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The treatment of prisoners during the war between the States.

[Compiled by Secretary of Southern Historical Society.]
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 denunciations cease.

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 [114] 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 [115] 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 compilation, and that our chief difficulty is which documents to select from the vast number which we have in our collection.

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 points:

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. [116]

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, 1864, 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 Wirz 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 27, 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 [117] 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 to secure the relief of captives. Failing in those attempts, I instructed General R. E. Lee to go under 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 [118] 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 their union?

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 inexcusable 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 [119] 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 emaciated 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 [120] 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 the 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 into oblivion.

Mutual respect is needful 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,

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 inqure 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 [121] 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 [122] 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,



Vice-President Alex. H. Stevens,

in his War between the States, declares that the efforts 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 [124] 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!

But 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 tin 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 [125] 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 exchange.

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 [126] 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 authority:

Confederate States of America, war Department, Richmond, Va., January 24, 1868.
Major-General E. A. Hitchcock, Agent of Evchange:
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 and comfort.

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 [128] 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,

Robert Ould, 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 [129] 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?”


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.

The day 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 prevening an exchange.

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 befere 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, [131] 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 [132] 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 Srates 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.

Northern publications.

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 wilful 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 [133] of inquiry appointed by “The United States Sanitary Commission.”

This body is alleged to consist of Valentine Mott, M. D., Edward Delafield, M. D., Gonverneur 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 [134] 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 [135] 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 were 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 daguerreian 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, [136] 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.

Assistant 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 were received.”

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 Committe,” 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 [137] 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 Committee.”

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. 21,” 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, [138] 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.

Shooting prisoners.

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 [139] 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 be expected.

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 [140] 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 [141] was discovered among the prisoners to co-operate in this scheme, and a large number of knives and slung-shot (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, wilful 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, 1861, 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 effect.

Rations 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.” Report, p. 3.

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 [143] 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 [144] 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 clubs.” [145]

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.”

Our prisoners put into camps infected with small-pox.

But even a greater inhumanity than any we have mentioned was perpetrated 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 small-pox 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 the 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. [146]

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 small-pox 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.

Barbarous punishments.

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 heart-broken 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 authorties 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 [147] 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 [148] 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 fully hereafter.

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 wrought 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 condemned.

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 anhungered 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 [149] 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 enlighted judgment of the world, to the sober reflections of our adversaries themselves, and to the solemn and righteous arbitrament of heaven.

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 occured, 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 [150] 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 incontestible 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!

The 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 50,000 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 [151] papers. If any of his or Mr. Stephens' statements are untrue, the means of refutation are at hand; let them be produced.

But 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 exhaused 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,” he 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.”

This 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. [152]

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 6,000 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.

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Rock Island, Ill. (Illinois, United States) (2)
Point Lookout, Md. (Maryland, United States) (2)
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Holly Springs (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (2)
Edgefield (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Delaware (Delaware, United States) (2)
Charleston (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Alton (Illinois, United States) (2)
Vicksburg (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Staunton, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Rocketts (Virginia, United States) (1)
Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
New Orleans (Louisiana, United States) (1)
New Hampshire (New Hampshire, United States) (1)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Milton, Mass. (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Lexington, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Indiana (Indiana, United States) (1)
Dalton, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (1)
Columbia (South Carolina, United States) (1)
City Point (Virginia, United States) (1)

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