate the treatment of Union prisoners in
Southern prisons. After the appointment of the committee -- the Hon. Mr. Shanks, of Indiana, being its chairman -- I wrote
to the Hon. Charles A. Eldridge and the Hon. Mr. Mungen (the latter a member of the committee) some of the facts herein detailed.
Both of these gentlemen made an effort to extend the authority of the committee so that it might inquire into the treatment
of prisoners North as well as South, and especially that it might inquire into the truth of the matters which I had alleged.
All these attempts were frustrated by the Radical majority, although several of the party voted to extend the inquiry. As
several thousand dollars of the money of the people have been spent by this committee, will not they demand that the investigation
shall be thorough and impartial? The House of Representatives have declined the inquiry; let the people take it up.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
We may add to the above statement
that (through the courtesy of Judge Ould) we now have on our table the letter book of our Commissioner of Exchange, containing
copies of all of his official letters to the Federal authorities, and they prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, every point
which he makes.
If it be replied to the above testimony that President Davis,
General Lee, Vice President Stevens and Judge Ould were "all criminals in this matter," and that their testimony is thereby
invalidated, we will not pause to defend these high toned gentlemen, whom the verdict of history will pronounce as stainless
as any public men who ever lived, but we will proceed to introduce testimony of a different character. While the Northern
press was ringing with the charge of "Rebel barbarity to prisoners," the Confederate Congress raised a joint committee of
the Senate and House of Representatives to consider the whole subject of the treatment of prisoners. The Chairman was Judge
J.W.C. Watson, of Holly Springs, Mississippi, an elder of the Presbyterian Church and a pure minded, Christian gentleman and
the committee was composed of gentlemen of highest character, who were absolutely incapable of either countenancing or whitewashing
cruelty to prisoners, or of subscribing their names to statements not proven to be true. After a full investigation, and the
taking of a large volume of testimony, the committee submitted a report. The testimony was being printed when Richmond was
evacuated, and was unfortunately consumed in the great conflagration. A few copies of the report were saved, and we have secured
one for our archives, which we now give in full:
REPORT OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE OF THE CONFEDERATE CONGRESS APPOINTED
TO INVESTIGATE THE CONDITION AND TREATMENT OF PRISONERS OF WAR.
(Presented March 3d, 1865.)
The duties assigned to the committee
under the several resolutions of Congress designating them, are "to investigate and report upon the condition and treatment
of the prisoners of war respectively held by the Confederate and United States Governments; upon the causes of their detention,
and the refusal to exchange; and also upon the violations by the enemy of the rules of civilized warfare in the conduct of
the war." These subjects are broad in extent and importance; and in order fully to investigate and present them, the committee
propose to continue their labors in obtaining evidence, and deducing from it a truthful report of facts illustrative of the
spirit in which the war has been conducted.
But we deem it proper at this
time to make a preliminary report, founded upon evidence recently taken, relating to the treatment of prisoners of war by
both belligerents. This report is rendered specially important, by reason of persistent efforts lately made by the Government
of the United States, and by associations and individuals connected or co operating with it, to asperse the honor of the Confederate
authorities, and to charge them with deliberate and willful cruelty to prisoners of war. Two publications have been issued
at the North within the past year, and have been circulated not only in the United States, but in some parts of the South,
and in Europe. One of these is the report of the joint select committee of the Northern Congress on the conduct of the war
known as "Report No. 67." The other purports to be a "Narrative of the privations and sufferings of United States officers
and soldiers while prisoners of war," and is, issued as a report of a commission of inquiry appointed by "The United States
This body is alleged to consist of Valentine Mott, M.D.,
Edward Delafield, M.D., Gouverneur Morris Wilkins, Esq., Ellerslie Wallace, M.D., Hon. J.J. Clarke Hare, and Rev. Treadwell
Walden. Although these persons are not of sufficient public importance and weight to give authority to their publications,
yet your committee have deemed it proper to notice it in connection with the "Report No. 67," before mentioned; because the
Sanitary Commission has been understood to have acted, to a great extent, under the control and by the authority of the United
States Government, and because their report claims to be founded on evidence taken in solemn form.
THEIR SPIRIT AND INTENT.
A candid reader of these publications
will not fail to discover that, whether the statements they make be true or not, their spirit is not adapted to promote a
better feeling between the hostile powers. They are not intended for the humane purpose of ameliorating the condition of the
unhappy prisoners held in captivity. They are designed to inflame the evil passions of the North; to keep up the war spirit
among their own people; to represent the South as acting under the dominion of a spirit of cruelty, inhumanity and interested
malice, and thus to vilify her people in the eyes of all on whom these publications can work. They are justly characterized
by the Hon. James M. Mason as belonging to that class of literature called the "sensational," a style of writing prevalent
for many years at the North, and which, beginning with the writers of newspaper narratives and cheap fiction, has gradually
extended itself, until it is now the favored mode adopted by medical professors, judges of courts and reverend clergymen,
and is even chosen as the proper style for a report by a committee of their Congress.
Nothing can better illustrate
the truth of this view than the "Report No. 67," and its appendages. It is accompanied by eight pictures or photographs, alleged
to represent United States prisoners of war returned from Richmond in a sad state of emaciation and suffering. Concerning
these cases your committee will have other remarks, to be presently submitted. They are only alluded to now to show that this
report does really belong to the "sensational" class of literature, and that, prima facie, it is open to the same criticism
to which the yellow covered novels, the "narratives of noted highwaymen," and the "awful beacons" of the Northern book stalls
should be subjected.
The intent and spirit of this report may be gathered from
the following extract: "The evidence proves, beyond all manner of doubt, a determination on the part of the Rebel authorities,
deliberately and persistently practiced for a long time past, to subject those of our soldiers who have been so unfortunate
as to fall into their hands to a system of treatment which has resulted in reducing many of those who have survived and been
permitted to return to us to a condition, both physically and mentally, which no language we can use can adequately describe."
(Report, p.1.) And they give also a letter from Edwin M. Stanton, the Northern Secretary of War, from which the following
is an extract: "The enormity of the crime committed by the Rebels towards our prisoners for the last several months is not
known or realized by our people, and cannot but fill with horror the civilized world when the facts are fully revealed. There
appears to have been a deliberate system of savage and barbarous treatment and starvation, the result of which will be that
few (if any) of the prisoners that have been in their hands during the past winter will ever again be in a condition to render
any service, or even to enjoy life." (Report, p.4.) And the Sanitary Commission, in their pamphlet, after picturing many scenes
of privation and suffering, and bringing many charges of cruelty against the Confederate authorities, declare as follows:
"The conclusion is unavoidable, therefore, that these privations and sufferings have been designedly inflicted by the military
and other authorities of the Rebel Government, and could not have been due to causes which such authorities could not control."
( X. 95.)
TRUTH TO BE SOUGHT.
After examining these publications
your committee approached the subject with an earnest desire to ascertain the truth. If their investigation should result
in ascertaining that these charges (or any of them) were true, the committee desired, as far as might be in their power, and
as far as they could influence the Congress, to remove the evils complained of and to conform to the most humane spirit of
civilization; and if these charges were unfounded and false, they deemed it a sacred duty without delay to present to the
Confederate Congress and people, and to the public eye of the enlightened world, a vindication of their country, and to relieve
her authorities from the injurious slanders brought against her by her enemies. With these views we have taken a considerable
amount of testimony bearing on the subject. We have sought to obtain witnesses whose position or duties made them familiar
with the facts testified to, and whose characters entitled them to full credit. We have not hesitated to examine Northern
prisoners of war upon points and experience specially within their knowledge. We now present the testimony taken by us, and
submit a report of facts and inferences fairly deducible from the evidence, from the admissions of our enemies, and from public
records of undoubted authority.
FACTS AS TO SICK AND WOUNDED PRISONERS.
First in order, your committee
will notice the charge contained both in "Report No. 67" and in the "sanitary" publication, founded on the appearance and
condition of the sick prisoners sent from Richmond to Annapolis and Baltimore about the last of April, 1864. These are the
men some of whom form the subjects of the photographs with which the United States Congressional Committee have adorned their
report. The disingenuous attempt is made in both these publications to produce the impression that these sick and emaciated
men were fair representatives of the general state of the prisoners held by the South, and that all their prisoners were being
rapidly reduced to the same state by starvation and cruelty, and by neglect, ill treatment and denial of proper food, stimulants
and medicines in the Confederate hospitals. Your committee take pleasure in saying that not only is this charge proved to
be wholly false, but the evidence ascertains facts as to the Confederate hospitals, in which Northern prisoners of war are
treated, highly creditable to the authorities which established them, and to the surgeons and their aids who have so humanely
conducted them. The facts are simply these:
The Federal authorities, in violation
of the cartel, having for a long time refused exchange of prisoners, finally consented to a partial exchange of the sick and
wounded on both sides. Accordingly a number of such prisoners were sent from the hospitals in Richmond. General directions
had been given that none should be sent except those who might be expected to endure the removal and passage with safety to
their lives; but in some cases the surgeons were induced to depart from this rule by the entreaties of some officers and men
in the last stages of emaciation, suffering not only with excessive debility, but with "nostalgia," or home sickness, whose
cases mere regarded as desperate, and who could not live if they remained, and might possibly improve if carried home. Thus
it happened that some very sick and emaciated men were carried to Annapolis, but their illness was not the result of ill treatment
or neglect. Such cases might be found in any large hospital, North or South. They might even be found in private families
where the sufferer might be surrounded by every comfort that love could bestow. Yet these are the cases which, with hideous
violation of decency, the Northern committee have paraded in pictures and photographs. They have taken their own sick and
enfeebled soldiers; have stripped them naked; have exposed them before a daguerrean apparatus; have pictured every shrunken
limb and muscle; and all for the purpose, not of relieving their sufferings but of bringing a false and slanderous charge
against the South.
CONFEDERATE SICK AND WOUNDED -- THEIR CONDITION WHEN RETURNED.
The evidence is overwhelming
that the illness of these prisoners was not the result of ill treatment or neglect. The testimony of Surgeons Semple and Spence;
of Assistant Surgeons Tinsley, Marriott and Miller, and of the Federal prisoners E.P. Dalrymple, George Henry Brown and Freeman
B. Teague, ascertains this to the satisfaction of every candid mind. But in refuting this charge, your committee are compelled
by the evidence to bring a counter charge against the Northern authorities, which they fear will not be so easily refuted.
In exchange, a number of Confederate sick and wounded prisoners have been at various times delivered at Richmond and at Savannah.
The mortality among these on the passage and their condition when delivered were so deplorable as to justify the charge that
they had been treated with inhuman neglect by the Northern authorities.
Surgeon Tinsley testifies: "I have seen many of our prisoners returned from the North who were nothing but skin and bones.
They were as emaciated as a man could be to retain life, and the photographs (appended to `Report No. 67') would not be exaggerated
representations of our returned prisoners to whom I thus allude. I saw 250 of our sick brought in on litters from the steamer
at Rocketts. Thirteen dead bodies were brought off the steamer the same night. At least thirty died in one night after they
Surgeon Spence testifies: "I was at Savannah, and saw rather
over three thousand prisoners received. The list showed that a large number had died on the passage from Baltimore to Savannah.
The number sent from the Federal prisons was 3,500, and out of that number they delivered only 3,028, to the best of my recollection.
Captain Hatch can give you the exact number. Thus, about 472 died on the passage. I was told that 67 dead bodies had been
taken from one train of cars between Elmira and Baltimore. After being received at Savannah, they had the best attention possible,
yet many died in a few days." -- "In carrying out the exchange of disabled, sick and wounded men, we delivered at Savannah
and Charleston about 11,000 Federal prisoners, and their physical condition compared most favorably with those we received
in exchange, although of course the worst cases among the Confederates had been removed by death during the passage."
Richard H. Dibrell, a merchant of Richmond, and a member of the "Ambulance Committee," whose labors in mitigating the sufferings
of the wounded have been acknowledged both by Confederate and Northern men, thus testifies concerning our sick and wounded
soldiers at Savannah, returned from Northern prisons and hospitals: "I have never seen a set of men in worse condition. They
were so enfeebled and emaciated that we lifted them like little children. Many of them were like living skeletons. Indeed,
there was one poor boy, about 17 years old, who presented the most distressing and deplorable appearance I ever saw. He was
nothing but skin and bone, and besides this, he was literally eaten up with vermin. He died in the hospital in a few days
after being removed thither, notwithstanding the kindest treatment and the use of the most judicious nourishment. Our men
were in so reduced a condition that on more than one trip up on the short passage of ten miles from the transports to the
city, as many as five died. The clothing of the privates was in a wretched state of tatters and filth." -- "The mortality
on the passage from Maryland was very great, as well as that on the passage from the prisons to the port from which they started.
I cannot state the exact number, but I think I heard that 3,500 were started, and we only received about 3,027." -- "I have
looked at the photographs appended to `Report No. 67' of the committee of the Federal Congress, and do not hesitate to declare
that several of our men were worse cases of emaciation and sickness than any represented in these photographs."
The testimony of Mr. Dibrell is confirmed by that of Andrew Johnston, also a merchant of Richmond, and a member of the "Ambulance
Thus it appears that the sick and wounded Federal prisoners at Annapolis,
whose condition has been made a subject of outcry and of wide spread complaint by the Northern Congress, were not in a worse
state than were the Confederate prisoners returned from Northern hospitals and prisons, of which the humanity and superior
management are made subjects of special boasting by the United States Sanitary Commission!
CONFEDERATE HOSPITALS FOR PRISONERS.
In connection with this subject,
your committee take pleasure in reporting the facts ascertained by their investigations concerning the Confederate hospitals
for sick and wounded Federal prisoners. They have made personal examination, and have taken evidence specially in relation
to "Hospital No. 2l," in Richmond, because this has been made the subject of distinct charge in the publication last mentioned.
It has been shown not only by the evidence of the surgeons and their assistants, but by that of Federal prisoners, that the
treatment of the Northern prisoners in these hospitals has been everything that humanity could dictate; that their wards have
been well ventilated and clean; their food the best that could be procured for them and in fact that no distinction has been
made between their treatment and that of our own sick and wounded men. Moreover, it is proved that it has been the constant
practice to supply to the patients, out of the hospital funds, such articles as milk, butter, eggs, tea and other delicacies,
when they were required by the condition of the patient. This is proved by the testimony of E.P. Dalrymple of New York, George
Henry Brown of Pennsylvania, and Freeman B. Teague of New Hampshire, whose depositions accompany this report.
This humane and considerate usage
was not adopted in the United States hospital on Johnson's Island, where Confederate sick and wounded officers were treated.
Colonel J.H. Holman thus testifies: "The Federal authorities did not furnish to the sick prisoners the nutriment and other
articles which were prescribed by their own surgeons. All they would do was to permit the prisoners to buy the nutriment or
stimulants needed; and if they had no money, they could not get them. I know this, for I was in the hospital sick myself,
and I had to buy myself such articles as eggs, milk, flour, chickens and butter, after their doctors had prescribed them.
And I know this was generally the case, for we had to get up a fund among ourselves for this purpose, to aid those who were
not well supplied with money." This statement is confirmed by the testimony of Acting Assistant Surgeon John J. Miller, who
was at Johnson's Island for more than eight months. When it is remembered that such articles as eggs, milk and butter were
very scarce and high priced in Richmond, and plentiful and cheap at the North, the contrast thus presented may well put to
shame the "Sanitary Commission," and dissipate the self complacency with which they have boasted of the superior humanity
in the Northern prisons and hospitals.
CHARGE OF ROBBING PRISONERS.
Your committee now proceed to
notice other charges in these publications. It is said that their prisoners were habitually stripped of blankets and other
property, on being captured. What pillage may have been committed on the battle field, after the excitement of combat, your
committee cannot know. But they feel well assured that such pillage was never encouraged by the Confederate generals, and
bore no comparison to the wholesale robbery and destitution to which the Federal armies have abandoned themselves, in possessing
parts of our territory. It is certain that after the prisoners were brought to the Libby, and other prisons in Richmond, no
such pillage was permitted. Only articles which came properly under the head of munitions of war were taken from them.
The next charge noticed is, that
the guards around the Libby Prison were in the habit of recklessly and inhumanly shooting at the prisoners upon the most frivolous
pretexts, and that the Confederate officers, so far from forbidding this, rather encouraged it and made it a subject of sportive
remark. This charge is wholly false and baseless. The "Rules and Regulations" appended to the deposition of Major Thomas P.
Turner, expressly provide, "Nor shall any prisoner be fired upon by a sentinel or other person, except in case of revolt or
attempted escape." Five or six cases have occurred in which prisoners have been fired on and killed or hurt; but every case
has been made the subject of careful investigation and report, as will appear by the evidence. As a proper comment on this
charge, your committee report that the practice of firing on our prisoners by the guards in the Northern prisons appears to
have been indulged in to a most brutal and atrocious extent. See the depositions of C.C. Herrington, William F. Gordon, Jr.,
J.B. McCreary, Dr. Thomas P. Holloway, and John P. Fennell. At Fort Delaware a cruel regulation as to the use of the "sinks"
was made the pretext for firing on and murdering several of our men and officers, among them Lieutenant Colonel Jones, who
was lame, and was shot down by the sentinel while helpless and feeble and while seeking to explain his condition. Yet this
sentinel was not only not punished, but was promoted for his act. At Camp Douglas as many as eighteen of our men are reported
to have been shot in a single month. These facts may well produce a conviction, in the candid observer, that it is the North
and not the South that is open to the charge of deliberately and wilfully destroying the lives of the prisoners held by her.
MEANS FOR SECURING CLEANLINESS.
The next charge is, that the
Libby and Belle Isle prisoners were habitually kept in a filthy condition, and that the officers and men confined there were
prevented from keeping themselves sufficiently clean to avoid vermin and similar discomforts. The evidence clearly contradicts
this charge. It is proved by the depositions of Major Turner, Lieutenant Bossieux, Rev. Dr. McCabe, and others, that the prisons
were kept constantly and systematically policed and cleansed; that in the Libby there was an ample supply of water conducted
to each floor by the city pipes, and that the prisoners were not only not restricted in its use, but urged to keep themselves
clean. At Belle Isle, for a brief season (about three weeks), in consequence of a sudden increase in the number of prisoners,
the police was interrupted, but it was soon restored, and ample means for washing both themselves and their clothes were at
all times furnished to the prisoners. It is doubtless true that, notwithstanding these facilities, many of the prisoners were
lousy and filthy; but it was the result of their own habits, and not of neglect in the discipline or arrangements of the prison.
Many of the prisoners were captured and brought in while in this condition. The Federal General Neal Dow well expressed their
character and habits. When he came to distribute clothing among them, he was met by profane abuse; and he said to the Confederate
officer in charge, "You have here the scrapings and rakings of Europe." That such men should be filthy in their habits might
CHARGE OF WITHHOLDING AND PILLAGING BOXES.
We next notice the charge that
the boxes of provisions and clothing sent to the prisoners from the North were not delivered to them, and were habitually
robbed and plundered by permission of the Confederate authorities. The evidence satisfies your committee that this charge
is, in all substantial points, untrue. For a period of about one month there was a stoppage in the delivery of boxes, caused
by a report that the Federal authorities were forbidding the delivery of similar supplies to our prisoners. But the boxes
were put in a warehouse, and were afterwards delivered. For some time no search was made of boxes from the "Sanitary Committee,"
intended for the prisoners' hospitals. But a letter was intercepted advising that money should be sent in these boxes, "as
they were never searched;" which money was to be used in bribing the guards and thus releasing the prisoners. After this it
was deemed necessary to search every box, which necessarily produced some delay. Your committee are satisfied that if these
boxes or their contents were robbed, the prison officials are not responsible therefor. Beyond doubt, robberies were often
committed by prisoners themselves, to whom the contents were delivered for distribution to their owners. Notwithstanding all
this alleged pillage, the supplies seem to have been sufficient to keep the quarters of the prisoners so well furnished that
they frequently presented, in the language of a witness, "the appearance of a large grocery store."
THE FEDERAL COLONEL SANDERSON'S TESTIMONY.
In connection with this point,
your committee refer to the testimony of a Federal officer, Colonel James M. Sanderson, whose letter is annexed to the deposition
of Major Turner. He testifies to the full delivery of the clothing and supplies from the North and to the humanity and kindness
of the Confederate officers, specially mentioning Lieutenant Bossieux, commanding on Belle Isle. His letter was addressed
to the President of the United States Sanitary Commission, and was beyond doubt received by them, having been forwarded by
the regular flag of truce. Yet the scrupulous and honest gentlemen composing that commission have not found it convenient
for their purposes to insert this letter in their publication. Had they been really searching for the truth, this letter would
have aided them in finding it.
MINE UNDER THE LIBBY PRISON.
Your committee proceed next to
notice the allegation that the Confederate authorities had prepared a mine under the Libby prison, and placed in it a quantity
of gunpowder for the purpose of blowing up the buildings, with their inmates, in case of an attempt to rescue them. After
ascertaining all the facts bearing on this subject, your committee believe that what was done, under the circumstances, will
meet a verdict of approval from all whose prejudices do not blind them to the truth. The state of things was unprecedented
in history, and must be judged of according to the motives at work and the result accomplished. A large body of Northern raiders,
under one Colonel Dahlgren, was approaching Richmond. It was ascertained, by the reports of prisoners captured from them and
other evidence, that their design was to enter the city, to set fire to the buildings, public and private -- for which purpose
turpentine balls in great number had been prepared -- to murder the President of the Confederate States and other prominent
men -- to release the prisoners of war, then numbering five or six thousand -- to put arms into their hands, and to turn over
the city to indiscriminate pillage, rape and slaughter. At the same time a plot was discovered among the prisoners to cooperate
in this scheme, and a large number of knives and slungshot (made by putting stones into woolen stockings) were detected in
places of concealment about their quarters. To defeat a plan so diabolical, assuredly the sternest means were justified. If
it would have been right to put to death any one prisoner attempting to escape under such circumstances, it seems logically
certain that it would have been equally right to put to death any number making such attempt. But in truth the means adopted
were those of humanity and prevention, rather than of execution. The Confederate authorities felt able to meet and repulse
Dahlgren and his raiders, if they could prevent the escape of the prisoners.
The real object was to save their lives as well as those of our citizens. The guard force at the prisons was small, and all
the local troops in and around Richmond were needed to meet the threatened attack. Had the prisoners escaped, the women and
children of the city, as well as their homes, would have been at the mercy of five thousand outlaws. Humanity required that
the most summary measures should be used to deter them from any attempt at escape.
A mine was prepared under the Libby Prison; a sufficient quantity of gunpowder was put into it, and pains were taken to inform
the prisoners that any attempt at escape made by them would be effectually defeated. The plan succeeded perfectly. The prisoners
were awed and kept quiet. Dahlgren and his party were defeated and scattered. The danger passed away, and in a few weeks the
gunpowder was removed. Such are the facts. Your committee do not hesitate to make them known, feeling assured that the conscience
of the enlightened world and the great law of self preservation justify all that was done by our country and her officers.
CHARGE OF INTENTIONAL STARVATION AND CRUELTY.
We now proceed to notice, under
one head, the last and gravest charge made in these publications. They assert that the Northern prisoners in the hands of
the Confederate authorities have been starved, frozen, inhumanly punished, often confined in foul and loathsome quarters,
deprived of fresh air and exercise, and neglected and maltreated in sickness and that all this was done upon a deliberate,
willful and long conceived plan of the Confederate Government and officers, for the purpose of destroying the lives of these
prisoners, or of rendering them forever incapable of military service. This charge accuses the Southern Government of a crime
so horrible and unnatural, that it could never have been made except by those ready to blacken with slander men whom they
have long injured and hated. Your committee feel bound to reply to it calmly but emphatically. They pronounce it false in
fact and in design; false in the basis on which it assumes to rest, and false in its estimate of the motives which have controlled
the Southern authorities.
HUMANE POLICY OF THE CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT.
At an early period in the present
contest the Confederate Government recognized their obligation to treat prisoners of war with humanity and consideration.
Before any laws were passed on the subject, the Executive Department provided such prisoners as fell into their hands with
proper quarters and barracks to shelter them, and with rations the same in quantity and quality as those furnished to the
Confederate soldiers who guarded these prisoners. They also showed an earnest wish to mitigate the sad condition of prisoners
of war, by a system of fair and prompt exchange and the Confederate Congress co operated in these humane views. By their act,
approved on the 21st day of May, 186l, they provided that "all prisoners of war taken, whether on land or at sea, during the
pending hostilities with the United States, shall be transferred by the captors from time to time, and as often as convenient,
to the Department of War; and it shall be the duty of the Secretary of War, with the approval of the President, to issue such
instructions to the Quartermaster General and his subordinates as shall provide for the safe custody and sustenance of prisoners
of war; and the rations furnished prisoners of war shall be the same in quantity and quality as those furnished to enlisted
men in the army of the Confederacy." Such were the declared purpose and policy of the Confederate Government towards prisoners
of war and amid all the privations and losses to which their enemies have subjected them, they have sought to carry them into
RATION'S AND GENERAL TREATMENT.
Our investigations for this preliminary
report have been confined chiefly to the rations and treatment of the prisoners of war at the Libby and other prisons in Richmond
and on Belle Isle. This we have done, because the publications to which we have alluded refer chiefly to them, and because
the "Report No. 67" of the Northern Congress plainly intimates the belief that the treatment in and around Richmond was worse
than it was farther South. That report says: "It will be observed from the testimony, that all the witnesses who testify upon
that point state that the treatment they received while confined at Columbia, South Carolina, Dalton, Georgia, and other places,
was far more humane than that they received at Richmond, where the authorities of the so called Confederacy were congregated."
