Rebel prisoners in Ohio
.--The following account of the treatment of rebel prisoners in the Ohio Penitentiary
was given in the Richmond Examiner
of March seventeenth, 1864:
The experiences of this war have afforded many examples of Yankee cruelty which have produced an impression more or less distinct upon the enlightened portions of the world.
But the statement which we proceed to give, takes precedence of all that has ever yet been narrated of the atrocities of the enemy; and it is so remarkable, both on account of its matter and the credit that must naturally attach to its authorship, that we doubt whether the so-called civilized world of this generation has produced anywhere any well-authenticated story of equal horror.
The statement we give to our readers is that we have just taken from the lips of Captain Calvin C. Morgan
, a brother of the famous General Morgan
, who arrived in Richmond
under the recent flag of truce, which covered the return of several hundred of our prisoners.
was among those of his brother's expedition who, i;n last July, were incarcerated in the Penitentiary of Ohio
On entering this infamous abode, Captain
and his companions were strapped in a reception-room and their naked bodies: examined there.
They were again stripped in the interior of the prison, and washed in tubs bynegro convicts; their hair cut close to thle scalp, the brutal warden, who was standing by, exhorting the negro barber to “cut off every d----d lock of their rebel hair.”
After these ceremonies, the officers were locked up in cells, the dimensions of which were thirty-eight inches in width, six and a half feet in length, and about the same in height.
In these narrow abodes our brave soldiers were left to pine, branded as felons, goaded by “convict-drivers,” and insulted
by speeches which constantly reminded them of the weak and cruel neglect of that government, on whose behalf, after imperilling their lives, they were now suffering a fate worse than death.
But even these sufferings were nothing to what was reserved for them in another invention of cruelty without a parallel, unless in the secrets of the infernal.
It appears that after General Morgan
's escape, suspicion alighted on the warden, a certain Captain Merion
, who, it was thought, might have been corrupted.
To alleviate the suspicion, (for which there were really no grounds whatever,) the brute commenced a system of devilish persecution of the unfortunate confederate prisoners who remained in his hands.
One part of the system was solitary confinement in dungeons.
These dungeons were close cells, a false door being drawn over the grating so as to exclude light and air. The food allowed the occupants of these dark and noisome places was three ounces of bread and half a pint of water per day. The four walls were bare of every thing but a water-bucket, for the necessities of nature, which was left for days to poison the air the prisoner breathed.
He was denied a blanket; deprived of his overcoat, if he had one, and left standing or stretched with four dark, cold walls around him, with not room enough to walk in to keep up the circulation of his blood, stagnated with the cold, and the silent and un-utterable horrors of his abode.
Confinement in these dungeons was the warden's sentence for the most trivial offences.
On one occasion, one of our prisoners was thus immured because he refused to tell Merion
which one of his companions had whistled, contrary to the prison rules.
But the most terrible visitation of this demon's displeasure occurred not more than six weeks ago.
Some knives had been discovered in the prisoner's cells, and Merion
accused the occupants of meditating their escape.
Seven of them, all officers, and among them Captain Morgan
, were taken to the west end of the building and put in the dark cells there.
They were not allowed a blanket or overcoat, and the thermometer was below zero.
There was no room to pace.
Each prisoner had to struggle for life, as the cold benumbed him, by stamping his feet, beating the walls, now catching a few minutes of horrible sleep on the cold floor, and then starting up to continue, in the dark, his wrestle for life.
“I had been suffering from heart-disease,” says Captain Morgan
. “It was terribly aggravated by the cold and horror of the dungeon in which I was placed.
I had a wet towel, one end of which I pressed to my side; the other would freeze, and I had to put its frozen folds on my naked skin.
I stood this way all night, pressing the frozen towel to my side, and keeping my feet going up and down.
I felt I was struggling for my life.”
endured this confinement for eighteen hours, and was taken out barely alive.
The other prisoners endured it for sixteen days and nights.
In this time they were visited at different periods by the physician of the penitentiary--Dr. Loring
--who felt their pulses and examined their conditions, to ascertain how long life might hold out under the exacting torture.
It was awful, this ceremony of torture, this medical examination of the victims.
The tramp of the prisoners' feet up and down, (there was no room to walk,) as they thus worked for life, was incessantly going on. This black tread-mill of the dungeon could be heard all through the cold and dreary hours of the night.
, who was comparatively a humane person, besought Merion
to release the unhappy men; said they had already been taxed to the point of death.
The wretch replied: “They did not talk right yet.”
He wished them to humble themselves to him. He went into the cell of one of them, Major Webber
, to taunt him. “Sir,” said the officer, “I defy you. You can kill me, but you can add nothing to the sufferings you have already inflicted.
Proceed to kill me; it makes not the slightest difference.”
At the expiration of sixteen days the men were released from the dungeons.
said “he would take them out this time alive, but the next time they offended they would be taken out feet foremost.”
Their appearance was frightful; they could no longer be recognized by their companions.
With their bodies swollen and discolored, with their minds bordering on childishness, tottering, some of them talking foolishly, these wretched men seemed to agree but in one thing — a ravenous desire for food.
“I had known Captain Coles
,” says Captain Morgan
, “as well as my brother.
When he came out of his dungeon, I swear to you I did not know him. His face had swollen to two or three times its ordinary size, and he tottered so that I had to catch him from falling.
was in an awful state.
His face was swollen, and the blood was bursting from the skin.
All of them had to be watched, so as to check them in eating, as they had been starved so long.”
was so fortunate as to obtain a transfer to Johnson's Island
, whence, after being carried to Point Lookout
, he was exchanged.
He says that when “he (got into Beast Butler
's hands, he felt as if he had been translated to Paradise” --showing what comparative things misery and happiness are in this world.
But he left in those black walls of captivity he had been released from, sixty-five brave men, who are wearing their lives away without even a small whisper of relief from that government for which they are martyrs.
Is there any authority in Richmond
that will crook a thumb to save these men, who are not only flesh of our flesh, but the defenders of those in this capital, who, not exactly disowning them, undertake the base and cowardly pretence of ignoring their fate?
What is the confederate definition of “retaliation” ? Captain Morgan
says that on his way down the bay, to Fortress Monroe
, he met Colonel Streight
; that this famous “hostage” ? was fat and rubicund; that he spoke freely of his prison experience in Richmond
, and complained only that he had to eat corn-bread.
This appeared to be the extent of his sufferings, and the confederate limit of retaliation.
Is it necessary to pre-sent the contrast further than we have already done, by a relation of facts at once more truthful and more terrible than any argument or declamation could pos-sibly be?