Henry Wirz Innocent Man Executed
Confederate Veteran, Vol. VIII, No. 8 Nashville, Tenn., August, 1900.
ADDRESS BY THE SURGEON GENERAL, U. C. V.
Dr. C. H. Tebault
Let us turn our faces to The past. There arises before us a land as fair as any that ever dawned on human vision. It stretches from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. Its western frontier lies far in the woods beyond the Mississippi. Its eastern and outhern coasts are washed for two thousand miles by the Atlantic waves. Four of the original colonies of Great Britain which proclaimed themselves at Philadelphia in 1776 to be free and independent States are embraced within it-Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. To them are added Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri divide between it and its Northern neighbor. On its map you may read the names of Alamance, where American freemen first defied the power of the English king before Concord or Bunker Hill were heard of; of Mecklenburg, where first was sounded the note of independence before the proclamation of Philadelphia; of Williamsburg, where the first Democratic Convention in America was held and the first State declared its independence. There, too, you may read the names of Moultrie, Camden, Cowpens, King's Mountain, Savannah, and Charleston; there you may see Yorktown, where Cornwallis gave up the ghost of conquest, leaving his sword to Washington; there you may see New Orleans, upon soil which Jefferson negotiated from the empire of Napoleon to the republic of Washington, where the fierce Democracy of Tennessee? Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana, led by Andrew Jackson, gave the quietus to the veteran regulars of Great Britain, the same who later won the glories of Waterloo. There at the Alamo? in the Lone Star State, you may read the greatest epitaph of history, where "Thermopyla, had its messenger of defeat; the Alamo had none."
There you may see, too, Bentonville and Appomattox, where valor, unawed by fate, paid to its flag the last salute and flaunted the colors of victory over the precipice of surrender.
THE CONFEDERATE SURGEON
What a prolific theme of hallowed memories! Every battalion, every company of artillery had its assistant surgeon; every regiment its surgeon and assistant surgeon; and this applies alike to both the infantry and to the cavalry arm. On the staff of every major general, of every lieutenant general and of every general, there was a medical director. At every hospital post was a surgeon of the post, and every hospital had its surgeon and assistant surgeons. The navy was likewise provided with her corps of surgeons and assistant surgeons.
When the famous Alabama, that Confederate ruler and terror of the sea, fighting until her belching cannon quenched forever their flaming throats in the ocean's wave, went down to stainless sleep, "rocked in the cradle of the deep?" her pure and unsullied deck a stranger to foemen's tread, a Confederate surgeon bore her company and sleeps heroically on her bosom by the side of her other immortal dead.
On the more than two thousand battlefields the Confederate surgeon's duty called him where the battle waxed the hottest, and where the dead and wounded lay the thickest. His mission required him to be calm, self-possessed, and unawed where death's messengers filled the very air he breathed, with no weapon in his hand save his surgical instruments.
Gen. Joseph Hooker said of the Army of Northern Virginia ("Conduct of the War," Vol. I., page 113): "That army has by discipline alone acquired a character for steadiness and efficiency unsurpassed, in my judgment, in ancient or modern times. We have not been able to rival it, nor has there been any approximate to it in the other Rebel armies." He was not familiar enough to speak authoritatively of the Army of Tennessee, which, had Albert Sidney Johnston lived, or had Beauregard been in proper health when Johnston fell, Grant would have been annihilated at Shiloh, and history might have told a different story.
Matchless and stainless as were the Confederate armies, so also was that matchless and unapproached corps of Confederate surgeons in the consummation of their immortal achievements. By their skill and devotion and courage they maintained in the field the fighting men of the South.
The hospitals, constructed under the direction of the Confederate surgeons, and their management of them, stand even at this date unequaled in the matter of ventilation and in the method of caring for the sick and wounded.
With medicines, instruments, and medical works and needful delicacies made contraband of war, they turned to and developed the resources of the field and the forest; and, though charged with the care of fifty thousand more Federal prisoners than the enemy had of Confederate prisoners, yet, in spite of these adverse surroundings, lost four thousand less Federal prisoners than the Federals lost of Confederate prisoners, with every means to command better results. This is a monument which history has erected to the Confederate surgeon that "neither time nor rust can corrode."
