Richmond, and would respectfully request that your Committee immediately proceed to Annapolis to take testimony there, and examine with their own eyes the condition of those who have been returned from rebel captivity. The enormity of the crime committed by the rebels toward 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. Your obedient servant,
office of Commissary General of prisoners, Washington, D. C., May 3, 1864.sir: I have the honor to report that, pursuant to your instructions of the second instant, I proceeded, yesterday morning, to Annapolis, with a view to see that the paroled prisoners about to arrive there from Richmond were properly received and cared for. The flag-of-truce boat New-York, under the charge of Major Mulford, with thirty-two officers, three hundred and sixty-three enlisted men, and one citizen on board, reached the wharf at the Naval School hospital about ten o'clock. On going on board, I found the officers generally in good health, and much cheered by their happy release from the rebel prisons, and by the prospect of again being with their friends. The enlisted men who had endured so many privations at Belle Isle and other places were, with few exceptions, in a very sad plight, mentally and physically, having for months been exposed to all the changes of the weather, with no other protection than a very insufficient supply of worthless tents, and with an allowance of food scarcely sufficient to prevent starvation, even if of wholesome quality; but as it was made of coarsely-ground corn, including the husks, and probably at times the cobs, if it did not kill by starvation, it was sure to do it by the disease it created. Some of these poor fellows were wasted to mere skeletons, and had scarcely life enough remaining to appreciate that they were now in the hands of their friends, and among them all there were few who had not become too much broken down and dispirited by their many privations to be able to realize the happy prospect of relief from their sufferings which was before them. With rare exception, every face was sad with care and hunger; there was no brightening of the countenance or lighting up of the eye, to indicate a thought of any thing beyond a painful sense of prostration of mind and body. Many faces showed that there was scarcely a ray of intelligence left. Every preparation had been made for their reception in anticipation of the arrival of the steamer, and immediately upon her being made fast to the wharf the paroled men were landed and taken immediately to the hospital, where, after receiving a warm bath, they were furnished with a suitable supply of new clothing, and received all those other attentions which their sad condition demanded. Of the whole number, there are perhaps fifty to one hundred who, in a week or ten days, will be in a convalescent state, but the others will very slowly regain their lost health. That our soldiers, when in the hands of the rebels, are starved to death, cannot be denied. Every return of the flag-of-truce boat from City Point brings us too many living and dying witnesses to admit of a doubt of this terrible fact. I am informed that the authorities at Richmond admit the fact, but excuse it on the plea that they give the prisoners the same rations they give their own men. But can this be so? Can an army keep the field, and be active and efficient, on the same fare that kills prisoners of war at a frightful per centage? I think not; no man can believe it; and while a practice so shocking to humanity is persisted in by the rebel authorities, I would very respectfully urge that retaliatory measures be at once instituted by subjecting the officers we now hold as prisoners of war to a similar treatment. I took advantage of the opportunity which this visit to Annapolis gave me to make a hasty inspection of Camp Parole, and I am happy to report that I found it in every branch in a most commendable condition. The men all seemed to be cheerful and in fine health, and the police inside and out was excellent. Colonel Root, the commanding officer, deserves much credit for the very satisfactory condition to which he has brought his command. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Annapolis, Maryland, May 6, 1864.