CAHABA, ALA., March 31, 1864.
Surg. P. B. SCOTT, Medical Director:
SIR: I have the honor to transmit to you the following report:
When you know the sanitary condition of the prison you cannot be surprised at the large number of cases reported.
A brick wall inclosing an area of 15,000 square feet, covered by a leaky roof with 1,600 feet of open space in its center, four open windows, and the earth for the floor, constitute the prison in which are at present confined 660 men.
The sleeping arrangements consist of rough lumber, without straw or bedding of any kind save the hard plank and a few comforts-not forty to the hundred men. These banks, but recently constructed, accommodate but 432 men, so that 228 men are forced to sleep upon the ground.
With but one fireplace in the building, all the fires (about forty in number) have been, until the past two days, built at intervals upon the floor. The wood (a little less than half the regulations allow) has been, when furnished at all, of either green sap pine or decayed oak from old fields. With such wood and no ventilation, you can well imagine to what a dense smoke these men have been subjected for the past five months.
A wooden fence has been in process of erection around the prison for the past two months or more, in order that the fire might be removed to the outside and thus obviate the smoke. The third side of this fence has nearly reached its completion.
The supply of water for drinking, cooking, and bathing, as well as washing, is conveyed from an artisan well, along an open street gutter for 200 yards, thence under the street into the prison. In its course it has been subjected to the washing of the hands, feet, faces,, and heads of soldiers, citizens, and negroes, buckets, tubs, and spittoons of groceries, offices and hospital, hogs, dogs, cows, and horses, and filth of all kinds from the streets and other sources.
The rations furnished are the same as are issued to our own soldiers, and are served to them with equal punctuality. The privy accommodates but four men at once, and the arrangements for keeping it cleanly are well in keeping with the prison generally. With but one wheel-barrow to remove filth and other rubbish, there is an unavoidable accumulation of these fruitful sources of disease.
It is needless to remark that I have made repeated complaints to the commandant of the prison, who has exerted himself to the extent of his ability to have these defects remedied.
The two quartermasters at this post, with only this prison and one small hospital to supply, have failed to be equal to the task of having this prison supplied with good and sufficient wood, water, and bunks, and putting it in a condition in which it would be moderately comfortable, clean, and healthy.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. H. WHITFIELD,
Surgeon in Charge Federal Prison, Cahaba, Ala.