Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/April/Narrative of Henry Clay Dean
|←Mr. Blaine's description of Northern Prisons||Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 1, Number 4 (1876) by
Narrative of Henry Clay Dean
|Prison Life of Rev. Geo. W. Nelson →|
|Southern Historical Society Papers, April 1876|
Now we propose to meet this issue—and if we do not show by witnesses, of the most unimpeachable character, that Confederate prisoners were "cruelly treated"—that they were deprived of the same rations that the Union soldiers had—the same food and the same clothing"—if we do not show that the Federal authorities were themselves guilty of the crimes they charged against us, then we are willing to stand before the bar of history convicted of inability to judge of the weight of evidence.
And here again our work of compilation is rendered difficult only by the mass of material at hand. We have enough to make several large volumes—we can only cull here and there a statement.
Mr. Henry Clay Dean, of Iowa, who says in his introduction, "I am a Democrat; a devoted friend of the Constitution of the United States; a sincere lover of the Government and the Union of the States"—published in 1868 a book of 512 pages, entitled "Crimes of the Civil War," which we respectfully commend to the perusal of those who believe that the Federal Government conducted the war on the principles of "modern civilization and the precepts of Christianity."
We will extract only one chapter (pp. 120–141), and will simply preface it with the remark, that though some of the language used is severer than our taste would approve, the narrative bears the impress of truth on its face, and can be abundantly substantiated by other testimony:
In the town of Palmyra, Missouri, John McNeil had his headquarters as colonel of a Missouri regiment and commander of the post.
An officious person who had acted as a spy and common informer, named Andrew Allsman, who was engaged in the detestable business of having his neighbors arrested upon charges of disloyalty, and securing the scoutings and ravages from every house that was not summarily burned to the earth. This had so long been his vocation that he was universally loathed by people of every shade of opinion, and soon brought upon himself the fate common to all such persons in every country, where the spirit of self-defence is an element of human nature. In his search for victims for the prison which was kept at Palmyra, this man was missed; nobody knew when, or where, or how; whether drowned in the river, absconding from the army, or killed by Federal soldiers or concealed Confederates.
His failure to return was made the pretext for a series of the most horrible crimes ever recorded in any country, civilized or barbarous.
John McNeil is a Nova Scotian by birth, the descendant of the expelled tories of the American Revolution, who took sides against the colonists in the rebellion against Great Britain. He is by trade a hatter, who made some money in the Mexican war. He had lived in Saint Louis for many years, simply distinguished for his activity in grog-shop politics. He was soon in the market on the outbreak of the war, and received a colonel's commission. Without courage, military knowledge, or experience, he entered the army for the purpose of murder and robbery.
As the tool of McNeil, W. H. Strachan acted in the capacity of provost marshal general, whose enormities exceed anything in the wicked annals of human depravity. At the instigation of McNeil, the provost marshal went to the prison, filled with quiet, inoffensive farmers, and selected ten men of age and respectability; among the rest an old Judge of Knox county, all of whom had helpless families at home, in destitution and unprotected.
These names, which should be remembered as among the victims of the reign of the Monster of the Christian era, were as follows:
William Baker, Thomas Huston, Morgan Bixler, John Y. McPheeters of Lewis, Herbert Hudson, John M. Wade, Marion Lavi of Ralls, Captain Thomas A. Snyder of Monroe, Eleazer Lake of Scotland, and Hiram Smith of Knox county, were sentenced to be shot without trial or any of the forms of military law, by a military commander whose grade could not have given ratification to a court-martial, had one been held; had the parties been charged with crime, which they were not.
Mr. Humphreys, also in prison, was to have been shot instead of one of those named above, but which one the author has not the means of knowing. The change in the persons transpired in this way:
Early on the morning of the execution, Mrs. Mary Humphreys came to see her husband before his death, to intercede for his release. She first went to see McNeil, who frowned, stormed, and let loose a volley of such horrible oaths at her for daring to plead for her husband's life that she fled away through fear, and when she closed the door, the unnameable fiend cursed her with blasphemous assurances that her husband should be dispatched to hell at one o'clock. The poor affrighted woman, with bleeding heart, hastened to the provost marshal's office, and quite fainted away as she besought him to intercede with McNeil for the preservation of her husband's life. With a savage, taunting grin, Strachan said "that may be done, madam, by getting me three hundred dollars." This she did through the kindness of two gentlemen, who advanced the money at once.
She returned with the money and paid it to Strachan. Mrs. Humphreys had her little daughter by her side, when she sank into her seat with exhaustion. Scarcely had she taken her place, until Strachan told her that she had still to do something else to secure her husband's release. At this moment he thrust the little girl out of the door and threatened the fainting woman with the execution of her husband. She fell as a lifeless corpse to the floor. After he had filled his pockets with money and satiated his lust, the provost marshal released poor Humphreys. Another innocent victim was taken in his place to cover up the hideous crime. The newspapers were commanded to publish the falsehood that some one had volunteered to die in his stead. The additional murdered man was a sacrifice to the venality, murder and rape of the provost marshal. The victim was an unobtrusive young man, caught up and dragged off as a wild beast to the slaughter, without any further notice than was necessary to prepare to walk from the jail to the scene of murder.
