War of the Rebellion: Serial 118 Page 0882 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

GEORGE W. THOMAS sworn.

By the CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE:

Question. Mr. Thomas, state what you know concerning the treatment of prisoners in Castle Thunder and any other circumstances bearing on this investigation.

Answer. I am from Henrico County and have been a detective to Captain Alexander since the 13th of March, last year. The general treatment of the prisoners I must say is good as far as my knowledge extends. Two classes of desperadoes are to be found in the Castle, one from far down south and the other from Baltimore; the "wharf rats" of New Orleans and the "plugs" from Baltimore. A third class is the inoffensive soldiers who are the great majority.

Question. Is in your opinion the conduct of the officials toward the prisoners humane and kind?

Answer. Generally kind except on occasions.

Question. On what occasion was that?

Answer. When the prisoners were put in the back yard as a punishment for outrages committed among the prisoners-robbing the beating the more inoffensive of them-looked into the yard and seen the prisoners suffering I reported the condition of the prisoners to Captain Alexander and he had them brought immediately. Some of the prisoners were warmly clad, but the more desperate of the prisoners generally stole the blankets from the other.

Question. Where did Captain Alexander receive his orders for the punishement of the prisoners.

Answer. From General Winder I think.

Question. How often were the prisoners put out into that yard?

Answer. Only on that one occasion that I recollect.

Question. Had they any blankets?

Answer. Some of them had, but the strongest and more desperate got them.

Question. Was there any covering to the yard to shelter them from the storm?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. What is your duty in connection with the prison?

Answer. I am a detective.

Question. Are all of the prisoners without blankets?

Answer. No, sir; not all. Men go in there and their blankets are taken from them by the desperadoes to make ropes wherewith to escape.

Question. Are there any benches or seats in the prison rooms?

Answer. No, sir; nothing of the kind; they would break and burn them up if there was.

Question. Have you seen men whipped there.

Answer. I have on one or two occasions.

Question. Was the punishment inflicted by order of General Winder?

Answer. It was by his order which carried [out] by Caphart. There were eight of them whipped on one occasion. Some two or there were struck a dozen or more blows; others were left off with less.

Question. What other kind of punishment did you ever see indicted there? Did you ever see prisoners wearing barrel shirts?

Answer. Yes, sir; I have.

Question. Did you ever see men tied up by the thumbs?

Answer. No, sir; I never did.