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    Chapter 82

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    Chapter 83
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    THE RESPONSIBILITY--WHO WAS TO BLAME FOR ALL THE MISERY--AN EXAMINATION
    OF THE FLIMSY EXCUSES MADE FOR THE REBELS--ONE DOCUMENT THAT CONVICTS
    THEM--WHAT IS DESIRED.

    I have endeavored to tell the foregoing story as calmly, as
    dispassionately, as free from vituperation and prejudice as possible.
    How well I have succeeded the reader must judge. How difficult this
    moderation has been at times only those know who, like myself, have seen,
    from day to day, the treason-sharpened fangs of Starvation and Disease
    gnaw nearer and nearer to the hearts of well-beloved friends and
    comrades. Of the sixty-three of my company comrades who entered prison
    with me, but eleven, or at most thirteen, emerged alive, and several of
    these have since died from the effects of what they suffered. The
    mortality in the other companies of our battalion was equally great,
    as it was also with the prisoners generally. Not less than twenty-five
    thousand gallant, noble-hearted boys died around me between the dates of
    my capture and release. Nobler men than they never died for any cause.
    For the most part they were simple-minded, honest-hearted boys; the
    sterling products of our Northern home-life, and Northern Common Schools,
    and that grand stalwart Northern blood, the yeoman blood of sturdy middle
    class freemen--the blood of the race which has conquered on every field
    since the Roman Empire went down under its sinewy blows. They prated
    little of honor, and knew nothing of "chivalry" except in its repulsive
    travesty in the South. As citizens at home, no honest labor had been
    regarded by them as too humble to be followed with manly pride in its
    success; as soldiers in the field, they did their duty with a calm
    defiance of danger and death, that the world has not seen equaled in the
    six thousand years that men have followed the trade of war. In the
    prison their conduct was marked by the same unostentatious but
    unflinching heroism. Death stared them in the face constantly. They
    could read their own fate in that of the loathsome, unburied dead all
    around them. Insolent enemies mocked their sufferings, and sneered at
    their devotion to a Government which they asserted had abandoned them,
    but the simple faith, the ingrained honesty of these plain-mannered,
    plain-spoken boys rose superior to every trial. Brutus, the noblest
    Roman of them all, says in his grandest flight:

    Set honor in one eye and death in the other,
    And I will look on both indifferently.

    They did not say this: they did it. They never questioned their duty; no
    repinings, no murmurings against their Government escaped their lips,
    they took the dread fortunes brought to them as calmly, as unshrinkingly
    as they had those in the field; they quailed not, nor wavered in their
    faith before the worst the Rebels could do. The finest epitaph ever
    inscribed above a soldier's grave was that graven on the stone which
    marked the resting-place of the deathless three hundred who fell at
    Thermopylae:

    Go, stranger, to Lacedaemon,--
    And tell Sparta that we lie here in obedience to her laws.

    They who lie in the shallow graves of Andersonville, Belle Isle, Florence
    and Salisbury, lie there in obedience to the precepts and maxims
    inculcated into their minds in the churches and Common Schools of the
    North; precepts which impressed upon them the duty of manliness and honor
    in all the relations and exigencies of life; not the "chivalric" prate of
    their enemies, but the calm steadfastness which endureth to the end. The
    highest tribute that can be paid them is to say they did full credit to
    their teachings, and they died as every American should when duty bids
    him. No richer heritage was ever bequeathed to posterity.

    It was in the year 1864, and the first three months of 1865 that these
    twenty-five thousand youths mere cruelly and needlessly done to death.
    In these fatal fifteen months more young men than to-day form the pride,
    the hope, and the vigor of any one of our leading Cities, more than at
    the beginning of the war were found in either of several States in the
    Nation, were sent to their graves, "unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown,"
    victims of the most barbarous and unnecessary cruelty recorded since the
    Dark Ages. Barbarous, because the wit of man has not yet devised a more
    savage method of destroying fellow-beings than by exposure and
    starvation; unnecessary, because the destruction of these had not, and
    could not have the slightest effect upon the result of the struggle.
    The Rebel leaders have acknowledged that they knew the fate of the
    Confederacy was sealed when the campaign of 1864 opened with the North
    displaying an unflinching determination to prosecute the war to a
    successful conclusion. All that they could hope for after that was some
    fortuitous accident, or unexpected foreign recognition that would give
    them peace with victory. The prisoners were non-important factors in the
    military problem. Had they all been turned loose as soon as captured,
    their efforts would not have hastened the Confederacy's fate a single
    day.

