Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/March/Andersonville

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But we proceed to inquire into the treatment received by Federal prisoners after they reached our prisons. And as the report of the committee of the Confederate Congress treats chiefly of the prisons in and around Richmond, we will speak chiefly of

ANDERSONVILLE,

of which Mr. Blaine says, "Libby pales into insignificance before Andersonville." We cannot better state the case than it has been done by a well known writer:

"The site of the prison at Andersonville—a point on the South-western railway, in Georgia—had been selected under an official order having reference to the following points: 'A healthy locality, plenty of pure, good water, a running stream, and, if possible, shade trees, and in the immediate neighborhood of grist and saw mills.' The pressure was so great at Richmond and the supplies so scant that prisoners were sent forward while the stockade was only about half finished. When the first installment of prisoners arrived, there was no guard at Andersonville, and the little squad which had charge of them in the cars had to remain; and at no time did the guard, efficient and on duty, exceed fifteen hundred, to man the stockade, to guard, and to do general duty and afford relief and enforce discipline over thirty-four thousand prisoners.

"In regard to the sufferings and mortality among the prisoners at Andersonville, none of it arose from the unhealthiness of the locality. The food, though the same as that used by the Confederate soldiers—the bread, too, being corn—was different from that to which they had been accustomed, did not agree with them, and scurvy and diarrhœa prevailed to a considerable extent; neither disease, however, was the result of starvation. That some prisoners did not get their allowance, although a full supply was sent in, is true. But there not being a guard sufficient to attend to distribution, Federal prisoners were appointed, each having a certain number allotted to his charge, among whom it was his duty to see that every man got his portion, and, as an inducement, this prisoner had special favors and advantages. Upon complaint of those under him, he was broke and another selected; so that it only required good faith on the part of these head men, thus appointed, to insure to each man his share. But prisoners would often sell their rations for whiskey and tobacco, and would sell the clothes from their backs for either of them.

"In regard to the sanitary regulations, there were certain prescribed places and modes for the reception of all filth, and a sluice was made to carry it off; but the most abominable disregard was manifested of all sanitary regulations, and to such a degree that if a conspiracy had been entered into by a large number of the prisoners to cause the utmost filth and stench, it could not have accomplished a more disgusting result. Besides which there was a large number of atrocious villians, whose outrages in robbing, beating and murdering their fellow-prisoners must have been the cause, directly or remotely, of very many deaths and of an inconceivable amount of suffering. We must recollect that among thirty-four thousand prisoners, who had encountered the hardships of the fields of many battles, and had had wounds, there were many of delicate physique—many of respectability—to whom such self-created filth and such atrocious ruffianism would of itself cause despondency, disease and death; and when, in addition to this, was the conviction that the Federal War Department, perfectly cognizant of all this, had deliberately consigned them indefinitely to this condition, a consuming despair was superadded to all their other sufferings.

"The merits of Andersonville may be summed up by saying that it was of unquestioned healthfulness; it was large enough and had water enough, and could have been made tolerable for the number originally intended for it. It appears that the increase of that number was apparently a matter of necessity for the time; that other sites were selected and prepared with all possible dispatch; that the provisions were similar in amount and quality to those used by Confederate soldiers; that deficient means rendered a supply of clothing, tents and medicines scanty; that the rules of discipline and sanitary regulations of the prison, if complied with by the prisoners, would have secured to each a supply of food, and have averted almost, if not altogether, the filth and the ruffianism, which two causes, outside of unavoidable sickness, caused the great mass of suffering and mortality."