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Doc. 2.-the returned prisoners. In the Senate of the United States.

May 9, 1864.

Mr. Wade submitted the following report. The Joint Committee on the conduct and expenditures of the war submitted the following report, with the accompanying testimony.

On the fourth instant your Committee received a communication of that date from the Secretary of War, inclosing the report of Colonel Hoffman, Commissary General of prisoners, dated May third, calling the attention of the Committee to the condition of returned Union prisoners, with the request that the Committee would immediately proceed to Annapolis and examine with their own eyes the condition of those who have been returned from rebel captivity. The Committee resolved that they would comply [81] with the request of the Secretary of War on the first opportunity. The fifth of May was devoted by the Committee to concluding their labors upon the investigation of the Fort Pillow massacre. On the sixth of May, however, the Committee proceeded to Annapolis and Baltimore, and examined the condition of our returned soldiers, and took the testimony of several of them, together with the testimony of surgeons and other persons in attendance upon the hospitals. That testimony, with the communication of the Secretary of War, and the report of Colonel Hoffman, is herewith transmitted.

The evidence proves, beyond all manner of doubt, a determination on the part of the rebel authorities, deliberately and persistently practised for a long time past, to subject those of our soldiers who have been so unfortunate as to fall in 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. Though nearly all the patients now in the Naval Academy Hospital at Annapolis, and in the West Hospital in Baltimore, have been under the kindest and most intelligent treatment for about three weeks past, and many of them for a greater length of time, still they present literally the appearance of living skeletons, many of them being nothing but skin and bone; some of them are maimed for life, having been frozen while exposed to the inclemency of the winter season on Belle Isle, being compelled to lie on the bare ground, without tents or blankets, some of them without overcoats or even coats, with but little fire to mitigate the severity of the winds and storms to which they were exposed.

The testimony shows that the general practice of their captors was to rob them, as soon as they were taken prisoners, of all their money, valuables, blankets, and good clothing, for which they received nothing in exchange except, perhaps, some old worn-out rebel clothing hardly better than none at all. Upon their arrival at Richmond they have been confined, without blankets or other covering, in buildings without fire, or upon Belle Isle, with, in many cases, no shelter, and in others with nothing but old discarded army tents, so injured by rents and holes as to present but little barrier to the wind and storms. On several occasions, the witnesses say, they have arisen in the morning from their resting-places upon the bare earth, and found several of their comrades frozen to death during the night, and that many others would have met the same fate had they not walked rapidly back and forth, during the hours which should have been devoted to sleep, for the purpose of retaining sufficient warmth to preserve life.

In respect to the food furnished to our men by the rebel authorities, the testimony proves that the ration of each man was totally insufficient in quantity to preserve the health of a child, even had it been of proper quality, which it was not. It consisted usually, at the most, of two small pieces of corn-bread, made in many instances, as the witnesses state, of corn and cobs ground together, and badly prepared and cooked; of, at times, about two ounces of meat, usually of poor quality. and unfit to be eaten; and occasionally a few black, worm-eaten beans, or something of that kind. Many of our men were compelled to sell to their guards, and others, for what price they could get, such clothing and blankets as they were permitted to receive of that forwarded for their use by our Government, in order to obtain additional food sufficient to sustain life; thus, by endeavoring to avoid one privation, reducing themselves to the same destitute condition in respect to clothing and covering that they were in before they received any from our Government. When they became sick and diseased in consequence of this exposure and privation, and were admitted into the hospitals, their treatment was little, if any, improved as to food, though they doubtless suffered less from exposure to cold than before. Their food still remained insufficient in quantity and altogether unfit in quality. Their diseases and wounds did not receive the treatment which the commonest dictates of humanity would have prompted. One witness, whom your Committee examined, who had lost all the toes of one foot from being frozen while on Belle Isle, states that for days at a time his wounds were not dressed, and that they had not been dressed for four days when he was taken from the hospital and carried on the flag-of-truce boat for Fortress Monroe.

In reference to the condition to which our men were reduced by cold and hunger, your Committee would call the attention to the following extracts from the testimony.

One witness testifies:

I had no blankets until our Government sent us some.

Question. How did you sleep before you received those blankets?

Answer. We used to get together just as close as we could, and sleep spoon-fashion, so that when one turned over we all had to turn over.