The evidence proves that the rations furnished to prisoners of
war, in Richmond and on Belle Isle, have been never less than those furnished to the Confederate soldiers who guarded them,
and have at some seasons been larger in quantity and better in quality than those furnished to Confederate troops in the field.
This has been because until February, 1864, the Quartermaster's Department furnished the prisoners, and often had provisions
or funds when the Commissary Department was not so well provided. Once, and only once, for a few weeks the prisoners were
without meat; but a larger quantity of bread and vegetable food was in consequence supplied to them. How often the gallant
men composing the Confederate army have been without meat, for even longer intervals, your committee do not deem it necessary
to say. Not less than sixteen ounces of bread and four ounces of bacon, or six ounces of beef, together with beans and soup,
have been furnished per day to the prisoners. During most of the time the quantity of meat furnished to them has been greater
than these amounts; and even in times of the greatest scarcity they have received as much as the Southern soldiers who guarded
them. The scarcity of meats and of bread stuffs in the South, in certain places, has been the result of the savage policy
of our enemies in burning barns filled with wheat or corn, destroying agricultural implements, and driving off or wantonly
butchering hogs and cattle. Yet amid all these privations we have given to their prisoners the rations above mentioned. It
is well known that this quantity of food is sufficient to keep in health a man who does not labor hard. All the learned disquisitions
of Dr. Ellerslie Wallace on the subject of starvation might have been spared, for they are all founded on a false basis. It
will be observed that few (if any) of the witnesses examined by the "Sanitary Commission" speak with any accuracy of the quantity
(in weight) of the food actually furnished to them. Their statements are merely conjectural and comparative, and cannot weigh
against the positive testimony of those who superintended the delivery of large quantities of food, cooked and distributed
according to a fixed ratio, for the number of men to be fed.
FALSEHOODS PUBLISHED AS TO PRISONERS FREEZING ON BELLE ISLE.
The statements of the "Sanitary
Commission," as to prisoners freezing to death on Belle Isle, are absurdly false. According to that statement, it was common,
during a cold spell in winter, to see several prisoners frozen to death every morning in the places in which they had slept.
This picture, if correct, might well excite our horror; but unhappily for its sensational power, it is but a clumsy daub,
founded on the fancy of the painter. The facts are, that tents were furnished sufficient to shelter all the prisoners; that
the Confederate commandant and soldiers on the Island were lodged in similar tents; that a fire was furnished in each of them;
that the prisoners fared as well as their guards; and that only one of them was ever frozen to death, and he was frozen by
the cruelty of his own fellow prisoners, who thrust him out of the tent in a freezing night because he was infested with vermin.
The proof as to the healthiness of the prisoners on Belle Isle, and the small amount of mortality, is remarkable, and presents
a fit comment on the lugubrious pictures drawn by the "Sanitary Commission," either from their own fancies or from the fictions
put forth by their false witnesses. Lieutenant Bossieux proves that from the establishment of the prison camp on Belle Isle
in June, 1862, to the 10th of February, 1865, more than twenty thousand prisoners had been at various times there received,
and yet that the whole number of deaths during this time was only one hundred and sixty four. And this is confirmed by the
Federal Colonel Sanderson, who states that the average number of deaths per month on Belle Isle was "from two to five, more
frequently the lesser number." The sick were promptly removed from the Island to the hospitals in the city.
CHARACTER OF THE NORTHERN WITNESSES.
Doubtless the "Sanitary Commission"
have been to some extent led astray by their own witnesses, whose character has been portrayed by General Neal Dow, and also
by the editor of the New York Times, who, in his issue of January 6th, 1865, describes the material for recruiting the Federal
armies as `wretched vagabonds of depraved morals, decrepit in body, without courage, self respect or conscience. They are
dirty, disorderly, thievish and incapable."
CRUELTY TO CONFEDERATE PRISONERS AT THE NORTH.
In reviewing the charges of cruelty,
harshness and starvation to prisoners, made by the North, your committee have taken testimony as to the treatment of our own
officers and soldiers in the hands of the enemy. It gives us no pleasure to be compelled to speak of suffering inflicted upon
our gallant men, but the self laudatory style in which the "Sanitary Commission" have spoken of their prisons, makes it proper
that the truth should be presented. Your committee gladly acknowledge that in many cases our prisoners experienced kind and
considerate treatment; but we are equally assured that in nearly all the prison stations of the North -- at Point Lookout,
Fort McHenry, Fort Delaware, Johnson's Island, Elmira, Camp Chase, Camp Douglas, Alton, Camp Morton, the Ohio Penitentiary,
and the prisons of St. Louis, Missouri -- our men have suffered from insufficient food, and have been subjected to ignominious,
cruel and barbarous practices, of which there is no parallel in anything that has occurred in the South. The witnesses who
were at Point Lookout, Fort Delaware, Camp Morton and Camp Douglas testify that they have often seen our men picking up the
scraps and refuse thrown out from the kitchens, with which to appease their hunger. Dr. Herrington proves that at Fort Delaware
unwholesome bread and water produced diarrhea in numberless cases among our prisoners, and that "their sufferings were greatly
aggravated by the regulation of the camp which forbade more than twenty men at a time at night to go to the sinks. I have
seen as many as five hundred men in a row waiting their time. The consequence was that they were obliged to use the places
where they were. This produced great want of cleanliness, and aggravated the disease." Our men were compelled to labor in
unloading Federal vessels and in putting up buildings for Federal officers, and if they refused, were driven to the work with
The treatment of Brigadier General J.H. Morgan and his officers was
brutal and ignominious in the extreme. It will be found stated in the depositions of Captain M.D. Logan, Lieutenant W.P Crow,
Lieutenant Colonel James B. McCreary and Captain B.A. Tracy, that they were put in the Ohio Penitentiary and compelled to
submit to the treatment of felons. Their beards were shaved and their hair was cut close to the head. They were confined in
convicts' cells and forbidden to speak to each other. For attempts to escape, and for other offences of a very light character,
they were subjected to the horrible punishment of the dungeon. In midwinter, with the atmosphere many degrees below zero,
without blanket or overcoat, they were confined in a cell without fire or light, with a foetid and poisonous air to breathe,
and here they were kept until life was nearly extinct. Their condition on coming out was so deplorable as to draw tears from
their comrades. The blood was oozing from their hands and faces. The treatment in the St. Louis prison was equally barbarous.
Captain William H. Sebring testifies: "Two of us -- A.C. Grimes and myself -- were carried out into the open air in the prison
yard, on the 25th of December, 1863, and handcuffed to a post. Here we were kept all night in sleet snow and cold. We were
relieved in the day time, but again brought to the post and handcuffed to it in the evening, and thus we were kept all night
until the 2d of January, 1864. I was badly frost bitten and my health was much impaired. This cruel infliction was done by
order of Captain Byrnes, Commandant of Prisons in St. Louis. He was barbarous and insulting to the last degree."
CONFEDERATE PRISONERS PUT INTO POW CAMPS INFECTED WITH SMALLPOX.
But even a greater inhumanity
than any we have mentioned was perpetuated upon our prisoners at Camp Douglas and Camp Chase. It is proved by the testimony
of Thomas P. Holloway, John P. Fennell, H.H. Barlow, H.C. Barton, C.D. Bracken and J.S. Barlow that our prisoners in large
numbers were put into "condemned camps," where smallpox was prevailing, and speedily contracted this loathsome disease, and
that as many as 40 new cases often appeared daily among them. Even the Federal officers who guarded them to the camp protested
against this unnatural atrocity; yet it was done. The men who contracted the disease were removed to a hospital about a mile
off, but the plague was already introduced, and continued to prevail. For a period of more than twelve months the disease
was constantly in he camp; yet our prisoners during all this time were continually brought to it, and subjected to certain
infection. Neither do we find evidences of amendment on the part of our enemies, notwithstanding the boasts of the "Sanitary
Commission." At Nashville, prisoners recently captured from General Hood's army, even when sick and wounded, have been cruelly
deprived of all nourishment suited to their condition; and other prisoners from the same army have been carried into the infected
Camps Douglas and Chase.
Many of the soldiers of General Hood's army were frost
bitten by being kept day and night in an exposed condition before they were put into Camp Douglas. Their sufferings are truthfully
depicted in the evidence. At Alton and Camp Morton the same inhuman practice of putting our prisoners into camps infected
by smallpox prevailed. It was equivalent to murdering many of them by the torture of a contagious disease. The insufficient
rations at Camp Morton forced our men to appease their hunger by pounding up and boiling bones, picking up scraps of meat
and cabbage from the hospital slop tubs, and even eating rats and dogs. The depositions of William Ayres and J. Chambers Brent
prove these privations.
The punishments often inflicted
on our men for slight offences have been shameful and barbarous. They have been compelled to ride a plank only four inches
wide, called "Morgan's horse," to sit down with their naked bodies in the snow for ten or fifteen minutes, and have been subjected
to the ignominy of stripes from the belts of their guards. The pretext has been used that many of their acts of cruelty have
been by way of retaliation. But no evidence has been found to prove such acts on the part of the Confederate authorities.
It is remarkable that in the case of Colonel Streight and his officers, they were subjected only to the ordinary confinement
of prisoners of war. No special punishment was used except for specific offences; and then the greatest infliction was to
confine Colonel Streight for a few weeks in a basement room of the Libby Prison, with a window, a plank floor, a stove, a
fire, and plenty of fuel.
We do not deem it necessary to dwell further on these
subjects. Enough has been proved to show that great privations and sufferings have been borne by the prisoners on both sides.
WHY HAVE NOT PRISONERS OF WAR BEEN EXCHANGED ?
But the question forces itself
upon us why have these sufferings been so long continued? Why have not the prisoners of war been exchanged, and thus some
of the darkest pages of history spared to the world? In the answer to this question must be found the test of responsibility
for all the sufferings, sickness and heartbroken sorrow that have visited more than eighty thousand prisoners within the past
two years. On this question, your committee can only say that the Confederate authorities have always desired a prompt and
fair exchange of prisoners. Even before the establishment of a cartel they urged such exchange, but could never effect it
by agreement, until the large preponderance of prisoners in our hands made it the interest of the Federal authorities to consent
to the cartel of July 22d, 1863. The ninth article of that agreement expressly provided that in case any misunderstanding
should arise it should not interrupt the release of prisoners on parole, but should be made the subject of friendly explanation.
Soon after this cartel was established, the policy of the enemy in seducing negro slaves from their masters, arming them and
putting white officers over them to lead them against us, gave rise to a few cases in which questions of crime under the internal
laws of the Southern States appeared. Whether men who encouraged insurrection and murder could be held entitled to the privileges
of prisoners of war under the cartel, was a grave question. But these cases were few in number, and ought never to have interrupted
the general exchange. We were always ready and anxious to carry out the cartel in its true meaning, and it is certain that
the ninth article required that the prisoners on both sides should be released, and that the few cases as to which misunderstanding
occurred should be left for final decision. Doubtless if the preponderance of prisoners had continued with us, exchanges would
have continued. But the fortunes of war threw the larger number into the hands of our enemies. Then they refused further exchanges
--and for twenty two months this policy has continued. Our Commissioner of Exchange has made constant efforts to renew them.
In August, 1864, he consented to a proposition, which had been repeatedly made, to exchange officer for officer and man for
man, leaving the surplus in captivity. Though this was a departure from the cartel, our anxiety for the exchange induced us
to consent. Yet, the Federal authorities repudiated their previous offer, and refused even this partial compliance with the
cartel. Secretary Stanton, who has unjustly charged the Confederate authorities with inhumanity, is open to the charge of
having done all in his power to prevent a fair exchange, and thus to prolong the sufferings of which he speaks; and very recently,
in a letter over his signature, Benjamin F. Butler has declared that in April, 1864, the Federal Lieutenant General Grant
forbade him "to deliver to the Rebels a single able bodied man;" and moreover, General Butler acknowledges that in answer
to Colonel Ould's letter consenting to the exchange, officer for officer and man for man, he wrote a reply, "not diplomatically
but obtrusively and demonstratively, not for the purpose of furthering exchange of prisoners, but for the purpose of preventing
and stopping the exchange, and furnishing a ground on which we could fairly stand."
These facts abundantly show that the responsibility of refusing to exchange prisoners of war rests with the Government of
the United States, and the people who have sustained that Government; and every sigh of captivity, every groan of suffering,
every heart broken by hope deferred among these eighty thousand prisoners, will accuse them in the judgment of the just.
With regard to the prison stations at Andersonville, Salisbury and places south of Richmond, your committee have not made
extended examination, for reasons which have already been stated. We are satisfied that privation, suffering and mortality,
to an extent much to be regretted, did prevail among the prisoners there, but they were not the result of neglect, still less
of design on the part Of the Confederate Government. Haste in preparation; crowded quarters, prepared only for a smaller number;
want of transportation and scarcity of food, have all resulted from the pressure of the war, and the barbarous manner in which
it has been conducted by our enemies. Upon these subjects your committee propose to take further evidence, and to report more
But even now enough is known to vindicate the South, and to
furnish an overwhelming answer to all complaints on the part of the United States Government or people, that their prisoners
were stinted in food or supplies. Their own savage warfare has brought all the evil. They have blockaded our ports; have excluded
from us food, clothing and medicines; have even declared medicines contraband of war, and have repeatedly destroyed the contents
of drug stores and the supplies of private physicians in the country; have ravaged our country, burned our houses, and destroyed
growing crops and farming implements. One of their officers (General Sheridan) has boasted, in his official report, that in
the Shenandoah Valley alone he burned two thousand barns filled with wheat and corn; that he burned all the mills in the whole
tract of country; destroyed all the factories of cloth; and killed or drove off every animal, even to the poultry, that could
contribute to human sustenance. These desolations have been repeated again and again in different parts of the South. Thousands
of our families have been driven from their homes as helpless and destitute refugees. Our enemies have destroyed the railroads
and other means of transportation by which food could be supplied from abundant districts to those without it. While thus
desolating our country, in violation of the usages of civilized warfare, they have refused to exchange prisoners; have forced
us to keep fifty thousand of their men in captivity, and yet have attempted to attribute to us the sufferings and privations
caused by their own acts. We cannot doubt that, in the view of civilization, we shall stand acquitted, while they must be
In concluding this preliminary report, we will notice the strange
perversity of interpretation which has induced the "Sanitary Commission" to affix as a motto to their pamphlet the words of
the compassionate Redeemer of mankind:
"For I was hungered and ye gave me no
meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger and ye took me not in; naked and ye clothed me not; sick and
in prison and ye visited me not.
We have yet to learn on what principle the
Federal mercenaries, sent with arms in their hands to destroy the lives of our people, to waste our land, burn our houses
and barns, and drive us from our homes, can be regarded by us as the followers of the meek and lowly Redeemer, so as to claim
the benefit of his words. Yet even these mercenaries, when taken captive by us, have been treated with proper humanity. The
cruelties inflicted on our prisoners at the North may well justify us in applying to the "Sanitary Commission" the stern words
of the Divine Teacher -- "Thou hypocrite first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to
cast out the moat out of thy brother's eye."
We believe that there are many
thousands of just, honorable and humane people in the United States, upon whom this subject, thus presented, will not be lost;
that they will do all they can to mitigate the horrors of war; to complete the exchange of prisoners, now happily in progress,
and to prevent the recurrence of such sufferings as have been narrated. And we repeat the words of the Confederate Congress,
in their manifesto of the 14th of June, 1864:
"We commit our cause to the enlightened
judgment of the world, to the sober reflections of our adversaries themselves, and to the solemn and righteous arbitrament
Rev. William Brown, D.D., of the Central Presbyterian, writes as
follows in his paper:
"So far as the intentions and orders of the Confederate
Government were concerned, no blame can rest upon it. The places selected were healthy, and the food and medicines ordered
were the same as those assigned to our own soldiers and hospitals. The fate of prisoners, especially if the number be large,
is generally and unavoidably a hard one. When the intentions of the Government may be right, the neglect or tyranny of subordinates
may render the condition of the captives miserable. We can testify from personal observation, and from an intimate acquaintance
with the most unimpeachable testimony, that the treatment of our soldiers in prison was often horrible and brutal in the extreme.
A vast mass of evidence had been obtained by a committee appointed by the Confederate Senate. At the head of this committee
was that pure minded, eminent Christian gentleman, Judge J.W.C. Watson, of Holly Springs, Mississippi. The volume of testimony
gathered from a large number of returned prisoners, men of undoubted veracity, we were invited, by the kindness of Judge Watson,
to inspect. It was in the hands of the printer in Richmond when the memorable fire occurred, at the time of its evacuation
in April, 1865, and was unfortunately consumed in the great conflagration. But Camp Douglas, Rock Island, Johnson's Island,
Elmira, Fort Delaware, and other Federal prisons, could they find a tongue, would tell a tale of horror that should forever
silence all clamor about 'Libby Prison' and 'Belle Isle' and 'Andersonville'. At Fort Delaware the misrule and suffering were
probable less than at any other; yet whoever wishes to get a glimpse at the Federal prisons in their best estate, and under
the control of 'the best Government the world ever saw,' let him consult 'Bonds of the United States Government," a volume
published last year by the Rev. I.W.K. Handy, D.D., a member of the Synod of Virginia, now residing near Staunton; or let
him inquire of the Rev. T.D. Witherspoon, D.D., another member of the same Synod, and now residing in Petersburg. They can
both say, as victims, 'We speak concerning that which we know, and testify of that we have seen.'
"It may be we neither affirm here nor deny that Wirz deserved his unhappy fate for his treatment of prisoners at Andersonville;
he was a subordinate officer, and may have abused his power. But whoever shall look into that whole dreadful history of the
treatment of prisoners during the war, even in the light of such imperfect evidence as it has been possible to obtain, will
have to conclude that the operation of hanging ought to have been extended a great deal further, and not to have stopped till
it reached certain very high quarters. The refusal of the military court to allow Judge Ould to appear as a witness for Wirz
is to be noted as a most significant fact. Read his remarkable statement. He went on to Washington city, summoned by the court
to give testimony in behalf of this man charged with a high crime, which put his life in peril. He was fully prepared to bring
before that court certain incontestable facts which it was afraid to allow the public to hear. If they should only get before
the world in such a conspicuous light, then would somebody -- the coming men -- have to say, 'Farewell, a long farewell, to
all my future greatness!' And so we have the extraordinary fact, here asserted by Judge Ould (and when did criminal jurisprudence,
even in the worst acts of Jeffries, surpass its infamy ?), that a witness, of the highest character, summoned by the defence
was debarred from giving testimony, and was dismissed by the prosecutor!
reports of the Federal authorities show that a larger number of Confederates died in Northern than of Federal prisoners in
Southern prisons or stockades. The whole number of Federal prisoners held in Confederate prisons was, from first to last,
in round numbers 270,000; while the whole number of Confederates held by the Federals was, in round numbers, 220,000. But,
with 50000 more prisoners held by the Confederates, the deaths were actually about 4,000 less. The number of Federal prisoners
that died was 22,576 of Confederate prisoners, 26,436.
"Now let the voice of
truth tell where was the greater neglect, cruelty, inhumanity. And more than this: upon which side rests the tremendous responsibility
of the suffering and distress from the long imprisonment of so many thousands of soldiers? Do not the facts show, beyond a
question, that it rests solely upon the authorities at Washington? The source of the documents referred to is of the most
responsible character. The standing of Judge Ould and Alexander H. Stevens before the world is such as to leave no excuse
for disregarding them. Besides this, they make a straightforward issue; they quote or point to their authorities for what
they say, and calmly challenge contradiction. The documents were, after the surrender of General Lee, delivered over to the
Federal Government, and are now on file in the city of Washington. If the letters quoted or referred to by Judge Ould are
not official or genuine, their falsity can easily be shown from the original papers. If any of his or Mr. Stephens' statements
are untrue, the means of refutation are at hand; let them be produced."
we will now introduce the
TESTIMONY OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF WAR OF THE UNITED STATES,
MR. CHARLES A. DANA.
In an editorial in his paper,
the New York Sun, Mr. Dana, after speaking of the bitterness of feeling towards Mr. Davis at the North, thus comments on his
recent letter to Mr. Lyons:
This letter shows clearly, we think, that the Confederate
authorities, and especially Mr. Davis, ought not to be held responsible for the terrible privations, sufferings and injuries
which our men had to endure while they were kept in the Confederate military prisons. The fact is unquestionable that while
the Confederates desired to exchange prisoners, to send our men home and to get back their own, General Grant steadily and
strenuously resisted such an exchange. While, in his opinion, the prisoners in our hands were well fed, and were in better
condition than when they were captured, our prisoners in the South were ill fed, and would be restored to us too much exhausted
by famine and disease to form a fair set off against the comparative vigorous men who would be given in exchange. "It is hard
on our men held in Southern prisons," said Grant in an official communication, "not to exchange them; but it is humane to
those left in the ranks to fight our battles. If we commence a system of exchanges which liberates all prisoners taken, we
will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught, they count for no more than dead men."
"I did not," Grant said on another occasion, "deem it justifiable or just to reinforce the enemy; and an immediate resumption
of exchanges would have had that effect without any corresponding benefit.
evidence must be taken as conclusive. It proves that it was not the Confederate authorities who insisted on keeping our prisoners
in distress, want and disease, but the commander of our own armies. We do not say that his reason for this course was not
valid; but it was not Jefferson Davis, or any subordinate or associate of his, who should now be condemned for it. We were
responsible ourselves for the continued detention of our captives in misery, starvation and sickness in the South.
Moreover, there is no evidence whatever that it was practicable for the Confederate authorities to feed our prisoners any
better than they were fed, or to give them better care and attention than they received. The food was insufficient; the care
and attention were insufficient, no doubt; and yet the condition of our prisoners was not worse than that of the Confederate
soldiers in the field, except in so far as the condition of those in prison must of necessity be worse than that of men who
are free and active outside.
Again, in reference to those cases of extreme
suffering and disease, the photographs of whose victims were so extensively circulated among us toward the end of the war,
Mr. Davis makes, it seems to us, a good answer. Those very unfortunate men were not taken from prisons, but from Confederate
hospitals, where they had received the same medical treatment as was given to sick and wounded Confederate soldiers. The fact
mentioned by Mr. Davis that while they had 60,000 more prisoners of ours than we had of theirs, the number of Confederates
who died in our prisons exceeded by 60,000 the whole number of Union soldiers who died in Southern prisons, though not entirely
conclusive, since our men were generally better fed and in better health than theirs, still furnishes a strong support to
the position that, upon the whole, our men were not used with greater severity or subjected to greater privations than were
inevitable in the nature of the case. Of this charge, therefore, of cruelty to prisoners, so often brought against Mr. Davis,
and reiterated by Mr. Blaine in his speech we think he must be held altogether acquitted.
There are other things in his letter not essential to this question, expressions of political opinion and intimations of views
upon larger subjects, which it is not necessary that we should discuss. We are bound, however, to say that in elevation of
spirit, in a sincere desire for the total restoration of fraternal feeling and unity between the once warring parts of the
Republic, Mr. Davis' letter is infinitely superior and infinitely more creditable to him, both as a statesman and a man, than
anything that has recently fallen from such antagonists and critics of his as Mr. Blaine.
Having produced the testimony of reliable witnesses who were in position to know the truth in reference to this whole question,
we proceed to give a somewhat more detailed statement of the facts in reference to it.
THE CONFEDERATE LAW.
We have before us the "statutes
at large" of the Confederate Congress, the general orders which eminated from the War Department, and the orders of the Confederate
Surgeon General in reference to the management of hospitals. We have carefully examined these volumes and papers, and are
unable to discover a syllable looking to or in the least degree countenancing the maltreatment of prisoners of war.
As early as the 21st of May, 1861, the Confederate Congress passed a law which provided that "all prisoners of war taken,
whether on land or sea, during the pending hostilities with the United States, shall be transferred by the captors from time
to time, and as often as convenient, to the Department of War; and it shall be the duty of the Secretary of War, with the
approval of the President, to issue such instructions to the Quartermaster General and his subordinates as shall provide for
the safe custody and sustenance of prisoners of war; and the rations furnished prisoners of war shall be the same in quantity
and quality as those furnished to enlisted men the army of the Confederacy."
This law of the Confederate Congress was embodied in the orders issued from the War Department, and from the headquarters
in the field, and we defy the production of a single order from any Confederate Department which militates against this humane
The first question concerning
prisoners which arose between the two governments, was when the privateer Savannah was captured on the 3d of June, 1861, off
Charleston. In accordance with Mr. Lincoln's proclamation declaring privateering "piracy," the crew of the Savannah were placed
in irons, and sent to New York. So soon as the facts were known in Richmond, Mr. Davis sent Mr. Lincoln, by a special messenger
(Colonel Taylor), a communication, in which, under date of July 6th, 1861, he said:
"Having learned that the schooner Savannah, a private armed vessel in the service, and sailing under a commission issued by
authority of the Confederate States of America, had been captured by one of the vessels forming the blockading squadron off
Charleston harbor, I directed a proposition to be made to the officer commanding the squadron, for an exchange of the officers
and crew of the Savannnah for prisoners of war held by this Government, 'according to number and rank.' To this proposition,
made on the 19th ultimo, Captain Mercer, the officer in command of the blockading squadron, made answer, on the same day,
that 'the prisoners (referred to) are not on board of any of the vessels under my command.'
