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    Chapter 74

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    Chapter 75
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    On New Year's Day we were startled by the information that our old-time
    enemy--General John H. Winder--was dead. It seemed that the Rebel Sutler
    of the Post had prepared in his tent a grand New Year's dinner to which
    all the officers were invited. Just as Winder bent his head to enter the
    tent he fell, and expired shortly after. The boys said it was a clear
    case of Death by Visitation of the Devil, and it was always insisted that
    his last words were:

    "My faith is in Christ; I expect to be saved. Be sure and cut down the
    prisoners' rations."

    Thus passed away the chief evil genius of the Prisoners-of-War. American
    history has no other character approaching his in vileness. I doubt if
    the history of the world can show another man, so insignificant in
    abilities and position, at whose door can be laid such a terrible load of
    human misery. There have been many great conquerors and warriors who

    Waded through slaughter to a throne,
    And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

    but they were great men, with great objects, with grand plans to carry
    out, whose benefits they thought would be more than an equivalent for the
    suffering they caused. The misery they inflicted was not the motive of
    their schemes, but an unpleasant incident, and usually the sufferers were
    men of other races and religions, for whom sympathy had been dulled by
    long antagonism.

    But Winder was an obscure, dull old man--the commonplace descendant of a
    pseudo-aristocrat whose cowardly incompetence had once cost us the loss
    of our National Capital. More prudent than his runaway father, he held
    himself aloof from the field; his father had lost reputation and almost
    his commission, by coming into contact with the enemy; he would take no
    such foolish risks, and he did not. When false expectations of the
    ultimate triumph of Secession led him to cast his lot with the Southern
    Confederacy, he did not solicit a command in the field, but took up his
    quarters in Richmond, to become a sort of Informer-General,
    High-Inquisitor and Chief Eavesdropper for his intimate friend, Jefferson
    Davis. He pried and spied around into every man's bedroom and family
    circle, to discover traces of Union sentiment. The wildest tales malice
    and vindictiveness could concoct found welcome reception in his ears.
    He was only too willing to believe, that he might find excuse for
    harrying and persecuting. He arrested, insulted, imprisoned, banished,
    and shot people, until the patience even of the citizens of Richmond gave
    way, and pressure was brought upon Jefferson Davis to secure the
    suppression of his satellite. For a long while Davis resisted, but at
    last yielded, and transferred Winder to the office of Commissary General
    of Prisoners. The delight of the Richmond people was great. One of the
    papers expressed it in an article, the key note of which was:

    "Thank God that Richmond is at last rid of old Winder. God have mercy
    upon those to whom he has been sent."

    Remorseless and cruel as his conduct of the office of Provost Marshal
    General was, it gave little hint of the extent to which he would go in
    that of Commissary General of Prisoners. Before, he was restrained
    somewhat by public opinion and the laws of the land. These no longer
    deterred him. From the time he assumed command of all the Prisons east
    of the Mississippi--some time in the Fall of 1863--until death removed
    him, January 1, 1865--certainly not less than twenty-five thousand
    incarcerated men died in the most horrible manner that the mind can
    conceive. He cannot be accused of exaggeration, when, surveying the
    thousands of new graves at Andersonville, he could say with a quiet
    chuckle that he was "doing more to kill off the Yankees than twenty
    regiments at the front." No twenty regiments in the Rebel Army ever
    succeeded in slaying anything like thirteen thousand Yankees in six
    months, or any other time. His cold blooded cruelty was such as to
    disgust even the Rebel officers. Colonel D. T. Chandler, of the Rebel
    War Department, sent on a tour of inspection to Andersonville, reported
    back, under date of August 5, 1864:

    "My duty requires me respectfully to recommend a change in the officer in
    command of the post, Brigadier General John H. Winder, and the
    substitution in his place of some one who unites both energy and good
    judgment with some feelings of humanity and consideration for the welfare
    and comfort, as far as is consistent with their safe keeping, of the vast
    number of unfortunates placed under his control; some one who, at least,
    will not advocate deliberately, and in cold blood, the propriety of
    leaving them in their present condition until their number is
    sufficiently reduced by death to make the present arrangements suffice
    for their accommodation, and who will not consider it a matter of
    self-laudation and boasting that he has never been inside of the
    Stockade--a place the horrors of which it is difficult to describe, and
    which is a disgrace to civilization--the condition of which he might, by
    the exercise of a little energy and judgment, even with the limited
    means at his command, have considerably improved."

