War of the Rebellion: Serial 119 Page 0282 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

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Saint Louis, MO., September 11, 1863.

Colonel WILLIAM HOFFMAN, U. S. Army,

Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C.:

COLONEL: In answer to that portion of your favor of the 7th instant in relation to the Alton prison, I have to say that I have not the entire control of that prison. We have no regular official information as to the number of prisoners there. At this time I have before me a copy of a report of an inspection made by an officer appointed by the commanding general of this department to make inspection of the Alton prison, and find from his report that there are now 1,316 prisoners at Alton. Unless reports from the Alton prison come through this office I cannot be informed of the number of prisoners on hand at that prison for convicts for this and other departments of the Mississippi Valley, and that it be placed exclusively under the control of the provost-marshal-general of this department, and that all the business of the prison pass through this office.

I find that quite a number of prisoners are now in the Alton prison serving out sentence from some other department. Lately a number of these prisoners have made application to be discharged, on the ground that their term of imprisonment has expired. I can take no action in these cases, as they never pass through this office. In this way a great many are kept in prison for a long time and neglected. I most respectfully call your attention to the above suggestion.

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


Provost-Marshal-General Department of the Missouri.


Sabine Pass, September 11, 1863.

J. S. BESSER, Esq.,

Superintendent of Penitentiary, Huntsville:

SIR: Having removed the Federal prisoners from the penitentiary in accordance with your desire, I would not again make application for its use for this purpose were not the state of public affairs somewhat different. It is now not only forbidden to parole but to exchange prisoners, hence they must accumulate on our hands as the war progresses.

With a small force at my command to defend the State, every man [of] which is now extremely needed in the field, and from the disposition to escape, as recently manifested by some of the Federal prisoners at Camp Groce, I find myself much embarrassed and the highest interest of the State involved in the safe-keeping of these prisoners.

I have papers in my possession captured from the enemy a few days since going to prove that the late formidable expedition was in a great degree induced by the report to the Federal authorities of an escaped Federal prisoner.

The arguments urged by some that a penitentiary is not a proper place in which to confine prisoner of war ceases to have application since the imprisonment in Northern penitentiaries not only of privates