Andersonville


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The police and internal economy of the prison was left almost entirely in
the hands of the prisoners themselves; the duties of the Confederate
soldiers acting as guards being limited to the occupation of the boxes
or lookouts ranged around the stockade at regular intervals, and to the
manning of the batteries at the angles of the prison. Even judicial
matters pertaining to themselves, as the detection and punishment of such
crimes as theft and murder appear to have been in a great measure
abandoned to the prisoners. A striking instance of this occurred in the
month of July, when the Federal prisoners within the Stockade tried,
condemned, and hanged six (6) of their own number, who had been convicted
of stealing and of robbing and murdering their fellow-prisoners. They
were all hung upon the same day, and thousands of the prisoners gathered
around to witness the execution. The Confederate authorities are said
not to have interfered with these proceedings. In this collection of men
from all parts of the world, every phase of human character was
represented; the stronger preyed upon the weaker, and even the sick who
were unable to defend themselves were robbed of their scanty supplies of
food and clothing. Dark stories were afloat, of men, both sick and well,
who were murdered at night, strangled to death by their comrades for
scant supplies of clothing or money. I heard a sick and wounded Federal
prisoner accuse his nurse, a fellow-prisoner of the United States Army,
of having stealthily, during his sleep inoculated his wounded arm with
gangrene, that he might destroy his life and fall heir to his clothing.

....................................

The large number of men confined within the Stockade soon, under a
defective system of police, and with imperfect arrangements, covered the
surface of the low grounds with excrements. The sinks over the lower
portions of the stream were imperfect in their plan and structure, and
the excrements were in large measure deposited so near the borders of the
stream as not to be washed away, or else accumulated upon the low boggy
ground. The volume of water was not sufficient to wash away the feces,
and they accumulated in such quantities in the lower portion of the
stream as to form a mass of liquid excrement heavy rains caused the water
of the stream to rise, and as the arrangements for the passage of the
increased amounts of water out of the Stockade were insufficient, the
liquid feces overflowed the low grounds and covered them several inches,
after the subsidence of the waters. The action of the sun upon this
putrefying mass of excrements and fragments of bread and meat and bones
excited most rapid fermentation and developed a horrible stench.
Improvements were projected for the removal of the filth and for the
prevention of its accumulation, but they were only partially and
imperfectly carried out. As the forces of the prisoners were reduced by
confinement, want of exercise, improper diet, and by scurvy, diarrhea,
and dysentery, they were unable to evacuate their bowels within the
stream or along its banks, and the excrements were deposited at the very
doors of their tents. The vast majority appeared to lose all repulsion
to filth, and both sick and well disregarded all the laws of hygiene and
personal cleanliness. The accommodations for the sick were imperfect and
insufficient. From the organization of the prison, February 24, 1864, to
May 22, the sick were treated within the Stockade. In the crowded
condition of the Stockade, and with the tents and huts clustered thickly
around the hospital, it was impossible to secure proper ventilation or to
maintain the necessary police. The Federal prisoners also made frequent
forays upon the hospital stores and carried off the food and clothing of
the sick. The hospital was, on the 22d of May, removed to its present
site without the Stockade, and five acres of ground covered with oaks and
pines appropriated to the use of the sick.

The supply of medical officers has been insufficient from the foundation
of the prison.

The nurses and attendants upon the sick have been most generally Federal
prisoners, who in too many cases appear to have been devoid of moral
principle, and who not only neglected their duties, but were also engaged
in extensive robbing of the sick.

From the want of proper police and hygienic regulations alone it is not
wonderful that from February 24 to September 21, 1864, nine thousand four
hundred and seventy-nine deaths, nearly one-third the entire number of
prisoners, should have been recorded. I found the Stockade and hospital
in the following condition during my pathological investigations,
instituted in the month of September, 1864:

STOCKADE, CONFEDERATE STATES MILITARY PRISON.

At the time of my visit to Andersonville a large number of Federal
prisoners had been removed to Millen, Savannah; Charleston, and other
parts of, the Confederacy, in anticipation of an advance of General
Sherman's forces from Atlanta, with the design of liberating their
captive brethren; however, about fifteen thousand prisoners remained
confined within the limits of the Stockade and Confederate States
Military Prison Hospital.

