Statistics on the Diseases Among Union Troops in Confederate Prisons
The fragmentary character of the evidence relating to the diseases of the Federal prisoners in the hands of the Confederates has already been indicated.(*) The statistics at command are derived from the original registers of the hospitals attached to the Andersonville and Danville prisons and certain tables prepared by Dr. JOSEPH JONES from official records, and published in his article on the diseases of the Andersonville prisoners.(+) The records of the Adjutant General's Office, U. S. Army, according to a communication from that office dated June 22, 1878, include the cases of 30,564 Federal soldiers who died while prisoners of war.
The Andersonville register, extending from February 24, 1864, to April 17, 1865, inclusive, shows the number of admissions front the stockaded prison to have been 17,875, but as 458 of these are reported as having been cases of wounds and injuries, and 1,430 have no diagnosis entered against their names, the cases of specified diseases number only 15,987. The result in 946 of these cases in not recorded, so that the number of cases of specified disease that may be traced to their termination is reduced to 15,041. Of these 11.086 died. or 73.7 per cent. of the whole number. This enormous mortality is an index
(*) See page 31, Second Part of this work.
(+) There are also in the Office of the Adjutant General a list of 142 deaths that occurred among sick and wounded prisoners at Cahawba, Ala., and two hospital registers, one from Hospital No. 13, and the other from a ward of Hospital No. 21. Richmond, Va. But these registers are valueless for statistical purposes, as so many of the patients received were speedily sent elsewhere; and in the case of the register of Hospital No. 21. the disposition of so many of the cases is unrecorded. The register of Hospital No. 13 extends from June 2, 1863, to February 14, 1865, and contains a record of 695 admissions disposed of by transfer in 621 cases, by death in 67, and hy description, etc. in 7 cases. The register of Hospital 21 extends from November, 1863, to February, 1865. Of 1,358 admissions it is not stated what became of the patients in 508 instances: 230 were transferred, 226 paroled, 173 returned to quarters and 3 detailed; one is said to have escaped and 217 to have died.
of the condition to which the unfortunate men became reduced before they were admitted to this so called hospital. The professional mind is shocked in endeavoring to realize the scenes presented in an establishment the wards of which formed the portals of the grave to three out of every four soldiers who had the misfortune to enter them. Indeed, it appears that large numbers died uncared for in the prison and were removed to hospital simply for record and interment. Sometimes the deaths in the prison outnumbered those in the hospital. The reports for the week ending September 20, 1864, show the occurrence of 336 deaths in the former and 334 in the latter establishment. At this particular time one-half of the fatal cases were already terminated when taken up on the hospital register. The average number of deaths that occurred daily during the occupation of the depot was thirty; but as many as a hundred deaths were recorded in a single day. Certainly the most fatal field of the war was that enclosed within the stockade at Andersonville, Georgia.
Ratios calculated from the hospital register have a melancholy interest as indicating the manner in which these men were cut down in the flower of their manhood. They have no bearing on the fatality of the specified diseases as the number of those sick within the stockade is not known; but the information yielded concerning the relative prevalence of certain grave diseases is as definite as if complete records of the sickness were at command. The accompanying table gives a summary of the facts gathered from the register:
Summarizing the Records of the Hospital at Camp Sumter, Andersonville, Georgia.