The other eleven were notified of their contemplated murder some eighteen hours before the appointed moment of the tragedy. Rev. James S. Green, of the city of Palmyra, remained with them through the night.
Between eleven and twelve o'clock the next day, three Government wagons drove to the jail with ten rough boxes, upon which the ten martyrs to brutal demonism were seated.
This appalling spectacle was made more frightful by the rough jeering of the mercenaries who guarded the victims to the place of butchery. The jolting wagons were driven through street after street, which was abandoned by every human being; women fainting at the awful spectacle, clasping their children more closely to their bosoms, as the murderers, with blood pictured in their countenances, were screaming in hoarse tones the word of command.
The company of stranger adventurers, mercenaries, and the vilest resident population, formed a circle at the scene, in imitation of the Roman slaughter in the time of Nero, Caligula and Commodus, to feast their sensual eyes on blood and amuse themselves with the piteous shrieks of the dying men. This infernal saturnalia commenced with music. Everything was done which might harrow the feelings and torture the soul. The rough coffins were placed before them in such manner as to excite horror; the grave opened its yawning mouth to terrify them; but they stood unmoved amid the frenzied, murderous mob. Captain Snyder was dressed in beautiful black, with white vest; magnificent head covered with rich wavy locks that fell around his broad shoulders like the mane of a lion. When the mercenaries were preparing to consummate this horrible crime, they at last seemed conscious of the character and the magnitude of this awful work, grew pale and trembled: even the brutal Strachan seemed alarmed at his own nameless and compounded crimes of lust, avarice and murder. Rev. Mr. Rhodes, a meek and unobtrusive minister of the Baptist Church, prayed with the dying men, and Strachan reached out his bloody hands to bid them adieu. They generously forgave their murderers.
To lengthen out the cruel tragedy, the guns were fired at different times that death might be dealt out in broken periods. Two of the men were killed outright. Captain Snyder sprang to his feet, faced the soldiers, pierced their cowardly faces with his unbandaged eagle eye, and fell forward to rise no more.
The other seven were wounded, mangled and butchered in detail, with pistols; whilst the ear was rent with their piteous groans, praying to find refuge in death. The whole butchery occupied some fifteen minutes.
The country was appalled at the recital of these crimes and incredulous of the facts.
The newspapers were suppressed to prevent their publication, and the exposure of the perpetrators. The punishment of the criminals was demanded by public justice and expected by everybody except the criminals, who well understood the cruelty and corruption of the Executive Department.
To cover up these crimes by a judicial farce, nearly two years afterwards charges were preferred against Strachan; he was convicted upon the foregoing state of facts, and sentence passed upon him. The sentence was remitted and Strachan promoted.
For this crime McNeil was promoted by Lincoln to Brigadier-General and kept in office. In all of the history of European wars, Asiatic butcheries, Indian cruelties, and negro atrocities, there can be found no parallel instance in which the murder of men without any of the forms of trial, was accompanied with the rape of the wives of those designated by the lottery of death as the price of the husband's liberty. There was nothing left undone to make the whole scene cruel, loathsome, and revolting.
This outrage unpunished, gave license for crime, cruelty, outrage and disorder everywhere. It would require the pen of every writer, the paper of every manufacturer, for a year, to recount them; the human imagination sickens in contemplation of them.
In the next year after the McNeil butchery, in the neighboring city of Hannibal, occurred a similar crime, equally monstrous in its details.
J. T. K. Heyward commanded a body of enrolled brigands in Marion county, known as the railroad brigade, who foraged upon the people and plundered the country. Hugh B. Bloom, a drunken soldier of the Federal army, returning to his regiment, muttered some offensive words in the presence of Heyward's men. Bloom was immediately dragged from the steamboat upon which he was traveling and carried before Heyward.
Heyward improvised a military court, tried the drunken man, and condemned him to immediate death.
Whilst the poor wretch was unconscious of his condition, disqualified for self-defence, and unable to understand the fearful nature of his peril, he was hurried off to the most public place on the river side; the people of the town, trembling with fear, were compelled to witness the horrid scene.
The worst was yet to come. Old and respectable citizens, because known for their quiet demeanor and hatred of violence, were dragged down to witness the horrid spectacle. Twelve of these gentlemen were presented with muskets, and commanded to fire at the trembling inebriate sitting upon his coffin.
To enforce this fiendish order to make private gentlemen commit public murder, Heyward's brigands were placed immediately behind the squad of private citizens and commanded to fire upon the first who hesitated to fire at Bloom. As the shuddering man sank down beneath the terrible volley of musketry, Heyward turned upon the people and warned them of their impending fate in the murder of this man.
The spectacle was revolting in itself. It was terrible in view of the fact, that these militia were unauthorised by law for any such purpose; that the execution was without the shadow of law, that the victim was a Union soldier, who had committed no offence; that the men who were forced to do this horrid work were unwilling to commit the crime, and protested against being made the instruments of such bloody horror. But how ineffably shocking that the perpetrator, Heyward, should be a member of a Christian church, and assume the office of Sabbath-school teacher; that little children should look upon the horrible visage of the murderous wretch as their instructor.
