By direction of the General-in-Chief, I ordered Captain Potter, assistant quartermaster at Chicago, to rebuild the barracks which had been destroyed with as little delay as possible; until this is done the troops who form the guards must be very much crowded, as all have to be accommodated in the barracks, which are sufficient for only a part.
The guard at Camp Douglas consists of the Michigan sharpshooters, under Colonel C. V. De Land, and six companies of the Invalid Corps, under Colonel Sweet, giving and aggregate of 1,196 but of these only 859 enlisted men are for duty, and as the invalids cannot count on more than two-thirds of their strength for guard duty in all weather the actual force for service is small. Just previous to my visit the sharpshooters had been ordered to join General Grant's army, but on my representations of the necessity of their presence at the camp till relieved by an equivalent force the order has been suspended by the General-in-Chief.
Colonel Sweet thinks that with one regiment of the First Battalion of the invalids and two companies of the Second Battalion he will be able to take charge of prisoners of war at Camp Douglas, but considering the unavoidable inefficiency of that organization I doubt if less that fifteen companies will be competent for the service. The guard and the prisoners are within the same inclosure, which makes a larger proportion of guard necessary.
There between 6,000 and 7,000 prisoners at Camp Douglas, and in consequence of the burning of a part of the barracks by paroled troops las winter they are very much crowded, having now to occupy buildings which were formerly used as cook-houses and which are very indifferently fitted up which sleeping arrangements. To relieve them somewhat from unwholesome crowding I propose to order about a thousand to the depot at Rock Island, unless there is a prospect that large numbers of prisoners will be sent there from General Grant's army.
The sick in hospital are very comfortable, but they are too crowded, are there are many in the quarters who should be in the hospital. Two additional buildings, with enlarged accommodations for dispensary, store-rooms, landry, &c., are being erected, which will greatly improve the condition of the sick.
An abundant supply of water has just been introduced into the camp, and an extensive system of sewerage has been constructed, which will be of great benefit to the camp by the greater facilities it will afford for preserving a good state of police and by carrying of the surface water, freeing the camp from the mud which has heretofore been a source of much annoyance.
One square formerly occupied by prisoners of war is now vacant, the buildings having been destroyed by fire last winter. Barracks for 2,000 prisoners could be erected on this ground for $10,000 to $12,000, and since it is inclosed and the rent of the ground has to be paid it would seem to be economy in the end to rebuild the barracks. A large part of the expense could be paid from the prison fund.
I found at Camp Douglas five officers who had passed themselves off as enlisted men until this deception had been detected. Two of them were among some who had made their escape and were sent back from Louisville, where they were recaptured. One of them had been the ringleader in all the disturbances in the camp, and for their greater security, and on account of the offense which they had committed in misrepresenting their rank, I ordered them to be sent to Fort Warren to be held in close confinement.
On Monday evening I left Chicago for Rock Island, which I reached the next morning. The inclosure and the barracks for prisoners are