Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 03.djvu/209

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199
Discussion of the Prison Question.

present arrangement suffice for their accommodation." With such an object before him, there is little reason to doubt the evidence of the bad quality and the insufficient amount of food furnished. The Secretary, in his report, quotes three witnesses (Frost, Jones and Park), to the effect that the same rations were issued to the guard—a disputed point not perhaps very important to settle, as it is not denied that there were abundant supplies at Americus and elsewhere in the vicinity, in a region which Sherman found so well supplied, and that our men were starving to death on the rations of unbolted corn-meal alone that were issued to them, while the gifts of charitable neighbors were not allowed to be distributed to them.

The responsibility of General Winder and Lieutenant Wirz for all this cannot be rationally denied; but we could wish for our national credit that it went no further. Unfortunately, the injudicious authors of this report will not allow us to believe so. Early in 1864, soon after the general reduction in rations to the prisoners of war in the hands of the Confederates, attention was drawn to their sufferings. Colonel Persons appealed to the courts for an injunction on the Andersonville prison as a public nuisance. Hon. H. S. Foote, aroused by the Secretary of War's recommendation that no more meat be issued to the prisoners, called the attention of the Confederate House of Representatives to their sufferings, and asked investigation. General Howell Cobb, who had command of the department, investigated the hospitals, and, in the face of outspoken reports from the surgeons in charge, reported that action was not required. Dr. Jones, however, who was specially sent there by the Government for scientific investigation, made a report which, though one-sided and long-winded, showed plainly enough the state of things. Colonel Chandler, who was sent by the Secretary of War, Colonel Seddon, to investigate the charges, briefly reported in August, 1864, that it was "a place the horrors which it is difficult to describe, and which is a disgrace to civilization," and recommended the removal of General Winder. General Cooper, the Inspector-General, endorsed this report, writing that "Andersonville is a reproach to us as a nation." J. A. Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of War, urgently endorsed the report. General Bragg and General Ransom and others agitated for Winder's removal. Judge Ould made the mortality of the prisoners the ground for a strong appeal to the United States for a renewal of exchange. And this was all. Mr. Davis not only refused to remove General Winder, but extended his authority to all the Confederate prisons, which powers he held until his death in the following year. The apologists for President Davis have always contended that he was not aware of the "horror"; and singular as it may seem that a ruler who always made himself personally familiar with even the details of the War Office, should not have known of an investigation of such a nature, made in consequence of action of the House, pressed by the principal departments, and made the basis