deplorable condition of the hospitals containing rebel prisoners at Camp Douglas, near Chicago, Ill., and in Gratiot Street [Prison], Saint Louis, Mo., which in the deliberate judgment of the committee is disgraceful to us as a Christian people and should be promptly remedied by those possessing authority.
More than a year ago the very bad condition of Camp Douglas and its hospital was recognized by the president of the Sanitary Commission on personal visit and inspection and reported to Colonel Hoffman, U. S. Army, agent of the War Department in charge of rebel prisoners. It was promised by this officer that the evil should be remedied.
By recent reports under date of April 5 ultimo from two eminent members of the medical profession, Drs. Thomas Hun and Mason F. Cogswell, of Albany, N. Y., employed by the Sanitary Commission as special inspectors of hospitals, it is evident that the improvements promised by Colonel Hoffman have not been made and that the state of the hospitals in question is many degrees worse than when his attention was called to the condition of its inmates.
The high character held in this community by Doctors Hun and Cogswell and their eminent fitness to form a sound and judicious opinion as to the requirements of humanity in the treatment of the sick under any circumstances make it proper for me to subjoin the words employed in their report, premising that the report was special in its character in consequence of the urgent necessity which was recognized for the prompt remedy of the evils it set forth:
ALBANY, April 5, 1863.
* * * We desire most earnestly to call the attention of the Sanitary Commission and the Government to the condition of these hospitals. In our experience we have never witnessed so painful at presented by their wretched inmates; without change of clothing, covered with vermin, they lie in cots without mattresses or with mattresses furnished by private charity, without sheets or bedding of any kind except blankets often in rags, in wards reeking with filth and foul air. The stench is most offensive. We carefully avoid all exaggeration of statement but we give some facts which speak for themselves. From January 27, 1863, when the prisoners (in number about 3,800) arrived at Camp Douglas, to February 18, the day of our visit, 385 patients have been admitted to the hospitals, of whom 130 had died. This mortality of 33 per cent. does not express the whole truth, for of the 148 patients then remaining in hospital a large number must have since died. Besides this about 130 prisoners had died in barracks, not having been able to gain admission even to the miserable accommodations of the hospital, and at the time of our visit 150 persons were sick in barracks waiting for room in hospital.
Thus it will be seen that 260 out of the 3,800 prisoners had died in twenty-one days, a rate of mortality which if continued would secure their total extermination in about 320 days. Under the circumstances the rate of mortality would increase rather than diminish. We read this morning in the papers that 100 died there last week.
* * * At Saint Louis we found the condition of the barracks far worse than that of the hospitals. The bunks in which the prisoners sleep are made to hold two persons in each tier and are three tiers high, and these are placed so close together that there is scarcely space to pass between them. As in the hospitals, no bedding is furnished, but blankets or bits of carpet to take the place of blankets. The floor is encrusted with dirt so as to be more like an earthen than a plank floor.
In these rooms the prisoners spend day and night, for the small yard of the prison is scarcely sufficient to contain a foul and stinking privy. The day we visited this prison was warm so that all the windows were open, and the air was more tolerable on that account, but it is difficult to conceive how human beings can continue to live in such an atmosphere as must be generated when the windows are closed at night or in stormy weather.
Here were persons lying sick with pneumonia, dysentery and other grave diseases waiting for admission to the hospital.
* * * As we were sent to inspect hospitals it may be said that we are going beyond our duty in speaking of the condition of prisons, but since in the prisoners' quarters there were numerous sick persons unable to gain admission to the hospitals and dying in great numbers before reaching the hospital it cannot be said we