have been accustomed to the reasonable comforts of life none of which are accessible to them here and their liability to illness is of course proportionately greater on that account. Many have already suffered seriously from indisposition augmented by the restrictions imposed on them. A contagious cutaneous disease is now spreading in one of the larger apartments and the physicians who are among us are positive that some serious general disorder must be the inevitable result if our situation remains unimproved.
The use of any but salt water except for drinking has been for some time altogether denied to us. The cistern water itself for some days past has been filled with dirt and animalcules and the supply even of this has been so low that yesterday we were almost wholly without drinking water. A few of us who have the means to purchase some trifling necessaries have been able to relieve ourselves from this latter privation to some extent by procuring an occasional though greatly inadequate supply of fresh water from the Long Island side.
It only remains to add that the fare is of the commonest and coarsest soldiers' rations almost invariably ill-prepared and ill-cooked. Some of us who are better able than the rest are permitted to take our meals at a private mess supplied by the wife of the ordnance sergeant for which we pay at the rate of a dollar per day from our own funds. Those who are less fortunate are compelled to submit to a diet so bad and unusual as to be seriously prejudicial to their health.
The undersigned have entered into these partial details because they cannot believe that it is the purpose of the Government to destroy their health or sacrifice their lives by visiting them with such cruel hard-ships, and they will hope until forced to a contrary conclusion that it can only be necessary to present the facts to you plainly in order to receive the necessary relief.
We desire to say nothing here in regard to the justice or injustice of our imprisonment but we respectfully insist upon our right to be treated with decency and common humanity so long as the Government sees fit to confine us.
Commending the matter to your earliest consideration and prompt interference, we are,
Your obedient servants.
[Signed by Charles Howard, George P. Kane, George William Brown, William H. Gatchell, John W. Davis, Henry M. Warfield and seventy-four other State prisoners.]
On the 14th of October, 1861, the following letter was handed to the prisoners by Lieutenant Wood, commanding Fort Lafayette:
FORT HAMILTON, N. Y., October 10, 1861.
Lieutenant WOOD, Commanding Fort Lafayette.
SIR: I am directed by Colonel Burke to say to you that you can inform the prisoners their position has been forwarded through Colonel Townsend to the President of the United States.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. C. LAY,
First Lieutenant, Twelfth Infantry.