Of the thirty-four States and Territories, only eleven seceded. In these eleven States the men of military age---from eighteen to forty-five years---numbered 1,064,193, inclusive of lame, halt, blind, etc. On the Union side the same class numbered 4,559,872---over four to one, without estimating the constant accessions from the world at large, augmenting monthly the Union side.
The United States, in enlisted men, numbered 2,865,028 against not exceeding 600,000 on the side of the Southern Confederacy.
Counting the border States of Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland, which gave 231,000 soldiers to the Union, West Virginia, which gave 32,068, and Tennessee, which gave 341,092, and the rest of the Southern States, which gave 21,755, making 316,424 soldiers given by the South---the slave States---to the armies of the Union side, more than half as many soldiers as comprised the entire Confederate armies.
These above facts, derived from the war records, show that there were four armies in the field, each one of which was as large as the entire Confederate army without including the more than 300,000 contingent from the South.
In numbers the Federal loss was 67,058 killed and 43,021 died of wounds; total, 110,070. Of the Confederates, the like total was 74,524. The Confederates had 53,773 killed outright, and 194,026 wounded on the field of battle. More than one-third of the 600,000 Confederates were, therefore, confided to the Confederate surgeons for battle wounds. For the nineteen months--- January, 1862, to July, 1863, inclusive--- over 1,000,000 cases of wounds and sickness were entered upon the Confederate field reports, and over 400,000 cases of wounded upon the hospital reports. It is estimated that all of the 600,000 Confederates were, on an average, disabled for greater or lesser periods by wounds and sickness about six times during the war. The heroic, untiring, important part thus borne by the skillful Confederate surgeons in maintaining in the field an effective army of unexampled Confederate soldiers must challenge particular attention.
The destruction by fire of the medical and surgical records of the Confederate States deposited in the surgeon general's office in Richmond, Va., in April, 1865, renders the roster of the medical corps somewhat imperfect, hence the need of concerted action on the part of the survivors to bridge this hiatus. The official list of the paroled officers and men of the army of Northern Virginia surrendered by Gen. R. E. Lee, April 9, 1865, furnished 310 surgeons and assistant surgeons. In my first report, presented at the Richmond reunion, I showed that the medical roster for the Army of Tennessee had been preserved in duplicate. I shall offer in a more detailed report data to prove indisputably important facts relating to the prisoners of war upon both sides, with the purpose of establishing the death rate responsibility in the premises. It will suffice to mention here that the report of Mr. Stanton, as Secretary of War, on the 19th of July, 1866, exhibits the fact that, of the Federal prisoners in Confederate hands during the war, only 22,570 died; while of the Confederate prisoners in Federal hands, 26,436 died. This report does not set forth the exact number of prisoners held by each side respectively.
These facts were given more in detail in a subsequent report by Surg. Gen. Barnes, of the United States Army.
That the whole number of Federal prisoners captured by the Confederates and held in Southern prisons from the first to the last during the war was, in round numbers, 270,000; while the whole number of Confederates captured and held in prison by the Federals was in like round numbers only 220,000. From these two reports it appears that with 50,000 more prisoners in Southern stockades, or other modes of confinement, the deaths were nearly 4,000 less. According to these figures, the percentage of Federal deaths in Southern prisons was under nine, while the percentage of Confederate deaths in Northern prisons was over twelve. These mortuary statistics are of no small weight in determining on which side there was the most neglect, cruelty, and inhumanity, proclaiming, as we do, a loss by death of more than three per cent of Confederates over Federals in prisons, while the Federals had an unstinted command of everything.
The policy of the Confederates was established by law. By an Act of the Confederate Congress, passed soon after the war was inaugurated, it was provided that prisoners of war should have the same rations in quantity-and quality as Confederate soldiers in the field. By an Act afterwards passed, all hospitals for sick and wounded prisoners were put upon the same footing with hospitals for sick and wounded Confederates. This policy was never changed. There was no discrimination in either particular between Federal prisoners and Confederate soldiers. Whatever food or fare the Confederate soldier had, whether good or bad, full or short, the Federal prisoners shared equally with them. Whatever medical attention the sick and wounded Confederate soldiers had, the Federal prisoners in like condition also received. Where the supply of the usual standard medicines was exhausted and could not be replenished in consequence of the action of the Federal government in holding them to be contraband of war, and preventing their introduction by blockade and severe penalties, when resort was had to the virtues of the healing herbs of the country as substitutes for more efficient remedial agents, the suffering Federals shared these equally with like suffering Confederates. All Confederate surgeons have more or less valuable data in their keeping. Gather these up at once, comrades. Each separate fact placed with others in a connected whole will fill in the needed missing links required to perfect the historic part relating to the faithfulness and unfaltering devotion of the Confederate surgeons in the thorough and conscientious performance of their humanitarian, professional obligations, regardless of creeds and of nationalities, or whether friends or foemen.
