O.R.--SERIES II--VOLUME VI [S# 119]
UNION AND CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, ETC., RELATING TO PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE FROM JUNE 11, 1863, TO MARCH 31, 1864.--#13
LIBBY PRISON, Richmond, September 18, 1863.
Pursuant to previous notice, a meeting of the officers of the U. S, Army now confined in Libby Prison as prisoners of war was convened for the purpose of considering their condition and treatment while in such confinement and the best and proper means of improving the same. On motion, Maj. E. N. Bates, Eightieth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, was called to preside, and Maj. Harry White, Sixty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, was elected secretary of the meeting. Upon the organization the chair was called upon to state the object of the meeting. To this call he responded by stating that this meeting as he was informed was called by the officers confined in Libby Prison to consult upon the best means of improving our physical condition while in confinement, and to inform the United States Government of our treatment by the Confederate authorities, and to correct any misrepresentation or misapprehension touching the same. The meeting was attended by nearly all of the officers confined in the prison, and much feeling was manifested in the object of the meeting.
On motion, a committee of three officers was appointed by the chair to report the sense of the meeting. The chair appointed on said committee Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, [Twenty-fifth] Regiment Ohio Volunteers; Dr. William Spencer, assistant surgeon Seventy-third Indiana Volunteers; Capt. B. F. Fisher, Signal Corps, U.S. Army. This committee withdrew a few moments and returned with the following report, which was read to the meeting and instantly adopted with the manifestation of much feeling and not a dissenting voice:
LIBBY PRISON, Richmond, September 18, 1863.
Maj. E. N. BATES,
President of Meeting of Officers, Prisoners of War, in Libby Prison :
SIR: Your committee appointed to report the sense of this meeting on the matters it was called to consider would respectfully report as follows:
Whereas the officers of the U.S. Army now confined in this prison as prisoners of war have understood a communication, dated September, 1863, signed by two officers of the U.S. Army of advanced rank, confined here, represents the entire satisfaction of those two officers with the treatment received at the hands of the Confederate Government and the officials of the prison, which paper has been given to the authorities now holding us, and will doubtless be forwarded through our commissioners of exchange to our Government and be otherwise made public.
While the said communication undertakes only to give the individual opinions of its signers, we yet fear by improper inference therefrom the opinions and feelings of the officers, prisoners here, may be compromised and our Government be misinformed thereby. We deem it proper and necessary to make a fair and truthful statement of <ar119_302> our actual condition and treatment, that such action by our Government may be taken in the premises as may be necessary and proper to secure us relief.
We beg leave to state that many of our fellow-officers have received and are receiving treatment, indignities, and punishments unauthorized by the rules of civilized warfare. Officers captured in honorable warfare have been and are often addressed without proper cause in low, abusive language unworthy the tongue of a gentleman, and found only in the billingsgate of the blackguard; some have been struck with the fist and open hand, some have been confined for weeks in lonely loathsome cells on loose and unsustained charges, and others again have been confined in these cells for the most trivial offense, even for spitting on the floor of the prison. In addition to these personal and individual sufferings, the general condition and situation of those confined here are unauthorized by all civilized military precedent and the dictates of humanity. The published accounts in our daily papers of the condition and treatment of the prisoners in our Northern military prisons contrast strongly with our present situation.
Five hundred and seventy-one officers are at present confined here in four rooms, containing by actual measurement 16,936 square feet, or twenty-nine square feet--less than six feet square--to each individual These rooms are used for sleeping, cooking, eating, and for all other purposes. From the barred windows of these rooms we can look on the world outside, but are never permitted to go into the pure air or walk upon "Mother Earth." One room is furnished with bunks for some of its occupants: in the others prisoners lie huddled in groups upon the floor during the night, with the allowance of one blanket each; some have no blankets at all. No seats are provided, and any one found seated upon his blanket during the day has it rudely dragged from him; the sickness of the possessor of the blanket will not save it for him.
Vermin (lice) abound in every room occupied. August 13, 1863, some thirty surgeons confined here as prisoners of war held a meeting and gave expression of their opinions of the character and sufficiency of the rations received. They stated "that in their opinion as surgeons the rations then being furnished (they remain unchanged) to the officers confined as prisoners in Libby Prison are insufficient in quality and quantity to maintain a healthy condition and prevent disease;" also "that articles of vegetable diet are necessary, in addition to the rations now issued, to preserve a healthy physical condition in men thus situated, and to counteract the scorbutic tendency incident thereto." Officers have at various times fallen upon the floor in fits, occasioned, as the surgeons affirm, from want of proper food. Those having money in their own hands, save the officers of Milroy's command, are permitted to send out and have articles purchased from the markets of the city. The large majority here, however, are without money, although they have considerable amounts in the hands of the Confederate authorities, yet they cannot obtain any for these necessary purposes. Those without money in their possession are compelled to live on the scanty rations furnished by the authorities and such contributions as they may receive from others. It is no uncommon sight in the prison to see men eagerly seek and eat what others leave.
The amount of money daily sent out from the four rooms to obtain vegetables, &c., is from $800 to $1,000, from which fact the insufficiency of the food issued can be readily inferred. This daily expenditure would be increased largely if the authorities here would allow us to have the use of our money they now withhold from us. It is but proper our Government should know that money sent us from our friends in the North is detained by the authorities here from us.
Colonel Streight, one of the prisoners here, in a communication addressed to Hon. James A. Seddon, Secretary of War of the Confederate Government, dated August 31 , 1863, copies of which were sent to the several commissioners of exchange, laid these facts before the Confederate authorities in an unexaggerated form. Still our condition is unremedied and the grievances therein set forth are augmented, as there is less money among us.
Believing the foregoing to be a true statement and just to all parties and adapted to deny the inference that may be drawn from the communication referred to at the commencement of this report, we have the honor to submit it for your action.
BY THE COMMITTEE.
After the reading and adoption of the foregoing report the following resolutions were submitted to the meeting. Their reading created much enthusiasm, and, after discussion by several officers, were unanimously adopted.
On motion, the meeting then adjourned.
E. N. BATES,
Major Eightieth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, President.
Major Sixty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Secretary.
1. Resolved, That the written statement addressed to Capt. J. Warner, commissary of subsistence, C. S. Army, indorsed and vouched for by Col. Charles W. Tilden, Sixteenth Maine Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sanderson, commissary of subsistence First Corps, U.S. Army, in reference to the treatment and sentiments of the officers confined here, is in every particular a gross misrepresentation of facts, and in its reasonable inferences unqualifiedly false.
2. Resolved, That said statement is directly calculated to stifle the voice of our reasonable complaint, as truthfully set forth in the communication of Col. A.D. Streight, which they stigmatize as unjust and untrue, to mislead and deceive our commissioner for exchange of prisoners and our Government.
3. Resolved, That in view of the cruel and inhuman treatment of the enlisted men of our Army by the Confederate authorities which daily comes under our notice, not to speak of the indignities and deprivations to which our officers have been subjected, this action of those officers whose names are attached to the communication referred to in the first resolve meets our unqualified condemnation.
4. Resolved, That our thanks are due to Colonel Streight for his fearless and unselfish efforts to secure for us additional accommodations from our enemies, and that an increased amount of rations are some of the fruits of his labors, and that the course he has pursued in relation to our condition meets with our hearty approval.