Cases admitted into hospital Cases with results unrecorded Total cases
Died Ratio of cases per
1,000 cases admitted with specified diseases
Ratio of deaths per
1,000 deaths from
All diseases and injuries 17,875 1,001 16,874 12,541 Wounds and injuries 458 47 411163 Not specified 1,430 8 1,422 1,292 Specified diseases 15,987 946 15,041 11,086 1,000 1,000 73.7 Continued Fevers 283 2 281 241 17.7 21.7 85.8 Malarial Fevers 254 13 241 163 15.9 14.7 67.6 Eruptive Fevers 164 2 162 82 10.3 7.4 50.6 Diarrhoea and Dysentery 7,352 376 6,976 5,605 459.9 505.6 80.3 Debility 333 36 297 192 20.8 17.3 64.6 Dropsy 498 19 479 383 31.2 34.5 80.0 Consumption 35 35 26 2.2 2.3 74.3 Rheumatism 202 30 17.2 83 12.6 7.5 48.2 Scurvy 5,662 377 5,285 3,614 354.2 326.0 68.4 Bronchitis 205 4 201 141 12.8 12.7 70.1 Pneumonia and Pleurisy 553 64 489 322 34.6 29.0 65.8 Other diseases 446 23 423 234 27.9 21.0 55.3 Total specified diseases 15,987 946 15,041 11,086 1,000 1,000 73.7
Diarrhoea and dysentery caused somewhat less than one-half, and scurvy somewhat more than one-third of the total number of cases. Under these two headings were entered 814.1 of every thousand cases, leaving only 185.9 cases in the thousand for distribution among all other diseases. These casts also occasioned the greater part of the mortality. Diarrhoea and dysentery caused 505.6 and scurvy 326.0 deaths in every thousand deaths from all diseases, leaving only 168.4 in the thousand for distribution among other fatal diseases.
Dr. JONES has fortunately preserved a monthly return of the cases and deaths in the stockade and hospital for the six months from March 1 to August 31, 1864, giving also the mean monthly strength during the period.(*) From this paper annual rates of sickness and mortality per thousand of strength may be calculated. Some idea of the relative prevalence of specified diseases and of the mortality caused by them may likewise be obtained from the information thus preserved. In the following table the facts gathered from the paper in question are so arranged as to admit of comparison with the analogous facts from the records of our troops in the field, the Confederate forces and other bodies of men already submitted in Tables II, III, IV, XIII and XIV.
Giving a general view of the Sick and Death Rates from prominent diseases and classes of diseases among the Federal prisoners at Andersonville for the period extending from March 1 to August 31, 1864. Average present 19,453 prisoners.
Total cases reported Total deaths recorded Annual rates of
cases per 1,000
Annual rates of
deaths per 1,000
Cases of specified
diseases per 1,000
of all diseases
Deaths from specified
diseases per 1,000
from all diseases
All diseases and injuries 42,586 7,712 4,388.6 792.8 Wounds and injuries 238 21 24.4 2.2 Not specified 474 565 48.8 58.0 Specified diseases 41,974 7,126 4,315.4 732.6 1,000 1,000 17.2 Continued Fevers 753 199 77.4 20.5 17.9 27.9 26.4 Malarial Fevers 2,966 119 305-0 12.2 70.7 16.7 4.0 Eruptive Fevers 236 80 24.2 8.2 5.6 11.2 33.9 Diarrhoea and Dysentery 16,772 4,529 1,724.4 465.6 399.6 635.6 27.0 Debility 955 170 98.2 17.5 22.8 23.9 17.8 Dropsy 1,556 319 160.0 32.8 37.1 44.8 20.5 Consumption 114 33 11.8 3.4 2.7 4.6 28.9 Rheumatism 866 20 89.0 2.0 20.6 2.8 2.3 Scurvy 9,501 999 976.8 102.8 226.4 140.2 10.5 Bronchitis 2,808 90 288.6 9.2 66.9 12.6 3.2 Pneumonia and Pleurisy 979 266 100.6 27.4 23.3 37.3 27.2 Other diseases 4,468 302 459.4 31.0 106.4 42.4 6.8 Total specified diseases 41,974 7,126 4,315-4 732.6 1,000 1,000 17.2
The annual sick rate per thousand of prisoners was 4,388.6, or nearly double that of our white troops. Nevertheless, it was not so high as the rate which, according to Table XIV,
(*) Memoirs of United States Sanitary Commission, p. 59.4. Dr. JONES, op cit., p. 567, specifies the strength for each of the six months and given the average strength as 21,120 men. There is an error either in the items or in the calculated average. But as the items are expressed by the same numbers in another part of his article, p. 502, it seems probable that the error is in the calculation, the correct strength for the six months being 19,453.
