O.R.--SERIES II--VOLUME V [S# 118]
UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, ETC., RELATING TO PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE FROM DECEMBER 1, 1862, TO JUNE 10, 1863.--#16
Extract from testimony of Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds before the Committee on the Conduct of the War.
WASHINGTON, March 23, 1863.
Maj. Gen. JOHN F. REYNOLDS sworn and examined.
By Mr. GOOCH:
Question. What is your rank and position in the Army?
Answer. I am a major-general of volunteers, at present commanding the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac. «25 R R--SERIES II, VOL V» <ar118_386>
Question. At what point were you when the rebellion first broke out and when did you join the Army in the field?
Answer. I was commanding the cadets at West Point when the war broke out and joined the Army in the field in September, 1861, from recruiting service. I had been appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Fourteenth Infantry and was recruiting one battalion of that regiment from the 4th of July until September. I joined the Army of the Potomac under General McClellan while it was opposite Washington.
Question. With what rank and position?
Answer. As a brigadier-general of volunteers, and was assigned to the command of a brigade in the Pennsylvania Reserves.
Question. When the Army moved from Washington to the Peninsula to what corps were you attached?
Answer. The division to which I belonged (General McCall's) was attached to General McDowell's corps--the First Corps.
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Question. Were you present at the battle of Gaines' Mill?
Answer. I was; and my brigade was engaged for the greater part of the afternoon and until our line was broken on the left and the enemy succeeded in cutting off a portion of the troops engaged on the right; and unfortunately cut off myself, so that I was unable to make my way back to the bridges that night. I was made prisoner the next morning (Saturday morning) by their pickets. The position of Gaines' Mill I knew scarcely anything about, either the ground or the position of the troops. As my brigade had been in action the day before I was first ordered by General Porter to place it in reserve; but shortly after the action commenced I was called upon and my brigade was placed in action.
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Question. Will you give an account of what befell you after you were taken prisoner and describe the treatment that you received?
Answer. When taken prisoner by the picket I was conducted to the rear into the presence of the general commanding that part of the line, General D. H. Hill, and I found several general officers of the enemy there with him. Among them were General Jackson, General Ripley and General C. S. Winder. I was received by them very properly and nothing occurred there to myself at all derogatory to my position as a general officer in our Army. In a very short time I was sent under escort on horseback to the rear on the Old Cold Harbor road as far as General Lee's headquarters. There we were halted. I was sent with some other prisoners, the most of them wounded, among them Major Clitz. We were sent in an ambulance to General Lee's headquarters until he was communicated with. After that we were conducted to Richmond over the battle-field of Mechanicsville. On arriving in Richmond we were taken to the provost-marshal, General Winder, who sent me to the Spotswood House, a hotel there, where I remained until after the battles were all over, confining myself entirely to my room. I gave General Winder assurance I think in some shape or other that I would remain in my quarters. I do not recollect now whether it was in writing or not. After the battle of Malvern Hill, having been joined by General McCall, we were taken one evening out of the hotel by the assistant provost-marshal and conducted to the prison for the officers which had been prepared--a tobacco warehouse--and placed in confinement there, where all the officers they had captured were confined, the field officers on one floor--a large floor. A space was partitioned off for General McCall and myself to occupy. The floor above us was occupied by the captains and the floor above that by the subalterns. In this prison we remained until some four or five officers escaped. After that circumstance we were paraded in public--marched down the streets to the Libby Prison. We understood that this was done because it was supposed that the remaining officers had connived at the escape of the others. At the Libby Prison we were all placed on two floors without any distinction as to rank being made. While in the first prison the officers were allowed by the authorities one ration each consisting of bread and meat only. There was a caterer to the prison who attended to the commissions of the officers and bought provisions for them, such things as they chose to buy themselves for their messes; and General McCall and myself were allowed to have our meals brought from a boarding house. After we were placed in the Libby Prison this was continued I believe with some restrictions. We remained in the Libby Prison until our exchange was effected when we were ordered to prepare to march to Aiken's Landing. There was some objection made by some of the <ar118_387> officers--some who were sick and unable to march and some who thought they ought not to be made to march; and finally some five or six conveyances were provided--mule wagons--which were used for all the field officers and those who were sick and a light board wagon was given to General McCall and myself, and in that way we were conveyed to Aiken's Landing. The weather was extremely hot, and on the road down the officers and the guard who were marching were halted some three miles out of town in the shade and detained there until late in the afternoon, having given out in marching. We started between 12 and 1 o'clock in the middle of the day and we arrived at Aiken's Landing that night and we arrived at Harrison's Bar the next morning, the 12th or 13th of August I think.
Question. What was the character of the rations allowed to you by the authorities in Richmond?
Answer. The rations consisted only of bread and meat and was said to be the same as was allowed to their own soldiers. I do not know the amount of it; I never saw it; we would not touch it at all. If it was sent to the prison it went into the general mess of the officers and they used it there. Having our meals brought to us I did not see the rations at all. The bread I know was very good.
Question. What was the character of the quarters in which you were placed? Was it suitable all circumstances considered for officers of your rank?
Answer. The character of the quarters was very filthy and unsuitable to the character of a general officer in every way whatever. We all washed, ate, slept, &c., in the same room. The room consisted of the entire floor of a large tobacco warehouse, unobstructed except by the rows of posts supporting the upper part of the building. The reason they gave for it was that it was necessary to keep the officers under guard in that way--at least we understood that was the reason--because the people were so excited that it would not do to allow the officers any greater privilege.
Question. Can you describe the treatment of our private soldiers?
Answer. I only know that the men were encamped on an island in the James River above the town. I have personally no means of knowing what the treatment of the men was. I must say, however, that I consider the treatment of the officers unjustifiable for various reasons. There was no necessity for removing us from the first prison; especially the general officers. With the ordinary treatment of prisoners according to the rules of war we ought not to have been made responsible for any of the acts of those officers who escaped from the prison under any circumstances. We were kept under guard all the time and if the guard failed to do their duty there was no one to blame but themselves. If any pledge had been exacted from us to remain in a certain place without guards at all we would have felt bound as a matter of course to have kept that pledge. But the action of the prison authorities there implied a connivance on the part of the general officers which was entirely gratuitous, for which there was of course no foundation whatever so far as the general officers and a majority of the other officers were concerned. If those who escaped had any accomplices in the matter it must have been confined to one or two confidants.
Question. What was the rank of the officers who escaped?
Answer. There was one lieutenant-colonel--Lieutenant-Colonel Hatch--a captain I think, and the rest I think were subalterns. Two of them were recaptured. The others got away and joined the Army at Harrison's Landing.
Question. What was the treatment of the men who were retaken?
Answer. It was very harsh and barbarous. They were taken every night under guard out of the prison and confined in some close dungeon or something of that kind and brought back in the morning. They were not put back at any time with the other officers who were prisoners but were put in with the men or teamsters, that is Colonel Hatch and the other officer with him--I do not recollect his name or grade. The discipline of the prison and the control of the prisoners were vested in a very young officer whose character I myself know from transactions at West Point while he was a cadet under me. This officer and some persons from Maryland had the control in the prisons. The character of this officer had been such at West Point that when I met him in Richmond I refused to hold any intercourse with him. Those persons had the entire control so far as I could understand and were only responsible to the provost-marshal-general for the safe keeping of the prisoners.
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