Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/123

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
115
Treatment of Prisoners During the War.

of cruelty to prisoners, as we have been appealed to by leading men North and South and in Europe to give the facts in reference to this matter, and as the present seems an opportune time, we have decided to enter upon the task.

We have only to premise that our work is mainly one of compilation, and that our chief difficulty is which documents to select from the vast number which we have in our collection.


THE QUESTION STATED.

Let it be distinctly understood that we do not for a moment affirm that there was not a vast amount of suffering and fearful mortality among the Federal prisoners at the South. But we are prepared to prove before any fair tribunal, from documents now in our archives, the following points:

1. The Confederate authorities always ordered the kind treatment of prisoners of war, and if there were individual cases of cruel treatment it was in violation of positive orders.

2. The orders were to give prisoners the same rations that our own soldiers received, and if rations were scarce and of inferior quality it was through no fault of the Confederacy.

3. The prison hospitals were put on the same footing precisely as the hospitals for our own men, and if there was unusual suffering caused by want of medicine and hospital stores, it arose from the fact that the Federal authorities declared these "contraband of war," and refused to accept the Confederate offer to allow Federal surgeons to come to the prisons with supplies of medicines and stores.

4. The prisons were established with reference to healthfulness of locality, and the great mortality among the prisoners arose from epidemics and chronic diseases which our surgeons had not the means of preventing or arresting.

A strong proof of this is the fact that nearly as large a proportion of the Confederate guard at Andersonville died as of the prisoners themselves.

5. The above reasons cannot be assigned for the cruel treatment which Confederates received in Northern prisons. Though in a land flowing with plenty, our poor fellows in prison were famished with hunger, and would have considered half the rations served Federal soldiers bountiful indeed. Their prison-hospitals were very far from being on the same footing with the hospitals for their own soldiers, and our men died by thousands from causes which the Federal authorities could have prevented.