"It now appears, by statements made, without contradiction, in newspapers published in New York, that the prisoners above
mentioned were conveyed to that city, and have been treated not as prisoners of war, but as criminals; that they have been
put in irons, confined in jail, brought before the courts of justice on charges of piracy and treason; and it is even rumored
that they have been actually convicted of the offences charged, for no other reason than that they bore arms in defence of
the rights of this Government and under the authority of its commission.
could not, without grave discourtesy, have made the newspaper statements above referred to the subject of this communication,
if the threat of treating as pirates the citizens of this Confederacy, armed for its service on the high seas, had not been
contained in your proclamation of the 19th of April last; that proclamation however, seems to afford a sufficient justification
for considering these published statements as not devoid of probability.
is the desire of this Government so to conduct the war now existing as to mitigate its horrors, as far as may be possible
and with this intent, its treatment of the prisoners captured by its forces has been marked by the greatest humanity and leniency
consistent with public obligation. Some have been permitted to return home on parole, others to remain at large, under similar
conditions, within this Confederacy, and all have been furnished with rations for their subsistence, such as are allowed to
our own troops. It is only since the news has been received of the treatment of the prisoners taken on the Savannah, that
I have been compelled to withdraw these indulgences, and to hold the prisoners taken by us in strict confinement.
"A just regard to humanity and to the honor of this Government now requires me to state explicitly, that, painful as will
be the necessity, this Government will deal out to the prisoners held by it the same treatment and the same fate as shall
be experienced by those captured on the Savannah; and if driven to the terrible necessity of retaliation, by your execution
of any of the officers or crew of the Savannah, that retaliation will be extended so far as shall be requisite to secure the
abandonment of a practice unknown to the warfare of civilized man, and so barbarous as to disgrace the nation which shall
be guilty of inaugurating it.
"With this view, and because it may not have reached
you, I now renew the proposition made to the commander of the blockading squadron, to exchange for the prisoners taken on
the Savannah an equal number of those now held by us, according to rank."
Taylor was permitted to go to Washington, but was refused an audience with the President, and was obliged to content himself
with a verbal reply from General Scott that the communication had been delivered to Mr. Lincoln, and that he would reply in
writing as soon as possible.
No answer ever came, however, and the Confederate
authorities were compelled to select by lot from among the Federal prisoners in their hands a number to whom they proposed
to mete out the same fate which might await the crew of the Savannah. But fortunately Mr. Lincoln was induced, from some cause,
to recede from his position -- albeit he never deigned an answer of any sort to Mr. Davis' letter and the horrors of retaliation
were thus averted. Although not necessary to this discussion, it may be well (in new of the flippancy with which Northern
writers even now speak of "pirate Semmes"), to say that the Federal Government does not seem to have been influenced in this
matter by any considerations of humanity, but rather by what occurred in the British House of Lords, on the 16th of May, soon
after Mr. Lincoln's proclamation, declaring the Confederate privateers pirates, reached that country.
On this subject the Earl of Derby said:
"He apprehended that if one thing was
clearer than another, it was that privateering was not piracy, and that no law could make that piracy, as regarded the subjects
of one nation, which was not piracy by the law of nations. Consequently the United States must not be allowed to entertain
the doctrine, and to call upon Her Majesty's Government not to interfere. He knew it was said that the United States treated
the Confederate States of the South as mere rebels, and that as rebels these expeditions were liable to all the penalties
of high treason. That was not the doctrine of this country, because we have declared that they are entitled to all the rights
of belligerents. The Northern States could not claim the rights of belligerents for themselves, and, on the other hand, deal
with other parties not as belligerents, but as rebels."
Lord Brougham said that
"it was clear that privateering was not piracy by the law of nations."
Kingsdown took the same view. "What was to be the operation of the Presidential proclamation upon this subject was a matter
for the consideration of the United States." But he expressed the opinion that the enforcement of the doctrine of that proclamation
"would be an act of barbarity which would produce an outcry throughout the civilized world."
Up to this time there had been no formal cartel for the exchange of prisoners, and the policy of the Washington Government
seemed to be that they would not treat with "Rebels" in any way which would acknowledge them as "belligerents." But many prisoners
on both sides were released on parole, and a proposition made in the Confederate Congress to return the Federal prisoners
taken at First Manassas, without any formality whatever, would doubtless have prevailed but for the difficulty in reference
to the crew of the Savannah.
The pressure upon the Federal Government by friends
of the prisoners became so great that they were finally induced to enter into a cartel for the exchange of prisoners on the
very basis that the Confederates had offered in the beginning. The Confederate General Howell Cobb and the Federal General
Wool entered into this arrangement on the 14th of February, 1862 -- the only unadjusted point being that General Wool was
unwilling that each party should agree to pay the expenses of transporting their prisoners to the frontier, and this he promised
to refer to his Government.
At a second interview, the 1st March, General Wool
informed General Cobb that his Government would not consent to pay these expenses, and thereupon General Cobb promptly receded
from his demand, and agreed to the terms proposed by the other side. But General Wool, who had said at the beginning of the
negotiation, "I am alone clothed with full power for the purpose of arranging for the exchange of prisoners," was now under
the necessity of stating that "his Government had changed his instructions." And thus the negotiations were abruptly broken
off, and the matter left where it was before. The vacillating conduct of the Federal Government was of easy explanation and
in perfect accord with their double dealing throughout the war. After these negotiations had begun, the capture of Forts Henry
and Donelson had given the United States a considerable preponderance in the number of prisoners held by them, and they at
once reverted to their original purpose of not treating with "Rebels" on equal terms.
But Jackson's Valley campaign, the Seven Days Battles around Richmond, and other Confederate successes again reversed the
"balance of power", and brought the Federal Government to terms to which the Confederate authorities were always willing.
Accordingly negotiations were again entered into by General D. H. Hill, on the part of the Confederacy, and General John A.
Dix, on the part of the United States, and the result was the adoption of the following
HAXALL'S LANDING, ON JAMES RIVER,
July 22, 1862.
The undersigned, having been
commissioned by the authorities they respectively represent to make arrangements for a general exchange of prisoners of war,
have agreed to the following articles:
Article 1. It is hereby agreed and stipulated that all prisoners of war
held by either party, including those taken on private armed vessels, known as privateers, shall be exchanged upon the conditions
and terms following:
Prisoners to be exchanged man for man and officer for officer;
privateers to be placed upon the footing of officers and men of the navy.
and officers of lower grades may be exchanged for officers of a higher grade, and men and officers of different services may
be exchanged according to the following scale of equivalents:
A general commander
in chief or an admiral shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank, or for sixty privates or common seamen.
A flag officer or major general shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank, or for forty privates or common seamen.
A commodore, carrying a broad pennant, or a brigadier general shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank, or twenty privates
or common seamen.
A captain in the navy or a colonel shall be exchanged for
officers of equal rank, or for fifteen privates or common seamen.
colonel or commander in the navy shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank, or for ten privates or common seamen.
A lieutenant commander or a major shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank, or eight privates or common seamen.
A lieutenant or a master in the navy or a captain in the army or marines shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank, or
six privates or common seamen.
Masters' mates in the navy or lieutenants or
ensigns in the army shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank, or four privates or common seamen.
Midshipmen, warrant officers in the navy, masters of merchant vessels and commanders of privateers shall be exchanged for
officers of equal rank, or three privates or common seamen. Second captains, lieutenants, or mates of merchant vessels or
privateers, and all petty officers in the navy, and all non commissioned officers in the army or marines, shall be severally
exchanged for persons of equal rank, or for two privates or common seamen; and private soldiers or common seamen shall be
exchanged for each other, man for man.
Article 2. Local, State, civil and militia rank held by persons not in actual
military service will not be recognized, the basis of exchange being the grade actually held in the naval and military service
of the respective parties.
Article 3. If citizens, held by either party on charges of disloyalty for
any alleged civil offence, are exchanged, it shall only be for citizens. Captured sutlers, teamsters, and all civilians in
the actual service of either party to be exchanged for persons in similar position.
Article 4. All prisoners of war to be discharged on parole in ten days after
their capture, and the prisoners now held and those hereafter taken to be transported to the points mutually agreed upon,
at the expense of the capturing party. The surplus prisoners, not exchanged, shall not be permitted to take up arms again,
nor to serve as military police, or constabulary force in any fort, garrison or field work held by either of the respective
parties, nor as guards of prisoners, deposit or stores, nor to discharge any duty usually performed by soldiers, until exchanged
under the provisions of this cartel. The exchange is not to be considered complete until the officer or soldier exchanged
for has been actually restored to the lines to which he belongs.
Article 5. Each party, upon the discharge of prisoners of the other party,
is authorized to discharge an equal number of their own officers or men from parole, furnishing at the same time to the other
party a list of their prisoners discharged, and of their own officers and men relieved from parole, thus enabling each party
to relieve from parole such of their own officers and men as the party may choose. The lists thus mutually furnished will
keep both parties advised of the true condition of the exchange of prisoners.
Article 6. The stipulations and provisions above mentioned to be of binding
obligation during the continuance of the war, it matters not which party may have the surplus of prisoners, the great principles
involved being --
1st. An equitable exchange of prisoners man for man, officer
for officer, or officers of higher grade exchanged for officers of lower grade, or for privates, according to the scale of
2nd. That privates and officers and men of different services may
be exchanged according to the same scale of equivalents.
3rd. That all prisoners,
of whatever arm of service, are to be exchanged or paroled in ten days from the time of their capture, if it be practicable
to transfer them to their own lines in that time; if not, as soon thereafter as practicable.
4th. That no officer, soldier, or employee in service of either party is to be considered as exchanged and absolved from his
parole until his equivalent has actually reached the lines of his friends.
That the parole forbids the performance of field, garrison, police, or guard or constabulary duty.
JOHN A. DIX, Major General, U.S.A.
D. H. HILL, Major General, C.S.A.
Article 7. All prisoners of war now held on either side, and all prisoners
hereafter taken, shall be sent with reasonable dispatch to A.M. Aiken's, below Dutch Gap, on the James river, in Virginia,
or to Vicksburg, on the Mississippi river, in the State of Mississippi and there exchanged or paroled until such exchange
can be effected, notice being previously given by each party of the number of prisoners it will send, and the time when they
will be delivered at those points respectively; and in case the vicissitudes of war shall change the military relations of
the places designated in this article to the contending parties, so as to render the same inconvenient for the delivery and
exchange of prisoners, other places, bearing as nearly as may be the present local relations of said places to the lines of
said parties, shall be, by mutual agreement, substituted. But nothing in this article contained shall prevent the commanders
of two opposing armies from exchanging prisoners or releasing them on parole at other points mutually agreed on by said commanders.
Article 8. For the purpose of carrying into effect the foregoing, articles
of agreement, each party will appoint two agents, to be called Agents for the Exchange of Prisoners of War, whose duty it
shall be to communicate with each other, by correspondence and otherwise; to prepare the lists of prisoners, to attend to
the delivery of the prisoners at the places agreed on, and to carry out promptly, effectually and in good faith all the details
and provisions of the said articles of agreement.
Article 9. And in case any misunderstanding shall arise in regard to any
clause or stipulation in the foregoing articles, it is mutually agreed that such misunderstanding shall not interrupt the
release of prisoners on parole, as herein provided, but shall be made the subject of friendly explanation, in order that the
object of this agreement may neither be defeated nor postponed.
JOHN A. DIX, Major General, U.S.A.
D. H. HILL, Major General, C.S.A.
The rigid observance of the above
cartel would have prevented all the horrors of prison life, North and South, and have averted the great mortality in Southern
prisons and the greater mortality in Northern prisons. The Confederate authorities carried out in good faith the provisions
of the cartel until the other side had not only frequently violated nearly every article, but finally repudiated the cartel
Judge Ould's letter book gives the most incontrovertible proof of this
statement; but we reserve the detailed proofs for the present, and pass to consider further the
TREATMENT OF FEDERAL PRISONERS BY THE CONFEDERATE AUTHORITIES.
We have given above the testimony
of General Lee that the orders were to treat the whole field alike, caring for wounded friend and foe without discrimination,
and that "these orders were respected on every field." Time and again, after some great victory, has the writer seen our brave
soldiers, though well nigh worn out with the conflict, ministering to their wounded foes -- sharing with them their scant
rations, carrying them water, binding up their wounds, and bearing them gently back to our field hospitals, where we gave
them every attention in our power. We were personal witnesses of that scene at Port Republic, when Fremont, who had been so
badly whipped by Ewell at Cross Keys the day before, stood idly by until Jackson had routed Shields, and then amused himself
by shelling the Confederate ambulances and litter bearers who were caring for the Federal wounded. It is by no means affirmed
that there were not individual instances of cruelty to prisoners on the part of Confederate soldiers (especially in the latter
part of the war, when their passions were aroused by the heart rending stories of Federal outrages to helpless women and children
which came from every quarter), but we do most emphatically assert that our soldiers as a class were worthy of the eulogy
which President Davis pronounced upon them just after the Seven Days Battles around Richmond, in which he said, "You are fighting
for all that is dearest to man, and though opposed to a foe who disregards many of the usages of war, your humanity to the
wounded and prisoners was a fit and crowning glory to your valor."
well authenticated incident of a gallant Confederate soldier was brought out during his funeral obsequies last fall:
"While Pickett's division was before Newbern, General Pickett received by flag of truce a letter from a gentleman in Boston,
accompanied by a package of money containing $2,000, in which the writer stated he had a brother, a Federal officer, in the
Libby Prison; that his brother was a former comrade of Pickett in the Mexican war; and appealed to him, by the friendship
of their old days, to forward the money to his brother. The appeal touched the generous heart of the soldier, and he dispatched
an orderly with the money to the officer. The orderly, tempted by the unusual sight of so much greenbacks, basely deserted
to the enemy and escaped with the booty. As soon as Pickett heard of the desertion he immediately went to Richmond, and by
a mortgage on his Turkey Island property succeeded in borrowing $2,000, which he carried to the prisoner, with an explanation
of and apology for the delay. The officer, when he learned by what means the General had raised the money, declined to accept
$1,000 of it; but with that nice sense of honor which distinguished the true Southern gentleman, General Pickett compelled
him to do so. The two soldiers then talked over the brave old days of the past, when together they fought under the same flag;
and as the conversation ripened into friendly confidence the prisoner frankly told the General that his object was to escape
if possible, and that he intended using some of the money he had paid him in the effort. The General checked him at once by
telling him that he could not receive his confidence in such a matter; that the money was his own, and that he had a right
to do with it as he pleased, but it would be improper for him to become a party to his plans. He then left. The prisoner did
escape. The war ended disastrously to the South and General Pickett's estate was sold to satisfy the mortgage which he had
This incident of the treatment which the chivalric Pickett accorded
to this prisoner is by no means an isolated example of the readiness of Confederate officers and soldiers to do all in their
power to alleviate the condition of prisoners. Incidents illustrating this might be multiplied.
But we proceed to inquire into the treatment received by Federal prisoners after they reached our prisons. And as the report
of the committee of the Confederate Congress treats chiefly of the prisons in and around Richmond, we will speak chiefly of
of which Mr. Blaine says, "Libby pales into insignificance before Andersonville."
We cannot better state the case than it has been done by a well known writer:
"The site of the prison at Andersonville -- a point on the Southwestern Railway, in Georgia -- had been selected under an
official order having reference to the following points: 'A healthy locality plenty of pure, good water, a running stream,
and if possible shade trees, and in the immediate neighborhood of grist and saw mills.' The pressure was so great at Richmond
and the supplies so scant that prisoners were sent forward while the stockade was only about half finished. When the first
instalment of prisoners arrived, there was no guard at Andersonville, and the little squad which had charge of them in the
cars had to remain; and at no time did the guard, efficient and on duty, exceed fifteen hundred, to man the stockade, to guard,
and to do general duty and afford relief and enforce discipline over thirty four thousand prisoners.
"In regard to the sufferings and mortality among the prisoners at Andersonville, none of it arose from the unhealthiness of
the locality. The food, though the same as that used by the Confederate soldiers -- the bread, too, being corn -- was different
from that to which they had been accustomed, did not agree with them and scurvy and diarrhea prevailed to a considerable extent;
neither disease, however, was the result of starvation. That some prisoners did not get their allowance, although a full supply
was sent in, is true. But there not being a guard sufficient to attend to distribution, Federal prisoners were appointed,
each having a certain number allotted to his charge, among whom it was his duty to see that every man got his portion, and,
as an inducement, this prisoner had special favors and advantages. Upon complaint of those under him, he was broke and another
selected; so that it only required good faith on the part of these head men, thus appointed to insure to each man his share.
But prisoners would often sell their rations for whiskey and tobacco, and would sell the clothes from their backs for either
"In regard to sanitary regulations, there were certain prescribed places
and modes for the reception of all filth, and a sluice was made to carry it off; but the most abominable disregard was manifested
of all sanitary regulations, and to such a degree that if a conspiracy had been entered into by a large number of the prisoners
to cause the utmost filth and stench, it could not have accomplished a more disgusting result. Besides which there was large
number of atrocious villains, whose outrages in robbing, beating and murdering their fellow prisoners must have been the cause,
directly or remotely, of very many deaths and of an inconceivable amount of suffering. We must recollect that among thirty
four thousand prisoners, who had encountered the hardships of the fields of many battles, and had had wounds, there were many
of delicate physique -- many of respectability -- to whom such self created filth and such atrocious ruffianism would of itself
cause despondency, disease and death; and when, in addition to this, was the conviction that the Federal War Department, perfectly
cognizant of all this, had deliberately consigned them indefinitely to this condition, a consuming despair was superadded
to all their other sufferings.
"The merits of Andersonville may be summed up
by saying that it was of unquestioned healthfulness; it was large enough and had water enough, and could have been made tolerable
for the number originally intended for it. It appears that the increase of that number was apparently a matter of necessity
for the time; that other sites were selected and prepared with all possible dispatch; that the provisions were similar in
amount and quality to thos used by Confederate soldiers; that deficient means rendered a supply of clothing, tents and medicines
scanty; that the rules of discipline and sanitary regulations of the prison, if complied with by the prisoners, would have
secured to each a supply of food, and have averted almost, if not altogether, the filth and the ruffianism, which two causes,
outside of unavoidable sickness, caused the great mass of suffering and mortality."
We will add the following article, written by Mr. L. M. Park, of La Grange, Georgia, who is personally known to us as a gentleman
of unimpeachable character, and whose testimony is of the highest importance, as he speaks of what he saw himself. His article
was originally written for the Southern Magazine, and while it contains some expressions which are bitter against the slanderers
of our people, we will give it entire except the concluding paragraphs:
"Rebel Prison Pen" at Andersonville, Georgia.
It is the duty of every lover
of justice, when he sees a gross and injurious calumny put into circulation which he is able to refute from direct knowledge,
to challenge it at once, and more especially if it is aimed at his own people, and meant to be used to their injury. It is
true that in those regions for which these calumnies are prepared they are too generally preferred to the truth, even when
the truth is offered; but the duty of affirming the truth is no less obligatory on those who are able to affirm it. It is
with this view that the following paper is written to correct certain statements which recently appeared in Appleton's Journal,
professing to relate facts gleaned during a trip to Andersonville, Georgia, concerning the Confederate military prison there
and the treatment of Federal prisoners. Instead of reviewing the article in detail, I will merely take up, one by one, the
principal false statements.
THE WATER THE PRISONERS DRANK.
It was my fortune to be stationed
at Andersonville almost from the first establishment of the prison until the removal to Millen, Georgia, or Camp Lawton, and
I unhesitatingly pronounce the statement that "the prisoners had to drink the water which conveyed the offal of three camps
and two large bakeries or kitchens off before it reached them," utterly false. The guards drank of the same water that quenched
the prisoners' thirst, cooked their food with the same water, the same large stream or creek flowing through the encampment
of guards and stockade, or prison pen, as Northern writers sneeringly call it. The camps of the guards all faced the stream,
while their sinks were far off in the rear, and orders were most strict not to muddy the water, much less defile it in any
way. As to the offal of the bakeries, these being presided over by prisoners on parole, and who did the cooking for the entire
prison, I cannot believe they would pollute the water their brother prisoners had to drink. As rapidly as they could the prisoners
dug wells; in all some two hundred were dug, and purer, sweeter, colder water I never drank. Being on the staff of Captain
Wirz, I had free access to the prison at all times day or night, and whenever I wished to quench my thirst, I went inside
the prison and drank from one of these wells.
THAT PROVIDENTIAL SPRING, SO CALLED.
That "providential spring" is
an impious myth. I have been in the prison thousands of times and never before heard it so called, except on reading the Herald's
account of the anniversary of the Fulton street prayer meeting, when some pharisaically pious old brother recited a long rigmarole
about this same "providential spring," and said it was planted there in direct answer to prayer. The gist of this spring tale
is that when the prisoners' sickness and suffering from thirst was at its greatest, all at once, in the twinkling of an eye,
this spring gushed forth in direct answer to prayer. Was ever such blasphemy? If such was the case, why does the spring still
exist after it has answered its purpose? Do those rocks of Horeb struck by Moses to sake the children of Israel's thirst still
exist, and at this late day the water gush forth? It is all a cock and bull story, and unlike Sterne's, one of the poorest
I ever heard.
TWO FEDERAL AND THREE REBEL PROVIDENTIAL SPRINGS,
If my recollection serves me
right, there was yet another of these same "providential springs" inside the stockade, and that Providence who sends the rain
alike upon the just and the unjust gave unto the wicked and ungodly Rebels three of these "providential springs;" and I am
sure he did not plant ours in answer to prayer, for we had just as soon drunk the branch water.
REASONS WHY THERE WERE NO BARRACKS.
The Confederate Government has
always been harshly assailed for its want of humanity in not having barracks to house the prisoners from the sun and rains.
A more senseless hue and cry was never heard. How was it possible to saw timber into planks without saw mills? There were
two water power mills distant three and six miles respectfully, but such rude primitive affairs undeserving the name. The
nearest steam saw mill was twenty three miles distant (near Smithville), the next at Reynolds, about fifty miles distant;
but the great bulk of the lumber used, fully two thirds was brought from Gordon, a distance of eighty miles. Even if these
mills had had the capacity to supply the necessary amount of lumber, it would still have been impossible to have provided
barracks for the prisoners, as all the available engines of all the railroads in the Confederacy were taxed to their utmost
capacity in transporting supplies for the army in the field and to the prisons. But few even of the officers of the guard
had shanties, and these few were built of slabs and sheeting, which every one knows is the refuse of the mills. And even though
there were no lack of lumber, when we remember that there was but one solitary manufactory of cut nails in the limits of the
Confederacy, certainly no blame could be attached to the authorities for not furnishing more comfortable quarters for them.
Nearly every building in the encampment was built of rough logs and covered with clap boards split from the tree and held
to their places by poles. The force of these statements is readily appreciated by every intelligent, unprejudiced mind. Besides,
is it customary for any nation in time of war to treat their prisoners in a more humane manner than their own soldiers in
the field? The inquiry becomes pertinent when we reflect that during the last two years of the war there was not a tent of
any description to be found in any of the armies of the Confederacy, save such as were captured from the Federals.
HOW THE STOCKADE WAS BUILT.
The stockade was built by the
negroes belonging to the neighboring farms, either hired or pressed into service by the Confederate authorities to cut down
the immense pine trees growing on the ground intended for the stockade; and these same trees were then cut into proper lengths
and hewn upon the spot, and then planted in a ditch dug four feet deep to receive them. In this manner was the stockade made.
Before it was completed the prisoners were forwarded in great numbers; and it being impossible to keep them in the cars, we
had to put them in the completed end of the stockade and double the guards, and our whole force kept ever ready day and night
for the slightest alarm; for at first we had only the shattered remnants of two regiments -- the Twenty sixth Alabama and
the Fifty fifth Georgia -- numbering in all some three hundred and fifty men. This constituted the guard. In about ten days
thereafter my regiment, the First Georgia Reserves, composed of young boys and old men (I was not sixteen), just organized
were sent to take the place of the Twenty sixth Alabama and Twenty sixth Georgia, so they could be sent to the front for duty.
In a few days after our arrival the 2d, 3d and 4th Georgia Reserves, all composed of lads and hoary headed men (for we were
reduced to the strait of "robbing the cradle and the grave for men to make soldiers of"), joined us as rapidly as they could
be organized. The author of "Jaunt in the South" says: "When the stockade was occupied in 1864, there was not a tree or blade
of grass within it. Its reddish sand was entirely barren, and not the smallest particle of green showed itself. But now the
surface is covered completely with underbrush; a rich growth of bushes, trees and plants has covered the entire area, and
where before was a dreary desert there is now a wild and luxurious garden." I have before said the ground was covered with
a pine forest, and the trees were utilized to build the stockade. Any one who has traveled south of Macon, Georgia, knows
the pine is abundant, and in fact almost the only tree. In these forests the ground is covered by wire grass or other grass
peculiar to them.
WHY ANDERSONVILLE WAS SELECTED.
The main reasons for locating
the prison at Andersonville, after its first being thought the most secure place in the Confederacy from Yankee cavalry raids,
was the abundance of the water and the timber wherewith to construct the prison rapidly, and its being in the very heart of
the grain growing region of the South, which would make it less inconvenient to supply with provisions such a vast multitude.
MALICIOUS EXHIBITION IN OHIO STATE CAPITOL.
In the summer of 1867, I set
out for New York, being resolved to live no longer in the South, where negroes were being placed over us by Yankee bayonets,
and in their vernacular, "de bottom rail wuz agittin on de top er de fence." I traveled very leisurely, and stopped in every
city of any note on my route, and kept eyes and ears wide open to drink in everything. I visited the Ohio State Capitol at
Columbus, and in the museum of curiosities were some small paper boxes carefully preserved in a glass case, containing what
purported to have been the exact quality and quantity of rations issued per diem to each prisoner at Andersonville. In one
box was about a pint of coarse unbolted meal, and in another about one tablespoonful of rice; and still another box with about
two tablespoonsful of black peas; and in a tiny little box was about one eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Underneath it is all
explained, and says, among other things, "When rice was given, the peas were withheld; but when they had no rice, this kind
of peas was given instead." It is needless to tell how my blood boiled at such an atrociously malicious and false exhibition.
