Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/131

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123
Treatment of Prisoners During the War.

VICE-PRESIDENT ALEX. H. STEVENS,

in his "War Between the States," declares that the efforts which have been made to "fix the odium of cruelty and barbarity" upon Mr. Davis and the Confederate authorities "constitute one of the boldest and baldest attempted outrages upon the truth of history which has ever been essayed." After briefly, but most conclusively, discussing the general question, Mr. Stevens continues as follows in reference to the Federal prisoners sent South:

Large numbers of them were taken to Southwestern Georgia in 1864, because it was a section most remote and secure from the invading Federal armies, and because, too, it was a country of all others then within the Confederate limits, not thus threatened with an invasion, most abundant with food, and all resources at command for the health and comfort of prisoners. They were put in one stockade for the want of men to guard more than one. The section of country, moreover, was not regarded as more unhealthy, or more subject to malarious influences, than any in the central part of the State. The official order for the erection of the stockade enjoined that it should be in "a healthy locality, plenty of pure water, a running stream, and, if possible, shade trees, and in the immediate neighborhood of grist and saw mills." The very selection of the locality, so far from being, as you suppose, made with cruel designs against the prisoners, was governed by the most humane considerations.

Your question might, with much more point, be retorted by asking, why were Southern prisoners taken in the dead of winter with their thin clothing to Camp Douglas, Rock Island and Johnson's Island—icy regions of the North—where it is a notorious fact that many of them actually froze to death?

As far as mortuary returns afford evidence of the general treatment of prisoners on both sides, the figures show nothing to the disadvantage of the Confederates, notwithstanding their limited supplies of all kinds, and notwithstanding all that has been said of the horrible sacrifice of life at Andersonville.

It now appears that a larger number of Confederates died in Northern than of Federals in Southern prisons or stockades. The report of Mr. Stanton, as Secretary of War, on the 19th of July, 1866, exhibits the fact that, of the Federal prisoners in Confederate hands during the war, only 22,576 died; while of the Confederate prisoners in Federal hands 26,436 died. This report does not set forth the exact number of prisoners held by each side respectively. These facts were given more in detail in a subsequent report by Surgeon-General Barnes, of the United States army. His report I have not seen, but according to a statement editorially in the National Intelligencer, very high authority, it appears from the Surgeon-General's report, that the whole number of Federal prisoners captured by the Confederates and held in Southern prisons, from first to