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.  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.”  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  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  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  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  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  wrote substantially the following letter to General Lee.
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:
 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  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,  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  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.  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-  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  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  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  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.
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.
 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,  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.
December 14, 1861.-John Hanson Thomas, William Harrison, Charles H. Pitts, and S. Teakle Wallis were, for their opinion's  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:
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  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: 
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  and unwholesome food — as the writer above had just shown-operated very unequally on the Southern side.
|Federal prisoners in the South||270,000|
|Confederate prisoners in the North||220,000|
|Excess of Federal prisoners||50,000|
|Deaths in Prison.|
|Confederates in the North||26,436|
|Federals in the South||22,576|
|Excess of Confederates died||3,860|