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Chapter 45: exchange of prisoners and Andersonville.

The cause of all the sufferings of the men of the South who starved and froze on Johnson's Island and at Point Lookout, and those of the North who succumbed to the heat and exposure at Andersonville, and died for lack of proper medicines (made contraband by their own Government), was the violation of the cartel for the exchange of prisoners by the civil and military authorities of the United States Government.

The reasons for this violation are obvious.

The South, hemmed in on the land by a cordon of bayonets, and on the sea-coast by the enemy's fleet, had only the male population within its borders from which to recruit its armies; while the North, with the ports of the world open to her, could replace the immense losses incurred in battle and by capture, and find ample “food for powder” in every country and among all peoples; so their armies were easily augmented by large enlistments of foreigners and negro slaves captured in the South. [537]

With this bountiful supply of material it seemed to matter little to her if a few thousands of such rank and file were, in violation of the cartel, detained in Southern “prison pens.” The majority of these mercenaries had not even a common language in which to communicate their woes to the people for whom they were paid to fight or die.

It is undeniable that in the “pens” were many brave and patriotic men, who, imbued with the same devoted spirit that animated the people of the South, had been captured in the front line of battle bravely doing their duty; but there were very many more of the kind of soldiers described by General Barlow in the New York World of August IIth. When he was borne off the field of Antietam badly wounded, he saw: “Stragglers who were amusing themselves in the rear of the troops who were fighting in the front. The country in the rear was filled with soldiers broken up and scattered from their commands, who were having ‘picnics.’ They were lying under trees, sleeping, cooking their coffee or other rations, and amusing themselves outside of the enemy's fire. This was by no means confined to the enlisted men, but I saw officers of various ranks, and men of high rank and of different corps and divisions, who had thus deserted their commands at the front.” [538]

Dr. Mann, in the August Century, said in reference to the inmates of Andersonville:

All classes and grades of society were represented within our prison. ... Negro soldiers; Bowery roughs, the worst class of all; mechanics, farmers, gamblers, etc. ... Until about August ist, there was absolutely no check to rascality of any kind, except our own individual physical strength ... a class of skulkers and gamblers, from both the Eastern and Western armies, captured in the rear by the rebel raiders.

“An organized band of over two hundred members, selected from the most unprincipled and healthier prisoners, bound together by oaths, and armed with short, heavy clubs, overran the prison pen. They committed their depredations every night, and became a terror to us all. They finally grew so bold as to knock down and rob men during the day. The gang was known as the ‘ Raiders.’ They had everything their own way for nearly three months, when it was discovered that several of our number had been murdered by them.” A court composed of the prisoners themselves was organized, and “six of their number (Raiders) were found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to be hung.” They were executed by the prisoners, and “Wirz furnished material for a [539] scaffold.” An assemblage of this class of men in a State would destroy the welfare of the community, and render a bloody penal code a dreadful necessity. How great would be the misery of being cooped up with them under restrictions needful for their secure detention!

Keenly alive to the misery of friend or foe, and painfully anxious to assuage it, on July 6, 1861, hearing of the capture of the schooner Savannah with her crew, sailing under Confederate orders, and that they had been put in irons and brought before the courts on charge of treason, President Davis wrote to President Lincoln:

It is the desire of the Government so to conduct the war now existing as to mitigate its horrors as far as may be possible, and with this intent, its treatment of the prisoners captured by its forces has been marked by the greatest humanity and leniency consistent with public obligation. Some returned home on parole, others remained at large under similar conditions within the Confederacy, and all were furnished with rations for their subsistence, such as are allowed to our own troops. It was only after the severities to the prisoners taken on the Savannah that these indulgences were withdrawn and the prisoners were held in strict confinement.

A just regard to humanity and the honor [540] of this Government, now requires me to state explicitly that, painful as will be the necessity, this Government will deal out to the prisoners held by it the same treatment and the same fate as shall be experienced by those captured on the Savannah, and if driven to the terrible necessity of retaliation by your execution of any of the officers or crew of the Savannah, that retaliation will be extended so far as shall be requisite to secure the abandonment of a practice unknown to the warfare of a civilized man, and so barbarous as to disgrace the nation which shall be guilty of encouraging it.

On July 20, 1862, the President, in secret session, recommended to Congress that all our prisoners who had been put on parole by the United States Government be released from the obligation of their parole. The recommendation was urged as a retaliation for the reckless breach of good faith on the part of the Northern Government with regard to the exchange of prisoners, and was accompanied by the exposure of this perfidy in a lengthy correspondence conducted by the War Department. The points of this interesting correspondence are here extracted.

