|Volume 1. January to June, 1876
No 2. February - Editorial Paragraphs --
Our Next (March) Number.
The recent attempt of Mr. Blaine to "fire the Northern heart," by reviving
the stories of "Rebel barbarity" to prisoners of war, and the eagerness
with which the Radical press of the North caught up the old charge, and
are still echoing it through the land, had made us feel that the time has
come when this question of the treatment of prisoners during the late war
We shall, therefore, devote the next number of our PAPERS to this subject. We expect to be able to establish some such points as the following:
1. The Confederate authorities always ordered the kind treatment of prisoners of war, and if there were individual cases of cruel treatment it was in violation of positive orders.
2. The orders were to give prisoners the same rations that our own soldiers received, and if rations were scarce and of inferior quality, it was through no fault of the Confederacy.
3. The prison hospitals were put on the same footing precisely as the hospitals for our own men, and if there was unusual suffering caused by want of medicine and hospital stores, it arose from the fact that the Federal authorities declared these "contraband of war," and refused to accept the Confederate offer to allow Federal surgeons to come to the prisons with supplies of medicines and stores.
4. The prisons were established with reference to healthfulness of locality, and the great mortality among the prisoner arose from epidemics and chronic diseases, which our surgeons had not the means of preventing or arresting.
A strong proof of this will be given in an official statement which shows that nearly as large a proportion of the Confederate guard at Andersonville died as of the prisoners themselves.
5. The above reasons cannot be assigned for the cruel treatment which Confederates received in Northern prisons. The order-books on that side are filled with vindictive orders. Though in a land flowing with plenty, our poor fellows in prison were famished with hunger, and would have considered half the rations served Federal soldiers bountiful indeed. Their prison-hospitals were very far from being on the same footing with the hospitals for their own soldiers, and our men died by thousands from causes which the Federal authorities could have prevented.
6. But the real cause of the suffering on both sides was the stopage of the exchange of prisoners, and for this the Federal authorities alone were responsible. The Confederates kept the cartel in good faith. It was broken on the other side.
The Confederates were anxious to exchange man for man. It was the settled policy on the other side not to exchange prisoners. The Confederates offered to exchange sick and wounded. this was refused. In August, 1864, we offered to send home all the Federal sick and wounded without equivalent. The offer was not accepted until the following December, and it was during that period that the greatest mortality occurred. The Federal authorities stood by and coldly suffered their soldiers in our prisons to die in order that they might "fire the Northern heart" with stories of "rebel barbarities."
7. But the charge of cruelty made against the Confederate leaders is triumphantly refuted by such facts as these: The official reports of Secretary Stanton and Surgeon-General Barnes show that a much larger per cent. of Confederates perished in Northern prisons than of Federals in Southern prisons. And though the most persistent efforts were made to get up a case against President Davis, General Lee and others (even to the extent of offering poor Wirz a reprieve if he would implicate them), they were not able to secure testimony upon which even Holt and his military court dared to go into the trial.
We have a large mass of documents on this subject, and the secretary has been busy compiling them. But it is earnestly requested that any of our friends who have facts and figures bearing on the question in any of its branches, which they are willing to give (or loan) to the Society, will at once forward them to the Secretary, Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Richmond, Va.
Let us unite in making the discussion full, thorough, and a complete vindication of our long slandered people. Will not our Southern papers call special attention to this matter?