Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/March/Extracts from statement of Dr. R. R. Stephenson

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When General Milroy banished from Winchester, Virginia, the family of Mr. Lloyd Logan because the General (and his wife) fancied his elegantly furnished mansion for headquarters, he not only forbade their carrying with them a change of raiment, and refused to allow Mrs. Logan to take one of her spoons with which to administer medicine to a sick child, but he most emphatically prohibited their carrying a small medicine chest, or even a few phials of medicine which the physician had prescribed for immediate use. Possibly some ingenious casusist may defend this policy; but who will defend at the bar of history the refusal of the Federal authorities to accept Judge Ould's several propositions to allow surgeons from either side to visit and minister to their own men in prison—to allow each to furnish medicines, &c., to their prisoners in the hands of the other—and finally to purchase in the North, for gold, cotton, or tobacco, medicines for the exclusive use of Federal prisoners in the South? Well might General Lee have said to President Davis, in response to expressions of bitter disappointment when he reported the failure of his efforts to bring about an exchange of prisoners: "We have done everything in our power to mitigate the suffering of prisoners, and there is no just cause for a sense of further responsibility on our part." Dr. R. Randolph Stevenson, who was for most of the time surgeon in charge at Andersonville, has in MS. a large volume on this whole subject, and treats fully the diseases at Andersonville, their causes, and their mortality. He has kindly tendered us the free use of his MS. in the preparation of this paper, but we do not feel that it would be right to anticipate the publication of his book (which it is hoped will not be long delayed) by full quotations from it. We give, hower, several specimens of the character of the papers to which reference is made above:


Surgeon-General's Office.
Richmond, Va., September 12, 1864.

Sir—You are instructed to assign the medical officers now on duty with the sick prisoners at Andersonville, Georgia, to the points that have been selected for the accommodation of the prisoners. All the sick whose lives will not be endangered by transportation will be removed. The medical officers selected will be required to accompany the sick. You will visit each station and see that such arrangements are made for the sick as their wants may require, and use all the means for their comfort that the Government can furnish.

Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
S. P. Moore, Surgeon-General, C. S. A.

To I. H. White, C. S. M. Prison Hospital, Andersonville, Ga.


Office of Surgeon in charge C. S. M. Hospital,
Andersonville, Ga., November 4, 1864.

Colonel—Under orders from Brigadier-General J. H. Winder, I respectfully request that W. H. H. Phelps, of your post, be detailed and ordered to report to me for assignment to duty as purchasing agent of vegetables and anti-scorbutics for the sick and wounded prisoners now under my charge at this place.

Yours truly,
R. R. Stevenson, Surgeon in Charge.

To Colonel Leon Von Zinken, Commanding Post, Columbus, Ga.



S. M. Bemiss, Acting Medical Director.


Leon Von Zinken, Colonel Commanding Post.


Office Chief Surgeon C. S. M. Prisons, Georgia and Alabama,
Camp Lawton, Ga., November 9, 1864.

Sir― * * * We have been quite busy for the last two days in selecting the sick to be exchanged. After getting them all ready at the depot, we were notified by telegraph not to send them, and had to take them back to the stockade. Many of these poor fellows, already broken down in health, will succumb through despair.


I am, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
I. H. White, Chief Surgeon.

To Surgeon R. R. Stevenson, in charge Post, Andersonville, Ga.}}

A strong point illustrating the position that the sickness among the prisoners was from causes which the Confederate authorities could not control, is the fact that the Confederate guard, officers and surgeons were attacked by the same maladies, and that the deaths among them were about as numerous, in proportion to their numbers, as among the prisoners themselves. Dr. Jones states in his report, that the deaths among the Confederates at Andersonville from typhoid and malarial fevers were more numerous than among the prisoners, and Dr. Stevenson makes the following statement:

"The guards on duty here were similarly affected with gangrene and scurvy. Captain Wirz had gangrene in an old wound, which he had received in the battle of Manassas, in 1861, and was absent from the post (Andersonville) some four weeks on surgeon's certificate. [In his trial certain Federal witnesses swore to his killing certain prisoners in August, 1864, when he (Wirz) was actually at that time absent on sick leave in Augusta, Georgia.] General Winder had gangrene of the face, and was forbidden by his surgeon (I. H. White) to go inside the stockade. Colonel G. C. Gibbs, commandant of the post, had gangrene of the face, and was furloughed under the certificate of Surgeons Wible and Gore, of Americus, Georgia. The writer of this can fully attest to the effects of gangrene and scurvy contracted whilst on duty there; their marks will follow him to his grave. The Confederate graveyard at Andersonville will fully prove that the mortality among the guards was almost as great in proportion to the number of men as among the Federals."


"For a period of some three months (July, August and September, 1864), Captain Wirz and those few faithful medical officers of the post were engaged night and day in ministering to the wants of the sick and dying, and caring for the dead. So arduous were their duties that many of the medical officers were taken sick and had to abandon their post. In fact the pestilence assumed such fearful proportions that Medical Director S. H. Stout could hardly induce such medical men as could be spared from the pressing wants of the service (Georgia at this time was one vast hospital) to go to Andersonville.

"It was this horrible condition of the captives that prompted Colonel Ould, the Confederate Commissioner of Exchange, to make his repeated efforts in the interest of humanity to get the Federal Government (as they had refused all further exchanges) to send medicines, supplies of clothing, &c. (offering to pay for them in gold or cotton), for the exclusive use of the Federal prisoners, to be dispensed, if desired, by Federal surgeons sent for that purpose."