Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/210

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

methods of distribution, and without other restriction than a personal parole of honor not to convey information prejudicial to us, on condition that we, too, should be allowed to relieve the sufferings of our men in Northern prisons by sending medical officers with like powers, who should take cotton (the only exchange we possessed) to buy supplies necessary for our people; that this was immediately communicated early in August, 1864, to General Mulford, who was informed of the state of things at Andersonville; that he communicated this proposition to his immediate superiors, and had no answer for some two or three weeks, and when the answer came it was a simple refusal; that General Mulford promptly communicated this to Judge Ould, and he to Mr. Seddon; that immediately thereon Mr. Seddon directed Colonel Ould to return down the river (James), see General Mulford and say that in three days from the time we were notified that transportation would be at Savannah to receive them, the Federals should have delivered them ten thousand of the sick from Andersonville, whether we were allowed any equivalent in exchange for them or not, as a mere measure of humanity; that this was promptly done; and General Mulford, as I was informed, would have stated that, so impressed was he with the enormous suffering, which it was the desire of our Government to spare, that not content with an official letter through the usual channels, he went in person to Washington, into the office of Secretary Stanton, told him the whole story, and urged prompt action, but got no reply. Nor was a reply vouchsafed to this offer until the latter part of December, 1864; meanwhile some fifteen thousand men had died. If these be the facts, who is responsible?

My deliberate conviction at the time, and ever since, has been that the authorities at Washington considered thirty thousand men, just in the rear of General Johnston's army in Georgia, drawing their rations from the same stores from which his army had to be fed, would be better used up there than in the Federal ranks, in view of the fact that they could recruit their armies, while we had exhausted our material; that the refusal to exchange prisoners, and the denial of our offers in regard to the sick at Andersonville, was part of the plan of attrition. It will be remembered that the friends of Federal soldiers in prison at the South had become clamorous about the stopage of exchanges. The Northern press had taken the matter up, and the authorities had been arraigned as responsible. I have never doubted that one collateral object of the Wirz trial was by a perfectly unilateral trial (?), in which the prosecutor had everything his own way to manufacture an answer to these just complaints. And I feel a conviction that the truth will one day be vindicated; that, having reference to relative resources, Federal prisoners were more humanely dealt with in Confederate hands than Confederate prisoners were in Federal hands. It was their interest, on a cold-blooded calculation, to stop exchanges when they did it—and as soon as it was their interest, they did it