At the time permission was asked by the Northern Government for Messrs. Fish and Ames to visit their prisoners in the South, our [541] Government, while denying this permission, sought to improve the opportunity by concerting a settled plan for the exchange of prisoners. To execute this purpose our Government deputed Messrs. Conrad and Seddon as commissioners to meet those of the Northern Government under a flag of truce at Norfolk. Subsequently, a letter from General Wool informed General Huger that he, General Wool, had full authority to settle terms for the exchange of prisoners, and asked an interview on the subject. General Howell Cobb was then appointed by the Government to negotiate with General Wool, and to settle a permanent plan for the exchange of prisoners during the war. The adjustment was then considered to have been satisfactorily made.

It was agreed that the prisoners of war in the hands of each Government should be exchanged, man for man, the officers being assimilated as to rank, etc.; that our privateersmen should be exchanged on the footing of prisoners of war; that any surplus remaining on either side after these exchanges, should be released, and that hereafter, during the whole continuance of the war, prisoners taken on either side should be paroled. In carrying out this agreement, our Government has released some three hundred prisoners above [542] those exchanged by the North, the balance of the complete number of prisoners in the hands of the two Governments being so much in our favor. At the time, however, of sending North the hostages we had retained for our privateersmen, General Cobb had reason to suspect the good faith of the Northern Government, and telegraphed in time to intercept the release of a portion of these hostages (among them Colonel Corcoran) who were en route from points farther south than Richmond, to go North under the flag of truce at Norfolk. A number of these hostages, however, had already been discharged.

It now appears that, in contravention to the solemn agreement of the Northern Government, not one of our privateersmen have been released, and the Fort Donelson prisoners, instead of being paroled, have been taken into the interior, where they are still confined.

As a judgment upon this open and shameless perfidy of the North, it is proposed that our prisoners who have been paroled by the United States Government shall be released from their obligations. There is as little doubt of the honor of such a proposition, as there is of its justness as a retaliatory measure for an act of flagrant perfidy.

In pursuance of this view, the President [543] wrote substantially the following letter to General Lee.

Richmond, Va., July 31, 1862.
On the 23d of this month a cartel for a general exchange of prisoners was signed between Major-General D. H. Hill, in behalf of the Confederate States, and Major-General John A. Dix, in behalf of the United States. By the terms it is stipulated that all prisoners of war hereafter taken shall be discharged on parole till exchanged. Scarcely had the cartel been signed, when the military authorities of the United States changed the character of the war from that of civilized nations into a campaign of indiscriminate robbery and murder. The general order issued by the United States Secretary of War in Washington, on the very day that the cartel was signed in Virginia, directs the United States commanders to take the private property of our people for the convenience and use of their armies, without compensation.

The General Order issued by Major- General Pope, on the day after the cartel was signed, directs the murder of our peaceful inhabitants as spies if found quietly tilling the farms in the rear, even outside of his lines; and Brigadier-General Steinwehr has seized upon peaceful inhabitants to be held as hostages, that they may be murdered in cold [544] blood if any of his soldiers are killed by some unknown persons whom he designates as “bush-whackers.”

Under this state of facts Mr. Davis issued a General Order, recognizing General Pope and his commissioned officers to be robbers and murderers, and not public enemies, entitled, if captured, to be considered prisoners of war. We are driven by the enemy to a course we abhor, and have vainly struggled to avoid.

For the present we shall not retaliate on the innocent, and shall treat the enlisted soldiers of General Pope's army as prisoners of war; but if these savage practices are continued after notice to the Government at Washington, we shall reluctantly accept the war on the terms chosen by our foes, until the outraged voice of a common humanity forces a respect for the recognized rules of war.

We have consented to liberate an excess of thousands of prisoners held by us beyond the number held by the enemy, but would be justified, by the facts, in refusing to execute the generous cartel; yet we shrink from the mere semblance of breaking faith, and do not resort to this extremity.

The punishment merited alone by General Pope and such commissioned officers as choose to participate in the execution of his [545] infamous orders, will not be visited on other forces of the United States.

Communicate this decision to the Commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States, and a copy of the enclosed general order.

Jefferson Davis. To General R. E. Lee, Commanding, etc.

On July 4, 1863, the day after the battle of Gettysburg, General Lee, having taken 6,000 prisoners, wished to parole them on the spot, and 2,000 were released on parole, not to serve until properly exchanged. It was only after their release that the Federal Commander informed him that no exchanges would be made and no paroles respected. Therefore 4,000 Federal prisoners unnecessarily suffered the hardship of a march, under guard, from Gettysburg to Richmond. The following is General Meade's telegram to his superior officer:

Gettysburg, July 4, 1863, 10 P. M.
Major-General Halleck:
... A proposition made by General Lee under flag of truce, to exchange prisoners, was declined by me.

