Humanity to prisoners of war.
He would have turned with loathing from misuse of a prisoner, for there was no characteristic of Jefferson Davis
more marked than his regard for the weak, the helpless, and the captive.
By act of the Confederate Congress and by general orders the same rations served to the Confederates
were issued to the prisoners, though taken from a starving army and people.
Brutal and base was the effort to stigmatize him as a conspirator to maltreat prisoners, but better for him that it was made, for while he was himself yet in prison, the evidences of his humanity were so overwhelming that finally slander stood abashed and malignity recoiled.
Even at Andersonville
, where the hot summer sun was, of course, disastrous to men of the Northern
clime, well-nigh as many of their guard died as of them.
With sixty thousand more Federal prisoners in the South
than there were Confederate prisoners in the North
, four thousand more Confederates than Federals died in prison.
A cyclone of rhetoric cannot shake this mountain of fact, and these facts are alike immovable:
1. He tried to get the prisoners exchanged by the cartel agreed on, but as soon as an excess of prisoners was in Federal hands this was refused.
2. A delegation of the prisoners themselves was sent to Washington
to represent the situation and the plea of humanity for exchange.
3. Vice-President Stephens
was sent to see President Lincoln
by President Davis
, and urge exchange, in order ‘to restrict the calamities of war,’ but he was denied audience.
4. Twice—in January, 1864, and January, 1865—President Davis
proposed, through Commissioner Ouid
, that each side should send surgeons and allow money, food, clothing, and medicines to be sent to prisoners, but no answer came.
5. Unable to get medicines in the Confederacy
, offer was made to buy them from the United States
for the sole use of Federal prisoners.
No answer was made.
6. Then offer was made to deliver the sick and wounded without any equivalent in exchange.
There was no reply for months.
7. Finally, and as soon as the United States
would receive them, thousands of both sick and well were delivered without exchange.
The record leaves no doubt as to the responsibility for refusal to exchange.
assumed it, saying in his letter of August 18, 1864: ‘It is hard on our men in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity 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
If we hold those caught they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time, to release all rebel prisoners North, would insure Sherman
's defeat and would compromise our own safety here.’
Alexander H. Stephens
declared that the effort to fix odium on President Davis
constituted ‘one of the boldest and baldest attempted outrages upon the truth of history which has ever been essayed.’
Charles A. Dana
, of the New York Sun
, formerly Assistant Secretary of War
, nobly vindicated President Davis
while he lived, declared him ‘altogether acquitted’ of the charge, and said of him dead, ‘A majestic soul has passed.’
When General Lee
congratulated his army on the victories of Richmond
, he said to them: ‘Your humanity to the wounded and the prisoners was the fit and crowning glory of your valor.’
And could that army now march by, they would lift those laurels from their bayonets and throw them upon the grave of the Confederate President