Another witness testifies:

Question. Were you hungry all the time?

Answer. Hungry! I could eat any thing in the world that came before us; some of the boys would get boxes from the North with meat of different kinds in them; and, after they had picked the meat off, they would throw the bones away into the spit-boxes, and we would pick the bones out of the spit-boxes and gnaw them over again.

In addition to this insufficient supply of food, clothing, and shelter, our soldiers, while prisoners, have been subjected to the most cruel treatment from those placed over them. They have been abused and shamefully treated on almost every opportunity. Many have been mercilessly shot and killed when they failed to comply with all the demands of their jailers, sometimes for violating rules of which they had not been informed. Crowded in great numbers in buildings, they have been fired at and killed by the [82] sentinels outside when they appeared at the windows for the purpose of obtaining a little fresh air. One man, whose comrade in the service, in battle and in captivity, had been so fortunate as to be among those released from further torments, was shot dead as he was waving with his hand a last adieu to his friend; and other instances of equally unprovoked murder are disclosed by the testimony.

The condition of our returned soldiers as regards personal cleanliness, has been filthy almost beyond description. Their clothes have been so dirty and so covered with vermin, that those who received them have been compelled to destroy their clothing and re-clothe them with new and clean raiment. Their bodies and heads have been so infested with vermin that, in some instances, repeated washings have failed to remove them; and those who have received them in charge have been compelled to cut all the hair from their heads, and make applications to destroy the vermin. Some have been received with no clothing but shirts and drawers and a piece of blanket or other outside covering, entirely destitute of coats, hats, shoes or stockings; and the bodies of those better supplied with clothing have been equally dirty and filthy with the others, many who have been sick and in the hospital having had no opportunity to wash their bodies for weeks and months before they were released from captivity.

Your Committee are unable to convey any adequate idea of the sad and deplorable condition of the men they saw in the hospitals they visited; and the testimony they have taken cannot convey to the reader the impressions which your Committee there received. The persons we saw, as we were assured by those in charge of them, have greatly improved since they have been received in the hospitals. Yet they are now dying daily, one of them being in the very throes of death as your Committee stood by his bedside and witnessed the sad spectacle there presented. All those whom your Committee examined stated that they have been thus reduced and emaciated entirely in consequence of the merciless treatment they received while prisoners from their enemies; and the physicians in charge of them, the men best fitted by their profession and experience to express an opinion upon the subject, all say that they have no doubt that the statements of their patients are entirely correct.

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, and where the power existed, had the inclination not been wanting, to reform those abuses and secure to the prisoners they held some treatment that would bear a public comparison to that accorded by our authorities to the prisoners in our custody. Your Committee, therefore, are constrained to say that they can hardly avoid the conclusion, expressed by so many of our released soldiers, that the inhuman practices herein referred to are the result of a determination on the part of the rebel authorities to reduce our soldiers in their power, by privation of food and clothing, and by exposure, to such a condition that those who may survive shall never recover so as to be able to render any effective service in the field. And your Committee accordingly ask that this report, with the accompanying testimony, be printed with the report and testimony in relation to the massacre of Fort Pillow, the one being, in their opinion, no less than the other, the result of a predetermined policy. As regards the assertions of some of the rebel newspapers, that our prisoners have received at their hands the same treatment that their own soldiers in the field have received, they are evidently but the most glaring and unblushing falsehoods. No one can for a moment be deceived by such statements, who will reflect that our soldiers, who, when taken prisoners, have been stout, healthy men, in the prime and vigor of life, yet have died by hundreds under the treatment they have received, although required to perform no duties of the camp or the march; while the rebel soldiers are able to make long and rapid marches, and to offer a stubborn resistance in the field.

There is one feature connected with this investigation, to which your Committee can refer with pride and satisfaction; and that is the uncomplaining fortitude, the undiminished patriotism exhibited by our brave men under all their privations, even in the hour of death.