George G. Meade, Major-General. 1


His action was confirmed by his Government.

On October 1, 1864, when the number of prisoners was large on both sides, General Lee wrote to General Grant substantially as follows:

To alleviate the sufferings of our soldiers, I propose the exchange of prisoners of war taken by the armies operating in Virginia, man for man, or upon the basis established by the cartel.

On the next day General Grant replied:

I could not of right accept your proposition further than to exchange prisoners captured within the last three days, and who have not yet been delivered to the commanding general of prisoners.

Among those lost by the armies operating against Richmond were a number of colored troops. Before further negotiations can be had upon the subject, I would ask if you propose delivering these men the same as white soldiers.

General Lee said in rejoinder: “Deserters from our service, and negroes belonging to our citizens, are not considered subjects of exchange.”

On October 20th, General Grant finally answered:

I regard it my duty to protect all persons [547] received into the army of the United States, regardless of color or nationality; when acknowledged soldiers of the Government are captured, they must be treated as prisoners of war, or such treatment as they receive inflicted upon an equal number of prisoners held by us.

In a despatch from General Grant to General Butler, August 18, 1864, the former had said:

It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. At this particular time, to release all rebel prisoners North, would insure Sherman's defeat, and would compromise our safety here.

Later, two more proposals were made to the Federal authorities, but no answers were received to either of the letters; but General Sherman wrote from Atlanta, on September 29, 1864, to General Hood at Palmetto, acknowledged the receipt of General Hood's letter of September 27th, and very considerately promised to send to St. Louis for supplies of combs, scissors, etc., and to send a train with these articles for the use of the United States prisoners of war held by Hood.

And again, Major-General Thomas, commanding Department of the Cumberland, [548] on December 5, 1864, wrote to General Hood, acknowledged the receipt of General Hood's letter of same date, proposing the exchange of prisoners, and declined. General Thomas's assigned reason was: “Although I have had quite a large number of prisoners from your army, they have all been sent back North, and are consequently now beyond my control; I am therefore unable to make the exchange proposed by you.”

“Finding,” wrote Mr. Davis, “that exchanges could not be made, we offered their sick and wounded without any equivalents. Although the offer was made in the summer, the transportation did not arrive until November, and the most emaciated of the poor prisoners were then photographed and exhibited ‘to fire the Northern heart.’ ”

One final effort was made to obtain an exchange. Mr. Davis sent a delegation from the prisoners at Andersonville to plead their cause at Washington. It was of no avail. They were refused an audience with President Lincoln, and returned to tell their fellowprisoners there was no hope of relief.

In the official report of General B. F. Butler, he said:

General Grant visited Fortress Monroe on April 1, 1864. To him the state of the negotiation as to exchange (Mr. Davis's proposition [549] to exchange all white and free black soldiers, leaving the question as to slaves to be disposed of later) was verbally communicated, and most emphatic 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.

After conversation with General Grant in reply to the proposition of Mr. Ould to exchange all prisoners of war on either side held, man for man, officer for officer, I wrote an argument showing our right to our colored soldiers.

This argument set forth our claims in the most offensive form possible, consistent with ordinary courtesy of language, for the purpose of carrying out the wishes of the Lieutenant-General, that no prisoners should be exchanged.

Mr. Davis, a short time before his death, wrote a full account of the Andersonville Prison, the condition of affairs therein, and the causes of the mortality. This was published in Belford's Magazine for January and February, 1890.2

It should be a complete vindication of the Confederate authorities before all fair-minded men. [550]

That the policy of humanity to prisoners was the fixed purpose of the Confederate Government, is evidenced by the treatment accorded to them as long as our necessities enabled us to minister to their comfort. In the second year of the war the Herald's correspondent wrote from Harrison's Landing, July 22, 1862 :

Several surgeons, left behind in care of our sick and wounded men in the hospitals, have arrived here, and report quite favorably their treatment by the Rebels.

... Father Hagan, Chaplain of the Excelsior Regiment, Sickles's brigade, visited the hospitals and found our wounded men receiving the same attention as their own. All the sick in Richmond-our prisoners with the others — are suffering from scarcity of medicines, and the Confederates complain bitterly of the action of our Government in declaring medicines contraband of war. Quinine is worth sixty dollars an ounce in Richmond, in New York five dollars or less.

Who, then, took the initiative? Did not the North do so in making quinine contraband of war? Was it not better that twenty socalled “traitors and rebels” should live than one Northern so-called “patriot” should be worn out on a bed of anguish for the lack of the drug needful to his recovery?