The whole number of Confederates surrendered from the 8th of April, 1865, to the 26th of May. 1865, the date of final surrender, under Gen. E. Kirby Smith was, according to muster rolls, a little under 175,000. This embraces quite a number who, from disease and wounds, were not actually in the field at the time. The whole number of Federal forces then in the field and afterwards mustered out of service, as the records show. in round numbers amounted to 1,050,000.
The total loss in killed and died of wounds in the Franco-German war was 3.1 per cent; that of the Austrians in the war of 1866, 2.6 per cent; that of the Allies in the Crimea, 3.2 per cent. But in out war the hemorrhage was far greater, for the Federals lost 4.7 per cent, and the Confederates over 9 per cent---the heaviest loss of any modem army that fell around its standard.
Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, in his two volumes entitled "The War between the States," in the chapter devoted to "Prisoners of War," writes: "Neither Libby nor Belle Island nor Salisbury nor Andersonville would have had a groaning prisoner of war but for the refusal of the Federal authorities to comply with the earnest desire of the Richmond government for an immediate exchange upon the most liberal and humane principles. Had Mr. Davis's repeated offers been accepted, no prisoner on either side would have been retained in confinement a day."
Speaking of Mr. Wirz, Mr. Stephens says: "He was a European by birth, who obtained position in our service through letters of recommendation, which warranted confidence in his intelligence and good character. It is due to his memory, however, to recollect that his own dying declarations were against the truth of these accusations. This, moreover, I can and do venture to say that acts of much greater cruelty and barbarity than any which were proven against him could have been easily established, and would have been established on his trial, against numerous subordinates on the Federal side, if the tendered proof had not been rejected. The Confederate authorities never in a single instance sanctioned, much less ordered, well-meaning and unoffending prisoners of war to be confined in unwholesome dungeons, and to be manacled with cuffs and irons, as was repeatedly done by orders of the authorities at Washington, in utter violation of the well-established usages of modern civilized warfare. But apart from this marked difference between the two governments, in their highest official character, in sanctioning and ordering acts of wanton cruelty, I insist upon the irrefutable fact that but for the refusal of the Federals to carry out an exchange, none of the wrongs or outrages in question, and none of the suffering incident to prison life on either side, would have occurred. Large numbers of prisoners were taken to Southwestern Georgia in 1864 because it was a section most remote and secure from the invading Federal armies, and because, too, it was a country of all others, then within the Confederate limits, not thus threatened with invasion, most abundant with food and all resources at command for the health and comfort of the prisoners. They were put in one stockade for the want of men to guard more than one. The section of the country, moreover, was not regarded as more unhealthy or subject to malarias influences than any in the central portion of the State. The official order for the erecting of the stockade enjoined that it should be in a healthful locality, plenty of pure water, a running stream, and, if possible, shade trees, and in the immediate neighborhood of grist and saw mills. The very selection of the locality, so far from being made with cruel design against the prisoners, was governed by the most humane considerations. But the great question in this matter is: Upon whom rests the tremendous responsibility of all this sacrifice of human life with all its indescribable miseries and sufferings? The facts, beyond question or doubt, show that it rests entirely upon the authorities at Washington. It is now well understood to have been part of their settled policy in conducting the war not to exchange prisoners. The grounds upon which this extraordinary course was adopted were that it was inhumanity to the men in the field, and on their side, to let their captured comrades perish in prison rather than to let an equal number of Confederate soldiers be released in exchange to meet them in battle."
In the second of the two volumes by President Jefferson Davis, entitled "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government," the following is pertinent:
"The trial of Maj. Henry Wirz was the next in importance which came before the military commission. In April, 1865, President Johnson issued a proclamation, stating that from evidence in possession of the Bureau of Military Justice, it appeared that Jefferson Davis was implicated in the assassination of President Lincoln, and for that reason he offered a reward of one hundred thousand dollars for my capture. That testimony was subsequently found to be entirely false, having been a mere fabrication. The manner in which this was done will be presently stated. Meanwhile certain persons of influence and public position at that time, either aware of the fabricated character of this testimony or convinced of its insufficiency to secure my conviction on a trial, sought to find ample material to supply this deficiency in the great mortality of the solders we had captured during the war and imprisoned at Andersonville. Orders were therefore issued by the authority of the United States government to arrest the subaltern officer Capt. Henry Wirz, a foreigner by birth, poor, friendless, and wounded, and held a prisoner of war. He had been included in the surrender of Gen. J. E. Johnston.