No wonder the hatred of the North is kept alive, and the bloody chasm continually widened by such wicked and uncharitable
displays as this in one of the largest and most enlightened States in the Union.
RATIONS TO GUARDS AND PRISONERS THE SAME.
I was for three months a clerk
in the Commissary Department at Andersonville and it was my business to weigh out rations for the guards and prisoners alike;
and I solemnly assert that the prisoners got ounce for ounce and pound for pound of just the same quality and quantity of
food as did the guards. The State authorities of Ohio ought to blush at thus traducing and slandering a fallen foe, and never
in the first instance to have placed on exhibition for preservation As truth this fabrication of partisan hate. No Andersonville
prisoner, unless he were lost to all sense of honor and shame, could make such a statement as that the rations were no more
than the specimens shown.
WHY THE PRISONERS WERE FED ON CORN BREAD.
It has been charged as a crying
shame upon the Confederacy by ignorant humanitarians that the South might at least have given the prisoners wheat bread occasionally;
that they rarely ate corn bread in their own land, and that the bread we issued was made of meal so coarse and unsifted that
it caused dysentery, thereby largely increasing the mortality. It is well known now that the South depends very largely, and
with shame I confess it, on the West for her bread and bacon, and the cotton belt proper makes but little pretension of raising
wheat, for the climate, it is said, is unsuited so that the region round about Andersonville, being in the very heart of the
cotton growing section of Georgia, such a thing as feeding prisoners on flour was simply impossible, and the little flour
that was obtained as tithes (one tenth of all the crops raised was required by our Government) was devoted entirely to the
use of the hospitals. Not only was this true of the territory immediately surrounding Andersonville, but of the whole South.
Our own armies were unsupplied with flour, and perhaps not one family in fifty throughout the whole land enjoyed that luxury.
The guards ate the same bread, or rather meal; the bread eaten by the prisoners being baked by regular bakers (prisoners detailed
for that purpose) while the guards did their own cooking. The meal, however, was the same, and both were unsifted and in truth
very coarse. I ate the unsifted meal always.
THE DEAD LINE.
Another cry of holy horror is
raised every time the "Dead Line" is mentioned, as if this dead line was prima facie evidence that the Southerners were as
barbarous and cruel a race as ever blotted the face of earth. The civilized North, however, had the same barbarous dead line
in their prisons, and in fact originated the device. It was a necessity with us, for we had never at one time more than 1,200
to 1,500 guards in the four regiments fit for duty, and we had the keeping at one time of very nearly 40,000 prisoners. By
a concerted plan of onslaught they could at any time have scaled the walls, captured guards, and with the weapons of their
keepers overrun the entire country, which, all south of Dalton, Georgia (100 miles north of Atlanta), was left wholly unprotected
save by gray haired old men and young boys; and the women, children, and negroes, who were the only hope for the making of
crops for our armies, would have been helplessly at their mercy. This dead line was clearly defined, and consisted of stakes
driven into the ground twenty feet from the stockade walls, and on these stakes was a three inch strip of plank nailed all
around the inside of the prison. They were all notified that a step beyond this line was not prudent, and they were not so
unwise as to venture beyond that limit.
BURIAL OF DEAD PRISONERS.
Speaking of the number and burial
of the dead, the writer of the aforesaid "Jaunt" says: "The authorities at the stockade who had charge of the internment of
the Federal dead did their work rudely, * * * digging pits and burying them in." Then he goes on: "It is hard to comprehend
the true value of the number, 14,000; its magnitude eludes you. Fourteen thousand men would form a great mob, or a great army,
or a great town. Here you have 14,000 men lying silently in a few acres. Within these bounds men have suffered as greatly
as have any since the world began." In reply to this, I would merely say the burial was the work of prisoners paroled especially
for the purpose, both the hauling of the bodies to the ground, the digging of the graves, and even the records of the names
were all done by paroled prisoners. Books and a tent were provided solely for the latter purpose. Owing to the weakness of
the guard, paroled prisoners were employed for this duty, as we could spare no men for the purpose; and if the work was rudely
or carelessly done, the blame rests with them. As compensation they were given double rations and almost entire freedom. As
to the number of the dead, we admit that it is great, but statistics show that more Southern soldiers died in Northern prisons
than Northern soldiers in Southern prisons. In vain have Northern writers tried to disprove this fact.
MORTALITY NO GREATER AMONG PRISONERS THAN GUARD.
Great as was the mortality among
the prisoners, it was no greater in proportion to numbers than that of the guard, which is fully attested by the reports of
the surgeon in charge. Besides, it is well known to every soul that can or does read that the Confederacy, through their agent,
Judge Ould, made frequent and tireless efforts to get the United States Government, through their agent, General Butler, to
exchange. But no, the Federal authorities would not hear to it; but acting on the avowed and promulgated idea that the South,
being blockaded, could not recruit her armies from foreign lands, while to the North the whole of Europe was opened, they
cruelly determined not to exchange, so as to detain our soldiers from again fighting them, well knowing that even then we
had made our last conscription (17 to 50 years), and when those we had were killed up or in prison we would of course be overpowered.
This was their cold blooded, brutal policy; and closely did they stick to it even till we were almost literally wiped out,
while the men they had fighting us were in most part hired substitutes, drafted men, and foreign hirelings.
PRINCIPAL CAUSE OF MORTALITY.
Farther, as to the mortality
among the prisoners, let it be remembered that a majority of the deaths caused in our prisons was for want of proper medicines,
which we did not have and could not get, except by blockade running. Had the Federal Government any of the milk of human kindness
in its composition, it would have acceded to our earnest request to take cotton in exchange for drugs to administer to their
own dying soldiers. Their immense manufactories were lying idle for want of cotton, while we had it but could not use it.
But as these self same drugs and medicines would also be applied to the relief of our own sick soldiers, they determined it
would be to their advantage to let all die alike, knowing the South could get no more men to supply the places of the sick,
the dying, and those they had imprisoned, so refused all overtures. After using every effort and exhausting every argument
to get an exchange, we proposed -- as we had no medicines and could get none, except what we accidentally ran in through the
blockade from Europe (they being declared contraband and always confiscated whenever captured by the blockading fleet) we
proposed to turn over to them all their sick, without requiring man for man, but giving them absolutely up, if the United
States would only send vessels for transporting them. This was done at Camp Lawton (Millen, Georgia), after the prison was
removed from Andersonville for greater security.
EXTRACTS FROM AN OFFICER'S DIARY.
From the private journal of a
Confederate officer high in command, both at Andersonville and other Southern prisons, I glean the annexed facts, the first
bearing directly upon the foregoing: "At one time an order came to Camp Lawton to prepare 2,000 men for exchange. The order
from Richmond was to select first the wounded, next the oldest prisoners and the sickly, filling up with healthy men according
to date. This party went first to Savannah, as arranged, but by some mistake the ships were at Charleston, and the poor wretches
had to be taken there; and every one who knew the Southern railroads in those days, and the difficulty or rather impossibility
to procure food for such a crowd along the road, will know what those poor fellows suffered. At Charleston they were refused,
the commissioner declaring that `he was not going to exchange able bodied men for such miserable specimens of humanity.' (The
term used was more brutal). Finding him obdurate, Colonel Ould requested him to take them without exchange. This he refused
with a sneering laugh, and the crowd was ordered back. Never did the writer of this witness such woebegone countenances; in
which misery and hopelessness were more strongly painted, than shown by those poor fellows on their return. And the curses
leveled against the rulers who thus treated the defenders of their country were fearful, although certainly well deserved.
As the stockade gate closed upon them the surgeon in charge said to the writer: `Poor fellows! the world has closed upon more
than half of them; this disappointment will be their death knell.' His words proved true. Who murdered those men? Let history
answer the question."
CLOTHING FOR PRISONERS.
Again I extract from the aforesaid
journal: "The Northerners talk so much of the cruelty of the South to the Federal prisoners. At one time the unfortunate prisoners
were almost without clothing, indeed some had hardly as much as common decency required. The South could not provide them,
not being able to clothe their own men. An application was made to Seward. The reply was that `the Federal Government did
not supply clothing to prisoners of war. Luckily for the poor fellows, a society in New York took the matter in hand and several
bales of clothing and cases of shoes were forwarded to Richmond, and divided, in proportion to numbers among the prisons."
CRUELTY TO PRISONERS.
A great deal has been said of
the cruelty to the prisoners inside the stockade. This so called cruelty was inflicted by their own men. In every prison a
police with a chief, all from the prisoners, was appointed to keep order, see to the enforcement of the regulations, and inquire
into all offences, reporting through their chief to the Commandant. The punishments, such as were used in the Federal army,
were ordered to be inflicted by these men, and some were of such a barbarous nature that they were prohibited with disgust
by the Confederate officers, who substituted milder and more humane ones; and yet the former were in common practice in the
Federal armies, as testified by all the prisoners.
|Civil War POW
|Civil War Prisoner
Among the numerous lies invented
by Northerners, and actually still believed by some parties to this day, was the story that the Confederates used to hunt
and worry prisoners with bloodhounds. Now it is well known that the breed of bloodhounds is nearly extinct in the South, and
the large packs of those dogs alluded to by writers on this subject existed only in their imaginations, the prolific brains
of penny a liners, whose vile and lying compositions even now abound in many so called respectable New York papers. No public
man is safe from their atrocious attacks. Among the various specimens of this dog alluded to by the above named gentry, was
the famous bloodhound of the Libby Prison. The writer has often seen this formidable animal, which certainly in his youth
must have been as fine a specimen of the kind as could be met anywhere, but unfortunately for the thrilling portion of the
accounts of his doings at the time of the war, the poor beast, worn out from old age and with hardly a tooth in his head,
wandered about a harmless, inoffensive creature. He was the property of the Commandant of Libby, who kept him because he was
a pet dog of his father's, and there the brute lived a pensioner in his old age. As to his worrying men, he could not, had
he even tried, have worried a child. The other prisons had none, not even as pensioners. Among the records history gives us
of using those dogs to hunt men, , it is stated that during the Florida war a number of bloodhounds were imported by the Federal
Government from Cuba to hunt the Indians out of the Everglades, and that numbers of the natives were worried to death by the
ferocious beasts. The writer does not deny that when a prisoner got out of the stockade trying to escape, if no clue could
be obtained of his whereabouts, a few mongrel or half bred fox hounds were used to track him, but the worrying was all done
in the correspondent's own brain. However, it suited the times and made the article sell. The only complaint made is that
this vile and malicious lie is still, if not believed, repeated by some who use it for party purposes, and thus help to keep
up the bad feeling between North and South.
In reference to the causes of the
mortality at Andersonville, we have the highest medical authority, testimony which the other side cannot impeach, for it was
on his testimony (garbled and perverted, it is true) that they hung Captain Wirz. Dr. Joseph Jones, now a professor in the
Medical College at New Orleans, and then one of the most distinguished surgeons in the Confederate service, was sent to Andersonville
to inspect the prison and report on the causes of mortality at Andersonville. He has recently sent us a MS., from which we
make the following extract:
Statement of Dr. Joseph Jones.
In the specification of the first
charge against Henry Wirz, formerly commandant of the interior of the Confederate States military prison at Andersonville,
during his trial before a special Military Commission, convened in accordance with Special Orders No. 453, War Department,
Adjutant General's office, Washington, August 23d, 1865, the following is written:
"And the said Wirz, still pursuing his wicked purpose and still aiding in carrying out said conspiracy, did use and caused
to be used, for the pretended purpose of vaccination, impure and poisonous matter, which said impure and poisonous matter
was then and there, by the direction and order of said Wirz, maliciously, cruelly and wickedly deposited in the arms of many
of the said prisoners, by reason of which large numbers of them -- to wit: one hundred -- lost the use of their arms; and
many of them -- to wit: about the number of two hundred -- were so injured that soon there after they died; all of which he,
the said Henry Wirz, well knew and maliciously intended, and, in aid of the then existing rebellion against the United States,
with the view of weakening and impairing the armies of the United States; and in furtherance of the said conspiracy, and with
full knowledge, consent and connivance of his co conspirators aforesaid, he, the said Wirz, then and there did."
Among the co conspirators specified in the charges were the surgeon of the post, Dr. White, and the surgeon in charge of the
military prison hospital, R. R. Stevenson, Surgeon, C.S.A. As the vaccinations were made in accordance with the orders of
the Surgeon General, C.S.A., and of the medical officers acting under his command, the charge of deliberately poisoning the
Federal prisoners with vaccine matter is a sweeping one, and whether intended so or not, affects every medical officer stationed
at that post; and it appears to have been designed to go farther, and to affect the reputation of every one who held a commission
in the Medical Department of the Confederate army.
The acts of those who once
composed the Medical Department of the Confederate army, from the efficient and laborious Surgeon General to the regimental
and hospital officers, need no defence at my hands. Time, with its unerring lines of historic truth, will embalm their heroic
labors in the cause of suffering humanity, and will acknowledge their untiring efforts to ameliorate the most gigantic mass
of human suffering that ever fell to the lot of a beleaguered and distressed people.
The grand object of the trial and condemnation of Henry Wirz was the conviction and execution of President Davis, General
Robert E. Lee, and other prominent men of the Confederacy, in order that "treason might be rendered forever odious and infamous."
In accordance with the direction of Dr. Samuel Preston Moore, formerly Surgeon General, C.S.A., I instituted, during the months
of August and September, 1864, a series of investigations on the diseases of the Federal prisoners confined in Camp Sumter,
The report which I drew up for the use of the Medical
Department of the Confederate army, contained a truthful representation of the sufferings of these prisoners, and at the same
time gave an equally truthful view of the difficulties under which the medical officers labored, and of the distressed and
beleaguered and desolated condition of the Southern States.
Shortly after the
close of the civil war this report, which had never been delivered to the Confederate authorities, on account of the destruction
of all railroad communication with Richmond, Virginia, was suddenly seized by the agents of the United States Government conducting
the trial of Henry Wirz. I have since learned that the United States authorities gained knowledge of the fact that I had inspected
Andersonville through information clandestinely furnished by a distinguished member of the medical profession of the North,
who, after the close of the war, had shared the hospitality of my own home.
It was with extreme pain that I contemplated the diversion of my labors, in the cause of medical science, from their true
and legitimate object; and I addressed an earnest appeal, which accompanied the report, to the Judge Advocate, Colonel N.
P. Chipman, in which I used the following language:
"In justice to myself, as
well as to those most nearly connected with this investigation, I would respectfully call the attention of Colonel Chipman,
Judge Advocate, U.S.A., to the fact that the matter which is surrendered in obedience to the demands of a power from which
there is no appeal, was prepared solely for the consideration of the Surgeon General, C.S.A., and was designed to promote
the cause of humanity and to advance the interests of the medical profession. This being granted, I feel assured that the
Judge Advocate will appreciate the deep pain which the anticipation gives me that these labors may be diverted from their
original mission and applied to the prosecution of criminal cases. The same principle which led me to endeavor to deal humanely
and justly by these prisoners, and to make a truthful representation of their condition to the Medical Department of the Confederate
States army, now actuates me in recording my belief that as far as my knowledge extends there was no deliberate or willful
design on the part of the Chief Executive, Jefferson Davis, and the highest authorities of the Confederate Government to injure
the health and destroy the lives of these Federal prisoners. On the 21st of May 1861, it was enacted by the Congress of the
Confederate States of America, that all prisoners of war taken, whether on land or sea during the pending hostilities with
the United States, should be transferred by the captors, from time to time, as often as convenient, to the Department of War;
and it should be the duty of the Secretary of War, with the approval of the President, to issue such instructions to the Quartermaster
General and his subordinates as shall provide for the safe custody and sustenance of prisoners of war; and the rations furnished
prisoners of war shall be the same in quantity and quality as those furnished enlisted men in the army of the Confederacy.'
By act of February 17th, 1864, the Quartermaster General was relieved of this duty, and the Commissary General of Subsistence
was ordered to provide for the sustenance of prisoners of war. According to General Orders No. 159, Adjutant and Inspector
General's office, 'Hospitals for prisoners of war are placed on the same footing as other Confederate States hospitals in
all respects, and will be managed accordingly.'
'The Federal prisoners were
removed to southwestern Georgia in the early part of 1864, not only to secure a place of confinement more remote than Richmond
and other large towns from the operations of the United States forces, but also 'to secure a more abundant and easy supply
of food.' As far as my experience extends, no person who had been reared on wheat bread, and who was held in captivity for
any length of time, could retain his health and escape either scurvy or diarrhea, if confined to the Confederate ration (issued
to the soldier in the field and hospital) of unbolted corn meal and bacon. The large armies of the Confederacy suffered more
than once from scurvy; and as the war progressed, secondary hemorrhage and hospital gangrene became fearfully prevalent from
the deteriorated condition of the systems of the troops, dependent on the prolonged use of salt meat; and but for the extra
supplies received from home, and from the various State benevolent institutions, scurvy and diarrhea and dysentery would have
been still farther prevalent.
"It was believed by the citizens of the Southern
States that the Confederate authorities desired to effect a continuous and speedy exchange of prisoners of war in their hands,
on the ground that the retention of these soldiers in captivity was a great calamity, not only entailing heavy expenditure
of the scanty means of subsistence, already insufficient to support their suffering, half starved, half clad and unpaid armies,
struggling in the field with overwhelming numbers, and embarrassing their imperfect and dilapidated lines of communication,
but also as depriving them of the services of a veteran army, fully equal to one third the number actively engaged in the
field; and the history of subsequent events have shown that the retention in captivity of the Confederate prisoners was one
of the efficient causes of the final and complete overthrow of the Confederate Government. * * * * It is my honest belief
that if the exhausted condition of the Confederate Government with its bankrupt currency -- with its retreating and constantly
diminishing armies -- with the apparent impossibility of filling up the vacancies by death and desertion and sickness, and
of gathering, a guard of reserves of sufficient strength to allow of the proper enlargement of the military prison -- and
with a country torn and bleeding along all its borders -- with its starving women and children and old men, fleeing from the
desolating march of contending armies, crowding the dilapidated and overburdened railroad lines, and adding to the distress
and consuming the poor charities of those in the interior, who were harassed by the loss of sons and brothers and husbands,
and by the fearful visions of starvation and undefined misery -- could be fully realized, much of the suffering of the Federal
prisoners would be attributed to causes connected with the distressed condition of the Southern States."
The Judge Advocate, N. P. Chipman, Colonel, U.S A., was not only deaf to this appeal, but in his final argument before the
Military Commission, or so called "Court," whilst excluding all portions of my testimony which related to the distressed condition
of the Southern States, and the efforts of the medical officers and Confederate authorities to relieve the sufferings of these
prisoners of war, deliberately endeavored to arouse the hatred of the entire North against the author of the report and the
medical officers of the Confederate army. This statement will be manifest from the following quotation, which I extract from
the "argument" of the Judge Advocate before the "Court:"
"He had called into
his counsels an eminent medical gentleman of high attainments in his profession, and of loyalty to the Rebel Government unquestioned.
Amid all the details in this terrible tragedy there seems to me none more heartless, wanton and void of humanity than that
revealed by the Surgeon General, to which I am about to refer. I quote now from the report of this same Dr. Joseph Jones,
which he says (Record, p. 4384) was made in the interest of the Confederate Government for the use of the Medical Department,
in the view that no eye would see it but that of the Surgeon General.
a brief introduction to his report, and to show under what authority it was made, he quotes a letter from the Surgeon General,
dated Surgeon General's office, Richmond, Virginia, August 6th, 1864. The letter is addressed to Surgeon I. H. White, in charge
of the Hospital for Federal prisoners, Andersonville, Georgia, and is as follows:
"Sir -- The field of pathological
investigation afforded by the large collection of Federal prisoners in Georgia is of great extent and importance, and it is
believed that results of value to the profession may be obtained by careful examination of the effects of disease upon a large
body of men subjected to a decided change of climate and the circumstances peculiar to prison life. The surgeon in charge
of the hospital for Federal prisoners, together with his assistants, will afford every facility to Surgeon Joseph Jones in
the prosecution of the labors ordered by the Surgeon General. The medical officers will assist in the performance of such
post mortems as Dr. Jones may indicate, in order that this great field for pathological investigation may be explored for
the benefit of the Medical Department of the Confederate States armies.
"S. P. MOORE, Surgeon-General. '
"Pursuant to his orders, Dr.
Jones, as he tells us, proceeded to Andersonville, and on September 17th received the following pass:
" 'ANDERSONVILLE, September 17th, 1864.
"`Captain, You will permit Surgeon Joseph Jones, who has orders from the
Surgeon General, to visit the sick within the stockade that are under medical treatment. Surgeon Jones is ordered to make
certain investigations which may prove useful to his profession.
" `By order of General Winder.
" `Very respectfully,
" `W. S. WINDER, A.A.G.
" `Captain H. WIRZ, Commanding Prison.'
"When we remember that the Surgeon
General had been apprised of the wants of that prison, and that he had overlooked the real necessities of the prison, shifting
the responsibility upon Dr. White, whom he must have known was totally incompetent, it is hard to conceive with what devilish
malice, or criminal devotion to his profession, or reckless disregard of the high duties imposed upon him -- I scarcely know
which -- he could sit down and deliberately pen such a letter of instructions as that given to Dr. Jones. Was it not enough
to have cruelly starved and murdered our soldiers? Was it not enough to have sought to wipe out their very memories by burying
them in nameless graves? Was it not enough to have instituted a system of medical treatment, the very embodiment of charlatanism?
Was it not enough, without adding to the many other diabolical motives, which must have governed the perpetrators of these
acts, this scientific object, as deliberate and cold blooded as one can conceive? The Surgeon General could quiet his conscience
when the matter was laid before him, through Colonel Chandler, by endorsing that it was impossible to send medical officers
to take the place of the contract physicians on duty at Andersonville; yet could select at the same time a distinguished gentleman
of the medical profession and send him to Andersonville, directing the whole force of surgeons there to render him every assistance,
leaving their multiplied duties for that purpose. Why? Not to alleviate the sufferings of the prisoners; not to convey to
them one ounce more of nutritious food; to make no suggestions for the improvement of their sanitary condition; for no purpose
of this kind, but, as the letter of instruction itself shows, for no other purpose than `that this great field of pathological
investigation may be explored for the benefit of the Medical Department of the Confederate armies'! The Andersonville Prison,
so far as the Surgeon General was concerned, was a mere dissecting room, a clinic institute, to be made tributary to the Medical
Department of the Confederate armies."
The denunciations of the Judge Advocate
were leveled not merely against a defenceless prisoner of war, whose papers had been seized and himself dragged as a witness
to this crucifixion of his native land, but they were sweeping in their character, and were designed to arraign the humanity,
honesty and intelligence of the Surgeon General and the entire corps of medical officers of the Confederate army.
This charge had the desired effect, and was reiterated even by eminent medical men in the North. Thus the son of the Vice
President of the United States, Dr. Augustus C. Hamlin, late Medical Inspector United States Army, Royal Antiquarian, etc.,
in his "Martyria, or Anderson Prison," says:
"Here came a medical officer of
the highest rank in the Rebel army, and one of the most eminent savans of the South, to study the physiology and philosophy
of STARVATION. The notes of that FEARFUL CLINIC are preserved, and may some future day startle the scientific world with their
clearness, their candor, their positive evidence of the cause of deaths. Thus the scalpel silences the argument, the reasoning
A similar statement has been made by Dr. Austin Flint, Jr., in
his recent work on the "Physiology of Man."
It was clearly demonstrated in my
report that diarrhea, dysentery, scurvy and hospital gangrene were the diseases which caused the mortality at Andersonville.
And it was still farther shown that this mortality was referable, in no appreciable degree, to either the character of the
soil, or waters, or the conditions of climate. The effects of salt meat and farinaceous food, without fresh vegetables were
manifest in the great prevalence of scurvy. The scorbutic condition thus induced modified the course of every disease, poisoned
every wound, however slight, and lay at the foundation of those obstinate and exhausting diarrheas and dysenteries which swept
off thousands of these unfortunate men. By a long and painful investigation of the diseases of these prisoners, supported
by numerous post mortem examinations, I demonstrated conclusively that scurvy induced nine tenths of the deaths. Not only
were the deaths registered as due to unknown causes, to apoplexy, to anascarca, and to debility, directly traceable to scurvy
and its effects; and not only was the mortality in smallpox and pneumonia and typhoid fever, and in all acute diseases, more
than doubled by the scorbutic complaint, but even these all but universal and deadly bowel affections arose from the same
causes, and derived their fatal characters from the same conditions which produced the scurvy. It has been well established
by the observations of Blanc, Pare, Lind, Woodall, Huxham, Hunter, Trotter and others that this scorbutic condition of the
system, especially in crowded camps, ships, hospitals and beleaguered cities is most favorable to the origin and spread of
fatal ulcers and hospital gangrene.
By the official reports of the medical officers
of both the English and French armies, during the Crimean war, it was conclusively shown that, notwithstanding the extraordinary
exertions of these powerful nations, holding undisputed sway of both land and sea scurvy and a scorbutic condition of the
blood increased to a fearful degree the mortality, not only of gunshot wounds, but of all diseases, and especially of pneumonia,
diarrhea and dysentery. I have recorded numerous incontrovertible facts to show that the scorbutic ulcers and hospital gangrene,
and the accidents from vaccination arising at Andersonville, were by no means new in the history of medicine, and that the
causes which induced these distressing affections have been active in all wars and sieges, and amongst all armies and navies.
