From the Richmond Dispatch, 1/7/1862, p. 3, c. 3
Hon. Alfred Ely's Experience as a Prisoner in Richmond.
A Washington correspondent communicates the following in relation to the Hon. Alfred Ely, lately arrived in that city from Richmond:
Hon. Alfred Ely arrived this evening from Baltimore, and gives an interesting account of his imprisonment in Richmond, not differing materially, however, from statements previously made. When first taken to Richmond, he was put in a room in a tobacco factory with forty-four Federal officers, with no furniture or bedding. They used some wooden blocks for pillows, and lay upon the bare floor for several days. It was ten days before any conveniences for eating and sleeping were furnished them. Their food was brought in a large cauldron, and coffee in a similar vessel, and placed in the middle of the floor, and they helped themselves as they might. After a time they purchased cots and necessary articles, so that now the place is comparatively comfortable, barring the vermin which infests the building.
The prisoners after a while got used to their condition, and contrived to pass some of their hours in comfort. Some days after they were confined, a prisoner was put among them who caused them some trouble. His name was Rossally, and he pretended to be a surgeon, who had been imprisoned on a charge of coming to Washington and giving information to General Scott. He was sent with some of our officers down to Raleigh, and the Governor of North Carolina having to put him in irons for something, he demanded a trial by court-martial, and he was sent to Richmond and put into the tobacco prison with the Union officers. He was soon suspected of being a spy, and the rebels also pretended to suspect him of acting as a spy against them.
An officer came one evening and pretended that he was suspected of designing to escape. He brought handcuffs, and was about to put them on Rossvally, and then made a show of relenting, saying that for old acquaintance sake he would not handcuff him, if he would pledge his word that he would not attempt to escape. The farce was overacted and confirmed Mr. Ely in his suspicions, and he told the officers that the man must be one of their company.
Soon after this Rossvally was taken to General Winder's office, and the next day the prisoners were drawn out in line, and found themselves in the presence of five Baltimore detectives. They were told they were armed and they were subjected to a personal search. The building was also searched. Only one small dirk was found.
Rossvally had written an anonymous letter to Gen. Winder, accusing the officers, and his perfidy was so apparent that he was put in close confinement, and there remains.
Mr. Ely says that his health was very good through all his imprisonment, and that he was treated kindly, and many people in Richmond bestowed grateful favors upon him. He has been visited by thousands of persons, and never received an insult from them.
Nine officers and two hundred and fifty privates having been released from Fort Warren, and a corresponding number were on their way from the Richmond prison, who would probably arrive in Baltimore to-day. Mr. Ely was called upon to select the nine officers to be released, and he named those who were suffering from wounds and sickness. The seven hostages at Richmond - Cols. Wood, Lee, and Cogswell, Major Reeve, and Captains Bowman, Kepper, and Rockwell - are confined in a room ten feet by thirteen, with two small windows, from which the light is nearly excluded by flat iron bars. Small cots are placed in the night and taken out in the morning. The hostages at Richmond and Charleston will certainly be hung if the Savannah privateersmen are hung.
Mr. Ely is strongly impressed with the importance of making a regular exchange of prisoners, although he disclaims any intention of criticising the policy of the Administration in that matter. He says that the rebels are well informed of our strength and movements - much better than we are of theirs. - He left Richmond at 5 o'clock in the morning, and was somewhat alarmed at seeing an immense crowd at the Petersburg depot. He was assured by Mr. Sage, of Louisiana, a gentleman connected with the rebel government, that he should not be injured. The morning paper at Petersburg had announced his expected arrival, which drew the crowd together.
At Norfolk an immense crowd was gathered around the Atlantic Hotel to look at him, but he passed unobserved, with an officer to General Huger's office. Gen. Huger treated him politely, and ordered a steamboat to be mended to convey him to the truce steamer from Fortress Monroe. He was placed in the charge of Col. Mulligan, who conducted him to the boat. Before going on board his baggage was examined by detectives. His trunk, a plain wooded box, was bored for a false bottom, concealing dispatches, but nothing was discovered, and he sent along.
When he saw the boat approaching from the Fortress, with the stars and stripes floating, he could not help exclaiming, as he stood on the deck of the rebel steamer, "I bless God that I see once more that brilliant banner." Capt. Preston, commander of the steamer, told him he could not blame him for expressing such a sentiment.
Mr. Ely brings with him several presents from citizens of Richmond, among which is a handsome writing case, given him by a young lady. The Richmond Prison Association, of which Mr. Ely was President, refused to elect a successor, and is left under the charge of its Vice-President.