This Heyward, secluded from the inquiring world, overawing and corrupting the press of his own neighborhood, was the most satanic of all the local tyrants of Missouri.
At one time he gathered all of the old and respectable citizens of Hannibal, including such highly cultivated gentlemen of spotless escutcheon as Hon. A. W. Lamb, into a dilapidated, falling house, and placed powder under it to blow it to atoms, in case Hannibal should be visited by rebels.
In Monroe county, two farmers were arrested by the provost marshal's guard, taken a short distance from home, shot down and thrown into the field with the swine.
On the next day the recognized fragments of the bodies were gathered up by the neighbors and carried to their respective houses, and prepared for interment.
The citizens were so respectable, the murder so brutal, the outrage so revolting, that people gathered from a long distance around to bury in decency the remains of those who had been so shockingly destroyed.
When the funeral procession had been formed, the provost marshal sent his guard to disperse them; declaring that no person opposed to the war should have public burial.
The heart-broken families had to go unattended to the grave of their respective dead; each one dreading the danger that beset the highway upon their return home; and feeling even more in danger from marauders in the secret chambers of their own domicil.
During this drunken reign of horrors, innocent people were shot down upon their door sills, called into their gardens upon pretended business, butchered and left lying, that their families might not know their whereabouts until their bodies were decomposed. Women were ravished, houses burned, plantations laid waste.
Judge Richardson was shot whilst in the courthouse in which he presided, in Scotland county. Rev. Wm. Headlee, a minister of the gospel, was shot upon the highway; and all of these murderers, robbers and incendiaries, are yet at large.
Dr. Glasscock, a physician, was dragged from his own house by soldiers, under pretence of taking him to court as a witness, against the earnest prayers of his children and slaves, was shot, mangled, disfigured and mutilated, then brought to his own yard and thrown down like a dead animal.
To prevent punishment by law, these criminals repealed the laws against their crimes; and provided in the constitution that crime should go unpunished if committed by themselves.
To make themselves secure in their crime and to give immunity from punishment, they disfranchised the masses of the people; and in the city of Saint Louis the criminal vote elected the criminal McNeil as the sheriff of the county of Saint Louis—the tool of the weakest and most malignant tyrants.
Saint George, Tucker Co., Va., November 28th, 1862.
Mr. Adam Harper :
Sir—In consequence of certain robberies which have been committed on Union citizens of this county by bands of guerrillas, you are hereby assessed to the amount ($285.00) two hundred and eighty-five dollars, to make good their losses; and upon your failure to comply with the above assessment by the 8th day of December, the following order has been issued to me by Brigadier-General R. H. Milroy:
You are to burn their houses, seize all their property and shoot them. You will be sure that you strictly carry out this order.
You will inform the inhabitants for ten or fifteen miles around your camp, on all the roads approaching the town upon which the enemy may approach, that they must dash in and give you notice, and upon any one failing to do so, you will burn their houses and shoot the men.
By order Brigadier-General R. H. Milroy,
H. Kellog, Captain Commanding Post.
Mr. Harper was an old gentlemen, over 82 years of age, a cripple, and can neither read nor write the English language, though a good German scholar. This gentlemen was one of twelve children, had served in the war of 1812, was the son of a Revolutionary soldier who bore his musket during the whole war, inherited a woodland tract, and built up a substantial home in the midst of Western Virginia.
His was only one of a class which swept over West Virginia, and left the beautiful valleys of Tygart and the Potomac rivers in ashes and desolation.
It is to pay for crimes like these, and keep in employment the men who committed them, that created the debt now weighing the people down. It was to pay such monsters, with their tools, that money was refunded by the General Government to the State of Missouri and West Virginia, and the taxes saddled upon the people of the country.
The following letter gives its own explanation:
Macon, Georgia, October 7, 1867.
Henry Clay Dean, Mount Pleasant, Iowa:
Dear Sir—I have read your late communication addressed to "The prisoners of war, and victims of arbitrary arrests in the United States of America."
You allege that "the Congress of the United States refused to extend the investigation contemplated by a resolution, adopted by that body on the l0th of July, 1867, appointing certain parties to investigate the treatment of prisoners of war and Union citizens held by the Confederate authorities during the rebellion, to the prisoners of war, victims of 'arbitrary power and military usurpation by the authority of the Federal Administration.'"
Appreciating your object "to put the truth upon the record," and concurring in your patriotic suggestion that "it is the duty of every American to look to the honor of his country and the preservation of the truth of history," I have felt constrained to respond to the call made in your circular, so far as to acquaint the public, through you, with the following precise, simple, and unexaggerated statement of facts:
When the Capitol of the Confederate States was evacuated, the specie belonging to the Richmond banks was removed, with the archives of the Government, to Washington, Georgia. Early after the close of the war, a wagon train conveying this specie from Washington to Abbeville, South Carolina, was attacked and robbed of an amount approximating to $100,000, by a body of disbanded cavalry of the Confederate army.