prevailed in certain portions of the Confederate forces. This demonstrates merely that the methods adopted in reporting sick men in the Confederate ranks was not observed in the case of the Andersonville prisoners. The number of sick was certainly vastly in excess of the number of recorded cases. When Dr. JONES inspected the stockade in September, 1864, he found two thousand sick exclusive of those admitted into the prison hospital, and as there was but one medical officer to attend to this enormous number of patients,(*) and to the cases brought daily to his notice among the mass of the prisoners, the impossibility of preserving an accurate record of the cases is manifest. Large numbers of the prisoners who had never been entered on the sick list were suffering from severe and incurable diarrhoea, dysentery and scurvy. Slighter ailments, such as dictated the relief of a soldier on active service from military duty and his entry on sick report, were of necessity unnoticed. Hence the annual ratio of sick per thousand persons present, and the ratio of deaths to cases, as-represented in the table, are certainly far from accurate, and are not admissible for comparison with the records of the Confederate troops on active service. Nevertheless Dr. JONES instituted the comparison and concluded that the diseases referable to exposure without proper clothing and shelter were as prevalent among the Confederate troops as among the Federal prisoners. The following by Dr. J. C. BATES, who was on duty at the prison hospital from April 22, 1864, to March 26, 1865, is of interest in this connection'
"I regret to say that the supply of wood was not sufficient to keep the prisoners from what we term freezing to death. They would not, perhaps, actually freeze to death, but a patient whose blood is thin, and his system worn down, is very susceptible to the influence of cold. In the absence of sufficient food, sufficient stimulus, and especially in the absence of fuel, many of the patients (I speak now of what I saw in my own ward) would, during the night, become so chilled that in the morning, passing round, I would remark to my steward, 'Last night did the work for that poor fellow--he will die;' or 'This one will die; I cannot resuscitate him with the means in my hands, his system is so reduced.' Lying upon the ground during those chilly nights (the weather was not freezing, but sufficient to thoroughly chill the whole system), the patient would reach a condition in which resuscitation was a matter of impossibility after he commenced going down hill from this exposure. I have seen a number die in that way."--Report on the Treatment of Prisoners of War by the Rebel Authorities, 2d Sess., 40th Cong., p. 118.
The figures expressing the relations of individual diseases to the total cases of specified diseases are modified by the exclusion of the many cases of slight ailments which were unnoted, and by the errors in diagnosis consequent on the disposition of so many cases by one medical officer. On September 18, 1864, 906 new cases were reported as taken on sick report; but as none were so reported on the two following days, it may be assumed that these three days were spent in the transfer of the men in question to the sick report. Ten hours.daily of uninterrupted labor on the part of the medical officer would have afforded about two minutes for the diagnosis and treatment of each case; but this officer was not at liberty, to allow so much time to the new cases, for the 1,102 cases carried forward from the previous day claimed some share of his attention. Naturally, under such conditions, the diagnosis and management of a majority of the cases devolved upon the intelligence of the probably unskilled men who, having given their parole, were granted the freedom of the post and filled subordinate offices in its domestic economy.
Overlooking the influence of inaccurate diagnosis, the annual death rate tabulated may be accepted as a close approximation to the actual mortality. In this consists the chief value of the extracts made by Dr. JONES from the records. During the six months 7,712 deaths occurred in the average strength of 19,453 prisoners present, equaling an
(*) "At this time only one medical officer was in attendance, whereas at least twenty medical officers should have been employed"--JONES, op. cit., p. 512.
annual rate of 792.8 per thousand, or the extinction of the whole 19,453 in about fifteen months. By comparing those columns of Tables XV and XVI which give expression to the total number of deaths, it will be found that the mortality was much greater during the first six months than during the last eight months, 7,712 deaths having been recorded during the former period, which number was increased to but 12,541 by the addition of those that occurred later. This might indicate that disease became less prevalent or less fatal as time progressed, or that the number of men in confinement became considerably reduced. In the absence of a knowledge of the strength present this point cannot be settled; but it is of interest to observe that while the greater number of the specified diseases participated in this diminished mortality there was one very marked exception. Thus. deaths from continued fevers, numbering 199 in the first six months, became increased to 241 during the whole period, an addition of only 42 fatal cases for the last eight months. Malarial fevers, numbering 119, became correspondingly incrceased by 44. Only 2 deaths from the eruptive fevers occurred in the last eight months, as against 80 in the earlier period. Diarrhoea and dysentery ended fatally in 4,529 cases during the first six months, and in 5,605 cases during the whole period, an addition of only 1,076 deaths for the last eight months. And so of most of the diseases specified. But scurvy, which occasioned 999 deaths in the first period, had by the end of the second period increased the number of its victims to 3,614 by an addition of 2,613 cases.
