Ambulances of the Union army taking part in the grand review 1865


Medical care.

[13] Erect, to the right of the center, stands Dr. A. Hurd, of the Fourteenth Indiana Volunteers, caring for Confederate wounded near the battlefield of Antietam. Around him the twisted forms of sufferers lie under temporary coverings, made of blankets or flaps from shelter-tents suspended upon guns for tent-poles. Swords are not yet ‘beaten into plowshares,’ but bayonets are thrust into the ground for the merciful purpose of protecting the feverish patients from the burning sun. Use has been made of the hay from Smith's farm nearby to form soft beds for the wounded limbs. Further shelter has been improvised by laying fence-rails against supporting poles. Below appear the straw huts for wounded on Smith's farm, erected a day or two later. The surgeon on the field of battle knew neither friend nor foe in his treatment of the wounded. On June 6, 1862, a week after the battles of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks, a general order was issued from Washington that surgeons should be considered non-combatants and not sent to prison. It was a result of ‘StonewallJackson's previous action, and was accepted by Lee at Richmond on the 17th.

When muskets and bayonets were turned into tent-poles

Caring for the Antietam wounded in September, 1862, just after the bloodiest day of the war


The pages of this volume tell little of war's pomp and pageantry. Their subject is, and must be, grim and terrible. Though prisoners of war were not criminals, but often men whose courage was their only fault, and though their detention must not be considered as deserved punishment, but as a military necessity, nevertheless all prisons are unlovely. The groans of men, one moment vigorous, the next shattered and broken, or the sight of strength visibly ebbing away from disease, are awful. It is the dark and cruel side of war that must here be told.

The reader who finds nothing more than this is, however, careless and superficial, seeing only the object immediately before his eyes, and neglecting relations and perspective. One may hold a dime so that it shuts out the sun. A fact out of its relations to other facts is no better than a lie. Just so far as history enables us to see any particular epoch in its relation to those before, and as the portent of those coming after, to that extent history is true. The failure of the sentimentalist and the social reformer often grows out of myopia. They see only what is near their eyes.

That men must be judged by the standard of their times is a platitude, but it is well to emphasize platitudes, for the obvious is often forgotten. We are prone to judge the past by the standards of the present, and some of our standards are rising.

Unpleasant as is the story of the prisons of the Civil War, however great their shortcomings, the treatment of prisoners, taken as a whole, marks a decided advance over the general practice of the world before that time. Instances of theatrical generosity have always been plentiful, but never before had the dictates of humanity so profoundly influenced the action of so many. We must believe that the greatest horrors—for there were horrors— arose from ignorance or apparent necessity, rather than from intention.

During our own Revolution, the treatment of prisoners is a subject upon which both we and the English must prefer not to dwell. Less than three score years separated the Civil War from the War of 1812 and from the [15]

Sights in war-time: Washington, after it had become a city of wounded soldiers, busy army surgeons, and crowded hospitals

Campbell hospital near Washington—flowers and female nurses here

Hospital and Camp near Washington

Stanton hospital in Washington

Two-story buildings in Washington

Carver hospital in Washington

The quartermaster's department employed such a huge force of men that it was necessary to furnish them a separate hospital

[16] Napoleonic wars, which shook the foundations of Europe. The whole story of the prisoners whom fortune threw at the mercy of the contending forces in the first years of the nineteenth century has not been told—perhaps wisely —though even here it was indifference or low standards rather than deliberate intent which made life in Dartmoor a living death to the French and American captives confined there.

Never in history were money and effort so lavishly expended upon the cure of disease and the care of the wounded as during the Civil War; and never before was effort so well rewarded. A few years before, great captains had repudiated any obligations to their sick or wounded. These were no more than the dead on the field. Only the man able to carry a musket, a lance, or a saber had their attention. That effort was misdirected during our great contest is true. Only supernatural wisdom and more than mortal strength could have brought the surgeon, the sufferer, and the relief together at precisely the right moment on every occasion, but the effort to accomplish this impossible task was made.

The echoes of the guns in the Crimea had hardly died away when the Civil War began. Yet during that terrible winter of 1854-55 the mortality from sickness in the English camps, was so great that, had it continued, the whole English army would have been wiped out in less than a year. Compare this record with that of the United States army as told in the following pages and see what advance a few years had brought. While the medical records of the Confederate Armies do not exist, we know that in that service, also, extraordinary results were accomplished.

