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.--#5
JARVIS U.S. ARMY GENERAL HOSPITAL,
Baltimore, Md., May 5, 1864.
Col. WILLIAM HOFFMAN,
Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D.C.:
COLONEL: Surg. J. Simpson, U.S. Army, medical director of this department, has just informed me of your desire to obtain the statements of prisoners of war concerning their treatment, &c. I inclose herewith the only statement I have in my possession. It appears to me reliable, and was carefully prepared at my request for professional use. The young man is absent on furlough, therefore I am unable to procure even his signature to it, but it may be of service, as it is in his own handwriting.
Some ten days since I compiled a paper from the verbal reports of these prisoners, their condition when received, their diseases and prospects as to future health, and some other collateral information, which I then forwarded to one of our leading medical journals, which devotes itself mostly to army medical news and scientific articles. My remarks are general and intended mostly for the profession. I sent with my paper a copy (revised) of this statement, for the reason the steward was connected with the medical department of the Army. I fear and regret it is too late to recall the article for your use, but if you desire I will send the journal in which it appears when I receive the same.
There are many facts connected with these men which are highly interesting to our surgeons, therefore I noted them down.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
DE WITT C. PETERS,
Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army.
OFFICE COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS,
Washington, D. C., May 11, 1864.
Respectfully submitted for the information of the Secretary of War as further evidence of the inhuman treatment received by Federal troops when in the hands of rebels.
Colonel Third Infantry and Commissary. General of Prisoners.
WAR DEPARTMENT, May 11, 1864.
Respectfully referred to the commissioner for the exchange of prisoners for remark.
By order of the Secretary of War:
LOUIS H. PELOUZE,
WASHINGTON, May 13, 1864.
This furnishes additional evidence, but on points now well understood and published in a report from the Committee on the Conduct of the War.
No immediate use can be made of it, but the paper should be carefully preserved. It may become of considerable importance.
E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Major-General of Volunteers.
SUFFERINGS AND PRIVATIONS OF FEDERAL PRISONERS WHILE IN RICHMOND, VA.
Immediately on being captured, in the majority of cases, they are deprived of everything they have, viz, overcoats, blankets, boots or shoes (if in good condition), money, watches, &c., and then they have to perform a long and exhausting march without anything to eat, and subjected to every kind of insult and indignity. On their arrival in Richmond, Va., they are either sent to Belle Isle or to some one of the tobacco warehouses that are used as prisons, where they arrive in an exhausted condition, having had no food, probably, for forty-eight hours.
Here they undergo a very strict examination, being stripped to the skin in order that all the money they have may be found and secured. The condition of those in the warehouses was much more comfortable than those poor fellows who were sent to Belle Isle, from the fact that they were not exposed to the cold and damp night air or to the biting cold wind of the island, which, being situated in the James River, is very much exposed.
The rations at first received were made up as follows, viz: Corn bread, one-quarter of a loaf (weighing about four ounces), sweet potatoes (nearly rotten), a quarter of a pound, with about two ounces of meat, and at this time four hard-tack, daily. Soon after the hardtack was expended, when they increased the corn bread to half a loaf, but from this time out meat was seldom given us, and then only in a very small quantity. The potatoes also were discontinued. The above was not sufficient for any one in health, and consequently there was a large amount of sickness. The amount of filth and vermin cannot be described, and, as the men had no opportunity to wash their clothing, it was constantly accumulating.
The winter was a very severe one for Richmond, and those on Belle Isle suffered horribly, for there was no shelter but a few old and worn-out tents of the Sibley pattern, and these were crowded to their utmost capacity, and yet half of the men were without any shelter at all. When you consider that the men were almost naked you can imagine what they must have suffered, exposed to as severe weather as I ever experienced so far north as Albany, N.Y., during the winter. Many of them froze to death, and, instead of a burial, the hogs disposed of their remains. There were hundreds of cases of frostbitten feet and legs, which, in a great many instances, had to be amputated in order to save their lives.
