*SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS
Vol. XVII, Richmond, Va., Jan-Dec, 1889
Pages 379 - 381
|Prisoners of the Civil War.
PROFESSOR DABNEY VS. "THE NATION" - TESTIMONY OF A GERMAN.
To the Editor of The Times:
For years he has seen through the gauzy pretence of judicial calmness, and now presents to The Times a typical instance of this pretence.
In reply to The Nation's article of January 30th, on "The Prisons of the Civil War, "I wrote the following letter to the editor, which he declines to publish, telling me that he thinks I will, "on reflection, see the inadvisability of a controversy" on the subject.
He himself - he writes me - need for any further discussion. The almost five columns in which he tells his readers of the "unspeakable horros of Andersonville," of the "millions of flies," which "deposited their maggots on the are, of course, sufficient; and a "controversy" could, he says, "conduce to no good end." Let there be no controversy. To hear one side of a question is enough. The Nation has spoken. Its editor is in his holy sanctum. Let all the earth keep silence before him.
To the Editor of the Nation:
After reading your article I went to a gentleman whose brother, a Confederate lieutenant, died after leaving Johnson's Island, from the effects of hardships suffered at that place, and asked him whether his brother had found the food "exceptionally abundant and varied."
Briefly stated, the lieutenant's account was as follows:
The food, though usually satisfactory as to quality, was not always so,
as may be inferred from the fact that, in order to have a better Christmas
dinner than was furnished him, he made soup out of some fish-skins which
he had raked out of a gutter. As to the abundance,
I am well acquainted with a Confederate captain now living in Richmond, a perfect Hercules in physique,who (if I remember rightly) weighted fifty pounds less upon leaving Johnson's Island than when he entered its prison walls.
And now let me quote from "Land and Leute in den Vereinigten Staaten" (Leipzig,1886), a work by Ernst Honewart (possibly a pseudonym), a German who spent nearly thirty years in the United States, and who fought as an officer in the Northern army. I shall italicize certain important phrases: "Much has been said of the cruel treatment of Northern soldiers in Southern prisons. Having myself been a prisoner in the South for more than thirteen months, and having been afterwards stationed with my regiment at a place where more than 25,000 Southern soldiers were confined, I think I have a right to an opinion as to the relative treatment of prisoners in the North and South.
"It is true that the Southerners treated their prisoners much less well than the means to treat them better, and often, especially towards the end of the war, themselves suffered from want.
"The South wished to permit the
officers, according to European custom, to live in town on parole and half
pay. I myself and other officers lived for some months in Raleigh, and
were granted much freedom of movement, but the North treated Southern officers
like common soldiers, and the South afterwards did the same.
"Of intentional cruelty I saw nothing, but on the contrary, always found both officers and men very friendly and obliging, and most willing to alleviate our lot. When requested to bring us tobacco or other articles from town, they were always glad to do so, and I never heard of a single instance in which such a reguest was refused.
"The horrors of Andersonville are not to be denied, but that was an exeption - the cruel policy adopted by the Southern government to compel the North to exchange prisoners, which the North refused to do," etc.
Since writing the above I have seen another gentleman, who tells me that he knows a number of Confederates who "varied" their "abundant" diet at Johnson's Island with the flesh of rats, an article of food which was also enjoyed by the lieutenant whom I mentioned in the first part of my letter.
University of Virginia, February 2,1890.
The above letter, as you see, contains nothing polemical or one-sided on my part. I have, in fact, refrained from the expression of any opinion whatever, confining myself to quoting the opinions of others. The testimony is certainly worthy of notice, but The Nation wishes to supress it, and I, therefore, appeal to The Times for a hearing.*
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