Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/March/Report of Colonel D. T. Chandler

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Southern Historical Society Papers, March 1876

The Federal Government has had possession of the Confederate archives for now nearly eleven years. The Confederate leaders and their friends have been denied all access to those archives, while partisans on the other side have ransacked them at will in eager search for every sentence which could be garbled out of its connection to prove the charges made, with reckless disregard of the truth, against the "Rebel crew." It is fair to presume that those records contain no stronger proof of "Rebel cruelty to prisoners" than has already been brought to light, while some of us are fondly hoping that before the next Centennial the people of the South will have the vindication which the records of the Confederacy afford. The strongest proof of the charges made against the Confederate Government which has yet been produced from those records is the


which was introduced at the Wirz trial, and upon which the Radical press has been ringing the charges ever since. It has been recently thus put in a malignant reply, in a partisan sheet, to Mr. Davis' letter to Mr. Lyons:

On the 5th day of August, 1864, Colonel Chandler, an officer of the Confederate army, made a report to the Rebel War Department regarding the condition of Andersonville prison. He had made one six months before, but no attention had been paid to it. In his last report he said:

"My duty requires me respectfully to recommend a change in the officer in the command of the post, Brigadier-General J. H. Winder, and the substitution in his place of some one who unites both energy and good judgment with some feeling of humanity and consideration for the welfare and comfort (so far as it is consistent with their safe-keeping) of the vast number of unfortunates placed under his control; some one who at least will not advocate deliberately and in cold blood the propriety of leaving them in their present condition until their number has been sufficiently reduced by death to make the present arrangement suffice for their accommodation; who will not consider it a matter of self-laudation and boasting that he has never been inside of the stockade, a place the horrors of which it is difficult to describe, and which is a disgrace to civilization, the condition of which he might, by the exercise of a little energy and judgment, even with the limited means at his command, have considerably improved.

"D. T. Chandler,
"Assistant Adjutant and Inspector-General."

This report was forwarded to the Secretary of War with the following endorsement:

"Adjutant and Inspector-General's Office,
August 18, 1864.

"Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War. The condition of the prison at Andersonville is a reproach to us as a nation. The Engineer and Ordnance Departments were applied to, and authorized their issue, and I so telegraphed to General Winder. Colonel Chandler's recommendations are coincided in.

"By order of General Cooper.

"R. H. Chilton,
"Assistant Adjutant and Inspector-General."

Not content with this, Colonel Chandler testifies that he went to the War Office himself, and had an interview with the Assistant Secretary, J. A. Campbell, who then wrote below General Cooper's endorsement the following:

"These reports show a condition of things at Andersonville which calls very loudly for the interposition of the Department, in order that a change may be made.

"J. A. Campbell,
"Assistant Secretary of War."

Thus was the horrible condition of things at Andersonville brought home to the Secretary of War, one of the confidential advisers of the President, who was daily in consultation with him. If all was being done for the prisoners that could be done, how came such reports to be made? But what was the result? A few days after this report was sent in, Winder, the beast, the cruel, heartless coward—the man of whom the Richmond Examiner said, when he was ordered from that city to Andersonville, "Thank God that Richmond is at last rid of old Winder; God have mercy upon those to whom he has been sent"—this man was promoted by Mr. Davis, and made Commissary-General of all the prisons and prisoners in the Confederacy. We come now to a question which we challenge Mr. Davis to answer. Did he know of, or had his attention been called to, Colonel Chandler's report when he promoted General Winder? Dare he deny having made this latter appointment as a reward to Winder for his faithful services at Andersonville?

A writer in the Sauk Rapids Sentinel adds the statement (which is certainly news in this latitude) that upon this report General Winder was "indignantly removed by the Secretary of War," and that when he carried the order removing him to the President he not only reinstated him, but "immediately added to his power and opportunities for barbarity by promoting him to the office of Commissary-General of all of the prisons and prisoners of the Southern Confederacy." This is, indeed, a terrible arraignment of Mr. Davis, if it were true, but there is really not one word of truth in any statement of that character. Mr. Davis not only never saw Colonel Chandler's report, but absolutely never heard of it until last year.

We are fortunate in being able to give a clear statement of the history of Colonel Chandler's report, and to show that so far from being proof of any purposed cruelty to prisoners on the part of the Confederate Government, the circumstances afford the strongest proof of just the reverse. We inclosed the slip from the Sauk Rapids Sentinel to Hon. R. G. H. Kean, who was chief clerk of the Confederate War Department.