O.R.--SERIES II--VOLUME VIII [S# 121]
UNION AND CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, ETC., RELATING TO PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE FROM JANUARY 1, 1865, TO THE END.--#31
RICHMOND, October 12, 1865.
[Col. N. P. CHIPMAN, U.S. Army:]
SIR: In compliance with your desire that I would make a statement of such information as I could furnish relative to the treatment of Union prisoners confined in the Southern States during the war, I have the honor of presenting the following, which if not as full in detail as may be necessary will be made so upon your intimating what place or person you desire further information about:
Libby Prison, Maj. Thomas P. Turner, commandant; Captain Warner, commissary; Lieuts. George Emack, Latouche, Bossieux, attachés, also Dick Turner. The condition of the prisoners was better than at any of the other prisons, excepting the period when so many were crowded on Belle Isle, which was attached to the same command. At Belle Isle the prisoners suffered intensely from cold, there being insufficient shelter for the immense number confined within such narrow limits. This shelter could readily have been obtained, as was displayed by the ease with which extensive hospitals were erected around Richmond. The prison discipline was strict; the commissary supplies the same as those furnished to the Confederate soldiers. Captain Warner at one time complained of his inability to obtain sufficient stores from the Commissary-General, Colonel Northrop. The Secretary of War, General Randolph, immediately directed the purchase of whatever was needed from the Richmond merchants till the Department was prepared to resume the issue of supplies. The only prison officials of whom I heard complaint were Lieutenant Emack and Dick Turner, the former for harsh and tyrannical display of authority; the latter for the same severity in a greater degree. Prisoners whom, after leaving Richmond, I met in other prisons, charge Turner with robbery in addition to his inhumanity.
Castle Godwin, a military prison used for the confinement of civilians and military prisoners (Confederates). was instituted in 1862, at the declaration of martial law in this city. The Hon. J. M. Botts, Messrs. Stearns, Palmer, Higgins, Wardwell, and other prominent Union citizens of this city and the State of North Carolina, were here confined. Their treatment was characterized by much severity from the authorities. All of them for weeks and many of them for months during their entire confinement were deprived of all communication with their families or friends excepting by letter. Captain Godwin, the provost marshal, was extremely severe toward these prisoners. Capt. G. W. Alexander, <ar121_765> assistant provost-marshal and commandant of the prison, in which office he continued for two years, during which it was moved to another building, where he gave it the appropriate name of Castle Thunder, was an officer whose only virtue was that of being a severe disciplinarian. He prostituted his authority to the arrest of all persons, Union or otherwise, whom he or his underlings could entrap into any expression of sentiment against those in authority or evasion of military law. This he made the process of a system of robbery, confiscation, and blackmail that would at this day require strong evidence to believe could have been practiced with such impunity. As a prison commandant he was harsh, inhuman, tyrannical, and dishonest in every possible way he could practice these vices.
Salisbury Prison, N. C., contained within its limits about fifteen acres. The shelter consisted of one large and some small buildings, with the addition of an insufficient number of tents, which in cold weather induced those confined to burrow in the earth. Several hundred Union (citizen) prisoners were confined here during the year 1862, very many of whom died. Colonel Godwin, former provost-marshal of Richmond, was in command during the period these prisoners were confined. His treatment of them was unkind and severe. I am acquainted with the affairs of this prison only during the period he (Colonel Godwin) was in command.
Camp Oglethorpe Prison, Macon, Ga., Colonel Gibbs commandant, was used during the year 1864 for the confinement of officers, of whom it contained between 1,600 and 1,900. The shelter consisted of a large building used as a hospital, and sheds for the healthier prisoners. There was no complaint of insufficiency of food here, the officers being well supplied with funds and purchasing what they pleased. There was no ill-treatment; the only case was that of an officer who while bathing crossed the deadline and was shot at and killed by a sentinel. Colonel Gibbs put the man under arrest, but I never learned his fate, the prison being removed at the approach of General Stoneman's troops. The prisoners from Andersonville and Macon, on the approach of the U.S. armies, were brought to Savannah, where they suffered much from exposure and the failure to prepare for their reception, many dying in the cars on the route. For a week after their arrival they had no shelter, being surrounded by guards in the open fields, very many dying in consequence. They were well supplied with provisions at this place. From Savannah they were moved to Camp Lawton, Millen, Ga., Captain Vowles commandant. The prisoners had an abundant supply of wood, water, and provisions, but no shelter, in consequence of which the fatality was very great. The only instance of improper treatment I heard of here was that when an exchange of sick prisoners was agreed upon Captain Vowles was said to have placed the names of such persons as paid for the favor on the list of those who were to be immediately forwarded to Savannah for exchange to the exclusion of some of the sick, who complained bitterly of it. Upon hearing of it General Winder instituted inquiry, but the evidence of prisoners not being acceptable, the charge was not sustained, although $60 paid by a prisoner was recovered from a clerk in Captain Vowles' office. The suspicion was so great against this officer that General Winder declared he should have no such command in the future.
Upon the evacuation of Millen the prisoners were removed to Florence, S.C., Colonel Iverson commandant. This prison was an inclosure of twenty-tour acres, eight of them a swamp, through which prisoners had <ar121_766> to pass to obtain water or going to the sinks, which caused an increase of disease and suffering among them. There were between 7,000 and 10,000 men confined here, among whom the fatality was said to have been fully as great in proportion as it had been at Andersonville. At one period there were 1,600 reported sick. The prisoners complained greatly of the harsh and brutal treatment they received from Captain Barrett and Lieutenant Wilson, who had charge of the interior of the prison. They charged these officers with cruel and undeserved punishments, such as lengthened confinement upon bread and water in the guard-house for trivial offenses. Some deaths were reported as the result of their brutality. Lieutenant Cheatham, adjutant, &c., had charge of the searching of the prisoners at their reception, performing this often indecently; was charged with often refusing a receipt for any sums he took from the men excepting small ones, thereby causing the loss of money due many of the prisoners at their departure, at which time Lieutenant Cheatham was absent upon a furlough for thirty days. Colonel Iverson declared, in reply to the indignant demands of the losers, that Lieutenant Cheatham alone was responsible. The prisoners made a report of the above facts to and appealed to General Winder for protection, which application I forwarded to him. He thereupon came to Florence, on the route declaring his determination, if he found the statement true, to remove and punish the parties complained of, and bringing other officers with whom to fill their places. Unfortunately, just as he reached my tent with his staff he was attacked with disease of the heart and died instantly.
I left Florence immediately after this, having charge of the body of General Winder, since which time I have had no connection or communication with the Confederate prisons.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,