War of the Rebellion: Serial 119 Page 1088 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

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furnished them by their Government. Under these circumstances, though they have been furnished with fuel, there has been great suffering from cold during the unusually cold weather of January and February, to which the brutal conduct of the prisoners in expelling their comrades from their tents at night has greatly added.

To the crowded and necessarily filthy condition of the camp, the absence of personal cleanliness of the prisoners, the meager rations, and the effects of cold may be added the depressing effect of long-continued confinement without employment, mental or physical, and with little hope of an early termination of the imprisonment, which together make up a sufficient sum of causes of account for the report during the month of February of a sufficient number of cases to amount to one-fourth the average number of prisoners in the camp. The diseases have been such, consisting principally of typhoid fever, diarrhea, dysentery, and catarrh and the diseases of the respiratory organs, as might be expected to result from the causes stated. But great as is this amount of disease, it is not greater than the average sickness among the U. S. troops in the field on the Atlantic coast, as reported by one of their own surgeons. Much difficulty has been experienced in procuring the regular attendance of the sick at sick-call. Patients have been brought out on litters, unable to walk and greatly emaciated, who have never before attended sick-call, and several deaths have occurred in camp without the prisoners having been seen by or reported to a medical officer, the sergeants in charge of squads alleging that they could not attend regularly to the duty of bringing the sick up to sick-call, because of the necessity of at the same time drawing and distributing rations. A sergeant has bee selected from each squad to attend to this duty alone, and it is hoped that a more regular attendance of the sick at sick-call will thus be secured. There is not space enough in the camp to establish as large a temporary hospital as desired, but five hospital tents have been pitched, which afford the means of treating temporarily the sick ordered to general hospital when prevented by the rising of the river or ice or the non-attendance of ambulances from being sent. The overcrowding of the camp is now being rapidly reduced by transfers and exchange of prisoners. The number of prisoners being sufficiently reduced, the irregularities of the surface of the camp are to be filled up and the ditches and drains cleaned out. I have recommended to the commanding officer, and shall urge it most strongly on his attention, to have a sufficient number of sinks dug within the camp to water, which rises within a few feet of the surface. In consequence of vaccination having been so generally practiced among the prisoners previous to their capture, it has been found impracticable to continue to propagate vaccination among them. But varioloid, which has prevailed to some extent, seems to attack indiscriminately those who have been vaccinated early in life and those recently vaccinated. The reports show a great diminution in the number of variola and varioloid cases, giving ground to hope they will soon cease. The commanding officer and his subordinates have done all within their power to carry out [what has been] suggested toward the sanitary condition of the camp, but the number of officers and the guard and police seem too small to re-establish and enforce such system of police as would enable the medical officers to discharge their duties with as much efficiency and satisfaction as amongst our own troops in the field.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Surgeon in Charge U. S. Prisoners on Belle Isle and in Barracks.