I do not know who your soldier correspondent is, but assume to say that
from the following description he will remember having seen me in
Andersonville: I was the little boy that for three or four months
officiated as orderly for Captain Wirz. I wore a red cap, and every day
could be seen riding Wirz’s gray mare, either at headquarters, or about
the Stockade. I was acting in this capacity when the six raiders–
“Mosby,” (proper name Collins) Delaney, Curtis, and–I forget the other
names–were executed. I believe that I was the first that conveyed the
intelligence to them that Confederate General Winder had approved their
sentence. As soon as Wirz received the dispatch to that effect, I ran
down to the stocks and told them.
I visited Hill, of Wauseon, Fulton County, O., since the war, and found
him hale and hearty. I have not heard from him for a number of years
until reading your correspondent’s letter last evening. It is the only
letter of the series that I have seen, but after reading that one, I feel
called upon to certify that I have no doubts of the truthfulness of your
correspondent’s story. The world will never know or believe the horrors
of Andersonville and other prisons in the South. No living, human being,
in my judgment, will ever be able to properly paint the horrors of those
I formed the acquaintance of several Ohio soldiers whilst in prison.
Among these were O. D. Streeter, of Cleveland, who went to Andersonville
about the same time that I did, and escaped, and was the only man that I
ever knew that escaped and reached our lines. After an absence of
several months he was retaken in one of Sherman’s battles before Atlanta,
and brought back. I also knew John L. Richards, of Fostoria, Seneca
County, O. or Eaglesville, Wood County. Also, a man by the name of
Beverly, who was a partner of Charley Aucklebv, of Tennessee. I would
like to hear from all of these parties. They all know me.
Mr. Editor, I will close by wishing all my comrades who shared in the
sufferings and dangers of Confederate prisons, a long and useful life.
RANSOM T. POWELL
SOME FEATURES OF THE MORTALITY–PERCENTAGE OF DEATHS TO THOSE LIVING–
AN AVERAGE MEAN ONLY STANDS THE MISERY THREE MONTHS–DESCRIPTION OF THE
PRISON AND THE CONDITION OF THE MEN THEREIN, BY A LEADING SCIENTIFIC MAN
OF THE SOUTH.
Speaking of the manner in which the Plymouth Pilgrims were now dying,
I am reminded of my theory that the ordinary man’s endurance of this
prison life did not average over three months. The Plymouth boys arrived
in May; the bulk of those who died passed away in July and August.
The great increase of prisoners from all sources was in May, June and
July. The greatest mortality among these was in August, September and
Many came in who had been in good health during their service in the
field, but who seemed utterly overwhelmed by the appalling misery they
saw on every hand, and giving way to despondency, died in a few days or
weeks. I do not mean to include them in the above class, as their
sickness was more mental than physical. my idea is that, taking one
hundred ordinarily healthful young soldiers from a regiment in active
service, and putting them into Andersonville, by the end of the third
month at least thirty-three of those weakest and most vulnerable to
disease would have succumbed to the exposure, the pollution of ground and
air, and the insufficiency of the ration of coarse corn meal. After this
the mortality would be somewhat less, say at the end of six months fifty
of them would be dead. The remainder would hang on still more
tenaciously, and at the end of a year there would be fifteen or twenty
still alive. There were sixty-three of my company taken; thirteen lived
through. I believe this was about the usual proportion for those who
were in as long as we. In all there were forty-five thousand six hundred
and thirteen prisoners brought into Andersonville. Of these twelve
thousand nine hundred and twelve died there, to say nothing of thousands
that died in other prisons in Georgia and the Carolinas, immediately
after their removal from Andersonville. One of every three and a-half
men upon whom the gates of the Stockade closed never repassed them alive.
Twenty-nine per cent. of the boys who so much as set foot in
Andersonville died there. Let it be kept in mind all the time, that the
average stay of a prisoner there was not four months. The great majority
came in after the 1st of May, and left before the middle of September.
May 1, 1864, there were ten thousand four hundred and twenty-seven in the
Stockade. August 8 there were thirty-three thousand one hundred and
fourteen; September 30 all these were dead or gone, except eight thousand
two hundred and eighteen, of whom four thousand five hundred and ninety
died inside of the next thirty days. The records of the world can shove
no parallel to this astounding mortality.
Since the above matter was first published in the BLADE, a friend has
sent me a transcript of the evidence at the Wirz trial, of Professor
Joseph Jones, a Surgeon of high rank in the Rebel Army, and who stood at
the head of the medical profession in Georgia. He visited Andersonville
at the instance of the Surgeon-General of the Confederate States’ Army,
to make a study, for the benefit of science, of the phenomena of disease
occurring there. His capacity and opportunities for observation, and for
clearly estimating the value of the facts coming under his notice were,
of course, vastly superior to mine, and as he states the case stronger
than I dare to, for fear of being accused of exaggeration and downright
untruth, I reproduce the major part of his testimony–embodying also his
official report to medical headquarters at Richmond–that my readers may
know how the prison appeared to the eyes of one who, though a bitter
Rebel, was still a humane man and a conscientious observer, striving to
learn the truth:
MEDICAL TESTIMONY.[Transcript from the printed testimony at the Wirz Trial, pages 618 to
OCTOBER 7, 1885.
