War of the Rebellion: Serial 121 Page 0344 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

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After ascertaining all the facts bearing on this subject your committee believe that what was done under the circumstances will meet a verdict of approval from all whose prejudices do not blind them to the truth. The state of things was unprecedented in history, and must be judged of according to the motives at work and the result accomplished. A large body of Northern raiders, under one colonel Dahlgren, was approaching Richmond. It was ascertained, by the reports of prisoners captured from them and other evidence, that their design was to enter the city, to set fire to the buildings, public and private, for which purpose turpentine balls in great number had been prepared; to murder the President of the Confederate States and other prominent men; to release the prisoners of war, then numbering 5,000 or 6,000; to put arms into their hands, and to turn over the city to indiscriminate pillage, rape, and slaughter. at the same time a plot was discovered among the prisoners to co-operate in this scheme, and a large number of knives and slung-shots (made by putting stones into woolen stockings) were detected in places of concealment about their quarters. To defeat a plan so diabolical, assuredly the sternest means were justified. If it would have been right to put to death any one prisoner attempting to escape under such circumstances, it seems logically certain that it would have been equally right to put to death any number making such attempt. But in truth the means adopted were those of humanity and prevention rather than of execution. The Confederate authorities felt able to meet and repulse Dahlgren and his raiders if they could prevent the escape of the prisoners.

the real object was to save their lives as well as those of our citizens. The guard force at the prisons was small, and all the local troops in and around Richmond were needed to meet the threatened attack. Had the prisoners escaped, the women and children of the city, as well as their homes, would have been at the mercy of 5,000 outlaws. Humanity required that the most summary measures should be used to deter them from any attempt at escape.

A mine was prepared under the Libby Prison; a sufficient quantity of gunpowder was put into it, and pains were taken to iform the prisoners that any attempt at escape made by them would be effectually defeated. The plan succeeded perfectly. The prisoners were awed and kept quiet. Dahlgreen and his party were defeated and scattered. The danger passed away, and in a few weeks the gunpowder was removed. Such are the facts. Your committee do not hesitate to make them known, feeling assured that the conscience of the enlightened world and the great law of self-preservation will justify all that was done by our country and her officers.


We now proceed to notice, under one head, the last and gravest charge made in these publications. They assert that the Nortern prisoners in the hands of the Confederate authorities have been starved, frozen, inhumanly punished, often confined in foul and loathsome quarters, deprived of fresh air and exercise, and neglected and maltreated in sickness - and that all this was done upon a deliberate, willful, and long-conceived plan of the Confederate Government and officers, for the purpose of destroying the lives of these prisoners, or of rendering them forever incapable of military service. This charge accuses the Southern Government of a crime so horrible and unnatural that it could never have been made except by those ready to blacken with slander