In truth, these men at Andersonville were in the condition of a crew at sea confined on a foul ship, upon salt meat, and unvarying
food, and without fresh vegetables. Not only so, but these unfortunate prisoners were like men forcibly confined and crowded
upon a ship tossed about on a stormy ocean -- without a rudder, without a compass, without a guiding star, and without an
apparent boundary or end to their voyage; and they reflected in their steadily increasing miseries the distressed condition
and waning fortunes of a desolated and bleeding country, which was compelled in justice to her own unfortunate sons, to hold
their men in this most distressing captivity.
The Federal prisoners received
the same rations, in kind, quality and amount, issued to Confederate soldiers in the field. These rations were, during the
last eighteen months of the war, insufficient and without that variety of fresh meat and vegetables, which would ward off
scurvy, from soldiers as well as prisoners. As far as my experience extended, no body of troops could be confined exclusively
to the Confederate rations of 1864 and 1865, without manifesting symptoms of the scurvy.
The Confederate rations grew worse and worse as the war progressed, and as portion after portion of the most fertile regions
of the Confederate States were overrun and desolated by the Federal armies. In the straitened condition of the Confederate
States the support of an army of one hundred thousand prisoners, forced on their hands by a relentless policy, was a great
and distressing burden, which consumed their scant resources, burdened their rotten lines of railroad, and exhausted the overtaxed
energies of the entire country, crowded with refugees from their desolated homes.
The Confederate authorities charged with the exchange of prisoners used every effort in their power, consistent with their
views of national honor and rectitude, to effect an exchange of all prisoners in their hands, and to establish and maintain
definite rules by which all prisoners of war might be continuously exchanged as soon as possible after capture.
Whatever the feelings of resentment on the part of the Confederates may have been against those who were invading and desolating
their native land, which had been purchased by the blood of their ancestors from the English and Indians, the desire for the
speedy exchange and return of the great army of veterans held captives in Northern prisons was earnest and universal, and
this desire for speedy and continuous exchange on the part of the Government, as well as on the part of the people, sprang
not merely from motives of compassion for their unfortunate kindred and fellow soldiers, but also from the dictates of that
policy which would exchange on the part of a weak and struggling people, a large army of prisoners (consumers and non combatants,
requiring an army for their safe keeping) for an army of tried veterans.
from the real facts of the case, it is impossible to conceive that any government in the distressed and struggling state of
the Confederacy, could deliberately advocate any policy which would deprive it of a large army of veterans, and compel it
to waste its scant supplies, already insufficient for the support of its struggling and retreating armies.
And the result has shown that the destruction of the Confederate Government was accomplished as much by the persistent retention
in captivity of the Confederate soldiers, as by the emancipation and arming of the Southern slaves. and the employment of
After the trial of Wirz, I published a small volume, entitled
"Researches upon Spurious Vaccination, or the Abnormal Phenomena, accompanying and following vaccination in the Confederate
army during the recent civil war, 1861-1865," in which I examined the charge that the medical officers of the Confederate
army had deliberately poisoned the Federal prisoners with poisonous vaccine matter.
Copies of this work were sent to several of the most prominent Generals and medical officers of the Confederate army, with
the request that they would communicate such facts, as were in their possession, with reference to the sufferings of the Federal
and Confederate prisoners. The universal testimony was to the effect that the sufferings of the Federal prisoners was due
to causes over which the Confederate Government had little or no control, and that the sufferings and mortality amongst the
Confederate prisoners confined in Northern prisons were equally great and deplorable.
From this correspondence, I select the following letter from General Robert E. Lee:
"Lexington, Va., 15th April, 1867.
"Dr. Joseph Jones:
"Dear Sir -- I am much obliged to you for the copy of your 'Researches on
Spurious Vaccination,' which I will place in the library of the Lexington College. I have read with attention your examination
of the charge made by the United States Military Commission, that the Confederate surgeons poisoned the Federal prisoners
at Andersonville with vaccine matter. I believe every one who has investigated the afflictions of the Federal prisoners is
of the opinion that they were incident to their condition as prisoners of war, and to the distressed state of the whole Southern
country, and I fear they were fully shared by the Confederate prisoners in Federal prisons.
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"R. E. LEE."
It appears, then, from the foregoing
statements that the prison at Andersonville was established with a view to healthfulness of location, and that the great mortality
which ensued resulted chiefly from the crowded condition of the stockade, the use of corn bread, to which the prisoners had
not been accustomed, the want of variety in the rations furnished, and the want of medicines and hospital stores to enable
our surgeons properly to treat the sick. As to the first point, the reply is at hand. The stockade at Andersonville was originally
designed for a much smaller number of prisoners than were afterwards crowded into it. But prisoners accumulated after the
stoppage of exchange in Richmond and at other points; the Dahlgren raid which had for its avowed object the liberation of
the prisoners, the assassination of President Davis and his Cabinet, and the sacking of Richmond warned our authorities against
allowing large numbers of prisoners to remain in Richmond, even if the difficulty of feeding them there was removed; and the
only alternative was to rush them down to Andersonville, as enough men to guard them elsewhere could not be spared from the
ranks of our armies, which were now everywhere fighting overwhelming odds. We have a statement from an entirely trustworthy
source that the reason prisoners were not detailed to cut timber with which to enlarge the stockade and build shelters, is,
that this privilege was granted to a large number of them when the prison was first established, they giving their parole
of honor not to attempt to escape; and that they violated their paroles, threw away their axes, and spread dismay throughout
that whole region by creating the impression that all of the prisoners had broken loose. This experiment could not, of course,
be repeated, and the rest had to suffer for the bad faith of these, who not only prevented the detail of any numbers of other
prisoners for this work, but made way with axes which could not be replaced. In reference to feeding the prisoners on corn
bread, there has been the loudest complaints and the bitterest denunciations. They had not been accustomed to such hard fare
as "hog and hominy," and the poor fellows did suffer fearfully from it. But the Confederate soldiers had the same rations.
Our soldiers had the advantage of buying supplies and of receiving occasional boxes from home, which the prisoners at Andersonville
could have enjoyed to an even greater extent had the United States authorities been willing to accept the humane proposition
of our Commissioner of Exchange to allow each side to send supplies to their prisoners. But why did not the Confederacy furnish
better rations to both our own soldiers and our prisoners? And why were the prisoners at Andersonville not supplied with wheat
bread instead of corn bread? Answers to these questions may be abundantly found by referring to the orders of Major General
John Pope, directing his men "to live on the country"; the orders of General Sherman, in fulfilling his avowed purpose to
"make Georgia howl" as he "smashed things generally" in that "great march," which left smoking, blackened ruins and desolated
fields to mark his progress; the orders of General Grant to his Lieutenant, to desolate the rich wheat growing Valley of Virginia;
or the reports of General Sheridan, boasting of the number of barns he had burned, the mills he had destroyed, and the large
amount of wheat he had given to the flames, until there was really more truth than poetry in his boast that he had made the
Shenandoah Valley "such a waste that even a crow flying over would be compelled to carry his own rations." We have these and
other similar orders of Federal Generals in our archives (we propose to give hereafter a few choice extracts from them), and
we respectfully submit that, for the South to be abused for not furnishing Federal prisoners with better rations, when our
own soldiers and people had been brought painfully near the starvation point by the mode of warfare which the Federal Government
adopted, is even more unreasonable than the course of the old Egyptian task masters, who required their captives to "make
brick without straw." And to the complaints that the sick did not have proper medical attention, we reply that the hospital
at Andersonville was placed on precisely the same footing as the hospitals for the treatment of our own soldiers. We have
the law of the Confederate Congress enjoining this, and the orders of the Surgeon General enforcing it. Besides, we have in
our archives a large budget of original orders, telegrams, letters, &c., which passed between the officers on duty at
Andersonville and their superiors. We have carefully looked through this large mass of papers, and we have been unable to
discover a single sentence indicating that the prisoners were to be treated otherwise than kindly, or that the hospital was
to receive a smaller supply of medicines or of stores than the hospitals for Confederate soldiers. On the contrary, the whole
of these papers go to show that the prison hospital at Andersonville was on the same footing precisely with every hospital
for sick or wounded Confederates, and that the scarcity of medicines and hospital stores, of which there was such constant
complaint, proceeded from causes which our authorities could not control. But we can make the case still stronger. Whose fault
was it that the Confederacy was utterly unable to supply medicines for the hospitals of either friend or foe? Most unquestionably
the responsibility rests with the Federal authorities. They not only declared medicines "contraband of war" even arresting
ladies coming South for concealing a little quinine under their skirts but they sanctioned the custom of their soldiers to
sack every drug store in the Confederacy which they could reach, and to destroy even the little stock of medicines which the
private physician might chance to have on hand.
When General Milroy banished
from Winchester, Virginia, the family of Mr. Lloyd Logan, because the General (and his wife) fancied his elegantly furnished
mansion for headquarters, he not only forbade their carrying with them a change of raiment, and refused to allow Mrs. Logan
to take one of her spoons with which to administer medicine to a sick child, but he most emphatically prohibited their carrying
a small medicine chest, or even a few phials of medicine which the physician had prescribed for immediate use. Possibly some
ingenious causist may defend this policy; but who will defend at the bar of history the refusal of the Federal authorities
to accept Judge Ould's several propositions to allow surgeons from either side to visit and minister to their own men in prison
to allow each to furnish medicines, &c., to their prisoners in the hands of the other and finally to purchase in the North,
for gold, cotton, or tobacco, medicines for the exclusive use of Federal prisoners in the South? Well might General Lee have
said to President Davis, in response to expressions of bitter disappointment when he reported the failure of his efforts to
bring about an exchange of prisoners: "We have done everything in our power to mitigate the suffering of prisoners, and there
is no just cause for a sense of further responsibility on our part." Dr. R. Randolph Stevenson, who was for most of the time
surgeon in charge at Andersonville, has in MS. a large volume on this whole subject, and treats fully the diseases at Andersonville,
their causes, and their mortality. He has kindly tendered us the free use of his MS. in the preparation of this paper, but
we do not feel that it would be right to anticipate the publication of his book (which it is hoped will not be long delayed)
by full quotations from it. We give, however, several specimens of the character of the papers to which reference is made
SURGEON GENERAL'S OFFICE,
RICHMOND, VA., September 12, 1864.
Sir, You are instructed to assign
the medical officers now on duty with the sick prisoners at Andersonville, Georgia, to the points that have been selected
for the accommodation of the prisoners. All the sick whose lives will not be endangered by transportation will be removed.
The medical officers selected will be required to accompany the sick. You will visit each station and see that such arrangements
are made for the sick as their wants may require, and use all the means for their comfort that the Government can furnish.
Very respectfully, Your obedient servant.
S. P. MOORE, Surgeon General
TO: I. H. WHITE, Surgeon C.S.M. Prison Hospital, Andersonville, Ga.
OFFICE OF SURGEON IN CHARGE C. S. M. HOSPITAL.
ANDERSONVILLE, GA., November
Colonel, Under orders from Brigadier
General John H. Winder, I respectfully request that W. H. H. Phelps, of your post, be detailed and ordered to report to me
for assignment to duty as purchasing agent of vegetables and anti scorbutics for the sick and wounded prisoners now under
my charge at this place.
R. R. STEVENSON, Surgeon in Charge.
To: Colonel LEON VON ZINKEN, Commanding Post Columbus, Ga.
Approved: S. M. BEMISS, Acting Medical Director.
Approved: LEON VON ZINKEN, Colonel Commanding Post.
OFFICE CHIEF SURGEON C.S.ML. PRISONS, GEORGIA AND ALABAMA,
GA., November 9, 1864.
Sir -- * * We have been quite
busy for the last two days in selecting the sick to be exchanged. After getting them all ready at the depot, we were notified
by telegraph not to send them, and had to take them back to the stockade. Many of these poor fellows, already broken down
in health, will succumb through despair. * * * * *
I am, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
I. H. WHITE, Chief Surgeon
To: Surgeon R. R. STEVENSON, in charge Post, Andersonville, Ga.
A strong point illustrating the
position that the sickness among the prisoners was from causes which the Confederate authorities could not control, is the
fact that the Confederate guard, officers and surgeons were attacked by the same maladies, and that the deaths among them
were about as numerous, in proportion to their numbers, as among the prisoners themselves. Dr. Jones states in his report,
that the deaths among the Confederates at Andersonville from typhoid and malarial fevers were more numerous than among the
prisoners, and Dr. Stevenson makes the following statement:
"The guards on duty
here were similarly affected with gangrene and scurvy. Captain Wirz had gangrene in an old wound, which he had received in
the Battle of Manassas, in 1861, and was absent from the post (Andersonville) some four weeks on surgeon's certificate. (In
his trial certain Federal witnesses swore to his killing certain prisoners in August, 1864, when he (Wirz) was actually at
that time absent on sick leave in Augusta, Georgia.) General Winder had gangrene of the face, and was forbidden by his surgeon
(I. H. White) to go inside the stockade. Colonel G. C. Gibbs, commandant of the post, had gangrene of the face, and was furloughed
under the certificate of Surgeons Wible and Gore, of Americus, Georgia. The writer of this can fully attest to effects of
gangrene and scurvy contracted whilst on duty there; their marks will follow him to his grave. The Confederate graveyard at
Andersonville will fully prove that the mortality among the guards was almost as great in proportion to the number of men
as among the Federals."
"For a period of some three months (July, August and September, 1864) Captain Wirz and those few faithful medical officers
of the post were engaged night and day in ministering to the wants of the sick and dying, and caring for the dead. So arduous
were their duties that many of the medical officers were taken sick and had to abandon their post. In fact the pestilence
assumed such fearful proportions that Medical Director S. H. Stout could hardly induce such medical men as could be spared
from the pressing wants of the service (Georgia was at this time one vast hospital) to go to Andersonville.
"It was this horrible condition of the captives that prompted Colonel Ould, the Confederate Commissioner of Exchange, to make
his repeated efforts in the interest of humanity to get the Federal Government (as they had refused all further exchanges)
to send medicines, supplies of clothing, &c. (offering to pay for them in gold or cotton), for the exclusive use of the
Federal prisoners, to be dispensed, if desired, by Federal surgeons sent for that purpose."
Let us follow the preceding statements by the following
TESTIMONY OF THE PRISONERS THEMSELVES.
In reference to the recent discussion
in Congress, an editor in Mr. Blaine's own State (Maine) says:
"In all the talk
that is being made about Andersonville prison by agitators and politicians who hope to profit by stirring up dead animosities,
it is noticeable that no evidence is produced from men who were prisoners at that place. In order to get the views and experiences
of an actual prisoner, we called a few days ago upon Mr. John F. Frost, whose business place is a stone's throw from our office.
Mr. Frost says:
"I was orderly of Captain Fogler's company, Nineteenth Maine;
was made prisoner at Petersburg in June, 1864, and was at Andersonville eleven months, or until the war ended. There was suffering
among the men who were sick, from the lack of medicines and delicacies, but all had their rations as fully and regularly as
did the Confederate guard. There were times of scarcity, when supply trains were cut off by the Federal forces; and at such
times I have known the guard to offer to buy the prisoners' rations, being very short themselves. On these occasions the guards
would take a portion of their scanty supplies from the people of the country to feed the prisoners. The Rebels were anxious
to effect an exchange and get the prisoners off their hands, but it was reported and believed among the prisoners that the
Federal authorities refused. At one time I was with a detail of three thousand prisoners who were marched two hundred miles
to the coast to be exchanged, but it was declined by the Federal authorities, as was reported, and we marched back with no
enviable feelings. I believe that the larger share of the responsibility for the suffering in that prison belonged to our
own Government. Wirz was harsh and cruel to the prisoners, and deserved hanging. But I believe the Confederate authorities
did as well as they could for the prisoners in the matter of clothing, provisions and medicines.'
"This, let it be remembered, is not the talk of a designing politician who stayed safely at home, but the testimony of a soldier
of good record, from an actual experience of eleven months in Andersonville prison."
The following resolutions were adopted by the prisoners:
"Resolutions that were adopted
by the Federal prisoners who had been confined at Andersonville, and dated Savannah, September 23, 1864" (see United States
Sanitary Commission Memoirs by Professor A. Flint, New York):
"Resolved, That while allowing the Confederate Government all due praise
for the attention paid to the prisoners, numbers of our men are consigned to early graves," etc. "Resolved, That ten thousand
of our brave comrades have descended into untimely graves, caused by difference in climate, food, etc. And whereas these difficulties
still remain, we would declare our firm belief that unless we are speedily exchanged we have no other alternative but to share
the same lamentable fate of our comrades. * * Must this thing still go on? Is there no hope? * *
"Resolved, * * * We have suffered patiently, and are still willing to suffer,
if by so doing we can benefit the country; but we most respectfully beg leave to say that we are not willing to suffer to
further the ends of any party or clique to the detriment of our families and our country.
(Signed) "P. BRADLEY,
"Chairman of Committee in behalf of Prisoners."
We give the following full extract
from the testimony of Prescott Tracy, of the Eighty second Regiment New York Volunteers, before the United States Sanitary
Commission, and published in their report:
"As far as we saw General Winder
and Captain Wirz, the former was kind and considerate in his manners, the latter harsh, though not without kindly feelings.
"It is a melancholy and mortifying fact that some of our trials came from our own men. At Belle Isle and Andersonville there
were among us a gang of desperate men, ready to prey on their fellows. Not only thefts and robberies, but even murders were
committed. Affairs became so serious at Camp Sumter that an appeal was made to General Winder, who authorized an arrest and
trial by a criminal court. Eighty six were arrested, and six were hung, besides others who were severely punished. These proceedings
effected a marked change for the better.
"Some few weeks before being released
I was ordered to act as clerk in the hospital. This consists simply of a few scattered trees and fly tents, and is in charge
of Dr. White, an excellent and considerate man, with very limited means, but doing all in his power for his patients. He has
twenty five assistants, besides those detailed to examine for admittance to the hospital. This examination was made in a small
stockade attached to the main one, to the inside door of which the sick came or were brought by their comrades, the number
to be removed being limited. Lately, in consideration of the rapidly increasing sickness, it was extended to one hundred and
fifty daily. That this was too small an allowance is shown by the fact that the deaths within our stockade were from thirty
to forty a day. I have seen one hundred and fifty bodies waiting passage to the 'dead house,' to be buried with those who
died in hospital. The average of deaths through the earlier months was thirty a day. At the time I left, the average was over
one hundred and thirty, and one day the record showed one hundred and forty six.
"The proportion of deaths from starvation, not including those consequent on the diseases originating in the character and limited
quantity of food such as diarrhea, dysentery and scurvy cannot state; but, to the best of my knowledge, information and belief,
there were scores every month. We could at any time point out many for whom such a fate was inevitable, as they lay or feebly
walked, mere skeletons, whose emaciation exceeded the examples given in Leslie's Illustrated for June 18, 1864. For example:
in some cases the inner edges of the two bones of the arms, between the elbow and the wrist, with the intermediate blood vessels,
were plainly visible when held toward the light. The ration, in quantity, was perhaps barely sufficient to sustain life, and
the cases of starvation were generally those whose stomachs could not retain what had become entirely indigestible.
"For a man to find, on waking, that his comrade by his side was dead, was an occurrence too common to be noted. I have seen
death in almost all the forms of the hospital and battle field, but the daily scenes in Camp Sumter exceeded in the extremity
of misery all my previous experience.
"The work of burial is performed by our
own men, under guards and orders, twenty five bodies being placed in a single pit, without head boards, and the sad duty performed
with indecent haste. Sometimes our men were rewarded for this work with a few sticks of firewood, and I have known them to
quarrel over a dead body for the job.
"Dr. White as able to give the patients
a diet but little better than the prison rations a little flour porridge, arrow root, whiskey, and wild or hog tomatoes. In
the way of medicine, I saw nothing but camphor, whiskey, and a decoction of some kind of bark white oak, I think. He often
expressed his regret that he had not more medicines."
We beg leave to call especial
attention to the passages in the above extract which we have italicised, and which are very significant in testimony which
was gotten up to prove "Rebel barbarity."
Another Andersonville prisoner testifies
as follows before the United States Congressional Committee:
"We never had any
difficulty in getting vegetables; we used to buy almost anything that we wanted of the sergeant who called the roll mornings
and nights. His name was Smith, I think; he was Captain Wirz's chief sergeant. We were divided into messes, eight in each
mess; my mess used to buy from two to four bushels of sweet potatoes a week, at the rate of fifteen dollars Confederate money
per bushel. They got twenty dollars of Confederate money for one dollar of greenbacks in those days. Turnips were bought at
twenty dollars a bushel. We had to buy our own soap for washing our own persons and clothing; we bought meat and eggs and
biscuit. There seemed to be an abundance of those things; they were in the market constantly. That sergeant used to come down
with a wagon load of potatoes at a time, bringing twenty or twenty five bushels at a load sometimes." We will next introduce
STATEMENT OF GENERAL J. D. IMBODEN.
It touches on points which we
have already discussed, and anticipates some others which we shall afterwards give more in detail. But it is a clear and very
interesting narrative of an important eyewitness; and we will not mutilate the paper, but will give it entire in its original
RICHMOND, VA., January 12th, 1876.
GENERAL DABNEY HERNDON MAURY,
Chairman of the Executive Committee of
the Southern Historical Society:
General -- At your request I
cheerfully reduce to writing the facts stated by me in our conversation this morning, for preservation in the archives of
your society, and as bearing upon a historical question the treatment of prisoners during our late civil war, which it seems
certain politicians of the vindictive type in the North, led by a Presidential aspirant, have deemed it essential to their
party success to thrust upon the country again in the beginning of this our centennial year.
It is to be hoped that after a lapse of ten years since we of the South grounded our arms, passion has so far yielded to patriotism
reason, and sentiments of a common humanity in the minds and hearts of the great mass of intelligent people at the North,
that all the facts relating to the great struggle between the States of the North and South may be calmly presented, if not
for final decision by this generation, at least to aid impartial mankind in the future to Judge correctly between the conquering
and the vanquished parties to the contest; and to fix the responsibility where it attaches, to the one side or the other,
or to both, for sufferings inflicted that were not necessarily incident to a state of war between contending Christian powers.
I now proceed to give you a simple historical narrative of facts within my personal knowledge, that I believe have never been
published, although at the request of Judge Robert Ould, of this city, who was the Confederate Commissioner for the Exchange
of Prisoners, I wrote them out in 1866, and furnished the MS. to a reporter of the New York Herald. But the statement never
appeared in that journal, for the reason assigned by the reporter, that the conductors of the Herald deemed the time inopportune
for such a publication. My MS. was retained by them, and I have never heard of it since.
It is perhaps proper to state how I came to be connected with the prison service of the Confederate States. An almost fatal
attack of typhoid fever, in the summer and fall of 1864, so impaired my physical condition that I was incapable of performing
efficiently the arduous duties of my position as a cavalry officer on active service in the mountains of Virginia, and therefore
I applied to the Confederate War Office for assignment to some light duty farther south till the milder weather of the ensuing
spring would enable me to take my place at the head of the brave and hardy mountaineers of the Valley and western counties
of Virginia I had the honor to command. General R. E. Lee kindly urged my application in person, and procured an order directing
me to report to Brigadier General J. H. Winder, then Commissary of Prisoners, whose headquarters were at Columbia, South Carolina.
I left my camp in the Shenandoah Valley late in December, 1864, and reached Columbia, I think, on the 6th of January, 1865.
General Winder immediately ordered me to the command of all the prisons west of the Savannah river, with leave to establish
my temporary headquarters at Aiken, South Carolina, on account of the salubrity of its climate. I cannot fix dates after this
with absolute precision, because all my official papers fell into the hands of the United States military authorities after
the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston to Genera] Sherman; but for all essential purposes my memory enables me to detail
events in consecutive order, and approximately to assign each to its proper date.
A few days after receiving my orders from General Winder, I reached Aiken, and visited Augusta, Georgia, and established an
office there in charge of a staff officer, Lieutenant George W. McPhail, for prompt and convenient communication with the
prisons of the department.
About my first official act was to dispatch Lieutenant
Colonel Bondurant on a tour of inspection of the prisons in my department, with instructions to report fully on their condition
and management. Whilst Colonel Bondurant was on this service, I was forced to quit Aiken by the approach of Kilpatrick's cavalry,
moving on the flank of Sherman's army. A detachment of this cavalry reached Aiken within four hours after I left it. I then
made Augusta my permanent headquarters, residing, however, a few miles out on the Georgia railroad at Berzelia. Colonel Bondurant
promptly discharged the duty assigned to him, and on the state of facts presented in his reports, I resolved to keep up but
two prisons, the one at Andersonville and the other at Eufaula. I did this for economical reasons, and because it was easier
to supply two posts than four or five so widely scattered; and besides the whole number of prisoners in the department then
did not exceed 8,000 or 9,000 the great majority, about 7,500, being at Andersonville.
Before I received Colonel Bondurant's report, General Winder died, when, having no superior in command, I reported directly
to the Secretary of War at Richmond. Communication with the War Office was at that period very slow and difficult. Great military
operations were in progress. General Sherman was moving through the Carolinas. The Federal cavalry under Kilpatrick with Sherman,
and Stoneman co-operating from Tennessee, almost suspended mail facilities between Georgia and Virginia, and the telegraph
was almost impracticable, because the line was taxed almost to its capacity capacity in connection with active military operations.
After the death of General Winder, I made repeated efforts to establish communication with the Secretary of War, and with
Commissioner Ould, and obtain some instructions in regard to the prisons and prisoners under my charge. All these efforts
failed, at least I received no reply by wire, mail or messenger to any of my inquiries. A newspaper fell into my hands in
which, as an item of news, I saw it stated that Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow had been appointed General Winder's successor.