In the Stockade, with the exception of the damp lowlands bordering the
small stream, the surface was covered with huts, and small ragged tents
and parts of blankets and fragments of oil-cloth, coats, and blankets
stretched upon stacks. The tents and huts were not arranged according to
any order, and there was in most parts of the enclosure scarcely room for
two men to walk abreast between the tents and huts.

If one might judge from the large pieces of corn-bread scattered about in
every direction on the ground the prisoners were either very lavishly
supplied with this article of diet, or else this kind of food was not
relished by them.

Each day the dead from the Stockade were carried out by their fellow-
prisoners and deposited upon the ground under a bush arbor, just outside
of the Southwestern Gate. From thence they were carried in carts to the
burying ground, one-quarter of a mile northwest, of the Prison. The dead
were buried without coffins, side by side, in trenches four feet deep.

The low grounds bordering the stream were covered with human excrements
and filth of all kinds, which in many places appeared to be alive with
working maggots. An indescribable sickening stench arose from these
fermenting masses of human filth.

There were near five thousand seriously ill Federals in the Stockade and
Confederate States Military Prison Hospital, and the deaths exceeded one
hundred per day, and large numbers of the prisoners who were walking
about, and who had not been entered upon the sick reports, were suffering
from severe and incurable diarrhea, dysentery, and scurvy. The sick were
attended almost entirely by their fellow-prisoners, appointed as nurses,
and as they received but little attention, they were compelled to exert
themselves at all times to attend to the calls of nature, and hence they
retained the power of moving about to within a comparatively short period
of the close of life. Owing to the slow progress of the diseases most
prevalent, diarrhea, and chronic dysentery, the corpses were as a general
rule emaciated.

I visited two thousand sick within the Stockade, lying under some long
sheds which had been built at the northern portion for themselves. At
this time only one medical officer was in attendance, whereas at least
twenty medical officers should have been employed.

Died in the Stockade from its organization, February 24, 186l to
September 2l ....................................................3,254
Died in Hospital during same time ...............................6,225

Total deaths in Hospital and Stockade ...........................9,479

Scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery, and hospital gangrene were the prevailing
diseases. I was surprised to find but few cases of malarial fever, and
no well-marked cases either of typhus or typhoid fever. The absence of
the different forms of malarial fever may be accounted for in the
supposition that the artificial atmosphere of the Stockade, crowded
densely with human beings and loaded with animal exhalations,
was unfavorable to the existence and action of the malarial poison.
The absence of typhoid and typhus fevers amongst all the causes which are
supposed to generate these diseases, appeared to be due to the fact that
the great majority of these prisoners had been in captivity in Virginia,
at Belle Island, and in other parts of the Confederacy for months, and
even as long as two years, and during this time they had been subjected
to the same bad influences, and those who had not had these fevers before
either had them during their confinement in Confederate prisons or else
their systems, from long exposure, were proof against their action.

The effects of scurvy were manifested on every hand, and in all its
various stages, from the muddy, pale complexion, pale gums, feeble,
languid muscular motions, lowness of spirits, and fetid breath, to the
dusky, dirty, leaden complexion, swollen features, spongy, purple, livid,
fungoid, bleeding gums, loose teeth, oedematous limbs, covered with livid
vibices, and petechiae spasmodically flexed, painful and hardened
extremities, spontaneous hemorrhages from mucous canals, and large, ill-
conditioned, spreading ulcers covered with a dark purplish fungus growth.
I observed that in some of the cases of scurvy the parotid glands were
greatly swollen, and in some instances to such an extent as to preclude
entirely the power to articulate. In several cases of dropsy of the
abdomen and lower extremities supervening upon scurvy, the patients
affirmed that previously to the appearance of the dropsy they had
suffered with profuse and obstinate diarrhea, and that when this was
checked by a change of diet, from Indian corn-bread baked with the husk,
to boiled rice, the dropsy appeared. The severe pains and livid patches
were frequently associated with swellings in various parts, and
especially in the lower extremities, accompanied with stiffness and
contractions of the knee joints and ankles, and often with a brawny feel
of the parts, as if lymph had been effused between the integuments and
apeneuroses, preventing the motion of the skin over the swollen parts.
Many of the prisoners believed that the scurvy was contagious, and I saw
men guarding their wells and springs, fearing lest some man suffering
with the scurvy might use the water and thus poison them.