The frantic appeals made by the Exam- [551] iner of Richmond, to “hoist the black flag,” “retaliate on the Yankee prisoners for the starvation and abuse of our prisoners while in a land teeming with plenty,” inflamed many true men against the President, because he would not adopt that course; but throughout the weary years of these pin-pricks, which annoyed and galled him greatly, he never relaxed his determined stand against this dastardly retributory policy. He answered hotly to a member of Congress who was a pervert to the Examiner's views, “I would not fight with a rope around my neck, and I will not ask brave men to do so. As to he torture of prisoners, I can resign my office at the call of the country, but no people have the right to demand such a deed at my hands.” The Examiner was ably edited, and ingenious in ways and means to make the President odious-but was unable at least to engraft an ignoble policy upon that of the Administration.

Mr. Davis, under date of February 12, 1876, wrote to his friend, General Crafts I. Wright as follows:

It would be impossible to frame an accusation against me more absolutely and unqualifiedly false, than that which imputes to me cruelty to prisoners. A Richmond paper, during the war, habitually assailed me for undue clemency and care for them; and that [552] misnamed ‘historian,’ Pollard, in a book written after the war, accused me of having favored prisoners, in the hope that it might, in the event of our failure, serve to shield me.

The Confederate President, in a message of May 2, 1864, said: “On the subject of the exchange of prisoners, I greatly regret to be unable to give you satisfactory information. The Government of the United States, while persisting in failure to execute the terms of the cartel, make occasional deliveries of prisoners, and then suspend action without apparent cause. I confess my inability to comprehend their policy or purpose. The prisoners held by us, in spite of human care, are perishing from the inevitable effects of imprisonment and the home-sickness produced by their hopelessness of release from confinement. The spectacle of their suffering augments our desire to relieve from similar trials our own brave men, who have spent so many weary months in a cruel and useless imprisonment, endured with heroic constancy.”

From a message delivered in 1865 to the Confederate Congress, I make the following extracts:

I regret to inform you that the enemy have returned to the barbarous policy with which they inaugurated the war, and that the exchange of prisoners has been for some time [553] suspended. The conduct of the authorities of the United States has been consistently perfidious on this subject.

When the United States had an excess of prisoners the agreement to exchange was repudiated by them, until the fortune of war gave us the largest number. A new cartel was made, and for many months we restored many thousands of prisoners in excess of those whom they held for exchange, and encampments of the surplus paroled prisoners, delivered by us, were established in the United States, where the men held constant communication with their homes.

“ The prisoners taken at Gettysburg, however, remained in their hands, and should have been returned to our lines on parole, to await exchange.” Instead of executing an exchange, pretexts were sought for keeping the Confederates in captivity. New constructions of an agreement which had not been disputed were promulgated, while we retained the advantage in the number of prisoners.

The enemy declared invalid the paroles of the prisoners captured by us, liberated on promise not to serve until exchanged, and those our soldiers gave under similar circumstances, as binding.

Their final proposal was to settle all disputes [554] under the cartel, that we should liberate all prisoners held by us, without the promise to release any of those held by them.

A systematic effort was made to quiet the relatives and friends of the prisoners in our hands, by the assertion that we were the parties who refused the cartel.

The fact was that the rations of the prisoners were precisely the same, in quantity and quality, as those served out to our own gallant soldiers in the field,3 and which had supported them in their arduous campaigns. The enemy did not pretend that they treated prisoners by the same generous rule.

Here is a significant letter from General Grant to Halleck.

City Point, Va., February 18, 1865.
Your communication of the 15th inst., with inclosure, calling my attention to the fact that advantage is being taken by General Beall, Confederate agent, of the recent agreement between Judge Ould and myself, to supply rebel prisoners with new uniforms and blankets, [555] is received. The arrangement for the relief of prisoners of war was made at a time when exchanges could not be made, and under it I see no way to prevent rebel prisoners from being clothed. Having, however, a very large excess of prisoners over the enemy, we can, in making exchanges, select those who have not been furnished with new clothing or blankets. By this means but a very limited number of rebel soldiers will be returned with new uniforms. Should it become necessary, prisoners for exchange can be required to turn their blankets over to their comrades who remain.

Please give orders to General Hoffman accordingly. 4

Professor Dabney, of the University of Virginia, wrote as follows in answer to an article of The Nation condemnatory of the Confederates for their abuse of prisoners.

To the Editor of The Nation. Sir:
As you state in your editorial of last week that the diet at Johnson's Island was “exceptionally abundant and varied,” I wish to call the attention of your readers to certain evidence to the contrary, which I have heard.