A few weeks subsequent to this event, Brigadier-General Edward A. Wild, with an escort consisting of twelve negro soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Seaton, of Captain Alfred Cooley's company (156th Regiment of New York Volunteers), repaired to the scene of the robbery in the vicinity of Danburg, Wilkes county, Georgia. By the order of General Wild, and in his presence, A. D. Chenault, a Methodist minister, weighing 275 pounds, his brother, John N. Chenault, of moderate size, and a son of the latter, only 15 years of age, but weighing 230 pounds, were arrested and taken to an adjacent wood, where the money abstracted from the train, or a portion of it, was supposed to be concealed. Failing to produce the money upon the order of General Wild, these three citizens, who enjoy the esteem and confidence of all who know them, were suspended by their thumbs, with the view of extorting confessions as to the place of its concealment. Mr. John N. Chenault was twice subjected to this torture, and on one occasion until he fainted, and was then cut down. Rev. A. D. Chenault was also hung up twice by his thumbs, and until General Wild was induced only by his groans and cries to release him from his agony. The youth, A. F. Chenault, was hung up once, and until he exhibited evident signs of fainting, when he was cut down. Whilst this scene was being enacted, General Wild and his subaltern were both present, directing the whole operations. These citizens, with the exception of John N. Chenault, who was unable to be removed, were then sent under guard to Washington, fifteen miles distant.
By order of General Wild, a daughter of John N. Chenault, about the age of seventeen years, universally beloved in her neighborhood, and distinguished for her piety, was searched, by being stripped, in the presence of the Lieutenant, who was charged with the execution of the order. When her garments, piece by piece, were taken from her and the very last one upon her was reached, in the instincts of her native modesty, she threw herself upon a bed and sought to conceal her person with its covering, she was ordered to stand out upon the floor until stripped to perfect nakedness.
By order of General Wild, the wife of John N. Chenault was arrested and taken under guard to Washington, where she was incarcerated for several days, fed on bread and water, in one of the petite jury rooms of the courthouse, and after she had been forced to leave at her home her nursing infant, but nine months old, where it continued to remain until its mother was released.
During the period of her imprisonment, General Wild was waited upon at his hotel by three citizens of the county, to wit: Francis G. Wingfield, Richard T. Walton, and your correspondent, who importuned this officer to permit one of the party to take Mrs. Chenault to his residence in the village, each pledging his neck, and all tendering bond, with security in any amount which he would be pleased to nominate, for her appearance at any time and place in obedience to his order. This request General Wild promptly and emphatically refused, but graciously allowed her friends to supply her with suitable food at the place of her confinement.
The tortures and indignities thus inflicted upon this family, who are respected and esteemed by all who know them, failed to discover any evidence whatever of their complicity in the robbery, or any knowledge of the concealment of any of its fruits.
The facts thus detailed were reported in substance to Major-General James B. Steadman, then on duty at Augusta, Georgia, who immediately ordered his Inspector-General (whose name is not remembered) to Washington, with instructions to collect the evidence as to the truth of the representations made to him. After spending several days at Washington and its vicinity, in the examination of witnesses, this officer observed that the facts which he had elicited fully corroborated the statements which had been forwarded to General Steadman.
General Wild was removed by the order of General Steadman, and ordered to Washington city. Charges were also preferred against him, but the public is not advised that even as much as a reprimand was ever administered to him.
The foregoing statement of facts will be avouched by many citizens of Washington, and of Wilkes and Lincoln counties. You are respectfully referred to James M. Dyson, Gabriel Toombs, Green P. Cozart, Hon. Garnett Andrews, Dr. J. J. Robertson, Dr. James H. Lane, Dr. J. B. Ficklin, Richard T. Walton, Dr. John Haynes Walton and David G. Cotting, the present editor of the Republican, at Augusta.
Prompted by no spirit of personal malevolence, but in obedience alone to the instinct of a virtuous patriotism, I have thus "a round unvarnished tale delivered" of some of the actings and doings of this officer, studiously refraining from any denunciation, and suppressing every suggestion the least calculated to excite the prejudices or inflame the passions of the public.
I am, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
John B. Weems.
An attempt to record the crimes committed during the civil war would fill volumes and excite horror.
We can only indicate the crimes rather than give detail of their circumstances.
One gentleman from Vicksburg writes in justly indignant language of the rape and robbery of his wife; that he has sought redress in vain of the military authorities. Another of the violation of two ladies by beastly mercenaries, until one dies, and the other lives a raving maniac.
A lady writes from Liberty, Missouri, that her father, Mr. Payne, a minister of Christ, was murdered by the military and left out from his dwelling for several days, until found by some neighbors in a mutilated condition.
A gentleman writes that a wretch named Harding boasts that he had beaten out the brains of a wounded Confederate prisoner at the battle of Drainesville.
The affidavit of Thomas E. Gilkerson states that negro soldiers were promoted to corporals for shooting white prisoners at Point Lookout, where he was a prisoner.
