Richmond prisons and at Belle Isle were freezing to death and dying from starvation. Immediately large supplies of both clothing and provisions were ordered by telegraph to be sent from Fort Monroe to City Point, the rebel agent causing a little delay by refusing to allow our agent to go with he supplies to superintend their delivery, but offering to have them delivered by the rebel commissaries.
The Secretary of War threw aside all ceremonies and ordered the supplies to be delivered to the rebel commissaries, and large supplies have thus been committed to the fidelity of the agents with whom we are at open war. Humanity would allow no other course.
With the authority of the Secretary of War I thought it necessary to address the following letter on the 13th instant to General Meredith,* to be communicated to the rebel authorities, to which I have as yet, probably for want of time, received no response.
This note to General Meredith, to be transmitted to Mr. Ould, was written in the charitable hope that the starvation of our prisoners in Richmond might have resulted in part, if not wholly, from an actual inability on the part of the rebel authorities to provide the supplies they were bound, in honor and humanity, to furnish the prisoners, and that, by a bare possibility, they might avail themselves of the offer to relieve themselves, from being publicly exposed to the gravest accusations. It was my wish, also, not to omit anything which offered the least, though ever so slight, prospect for affording relief to our prisoners.
I ought to mention the fact, to the honor of our people, both at home and in the prisons, that the moment it became known to our citizens that our prisoners were suffering offers of assistance came in from all quarters-from sanitary commission and Christian associations, as also from various business firms and newspaper, establishments, and from great numbers of individuals, tendering their sympathies and their service, their hearts and their purses, while many of the suffering prisoners themselves, to their infinite honor, without fully understanding the circumstances in the way of their exchange and release, found means to express themselves willing to endure any amount of suffering rather than that the Government should compromise any principle involved in this war. And here I must remark that this noble, self-sacrificing spirit has ben conspicuous among the class of citizens prisoners who have been ruthlessly seized and incarcerated by the insane authorities of the South in the vain hope of forcing the Government into concessions. But the sole effect of this wretched policy has been to inspire the people with patriotism and with a detestation of tyranny, affording assurance that a great principle is at work in the midst of these horrors, whose mission it is to preserve republican government among us, and no local institution will be permitted to crush or destroy it.
It is proper to state in this report that, while our prisoners in the South, especially in Richmond, have been subjected to every sort of privation and suffering, through the agents of the rebel authorities, if not by their countenance, the rebel prisoners in our hands have every-where been provided with comfortable barracks, except at one single depot, that at Point Lookout, where the prisoners are accommodated with good tents, which, as every soldier knows, are easily made comfortable, and are always thankfully received by troops in the field. At Camp Chase, Ohio; Camp Morton, Ind. ; Camp Douglas, Ill. ; at Rock
* See p. 515.