The aggravation of the scorbutic element, as time progressed, is manifested by these figures. Of the 7 712 deaths that took place in the first period, diarrhoea and dysentery caused 4,529, or 636 of every thousand, and scurvy 999, or 140 of every thousand. Of the 4,829 deaths that occurred during the second period, diarrhoea and dysentery caused 1,076, or 223 in every thousand, while scurvy caused 2,613, or 541 in every thousand. At first more than one-half of the victims fell before the causes of diarrhoea and dysentery, but later scurvy assumed the role of chief executioner. Together they occasioned more than three-fourths of the total mortality.
Dr. JONES says: The effect of scurvy was manifest on every hand, and in all its various stages, from the muddy pale complexion, pale gums, feeble, languid, muscular motions, lowness of spirits, and fetid breath, to the dusky, dirty, leaden complexion, swollen features, spongy, purple, livid, fungoid, bleeding gums, loose teeth, oedematous limbs, covered with livid vibices and petechiae, spasmodically fiexed, painful and hardened extremities, spontaneous haemorrhages from mucous canals, and large, ill-conditioned, spreading ulcers covered with a dark purplish fungous growth.
In some of the cases of scurvy the parotid glands were greatly swollen, and in some instances to such an extent as to preclude entirely the power of articulation. In several cases of dropsy of the abdomen and lower extremities supervening upon scurvy, the patients affirmed that previous to the appearance of the dropsy they had suffered with profuse and obstinate diarrhoea; and that when this was checked by a change of diet from Indian-corn bread, cooked with the husk, to rice, the dropsy appeared. The severe pains and livid patches were frequently associated with swellings in various parts, and especially in the lower extremities, accompanied with stiffness and contractions of the knee-joints and ankles, and often with a brawny feel of the parts, as if lymph had been effused between the integuments and aponeurosis, preventing the motion of the skin over the swollen parts. * * *
The scorbutic ulcers presented a dark, purple, fungoid, elevated surface, with livid, swollen edges, and exuded a thin, fetid, sanious fluid instead of pus. Many ulcers which originated from the scorbutic condition of the system appeared to become truly gangrenous, assuming all the characteristics of hospital gangrene.
From the crowded condition, filthy habits, bad diet, dejected and depressed condition of the prisoners, their systems had become so disordered that the smallest abrasion of the skin, from the rubbing of a shoe, or from the effects of the hot sun, or from the prick of a splinter, or from scratching a mosquito's bite, in some cases took on a rapid and frightful ulceration and gangrene.
Dr. JONES was surprised at the comparative absence of typhoid and typhus fevers, notwithstanding the prevalence of the conditions that are supposed to produce them, and attributes this to the immunity derived from a previous attack, or to an insusceptibility resulting from continued exposure. According to the records continued fevers constituted only 17.9 of every thousand cases. They were thus comparatively rare, but this arose from the increased prevalence of diarrhoeal and scorbutic cases rather than from the actual infrequency of typhoid. An annual rate of 77.4 cases of the continued fevers per thousand of strength was recorded; and, as has been already shown, the figures representing the prevalence of disease within the stockade greatly understate the facts. This rate is considerably higher than the average annual rate among our white or colored troops; although, as might be expected, it falls below that shown on Table XIV, as prevailing in the camps of the Federal and Confederate Armies of the Potomac when typhoid was epidemic in many of the new regiments. Continued fevers caused 26.4 deaths annually in every thousand prisoners, as compared with 11.6 deaths among our white troops.