    As to the responsibility for this monstrous cataclysm of human misery and
    death: That the great mass of the Southern people approved of these
    outrages, or even knew of them, I do not, for an instant, believe. They
    are as little capable of countenancing such a thing as any people in the
    world. But the crowning blemish of Southern society has ever been the
    dumb acquiescence of the many respectable, well-disposed, right-thinking
    people in the acts of the turbulent and unscrupulous few. From this
    direful spring has flowed an Iliad of unnumbered woes, not only to that
    section but to our common country. It was this that kept the South
    vibrating between patriotism and treason during the revolution, so that
    it cost more lives and treasure to maintain the struggle there than in
    all the rest of the country. It was this that threatened the
    dismemberment of the Union in 1832. It was this that aggravated and
    envenomed every wrong growing out of Slavery; that outraged liberty,
    debauched citizenship, plundered the mails, gagged the press, stiffled
    speech, made opinion a crime, polluted the free soil of God with the
    unwilling step of the bondman, and at last crowned three-quarters of a
    century of this unparalleled iniquity by dragging eleven millions of
    people into a war from which their souls revolted, and against which they
    had declared by overwhelming majorities in every State except South
    Carolina, where the people had no voice. It may puzzle some to
    understand how a relatively small band of political desperados in each
    State could accomplish such a momentous wrong; that they did do it, no
    one conversant with our history will deny, and that they--insignificant
    as they were in numbers, in abilities, in character, in everything save
    capacity and indomitable energy in mischief--could achieve such gigantic
    wrongs in direct opposition to the better sense of their communities is a
    fearful demonstration of the defects of the constitution of Southern
    society.

    Men capable of doing all that the Secession leaders were guilty of--both
    before and during the war--were quite capable of revengefully destroying
    twenty-five thousand of their enemies by the most hideous means at their
    command. That they did so set about destroying their enemies, wilfully,
    maliciously, and with malice prepense and aforethought, is susceptible of
    proof as conclusive as that which in a criminal court sends murderers to
    the gallows.

    Let us examine some of these proofs:

    1. The terrible mortality at Andersonville and elsewhere was a matter of
    as much notoriety throughout the Southern Confederacy as the military
    operations of Lee and Johnson. No intelligent man--much less the Rebel
    leaders--was ignorant of it nor of its calamitous proportions.

    2. Had the Rebel leaders within a reasonable time after this matter
    became notorious made some show of inquiring into and alleviating the
    deadly misery, there might be some excuse for them on the ground of lack
    of information, and the plea that they did as well as they could would
    have some validity. But this state of affairs was allowed to continue
    over a year--in fact until the downfall of the Confederacy--without a
    hand being raised to mitigate the horrors of those places--without even
    an inquiry being made as to whether they were mitigable or not. Still
    worse: every month saw the horrors thicken, and the condition of the
    prisoners become more wretched.

    The suffering in May, 1864, was more terrible than in April; June showed
    a frightful increase over May, while words fail to paint the horrors of
    July and August, and so the wretchedness waxed until the end, in April,
    1865.

    3. The main causes of suffering and death were so obviously preventible
    that the Rebel leaders could not have been ignorant of the ease with
    which a remedy could be applied. These main causes were three in number:

    a. Improper and insufficient food.
    b. Unheard-of crowding together.
    c. Utter lack of shelter.

    It is difficult to say which of these three was the most deadly. Let us
    admit, for the sake of argument, that it was impossible for the Rebels to
    supply sufficient and proper food. This admission, I know, will not
    stand for an instant in the face of the revelations made by Sherman's
    March to the Sea; and through the Carolinas, but let that pass, that we
    may consider more easily demonstrable facts connected with the next two
    propositions, the first of which is as to the crowding together. Was
    land so scarce in the Southern Confederacy that no more than sixteen
    acres could be spared for the use of thirty-five thousand prisoners?
    The State of Georgia has a population of less than one-sixth that of New
    York, scattered over a territory one-quarter greater than that State's,
    and yet a pitiful little tract--less than the corn-patch "clearing" of
    the laziest "cracker" in the State--was all that could be allotted to the
    use of three-and-a-half times ten thousand young men! The average
    population of the State does not exceed sixteen to the square mile, yet
    Andersonville was peopled at the rate of one million four hundred
    thousand to the square mile. With millions of acres of unsettled,
    useless, worthless pine barrens all around them, the prisoners were
    wedged together so closely that there was scarcely room to lie down at
    night, and a few had space enough to have served as a grave. This, too,
    in a country where the land was of so little worth that much of it had
    never been entered from the Government.