General Pillow was then at Macon, but had received no official notification of his appointment, and I having none, could not,
and did not, recognize him as entitled to command one, but cheerfully, as will appear further on, consulted him in regard
to all important matters of administration.
Colonel Bondurant's report on the
Andersonville prison, taken in connection with written applications from Captain Wirz which I had received, suggesting measures
for the amelioration of the condition of the prisoners, strongly endorsed and approved by Colonel Gibbs, an old United States
army officer, a cultivated, urbane and humane gentleman, commanding the post, made it apparent to my mind that I ought to
make a personal examination into its condition. This was no easy undertaking, as I had to travel over almost impassible country
roads through the desolated belt of country traversed by Sherman's army, in its march through Georgia, for a distance of over
seventy miles, before I could reach a railroad to take me to Andersonville. I made the journey, however, in February.
On my arrival at Andersonville, unannounced and unexpected, I made an immediate personal inspection of everything not only
as then existing, but with the aid of the post and prison record, went back several months, to the period when the mortality
was so great, to ascertain, if possible, its cause.
The guard then on duty consisted
of a brigade of Georgia State troops, under command of Brigadier General Gartrell. The post was commanded by Colonel Gibbs,
who, as before stated, was an old army officer; and the prison proper was under the immediate command of Captain Wirz, who
was tried and executed at Washington, in 1865, most unjustly, as the verdict of impartial history will establish; just as
will be the case in regard to Mrs Surratt's horrible murder.
The officers first
named, and all others on duty there, afforded me every facility to prosecute my investigations to the fullest extent, and
were prompt to point out to me measures of relief that were practicable. I went within the stockade and conversed with many
of the prisoners. I found the prison and its inmates in a bad condition: not as bad as our enemies have represented, yet unfortunately
bad. The location of the stockade was good, and had been judiciously chosen for healthfulness. It occupied two gently sloping
hillsides, with a clear flowing brook dividing them; and being in the sandy portion of the pine woods of Georgia, it was free
from local malaria, and had the benefit of a genial and healthy climate It was of sufficient capacity for from 8,000 to 9,000
prisoners, without uncomfortable crowding. The great mortality of the previous year, I have no doubt, resulted in part from
an excess of prisoners over the fair capacity of the stockade, and from the lack of sufficient shelter from the sun and rain.
Before my arrival at Andersonville, Captain Wirz had, by a communication forwarded through Colonel Gibbs, and approved by
him, called my attention to the great deficiency of shelter in the stockade, and asked authority to supply it. He had made
a similar application, I was informed, to General Winder some time before, but it had not been acted on before the General's
death. In consequence of this want of buildings and shedding within the stockade, the prisoners had excavated a great many
subterranean vaults and chambers in the hillsides, which many of them occupied, to the injury of their health, as these places
were not sufficiently ventilated.
The prisoners were very badly off for clothing,
shoes and hats and complained of this destitution, and of the quantity and kind of rations corn bread and bacon chiefly issued
to them. I found, what I anticipated, that we had no clothing to give them. Many of the men on duty as guards were in rags,
and either barefooted, or had their feet protected with worn out shoes held together with strings and thongs, and in lieu
of overcoats many had to protect themselves against inclement weather with a tattered blanket drawn over the shoulders. Our
own men being in this destitute condition, it can be well understood that we could not supply a large demand for clothing
They also suffered greatly, and there had been great mortality, for
want of suitable medicines to treat the diseases incident to their condition with any considerable success. From this cause
and this alone, I have no doubt thousands died at Andersonville in 1864, who would be living to day if the United States Government
had not declared medicines contraband of war, and by their close blockade of our coasts deprived us of an adequate supply
of those remedial agents that therapeutical science and modern chemistry have produced for the amelioration of suffering humanity.
The object of this barbarous decree against the Confederacy, it is now well understood, was to expose our soldiers, as well
as our wives, children and families, without protection or relief, to the diseases common in our climate, and to make us an
easy prey to death, approach us in what form he might; not foreseeing, perhaps, that when the grim monster stalked through
our prisons he would find not alone Confederates for his victims, but the stalwart soldiers of the Government which had invoked
his aid against us. At the time of my inspection, there was a good deal of sickness amongst the prisoners, but not a large
percentage of mortality. Our medical officers, even with their scanty pharmacopae, gave equal attention to sick friends and
enemies, to guard and to prisoners alike.
I investigated particularly the food
question, and found that no discrimination was made in the issue of rations to guards and prisoners. In quantity, quality
and kind the daily supply was exactly the same, man for man. It is true it was very scanty, consisting of a third or half
a pound of meat a day, and usually a pint or pint and a half of corn meal, with salt. Occasionally there were small supplies
of wheat flour, and sometimes a very few potatoes but they were rarely to be had. Other vegetables we had none. General Lee's
army in Virginia lived but little if any better. The food was sound and wholesome, but meagre in quantity, and not such in
kind and variety as Federal soldiers had been accustomed to draw from their abundant commissariat. Our soldiers did very well
on "hog and hominy," and rarely complained. The Federals thought it horrible to have nothing else, and but a scanty supply
of this simple food. Great scoundrelism was detected amongst the prisoners in cheating each other. They were organized in
companies of a hundred each in the stockade, and certain men of their own selection were permitted to come outside the stockade
and draw the rations for their fellows, and cook them. Many of these rascals would steal and secrete a part of the food, and
as opportunity offered sell it at an exorbitant rate to their famished comrades. Shortly before I went to Andersonville six
of these villains were detected, and by permission of the prison authorities the prisoners themselves organized a court of
their own, tried them for the offence, found them guilty, and hung them inside the stockade. This event led to a change in
the mode of issuing rations, which precluded the possibility of such a diabolical traffic in stolen food.
Bad as was the physical condition of the prisoners, their mental depression was worse, and perhaps more fatal. Thousands of
them collected around me in the prison, and begged me to tell them whether there was any hope of release by an exchange of
prisoners Some time before that President Davis had permitted three of the Andersonville prisoners to go to Washington to
try and change the determination of their Government and procure a resumption of exchanges. The prisoners knew of the failure
of this mission when I was at Andersonville, and the effect was to plunge the great majority of them into the deepest melancholy,
home sickness and despondency. They believed their confinement would continue till the end of the war, and many of them looked
upon that as a period so indefinite and remote that they believed that they would die of their sufferings before the day of
release came. I explained to them the efforts we had made and were still making to effect an exchange. A Federal captain at
Andersonville, learning that I had a brother of the same rank (Captain F. M. Imboden, of the Eighteenth Virginia Cavalry)
incarcerated at Johnson's Island, in Lake Erie, where he was in a fair way to die from harsh treatment and a lack of food,
represented to me that he had powerful connections at Washington, and thought that if I would parole him he could effect his
exchange for my brother, and perhaps influence a decision on the general question of exchanges. He agreed to return in thirty
days if he failed. I accepted his terms, and with some difficulty got him through the lines. He failed, and returned within
our lines, but just in time to be set at liberty again, as will appear further on. I regret that I have forgotten his name,
and have no record of it.
I have already alluded to Captain Wirz's recommendation
to put up more shelter. I ordered it, and thereafter daily a hundred or more prisoners were paroled and set to work in the
neighboring forest. In the course of a fortnight comfortable log houses, with floors and good chimneys for which the prisoners
made and burnt the brick were erected for twelve or fifteen hundred men, and were occupied by those in feeble health, who
were withdrawn from the large stockade and separated from the mass of prisoners. This same man (Captain Wirz), who was tried
and hung as a murderer warmly urged the establishment of a tannery and shoemaker's shop, informing me that there were many
men amongst the prisoners skilled in these trades, and that some of them knew a process of very rapidly converting hides into
tolerably good leather. There were thousands of hides at Andersonville, from the young cattle butchered during the previous
summer and fall, whilst the country yet contained such animals. I ordered this, too; and a few weeks later many of the barefooted
prisoners were supplied with rough, but comfortable shoes; one of them made and sent to me a pair that surprised me, both
by the quality of the leather and the style of the shoes. Another suggestion came from the medical staff of the post that
I ordered to be at once put into practice: it was to brew corn beer for those suffering from scorbutic taint. The corn meal
or even whole corn being scalded in hot water and a mash made of it, a little yeast was added to promote fermentation, and
in a few days. a sharp acid beverage was produced, by no means unpalatable, and very wholesome. Captain Wirz entered warmly
into this enterprise. I mention these facts to show that he was not the monster he was afterwards represented to be, when
his blood was called for by infuriate fanaticism. I would have proved these facts if I had been permitted to testify on his
trial after I was summoned before the court by the United States, and have substantiated them by the records of the prison
and of my own headquarters, if these records were not destroyed, suppressed or mutilated at the time. But after being kept
an hour in the court room, during an earnest and whispered consultation between the President of the court and the Judge Advocate,
and their examination of a great mass of papers, the contents of which I could not see, I was politely dismissed without examination,
and told I would be called at another time; but I never was, and thus Wirz was deprived of the benefit of my evidence. My
personal acquaintance with Captain Wirz was very slight, but the facts I have alluded to satisfied me that he was a humane
man, and was selected as a victim to the bloody moloch of 1865, because he was a foreigner and comparatively friendless. I
put these facts on record now to vindicate, as far as they go, his memory from the monstrous crimes falsely charged against
him. No such charges ever reached me, whilst I was in a position to have made it a duty to investigate them, as those upon
which he was tried and executed. He may have committed grave offences, but if so, I never knew it, and do not believe it.
After having given my sanction and orders to carry out every suggestion of others, or that occurred to my own mind for the
amelioration of the condition of the prisoners as far as we possessed the means, and having issued stringent orders to preserve
discipline amongst the guarding troops, and subordination, quiet and good order amongst the prisoners, I went to Macon to
confer with General Howell Cobb and General Gideon J. Pillow as to the proper course for me to pursue in the event of our
situation in Georgia becoming more precarious, , or the chance of communication with the Government at Richmond being entirely
cut off, which appeared to be an almost certain event in the very near future. After a full discussion of the situation, there
was perfect accord in our views. General Pillow was expecting to receive official notice of his appointment as Commissary
of Prisons, in which event he would become my commanding officer. General Cobb commanded the State troops of Georgia, and
I was dependent on him for a sufficient force to discharge my duties and hold the prisoners in custody. There was eminent
propriety, therefore, in our conferring with each other, and acting harmoniously in whatever course might be adopted. General
Pillow took a leading part in the discussion, and in shaping the conclusions to which we came. In the absence of official
information or instructions from Richmond, we acted upon what the newspapers announced as a recently established arrangement
with General Grant, which was, in effect, that either side might deliver to the other on parole, but without exchange, any
prisoners they chose, taking simply a receipt for them. We had no official information of any such agreement from our Government,
but it was regarded by us as very probably true, and we decided to act upon it. The difficulty of supplying the prisoners
with even a scanty ration of corn meal and bacon was increasing daily. The cotton States had never been a grazing country,
and therefore we had few or no animals left there for food, except hogs. These States were not a large wheat producing region,
and for that reason we had to depend mainly on corn for bread. Salt was scarce and hard to obtain. Vegetables we had none
for army purposes. We were destitute of clothing, and of the materials and machinery to manufacture it in sufficient quantities
for our own soldiers and people. And the Federal Government, remaining deaf to all appeals for exchange of prisoners, it was
manifest that the incarceration of their captured soldiers could no longer be of any possible advantage to us, since to relieve
their sufferings that government would take no step, if it involved a similar release of our men in their hands. Indeed, it
was manifest that they looked upon it as an advantage to them and an injury to us to leave their prisoners prisoners in our
hands to eat out our little remaining substance. In view of all these facts and considerations, Generals Cobb and Pillow and
I were of one mind that the best thing that could be done was, without further efforts to get instructions from Richmond to
make arrangements to send off all the prisoners we had at Eufaula and Andersonville to the nearest accessible Federal post
and having paroled them not to bear arms till regularly exchanged, to deliver them unconditionally, simply taking a receipt
on descriptive rolls of the men thus turned over.
In pursuance of this determination,
and as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made, a detachment of about 1,500 men, made up from the two prisons, was
sent to Jackson, Mississippi, by rail and delivered to their friends. General "Dick" Taylor at that time commanded the department
through which these prisoners were sent to Jackson, and objected to any more being sent that way, on the ground that they
would pick up information on the route detrimental to our military interests. The only remaining available outlet was at Saint
Augustine, Florida, Sherman having destroyed railway communication with Savannah. Finding that the prisoners could be sent
from Andersonville by rail to the Chattahoochie, thence down that river to Florida, near Quincy, and from Quincy by rail to
Jacksonville, within a day's march of Saint Augustine, it was resolved to open communication with the Federal commander at
the latter place. With that view, somewhere about the middle of March, Captain Rutherford, an intelligent and energetic officer,
was sent to Saint Augustine. A few days after his departure for Florida, he telegraphed from Jacksonville, "Send on the prisoners."
He had, as he subsequently reported, arranged with the Federal authorities to receive them. At once all were ordered to be
sent forward who were able to bear the journey. Three days' cooked rations were prepared, and so beneficial to health was
the revival of the spirits of these men by the prospect of once more being at liberty, that I believe all but twelve or fifteen
reported themselves able to go, and did go. The number sent was over 6,000. Only enough officers and men of the guard went
along to keep the prisoners together, preserve order, and facilitate their transportation. To my amazement the officer commanding
the escort telegraphed back from Jacksonville that the Federal commandant at Saint Augustine refused to receive and receipt
for the prisoners till he could hear from General Grant, who was then in front of Petersburg, Virginia, and with whom he could
only communicate by sea along the coast, and asking my instructions under the circumstances. Acting without the known sanction
of the Government at Richmond, I was afraid to let go the prisoners without some official acknowledgment of their delivery
to the United States, and knowing that two or three weeks must elapse before General Grant's will in the premises could be
made known and it being impossible to subsist our men and the prisoners at Jacksonville, I could pursue but one course. I
ordered their return to Andersonville, directing that return to Andersonville, directing that the reason for this unexpected
result should be fully explained to them. Provisions were hastily collected and sent to meet them, and in a few days all were
back in their old quarters. I was not there on their return, but it was reported to me that their indignation against their
Government was intense, many declaring their readiness to renounce allegiance to it and take up arms with us. The old routine
was resumed at Andersonville, but it was not destined to continue long.
any further communication reached me from Saint Augustine, General Wilson, with a large body of cavalry, approached Georgia
from the West. It was evident that his first objective point was Andersonville. Again conferring with Generals Cobb and Pillow,
and finding we were powerless to prevent Wilson's reaching Andersonville, where he would release the prisoners and capture
all our officers and troops there, it was decided without hesitation again to send the prisoners to Jacksonville and turn
them loose, to make the best of their way to their friends at Saint Augustine. This was accomplished in a few days, the post
at Andersonville was broken up, the Georgia State troops were sent to General Cobb at Macon, and in a short time the surrender
of General Johnston to Sherman, embracing all that section of country, the Confederate prisons ceased to exist, and on the
3d of May, 1865, I was myself a prisoner of war on parole at Augusta, Georgia. A few days later I was sent with other paroled
Confederates to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where I met about 2,000 of the Andersonville prisoners who had been sent up from
Saint Augustine, to be thence shipped North. Their condition was much improved. Many of them were glad to see me, and four
days later I embarked with several hundred of them on the steam transport "Thetis" for Fortress Monroe, and have reason to
believe that every man of them felt himself my friend rather than an enemy.
It has been charged that Mr. Davis, as President of the Confederate States, was responsible for the sufferings of prisoners
held in the South. During my four months' connection with this disagreeable branch of Confederate military service, no communication
direct or indirect, was ever received by me from Mr. Davis, and, so far as I remember, the records of the prison contained
nothing to implicate him in any way with its management or administration. I have briefly alluded to the causes of complaint
on the part of prisoners, and even where these were well founded, I am at a loss to see how Mr. Davis is to be held responsible
before the world for their existence, till it is proved that he knew of them and failed to remove delinquent officers.
The real cause of all the protracted sufferings of prisoners North and South is directly due to the inhuman refusal of the
Federal Government to exchange prisoners of war, a policy that we see from the facts herein stated was carried so far as to
induce a commanding officer, at Saint Augustine, to refuse even to receive, and acknowledge that he had received, over 6,000
men of his own side, tendered to him unconditionally, from that prison in the South which, above all others, they charged
to have been the scene of unusual suffering. The inference is irresistible that this officer felt that it would be dangerous
to his official character to relieve the Confederacy of the burden of supporting these prisoners, although he and his countrymen
affected to believe that we were slowly starving them to death. The policy at Washington was to let Federal prisoners starve,
if the process involved the Confederates in a similar catastrophe and "fired the Northern heart." I have introduced more of
my personal movements and actions into this recital than is agreeable or apparently in good taste, but it has been unavoidable
in making the narrative consecutive and intelligible, and I trust will be pardoned, even if appearing to transcend the bounds
of becoming modesty. In the absence of all my official papers relating to these subjects (which I presume were taken to Washington
after I surrendered them, and are still there, unless it was deemed policy to destroy them when Captain Wirz was on trial),
I have not been able to go into many minute details that might add interest to the statement, but nothing, I think, to the
leading fact that the United States refused an unconditional delivery of so many of its own men, inmates of that prison (Andersonville),
which they professed then to regard as a Confederate slaughter pen and place of intentional diabolical cruelties inflicted
on the sick and helpless. Was this course not a part of a policy of deception for "firing the Northern heart"? Impartial history
will one day investigate and answer this question. And there we may safely leave it, with a simple record of the facts.
Very truly, your friend,
J. D. IMBODEN.
|Civil War Prison Camp or Death Camp?
|Selected Civil War Prisons with Death Rates
The above documents
seem to us to show beyond all controversy that whatever suffering existed at Andersonville (and it is freely admitted that
the suffering was terrible), resulted from causes which were beyond the control of the Confederate Government, and were directly
due to the cold blooded, cruel policy of the Federal authorities, which not only refused to exchange prisoners, but rejected
every overture to mitigate their sufferings.
The Federal Government has had
possession of the Confederate archives for now nearly eleven years. The Confederate leaders and their friends have been denied
all access to those archives, while partisans on the other side have ransacked them at will in eager search for every sentence
which could be garbled out of its connection to prove the charges made, with reckless disregard of the truth, against the
"Rebel crew." It is fair to presume that those records contain no stronger proof of "Rebel cruelty to prisoners" than has
already been brought to light, while some of us are fondly hoping that before the next Centennial the people of the South
will have the vindication which the records of the Confederacy afford. The strongest proof of the charges made against the
Confederate Government which has yet been produced from those records is the
REPORT OF COLONEL D. T. CHANDLER,
which was introduced at the Wirz trial, and upon which the Radical press
has been ringing the charges ever since. It has been recently thus put in a malignant reply, in a partisan sheet, to Mr. Davis'
letter to Mr. Lyons:
On the 5th day of August, 1864, Colonel Chandler, an officer
of the Confederate army, made a report to the Rebel War Department regarding the condition of Andersonville prison. He had
made one six months before, but no attention had been paid to it. In his last report he said:
"My duty requires me respectfully to recommend a change in the officer in
the command of the post, Brigadier General J. H. Winder, and the substitution in his place of some one who unites both energy
and good judgment with some feeling of humanity and consideration for the welfare and comfort (so far as it is consistent
with their safe keeping) of the vast number of unfortunates placed under his control; some one who at least will not advocate
deliberately and in cold blood the propriety of leaving them in their present condition until their number has been sufficiently
reduced by death to make the present arrangement suffice for their accommodation; who will not consider it a matter of self
laudation and boasting that he has never been inside of the stockade, a place the horrors of which it is difficult to describe,
and which is a disgrace to civilization, the condition of which he might, by the exercise of a little energy and judgment,
even with the limited means at his command, have considerably improved.
"D. T. CHANDLER,
"Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General."
This report was forwarded to
the Secretary of War with the following endorsement:
"ADJUTANT AND INSPECTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE,
"August 18, 1864.
"Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War. The condition of the prison
at Andersonville is a reproach to us as a nation. The Engineer and Ordnance Departments were applied to, and authorized their
issue, and I so telegraphed General Winder. Colonel Chandler's recommendations are coincided in.
"By order of General Cooper.
"R. H. CHILTON,
"Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General."
Not content with this, Colonel
Chandler testifies that he went to the War Office himself, and had an interview with the Assistant Secretary, J. A. Campbell,
who then wrote below General Cooper's endorsement the following:
"These reports show a condition of things at Andersonville, which calls
very loudly for the interposition of the Department, in that a change may be made.
"J. A. CAMPBELL,
"Assistant Secretary of War."
Thus was the horrible condition
of things at Andersonville brought home to the Secretary of War, one of the confidential advisers of the President, who was
daily in consultation with him. If all was being done for the prisoners that could be done, how came such reports to be made?
But what was the result? A few days after this report was sent in, Winder, the beast, the cruel, heartless coward -- the man
of whom the Richmond Examiner said, when he was ordered from that city to Andersonville, "Thank God that Richmond is at last
rid of old Winder; God have mercy upon those to whom he has been sent" -- this man was promoted by Mr. Davis, and made Commissary
General of all the prisons and prisoners in the Confederacy. We come now to a question which we challenge Mr. Davis to answer.
Did he know of; or had his attention been called to, Colonel Chandler's report when he promoted General Winder? Dare he deny
having made this latter appointment as a reward to Winder for his faithful services at Andersonville?
A writer in the Sauk Rapids Sentinel adds the statement (which is certainly news in this latitude) that upon this report General
Winder was "indignantly removed by the Secretary of War," and that when he carried the order removing him to the President
he not only reinstated him, but "immediately added to his power and opportunities for barbarity, by promoting him to the office
of Commissary General of all of the prisons and prisoners of the Southern Confederacy." This is, indeed, a terrible arraignment
of Mr. Davis, if it were true, but there is really not one word of truth in any statement of that character. Mr. Davis not
only never saw Colonel Chandler's report, but absolutely never heard of it until last year.
We are fortunate in being able to give a clear statement of the history of Colonel Chandler's report, and to show that so
far from being proof of any purposed cruelty to prisoners on the part of the Confederate Government, the circumstances afford
the strongest proof of just the reverse.
We inclosed the slip from the Sauk
Rapids Sentinel to Hon. R.G.H. Kean, who was chief clerk of the Confederate War Department.
We may say (for the benefit of readers in other sections; it is entirely unnecessary in this latitude), that Mr. Kean is now
Rector of the University of Virginia, and is an accomplished scholar and a high toned Christian gentleman, whose lightest
word may be implicitly relied upon. Mr. Kean has sent us the following letter which, though hastily written and not designed
for publication, gives so clear a history of this report that we shall take the liberty of publishing it in full:
Letter of Hon. R.G.H. Kean, Chief Clerk of the Confederate
War Department Lynchburg, Va., March 22, 1876
To: Rev. J. William Jones,
Secretary Southern Historical Society:
My Dear Sir -- Yours of the 20th
is received this A.M., and I snatch the time from the heart of a busy day to reply immediately because I feel that there is
no more imperious call on a Confederate than to hurl back the vile official slanders of the Federal Government at Washington
in 1865, when Holt, Conover & Co., with a pack of since convicted perjurers, were doing all in their power to blacken
the fame of a people whose presence they have since found and acknowledged to be indispensable to any semblance of purity
in their administration of affairs.
In September, 1865, I was required by the
then commandant at Charlottesville to report immediately to him. The summons was brought to me in the field, where in my shirt
sleeves I was assisting in the farming operations of my father in law, Colonel T. J. Randolph, and his eldest son, Major T.
J. Randolph. I obeyed, and was sent by the next train to report to General Terry, then in command in Richmond. He informed
me that I was wanted, and had long been sought for, to testify before the Commission engaged in trying Wirz, and I was sent
to Washington by the next train. I attended promptly, but it was two or three days before I was examined as a witness. When
I was, a paper taken from the records of our War Office was shown me -- the report of Lieutenant Colonel Chandler of his inspection
of the post at Andersonville. I remembered the paper well. This writer in the Sauk Rapids Sentinel is in error when he says
this report was "delivered in person to the Confederate Assistant Secretary of War." It had been sent through the usual channels,
and reaching the hands of Colonel R. H. Chilton, Assistant Inspector General, in charge of the inspection branch of the Adjutant
and Inspector General's bureau, was brought into the War Office by Colonel Chilton and placed in my hands, with the endorsement
quoted by this writer, or something to that effect. Colonel Chilton explained to me that the report disclosed such a state
of things at Andersonville, that he had brought it to me, in order that it might receive prompt attention, instead of sending
it through the usual routine channel. I read it immediately, and was shocked at its contents. I do not remember the passage
quoted by this writer, but I do remember that it showed that the 32,000 men herded in the stockade at Andersonville were dying
of scurvy and other diseases engendered by their crowded condition and insufficient supplies of medicine, suitable food, and
medical attendance, at the rate of ten per cent., or about 3,000 a month. Shocked at such a waste of human life, produced
by the fraudulent refusal to observe the cartel for exchange of prisoners, whom we had neither the force to guard in a large
enclosure, nor proper food for when sick, nor medicines, save such as we could smuggle into our ports or manufacture from
the plants of Southern growth, I took the report to Judge Campbell, Assistant Secretary of War, and told him of the horrors
it disclosed. He read it, and made on it an endorsement substantially the same quoted, and carried it to Mr. Seddon, then
Secretary of War. My office was between that of the Assistant Secretary and the Secretary, and the latter passed through mine
with the paper in his hand. I testified to these facts before the Wirz Commission, and also to this further. As well as I
remember it was early in August that these endorsements were made. In October, Colonel Chandler who was, I think, a Mississippian,
and with whom I had no previous acquaintance, presented himself in my office, and stated to me that he had been officially
informed that General Winder, on being called on in August for a response to the parts of his report which reflected on or
blamed him (Winder), had responded by making an issue of veracity with him (Chandler); that he (C.) had promptly demanded
a court of inquiry, but that none had been ever ordered. He expressed himself as very unwilling to lie under such an imputation,
and urgently desirous to have the subject investigated. His appearance and manner were very good -- those of a gentleman and
a man of honor; and, in sympathy with his feelings (though I told him that it was extremely improbable that officers of suitable
rank could be spared from the service to conduct such an investigation at that time), I told him I would call the attention
of the Secretary to the matter. Accordingly I got the report, and placing around it a slip of paper in the usual official
manner, I endorsed to this effect: "Lieutenant Colonel Chandler is here in person, urging that a court of inquiry be named
to investigate the issues between him and General Winder touching this report. He seems to feel his position painfully" --
addressed to the Secretary of War. Mr. Seddon told me afterwards that in the then state of things it was impossible to spare
officers of suitable rank -- so many were prisoners that the supply in the field was insufficient, or to that effect and Colonel
Chandler was so informed, either by me in person or by letter. This endorsement of mine, dated in October, 1864, was the thing
which connected me with the report, and caused me to be summoned to Washington to trace it into the hands of the Secretary
of War. The effort was assiduously made by Colonel L. R. Chipman, the Judge Advocate of the Wirz Commission, to show by me
that this report was seen by President Davis, but that effort failed, because I knew nothing on that subject. This was substantially
all that I knew of my own knowledge, and so was competent to prove as a witness, in respect to the report. But very much more
came to my knowledge as hearsay, not competent legally, yet as credible as what I knew directly.