I observed also numerous cases of hospital gangrene, and of spreading
scorbutic ulcers, which had supervened upon slight injuries. The
scorbutic ulcers presented a dark, purple fungoid, elevated surface, with
livid swollen edges, and exuded a thin; fetid, sanious fluid, instead of
pus. Many ulcers which originated from the scorbutic condition of the
system appeared to become truly gangrenous, assuming all the
characteristics of hospital gangrene. From the crowded condition, filthy
habits, bad diet, and dejected, depressed condition of the prisoners,
their systems had become so disordered that the smallest abrasion of the
skin, from the rubbing of a shoe, or from the effects of the sun, or from
the prick of a splinter, or from scratching, or a musketo bite, in some
cases, took on rapid and frightful ulceration and gangrene. The long use
of salt meat, ofttimes imperfectly cured, as well as the most total
deprivation of vegetables and fruit, appeared to be the chief causes of
the scurvy. I carefully examined the bakery and the bread furnished the
prisoners, and found that they were supplied almost entirely with corn-
bread from which the husk had not been separated. This husk acted as an
irritant to the alimentary canal, without adding any nutriment to the
bread. As far as my examination extended no fault could be found with
the mode in which the bread was baked; the difficulty lay in the failure
to separate the husk from the corn-meal. I strongly urged the
preparation of large quantities of soup made from the cow and calves'
heads with the brains and tongues, to which a liberal supply of sweet
potatos and vegetables might have been advantageously added. The
material existed in abundance for the preparation of such soup in large
quantities with but little additional expense. Such aliment would have
been not only highly nutritious, but it would also have acted as an
efficient remedial agent for the removal of the scorbutic condition.
The sick within the Stockade lay under several long sheds which were
originally built for barracks. These sheds covered two floors which were
open on all sides. The sick lay upon the bare boards, or upon such
ragged blankets as they possessed, without, as far as I observed, any
bedding or even straw.

............................

The haggard, distressed countenances of these miserable, complaining,
dejected, living skeletons, crying for medical aid and food, and cursing
their Government for its refusal to exchange prisoners, and the ghastly
corpses, with their glazed eye balls staring up into vacant space, with
the flies swarming down their open and grinning mouths, and over their
ragged clothes, infested with numerous lice, as they lay amongst the sick
and dying, formed a picture of helpless, hopeless misery which it would
be impossible to portray bywords or by the brush. A feeling of
disappointment and even resentment on account of the United States
Government upon the subject of the exchange of prisoners, appeared to be
widespread, and the apparent hopeless nature of the negotiations for some
general exchange of prisoners appeared to be a cause of universal regret
and deep and injurious despondency. I heard some of the prisoners go so
far as to exonerate the Confederate Government from any charge of
intentionally subjecting them to a protracted confinement, with its
necessary and unavoidable sufferings, in a country cut off from all
intercourse with foreign nations, and sorely pressed on all sides, whilst
on the other hand they charged their prolonged captivity upon their own
Government, which was attempting to make the negro equal to the white
man. Some hundred or more of the prisoners had been released from
confinement in the Stockade on parole, and filled various offices as
clerks, druggists, and carpenters, etc., in the various departments.
These men were well clothed, and presented a stout and healthy
appearance, and as a general rule they presented a much more robust and
healthy appearance than the Confederate troops guarding the prisoners.

The entire grounds are surrounded by a frail board fence, and are
strictly guarded by Confederate soldiers, and no prisoner except the
paroled attendants is allowed to leave the grounds except by a special
permit from the Commandant of the Interior of the Prison.

The patients and attendants, near two thousand in number, are crowded
into this confined space and are but poorly supplied with old and ragged
tents. Large numbers of them were without any bunks in the tents, and
lay upon the ground, oft-times without even a blanket. No beds or straw
appeared to have been furnished. The tents extend to within a few yards
of the small stream, the eastern portion of which, as we have before
said, is used as a privy and is loaded with excrements; and I observed a
large pile of corn-bread, bones, and filth of all kinds, thirty feet in
diameter and several feet in hight, swarming with myriads of flies, in a
vacant space near the pots used for cooking. Millions of flies swarmed
over everything, and covered the faces of the sleeping patients, and
crawled down their open mouths, and deposited their maggots in the
gangrenous wounds of the living, and in the mouths of the dead. Musketos
in great numbers also infested the tents, and many of the patients were
so stung by these pestiferous insects, that they resembled those
suffering from a slight attack of the measles.

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