After reading your article I went to a [556] gentleman whose brother, a Confederate lieutenant, died, after leaving Johnson's Island, from the effects of hardships suffered at that place, and asked him whether his brother had found the food “exceptionally abundant and varied.” Briefly stated, the lieutenant's account was as follows: The food, though usually satisfactory as to quality, was not always so, as may be inferred from the fact that, in order to have a better Christmas dinner than was furnished him, he made soup out of some fish-skins which he had raked out of a gutter. As to the abundance, he heard the commandant of the prison, whom he praised highly for his kindness, say that he was well aware that the prisoners did not have enough to eat, but that he was under strict orders not to give them any more. Delicacies were sent him by New York and Louisville ladies, but were intercepted by the guards or other persons and never reached him. Moreover, in that bitterly cold climate, he was not allowed a blanket to cover himself at nzght until after Christmas.

I am well acquainted with a Confederate captain now living in Richmond, a perfect Hercules in physique, who (if I remember rightly) weighed fifty pounds less upon leaving Johnson's Island than when he entered its prison walls. [557]

And now let me quote from “ Leute in den Vereinigten Staaten” (Leipzig, 1886), a work by Ernst Hohenwart (possibly a pseudonym), a German who spent nearly thirty years in the United States, and who fought as an officer in the Northern army. I shall italicize certain important phrases.

Much has been said of the cruel treatment of Northern soldiers in Southern prisons. Having myself been a prisoner in the South for more than thirteen months, and having been afterward stationed with my regiment at a place where more than twenty-five thousand Southern soldiers were confined, I think I have a right to an opinion as to the relative treatment of prisoners in the North and South.

It is true that the Southerners treated their prisoners much less well than the Northerners, for the simple reason that they had not the means to treat them better, and often, especially toward the end of the war, themselves sufferedfrom want.

The South wished to permit the officers, according to European custom, to live in town on parole and half pay. I myself and other officers lived for some months in Raleigh, and were granted much freedom of movement, but the North treated Southern officers like common soldiers, and the South afterward did [558] the same. So long as they were able, they gave us good rations, afterward very often spoilt bacon, cured with wood-ashes-they were short of salt 5-or beef cured with saltpetre, or fresh horse meat; a pound of bread a day being added, and sometimes a handful of beans or rice. During the winter we were unable to buy anything additional, but, as soon as summer came, country people brought us provisions which we were permitted to buy. The fare of our guards was not much better than our own.

Of intentional cruelty I saw nothing, but on the contrary, always found both officers and men very friendly and obliging, and most willing to alleviate our lot. When requested to bring us tobacco or other articles from town, they were always glad to do so, and I never heard ofa single instance in which such a request was refused. ...

Since writing the above I have seen another gentleman, who tells me that he knows a number of Confederates who “ varied” their “ abundant” diet at Johnson's Island with the flesh of rats, an article of food which was also enjoyed by the lieutenant whom I mentioned in the first part of my letter.

R. H. Dabney. University of Virginia, February 2, 1890.


In this connection Senator Daniel's opinion, expressed on January 25th, will be of interest. He said:

He would have turned with loathing from misuse of a prisoner, for there was no characteristic of Jefferson Davis more marked than his regard for the weak, the helpless, and the captive. By act of the Confederate Congress and by general orders, the same rations served to the Confederates were issued to the prisoners, though taken from a starving army and people.

Brutal and base was the effort to stigmatize him as a conspirator to maltreat prisoners, but better for him that it was made; for while he was himself yet in prison, the evidences of his humanity were so overwhelming that finally slander stood abashed and malignity recoiled.

Even at Andersonville, where the hot summer sun was of course disastrous to men of the Northern clime, well nigh as many of their guard died as of them.

With 60,000 more Federal prisoners in the South than there were Confederate prisoners in the North, 6,000 more Confederates than Federals died in prison. A cyclone of rhetoric cannot shake this mountain of fact, and these facts are alike immovable:

1. Unable to get medicines in the Confederacy, [560] an offer was made to buy them from the United States for the sole use of Federal prisoners. No answer was made.

2. Then an offer was made to deliver the sick and wounded without any equivalent in exchange. There was no reply for months.

3. Finally, and as soon as the United States would receive them, thousands of both sick and well were delivered without exchange.

The record leaves no doubt as to the responsibility for refusal to exchange.

( Charles A. Dana, of the New York Sun, formerly Assistant Secretary of War, nobly vindicated President Davis while he lived, declared him “altogether acquitted” of the charge, and said of him dead, “A majestic soul has passed.”

When General Lee congratulated his army on the victories of Richmond, he said to them: “ Your humanity to the wounded and the prisoners was the fit and crowning glory of your valor.”

Here is an experience related by a responsible man.

A story of horror.

Yesterday, in glancing over the Century for January, under the head of “Shooting into Libby;” I found two letters from Federal soldiers about Confederate guards shooting [561] at Federal prisoners, while resting in the windows of Libby. They would make it appear that this was the amusement of the private soldier, with the knowledge and approval of Confederate authorities, saying: “We never heard instructions that we might do this or not do that.”

