Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/421

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Jefferson Davis. 415

by which they could criminate the helpless prisoner. Joyfully would this have been greeted, for an excited multitude demanded vengeance on the hated leader of secession. But nothing was discovered which could afford the slightest occasion for delivering the noble Davis over to punishment, and they were finally compelled to liberate him. Most successfully has Jefferson Davis been acquitted of the charge, believed even in Germany, of having maltreated the prisoners. The official reports, which are the best evidence, throw a clear light on this subject.

The contradiction of separate charges would fill volumes, but a biography of Davis must at least touch on this subject.

In spite of the frequent and great need which compelled the Gov- ernment in Richmond to put the army on half rations, it was deter- mined, and a Congressional resolution made it official, that the pris- oners should have the same rations as the soldiers. The latter, it is true, seldom had anything but bacon and corn bread, and neither always fresh.

The South had 60,000 more prisoners to support than the North, an evidence of the success of the small army, and yet at the North 4,000 more prisoners died than at the South.

Davis was much concerned, and complained bitterly in the pres- ence of the writer of this article that he could not effect the exchange of prisoners, since the means were lacking in the South of support- ing the excess. Whenever the Union had the advantage it discon- tinued this proceeding, which was strictly observed by the South. A delegation of prisoners which Davis sent to Washington to entreat their own government, in the name of humanity, to put an end to this intolerable state of affairs by an exchange of prisoners, was de- nied their petition. An attempt of Vice-President Stevens to treat personally with President Lincoln failed utterly. The great states- man was not even granted an interview ! In January, 1864, and in the same month, 1865, Davis begged that at least physicians, medi- cines, etc., which were lacking in the South, should be sent for the many sick prisoners; that they would be well received. No answer! Then the offer was made by Davis to send back to the North, with- out any exchange, all the sick and wounded whom the South had not the means to care for.

Only after months could the North decide to accede to this hu- mane proposition, and thousands were now immediately sent off, without exchange, to prevent their dying, which the North in cold