War of the Rebellion: Serial 121 Page 0346 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

without meat, for even longer intervals, your committee do not deem it necessary to say. Not less than sixteen ounces of bread and four ounces of bacon, or six ounces of beef, together with beans and soup, have been furnished per day to the prisoners. During most of the time the quantity of meat furnished to them has been greater than these amounts; and even in times of the greatest scarcity they have received as much as the Southern soldiers who guarded them. The scarcity of meat and of breadstuffs in the South in certain places has been the result of the savage policy of our enemies in burning barns filled with wheat or corn, destroying agricultural implements, and driving off or wantonly butchering hogs and cattle. Yet amid all these privations we have given to their prisoners the rations above mentioned. It is well known that this quantity of food is sufficient to keep in health a man who does not labor hard. All the learned disquisitions of Dr. Ellerslie Wallace on the subject of starvation might have been spared, for they are all founded on a false basis. It will be observed that few (if any) of the witnesses examined by the Sanitary Commission speak with any accuracy of the quantity (in weight) of the food actually furnished to them. Their statements are merely conjectural and comparative, and cannot weigh against the positive testimony of those who superintended the delivery of large quantities of food, cooked and distributed according to a fixed ratio, for the number of men to be fed.


The staements of the Sanitary Commission as to prisoners freezing to death on Belle Isle are absurdly false. According to the statement, it was common, during a cold spell in winter, to see several prisoners frozen to death every morning in the places in which they had slept. This picture, if correct, might well excite our horror; but, unhappily for its sensatiional power, it is but a clumsy dau, founded on the fancy of the painter. The facts are, that tents were furnished sufcient to shelter all the prisoners; that the Confederate commandant and soldiers on the island were lodged in similar tents; that a fire was furnished each of them, that the prisoners fared as well as their guards, and that only one of them was ever frozen to death, and he was frozen by the cruelty of his own fellow-prisoners, who thrust him out of the tent in a freezing night because he was infested with vermin. The proof as to the healthiness of the prisoners on Belle Isle and the small amount of mortality is remarkable, and presents a fit commen on the lugubrious pictures drawn by the Sanitary Commission, either from their own fancies or from the fictions put forth by their false witnesses. Lieutenant Bossieux proves that from the establishment of the prison camp on Belle Isle in June, 1862, to the 10th of February, 1865, more than 20,000 prisoners had been at various times there received, and yet that the whole number of deaths during this time was only 164. And this if confirmed by the Federal Colonel Sanderson, who states that the average number of deaths per month on Belle Isle was "from two to five; more frequently the lesser number."The sick were promptly removed from the island to the hospital to the hospitals in the city.


Doubtless the Sanitary Commission have been to some extent led astray by their own witnesses, whose character has been portrayed by