‘Yes, sir; you are certainly excusable and justifiable in coming to me. I realize that situation. I am doing all I can to remedy matters and to relieve the deplorable condition, but I am hampered in many ways. We are building a bakery, working day and night to complete it. There will be a change very soon. The men will soon get bread.’ I heartily thanked him. He impressed me as an unassuming, kind-hearted man with a somewhat sad expression of countenance. Within a day or two after this meal of a better quality was served us, and a day or two later still we received corn meal mush and later bread. And this was the man who was charged with putting a deadly poison into vaccine matter that was used in vaccinating the prisoners, as a result of which ‘one hundred and twenty died by vaccine poisoning one week!’ The interview produced upon me a complete revolution of opinion relative to the man. I went to him with fear and trembling, looking for the worst. Everybody who has any knowledge of the conditions in the Northern military prisons during the Civil War knows that the Southern soldiers imprisoned in the North were treated with extreme cruelty and were made to suffer the most unnecessary privations, and the Federal authorities strenuously opposed any exchange of prisoners of war. General Grant, commanding the United States Armies, wrote the following on the subject:
General Foster that under no circumstances will he be authorized to make an exchange of prisoners of war. Exchanges simply reinforce the enemy at once, whilst we do not get the benefit for two or three months and lose the majority entirely. I telegraph this just from hearing that some five hundred or six hundred prisoners had been sent to General Foster.
U. S. Grant, Lieutenant General.