    In his examination touching this report, Colonel Chandler says:

    "I noticed that General Winder seemed very indifferent to the welfare of
    the prisoners, indisposed to do anything, or to do as much as I thought
    he ought to do, to alleviate their sufferings. I remonstrated with him
    as well as I could, and he used that language which I reported to the
    Department with reference to it--the language stated in the report. When
    I spoke of the great mortality existing among the prisoners, and pointed
    out to him that the sickly season was coming on, and that it must
    necessarily increase unless something was done for their relief--the
    swamp, for instance, drained, proper food furnished, and in better
    quantity, and other sanitary suggestions which I made to him--he replied
    to me that he thought it was better to see half of them die than to take
    care of the men."

    It was he who could issue such an order as this, when it was supposed
    that General Stoneman was approaching Andersonville:

    ANDERSONVILLE, Ga., July 27, 1864.
    The officers on duty and in charge of the Battery of Florida Artillery at
    the time will, upon receiving notice that the enemy has approached within
    seven miles of this post, open upon the Stockade with grapeshot, without
    reference to the situation beyond these lines of defense.

    Brigadier General Commanding.

    This man was not only unpunished, but the Government is to-day supporting
    his children in luxury by the rent it pays for the use of his property
    --the well-known Winder building, which is occupied by one of the
    Departments at Washington.

    I confess that all my attempts to satisfactorily analyze Winder's
    character and discover a sufficient motive for his monstrous conduct have
    been futile. Even if we imagine him inspired by a hatred of the people
    of the North that rose to fiendishness, we can not understand him.
    It seems impossible for the mind of any man to cherish so deep and
    insatiable an enmity against his fellow-creatures that it could not be
    quenched and turned to pity by the sight of even one day's misery at
    Andersonville or Florence. No one man could possess such a grievous
    sense of private or national wrongs as to be proof against the daily
    spectacle of thousands of his own fellow citizens, inhabitants of the
    same country, associates in the same institutions, educated in the same
    principles, speaking the same language--thousands of his brethren in
    race, creed, and all that unite men into great communities, starving,
    rotting and freezing to death.

    There is many a man who has a hatred so intense that nothing but the
    death of the detested one will satisfy it. A still fewer number thirst
    for a more comprehensive retribution; they would slay perhaps a
    half-dozen persons; and there may be such gluttons of revenge as would
    not be satisfied with the sacrifice of less than a score or two, but
    such would be monsters of whom there have been very few, even in
    fiction. How must they all bow their diminished heads before a man
    who fed his animosity fat with tens of thousands of lives.

    But, what also militates greatly against the presumption that either
    revenge or an abnormal predisposition to cruelty could have animated
    Winder, is that the possession of any two such mental traits so strongly
    marked would presuppose a corresponding activity of other intellectual
    faculties, which was not true of him, as from all I can learn of him his
    mind was in no respect extraordinary.

    It does not seem possible that he had either the brain to conceive, or
    the firmness of purpose to carry out so gigantic and long-enduring a
    career of cruelty, because that would imply superhuman qualities in a man
    who had previously held his own very poorly in the competition with other

    The probability is that neither Winder nor his direct superiors--Howell
    Cobb and Jefferson Davis--conceived in all its proportions the gigantic
    engine of torture and death they were organizing; nor did they comprehend
    the enormity of the crime they were committing. But they were willing to
    do much wrong to gain their end; and the smaller crimes of to-day
    prepared them for greater ones to-morrow, and still greater ones the day
    following. Killing ten men a day on Belle Isle in January, by starvation
    and hardship, led very easily to killing one hundred men a day in
    Andersonville, in July, August and September. Probably at the beginning
    of the war they would have felt uneasy at slaying one man per day by such
    means, but as retribution came not, and as their appetite for slaughter
    grew with feeding, and as their sympathy with human misery atrophied from
    long suppression, they ventured upon ever widening ranges of
    destructiveness. Had the war lasted another year, and they lived, five
    hundred deaths a day would doubtless have been insufficient to disturb

    Winder doubtless went about his part of the task of slaughter coolly,
    leisurely, almost perfunctorily. His training in the Regular Army was
    against the likelihood of his displaying zeal in anything. He instituted
    certain measures, and let things take their course. That course was a
    rapid transition from bad to worse, but it was still in the direction of
    his wishes, and, what little of his own energy was infused into it was in
    the direction of impetus,-not of controlling or improving the course.
    To have done things better would have involved soma personal discomfort.
    He was not likely to incur personal discomfort to mitigate evils that
    were only afflicting someone else. By an effort of one hour a day for
    two weeks he could have had every man in Andersonville and Florence given
    good shelter through his own exertions. He was not only too indifferent
    and too lazy to do this, but he was too malignant; and this neglect to
    allow--simply allow, remember--the prisoners to protect their lives by
    providing their own shelter, gives the key to his whole disposition,
    and would stamp his memory with infamy, even if there were no other
    charges against him.
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