Dr. Joseph Jones, for the prosecution:
By the Judge Advocate:
Question. Where do you reside
Answer. In Augusta, Georgia.
Q. Are you a graduate of any medical college?
A. Of the University of Pennsylvania.
Q. How long have you been engaged in the practice of medicine?
A. Eight years.
Q. Has your experience been as a practitioner, or rather as an
investigator of medicine as a science?
Q. What position do you hold now?
A. That of Medical Chemist in the Medical College of Georgia, at
Q. How long have you held your position in that college?
A. Since 1858.
Q. How were you employed during the Rebellion?
A. I served six months in the early part of it as a private in the
ranks, and the rest of the time in the medical department.
Q. Under the direction of whom?
A. Under the direction of Dr. Moore, Surgeon General.
Q. Did you, while acting under his direction, visit Andersonville,
A. Yes, Sir.
Q. For the purpose of making investigations there?
A. For the purpose of prosecuting investigations ordered by the Surgeon
Q. You went there in obedience to a letter of instructions?
A. In obedience to orders which I received.
Q. Did you reduce the results of your investigations to the shape of a
A. I was engaged at that work when General Johnston surrendered his
(A document being handed to witness.)
Q. Have you examined this extract from your report and compared it with
A. Yes, Sir; I have.
Q. Is it accurate?
A. So far as my examination extended, it is accurate.’
The document just examined by witness was offered in evidence, and is as
Observations upon the diseases of the Federal prisoners, confined to Camp
Sumter, Andersonville, in Sumter County, Georgia, instituted with a view
to illustrate chiefly the origin and causes of hospital gangrene, the
relations of continued and malarial fevers, and the pathology of camp
diarrhea and dysentery, by Joseph Jones; Surgeon P. A. C. S., Professor
of Medical Chemistry in the Medical College of Georgia, at Augusta,
Hearing of the unusual mortality among the Federal prisoners confined at
Andersonville; Georgia, in the month of August, 1864, during a visit to
Richmond, Va., I expressed to the Surgeon General, S. P. Moore,
Confederate States of America, a desire to visit Camp Sumter, with the
design of instituting a series of inquiries upon the nature and causes of
the prevailing diseases. Smallpox had appeared among the prisoners, and
I believed that this would prove an admirable field for the establishment
of its characteristic lesions. The condition of Peyer’s glands in this
disease was considered as worthy of minute investigation. It was
believed that a large body of men from the Northern portion of the United
States, suddenly transported to a warm Southern climate, and confined
upon a small portion of land, would furnish an excellent field for the
investigation of the relations of typhus, typhoid, and malarial fevers.
The Surgeon General of the Confederate States of America furnished me
with the following letter of introduction to the Surgeon in charge of the
Confederate States Military Prison at Andersonville, Ga.:
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA,
SURGEON GENERAL’S OFFICE, RICHMOND, VA.,
August 6, 1864.
SIR:–The field of pathological investigations afforded by the large
collection of Federal prisoners in Georgia, is of great extant and
importance, and it is believed that results of value to the profession
may be obtained by careful investigation of the effects of disease upon
the large body of men subjected to a decided change of climate and those
circumstances peculiar to prison life. The Surgeon in charge of the
hospital for Federal prisoners, together with his assistants, will afford
every facility to Surgeon Joseph Jones, in the prosecution of the labors
ordered by the Surgeon General. Efficient assistance must be rendered
Surgeon Jones by the medical officers, not only in his examinations into
the causes and symptoms of the various diseases, but especially in the
arduous labors of post mortem examinations.
The medical officers will assist in the performance of such post-mortems
as Surgeon Jones may indicate, in order that this great field for
pathological investigation may be explored for the benefit of the Medical
Department of the Confederate Army.
S. P. MOORE, Surgeon General.
Surgeon ISAIAH H. WHITE,
In charge of Hospital for Federal prisoners, Andersonville, Ga.
In compliance with this letter of the Surgeon General, Isaiah H. White,
Chief Surgeon of the post, and R. R. Stevenson, Surgeon in charge of the
Prison Hospital, afforded the necessary facilities for the prosecution of
my investigations among the sick outside of the Stockade. After the
completion of my labors in the military prison hospital, the following
communication was addressed to Brigadier General John H. Winder, in
consequence of the refusal on the part of the commandant of the interior
of the Confederate States Military Prison to admit me within the Stockade
upon the order of the Surgeon General:
CAMP SUMTER, ANDERSONVILLE GA.,
September 16, 1864.
