Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 03.djvu/216
Southern Historical Society Papers.
pital stores to enable our surgeons properly to treat the sick. As to the first point, the reply is at hand. The stockade at Andersonville was originally designed for a much smaller number of prisoners than were afterwards crowded into it. But prisoners accumulated—after the stoppage of exchange—in Richmond and at other points; the Dahlgren raid—which had for its avowed object the liberation of the prisoners, the assassination of President Davis and his Cabinet, and the sacking of Richmond—warned our authorities against allowing large numbers of prisoners to remain in Richmond, even if the difficulty of feeding them there was removed; and the only alternative was to rush them down to Andersonville, as enough men to guard them elsewhere could not be spared from the ranks of our armies, which were now everywhere fighting overwhelming odds. We have a statement from an entirely trustworthy source that the reason prisoners were not detailed to cut timber with which to enlarge the stockade and build shelters is, that this privilege was granted to a large number of them when the prison was first established, they giving their parole of honor not to attempt to escape; and that they violated their paroles, threw away their axes, and spread dismay throughout that whole region by creating the impression that all of the prisoners had broken loose. This experiment could not, of course, be repeated, and the rest had to suffer for the bad faith of these, who not only prevented the detail of any numbers of other prisoners for this work, but made way with axes which could not be replaced. In reference to feeding the prisoners on corn bread, there has been the loudest complaints and the bitterest denunciations. They had not been accustomed to such hard fare as "hog and hominy," and the poor fellows did suffer fearfully from it. But the Confederate soldiers had the same rations. Our soldiers had the advantage of buying supplies and of receiving occasional boxes from home, which the prisoners at Andersonville could have enjoyed to an even greater extent had the United States authorities been willing to accept the humane proposition of our Commissioner of Exchange—to allow each side to send supplies to their prisoners. But why did not the Confederacy furnish better rations to both our own soldiers and our prisoners? and why were the prisoners at Andersonville not supplied with wheat bread instead of corn bread? Answers to these questions may be abundantly found by referring to the orders of Major-General John Pope, directing his men "to live on the country"; the orders of General Sherman, in fulfilling his avowed purpose to "make Georgia howl" as he "smashed things generally" in that "great march," which left smoking, blackened ruins and desolated fields to mark his progress; the orders of General Grant to his Lieutenant, to desolate the rich wheat-growing Valley of Virginia; or the reports of General Sheridan, boasting of the number of barns he had burned, the mills he had destroyed, and the large amount of wheat he had given to the flames, until there was really more truth than poetry in his boast that he had made the Shenandoah Valley "such a