Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/April/Summing up of the whole question
And now it only remains that we make a brief
of this whole question of the treatment of prisoners during the war. We think that we have established the following points:
1. The laws of the Confederate Congress, the orders of the War Department, the regulations of the Surgeon-General, the action of our Generals in the field, and the orders of those who had the immediate charge of the prisoners, all provided that prisoners in the hands of the Confederates should be kindly treated, supplied with the same rations which our soldiers had, and cared for when sick in hospitals placed on precisely the same footing as the hospitals for Confederate soldiers.
2. If these regulations were violated in individual instances, and if subordinates were sometimes cruel to prisoners, it was without the knowledge or consent of the Confederate Government, which always took prompt action on any case reported to them.
3. If the prisoners failed to get their full rations, and had those of inferior quality, the Confederate soldiers suffered in precisely the same way, and to the same extent, and it resulted from that system of warfare adopted by the Federal authorities, which carried desolation and ruin to every part of the South they could reach, and which in starving the Confederates into submission brought the same evils upon their own men in Southern prisons.
4. The mortality in Southern prisons (fearfully large, although over three per cent. less than the mortality in Northern prisons), resulted from causes beyond the control of our authorities—from epidemics, &c., which might have been avoided, or greatly mitigated, had not the Federal Government declared medicines "contraband of war"—refused the proposition of Judge Ould, that each Government should send its own surgeons with medicines, hospital stores, &c., to minister to soldiers in prison—declined his proposition to send medicines to its own men in Southern prisons; without being required to allow the Confederates the same privilege—refused to allow the Confederate Government to buy medicines for gold, tobacco or cotton, which it offered to pledge its honor should be used only for Federal prisoners in its hands—refused to exchange sick and wounded—and neglected from August to December, 1864, to accede to Judge Ould's proposition to send transportation to Savannah and receive without equivalent from ten to fifteen thousand Federal prisoners, notwithstanding the fact that this offer was accompanied with a statement of the utter inability of the Confederacy to provide for these prisoners, and a detailed report of the monthly mortality at Andersonville, and that Judge Ould, again and again, urged compliance with his humane proposal.
5. We have proven, by the most unimpeachable testimony, that the sufferings of Confederate prisoners, in Northern "prison pens," were terrible beyond description—that they were starved in a land of plenty—that they were frozen where fuel and clothing were abundant—that they suffered untold horrors for want of medicines, hospital stores and proper medical attention—that they were shot by sentinels, beaten by officers, and subjected to the most cruel punishments upon the slightest pretexts—that friends at the North were refused the privilege of clothing their nakedness or feeding them when starving—and that these outrages were perpetrated not only with the full knowledge of, but under the orders of E. M. Stanton, U. S. Secretary of War. We have proven these things by Federal as well as Confederate testimony.
6. We have shown that all the suffering of prisoners on both sides could have been avoided by simply carrying out the terms of the cartel, and that for the failure to do this the Federal authorities alone were responsible; that the Confederate Government originally proposed the cartel, and were always ready to carry it out in both letter and spirit; that the Federal authorities observed its terms only so long as it was to their interest to do so, and then repudiated their plighted faith, and proposed other terms, which were greatly to the disadvantage of the Confederates; that when the Government at Richmond agreed to accept the hard terms of exchange offered them, these were at once repudiated by the Federal authorities; that when Judge Ould agreed upon a new cartel with General Butler, Lieutenant-General Grant refused to approve it, and Mr. Stanton repudiated it; and that the policy of the Federal Government was to refuse all exchanges, while they "fired the Northern heart" by placing the whole blame upon the "Rebels," and by circulating the most heartrending stories of "Rebel barbarity" to prisoners.
If either of the above points has not been made clear to any sincere seeker after the truth, we would be most happy to produce further testimony. And we hold ourselves prepared to maintain, against all comers, the truth of every proposition we have laid down in this discussion. Let the calm verdict of history decide between the Confederate Government and their calumniators.