That he was transferred to Elmira, New York, where prisoners were starved into skeletons; were reduced to the necessity of robbing the night-stool of the meats which, being spoiled, could not be eaten by the sick, was thrown into the bucket of excrement, taken out and washed to satisfy their distressing hunger.
That for inquiring of Lieutenant Whitney, of Rochester, New York, for some clothes which the deponent believed were sent to him in a box, the deponent was confined three days in a dungeon and fed on bread and water.
That two men in ward twenty-two were starved until they eat a dog, for which offence they were severely punished.
That negroes were placed on guard. That while on guard, a negro called a prisoner over the dead line, which the prisoner did not recognize as such, and the negro shot him dead, and went unpunished.
That shooting prisoners without cause or provocation, was of frequent occurrence by the negro guards.
This affidavit was taken before Daniel Jackson, Justice of the Peace.
Joseph Hetterphran, from Fayetteville, Georgia, writes that he was captured on the 27th of January, 1864, in East Tennessee; searched and robbed with his companions of everything. They were hurried by forced marches to Knoxville, nearly frozen and starved; were then confined in the penitentiary, where the treatment all the time grew worse; were finally taken to Rock Island, where he had no blanket, was stinted in fuel, food and raiment. In this horrible place the prisoners ate dogs and rats. The poor fellows tried to get the crumbs that fell from the bread wagons; a great many died of diseases induced by starvation: others starved outright. In the meantime the sutler would sell provisions to the rich Confederates, whilst the poor were driven to starvation. This prison was guarded by negroes for a considerable time. The negroes frequently shot the prisoners down through wantonness, just as they did at Elmira. The officer who led negroes to kill the people of his own race, can sink to no lower depth of degradation.
Henry J. Moses writes from Woodbine, Texas, that he was taken prisoner at Games' Farm, near Richmond, Virginia, and confined at Point Lookout during the month of May, 1864, and then taken to Fort Delaware, where he remained until the 24th of August. When General Foster demanded the removal of six hundred of the prisoners, they were placed on board the steamer Crescent, and kept in the hold seventeen days, suffocating with heat, drinking bilge water, and eating salt pork and crackers in very stinted allowances. The hatchway was frequently closed, and all of the horrors of the African slave trade revived in their persons and treatment. After enduring this terrible form of torture, they were placed on Morris' Island, under the fire of their own guns for forty-three days, guarded by negroes. The dead line rope was stretched as a pretext for shooting those who should even by accident touch it. Taunts, gibes, jeers, and insults of every kind were heaped upon the prisoners. Paul H. Earle, of Alabama, for no offence whatever, was shot at; another time the tent was fired into, and two sleeping soldiers badly wounded, by order of the lieutenant. As it always has been and ever will be, the negroes behaved much better than the white fiends who commanded them. How could it be otherwise? A man raised in Christian communities who would let loose barbarians to burn up and destroy the habitations of women and children of his own race, has not one conceivable iota of space in which to sink deeper in degradation.
After all of the acts of cruelty and ingenuity to starve these poor fellows, they were finally confined in Fort Pulaski, fed upon a pint of musty kiln-dried corn, with a rotten pickle each day. On this diet they were kept for forty-four days, when the scurvy broke out and killed over two hundred of the number. After such loathsome suffering as makes human nature shudder, incarcerated in damp cells without blankets, some with no coats, Mr. Moses adds that "nothing but the preserving hand of God kept us through those trying hours." How much greater was the crime of a Christian people, that the ministry in the peaceful regions were inflaming this horrible work, instead of alleviating the sufferings of the people. Added to all of the other atrocious crimes and cruelties, the insane were in like manner tortured. An old gentleman named Fitzgerald, infirm and insane, who ate opium to alleviate his pain, was denied his medicine for which he begged, until death kindly came to open the prison doors and release him from his agony. The prisoners say that Foster instigated these cruelties. The names and references of the parties clothe the whole statement with an unmistakable semblance of truth. The corroboration is conclusive.
John L. Waring, of Brandywine, Prince George's county, Maryland, states that he was a prisoner of war for more than two years; that a private soldier killed in his presence an inoffensive prisoner in Carroll prison, who sat by the window, and was promoted from the ranks to corporal for the crime.
Forney's Chronicle, in noticing the death, and apologizing for the crime, falsely stated that young Hardcastle, the prisoner killed, was cursing the guard.
The room-mate of Hardcastle, who, like Hardcastle, had been arrested upon no charges whatever, soon after this murder was released, but died shortly after in consequence of the cruel prison treatment.
Mr. Waring was removed from Carroll prison to Point Lookout, where the prisoners were detailed to load and unload vessels; were robbed by negroes of the trinkets made in prison; some were shot by negroes, carpet sacks were robbed of clothing, and hospital stewards and sanitary commissions ate the provisions sent to prisoners and soldiers, or extorted exorbitant prices from the person to whom they had been sent.
The negroes offered every manner of indignity to the prisoners. Among other crimes they shot a dying man on his attempt to relieve nature. The conduct of the negroes at Point Lookout was incited by their white officers until it was frightful.