    Then, as to shelter and fire: Each of the prisons was situated in the
    heart of a primeval forest, from which the first trees that had ever been
    cut were those used in building the pens. Within a gun-shot of the
    perishing men was an abundance of lumber and wood to have built every man
    in prison a warm, comfortable hut, and enough fuel to supply all his
    wants. Supposing even, that the Rebels did not have the labor at hand to
    convert these forests into building material and fuel, the prisoners
    themselves would have gladly undertaken the work, as a means of promoting
    their own comfort, and for occupation and exercise. No tools would have
    been too poor and clumsy for them to work with. When logs were
    occasionally found or brought into prison, men tore them to pieces almost
    with their naked fingers. Every prisoner will bear me out in the
    assertion that there was probably not a root as large as a bit of
    clothes-line in all the ground covered by the prisons, that eluded the
    faithfully eager search of freezing men for fuel. What else than
    deliberate design can account for this systematic withholding from the
    prisoners of that which was so essential to their existence, and which it
    was so easy to give them?

    This much for the circumstantial evidence connecting the Rebel
    authorities with the premeditated plan for destroying the prisoners.
    Let us examine the direct evidence:

    The first feature is the assignment to the command of the prisons of
    "General" John H. Winder, the confidential friend of Mr. Jefferson Davis,
    and a man so unscrupulous, cruel and bloody-thirsty that at the time of
    his appointment he was the most hated and feared man in the Southern
    Confederacy. His odious administration of the odious office of Provost
    Marshal General showed him to be fittest of tools for their purpose.
    Their selection--considering the end in view, was eminently wise. Baron
    Haynau was made eternally infamous by a fraction of the wanton cruelties
    which load the memory of Winder. But it can be said in extenuation of
    Haynau's offenses that he was a brave, skilful and energetic soldier, who
    overthrew on the field the enemies he maltreated. If Winder, at any time
    during the war, was nearer the front than Richmond, history does not
    mention it. Haynau was the bastard son of a German Elector and of the
    daughter of a village, druggist. Winder was the son of a sham
    aristocrat, whose cowardice and incompetence in the war of 1812 gave
    Washington into the hands of the British ravagers.

    It is sufficient indication of this man's character that he could look
    unmoved upon the terrible suffering that prevailed in Andersonville in
    June, July, and August; that he could see three thousand men die each
    month in the most horrible manner, without lifting a finger in any way to
    assist them; that he could call attention in a self-boastful way to the
    fact that "I am killing off more Yankees than twenty regiments in Lee's
    Army," and that he could respond to the suggestions of the horror-struck
    visiting Inspector that the prisoners be given at least more room, with
    the assertion that he intended to leave matters just as they were--the
    operations of death would soon thin out the crowd so that the survivors
    would have sufficient room.

    It was Winder who issued this order to the Commander of the Artillery:

    ORDER No. 13.

    HEADQUARTERS MILITARY PRISON,
    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.

    JOHN H. WINDER,
    Brigadier General Commanding.

    Diabolical is the only word that will come at all near fitly
    characterizing such an infamous order. What must have been the nature of
    a man who would calmly order twenty-five guns to be opened with grape and
    canister at two hundred yards range, upon a mass of thirty thousand
    prisoners, mostly sick and dying! All this, rather than suffer them to
    be rescued by their friends. Can there be any terms of reprobation
    sufficiently strong to properly denounce so malignant a monster? History
    has no parallel to him, save among the blood-reveling kings of Dahomey,
    or those sanguinary Asiatic chieftains who built pyramids of human
    skulls, and paved roads with men's bones. How a man bred an American
    came to display such a Timour-like thirst for human life, such an
    Oriental contempt for the sufferings of others, is one of the mysteries
    that perplexes me the more I study it.

    If the Rebel leaders who appointed this man, to whom he reported direct,
    without intervention of superior officers, and who were fully informed of
    all his acts through other sources than himself, were not responsible for
    him, who in Heaven's name was? How can there be a possibility that they
    were not cognizant and approving of his acts?

    The Rebels have attempted but one defense to the terrible charges against
    them, and that is, that our Government persistently refused to exchange,
    preferring to let its men rot in prison, to yielding up the Rebels it
    held. This is so utterly false as to be absurd. Our Government made
    overture after overture for exchange to the Rebels, and offered to yield
    many of the points of difference. But it could not, with the least
    consideration for its own honor, yield up the negro soldiers and their
    officers to the unrestrained brutality of the Rebel authorities, nor
    could it, consistent with military prudence, parole the one hundred
    thousand well-fed, well-clothed, able-bodied Rebels held by it as
    prisoners, and let them appear inside of a week in front of Grant or
    Sherman. Until it would agree to do this the Rebels would not agree to
    exchange, and the only motive--save revenge--which could have inspired
    the Rebel maltreatment of the prisoners, was the expectation of raising
    such a clamor in the North as would force the Government to consent to a
    disadvantageous exchange, and to give back to the Confederacy, at its
    most critical period one hundred thousand fresh, able-bodied soldiers.
    It was for this purpose, probably, that our Government and the Sanitary
    Commission were refused all permission to send us food and clothing.
    For my part, and I know I echo the feelings of ninety-nine out of every
    hundred of my comrades, I would rather have staid in prison till I
    rotted, than that our Government should have yielded to the degrading
    demands of insolent Rebels.