GENERAL:–I respectfully request the commandant of the post of
Andersonville to grant me permission and to furnish the necessary pass
to visit the sick and medical officers within the Stockade of the
Confederate States Prison. I desire to institute certain inquiries
ordered by the Surgeon General. Surgeon Isaiah H. White, Chief Surgeon
of the post, and Surgeon R. R. Stevenson, in charge of the Prison
Hospital, have afforded me every facility for the prosecution of my
labors among the sick outside of the Stockade.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH JONES, Surgeon P. A. C. S.
Brigadier General JOHN H. WINDER,
Commandant, Post Andersonville.
In the absence of General Winder from the post, Captain Winder furnished
the following order:
CAMP SUMTER, ANDERSONVILLE;
September 17, 1864.
CAPTAIN:–You will permit Surgeon Joseph Jones, who has orders from the
Surgeon General, to visit the sick within the Stockade that are under
medical treatment. Surgeon Jones is ordered to make certain
investigations which may prove useful to his profession. By direction of
W. S. WINDER, A. A. G.
Captain H. WIRZ, Commanding Prison.
Description of the Confederate States Military Prison Hospital at
Andersonville. Number of prisoners, physical condition, food,
clothing, habits, moral condition, diseases.
The Confederate Military Prison at Andersonville, Ga., consists of a
strong Stockade, twenty feet in height, enclosing twenty-seven acres.
The Stockade is formed of strong pine logs, firmly planted in the ground.
The main Stockade is surrounded by two other similar rows of pine logs,
the middle Stockade being sixteen feet high, and the outer twelve feet.
These are intended for offense and defense. If the inner Stockade should
at any time be forced by the prisoners, the second forms another line of
defense; while in case of an attempt to deliver the prisoners by a force
operating upon the exterior, the outer line forms an admirable protection
to the Confederate troops, and a most formidable obstacle to cavalry or
infantry. The four angles of the outer line are strengthened by
earthworks upon commanding eminences, from which the cannon, in case of
an outbreak among the prisoners, may sweep the entire enclosure; and it
was designed to connect these works by a line of rifle pits, running zig-
zag, around the outer Stockade; those rifle pits have never been
completed. The ground enclosed by the innermost Stockade lies in the
form of a parallelogram, the larger diameter running almost due north and
south. This space includes the northern and southern opposing sides of
two hills, between which a stream of water runs from west to east.
The surface soil of these hills is composed chiefly of sand with varying
admixtures of clay and oxide of iron. The clay is sufficiently tenacious
to give a considerable degree of consistency to the soil. The internal
structure of the hills, as revealed by the deep wells, is similar to that
already described. The alternate layers of clay and sand, as well as the
oxide of iron, which forms in its various combinations a cement to the
sand, allow of extensive tunneling. The prisoners not only constructed
numerous dirt huts with balls of clay and sand, taken from the wells
which they have excavated all over those hills, but they have also, in
some cases, tunneled extensively from these wells. The lower portions of
these hills, bordering on the stream, are wet and boggy from the constant
oozing of water. The Stockade was built originally to accommodate only
ten thousand prisoners, and included at first seventeen acres. Near the
close of the month of June the area was enlarged by the addition of ten
acres. The ground added was situated on the northern slope of the
The average number of square feet of ground to each prisoner in August
Within the circumscribed area of the Stockade the Federal prisoners were
compelled to perform all the offices of life–cooking, washing, the calls
of nature, exercise, and sleeping. During the month of March the prison
was less crowded than at any subsequent time, and then the average space
of ground to each prisoner was only 98.7 feet, or less than seven square
yards. The Federal prisoners were gathered from all parts of the
Confederate States east of the Mississippi, and crowded into the confined
space, until in the month of June the average number of square feet of
ground to each prisoner was only 33.2 or less than four square yards.
These figures represent the condition of the Stockade in a better light
even than it really was; for a considerable breadth of land along the
stream, flowing from west to east between the hills, was low and boggy,
and was covered with the excrement of the men, and thus rendered wholly
uninhabitable, and in fact useless for every purpose except that of
defecation. The pines and other small trees and shrubs, which originally
were scattered sparsely over these hills, were in a short time cut down
and consumed by the prisoners for firewood, and no shade tree was left in
the entire enclosure of the stockade. With their characteristic industry
and ingenuity, the Federals constructed for themselves small huts and
caves, and attempted to shield themselves from the rain and sun and night
damps and dew. But few tents were distributed to the prisoners,
and those were in most cases torn and rotten. In the location and
arrangement of these tents and huts no order appears to have been
followed; in fact, regular streets appear to be out of the question in so
crowded an area; especially too, as large bodies of prisoners were from
time to time added suddenly without any previous preparations.
The irregular arrangement of the huts and imperfect shelters was very
unfavorable for the maintenance of a proper system of police.
«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 | View All | Next -»