The picture which introduces these paragraphs has a significance which cannot be over-emphasized. It is a section of the line of march of the grand review of the armies of the United States, held in Washington May 23-24, 1865. Occupying a place of honor among the marching thousands are ambulances. When before could an army have dared to boast of the provision made for those incapacitated by disease or wounds?

In the preparation of the prison sections, the author has consulted a large number of the published accounts of experiences, has talked with dozens of one-time prisoners, and has corresponded with many more. The conflicting accounts have been checked by the contemporary documents contained in the eight prison volumes of the ‘Official Records of the Union and [17]

Aid for the men at the front—Christian commission The Christian Commission was second as a civilian agency of relief only to the Sanitary Commission. The scene above tells its own story. The box numbered 1103 and addressed to the United States Christian Commission suggests how numerous were its consignments to the front. The veteran who has lost a leg is leaning on crutches furnished by the organization. He need have no fear for his pension. They have helped him to keep his papers straight. The basket on the man's arm suggests the charitable nature of the enterprise, the women in the doorway and on the porch indicate the feminine interest in it, and the ecclesiastical garb of one or two of the crowd suggests its religious nature. True heroes, some of these men who labored for the Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission to counteract the awful effects of the madness which sets men to killing one another. In March, 1865, General Terry had instituted a contraband Camp where the colored refugees were gathered, about a mile outside of New Berne, North Carolina. There they were maintained with army rations and some measure of official supervision. In this Camp an epidemic of smallpox broke out. The Camp was quarantined, but word came to the authorities that it was in bad shape. The dead were not being buried, the sick were not being cared for, and the food was being appropriated by the stronger. Vincent Colyer and an associate, representative of the Sanitary Commission, volunteered to take charge of matters and restore order. Their action probably saved the town and the entire command from an epidemic of smallpox. In other countries they would have received decorations. Never before in the history of warfare did so many lawyers, merchants, ministers, and thousands of the people who stayed at home, combine to bring friendship and comfort to the sufferers in the field. It is recorded in the ‘Annals of the United States Christian Commission’ by the Reverend Lemuel Moss, its Home Secretary, that its business committee collected no less than $5,478,280.31 for the soldiers. On October 28, 1861, the Central Committee of the Young Men's Christian Association in Philadelphia addressed a circular letter to all the associations in the Union, inviting them to send delegates to a convention at the rooms of the Young Men's Christian Association of New York, on the 14th of the following month. This letter was signed by George H. Stuart, Chairman, John Wanamaker, Corresponding Secretary, James Grant, John W. Sexton, and George Cookman. The letter met with immediate response, and at the convention George H. Stuart was chosen President, Edward S. Tobey, Vice-President, Cephas Brainard and William Ballantyne, Secretaries. Messrs. Desmond, Vernon, Wanamaker, Masiurre, Baird, Colyer, and Stuart were appointed on the Business Committee. Thus was organized the Christian Commission.

John Wanamaker in 1861 One of the wartime merchants who raised many millions for the relief of the soldiers at the front through the Christian commission and other civil agencies

[18] Confederate Armies,’ an invaluable mine of material, heretofore little worked. His earnest effort has been to be absolutely just and impartial.

Whether or not he has succeeded, the pictures here published, absolutely without change or retouching, must be accepted as truthful. They have come from every section, and there has been no selection to prove a theory. Many Confederate pictures, the very existence of which was unknown, have been unearthed and are here given to the world. Here are the prisoners, their prisons, and their guards, the hospitals, and the surgeons, the whole machinery of relief.

The list of those who have given their time to answer the almost numberless questions of the author regarding both facts and their interpretation is so long that separate acknowledgment is impracticable. Especial thanks for courtesies are due, however, to George Haven Putnam, Esq., Doctor John A. Wyeth, and Thomas Sturgis, Esq., of New York, John Read, Esq., of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Doctor W. J. W. Kerr, of Corsicana, Texas, and the late Doctor Stanford E. Chaille, of New Orleans. None of these, however, may be held responsible for any sections not specifically quoted on his authority.

Holland Thompson. July 4, 1911.

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