I was unable to sleep in the prison about half of the time because it was very cold, and I had to walk the floor all night long in order to <ar120_118> keep warm. The men were visited in quarters occasionally by a surgeon whose duty it was to remove very severe cases to the hospital and attend to the ailments of the sick. He was a brute and treated the men brutally; his only object was to get all the money he possibly could and to do for the sick only what he was obliged to do. The men were never sent to the hospital until they were very sick, and in most instances not until they were in a dying condition. There were many instances of men dying while being transported to the hospital, and they were never helped in or out of an ambulance unless their comrades done it for them. When admitted into the hospital they were obliged to stand or lay around on the floor until their names were taken, when they found their way into the different wards the best they could. The sheets, bedding, &c., were always in a filthy condition and full of vermin, and never changed unless an inspection was about to take place. The washing was very poorly done and when brought into the linen room were still full of vermin.
The surgeons were supposed to go through their wards once a day, but many of them failed to do so, and when they did attend their principal object seemed to be how soon they could manage to get through their wards, and consequently they neglected the men very much. Others intending to do for the men as well as they knew how were unfortunately little better than empirics. Others were very kind to the men and did all in their power, but the material to prescribe from was so limited they were unable to accomplish much good.
The last surgeon in charge of the hospital was a very kind man and did all in his power to promote the health and comfort of the sick. By his good management there was a sufficiency of whisky reserved for the sick (it not being drank up by outsiders so much), and in the worst cases he managed to obtain a few eggs and a sufficiency of fresh meat, which was of considerable service.
The sick received two meals a day, consisting of four ounces of corn bread and half a pint of unpalatable soup each time; meat was occasionally issued, both fresh and salt. Before they commenced sending the men to Georgia the hospital was filled to its utmost capacity, which was about 1,500 cases. The principal diseases were typhoid fever, typhoid pneumonia, chronic diarrhea, and dysentery, but the two last mentioned was the cause of death in the majority of cases, it seeming utterly impossible to check it even by such remedies as pil. cupri et opii (one-half grain each), pil. argent. nit. et opii (one-fourth grain each), or by the use of pil. plumb. acet. comp., or any of the powerful astringents, without a rich, generous diet and stimulants, which they were unable to furnish, excepting the stimulants and that only in small quantity.
From January I to March 1, 1864, there were 2,700 cases admitted into hospital, and out of this number 1,396 died. During the fall of 1863, there was an average of 50 deaths daily, with an average of 1,500 in the hospital. During March, 1864:, there was an average of 883, and the deaths for this month were 583.
The Federal stewards did the dispensing for the hospital, but as the material to do with was very limited, they labored under many disadvantages, and it put their skill as apothecaries to the hardest test possible, in order to use the material to the best advantage and furnish as many preparations as possible.
The following articles the Confederacy was unable to furnish, viz: ol. morrhuæ, ol. olivæ, or any of the essential oils excepting ol. terebinth., fluid extract morphia [?], extract jalap, magnesia, acid citric [?], <ar120_119> acid nitric, rad. scillæ, sanguinaria, colchicum, spts. æth. sulph. comp., quiniæ sulph., cinchonæ sulph., and others I cannot call to mind.
Such articles as pulv. opii, ipecac, jalap, potass. iodid., potass. nitras, hydryg. sub. mur, antim. et pot. tart., magnes. sulph., potass. bitart, argenti nitras, spts. æth., nitres., iodine, acid tannic, acacia, and a few others, were furnished only in small quantity, which was not sufficient for the wants of the hospital, so that very often we were without them for weeks. Since the blockade has become so effectual, many articles which they furnished us with formerly are not now to be had at any price.
We put up an average of 500 prescriptions daily, which were mostly of one character and varying very little. We also made up daily from 1,500 to 2,000 astringent pills.
The medicines sent us by the U.S. Sanitary Commission were received and have been used for the Federal sick. The quinia sent was used at the rate of three ounces a day, but as we received but forty ounces, it was soon expended.
The clothing sent to us was issued, but when the men were sent to Georgia I heard their blankets and overcoats were taken from them.
The Confederate medical purveyor has issued a circular stating that he would be unable to furnish any but indigenous articles, and directing that their requisitions be made accordingly.
The above statement was made to me by Hospital Steward Thomas James, U.S. Army, captured at Ely's Ford, on the Rapidan, Va., November 2, 1863. He is absent on furlough, and therefore cannot sign or swear to the statement, which is in his own handwriting.
DE WITT C. PETERS,
Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army.