O.R.--SERIES II--VOLUME VII [S# 120]
UNION & CONFED. CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, ETC., RELATING TO PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE FROM APRIL 1, 1864, TO DECEMBER 31, 1864.--#2
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES,
Richmond, April 11, 1864.
General BRAXTON BRAGG:
GENERAL: Allow me to call your attention to the indorsement of General Winder upon the "report of inspection of prison hospitals." <ar120_39>
General Winder's attempt to prove that the fearful mortality in this hospital during the past four or five months was entirely independent of the overcrowded condition of the wards is deemed hardly sufficient to overthrow a fundamental and heretofore unquestioned hygienic law, the persistent violation of which has in other hospitals invariably resulted in a largely increased death rate. Other causes may have contributed to the sad result set forth in the "report," but the fact remains that the patients in the prison hospital were limited to half the amount of atmospheric air required in the treatment of the sick and prescribed by orders for the management of hospitals. The general admits that the foul exhalations in the camps on Belle Isle had much to do with the severe mortality in the hospital, but refuses to believe that the vitiated atmosphere of the hospital itself was at all prejudicial to the unfortunate inmates. The condition of the camps on Belle Isle as set forth in the "report of Surg. G. W. Semple," transmitted by General Winder, was disgusting and filthy in the extreme, for which Surgeon Semple asserts the officer in charge was not responsible.
The reference made by General Winder to the fact that the ratio of mortality a year ago, when the number of patients was comparatively small, supposing the hospital accommodation then equal to what it is now (which, however, is not stated), only proves that other grave causes existed at that time, and suggests the inquiry why they were not investigated and removed.
The statement that the largely increased mortality in February, 1864, was due to smallpox cannot be received, as the report does not include deaths at the smallpox hospital.
The deficiency of soldiers to guard a larger hospital establishment may be a valid excuse for not correcting the evils referred to in the report; but of this the inspectors cannot judge. I would, however, direct your attention to the statement made by the medical director in the accompanying letter addressed to General Winder,(*) that he was led to believe by the Surgeon-General that the refusal of proper accommodations to the sick Federal prisoners was one of State policy. A paragraph in General Winder's indorsement in which he refers to the condition of our own sick in the hands of the enemy would seem to imply that he was to some extent influenced by a similar impression.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. G. RICHARDSON,
Surgeon, Provisional Army, C. S.
APRIL 13, 1864.
Returned with report to Adjutant and Inspector General.
The explanations are not satisfactory, but as the condition of affairs is entirely changed by the removal of the sick prisoners no further action seems to be necessary.