Malarial fevers were infrequent among the prisoners; but as their percentage of fatal cases was much larger than among the United States or Confederate troops, 4 per cent. as against 1.15 and.95 respectively,(*) it is probable that numbers of intermittent and remittent attacks were not recorded.
The other diseases specified were presumably of more common occurrence among the prisoners than among our troops in active service; certainly they were more fatal.
Bronchitis, which in the field gave an annual death rate of.49 per thousand of strength, caused a rate of 9.2 among the prisoners, while the corresponding rates for inflammation of the lungs and pleura were 6.3 and 27.4.
This extensive prevalence and terrible fatality of disease among the Andersonville prisoners creates no surprise when the unsanitary conditions affecting them are taken into consideration. These were officially investigated by Dr. JONES, and are fully developed in the report of the Committee of the House of Representatives on the treatment of prisoners of war by the rebel authorities during the War of the Rebellion.(++)
The Andersonville stockade and prison hospital were established on a naturally healthy site in the highlands of Sumter County, Ga. The former enclosed twenty-seven acres, consisting of the northern and southern exposures of two rising grounds, between which lay some swampy bottom and a stream running from west to east. In August, 1864, nearly 33,000 prisoners were crowded together on this area, which afforded but little more than 35 square feet for each. But even this limited space was not wholly available, as six acres of the bottom land had by this time become unfit for occupation. Each prisoner had therefore scarcely 28 square feet of surface on which to conduct all the operations of nature. The Confederate guard occupied the fortified exterior of the stockade.
No shelter from the sun, wind or rain, the dews of night or the frosts of winter, was furnished by the Confederate government. Fresh arrivals of prisoners were driven into the stockade and left to find so many feet of foul surface for their occupancy among the army of ragged, vermin-covered, emaciated and dying men already there. The pines and other small trees that had originally sparsely covered the enclosure had been cut down. Fragments of tent-canvas, blankets, oil-cloth and clothing were stretched upon sticks as a protection from the hot sun. Some of the men burrowed in the ground and others built huts of the mud removed from these burrows.
The sinks were built over the lower portion of the stream, but the volume and flow of the water was insufficient to carry off the excreta. Heavy rainfalls causing the stream to
(*) See Table XIII supra p. 31.
(+) See infra, note (*), page 109.
(++) Report No. 45, House of Representatives, 3d Sess., 40th Congress, Government Printing Office. Washington, D. C., 1869.
overflow spread the foul accumulations over the adjoining bottom lands, converting them into a quagmire of fermenting filth the stench from which has been represented as horrible, sickening and indescribable. Speaking of the stream as it issued from the stockade, JONES says:
As these waters, loaded with filth and human excrement, flow sluggishly through the swamp below, filled with trees and reeds coated with a filthy deposit, they emit an intolerable and most sickening stench. Standing as I did over these waters in the middle of a hot day in September, as they rolled sluggishly forth from the stockade, after having received the filth and excrement of twenty thousand men, the stench was disgusting and overpowering; and if it was surpassed in unpleasantness by anything, it was only in the disgusting appearance of the filthy, almost stagnant, waters moving slowly between the stumps and roots and fallen trunks of trees and thick branches of reeds, with innumerable long-tailed, large white maggots, swollen peas, and fermenting excrement, and fragments of bread and meat.
But the pollution of the soil was not confined to the bottom-lands. Many of the men were so prostrated by diarrhoea and scurvy that they were unable to reach the low-grounds on every call of nature, and the general surface of the enclosure became covered with their morbid dejections. The ground was honey-combed with small pits a foot or two in depth, which were used as latrines and emitted an intolerable stench. Later, the tattered clothes of these men became the receptacle for their involuntary discharges; and ultimately the foul and wasted forms were carried out for burial. In the vicious atmosphere of this prison-pen myriads of flies and mosquitoes were developed, which would have made life a misery even to healthy men.
