Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/297

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289
Treatment of Prisoners During the War.

violent death, I appeal to your lordship to demand a mitigation of the rigor of my present situation."

This was made known to the United States Government, by the British minister, in a letter to Mr. Seward, dated October 20th, 1864, in these words: * * * "Wright complains very much of the quantity and qualiy of the food he gets as being insufficient and generative of disease. I hope that his case may be attended to, and that I may hear something soon upon the subject."

A few days after this I was paroled to assist in the clerical duties of the post adjutant's office, and remained there until released in June, 1865.

It must not be supposed that my correspondence with the British minister left the prison in the prescribed channel. I had tried that, and found that certain letters of mine did not reach him. My communications were smuggled out in the manner I have described in this paper, and sent under cover to friends in St. Louis and Albany, who mailed them. I mention this because the Secretary of War took some credit to himself for liberality in my case, as will be seen from the following extract of a letter addressed to Mr. Seward :

WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON CITY,
October 12th, 1864.

Mr. Wright makes no complaint of harsh treatment, and the papers which he presents show that the officers who have had him in charge have rendered him every facility in submitting his appeal.

If Mr. Seward was misled by this statement in regard to my treatment, he was certainly undeceived when he received the British minister's note, dated October 20th, of which I have given an extract.

The wretched condition of the prisoners at Rock Island was well known to the citizens of Rock Island City and Davenport.

At the request of Judge Grant of the latter city, on the 20th of September, 1864, I made a faithful statement of the treatment and condition of the prisoners; and for this purpose, in company with others, I visited a number of barracks. The bread and the meat were carefully weighed, and the quality of the food truthfully reported. The judge desired a plain statement, without exaggeration or comment, to use in an effort he was about to make at Washington to ameliorate the condition of the prisoners. As no change for the better took place, the presumption is that Judge Grant did not succeed in his benevolent mission. I have mentioned that the officers of the prison denied the charge of cruelty, at a time when the poor wretches within the walls were sinking under the starvation diet I have described. That denial was made necessary in