On May 7, he was placed in the 'old capital' prison at Washington. The poor man was doomed before he was heard, and the permission to be heard according to law was denied him. Capt. Wirz had been in command of the Confederate prison at Andersonville. The first charge alleged against him was that of conspiring with myself, Secretary Seddon, Gen. Howell Cobb, Gen. Winder, and others, to cause the death of thousands of the prisoners through cruelty, etc. The second charge was alleged against himself for murder and violation of the law and customs of war. The military commission before which he was tried was convened by an order of President Johnson, of August 29, directing the officers detailed for the purpose to meet as a special military commission on August 20, for the trial of such prisoners as might be brought before it. The commission convened, and Wirz was arraigned on the charge above mentioned, and pleaded not guilty. At the suggestion of Judge Advocate Joseph Holt, he was remanded to prison and the court adjourned. The so-called trial afterwards came on, and lasted for three months, but no evidence whatsoever was produced showing the existence of such a conspiracy as had been charged. Wirz, however, was pronounced guilty, and, in accordance with the sentence of the commission he was executed on November 10, 1865.
On April 4, 1867, Mr. Louis Schade, of Washington, and the attorney of Wirz on the trial, in compliance with the request of Wirz to do so as soon as the times should be propitious, published a vindication of his character. The following is an extract from this publication:
"On the night previous to the execution of the prisoner, some parties came to the confessor of Wirz (Rev. Father Boyle) and also to me. One of them informed me that a high cabinet officer wished to assure Wirz that if he would implicate Jefferson Davis with the atrocities committed at Andersonville, his sentence should be commuted. He (the messenger, whoever he was) requested me to inform Wirz of this. In the presence of Father Boyle, I told him next morning what had happened. the captain simply and quietly replied: "Mr. Schade, you know that I have always told you that I do not know anything about Jefferson Davis. He had no connection with me as to what was done at Andersonville. If I knew anything of him, I would not become a traitor against him or anybody else to save my life."
The following is an extract from a letter of Capt. C. B. Winder to Mrs. Davis, dated Eastern Shore of Virginia, January 9, 1867: "The door of the room which I occupied while in confinement at the old capital prison, Washington, was immediately opposite Capt. Wirz's dooróboth of which were occasionally open. About two days before Capt. Wirz's execution, I saw three or four men pass into his room, and, upon their coming out, Capt Wirz told me that they had given him assurances that his life would be spared and his liberty given to him if he (Wirz) could give any testimony that would reflect upon Mr. Davis, or implicate him directly or indirectly with the condition and treatment of prisoners of war as charged by the United States authorities; that he indignantly spurned these propositions, and assured them that, never having been acquainted with Mr. Davis either officially, personally, or socially, it was utterly impossible that he should know anything against him; and that the offer of his life, dear as the boon might be, could not purchase him to treason and treachery to the South and his friends."
The following letter is from Rev. Father Boyle, of Washington:
WASHINGTON, D. C., October 10, 1860.
Hon. Jefferson Davis.
I know that, on the evening before the day of the execution of Maj. Wirz, a man visited me on the part of a cabinet officer to inform me that Maj. Wirz would be pardoned if he would implicate Jefferson Davis in the cruelties at Andersonville. No names were given by the messenger and upon my refusal to take any action in the matter he went to Mr. Louis Schade, counsel for Maj. Wirz, with the same purpose, with a like result. When I visited Maj. Wirz the next morning he told me that the same proposal had been made to him, and he'd been rejected with scorn. The Major was very indignant and said that, while he was innocent of the cruel charges for which he was about to suffer death, he would not purchase his liberty by perjury and crime, such as was made the condition of his freedom. l attended the Major to the scaffold, and he died in the peace of God and praying for his enemies. I know he was indeed innocent of all the cruel charges on which his life was sworn away, and I was edified by the Christian spirit in which he submitted to his persecutors.