    There is one document in the possession of the Government which seems to
    me to be unanswerable proof, both of the settled policy of the Richmond
    Government towards the Union prisoners, and of the relative merits of
    Northern and Southern treatment of captives. The document is a letter
    reading as follows:

    CITY POINT, Va., March 17, 1863.

    SIR:--A flag-of-truce boat has arrived with three hundred and fifty
    political prisoners, General Barrow and several other prominent men among
    them.

    I wish you to send me on four o'clock Wednesday morning, all the military
    prisoners (except officers), and all the political prisoners you have.
    If any of the political prisoners have on hand proof enough to convict
    them of being spies, or of having committed other offenses which should
    subject them to punishment, so state opposite their names. Also, state
    whether you think, under all the circumstances, they should be released.
    The arrangement I have made works largely in our favor. WE GET RID OF A
    SET OF MISERABLE WRETCHES, AND RECEIVE SOME OF THE BEST MATERIAL I EVER
    SAW.

    Tell Captain Turner to put down on the list of political prisoners the
    names of Edward P. Eggling, and Eugenia Hammermister. The President is
    anxious that they should get off. They are here now. This, of course,
    is between ourselves. If you have any political prisoners whom you can
    send off safely to keep her company, I would like you to send her.

    Two hundred and odd more political prisoners are on their way.

    I would be more full in my communication if I had time. Yours truly,

    ROBERT OULD, Commissioner of Exchange.

    To Brigadier general John H. Winder.

    But, supposing that our Government, for good military reasons, or for no
    reason at all, declined to exchange prisoners, what possible excuse is
    that for slaughtering them by exquisite tortures? Every Government has
    ap unquestioned right to decline exchanging when its military policy
    suggests such a course; and such declination conveys no right whatever to
    the enemy to slay those prisoners, either outright with the edge of the
    sword, or more slowly by inhuman treatment. The Rebels' attempts to
    justify their conduct, by the claim that our Government refused to accede
    to their wishes in a certain respect, is too preposterous to be made or
    listened to by intelligent men.

    The whole affair is simply inexcusable, and stands out a foul blot on the
    memory of every Rebel in high place in the Confederate Government.

    "Vengeance is mine," saith the Lord, and by Him must this great crime be
    avenged, if it ever is avenged. It certainly transcends all human power.
    I have seen little indication of any Divine interposition to mete out, at
    least on this earth, adequate punishment to those who were the principal
    agents in that iniquity. Howell Cobb died as peacefully in his bed as
    any Christian in the land, and with as few apparent twinges of remorse as
    if he had spent his life in good deeds and prayer. The arch-fiend Winder
    died in equal tranquility, murmuring some cheerful hope as to his soul's
    future. Not one of the ghosts of his hunger-slain hovered around to
    embitter his dying moments, as he had theirs. Jefferson Davis "still
    lives, a prosperous gentleman," the idol of a large circle of adherents,
    the recipient of real estate favors from elderly females of morbid
    sympathies, and a man whose mouth is full of plaints of his wrongs,
    and misappreciation. The rest of the leading conspirators have either
    departed this life in the odor of sanctity, surrounded by sorrowing
    friends, or are gliding serenely down the mellow autumnal vale of a
    benign old age.

    Only Wirz--small, insignificant, miserable Wirz, the underling, the tool,
    the servile, brainless, little fetcher-and-carrier of these men, was
    punished--was hanged, and upon the narrow shoulders of this pitiful
    scapegoat was packed the entire sin of Jefferson Davis and his crew.
    What a farce!

    A petty little Captain made to expiate the crimes of Generals, Cabinet
    Officers, and a President. How absurd!

    But I do not ask for vengeance. I do not ask for retribution for one of
    those thousands of dead comrades, the glitter of whose sightless eyes
    will follow me through life. I do not desire even justice on the still
    living authors and accomplices in the deep damnation of their taking off.
    I simply ask that the great sacrifices of my dead comrades shall not be
    suffered to pass unregarded to irrevocable oblivion; that the example of
    their heroic self-abnegation shall not be lost, but the lesson it teaches
    be preserved and inculcated into the minds of their fellow-countrymen,
    that future generations may profit by it, and others be as ready to die
    for right and honor and good government as they were. And it seems to me
    that if we are to appreciate their virtues, we must loathe and hold up to
    opprobrium those evil men whose malignity made all their sacrifices
    necessary. I cannot understand what good self-sacrifice and heroic
    example are to serve in this world, if they are to be followed by such a
    maudlin confusion of ideas as now threatens to obliterate all distinction
    between the men who fought and died for the Right and those who resisted
    them for the Wrong.

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