charges of cruelty and improper conduct on the part of Captain Alexander, the keeper of the military prison known as Castle Thunder, begs leave respectfully to report:
That the acts most complained of have been the killing of two prisoners, the shooting at a third, the infliction of corporeal punishment by whipping on the bare back and the confining of prisoners in the prison yard espoused to the weather.
As to the two prisoner killed, one of them was a lunatic, a Yankee prisoner brought to Castle Thunder from the Libby Prison and shot during the night of the day on which he was brought there by a sentinel while the lunatic prisoner was in the act of trying to pass said sentinel. The other was one who was out upon the balcony at night attempting to escape; in this attempt he was shot by a sentinel. The third case of shooting was also by a sentinel at one of the prisoners who was violating orders by putting his head out of a window overlooking the street. This shot did not take effect, though it appears it may have done so as the contents of the gun were lodged in the facing of the window. This appears to have been done in conformity with instructions from Captain Alexander, that such as put their heads out of the window were to be fired upon. In the judgment of the undersigned this remedy was not justifiable, though alleged to have been intended only as intimidation. The offense was such as could have been sufficiently punished by measures less hazardous to life and limb; the identification of the offender which no doubt could easily have been effected would have put it in Captain Alexander's power to have applied ample corrections and yet in such manner as not to have endangered the life or limb of the prisoner.
As to the whipping: On two occasions Captain Alexander ordered one or two men each to be whipped on the bare back. On another occasion he ordered some eight men to be similarly punished. In all these cases the punishment was inflicted without the intervention of a-martial. In this in the opinion of the undersigned Captain Alexander was again in fault. The punishment in the two first cases was for fighting and general insubordination, offenses which it would appear might have been adequately punished without subjecting the prisoners to such humiliating infliction.
The other case it is true was more aggravated, to wit, a combination on the part of the offenders for the maltreatment of an aged prisoner recently brought to the prison. It appears Captain Alexander had instructions from General John H. Winder to use this kind of punishment when necessary. Still the undersigned thinks General Winder's instructions were not a sufficient warrant for resort to a mode of punishment unsupported by law and so odious to our people. And even had General Winder's instructions been sufficient authority for the use of such punishment its application should have been tempered with such discretion as to have prevented the infliction of this extraordinary punishment except in cases where other punishments not so revolting would have been inadequate.
As to exposing prisoners in the yard this was resorted to on three occasions; ne time against two persons for fighting; at another time against fifteen or twenty for fighting and general insubordination; at another against eighty or a hundred, the inmates of the same room, because some one or more had ignited a flask of gunpowder causing it to explode under such circumstances as induced the belief that there had been an attempt to blow up a portion of the prison building and thus enable prisoners to escape. Without stopping to discuss whether Captain Alexander was right or wrong in punishing all in that room