Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 10.djvu/41

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31
The True Story of Andersonville.

idea of the prisoners was exchange. They accordingly called a great meeting, and after some preliminary proceedings, resolutions, and a memorial to President Lincoln, were adopted, asking, in view of the suffering and mortality of our men, that he should agree to an exchange of prisoners, as the Confederates were willing to exchange man for man, and officer for officer, leaving the excess of prisoners at which ever side found. Six prisoners, including myself as Chairman, were appointed a Commission to proceed to Washington, and lay the whole question before the Executive. This was toward the close of August. After some negotiations with General Winder, the balance of twenty-one men due to our government, the six delegates being included, were permitted to come North; and on our way through Macon we met General Stoneman at Prison Oglethorpe, where the Federal officers were confined, and he gave us a letter to the President, strongly urging the necessity of exchange, not for the officers he said, but for the brave men who had fought so gallantly in the field, and suffered so much in prison, and begging the President to forego all idea of the exchange of negroes, if that were the point which stood in the way.

Down to Charleston. Arriving at Pocotaligo, we were exchanged—that is, nine out of the twenty-one, two of the commissioners being kept back, although the twelve not exchanged might as well have been, as there were plenty Confederate prisoners at Beaufort, only a dozen miles away.

Arriving in New York, the four commissioners applied for the necessary transportation at General Dix's office. It was refused, although Colonel Hall, Deputy Provost Marshal at Hilton Head, had given us letters to the headquarters of the department of the east, stating our mission, etc. The Sanitary Commission, however, supplied the transportation, and three of the commissioners proceeded to Washington, I remaining, however, in this city through illness, although I was not idle. They wrote to the President, and reported the object of their visit on three consecutive days; but it distresses me to state that the representatives of thirty-eight thousand Union prisoners were treated with silent contempt, the President declining to see them or have any communication with them!!!

For obvious reasons I shall be silent as to the motive of President Lincoln in his treatment of the delegation. But I cannot help stating that the lives of some ten or twelve thousand men might have been spared had an exchange justly, I will not add generously, taken place at this period.

From February to the end of August there were some six thousand