My observations, during the several days I was in attendance and watching the proceedings of the Commission, convinced me
whether rightly or wrongly subsequent events have in some degree developed that the destruction of Wirz was a very subordinate
object of his so called trial; that the main objects were to blacken the character of the Southern Government, and, as I thought,
to compass the death of Mr. Davis and Mr. Seddon, who were not technically on trial, but were alleged to have "conspired"
with Wirz and others to kill and murder the Federal prisoners, &c. One was immured in irons in a casemate of Fortress
Monroe, the other was in a casemate in Fort Pulaski. Believing that their lives were in danger, I sought Mr. L. Q. Washington,
who was then in Washington, and communicated to him the apprehensions I felt, and urged him to communicate them to Mr. Seddon's
friends, with whom I knew him to be intimate. I learned that he did so; and Mrs. Seddon sent Captain Phillip Welford, a gentleman
of great intelligence, to Washington to see what was best to be done to protect her helpless husband, who was being prosecuted
while a prisoner six hundred miles away. The result of Captain Welford's investigations and conferences with friends in Washington,
was that it was not deemed judicious for Mr. Seddon to be represented directly by counsel, but that he should place his materials
of defence and explanation touching the Chandler report in the hands of Wirz's counsel; and this was done. The Government
had gone into all this matter, and the response, therefore, on every principle of fair dealing or of law, was legitimate in
that cause. Colonel Robert Ould and General J. E. Mulford, therefore, were summoned to show what the action of the Confederate
Government on Colonel Chandler's report was. Judge Ould attended, and General Mulford was prepared to do so and to corroborate
him. Judge Ould, as Mr. Welford informed me, unless my memory is at fault, was prepared to state that as soon as Colonel Chandler's
report was presented to Mr Seddon, the latter sent for him and showed the terrible mortality prevailing at Andersonville,
instructed him to go down James river at once with his flag of truce boat, see General Mulford, inform him of the state of
things there; that its causes, by reason of the blockade, were beyond our resources to prevent but that we were unwilling
that the breach of the cartel should entail such suffering and to propose that the Federals might send as many medical officers
to Andersonville and other prisons as they pleased, with such supplies, and funds, medicine, clothing, and whatever else would
conduce to health and comfort, with power to organize their own methods of distribution, and without other restriction than
a personal parole of honor not to convey information prejudicial to us on condition that we, too, should be allowed to relieve
the sufferings of our men in Northern prisons by sending medical officers with like powers, who should take cotton (the only
exchange we possessed) to buy supplies necessary for our people; that this was immediately communicated early in August, 1864,
to General Mulford, who was informed of the state of things at Andersonville; that he communicated this proposition to his
immediate superiors, and had no answer for some two or three weeks, and when the answer came it was a simple refusal; that
General Mulford promptly communicated this to Judge Ould, and he to Mr. Seddon; that immediately thereon Mr. Seddon directed
Colonel Ould to return down the river (James), see General Mulford and say that in three days from the time we were notified
that transportation would be at Savannah to receive them, the Federals should have delivered them ten thousand of the sick
from Andersonville, whether we were allowed any equivalent in exchange for them or not, as a mere measure of humanity; that
this was promptly done; and General Mulford, as I was informed, would have stated that, so impressed was he with the enormous
suffering, which it was the desire of our Government to spare, that not content with an official letter through the usual
channels, he went in person to Washington, into the office of Secretary Stanton, told him the whole story, and urged prompt
action, but got no reply. Nor was a reply vouchsafed to this offer until the latter part of December, 1864; meanwhile some
fifteen thousand men had died. If these be the facts, who is responsible?
deliberate conviction at the time, and ever since, has been that the authorities at Washington considered thirty thousand
men, just in the rear of General Johnston's army in Georgia, drawing their rations from the same stores from which his army
had to be fed, would be better used up there than in the Federal ranks, in view of the fact that they could recruit their
armies, while we had exhausted our material; that the refusal to exchange prisoners, and the denial of our offers in regard
to the sick at Andersonville, was part of the plan of attrition. It will be remembered that the friends of Federal soldiers
in prison at the South had become clamorous about the stoppage of exchanges. The Northern press had taken the matter up, and
the authorities had been arraigned as responsible. I have never doubted that one collateral object of the Wirz trial was by
a perfectly unilateral trial (?), in which the prosecutor had everything his own way to manufacture an answer to these just
complaints. And I feel a conviction that the truth will one day be vindicated; that, having reference to relative resources,
Federal prisoners were more humanely dealt with in Confederate hands than Confederate prisoners were in Federal hands. It
was their interest, on a cold blooded calculation, to stop exchanges when they did it and as soon as it was their interest,
they did it without scruple or mercy. The responsibility of the lives lost at Andersonville rests, since July, 1864, on General
Meredith, Commissary General of Prisoners, and (chiefly) on Edwin M. Stanton Secretary of War. No one of sound head or heart
would now hold the Northern people responsible for these things. The blood is on the skirts of their then rulers; and neither
Mr. Garfield nor Mr Blaine can change the record.
I never heard that there was
any particular "suffering" at Libby or Belle Isle, and do not believe there was. Crowded prisons are not comfortable places,
as our poor fellows found at Fort Delaware, Johnson's Island, &c.
at this late day no means of refreshing my memory in regard to the general orders on the subject of prison treatment, but
this as a general fact I do know, that Mr. Davis' humanity was considered to be a stronger sentiment with him than public
justice, and it was a common remark that no soldier capitally convicted was ever executed, if the President reviewed the record
of his conviction. He was always slow to adopt the policy of retaliation for the barbarities inflicted by local commanders
on the other side. The controversy between General Winder and Colonel Chandler was never brought to an investigation, for
the reasons mentioned above. What the result of that investigation would have been no one can now tell; but I will say in
reference to this true old patriot and soldier -- a genial man, whose zeal was sometimes ahead of his discretion -- that if
he was, at Andersonville, the fiend pretended by the "Bloody Shirt" shriekers, he had in his old age changed his nature very
suddenly. I never saw any reason to consider Colonel Chandler's report wilfully injurious to General Winder, and supposed
that it was the result of those misunderstandings which not unfrequently spring up between an inspecting officer and a post
commander, when the former begins to find fault.
I have written hastily. In
minor details, the lapse of twelve years may render my memory inaccurate, but of the general accuracy of the narrative I have
given, as lying in my own knowledge or reported to me by those whose names I have mentioned, I vouch without hesitation.
Respectfully, yours truly,
R. G. H. KEAN.
We have also a
LETTER FROM SECRETARY SEDDON,
dated March 27th, 1876, from which we give the following extract:
"Unfortunately, during my imprisonment
after the war, nearly all the papers and memoranda I had connected with the administration of the War Department were destroyed,
and I have had so little satisfaction in dwelling upon the sad sacrifices and sufferings that attended and resulted from the
futile though glorious efforts of our people in their lost cause, that I have sought rather to allow my memories of events
to be dimmed or obliterated, than to brighten or cherish them. I have not a copy of any of my own reports, nor of that of
Colonel Chandler, to which you specially refer, and have of that by no means a lively recollection. I do remember however,
generally, that it severely reflected on General Winder, and while it induced calls for explanation and defence from General
Winder, it at the same time, from its terms, inspired an impression of controversy, and perhaps angry and incautious expressions
between them, which warned to caution in receiving them as accurate representations of the facts. The Department was aware
of the strict instructions which had been given, both verbally and by written orders, for the selection and preparation of
the military prisons, especially that of Andersonville, with special view to the health and comfort of the prisoners, and
for their humane treatment and supply on the same footing with our own troops, and could not hastily accept an account of
such orders being wantonly disregarded by an old, regularly trained officer, rather noted as a rigid disciplinarian, or of
cruel and unofficerlike treatment of prisoners on his part. The authorities, too, knew only too well the grave and growing
deficiencies of all supplies, and the sad necessities the war was by its ruthless conduct imposing on all affected by its
course. They also knew that unexpected events had forced the assemblage of a far greater number of prisoners than had been
anticipated and provided for in the few safer points of confinement, before others had or could be provided for them, and
we were daily looking and counting on a large number being removed by the liberal offer of some 10,000 of those suffering
from sickness to be returned (without equivalent) to the Federals; and on the completion of new, safe prisons for the accommodation
of others. The Department, under such circumstances, could not so hastily receive and act on the representations of this report,
or condemn General Winder without investigation and response from him. His reports and explanations were of a very different
character, and, as far as I now recollect, deemed exonerating. I cannot recall exactly the time or circumstances of his promotion
as General, but certainly no advance was ever accorded under any conviction of inhumanity or undue severity to prisoners by
him, much less as a support to him therein, or a reward for such conduct."
Do not these letters show beyond
all cavil that so far from there being a deliberate purpose on the part of the Confederate Government to murder Federal prisoners,
that a report of their suffering condition met the promptest attention; that General Winder was at once asked to explain the
charges made against him, and did give satisfactory explanations; that Colonel Chandler's request for a court of inquiry was
only postponed because officers to compose the court could not be spared from the field, and that without waiting to hear
General Winder's explanations, Mr. Seddon sent Judge Ould to tell the Federal Agent of Exchange of the reported suffering
of the Federal prisoners, and to urge the acceptance of his humane proposition, that if they would not exchange, or allow
their own surgeons to come to their relief, or allow the Confederate Government to buy medicines for them, they would at least
send transportation to Savannah and receive their sick without any equivalent. And since the Federal Government turned a deaf
ear to all of these appeals, are they not responsible before God and at the bar of history for every death that ensued?
If it could be proven beyond all doubt that the officers at Andersonville were the fiends incarnate that Northern hatred pictures
them to be, there is not one scintilla of proof that the Government at Richmond ordered, approved or in any way countenanced
their "atrocities." It is not, therefore, necessary for our purpose that we should go into any
DEFENCE OF GENERAL WINDER.
And yet, as an act of simple justice to the memory of this officer, we give
the following letters:
SABOT HILL, December 29, 1875.
Mr. W.S. WINDER, Baltimore:
Dear Sir -- Your letter reached
me some two weeks since, and I have been prevented by serious indisposition from giving it an early reply.
I take pleasure in rendering my emphatic testimony to relieve the character and reputation of your father, the late General
John H. Winder, from the unjust aspersions that have been cast upon them in connection with the treatment of the Federal prisoners
under his charge during our late civil war.
I had, privately and officially,
the fullest opportunity of knowing his character, and judging his disposition and conduct towards the Federal prisoners; for
those in Richmond, where he was almost daily in official communication with me, often in respect to them, had been some time
under his command before, in large measure from the care and kindness he was believed to have shown to them he was sent South
to have the supervision and control of the large number there being aggregated.
His manner and mode of speech were perhaps naturally somewhat abrupt and sharp, and his military bearing may have added more
of sternness and imperiousness; but these were mere superficial traits, perhaps, as I sometimes thought, assumed in a manner
to disguise the real gentleness and kindness of his nature.
I thought him marked
by real humanity towards the weak and helpless -- such as women and children, for instance -- by that spirit of protection
and defence which distinguished the really gallant soldier.
To me he always
expressed sympathy, and manifested a strong desire to provide for the wants and comforts of the prisoners under his charge.
Very frequently, from the urgency of his claims in behalf of the prisoners while in Richmond, controversies would arise between
him and the Commissary General, which were submitted to me by them in person for my decision, and I was struck by his earnestness
and zeal in claiming the fullest supplies the law of the Confederacy allowed or gave color of claim to. This law required
prisoners to have the allowance provided for our own soldiers in the field, and constituted the guide to the settlement of
such questions. Strict injunctions were invariably given from the Department for the observance of this law, both then and
afterwards, in the South, and no departure was to be tolerated from it except under the direst straits of self defence. Your
father was ever resolved, as far as his authority allowed, to act upon and enforce the rule in behalf of the prisoners.
When sent South I know he was most solicitous in regard to all arrangements for salubrity and convenience of location for
the military prisons, and for all means that could facilitate the supplies and comforts of the prisoners, and promote their
health and preservation. That afterwards great sufferings were endured by the prisoners in the South was among the saddest
necessities of the war; but they were due, in a large measure, to the cessation of exchange which forced the crowding of numbers,
never contemplated, in the limited prison bounds which could be considered safe in the South to the increasing danger of attack
on such places, which made Southern authorities and commanders hostile to the ]establishment of additional prisons in convenient
localities, and to the daily increasing straits and deficiencies of supplies of the Confederate Government, and not to the
want of sympathy or humanity on the part of your father, or his most earnest efforts to obviate and relieve the inevitable
evils that oppressed the unfortunate prisoners. I know their sad case, and his impotency to remedy it caused him keen anguish
Amid the passions and outraged feelings yet surviving our terrible
struggle, it may be hard still to have justice awarded to the true merits and noble qualities of your father, but in future
and happier times I doubt not all mists of error obscuring his name and fame will be swept away under the light of impartial
investigation, and he will be honored and revered, as he ought to be, among the most faithful patriots and gallant soldiers
of the Southern Confederacy.
Very truly yours,
JAMES A. SEDDON.
|Confederate Prisoner Monument at Elmira, New York
|Confederate Prisoner Monument at Elmira, New York
MONTREAL, 20th June, 1867.
My Dear Sir -- * * * I have never
doubted that all had been done for the comfort and preservation of the prisoners at Andersonville that the circumstances rendered
possible. General Winder I had known from my first entrance into the United States army as a gallant soldier and an honorable
gentleman. Cruelty to those in his power, defenceless and sick men, was inconsistent with the character of either a soldier
or a gentleman. I was always, therefore, confident that the charge was unjustly imputed. * * * The efforts made to exchange
the prisoners may be found in the published reports of our Commissioner of Exchanges, and they were referred to in several
of my messages to the Confederate Congress. They show the anxiety felt on our part to relieve the captives on both sides of
the sufferings incident to imprisonment, and how that humane purpose was obstructed by the enemy in disregard of the cartel
which had been agreed upon. * * *
I am, very respectfully and truly, yours,
To: R. R. STEVENSON, Stewiacke, N. S.
Special attention is called to
the following from the venerable Adjutant General of the Confederacy, whose endorsement upon the report of Colonel Chandler
has been as widely copied (and perverted) as the reported action of Mr. Seddon "indignantly removing General Winder":
ALEXANDRIA, VA., JULY 9, 1871.
Dear Sir -- * * * I can, however,
with perfect truth declare as my conviction that General Winder, who had the control of the Northern prisoners, was an honest,
upright and humane gentleman and as such I had known him for many years. He had the reputation in the Confederacy of treating
the prisoners confided to his general supervision with great kindness and consideration, and fully possessed the confidence
of the Government, which would not have been the case had he adopted a different course of action toward them; and this was
exemplified by his assignment to Andersonville by the special direction of the President. Both the President and Secretary
of War always manifested great anxiety that the prisoners should be kindly treated and amply provided with food to the extent
of our means, and they both used their best means and exertions to these ends.
To: DR. R. R. STEVENSON, Stewiacke, Nova Scotia.
The two following letters need
no comment, except to call attention to the fact that General Beauregard's call for the prisoners was avowedly in retaliation
for General Sherman's previous course, and that General Winder's refusal to fill the requisition is a most significant refutation
of the charge of brutality to prisoners made against him:
ALEXANDRIA, April 3, 1868.
My Dear Captain -- Yours of the
2d has been received, and in reply I beg leave to say that I have no copies of the letters and orders referred to, but I have
an entry in my journal of the date of the 9th of January, 1865, whilst headquarters were at Montgomery, Alabama. The entry
is substantially as follows: "In pursuance of orders, I addressed a letter to General Winder, requesting him to turn over
thirty Federal prisoners to Major Hottle, quartermaster, for the purpose of taking out sub terra shells and torpedoes from
the cuts in the West Point and Atlanta railroad. Shortly afterwards I received from General Winder a reply, stating that he
could not comply with the request, as it would not only violate the orders of the War Department, but would be in contravention
of the laws and usages of war."
I have no objection to your using this information
on such occasions and terms as you may deem proper for the vindication of your father, but I would suggest this consideration:
that a public use in the present heated and embittered condition of political affairs would result in no practical use, and
might possibly create unnecessary prejudice against those now living and to Southern interests.
Very truly yours,
GEORGE W. BRENT.
NEW ORLEANS, February 15, 1876.
My Dear Sir -- I regret to find
from your letter of inquiry, that General Sherman seeks to extenuate one of those violations of the rules of civilized warfare,
which characterized his campaign through Georgia and South Carolina, by the easily refuted slander upon the Confederate army
to which you call my attention, namely: That in his employment of Confederate prisoners during that campaign to search and
dig up torpedoes, he acted "only in retaliation" for the like employment of Federal prisoners by Confederate commanders --
an assertion reckless even for General Sherman, whose heedlessness of what he writes and speaks was notorious before the appearance
of his "Memoirs."
I myself can recall no occasion when Federal prisoners were
or could have been employed, as alleged by that General, even had it been legitimate, and not a shocking inhumanity, to do
so; that is to say, I do not believe General Sherman can specify, with date any place that came into possession of the Confederates
during the war, where torpedoes were planted, which they had to remove either by resort to the use of Federal prisoners or
any other means. There certainly was never such a place or occasion in the departments which I commanded.
I recollect distinctly, however, learning immediately after the fall of Savannah, that General Sherman himself had put Confederate
prisoners to this extraordinary use in his approach to that city, as also at the capture of Fort McAllister, and I thereupon
made, through my Chief of Staff, Colonel G. W. Brent, a requisition on our Commissary of Prisoners of War, General Winder,
for a detachment of Federal prisoners, to be employed in retaliation, should the occasion occur. I further recollect that
your brother answered that under his instructions from the Confederate War Department, he could not comply; also that, in
his belief, prisoners could not rightfully be so employed.
That General Sherman,
as I had heard at the time, did so employ his prisoners, stands of record at page 194, Vol. 2, of his Memoirs: "On the 8th
(December, 1864), as I rode along, I found the column turned out of the main road, marching through the fields. Close by,
on the corner of a fence, was a group of men standing around a handsome young officer, whose foot had been blown to pieces
by a torpedo planted in the road. * * * * * He told me that he was riding along with the rest of his brigade staff of the
Seventeenth Corps, when a torpedo, trodden on by his horse, had exploded, killing the horse and literally blowing off all
the flesh from one of his legs. I saw the terrible wound and made full inquiry into the facts. There had been no resistance
at that point; nothing to give warning of the danger; the Rebels had planted eight inch shells in the road with friction matches
to explode them by being trodden on. This was no war, but murder, and it made me very angry. I immediately ordered a lot of
Rebel prisoners to be brought from the provost guard with picks and shovels, and made them march in close order along the
road, so as to explode or discover and dig them up. They begged hard, but I reiterated the order, and could hardly help laughing
at their stepping so gingerly along the road where it was supposed sunken torpedoes might explode at each step, but they found
no other till near Fort McAllister."
Here we have his own confession that he
pushed a mass of unarmed men, prisoners of war, ahead of his column to explode torpedoes, which he apprehended were planted
in the approaches to a strongly fortified position, his ability to carry which he greatly doubted, as may be seen from his
"Memoirs." He does not there pretend that he acted "in retaliation" at all, but because, forsooth he was "angry" that one
of his officers had been badly wounded by a torpedo which had been planted in his path "without giving warning of danger"!
Surely his own narrative, with its painful levity, gives as bad a hue to the affair as General Sherman's worst enemies could
desire. It remains to be said that he omits mention of another instance of this unwarrantable employment of prisoners of war.
After General Hazen (on December 13) had handsomely assaulted and carried Fort McAllister, General Sherman, in person, ordered
the Confederate engineer officer of the fort, with men of that garrison then prisoners, to remove all the torpedoes in front
of the fort which might remain unexploded; gallant soldiers who under their commander, Major G. MT. Anderson, had "only succumbed
as each man was individually overpowered." (General Hazen's official report). Major Anderson, in his report, says: "This hazardous
duty (removal of the torpedoes) was performed without injury to any one; but it appearing to me as an unwarrantable and improper
treatment of prisoners of war, I have thought it right to refer to it in this report." General Sherman might with equal right
have pushed a body of prisoners in front of an assaulting column to serve as a gabion roller.
His manner of relating the incidents, which I have quoted in his own words, is calculated to give the impression that the
use of the torpedoes is something so abhorrent in regular warfare that he could subject his unarmed prisoners to the hazard
of exploding them and deserve credit for the act! A strange obliquity in the general in chief of an army which has, at the
present moment, a special torpedo corps attached to it as an important defensive resource to fortified places; in one who,
moreover, was carefully taught at West Point how to plant the equivalent of torpedoes as known to engineers of that date -
i.e. "crows' feet," "trous de loups," "fougasses," "mines," etc.
For my part,
from the day of the capitulation of Fort Sumter, in 1861, when, in order to save a brave soldier and his command from all
unnecessary humiliation, I allowed Major Anderson the same terms offered him before the attack - i. e., to salute his flag
with fifty guns, and to go forth with colors flying and drums beating, taking off company and private property -- down to
the close of the war, I always favored and practiced liberal treatment of prisoners. At the same time, however, I always urged
the policy of rigid and prompt retaliation, at all cost, for every clear infraction of the settled laws of war; for history
shows it to be the only effectual method of recalling an enemy from inhuman courses. Washington never hesitated to apply the
painful remedy during our Revolutionary war.
I am yours, most truly,
G. T. BEAUREGARD.
W. H. WINDER, Esq., New York, N. Y.
Since the foregoing was written
we have seen a letter from Judge Ould, in the Saint Louis Globe Democrat, which so ably refutes the charge made against him
on the faith of a garbled letter of his, and brings out other points so clearly, that we give it entire except the introductory
RICHMOND, VA., October 5th, 1875.
"I will now give the history
and contents of the letter which "S." produces as the sole proof of my premeditated complicity in the murder of Federal prisoners.
When Richmond was evacuated in April, 1865, this letter was found among the scattered debris of General Winder's office. The
first time I ever saw it published in full was in the Washington Chronicle, a well known Republican paper, of the date of
August 25, 1868. It was then and there made the basis of a savage attack upon me. Of course, everything in the letter which
could be damaging to me was set forth. The latter part of it was printed in italics. I will give the letter as it appeared
in the Chronicle, and beneath it I will give the version of "S." I did not retain a copy, but I believe the letter as it appeared
in the Chronicle is exactly the one which I did write. Here, then, are the two versions:
THE CHRONICLE VERSION.
Sir -- A flag of truce boat has
arrived with 300 political prisoners, General Barrow and several other prominent men amongst them.
I wish you to send me, at 4 o'clock Wednesday morning, all the military prisoners (except officers) and all the political
prisoners you have. If any of the political prisoners have on hand proof enough to convict them of being spies, or of having
committed other offences which should subject them to punishment, so state opposite their names. Also, state whether you think,
under the circumstances, they should be released.
The arrangement I have made
works largely in our favor. We get rid of a set of miserable wretches, and receive some of the best material I ever saw.
Robert OULD, Agent of Exchange.
To: Brigadier General WINDER.
THE VERSION OF "S."
"The arrangement I have made
works largely in our favor; in getting rid of a miserable set of wretches, and receive in return some of the best material
I ever saw. This, of course, is between ourselves."
"S." gives as the date of
my letter in his first communication August 1, 1864. In his last communication "S." admits his mistake, or that of the compositor,
and says that the true date is August 1, 1863. It will be seen, according to the copy in the Chronicle, that the letter has
no date. It is the veriest pretence for "S." to shift his date from August 1, 1864, to August 1, 1863. I am confident the
letter had no date, and that it was written long before August 1863. Your readers can draw their own conclusion as to this
double attempt to change the face of my letter.
But, dates aside, I ask your
attention to the difference of the two versions. "S." not only cuts of the first part of the letter, which explains the purport
of the latter part, but he adds to the original the words, "this of course is between ourselves."In his last communication
he makes great ado about these words, and lo! they now turn out to be a forgery. I do not think they amount to much nor would
they be any cause of shame if I had written them. But "S." seems to think otherwise, and makes use of a plain forgery to sustain
his false charge against me. Could not "S." have been content with suppressing that portion of my letter which explained its
last paragraph, without forging an addition to it? Moreover, the version of "S." makes me use worse grammar than is my wont.
