War of the Rebellion: Serial 116 Page 0541 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records

to private purposes, and all this without any interference of the commanding officers. I found the sick in a very bad condition, many dying and few signs of convalescence anywhere; they were under the charge of the surgeon and assistant surgeon of the Ninettenth, and judging from what I saw and what I heard they were unequal to the responsibility. The purveyor at Chicago had furnished a supply of medicines for a regiment and 1,200 prisoners for six months, and of these all the liquors, 168 pint bottles if I remember rightly, had been used in five days. To remedy these evils as far as possible I appointed Major R. S. Smith, of the Twelfth Infantry, who was at Madison on the recruiting service, to take the supervision of the camp in my name and to endeavor to instroduce something like discipline and good order in the camp. I gave him minute instructions for his guidance, and all with the understanding that this service was not to interfere with his other duties. To inusre a proper attention to the sick I directed that a private physician who had been engaged in attendance on them should be employed at $100 per month to have the sole charge of the sick prisoners of war, leaving the sick of the Nineteenth Regiment to the care of their surgeons. At the same time I called for three surgeons from the rebel prisoners at Chicago to assist him. I directed also that the hospital buildings should be place in a proper state of repair and that all necessary steps should be taken to provide a reformation in the sanitary condition of the camp. The camp-ground, about ten acres, is inclosed by a low fence which is no obstacleto the escape of prisoners, and these quarters are mere sheds built against the fence through which a man could cut his way in an hour with a penknife, and in consequence a whole regiment is required to guard less than double their own numbers.

Most of these prisoenrs were well provided for at Camp Randal at a cost of about $1,500. Wherever prisonersmay be ordered hereafter a guard should be ordered from the army in the field to accompany them and to have charge of them after they reach their destination, and if possible these guards should not be of regiments from the State in which the camp is located as it would be impossible to prevent them obtaining furloughs to go home and the camp would be overrun by the families of those whose homes are near by.

The responsibilities of the commanders of these camps are very great and it is very desirable that intelligent officers of integrity and decision of character should be selected for the duty. There are stables at Camp Douglas which may be fitted up to provide for 2,000 more prisoners and when other camps are full I recommend that more prisoners be sent there.

I shall proceed in two or three days to examine the camps in Indiana and ajoining States to ascertain their availability for this purpose. In order that there may be no confusion I respectfully suggest that the officers instructed with the distribution of prisoners of war should be directed to confer with me on the subject that the most convenient camps may be first occupied.

If my suggestions are approved I request notice to that effect by a brief telegram as there may not be time for written instructions.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lieutenant Colonel Eighth Infantry, Commissary-General of Prisoners.