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
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
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
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
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
From January I to March 1, 1864, there were 2,700 eases 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.
morrhuŠ, ol. olivŠ, or any of the essential oils excepting ol.
terebinth., fluid extract morphia [?], extract jalap, magnesia, acid
citric [?], <ar120_119> acid nitric, rad. scillŠ, sanguinaria,
colchicum, spts. Šth. sulph. comp., quiniŠ sulph., cinchonŠ 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. Šth., 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
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.