Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/April/Mr. Blaine's description of Northern Prisons

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Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 1, Number 4  (1876)  by John William Jones
Mr. Blaine's description of Northern Prisons
Southern Historical Society Papers, April 1876

SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS.



Vol. I.
No. 4.
Richmond, Va., April, 1876.


THE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS DURING THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES.

[Compiled by the Secretary of the Southern Historical Society.]

We stated in our last issue that we should resume this subject in this number. But instead of finishing at this point the discussion of the Exchange question, we will first dispose of

THE TREATMENT OF CONFEDERATE PRISONERS BY THE FEDERAL AUTHORITIES.

The ex parte reports of the Federal Congress, the reports of the United States officials, the reports of the Sanitary Commission, various books that partisan writers at the North have published, and the Radical press generally, have represented that while the Confederate authorities deliberately, willfully, and persistently, starved, tortured, and murdered Union prisoners, the Federal authorities always treated their captives in the most considerate and humane manner. Indeed the impression sought to be made is that Confederates fared so much better in Federal prisons than they did in the Confederate army, that their capture was really a blessing to them—that they came to prison emaciated skeletons, and were sent back (except those who "died of diseases they brought with them") sleek, hale, healthy men.

We might quote largely on this point from the writings alluded to, but we will only give an extract from the speech of Hon. James G. Blaine, uttered deliberately on the floor of the United States House of Representatives eleven years after the close of the war:

"Now I undertake here to say that there is not a Confederate soldier now living who has any credit as a man in his community, and who ever was a prisoner in the hands of the Union forces, who will say that he ever was cruelly treated; that he ever was deprived of the same rations that the Union soldiers had—the same food and the same clothing.

"Mr. Cook. Thousands of them say it—thousands of them; men of as high character as any in this House.

"Mr. Blaine. I take issue upon that. There is not one who can substantiate it—not one. As for measures of retaliation, although goaded by this terrific treatment of our friends imprisoned by Mr. Davis, the Congress of the United States specifically refused to pass a resolution of retaliation, as contrary to modern civilization and the first precepts of Christianity. And there was no retaliation attempted or justified. It was refused; and Mr. Davis knew it was refused just as well as I knew it or any other man, because what took place in Washington or what took place in Richmond was known on either side of the line within a day or two thereafter."