There is one form of disease which is almost too horrible to be witnessed, yet we cannot understand the wretchedness of the prison without looking upon it. This is not a solitary case, but we shall find numerous ones before we leave this living charnel-house. We instinctively pause as we reach the awful sight before us, holding our breath lest we inhale the terrible stench that arises from it. Here is a living being who has become so exhausted from exposure that he is unable to rise from the ground, suffering from diarrhoea in its last form. He is covered with his own faeces; the vermin crawl and riot upon his flesh, tumbling undisturbed into his eyes and ears and open mouth; the worms are feeding beneath his skin, burying themselves where his limbs, swollen with scurvy, have burst open in running sores; they have even found their way into his intestines and form a living, writhing mass within him. His case has been represented to the surgeons, but they have pronounced him incurable, and he is left here in his misery, in which he will linger for three or four days more.(*)
But all the sick in the stockade were not left thus to die when their strength had failed them. The 1,292 fatal cases in which no diagnosis was made may be supposed to represent those exceptional cases in which the medical officers on duty became first aware of the sickness by a knowledge of the death. It will be observed that such exceptions constituted one-tenth of the total mortality.(+)
In fact, an effort was made to aggregate the sick of the stockade, nearly 2,000 in number at the period of JONES' visit, in four long sheds open on all sides and situated at the north end of the enclosure. Here the haggard, helpless, hopeless miserables lay side by side on the boards or upon such ragged and vermin-covered blankets as they possessed, without bedding--without even straw--while foul emanations and swarms of flies constituted their atmosphere.
The Confederate Congress in May, 1861, passed a bill providing that the rations furnished to prisoners of war should be the same in quantity and quality as those issued to the enlisted men in the Army of the Confederacy. The daily ration per man officially consisted of one pound of beef or three-quarters of a pound of bacon, and one and one-
(*) Op. cit., last note, page 40.
(+) It appears that Andersonville, Ga., was not the only prison in which the sick were left to die in quarters without the care or knowledge of the surgeon. A letter to his office from the Adjutant General's Office, dated June 22, 1878, states that for the month of December, 1864, alone, the Confederate "burial report" at Salisbury, N. C., shows that out of 1,115 deaths, 223 or 20 per cent. died in prison quarters and were not accounted for in the report of the surgeon.
quarter pounds of corn-meal, with an occasional issue of beans, rice, molasses and vinegar. Although this may have been the issue at first, there is no doubt that it was diminished at a later period. ISAIAH H. WHITE, chief surgeon of the prison, in a. report dated August 6, 1864, speaks thus of the diet of the prisoners:
The ration consists of one-third pound of bacon and one and a quarter pounds of meal. The meal is unbolted, and when baked the bread is coarse and irritating, producing diseases of the organs of the digestive system [diarrhoea and dysentery]. The absence of vegetable diet has produced scurvy to an alarming extent, especially among the old prisoners.
It is also well established that this miserable diet was generally not only of an inferior but of a dangerous quality. The beef was often tainted, the bacon decomposing, and the meal musty, innutritious and irritant, the cob having been ground up with the grains. Moreover, the ration was frequently issued to the prisoners imperfectly cooked. Nearly three months after the establishment of the prison the surgeon in charge reported to the commanding officer that--
The bakery and other culinary arrangements have just been completed, up to which time there had been an inadequate supply of cooking utensils, and in consequence thereof the articles of diet have been insufficiently cooked.
Frequently the food was issued in the raw state. Those of the prisoners who had the strength and energy to cook their allowance, lacked the necessary fuel and kitchen utensils, while many were incapable of the effort had all the facilities been afforded. The issue had, therefore, to be devoured in this condition, if the pangs of hunger were acute and the individual had not as yet reached the stage of apathy that preceded death. Many also were incapable of eating the ration even if properly cooked, on account of the condition of their teeth and gums. Lieutenant-Colonel D. T. CHANDLER, Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General, in his report of an inspection of the prison on August 5, 1864, says of the rations and their preparation:
The sanitary condition of the prisoners is as wretched as can be, the principal cause of mortality being scurvy and chronic diarrhoea, the percentage of the former being disproportionately large among those brought from Belle Isle. Nothing seems to have been done, and but little if any effort made, to arrest it by procuring proper food. The ration is 1/3 pound of bacon and 1 1/4 pounds of unbolted corn-meal, with beef at rare intervals, and occasionally rice. When to be obtained--very seldom--a small quantity of molasses is substituted for the meat ration. A little weak vinegar, unfit for use, has sometimes been issued. The arrangements for cooking and baking have been wholly inadequate, and though additions are now being completed, it will still be impossible to cook for the whole number of prisoners. Raw rations have to be issued, to a very large proportion, who are entirely unprovided with proper utensils, and furnished so limited a supply of fuel they are compelled to dig with their hands in the filthy marsh before mentioned for roots, &c.