I cannot look on the Maxwell House without remembering as bloody and gratuitous a tragedy as ever stained the records of our civil war.

In the winter of 1864 I was city editor of the Daily Press; the Maxwell House, in an unfinished condition, was then used by the Federals as a prison for Confederate soldiers.

One morning, as I came down-stairs and turned down Cherry toward Union, I saw a Federal guard taking his smoking gun from his shoulder, while people were standing around with expressions of horror on their faces. On asking a citizen what was the matter he answered, with indignation and subdued fear: “Look! That Federal guard has murdered a Confederate soldier.”

Looking to the fourth story of the Maxwell House, I saw a dead Confederate soldier with his head lying in a window and blood streaming from him down the walls and spattering the pavement below. The guard had orders to shoot any Confederate who [562] appeared at a window. He told the Confederate to go back or he would shoot. The boy in gray, having no idea he would do so, responded by playfully waving his hand at the guard. In an instant a bullet went crashing through his brain and he was a dead man. The Confederate prisoners declared they had received no intimation of any such 6rder.

Now, could we not, from this instance, as truthfully declare the fact that Federal soldiers amused themselves at Nashville by shooting and killing Confederate prisoners?

In a Yankee prison.

Written for the
It was the misfortune of the writer to be captured on the memorable raid through Indiana and Ohio, made by General John. H. Morgan in July, 1863.

I write of some of the unpublished events occurring during an incarceration as a prisoner of war, for twenty-two months, within a fiveacre lot on the shores of Lake Michigan, in a place designated Camp Douglas. This prison was for the safe-keeping of privates and noncommissioned officers. It contained an area of about five acres, laid off into main streets of about thirty feet width, intersected at regular intervals by cross streets about half the width, perhaps. Barracks were erected [563] fronting the main avenues, intended to accommodate (?) about 180 men, and numbered one, two, three, etc., up to sixty odd. These were enclosed by a fence about twenty feet high, near the top of which was a plank walk for the Yankee guards. Each barrack had a rebel and Yankee sergeant, the former elected by the occupants, whose duty it was to call the morning roll, report the escapes, deaths, etc. My bunk was in the southeast corner of barrack No. 10, and my men honored me by electing me their sergeant, which unenviable position was held during the entire term of imprisonment. There were at one time II,000 prisoners confined in this small enclosure.

He who has never suffered the torture of continued hunger, knows nothing about the luxury of a full meal.

I might tell of the ravages of the smallpox, of the inconveniences and discomforts of the itch and pediculus vestimenti, but these were mere bagatelles, little side-shows, compared to other performances going on within the big menagerie. Out of a mind replete with memories of this prison life of twenty-five years ago, I remember that on a cold December day, early in the morning, the entire Confederate camp was ordered to assemble in the Yankee square. This square was just across the fence from ours. “ What's up [564] now?” was whispered from comrade to comrade. After being disposed in battle array, every ragged Rebel standing there with his coat-tails flapping in the breezes off Lake Michigan like the sails of some stranded schooner, the process was begun of divesting each and everyone of us of every rag of clothing that gave us the semblance of citizenship. Instead of the variegated costumes in which we were caparisoned, we were given a stiff, black cavalry hat, a brown-black coat and pants, the coat being divested of half its tail. In this unique garb we were marched back to our quarters. What disposition was ever made of the clothes we gave in exchange we never took the trouble to inquire. This was done to prevent escapes, which had grown to be monotonously frequent. But woe to the Reb who failed in the attempt, and was recaptured.

By far the largest number of escapes from Camp Douglas were accomplished through the aid of one of the guards. He finally deserted with a batch of prisoners to Canada. He had no pity for us, but a slavish love for the $5 given him in advance by each escaping prisoner. A lot of prisoners trying to effect their escape one night were recaptured just outside the enclosure. Among them was a son of ex-Governor McGoffin, [565] of Kentucky. He, with the others, was suspended by the thumbs next morning for the purpose of extorting the betrayal of his accomplices. They remained as dumb as oysters, although suspended until the balls of the thumbs absolutely burst open.

This thumb business was effected by a twine string, making a noose and placed over the thumb of each hand; the opposite ends were thrown over a beam overhead. A stout, heavy man then pulled upon the loose ends until the victim's weight was almost entirely sustained by his thumbs and held thus ad libitum.