Yours very truly, F. E. BOYLE.
"The testimony of Chief Surgeon Stevenson, of the hospital at Andersonville, bears testimony to the success with which Wirz improved the post, and the good effects produced upon the health of the prisoners."
CAPT. WIRZ'S LAST LETTER TO HIS WIFE.
The following lines, the last that were written by the hand of perhaps the most ill-fated man that ever lived, can hardly fail to elicit a regretful tear to his memory:
OLD CAPITOL, PRISON,
WASHINGTON, D. C., November, 10, 1865.
My Dearest Wife and Children: When these lines reach you, the hand which wrote them will be stiff and cold. In a few hours from now I will be dead. O, if I could express myself as I wish! if I could tell you what I have suffered when I thought about you and the children! I must leave you without the means to live, to the mercies of a cold, cruel world. Lize, do not grieve, do not despair; we will meet again in a better world; console yourself; think as I do, that I die innocent.
Who knows better than you that all those tales of cruelties and murder are infamous lies, and why should I not say it? A great many do call me hard-hearted, because I tell them that I am not guilty, that I have nothing to confess. O think for a moment how the thought that I must suffer and die innocent must sustain me in the last terrible hour, that when I stand before my Maker, I can say: "Lord, of these things you know I am not guilty. I have sinned often and rebelled against thee; O let my unmerited death be an atonement." Lize, I die reconciled; I die, as I hope, as a Christian. This is His holy will that l should die, and therefore let us say with Chris,. Thy will, O Lord, be done." I hardly know what to say. O, let me beg you not to give way to despair; think that I am going to my Father, to your Father, to the Father of all, and that there l hope to meet you. Live for the dear children. O, do take good care of Coral Kiss her for me; kiss Susan and Cornelia, and tell them to live so that we may meet again in the home above the skies, tell them that my last thought, my last prayer shall be for them.
You ask me about Cora's schooling. My dear wife, you must do now as you think best. In regard to your going to Europe, I would advise you to wait till you hear from there. I have written to my father; if he should be dead, my brother is still alive. I send you his address. You had better get a certificate of our marriage, also of Cora's birth, have it approved before a magistrate. If you should go to Europe, you would need it.
I shall hand this letter to Mr. Schade. who will send it to you with some other papers and books; this is all that I can leave you; but no, I can leave you something more, something better, my blessing. God bless you and protect you. God give you what you stand in need of, and Brant that you all so live that when you die you can say: '` Lord, thou callest me, here I am." And now, farewell, wife, children, all; farewell, farewell; God be with us.
Your unfortunate husband and father,
(From the New Orleans Times, November 21, 1865.)
The following letter will be found in the Daily True Delta, of New Orleans, La., in its November 17, 1865, issue:
OLD CAPITOL PRISON, November 10, 1865.
Dear Sir: It is no doubt the last time I address myself to you. What I have said to you often and often I repeat. Accept my thanks, my sincere, heartfelt thanks, for all you have done for me. May God reward you! I cannot. Still, I have something more to ask of you, and I am confident you will not refuse to receive my dying request. Please help my poor family, my dear wife and children. War, cruel war, has swept everything from me, and to-day my wife and children are beggars. My life is demanded as an atonement. I am willing to give it, and I hope after a while I will be judged differently from what I am now. If any one ought to come to the relief of my family, it is the people of the South, for whose sake I have sacrificed all. I know you will excuse me for troubling you again. Farewell, dear sir. May God bless you!
Yours thankfully, H. WIRZ.
In the same above-mentioned paper will be found the report of the execution of Capt. H. Wirz, under date of November 24, 1865, taken from the Washington correspondent of the New York World. It is too horrible to reproduce. The last words of this unjustly executed officer were: "I am innocent of the charge brought against me. I am going before God, who will judge between me and my accusers."
I was not until very recently aware of the existence of these letters, and I am very sure their reproduction here will be read with sorrowing interest, not only by the Confederate South, but by all the good people of the North. Justice to this more than heroic officer and stainless character in Confederate history demands at our hands this deserted tribute to his memory, this simple vindication of his good name.
In a dispatch from Gen. Grant, dated City Point, August 18, 1864, he says: "On the subject of exchange, however, I differ from Gen. Hitchcock. It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in ranks to fight our battles. Every man released on parole, or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once, either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught, they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time, to release all rebel prisoners North would insure Sherman's defeat and would compromise our own safety here."