Your Committee will close their report by quoting the tribute paid these men by the chaplain of the hospital at Annapolis, who has ministered to so many of them in their last moments, whe has smoothed their passage to the grave by his kindness and attention, and who has performed the last sad offices over their lifeless remains. He says:

There is another thing I would wish to state. All the men, without any exception among the thousands that have come to this hospital, have never in a single instance expressed a regret (notwithstanding the privations and sufferings they have endured) that they entered their country's service. They have been the most loyal, devoted, and earnest men. Even on the last days of their lives they have said that all they hoped for was just to live and enter the ranks again and meet their foes. It is a most glorious record in reference to the devotion of our men to their country. I do not think their patriotism has ever been equalled in the history of the world.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

war Department, Washington City, May 4, 1864.
sir: I have the honor to submit to you a report made to this department by Colonel Hoffman, Commissary General of prisoners, in regard to the condition of Union soldiers who have, until within a few days, been prisoners of war at [83] 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,

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. Hon. B. F. Wade, Chairman of Joint Committee on Conduct of the War.

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,

W. Hoffman, Colonel Third Infantry, Commissary General of Prisoners. Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.


Annapolis, Maryland, May 6, 1864.

Howard Leedom, sworn and examined: by the Chairman:

Question. To what company and regiment have you belonged?

Answer. Company G, Fifty-second New-York.

Question. How long have you been in the service?

Answer. About seven months.

Question. What is your age?

Answer. Seventeen.

Question. When and where were you taken prisoner?

Answer. At a place called Orange Grove, I think, back of Chancellorsville.

Question. How long ago?

Answer. In November last.

Question. Where were you then carried? [84]

Answer. Right to Richmond.

Question. In what prison were you placed?

Answer. I was put on Belle Isle first, and then I got sick and was taken to the hospital.

Question. Describe how you were treated there, and the cause of your sickness?

Answer. They did not treat me very kindly. I froze my feet on the island.

Question. How came they to be frozen?

Answer. When they took me prisoner they got away the good shoes I had on and gave me an old pair of shoes, all cut and split open; and when I was on the island, I had just an old tent to lie under.

Question. Did you not have some blankets to put over you?

Answer. No, sir. They took away my blanket, and every thing else — my shoes — even a pair of buckskin gloves I had.

Question. Did they give you any thing in place of them?

Answer. No, sir; only that pair of shoes I said.

Question. You had stockings?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What kind of a tent did you have?

Answer. The tent was not very good; the rain beat right through it.

Question. How badly were your feet frozen?

Answer. Well, my toes are all off one of my feet now. [The surgeon accompanying the Committee here took the dressings off the witness's feet, and exhibited them to the Committee. The stumps of the toes were just healing.]

Question. What did they give you to eat?

Answer. They gave us corn-bread, and once in a while a little piece of meat.

Question. How often did they give you meat?

Answer. May be once a day; may be once a week — just as they happened to have it.

Question. Did you get enough to eat, such as it was?

Answer. No, sir; I did not even get enough corn-bread.

Question. How long were you on the island?

Answer. I was on the island only a month, and in the hospital three months.

Question. How long is it since you were exchanged?

Answer. I came here on the twenty-fourth of March.

Question. There were others with you on the island?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. How did they fare?

Answer. The same as I did; we all fared alike.

Question. Were any others frozen?

Answer. Yes, sir; plenty of them frozen to death.

Question, Frozen to death?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Were their blankets taken away like yours?

Answer. Yes, sir; they had to lie out in the open ditch. They did not have as good over them as I had

Question. Did not they have a tent to sleep under?

Answer. No, sir; no tent at all. There was an embankment thrown up, so as to keep them inside like, and they had to lie right down in the ditch there.

Question. With nothing over them?

Answer. If some of them had their blanket, they put that over them; but they had no tent, or any thing of that kind.

Question. Nothing to keep off the rain and snow?

Answer. No, sir; nothing at all.

Question. Are you certain that any of them froze to death there?

Answer. Yes, sir, I am.

Question. State about the treatment you received after your feet were frozen, when you were in the hospital.

Answer. Sometimes my feet were dressed there every day; sometimes I went three or four days without dressing — just whether their nurses happened to be busy or not. When I was exchanged, I had not been dressed for four or five days.

Question. Were any of the confederate sick in the hospital with you?

Answer. Not that I know of.

Question. Do you know how they treated their own soldiers that were in the hospital?

Answer. I do not. I suppose thay treated them better than they did us, though.

Question. Was your food any better in the hospital than on the island?

Answer. It was when we first went there, but when I came away it was no better.

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