But as this monotonous diet, inferior in quality, insufficient in quantity, and having its intrinsic harmful properties aggravated by the absence of facilities for its proper preparation was undoubtedly the cause of the diarrhoea, scurvy and starvation, which killed three-fourths of the prisoners who were buried at Andersonville, and contributed largely to the fatal event in the remainder of the cases, all details concerning it have a high etiological value. The following is therefore submitted from the Report of the Committee of the House of Representatives, already cited:
The rations consisted of corn-meal, bacon, fresh beef, peas, rice, salt and sorghum molasses. The corn-meal was unbolted, some of it ground with the cob, and often filled with sand and gravel. Much of it had apparently been put up while warm, and had become sour and musty either during transportation or while in store. The bacon was lean, yellow, very salt and maggoty; it had been brought to us unpacked, and was covered with dirt and cinders; it was so soft with rust that it could easily be pulled in pieces with the fingers. The beef was slaughtered near the prison, to which it was brought and thrown down in a pile in the north cook-house, where it lay until it was issued to the prisoners. Here, in the hot climate, it was soon infested with flies and maggots, and rapidly changed into a greenish color, emitting an offensive odor peculiar to decaying flesh; it was very lean, but the heat rendered it quite tender before it was served up. The article denominated black peas, or cow-peas, was brought in sacks, apparently just as it had left the threshing ground of the producer, having never been winnowed or cleansed of the fine pods or dirt which naturally mingles with all leguminous plants while growing in the field; besides, they were filled with bugs, and many of them were so eaten as to leave nothing but the thick, tough skin of the pea in its natural shape. The rice was sour or musty, and had apparently been put up ins half-dried state, when it became heated and wholly unfitted for use.
There were two cook-houses used in connection with the prison. The first of these was in process of erection when the detachment to which I belonged entered the pen, and went into operation shout the middle of May. It was located on the north side of and near the swamp west of the prison, and was subsequently enclosed by the defensive stockades. At the time it was built it was supposed to be of sufficient capacity to perform all the cooking necessary for the prisoners, and contained three large brick ovens, and several kettles set in brick-work, for boiling the meat and peas or rice,: but it being found inadequate to supply the wants of the men, another building was constructed some time in the latter part of August. It was located about a hundred yards north of the defences, on aline with the west wall of the prison. This was designed and used exculsively for boiling the peas and the meat, and contained perhaps a dozen large potash kettles set in brick-work. The old cook-house was thereafter used for baking the corn-meal. A strong force of parole(! prisoners was appointed to perform the work in these cook-houses, but with constant labor was unable to supply our wants, and about one-half of the rations were issued raw.
The meal was prepared for baking by first pouring it in quantity into a large trough made for the purpose. A little salt was then added, when water enough was poured in to make it of the proper consistency, and the whole stirred with sticks to mix it thoroughly. The dough was baked in sheet-iron pans twenty-four by sixteen inches in surface and two and one-half inches deep. The whole was divided into pones containing about a pound, and each of these pones constituted a day's ration of bread for one man. The utmost cleanliness could not be observed in mixing this "stuff;" the meal, as above stated, was partly corn and partly cob, and often contained materials that were neither of these; the water was dipped in quantity from the creek, and no means of cleansing it were furnished; and these, with the haste necessary to be made in preparing the dough, conspired to make the mixture unpalatable slid sickening, particularly when cold. The prisoners who had charge of the cook-house undoubtedly tried to prepare the food as well as they could, but all of their efforts were in vain with such limited facilities as they had.