Henry H. Knight writes from Gary, Wake county, North Carolina, that he was captured at Gettysburg, taken to Fort Delaware, and suffered all that cold and mud could inflict upon their comfort and convenience. He was driven from poorly warmed stoves by Federal officers. The soldiers were beaten, starved and frozen to death. Seven were frozen one morning; others of them went to the hospital and died. At other times they were driven through the water, and were alternately robbed, frozen, tortured and starved. The great amount sent them by relatives was appropriated by the guards for their own use; and if they made complaint, the prisoners were shot, and the improbable story told that they had run guard, and that would be the last of their crime heard in the fort against the guards.
Some of these poor fellows were whole days without fire, when the snow was a foot deep, or the water covering the ground. The author saw hundreds of these prisoners in the city of Pittsburg in the early summer of 1865, on their way to the Southwest, in the most loathsome condition. Their pitiable suffering and mournful stories were sickening, and would crimson the cheek with unutterable shame and horror. No words can portray the picture that he saw with his own eyes. Swollen gums, teeth dropping from the jaws, eyes bursting with scurvy, limbs paralyzed, hair falling off of the heads, frozen hands and feet. These were those that escaped. The dead concealed the crimes of the murderers in the grave which was closed upon hem, by hundreds.
W. C. Osborn, of Opelika, Alabama, states that he was captured on the 4th of July, 1863, and confined in Fort Delaware; that the rations were three crackers twice a day; most of the time no meat at all, but occasionally a very small piece of salt beef or pork. That he drank water within fifteen feet of the excrement of the fort, and could get no other. When cold weather returned, the beds of each man were searched, and only one blanket left him. The barracks were inferior, and men froze to death in the terrible winter of 1863-4. Prisoners were shot for the most trivial offences. One man's brains were blown out and scattered on the walls, where they remained for many days, for no offence other than looking over the bounds, unconsciously. For other offences, men were tied up by the thumbs just so that their toes might touch the ground, for three hours at a time, until they would turn black in the face. Others were placed astride of joists, and forced to remain in that attitude for hours at a time, the coldest weather. These crimes against the persons of the prisoners, and their starvation, were carefully concealed from the public eye, and the Philadelphia papers made every effort to deceive the public in regard to these matters. On inspection days, when the people were admitted to the grounds, the prisoners got three times as much as upon other days. This was done to delude the people of the country, who never had any sympathy with these horrible crimes.
Presley N. Morris, of Henry county, Georgia, was captured by Wilder's brigade, was divested of everything, marched five days on one meal each day, carried through filthy cars to Camp Morton, Indiana, on the 19th of October, 1863, where he was imprisoned in an old horse stable on the Fair Ground, without blanket, thinly clad, and without fire, until January, 1864, when he received one blanket; his body covered with rags and vermin, when the snow was from six to ten inches deep. Two stoves were all that was used to warm three hundred men, and then wood for half the time only was allowed. The prisoners were compelled to remain out in the cold in this condition from nine o'clock, A. M., to four o'clock, P. M., no difference what was the condition of the weather. In October, 1864, the prisoners were drawn up in line, stripped of all their bedding, except one blanket, and robbed of all money; and Mr. Morris was robbed of three hundred dollars, with other valuables, none of which were ever returned; was beaten over the head because a piece of money was found near his feet, by one Fifer. Money sent him was purloined by the officers through whose hands it came.
Another says he belonged to Grigsby's regiment; was sent to Camp Morton; and corroborates the statement of Mr. Morris in regard to Camp Morton. He was soon, after his capture, sent to Camp Douglas near Chicago. In this place the prisoners were shot at by sharpshooters and Indians; sometimes were kept in close confinement for forty-eight hours. Sometimes a half dozen prisoners were placed upon a rude machine called "Morgan's horse," which was very sharp, and compelled to sit more than two hours at a time, with weights to their legs. Others were tied up by their thumbs. They were searched once every week. The prisoners were whipped with leather straps and sticks, after the manner of whipping brutes. Upon one occasion, when a guard discovered a beef bone thrown from the window of number six, he made all of the prisoners form in line and touch the ground with the fore finger without bending the knee. All who could not do this were beaten. A young man was shot for picking up snow to quench his thirst, when the hydrant had been closed for several days. New and cruel punishments were inflicted, as whim, passion, or pure malignity indicated.
Wm. Howard, a Baptist minister, sixty years of age, of Graves county, Kentucky, was taken, with his daughters, and beaten over the head with a sabre, until the sabre was broken; and he was otherwise cruelly treated.
Lucius T. Harding writes that on the 14th of October the large steamer General Foster came to his place. The sailors entered the house, kicked his sick children, and robbed him of everything. That white officers led negro raids into Westmoreland and Richmond counties. Women were violated wherever they were caught by the negroes with the utmost impunity.
N. D. Hall, of Larkinville, Alabama, a soldier of Western Virginia, during Hunter's, Crook's and Averill's horrible desolation of Virginia, says that the rebels found a negro man and child, both dead, and a negro woman stripped naked, whose bleeding person had been outraged by Averill's men.
