War of the Rebellion: Serial 121 Page 0246 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

company with Major J. H. Gee, prison commandant, and the medical officer of the prison, and again, as already stated, on the 16th of February, with General B. T. Johnson. On the two occasions first named the weather was particularly pleasant and I saw the prison under the most favorable circumstances. On the 16th of February, immediately after a fall of snow and sleet, I saw it again, probably in its worst aspect. In my report I have endeavored carefully to distinguish between those causes of suffering which are unavoidable, and for the existence of which, therefore, the Government and its officers cannot be held responsible, and such abuses as, in my opinion, are justly chargeable to the neglect or inefficiency of the prison management.

I. Location and plan of the prison.-The location of the prison I regard as an unfortunate one, though I presume this with the Government at the time was a matter not of choice but of necessity. That it was already as a prison for civilians and military convicts should have been an argument against its selection, not in its favor, unless it had been at the same time determined to remove the former classes of prisoners. The general plan of the prison may be seen from the diagram accompanying this report. The area inclosed and constituting the main prison yard is about eleven acres. I do not think, especially with the present number of prisoners (5,476 of all classes), that there can be any reasonable ground of complaint on the score of want of room. Water is obtained from nine wells within the inclosure and from the creek, one mile and a half distant, to which the prisoners are allowed to go, a certain number at a time, under guard, with buckets and barrels. The supply obtained from all these sources, however, is not more than sufficient for cooking and drinking purposes. The want of a running stream within the prison inclosure, for the purposes of washing and general sewerage, is therefore a serious objection. The proximity of the prison to the railroad affords every necessary facility for obtaining an adequate supply of fuel, which can be deposited in any quantity needed within less than 100 yards of the prison, and unloaded and transported by the labor of the prisoners themselves. A memorandum statement of Major Morfit, prison quartermaster, accompanying this report, shows the amount of fuel received, issued, and due the prisoners from January 1 to February 15, 1865. That they have not received the full amount due them during a season of more than ordinary inclemency I think is chargeable more probably to want of energy on the part of the post quartermaster, Captain J. M. Goodman, than to any other cause. Both Major Gee and Major Morfit profess to consider the actual supply sufficient, but in this I think they are mistaken. The fact cited by Major Gee that the prison sutler buys all his fuel from the prisoners proves nothing, no more than their willingness to part with their newly received supplies of clothing, a practice to check which General Johnson has been obliged to publish a stringent order forbidding citizens or soldiers from purchasing, proves that they are not in want of clothes.

The most serious objection to this choice of a site for a prison is, however, the character of the soil, which is a stiff, tenacious red clay, difficult of drainage and which remains wet for a long time, and after a rain or snow becomes a perfect bog. The system of drainage contemplates the double object of carrying off the surface water and cleansing the sinks, but cannot be said to be particularly successful in either point of view. In warm weather or in a season of drought the sinks would not fail to prove a source of great annoyance, and possibly of pestilence, not only in the prison, but in the town of Salisbury.

II. The prison commissariat.-Among the papers accompanying this report will be found a statement of the number of rations issued from