Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/194

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184
Southern Historical Society Papers.


fortunate than myself, are now held in close confinement by their enemies, and are unable to utter an indignant word in self-defence.

A very material fact in relation to this charge of cruelty was omitted in the recent letter from your "Richmond correspondent," who was probably not aware of it, but which I can attest from personal knowledge. During the difficulties which prevented the exchange of prisoners of war, cases arose which appealed so strongly to humanity that it was impossible for the most obdurate to remain insensible. The Federal authorities, therefore, empowered Colonel Mulford, their Commissioner of Exchange, to consent to a mutual delivery of such sick and disabled prisoners as were incapable of performing military service. To this class was the exchange of prisoners rigorously restricted. Colonel Ould, the Confederate Commissioner of Exchange (who has recently been honorably acquitted by the Federals themselves of the same false charge of cruelty to prisoners), made to the President, to the Secretary of War and to myself repeated complaints that prisoners on both sides were frequently delivered in a condition so prostrate as to render death certain from exposure during the transit between James river and Washington or Annapolis. Efforts were made in vain, to check this evil. In spite of surgeon's certificates that they were too ill for removal without imminent danger, sick men on both sides, wearied by long confinement, fearful that the exchange would again be interrupted, longing for the sight of home and friends, would either insist on their ability to endure the journey, or professing that recovery was hopeless, would piteously implore to be allowed to see their families before death. The lifeless bodies of numbers of Confederates, shipped from the North under these circumstances, were delivered to us at City Point, and the like results have attended the delivery from our side. Rigid care was taken by the authorities of the United States to exclude from the exchange all cases of slight illness, in accordance with their avowed policy of preventing our armies from being recruited by returned prisoners, this being our only resource for filling our thinned ranks, while they were able to procure unlimited recruits from this side of the Atlantic. From the class just mentioned the most emaciated specimens were chosen by our enemies, and exhibited as conclusive evidence that we exercised habitual cruelty toward prisoners of war. The most wretched and desperate cases were even made the originals for "photographs which can not lie," and the revolting pictures of human infirmity thus procured were affixed as embellishments to sensational reports, manipulated by Congressional committees and sanitary commissions.

It is not my purpose to examine in detail the question whether on us or on the Federals rests the responsibility of interrupting the exchange of prisoners, and thus producing a mass of human misery and anguish of which few examples can be found in history. The published correspondence of the Commissioner of Exchange, and certain revelations made by Federal officials in public speeches and in newspaper articles, will be sufficient to satisfy on this point the