War of the Rebellion: Serial 119 Page 0530 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

[Indorsement.]

WAR DEPARTMENT, November 26, 1863.

COMMISSIONER OF EXCHANGE:

Respectfully referred to the commissioner for the exchange of prisoners, whose attention is specially invited to the cases herein referred to.

By order of the Secretary of War:

ED. R. S. CANBY,

Brigadier-General and Assistant Adjutant-General.

HARTFORD, CONN., November 17, 1863.

Colonel HOFFMAN,

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

SIR: As I promised while at your office on Saturday last, I note the following facts concerning the condition of our prisoners in Richmond, as gathered during my brief stay there en route from Columbia to City Point.

General Dow had visited Belle Isle and found there a large proportion of our privates without tents, barracks, or any shelter, herder like cattle on the cold or wet sand, lacking blankets, clothing, and sufficient food. He thought that those not already dying of starvation were being rapidly reduced to such weakness and exhaustion as would unfit them for military service on their return to our lines.

Colonel Ely, of the Eighteenth Connecticut Volunteers, had been to the hospital and there saw our men dying of starvation and exposure at the rat of ten a day on an average. He saw fourteen brought in one evening all worn to the last degree of emaciation, unable to make use of proffered food, from their long deprivation of it, of whom nine were carried out on the following morning to the prisoners' grave. Major White, of Pennsylvania, said he had himself seen the time in the Libby when he would have stolen food, but that the must take if from one as hungry as himself, and he had envied the man who had a crust of dry coarse bread while he had none.

On the day I left the prison, Wednesday, 12th instant, the entire ration to the officers was a piece of coarse bread, measuring just 5 by 2 1/2 by 3 inches. The small allowance of meat was then cut off from the officers, as it had been for some days before from the privates. An officer of the Confederate service with our men on Belle Isle told us at the prison on Tuesday at 4 p. m. that up to that hour our men had received not a particle of food that day, and we had no reason to suppose they obtained it later.

On my way to Richmond from Columbia a Confederate official said to a naval surgeon who was with me:

It is a hard thing to say to you, but your men on Belle Isle are dying of starvation federate officer said to our officers at the Libby:

The island is a perfect slaughter pen for your men.

Even if food were furnished to our men, they still lack shelter, and fuel for cooking is also as scarce as food for both officers and men.

All these facts may be familiar to you, but I give them now at the urgent solicitation of the prisoners in the Libby.

General Dow wished me to say that he understood that our Government had a large amount of Confederate money in its possession, and if this