That Averill's men offered to give to Dr. Patton's wife, in Greenbrier county, West Virginia, fifteen negro children which they had stolen, and which she refused to take from them. To rid themselves of the burden, and the children from suffering, they were thrown into Greenbrier river.
In the valley below Staunton, Crook's men tied an old gentleman, and violated his only daughter in his presence, until she fainted.
In Bedford county he saw the corpse of one, and the other sister a raving maniac, from violation of their persons. Desolation was left in the trail of these men.
An aged and respectable minister was hanged in Middletown, Virginia, by military order, for shooting a soldier in the attempt to violate his daughter in his own house in Greenbrier county.
David Nelson, of Jackson, was shot because his son was in the Confederate army.
Another person named Peters, a mere boy, was shot for having a pistol hidden.
Garland A. Snead, of Augusta, Georgia, said he was taken prisoner at Fisher's Hill, Virginia, September, 1864; sent to Point Lookout, which was in the care of one Brady, who had been an officer of negro cavalry. He was starved for five days, had chronic diarrhoea; was forced to use bad water, the good water being refused them. Men died frequently of sheer neglect. He was sent off to make room for other prisoners, because he was believed to be in a dying condition; as it was manifestly the purpose to poison all that could be destroyed by deleterious food and water, or by neglect of their wants.
He said that negroes fired into their beds at night; and one was promoted for killing a prisoner, from the ranks to sergeant. Claiborne Snead, of Augusta, Georgia, writes from Johnson's Island, that prisoners were frequently shot without an excuse; that prisoners having the small-pox were brought to Johnson's Island on purpose to inoculate the rest of the prisoners, and that many died of that disease; a crime for which civilized government visits the most terrible penalties. Yet this disease, thus planted, was kept there until it had spent its force.
That the rations were bad, and prisoners went to bed suffering the pangs of hunger.
That although Lake Erie was not one hundred yards distant, yet these prisoners were forced to drink from three holes dug in the prison bounds, surrounded by twenty-six sinks, the filth of which oozed into the water. This treatment, in no wise better than the inoculation of small-pox, and even more loathsome than that disease, caused many prisoners to contract chronic diarrhoea in a country where that disease is not common.
It is impossible for human language to portray the horrible criminality of the wicked men who inflicted these tortures upon human beings, and at the same time caused the detention of Northern prisoners in loathsome Southern prisons, through a fiendish love of suffering; and the unwillingness to have exchanges, paroles, and releases granted to the unfortunate, innocent men of both armies, unnaturally led to mutual destruction. What apology can the infidel ministry of the country offer for such crimes? And upon their head must the curse ever rest who sustained, these thieves.
J. C. Moore, son of Colonel David Moore, of the Federal army, writes that he was taken prisoner at Helena, Arkansas, July 4, 1863, with 1,750 prisoners. The poor fellows, half starved, were met at Saint Louis by a supply of apples, cakes, tobacco and money. The officer having them in charge threatened the boys with imprisonment, who extended these friendships to these unfortunate men. That he was taken to the Alton prison, where men were kept with ball and chain at work in the street, for mere peccadilloes, where the keepers shot their victims and stabbed them, with all of the indignities usual in the prisons everywhere, which seemed under control of no military, but rather governed by the instigation of the devil.
L. P. Hall and Wm. Perry, of Chico Butte, California, were arrested; had their press destroyed; were handcuffed together in Jackson, Amada county, with ball and chain attached to their legs, and driven to labor on the Public Works at Alcatross. Fifty-two others were treated in like manner. Hall and Perry were finally discharged without charges or trial. In the persons of these gentlemen, were violated all the rights of freedom of person, of the press, of speech, and finally they were starved, and released after enduring the most offensive insults at the hands of a cowardly enemy. This crime transpired in California, where war had not gone, and their imprisonment was without pretence.
T. Walton Mason, of Adairville, Logan county, Kentucky, says that he was surrendered by General Jno. Morgan, in Ohio on July 26th, 1863, and imprisoned at Camp Chase, then removed to Camp Douglas, where all of the horrors of that place were revived. In this camp Choctaw Indians were employed as guards. When money was given to the guards to buy provisions, they would pocket the money. The Indians shamed the whites for this breach of faith and petty theft. In November, 1863, seven escaped prisoners were returned, and subjected to the most cruel torture. They were taken out in the presence of the garrison and tortured with the thumb-screw until they fainted with pain.
In February, 1864, the cruelty became extreme; they beat prisoners with clubs and a leather belt, with a United State buckle at the end of it. They shot prisoners without provocation. For spilling the least water on the floor, the prisoner was elevated on a four inch scantling fifteen feet high, and tortured for two or three hours. For any similar offence, when the perpetrator was not known, the whole regiment was marched out and kept in the cold all day, sometimes freezing their limbs in the effort. Because a sick man vomited on his floor, the whole of the prisoners, in the dead hour of a chilling cold night, were made to stand out in their night clothes, until frozen, and from which several died, whilst others lost their health, which they never recovered.
Mr. Mason was driven by this night's cruelty into the hospital,where, among empyrics, he refused to take their medicines; in turn his own physician was not allowed to see him.