President Davis records that: "In the summer of 1864, in consequence of certain information communicated to our commissioner, Mr. Ould, by the Surgeon General of the Confederate States, as to the deficiencies of medicines, Mr. Ould offered to make purchase of medicines from the United States authorities to be used exclusively for the use of Union prisoners. He offered to pay gold, cotton, or tobacco for them, and even two or three prices if required. At the same time he gave assurances that the medicines would be used exclusively for the treatment of Union prisoners, and moreover agreed, on behalf of the Confederate States if it were insisted on, that such medicines might be brought into the Confederate lines by the United States surgeons, and dispensed by them. Incredible as it may appear, it is nevertheless strictly true that no reply was ever received to this offer. One final effort was now made to obtain an exchange. This consisted in my sending a delegation from the prisoners at Andersonville to plead their cause before the authorities at Washington. It was of no avail. President Lincoln refused to see them. They were made to understand that the interests of the government of the United States required that they should return to prison and remain there. They carried back the sad tidings that their government held out no hope for their release."
To make the exchange of prisoners as hopeless as possible, Maj. Gen. Butler, in March, 1864, was made the United States Agent of Exchange at Fortress Monroe. The following extracts are from the official report of Maj. Gen. Butler to "the Committee on the Conduct of War," which was appointed by a joint resolution of Congress during the war: "Accident prevented my meeting the Rebel commissioner, so that nothing was done; but after conversation with Gen. Grant, in reply to the proposition of Mr. Ould, to exchange all prisoners of war, on either side held, man for man, officer for officer, I wrote an argument showing our right to our colored soldiers. This argument set forth our claims in the most offensive form possible, consistent with ordinary courtesy of language, for the purpose of carrying out the wishes of the lieutenant general that no prisoners of war should be exchanged. This paper was published so as to bring a public pressure by the owners of slaves upon the Rebel government in order to forbid their exchange."
The report continues: "In case the Confederate authorities took the same view as Gen. Grant, believing that an exchange would defeat 'Sherman and imperil the safety of the armies of the Potomac and the James,' and therefore should yield to the argument, and formally notify me that the slaves captured in our uniform would be exchanged as other soldiers were, and that they were ready to return us all our prisoners at Andersonville and elsewhere in exchange for theirs; then I had determined, with the consent of the lieutenant general, as a last resort to prevent exchange, to demand that the outlawry against me should formally be reversed and apologized for, before I would further negotiate the exchange of prisoners. But the argument was enough, and the Confederates never offered to me afterwards to exchange the colored soldiers, who had been slaves, held in prison by them."
Further on in this report Gen. Butler gives the history of some naval exchanges, and concludes his observations on that head as follows: "It will be observed that the rebels had exchanged all the naval colored prisoners, so that the Negro question no longer impeded the exchange of prisoners; in fact, if we had demanded the exchange of all, man for man, officer for officer, they would have done it."
And now I invite careful attention to the concluding words of this most extraordinary report: "I have felt it my duty to give an account with this particular carefulness of my participation in the business of exchanges of prisoners, the orders under which I acted, and the negotiations attempted, that was done, so that all may become a matter of history. The great importance of the questions; the fearful responsibility for the many thousands of lives which, by the refusal of exchange, were sacrificed by the most cruel forms of death---from cold, starvation, and pestilence of the prison pens of Raleigh and Andersonville---being more than all the British soldiers killed in the wars of Napoleon; the anxiety of fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, wives; to know the exigency which caused this terrible and, perhaps, as it may have seemed to them, useless and unnecessary destruction of those dear to them by horrible deaths-each and all have compelled me to this exposition, so that it may be seen that those lives were spent as a part of the system of attack upon the rebellion, devised by the wisdom of the general in chief of the armies, ;to destroy it by depletion, depending upon our superior numbers to win the victory at last. The loyal mourners will doubtless derive solace from this fact, and appreciate all the more highly the genius which conceived the plan ind the success won at so great a cost."
The obstacles thus thrown in the way of the exchange of prisoners of war were not only persistently interposed, but artfully designed to be insurmountable.