In addition to his attempt to show me to be a felon, does he desire to take from me "the benefit of clergy"? When this letter
of mine appeared in the Washington Chronicle, in 1868, I addressed a communication to the National Intelligencer, which was
published in that paper on the 29th August, 1868, explaining the circumstances under which it was written, and showing very
clearly that the latter paragraph of it did not relate to soldiers at all. In that communication I stated what I now repeat
-- that some three hundred and fifty political prisoners had arrived at City Point, and being anxious not to detain the Federal
steamer, I wrote to General Winder to send all the political prisoners he had in his charge, as well as soldiers; that it
was as to these political prisoners that I wrote the last paragraph in the letter; that it so manifestly appeared from the
context; that every word in the paragraph was true, both as to the class received and those sent off; that not one Confederate
soldier in service was received at that time; that scarcely any one of the three hundred and fifty had been in prison a month;
that all of them had been recently arrested as sympathizers with the Confederate cause; that those sent off were miserable
wretches indeed, mostly robbers and incendiaries from Western Virginia, who were Confederates when Confederate armies occupied
their country, and Unionists when Federal troops held it, and who in turn preyed upon one side and the other, and so pillaged
that portion of the State that it had almost been given over to desolation; that they were men without character or principle,
who were ready to take any oath or engage in any work of plunder; that I then reiterated what I had before written -- that
they were "a set of miserable wretches"; that the Federal soldiers who had passed through my hands knew well, I hoped, that
I would not have applied any such phrase to them; and especially so if the calamities of prison life had prostrated them,
and that inasmuch as in my letter I had referred to an arrangement which I had made, I must have referred to the exchange
of political prisoners which I had just negotiated and not to the exchange of military prisoners, which was negotiated by
After this full and frank explanation of the letter, nothing more
for some seven years was heard of it, until it was revived in a false forged and garbled form by "S." a few weeks since.
Before its publication in the Chronicle it had, however, appeared in the famous Wirz trial -- whether in its true or false
form, I do not know. In this respect the letter was more fortunate than I was, for I was not permitted to appear. Wirz had
summoned me through the proper channel as a witness in his behalf. I went to Washington in obedience to the summons, and was
in attendance upon the court martial. While in such attendance my subpoena was revoked by the Judge Advocate, and I was dismissed.
I venture to assert that this was the first case where it ever happened, even in countries more unhappy than our own, that
a witness who had been duly summoned for the defence was dismissed by the prosecution.
In my letter to Colonel Wood, the chief complaint that I made against "S." was that he published only a part of my letter
to General Winder and ignored the remainder, which was a full explanation of what he did publish. The matter of dates to which
I referred was merely incidental. Now, "S." in his reply has a good deal to say about the matter of dates, without pretending
to excuse himself for garbling the body of the letter. Whether he has any excuse I know not, but I certainly do know that
he has offered none. When I charge him with suppressing a material part of my letter, a part which gave full explanation,
it will not do for "S." to ignore such charge, and launch out into explanations, satisfactory or unsatisfactory, about a mere
change of dates.
In his last communication, "S." seeks to answer what I had
declared in my letter to Colonel Wood, to wit: That the Federal authorities were responsible for the suffering of Federal
prisoners. I referred to a certain statement of mine published in August, 1868, in the Saint Louis Times and National Intelligencer.
I herewith send a copy of that statement, and beg, in the interest of the truth of history, that you will republish it. I
ask it, not in the interest of hate, nor to revive sectional controversy, nor to inflame the now subsiding passions of war.
Least of all do I desire to put any stigma upon the people of the North, for the sin was that of individuals, and they few
in number. I think, if a due investigation were made, it would be found that the number of sinners would not exceed a half
dozen. I substantially proposed in my statement to prove my case by Federal testimony. The witnesses are alive now, and the
proofs at hand, if the archives have not been mutilated or destroyed. The due investigation of such matter, if prosecuted
with Judicial fairness, instead of increasing any feeling of hate between the North and South, would tend to allay it. It
would conclusively show that the sections were not to be blamed; that the people on both sides were not justly amenable to
any reproach; that honor, integrity and Christian civilization in the main reigned North and South; that maltreatment of the
defenceless and suffering was loathed alike by Federal and Confederate people; that the story of their participation in or
countenance of such wrongs is a shameless libel, and that our civil war, although necessarily harsh and brutal in its general
aspect, was illustrated on both sides by high and shining examples of moderation, kindness, good faith, generosity and knightly
courtesy. I do not believe that an investigation which would develop these facts would tend to fan into a flame the old passions
of the war. So far from that, I believe it would serve to make us respect each other the more. It is true that the national
wrath might fall upon a few persons who really are the only ones who are responsible for the frightful miseries of the prisoners
of the war; but such a result, even independent of the vindication of the truth, would be far better than that the people
of either side should believe that the other, even under the promptings of evil passions, joined in a crusade against the
helpless and suffering.
The statement which I ask you to publish contains a
reference to only some of the points and some of the proofs which can be brought forward. I seek not to make myself prominent,
or to bring myself unduly forward in this matter. I wish the cup could pass from me. But the official position which I occupied
during the war, as well as the fact that the propositions looking to the relief of prisoners went through my hands, seems
to require that I should step to the front. When I do I hope that my conduct may be marked by becoming modesty and firmness.
In my letter to Colonel Wood, I stated that "every one of the many propositions for the relief of Federal prisoners, which
I not only made, but pressed upon the Federal authorities, was uniformly disregarded." The proof of that is found in the statement
which I now ask you to publish. "S." attempts to meet my charge by showing from the evidence given on the Wirz trial, that
there was a large amount of stores near Andersonville during the time the Federal prisoners were confined there. I do not
know whether this evidence conforms to the truth or not. But, admitting that it does, how does it answer the charge that I
proposed to exchange officer for officer and man for man; or the charge that I proposed that the prisoners on each side should
be attended by a proper number of their own surgeons, who, under rules to be established, should be permitted to take charge
of their health and comfort, with authority, also, to receive and distribute such contributions of money, food, clothing and
medicine, as might be forwarded for the relief of prisoners; or the charge that I offered to the United States authorities
their sick and wounded, without requiring any equivalent; or the charge that I offered to make purchases of medicines from
the United States authorities, to be used exclusively for the relief of Federal prisoners, paying therefor in gold, cotton
or tobacco, at double or thrice the price, if required, and giving assurances that the medicines so bought would be used exclusively
in the treatment of Federal prisoners, and, indeed, that they might be brought within our lines by Federal surgeons and dispensed
In my letter to Colonel Wood, I stated that I offered the Andersonville
prisoners, without requiring equivalents, in August, 1864; that I urged the Federal authorities to send transportation for
them quickly, and that I accompanied the offer by an official statement of the monthly mortality, and set forth our utter
inability to provide for the prisoners. "S." endeavors to assail the truth of this statement by showing that there were large
supplies at Andersonville at or about that time. Admitting the truth of the figures of "S." (for as to their correctness I
know nothing), how does that fact disprove our utter inability? The mere fact that I offered these prisoners, without requiring
equivalents, is very strong proof of itself of our inability. But were sick men to be physicked with "bacon, meal, flour,
rice, syrup and whiskey," which were stored at Americus and elsewhere in Southwestern Georgia? I offered to send off the sick
and wounded wherever they might be, at Andersonville and elsewhere. We had no medicines -- the blockade was rigid -- the Federal
authorities had declined to send any medicines, even by the hands of their own surgeons, and therefore it was I said we were
utterly unable to provide for the prisoners. It will he observed that my declaration of utter inability to provide for the
prisoners follows immediately my statement of the monthly mortality at Andersonville. I referred more to medicine than to
food though I did not intend entirely to exclude the latter. But does not "S." know that there were others besides the prisoners
at Andersonville, who were to be cared for? We had a large army in the field. We had our own hospitals to supply. Our armies
everywhere were drawing from Georgia. It was because the stores at Americus, Albany and elsewhere were not sufficient to supply
both prisoners and our own soldiers, that I made the propositions to the Federal authorities which I have heretofore mentioned
"S." also denies that the mortality at Andersonville was greater after I proposed to deliver the Federal prisoners, without
requiring their equivalents, than it was before. It is the truth, however much "S." may deny it. Of course I speak of the
percentage of mortality, and not the aggregate. After August there were fewer prisoners at Andersonville. They were removed
to other depots. The mortality rate was greater after August than before. It could have been spared if transportation had
been sent when I so requested.
I am sorry to tax your columns with so long a
communication, but I could not well do justice to the subject in less space.
We will add an explanation of
another letter which purports to have been written by Judge Ould during the war, and which has been widely circulated in the
Radical papers as proof positive of inexcusable cruelty to prisoners.
version of this letter is as follows:
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA WAR DEPARTMENT,
Richmond, Virginia, March
My Dear Sir -- If the exigencies
of our army require the use of trains for the transportation of corn, pay no regard to the Yankee prisoners. I would rather
they should starve than our own people suffer.
I suppose I can safely put it
in writing, "Let them suffer."
Very truly, your faithful friend,
To: Colonel A. C. MYERS.
Judge Ould says that he does
not remember ever to have written such a letter, and we have searched his letter book (in which he was accustomed to have
all of his letters copied) in vain for the slightest trace of it. We might simply demand the production of the original letter.
But Judge Ould thinks it possible that in one of his many contests with Confederate quartermasters in the interest of Federal
prisoners he may have complained that transportation was not promptly furnished the prisoners -- that the parties complained
of made explanations to the effect that they could not furnish the transportation at the time without seriously interfering
with feeding the Confederate army, and that he may have made on the papers some such endorsement, referring to some special
set of circumstances. The reference could not be to the general question of feeding the prisoners, for with that Judge Ould
had nothing to do; and he defies the production of all of the papers in his department to show that he was ever otherwise
than humane to prisoners.
We have thus given the other side the full benefit
of about all they have been able in eleven years to garble from the Confederate records.
FIGURES OF SECRETARY STANTON.
Yet after all that has been said
on this subject, the stubborn fact remains that over three per cent more Confederates perished in Northern prisons than of
Federal prisoners in Southern prisons. The figures to prove this statement have been several times given in this discussion,
but they are so significant that we give them again in the form in which they were presented by Honorable B. H. Hill in his
masterly reply to Mr. Blaine.
Mr. Hill said:
"Now, will the gentleman believe testimony from the dead? The Bible says, `The tree is known by its fruits.' And, after all,
what is the test of suffering of these prisoners North and South? The test is the result. Now, I call the attention of gentlemen
to this fact, that the report of Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War -- you will believe him, will you not? -- on the 19th of
July, 1866 -- send to the library and get it -- exhibits the fact that of the Federal prisoners in Confederate hands during
the war, only 22,576 died, while of the Confederate prisoners in Federal hands 26,436 died. And Surgeon General Barnes reports
in an official report -- I suppose you will believe him -- that in round numbers the Confederate prisoners in Federal hands
amounted to 220,000, while the Federal prisoners in Confederate hands amounted to 270,000. Out of the 270,000 in Confederate
hands 22,000 died, while of the 220,000 Confederates in Federal hands over 26,000 died. The ratio is this:
More than twelve per cent of the Confederates in Federal hands died, and less than nine per cent. of the Federals in Confederate
hands died. What is the logic of these facts according to the gentleman from Maine? I scorn to charge murder upon the officials
of Northern prisons, as the gentleman has done upon Confederate prison officials. I labor to demonstrate that such miseries
are inevitable in prison life, no matter how humane the regulations."
has since been made by the Radical press to discredit these figures, and it has been charged that "Jeff. Davis manufactured
them for Hill's use." But with ample time to prepare his rejoinder, and all of the authorities at hand, Mr. Blaine did not
dare to deny them. He fully admitted their truth, and only endeavored to weaken their force by the following explanation,
of which we give him the full benefit:
"Now, in regard to the relative number
of prisoners that died in the North and the South respectively, the gentleman undertook to show that a great many more prisoners
died in the hands of the Union authorities than in the hands of the Rebels. I have had conversations with surgeons of the
army about that, and they say that there were a large number of deaths of Rebel prisoners, but that during the latter period
of the war they came into our hands very much exhausted, ill clad, ill fed, diseased, so that they died in our prisons of
diseases that they brought with them. And one eminent surgeon said, without wishing at all to be quoted in this debate, that
the question was not only what was the condition of the prisoners when they came to us, but what it was when they were sent
back. Our men were taken in full health and strength. They came back wasted and worn -- mere skeletons. The Rebel prisoners,
in large numbers, were, when taken, emaciated and reduced; and General Grant says that at the time such superhuman efforts
were made for exchange there were 90,000 men that would have reenforced the Confederate armies the next day, prisoners in
our hands who were in good health and ready for fight. This consideration sheds a great deal of light on what the gentleman
The substance of this extract is that Mr. Blaine does not deny the
greater mortality of our prisoners in Northern prisons, but accounts for it on the supposition that our men were so much "exhausted,
so ill clad, ill fed and diseased," that they "died of diseases that they brought with them."
Now, if this explanation were true it would contain a fatal stab to Mr. Blaine's whole argument to prove Confederate cruelty
to prisoners. If our own soldiers were so ill clad and ill fed as to render them exhausted, and so diseased that when taken
prisoners they died like sheep, despite the tender nursing and kind, watchful care which (according to Mr Blaine) they received
at the hands of their captors, how could a Government which had not the means of making better provision for its own soldiers
provide any better than we did for the thousands of prisoners which were captured by these emaciated skeletons? And what shall
we say of General Grant and his splendid army of two hundred thousand hale, hearty, well equipped men, who, in the campaign
of 1864, were beaten on every field by forty thousand of these "emaciated and reduced" creatures, until, after losing over
a third of their men, they were compelled to skulk behind their fortifications at Petersburg, and absolutely refused "the
open field and fair fight," which Lee and his "ragamuffins" offered them at every point from the Wilderness to Petersburg?
But, of course, the whole thing is absurd. Our men were on half rations, and in rags, it is true; but a healthier, hardier
set of fellows never marched or fought, and they died in Northern prisons (as we shall hereafter show) because of inexcusably
These official figures of Mr. Stanton and Surgeon General Barnes
tell the whole story, and nail to the counter the base slander against the Confederate Government.
FAILURE TO MAKE A CASE AGAINST MR. DAVIS.
But a crowning proof that this
charge of cruelty to prisoners is false, may be more clearly brought out than it has been above intimated. In the proceedings
against Wirz, Mr. Davis and other Confederate leaders were unquestionably on trial. Every effort that partisan hatred or malignant
ingenuity could invent was made to connect Mr. Davis with and make him responsible for the "crimes of Andersonville." The
captured Confederate archives were searched, perjured witnesses were summoned, and the ablest lawyers of the reigning party
put their wits to work; but the prosecution utterly broke down. They were unable to make out a case upon which Holt and Chipman
dared to go into a trial even before a military court, which was wont to listen patiently to all of the evidence for the prosecution,
and coolly dismiss the witnesses for the defence. Does not this fact speak volumes to disprove the charge, and to show that
no cases can be made out against our Government?
But an even stronger point
remains. After despairing of convicting Mr. Davis on any testimony which they had or could procure, they tried to bribe poor
Wirz to save his own life by swearing away the life of Mr. Davis, who was then in irons at Fortress Monroe.
Mr. Hill thus strongly puts it:
Now, sir, there is another fact. Wirz was put
on trial, but really Mr. Davis was the man intended to be tried through him. Over one hundred and sixty witnesses were introduced
before the military commission. The trial lasted three months. The whole country was under military despotism; citizens labored
under duress; quite a large number of Confederates were seeking to make favor with the powers of the Government. Yet, sir,
during those three months, with all the witnesses they could bring to Washington, not one single man ever mentioned the name
of Mr. Davis in connection with a single atrocity at Andersonville or elsewhere. The gentleman from Maine, with all his research
into all the histories of the Duke of Alva and the massacre of Saint Bartholomew and the Spanish inquisition, has not been
able to frighten up such a witness yet.
Now, sir, there is a witness on this
subject. Wirz Bras condemned found guilty, sentenced to be executed; and I have now before me the written statement of his
counsel, a Northern man and a Union man. He gave this statement to the country, and it has never been contradicted.
Hear what this gentleman says:
"On the night before the execution of the prisoner
Wirz, a telegram was sent to the Northern press from this city, stating that Wirz had made important disclosures to General
L. C. Baker, the well known detective, implicating Jefferson Davis, and that the confession would probably be given to the
public. On the same evening some parties came to the confessor of Wirz, Re. --. Father Boyle, and also to me as his counsel,
one of them informing me that a high Cabinet officer wished to assure Wirz that if he would implicate Jefferson Davis with
atrocities committed at Andersonville, his sentence would be committed. The messenger requested me to inform Wirz of this.
In presence of Father Boyle I told Wirz next morning what had happened."
"Captain Wirz simply and quietly replied: 'Mr. Schade, you know that
I have always told you that I do not know anything about Jefferson Davis. He had no connection with me as to what was done
at Andersonville. I would not become a traitor against him or anybody else, even to save my life."
Sir, what Wirz, within two hours of his execution, would not say for his life, the gentleman from Maine says to the country
to keep himself and his party in power.
The statement of Mr. Schade is confirmed
by the following extract from the Cycle, of Mobile, Alabama:
In the brief report
of the speech of Mr. Hill in Congress on Monday last, copied in another place, it will be observed that he refers to a statement
made by Captain Wirz to his counsel just before his death. The subjoined letter from Professor R. B. Winder, M. D. now Dean
of the Baltimore Dental College, who was a prisoner in a cell near that of Wirz, will give a more detailed account of the
same transaction. The letter was written in reply to an inquiry made in the course of investigation in the history of the
transactions which have been made the subject of discussion in Congress.
Winder speaks of the statement as having been already several times published. We do not remember to have seen it before.
At any rate, it will well bear repetition, and will come in very pertinently, apropos of the recent debate:
BALTIMORE, November 16, 1875.
Major W.T. WALTHALL:
My Dear Sir -- Your letter of
the 25th of last month was duly received, and except from sickness should have been replied to long ago. I take pleasure in
giving you the facts which you request, but they have already been published several times in the different papers of the
A night or two before Wirz's execution, early in the evening, I saw
several male individuals (looking like gentlemen) pass into Wirz's cell. I was naturally on the "qui vive" to know the meaning
of this unusual visitation, and was hoping and expecting, too, that it might be a reprieve -- for even at that time I was
not prepared to believe that so foul a judicial murder would be perpetrated -- so I stood at my door and directly saw these
men pass out again. I think, indeed I am quite certain, there were three of them. Wirz came to his door, which was immediately
opposite to mine, and I gave him a look of inquiry which he at once understood. He said: "These men have just offered me my
liberty if I will testify against Mr. Davis and criminate him with the charges against the Andersonville prison; I told them
that I could not do this, as I neither knew Mr. Davis personally officially. or socially, but that if they expected with the
offer of my miserable life to purchase me to treason and treachery to the South, they had undervalued me." I asked him if
he knew who the parties were. He said "no," and that they had refused to tell him who they were -- but assured him that they
had full power to do whatever they might promise. This is all, and as you perceive, I did not dear the conversation, but merely
report what Wirz said to me -- hut he also made the same statement to his counsel, Mr. Schade, of Washington city, and he
has also, under his own signature, published these facts.
You will better understand
the whole matter from the accompanying diagram of our respective jails. The doors opened immediately opposite, and it was
such hot weather that they allowed the doors to be open -- the corridor being always heavily guarded by sentinels, and a sentinel
was always posted directly between these openings -- but Wirz and myself were often allowed to converse.
Very truly yours,
R. B. WINDER.
Have we not made out our case
so far as we have gone? But our material is by no means exhausted, and we shall take up the subject again in our next issue.
We propose to discuss still further the question of exchange, and then to pass to a consideration of the treatment of Confederate
prisoners by the Federal authorities. We ask that any of our friends who have material illustrating any branch of this subject
will forward it to us at once.
We have a number of diaries of prison life by
Confederates who did not find Elmira, Johnson's Island, Fort Delaware, Rock Island, Camp Douglas, Camp Chase, &c., quite
so pleasant as Mr. Blaine's rose colored picture of Northern prisons would make it appear. And we have also strong testimony
from Federal soldiers and citizens of the North as to the truth of our version of the prison question. But we would be glad
to receive further statements bearing don this whole question, as we desire to prepare for the future historian the fullest
possible material for the vindication of our slandered people.
To those who
may deprecate the reopening of this question, we would say that we did not reopen it. The South has rested in silence for
years under these slanderous charges; and we should have, perhaps, been content to accumulate the material in our archives,
and leave our vindication to the "coming man" of the future who shall be able to write a true history of the great struggle
for constitutional freedom. But inasmuch as the question has been again thrust upon the country by a Presidential aspirant,
and the Radical press is filled with these calumnies against our Government, we feel impelled to give at least an outline
of our defence. We will only add that we have not made, and do not mean to make, a single statement which we cannot prove
before any fair minded tribunal, from documents in our possession.
Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 1, Richmond, Virginia,
March, 1876, No.3.
Recommended Reading: To Die in Chicago: Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas 1862-65 (Hardcover) (446 pages).
Description: The author’s research is exacting, methodical, and painstaking. He brought zero bias to the enterprise
and the result is a stunning achievement that is both scholarly and readable. Douglas, the "accidental" prison camp, began
as a training camp for Illinois volunteers.
Donalson and Island #10 changed that. The long war that no one expected… combined with inclement weather – freezing
temperatures - primitive medical care and the barbarity of the captors created in the author’s own words "a death camp."
Stanton's and Grant's policy of halting the prisoner exchange behind the pretense of Fort Pillow accelerated the suffering.
In the latest
edition, Levy found the long lost hospital records at the National Archives which prove conclusively that casualties were
deliberately “under reported.” Prisoners were tortured, brutality was tolerated and corruption was widespread.
The handling of the dead rivals stories of Nazi Germany. The largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere is filled with....the
bodies of Camp Douglas dead, 4200 known and 1800 unknown.
No one should be allowed to speak of Andersonville until they have absorbed the horror of Douglas, also known as “To
Die in Chicago.”
So Far from Dixie: Confederates in Yankee Prisons (Hardcover: 312 pages).
Description: This book is the gripping history of five
men who were sent to Elmira, New York's
infamous POW camp, and survived to document their stories. You will hear and even envision the most stirring and gripping
true stories of each soldier that lived and survived the most horrible nightmares of the conflict while tortured and
even starved as "THE PRISONER OF WAR."
Life in a Union Civil War Prisoner of War Camp: Life as a
Civil War Prisoner
Reading: Portals to Hell: Military
Prisons of the Civil War. Description: The military prisons
of the Civil War, which held more than four hundred thousand soldiers and caused the deaths of fifty-six thousand men, have
been nearly forgotten. Lonnie R. Speer has now brought to life the least-known men in the great struggle between
the Union and the Confederacy, using their own words and observations as they endured a true
“hell on earth.” Continued below...
Drawing on scores of previously unpublished firsthand accounts, Portals to Hell presents the prisoners’
experiences in great detail and from an impartial perspective. The first comprehensive study of all major prisons of both
the North and the South, this chronicle analyzes the many complexities of the relationships among prisoners, guards, commandants,
and government leaders. It is available in paperback and hardcover.
Reading: The True Story of Andersonville Prison: A Defense of Major Henry Wirz. Description: During the Civil War, James Madison Page was a prisoner in different places in the South. Seven months of that
time was spent at Andersonville. While at
that prison, he became well acquainted with Major Wirz – who had previously held the rank of captain. Page takes the
stand and states that "Captain Wirz was unjustly held responsible for the hardship and mortality of Andersonville."
It was his belief that both Federal and Confederate authorities must share culpability. Why? Because the Union knew the inability
of the Confederacy to meet the reasonable wants of its prisoners of war, as it lacked supplies for its own needs
– particularly for its Confederate soldiers - and since the Federal authorities failed to exercise a humane policy in
the exchange of those captured in battle... that policy was commonly referred to as prisoner exchange. Continued below...
"with malice toward none and charity for all", denies conscious prejudice, and makes the sincere endeavor to put himself in
the other fellow's place and make such a statement of the matter in hand as will satisfy all lovers of truth and justice.
Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life. Description: Most histories of the Civil War focus on battles and top brass. Hardtack and Coffee
is one of the few to give a vivid, detailed picture of what ordinary soldiers endured every day—in camp, on the march,
at the edge of a booming, smoking hell. John D. Billings of Massachusetts enlisted in the
Army of the Potomac and survived the hellish conditions as a “common foot soldier”
of the American Civil War. "Billings describes
an insightful account of the conflict – the experiences of every day life as a common foot-soldier – and a view
of the war that is sure to score with every buff." Continued below...
authenticity of his book is heightened by the many drawings that a comrade, Charles W. Reed, made while in the field. This
is the story of how the Civil War soldier was recruited, provisioned, and disciplined. Described here are the types of men
found in any outfit; their not very uniform uniforms; crowded tents and makeshift shelters; difficulties in keeping clean,
warm, and dry; their pleasure in a cup of coffee; food rations, dominated by salt pork and the versatile cracker or hardtack;
their brave pastimes in the face of death; punishments for various offenses; treatment in sick bay; firearms and signals and
modes of transportation. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Hardtack and Coffee is striking for the pulse of life that runs through
Recommended Viewing: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The
Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation,
reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When
people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters
and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with
still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era
he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew
only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller,
and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the
words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained
photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed
as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every