From twelve to thirty prisoners died every day, during the months of July, August, September and October, from brutal treatment.
When James Wandle, a Virginia giant near seven feet high, died through neglect in the hospital, the ward-master could not lay him in the small coffin which was furnished, but his body in a most brutal manner was stamped down into its narrow limits to prepare it for the grave.
Such were the every day affairs of this loathsome place.
Again, in the coldest winter night, the prisoners were aroused and driven out in the storm barefooted, in their night clothes, and made to sit down until the snow melted under them.
Late in December, several hundred prisoners came from Hood's army, near Nashville, almost destitute of clothing; coming from a warm climate, they were kept out all night in the cold, shivering and freezing. Upon the next morning, nearly one hundred were sent to the hospital. As a consequence, many of their limbs were frozen and required amputation, and death kindly came to the relief of all.
J. Risque Hutter, late Lieutenant-Colonel Eleventh Regiment Virginia Infantry, writes that he was captured at Gettysburg, and was eighteen months in prison on Johnson's Island.
During the tyranny of a fellow of the name of Hill, rations were reduced and stinted; that prisoners were neglected in sickness; straw and other necessaries were declared contraband.
That suffering from thirst was common, right on "the shores of the lake-bound prison."
That the rations were indifferent in quality and insufficient in quantity to satisfy hunger. Rats were eaten by hundreds of prisoners, who regarded themselves fortunate to get them, such was the reduced condition of the prisoners.
That Colonel Hutter's brother, an officer in the Confederate army, on duty in Danville, Virginia, went to Lieutenant Bingham and agreed to furnish him with all of the comforts of life, if he would have the necessaries furnished Colonel Hutter through his friends at home. Colonel Hutter had Lieutenant Bingham furnished with everything he desired, and when arrangements were made to furnish similar articles to Colonel Hutter, on Johnson's Island, Hill would not permit it. When the matter was referred to Washington, the refusal was sustained.
The above abbreviated statement has been made from ably written details of individual wrongs each gentleman giving name, date, place and specific charges. The latter would make a large bound volume of itself, which want of space only apologizes for the abridgment.
John M. Weiner, formerly Mayor of the city of Saint Louis, was arrested in that city and kept in prison without any charges against him whatever. After the cruel treatment common to Saint Louis prisons, he was transferred to Alton penitentiary, and from there made his escape, and was killed near Springfield, Missouri.
Mrs. Weiner sent for her husband's body for burial in Bellafontaine Cemetery. Whilst his wife and friends were preparing his body for burial, Samuel R. Curtis sent a squad of soldiers, who stole the corpse from his wife, and buried it in a secret place.
Mrs. Beatty was arrested for begging the release of Mayor Wolf, who was sentenced to be shot in retaliation. Wolf was respited and then exchanged; but Mrs. Beatty was put in prison, manacled, shackled, and chained with a heavy ball until the iron cut through her tender limbs, and the flesh rotted beneath the irons, until she was attacked with chills; and in a lone cell, not permitted to see a human being, when her mind gave way under the terrible treatment. The surgeon protested against this vicious cruelty; still it was continued, until the very sight of the poor creature was frightful. So she continued until Rosecrans was removed. Alter Rosecrans was broken down in the army, like Burnside, he tried to retrieve his lost fortunes by cruelty, but failed. Neither the release of Strachan from the penalties of the court-martial for his participation in the McNeil murders, and robbery and rape of Mrs. Mary Humphreys, nor his barbarity could save him from the contempt of the Radicals. After his brutalities in these cases, the Democrats loathed him, and he now lies hidden among the rubbish of the war, 'mid the remnants of abandoned barracks, rusty guns and broken wagons, to be heard of no more forever. Mrs. Beatty was tried by court-martial and acquitted, but will wear the marks of cruelty to the grave.
One of the most horrible murders of the State of Missouri, was that committed by an old counterfeiter named Babcock, who shot Judge Wright and his three sons, after decoying them from their own door. The details are too horrible for human pen.
This wretched criminal, Babcock, was elected to the legislature by disfranchising the people of his county by military force.
This murderer is a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and dispenses the gospel to the people.
Through disgust, horror and shame, I cast my pen aside, and sit in amazement, that for crimes like these an angry God has not, by His breath, cursed the earth, and sent it as a floating pandemonium throughout the immensity of space, as a warning to other worlds, if other worlds there be so depraved, corrupted and lost to the charities of life and the mercies of God.
Dr. Gideon S. Bailey, in wealth and character, is one of the finest citizens of the State of Iowa. He had attended Abraham Lincoln's reputed father in his last illness for many months, and had received not one cent in compensation. Yet Dr. Bailey was arrested, placed in the very same filthy place in which the author was imprisoned, and kept there for a number of days.
The weather was exceeding sultry; Dr. Bailey was in very feeble health when he was carried down to Saint Louis on the hurricane deck of a steamer. When in Saint Louis, he was placed in Gratiot street prison, where he was subjected to every manner of filth, torture and suffering.
The debt due him for the attendance upon Mr. Lincoln remains unpaid, though the doctor will bear the effects of his incarceration to the grave.