Another mode of punishment was called “pointing for corn.” This consisted in standing stiff-legged, stooping over and touching the ground with the index-finger of the right hand. If you think this little manceuvre is not difficult, assume the position for five or ten minutes, and then report. I have seen a hundred or more men in this ludicrous position at one time, and numbers faint and fall down in line. Another mode of punishment was to ride “John Morgan's mule.” This mule was composed of six legs about twenty feet long attached to a scantling 2+4 inches, the narrow part of this horizontal piece being placed upward, formed the back of this patient Bucephalus. I have seen his back so [566] full that there did not remain room for another rider. To say that this wooden horse was never without a rider, except at night, would be literally true.

The last twelve months of our imprisonment was noted for scant rations. Hunger was the prevailing epidemic. I will relate the following actual occurrence as an illustration of the humiliating effects of long, continued hunger: At one end of our barracks was our kitchen, and by the door of the kitchen stood a barrel, into which was thrown the beef bones, slop, etc. Some of these starved creatures used to go to these barrels, fish out the bones, and appropriate what could be got off them to appease their terrible hunger. On one occasion a Yankee guard found a prisoner engaged in this business. He snatched the bone out of the prisoner's hand, cocked his pistol, presented it at the hungry prisoner, and ordered him down on his allfours to bark like a dog for the bone he was holding above him, until his beastly inhumanity was satisfied. To say that we who witnessed this transaction were indignant is a poor description of what we felt.

Each barrack was supplied with wooden spittoons placed along the aisle. A comrade from a neighbor barrack was visiting a friend in No. 10, and while sitting in an upper bunk [567] attempted to spit into one of these spittoons, but missing it, spat upon the floor. The Yankee sergeant nosing around discovered the spit upon the floor, and demanded of me the name of the party who did it. Now, there was an unwritten law among us not to tell tales out of school, and it was kept inviolate in the presence of any torture that might be used to extort from us information that would subject a comrade to punishment. I informed him that I did not know who did it, but would not tell him if I knew. This, of course, infuriated him. He gave me two hours to find the person and divulge his name. If not done at the expiration of the time he would punish the “hull d — d barracks.” The information not being forthcoming, we, to the number of one hundred or more, were ordered out into the street. Now, the snow lay on the ground to the depth of eighteen inches. Along the middle of the street was a pathway leading to the hydrant, and in this pathway we were drawn up in line. We were then ordered to right backward dress out into the snow up to our knees. We were then ordered to strip from the waist down. This command being executed, we were next ordered to sit down on the snow. This command was complied with, and if perchance some shivering prisoner had [568] involuntarily pushed his shirt or blanket between himself and the dampness beneath, a detail was sent down the line in the rear and rudely snatched every remnant of clothing from beneath, so that there we sat with absolutely nothing intervening between us and the snow. These manceuvres were something new in military tactics, and doubtless never entered the brain of such sluggards as Hardee and Upton. How long we sat there, I do not know; seconds seemed hours, minutes days. The outrage was reported to Colonel Sweet, the commandant, but no notice was taken of it.

For the highest type of loyalty, that unselfish, generous, cheerful, unspotted kind, commend me to the Confederate prisoner of war, who for long months patiently endured the punishment and indignities heaped upon him by his inferiors. Day after day suffering the pangs of hunger. All this, and the privilege waiting him of taking the oath and going home any day he chose. There was simply no limit to his patient loyalty. There was nothing like it.

J. B. West, Ex-O. S. Co. B., Second Ky. Cav., C. S. A. Nashville, Tenn.

December 14, 1861.-John Hanson Thomas, William Harrison, Charles H. Pitts, and S. Teakle Wallis were, for their opinion's [569] sake, confined in a room darkened with venetian shutters fastened outside with iron bars, and there were only about twenty-two to forty-four inches over the doors by which light came into their rooms. They were never allowed out for a moment for two weeks, and the impure air was stifling, though they used disinfectants. They were after this sent to Fort Lafayette, where they were turned into a casemate with a brick floor, with no other furniture than guns and gun-carriages. They were not allowed their trunks for seats. All that night they walked their rooms; the next day they received their trunks, and then spread their clothes upon the floor and laid on them. The third day, loose straw was given them. After ten days iron bedsteads were furnished with straw beds, but no pillows or covering. They were subsequently allowed the liberty of the Fort yard for stated hours. I have not space for many testimonials by men of undoubted veracity of the cruelties inflicted on them in Northern prisons.

A letter from General I. R. Trimble said:

I regret that a full statement of facts relating to our treatment on Johnson Island, which I had prepared by a committee of officers, was left with the secretary and is now [570] beyond my reach. These facts would make all fair-minded men blush with shame.

More than $3,000 had been retained by officials from remittances sent to prisoners by relatives and friends, as all our letters were opened.

We were once three days and nights without any fire in our room or kitchen, during the most inclement weather of 1864.

Walnut Springs, London, O., October 23, 1886.