To quote Mr. Davis: "Having ascertained that exchange could not be made, either on the basis of the cartel, or officer for officer and man for man, we offered to the United States government their sick and wounded without requiring any equivalents. On these terms we agreed to deliver from 10,000 to 15,000 at the mouth of the Savannah River, and we further added that if the number for which transportation might be sent could not be readily made up from sick and wounded, the difference should be supplied with well men. Although the offer was made in the summer, the transportation did not arrive until November; and as the sick and wounded were at points distant from Georgia, and could not be brought to Savannah within a reasonable time, 5,000 well men were substituted. In return some 3,000 sick and wounded were delivered to us at the same place. The original rolls showed that some 3,500 had started from Northern prisons, and that death had reduced the number during the passage to about 3,000. On two occasions we were specially asked to send the very sick and desperately wounded prisoners, and a particular request was made for men who were so seriously sick that it would be doubtful whether they would survive a removal a few miles down the James River. Accordingly, some of the worst cases, contrary to the judgment and advice of our surgeons, but in compliance with the piteous appeals of the sick prisoners, were sent away, and after being delivered they were taken to Annapolis, Md., and there photographed as specimen prisoners. They indeed were pitiable to behold, but the misery they portrayed was surpassed by some of those we received in exchange at Savannah. Why was there this delay between the summer and November in sending vessels for the transportation of sick and wounded, for whom no equivalents were asked?"
One further quotation from President Jefferson Davis: "That we might clothe our brave men in the prisons of the United States government, I made an application for permission to send cotton to Liverpool, and therewith purchase the supplies which were necessary. The request was granted, but only on condition that the cotton should be sent to New York and the supplies bought there. This was done by our agent, Gen. Beale. The suffering of our men in Northern prisons caused the application; that it was granted refutes the statement that our men were comfortably maintained."
Finally, President Davis writes: "In order to alleviate the hardship of confinement on both sides, our commissioner (Judge Ould), on January 24, 1863, addressed a communication to Gen. E. A. Hitchcock, United States. Commissioner of Exchange, in which he proposed that all prisoners on each side should be attended by a proper number of their own surgeons, who, under rules to be established, should be permitted to take charge of their health and comfort. It was also proposed that these surgeons should act as commissaries with power to receive and disburse such contributions of money, food, clothing, and medicine, and proposed that these surgeons should be selected by their own government, and that they should have full liberty at any and all times, through the agents of exchange, to make reports not only of their own acts, but of any matter relating to the welfare of the prisoners. To this communication no reply of any kind was ever made."
In his last message to the Senate and house of Representatives of the Confederate States of America, among many other important matters considered, President Davis proceeds: "The legislation requires, in such cases of impressment, that the market price be paid; but there is really no market price in many cases, and then valuation is made arbitrarily and in a depreciated currency. The result is that the most extravagant prices are fixed, such as no one expects ever to be paid in coin. None believe that the government can ever redeem in coin the obligation to pay fifty dollars a bushel for corn, or seven hundred dollars a barrel for flour. It would seem to be more just and appropriate to estimate the supplies impressed at their value in coin, to give the obligation of the government for the payment of the price in coin, with reasonable interest, or, at the option of the creditor, to return in kind the wheat and corn impressed, with a reasonable interest, also payable in kind; and to make the obligations thus issued receivable for all payments due in coin to the government."
With all these tremendous and insurmountable obstacles in the path of the Confederate surgeon, all our ports blockaded, medicines, instruments, and medical works contraband of war, delicacies next to impossible, the most essential provisions fabulously high, shoes and clothing even more difficult to obtain, his instruments and books taken from him when captured at his post of duty with all these disadvantages, he points with honest and commendable pride to the unequaled record he has left behind him. I conclude with these lines from our poet-priest:
"Is it treason thus to sing?
Why, then treason let it be.
Must we stoop to fawn on wrong?
To the idol must we bring
Our heart's idolatry,
And the fealty of song?
No, no, the past is past;
May it never come again!
May no drum or bugle's blast
Summon warriors to the plain,
The battle's play is o'er;
We staked our all, and lost.
The red, wild waves that tossed
The Southland's saved bank,
Are sleeping on the shore.
She went down in the dark:
Is it wrong for us to listen
To the waves that still will glisten
Where the wreck we loved went down?
Is it wrong to watch the willows
That are drooping o'er the grave?
Is it wrong to love our brave?
The Military page Coordinators are Margie Glover-Daniels and Chuck Pierce and Gloria Holback
This site was last updated 06/10/2004 09:32:38 AM CDT
The page is part of The Georgia