Prison life at Fort Delaware.Capt. Beckwith West, of the 48th Virginia regiment, was captured by the enemy at Front Royal, on the 30th of May, and taken to Fort Delaware, where he was held as prisoner until exchanged a few days ago. In a narration of his prison experiences he says that the Confederate commissioned officers, forty-seven in number, were confined in a room forty feet long by fifteen in width, the ascent to which was made by a ladder twenty feet long, which was taken away every night. On some days, as the caprice of the commanding officer happened to be, the officers were permitted to walk for half an hour on the parapet of the fort. Officers and privates were subjected to the same fare, which consisted of a small allowance of sour bread and salt meat twice a day, with an occasional introduction of very weak soup. The Government allowance for rations purports to be sixteen cents a day for each prisoner; but it was stated in a Philadelphia newspaper that Capt. Gibson, by ‘"his excellent management,"’ saved about two-thirds of this sum, and expended it in clothing, which the prisoners never received the benefit of. Letters were occasionally sent them, by stealth, from sympathizing friends in Philadelphia and New York, conveying the intelligence that presents had been forwarded to them, but they never reached their destination, being intercepted on the route. Until the exchange of prisoners was agreed upon they were not allowed to receive newspapers; but whenever the commandant of the fort found anything especially adverse to the cause of the South, he would cut it out and send it to the Confederate officers for the purpose of irritating them. In consequence of an impression that the prisoners were forming a plan to take possession of the fort, an attempt was made to conciliate them with information that they were about to be paroled. Of the 4,000 prisoners there, some 3,000 were kept in little pens, which our informant describes as ‘"sheep pens,"’ and subjected to much suffering. Major Segebarth, the officer in command, treated them with great brutality. No communication was allowed between the officers and privates, except by special permission. Every inducement was offered privates to take the oath of allegiance and enlist in the Federal army; and it was not uncommon for the officers to propose a bribe of from $200 to $500 in gold to effect his purpose. Thus 271 were induced to take the oath, but of this number not one was a native of the Southern States. These men were afterwards placed in tents outside of the walls; and as they returned for their blankets and clothing, some of the Confederate soldiers cursed them for their treason, whereupon the Sergeant of the guard fired a pistol at them. Bricks and other missiles were then thrown indiscriminately, and the whole garrison was in an uproar. Cannon were placed in position to bear upon the prisoners quarters, and various measures resorted to for the purpose of intimidation, but the worst frightened man in the fort was the valorous Dutch Major, Segebarth. The privateersmen were kept in camp in a low, marshy place, and one night some of the Yankee soldiers, to increase their sufferings, turned the water in upon them and completely overflowed their quarters. They were compelled to sleep in mud and water a considerable portion of the time, and the consequence was that several died. Mr. Hall, of the 3d Florida regiment, who was arrested on St. John's river on the 27th of April, arrived in Richmond yesterday from Fort Delaware. Though a private soldier, he was charged with being the captain of a guerrilla company, and treated worse than if he had been a pirate. For two months he was kept on board a gunboat in irons, while a man stood over him with a sabre bayonet and pistol, with orders to kill him if he attempted to move from his place. He was subsequently sent to Philadelphia, and marched in irons through the streets of that city and New York, then sent to Fort Lafayette, but soon transferred to Fort Delaware, where his irons were removed. He was treated with some kindness by the Provost Marshal, who was formerly employed by him in the coasting trade. His general experience of prison life is similar to that of others. On reaching Alken's Landing, on his return, Mr. Hall was designated as a captain by the Federal, who insisted that he should be exchanged as such. This he would not consent to, and so firm was he in his determination to be exchanged as a private, that the Yankees, in their wrath, endeavored to detain him, but were finally compelled to yield. All the prisoners form Fort Delaware are indignant at the treatment they received, and their purpose is to ‘"square accounts"’ with the Yankees if the opportunity is ever afforded them. Among the exchanged prisoners from Fort Delaware who have arrived here is Jos. McMurran, of the 4th Virginia regiment, captured at Kernstown. He agrees with his companions that the treatment of Confederate soldiers was brutal in the extreme. The officers and soldiers in immediate contact with the prisoners were Dutch, and their brutality to our men was without mitigation. In return, our men say that there won't be any more Pennsylvania Dutchmen taken prisoners by them during this war. Striking a prisoner over the head or running a bayonet at him was a common occurrence. A Dutch Provost Marshal, named Segebarth, excelled his brother brutes in maltreating the prisoners. A dungeon, made to accommodate three men, often contained fourteen, and their sufferings were very great. The fare was bread and a very small piece of salt pork twice a day, and bean soup of about the consistency of water. Nearly two thirds of the men had scurvy. The general determination of the exchanged prisoners is to be shot before they will again be taken and undergo the miseries of a Northern prison. Just before the prisoners left Fort Delaware the following order from the War Department was read:
[Extract]When a general exchange shall be established those prisoners who are willing to take the oath of allegiance, and as to whose loyalty there is no question, will not be forced into the rebel lines.
Ass't Sec'y of War.
June 18th, 1862.
Out of nearly 4,000 prisoners only a little over 300 availed themselves of this offer.