Extracts from these letters are given that our prisoners' side of the sufferings endured in the North may be duly weighed by the judgment of Northern people. No one book would hold all the evidence which could be adduced to prove the sufferings of our brave men in Northern prisons. Ours was a country devastated by invaders who carried a sword in one hand and a cord and torch in the other. The North was bountifully supplied with everything needful for comfort and luxury, but the Confederate prisoners expected only the bare necessaries of life, and these were denied them. We shared our scanty fare alike with those who came to destroy us and were taken captive in the act, and with the soldiers who were defending us and our households. If it was not enough for the [571] prisoners, no more was it sufficient to sustain our soldiers in their herculean strife against a foe supplied with men and means ad libitum.

During the stringent period of our war I was obliged, through a tradeswoman, to sell my carriage and horses, my handsome articles of dress, jewelry, etc., to get the necessaries of life, and our nephew, commanding a brigade, came home from the front of Petersburg so much reduced in flesh that it was remarked. He gave as a reason that his negro servant could not bear starvation as well as he could, and he had, he supposed, given him too much of the rations intended for himself.

Though I recognize the reminiscence of our devoted friend, the brilliant soldier, and representative Southern patriot, General Robert Ransom, as the exact truth, we did not feel the deprivations of the war as onerous until hope was dead.

Comparative Mortalily of Federal and Confederate prisons.

A correspondent of the New York Tribune adduces the “logic of facts,” in a very conclusive manner, in the following communication: [572]

The Elmira Gazette is authority for the following: In the four months of February, March, April, and May, 1865, out of 5,027 prisoners confined there, 1,311 died, showing a death — rate per month of 61 per cent., against less than three per cent. at Andersonville, or more than double at Elmira to that at Andersonville. Again, Mr. Keiley, in his journal of September, 1864, when confined there, kept a record of deaths for that month, and states them to be 386 out of 9,500 then there, or at a rate of four per cent. against three per cent. in Andersonville. It must also be taken into consideration that in the South our armies formed a barrier against the introduction of both food and medicine, while in our case there was abundance of everything.

J. L. T.

The answer of the Tribune is a curiosity of lame, impotent evasion. It says:

We think Congress made a blunder in not opening the whole subject; yet we cannot deem the above statistics either trustworthy or conclusive. Many prisoners of war are diseased or wounded when captured; inadequate or unwholesome food has brought many to the confines of the grave.

Disease and wounds, we presume, operated on both sides of the question. Inadequate [573] and unwholesome food — as the writer above had just shown-operated very unequally on the Southern side.

Federal prisoners in the South270,000
Confederate prisoners in the North220,000
Excess of Federal prisoners50,000
Deaths in Prison.
Confederates in the North26,436
Federals in the South22,576
Excess of Confederates died3,860

But if we make our calculations from the reports of the United States War Department, which show sixty thousand more Federal prisoners and six thousand more Confederate deaths, why, then, the per cent. is made even still greater in favor of Southern humanity.

Such salient points as these must ere long constitute a part of that faithful history which will be written as soon as passion subsides, and other men and other times can do us justice.

Mr. Davis was so painfully affected by the death-rate and suffering of the prisoners at Andersonville, that even in the few hours he spent at home their condition weighed dreadfully upon his spirits. He was quite feeble, but used to remain in his office from 10 A. M. until seven and sometimes eight o'clock in the [574] evening without food. If I sent luncheon to him he forgot to eat it, and I fell into the habit of going to his office daily for ten minutes to offer it to him. Whatever friend chanced to be there partook of the refreshment with him. One day I found General Lee there. Both were very grave, and the subject of their conference was the want and suffering at Andersonville, as portrayed by General Winder's private letter to the President. Mr. Davis said, “If we could only get them across the trans-Mississippi, there beef and supplies of all kinds are abundant, but what can we do for them here?” General Lee answered quickly to this effect, “Our men are in the same case, except that they are free. Their sufferings are the result of our necessities, not of our policy. Do not distress yourself.”

Disasters were reported from every quarter. Croakers vilified the President, and foretold evil results from every expedient tried by the Administration. The army and many of the Congressmen remained, if not confident, at least willing to fight to the end.

1 Rebellion Records, vol. XXVII.

2 And afterward in pamphlet form.

3 A notice in one of the Richmond journals said: “There are now in Richmond, and at the hospitals adjacent thereto, several thousand of our wounded in the great battles on the Rapidan. They are in great want of almost every necessary save a stout Southern heart, a determined will and hand. We know our citizens will supply them, to the extent of their ability, with fresh diet, clean linen, and every appliance which their economy and frugality and general domestic order may suggest.”

4 North American Review, March, 1886.

5 Our salt had no preservative property.

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