MILITARY PRISON, Alton, Ill., March 30, 1863.
Honorable HENRY C. BURNETT, Member Confederate Senate.
MY DEAR SIR: In the utmost extremity I address you. I can say but a few words as danger threatens both the medium of my communication and self. Hear me I conjure you, and demand of Government immediate intervention for my deliverance.
Let hard facts speak for themselves and stern justice vindicate my claims:
I, J. F. Melton, of Calloway County, Ky., commanded a company of cavalry at Fort Henry in Tilghman's division. At the surrender of Fort Henry I retreated to Fort Donelson and was thrown under Colonel (now General) N. B. Forrest; was captured after the surrender of Donelson on the 16th of February, 1862; made my escape en route from Camp Chase to Sandusky on the 26th of April, 1862; returned South for the purpose of raising a new company and while so engaged was recaptured on the 13th of July, heavily ironed with long chain and ball, transported to this prison, thrown into a cell 6 by 3 feet with my iron fetters on, kicked, cuffed, taunted, jeered and maltreated in every conceivable form. I remained the inmate of this living tomb until my life was despaired of. I was then removed to the hospital where I have remained ever since, denied the privileges of a common culprit, denied a parole denied and exchange, several of which have left here during my imprisonment. To my demands they have replied by adding insult to injury, in renewed insult and cruelty. I have had to run gauntlet of every disease with human flesh in heir to-smallpox, measles, mumps, pneumonia; in a word all the ills of Pandora.
Oh! the horrors of this place, the cruelty of my persecutor, tongue cannot tell, neither hath in entered into the heart of man to conceive. I have seen thousand of my companions in arms consigned to a premature and untimely grave here by the cruelty and injustice of my enemies, murdered in cold blood in this lazar house of disease and death.
With me "the sands of life are nearly run," There is but little left now. I rejoice that it was freely offered upon the altar of my country as a last libation to liberty, sacrificed to that country which I so devotedly love, and which I have the proud consciousness of knowing I have faithfully served. Will not that country now interpose her strong arm and rescue me from this charged house, this living death, and save the little of life left me to my country and family?
Will you abandon me in this dire extremity? Will you leave me to my unhappy fate in the iron hands of my most cruel and unnatural persecutors?
I do not, I cannot believe it. I will not think so manly of my country. She does not know my wrongs. She cannot have heard of my most foul and unsoldierly treatment.
Oh! my countrymen, how long will you suffer these abuses; how long will you permit you patience to be abused, your forbearance outraged and your humanity scoffed at by these unlettered and unthinking monsters? Act at once and deliver me from worse than death.
How? Demand me under the cartel of exchange; unless surrendered throw into close confinement some influential Yankee officer and hold him as hostage in pledge for me; make it known to the Federal Government and you will compass my immediate release. Refuse and I am lost. The grave will soon by my end, yet one reflection will illude my tomb and take away the sting of death, the consciousness that I fall a martyr to my country, blessing her with my last sigh in death.