The peas and rice were boiled in the north cook-house; they were turned from the bags as they were brought to the prison, without cleansing or separating from the chaff and dirt, into the large potash kettles containing the water in which the meat had been boiled; the cooks here, as in the south cook-house, had no means of cleansing the raw material, and had they possessed the facilities they had no time to devote to the purpose. To winnow, semiweekly, a sufficient amount of peas for l6,000 rations, allowing a third of a pint to each, requires a long time even with the aid of the best machines; but for twenty men to pick over by hand this vast amount is simply impossible. of these cooked rations there were daily issued to each prisoner about a pound of bread, a fourth of a pound of bacon, or four or six ounces of beef (including the bone) in place of the bacon, and a teaspoonful of salt; twice a week a pint of peas or rice were issued in addition, and occasionally a couple of tablespoonfuls of sorghum molasses. Sometimes a sort of mush was made to take the place of the pone, but, although it was a change from the monotonous corn-bread, it was so unpalatable that the bread was preferred. About half of the rations were issued raw; * * * one-half of the prisoners receiving raw food one day and cooked the next. I have here given the quantity issued during the early part of the season; but as the hot weather advanced and the number confined here increased, the daily allowance diminished until it became but a mere morsel to each man. * * * (*) (*)
Some time in the afternoon the ration-wagon drove into the stockade laden with corn-meal, bacon and salt, which were thrown down into a heap in an open space about midway the enclosure. It was a horrible sight to witness the haggard crowd gathered about this precious pile, while the commissary superintended its division among the squad sergeants; gazing, meanwhile, with wolfish eyes upon the little heap as it diminished, or following their sergeant-commissary back to his quarters, as famished swine follow clamorously the footsteps of their master as he carries their food to the accustomed trough. The rations were distributed by the division-sergeant to the mess-sergeant, who then divided them among the men. To avoid quarrelling during the last distribution, it was the custom among all the messes for the mess-sergeant to separate the rations into as many small parcels as there were man in the mess; one man of the mess was placed a short distance off, with Ilia back towards the parcels, in such a position that he could not see them; the mess-sergeant then pointed to one, with the words, "Who has this?" to which the man replied announcing the name of the recipient, when it was given to him. In this manner the whole number was gone through with, with satisfaction to all.
Iron bake-pans, like those used by the Confederate soldiers, had been issued to the prisoners who first arrived at this place, in which to bake their own meal anti fry their bacon; but nothing of the kind was ever given out afterwards, to my knowledge. The United States soldiers, as is well known, were never provided with other cooking utensils than mess-kettles and mess-pans, both too large to be transported in any other way than upon army wagons. At the time of our capture, in numerous instances, the tin cups and plates which we had were taken from us; our knives, it will be remembered, were confiscated at Danville; nothing, therefore, was left in our possession with which to cook our raw food after it was given us. How to accomplish this necessary feat was a grave question. We made shift, however, with chips, half canteens, tin cups that had escaped confiscation, and pieces of sheet-iron, to bake one side of the stuff, while the other was scarcely warmed through. The solder of the tin, melting and mingling with the bread, added another to our almost innumerable hardships. But with all our care and labor, the rations were at last devoured in a half-cooked state--a fact which aided in the increase of the frightful misery that subsequently occurred, quite as much as the small quantity that was issued.
The prison hospital covered about five acres of ground. It was established in a grove of forest trees which afforded a grateful shade to the unhappy and suffering men. Its atmosphere was polluted by the foul effluvia from the stockade; but irrespective of this, its own emanations rendered it as unfit for occupation as was the general pen. The men were crowded together in old and ragged tents; neither beds nor straw were furnished, and the patients lay in bunks or on the ground, often without even a blanket over them. Sick men, unable to visit the latrines, made use of small wooden boxes in the lanes behind the tents.
Millions of flies swarmed over everything and covered the faces of the sleeping patients, and crawled down their open mouths, and deposited their maggots in the gangrenous wounds of the living and in the mouths of the dead. Myriads of mosquitoes also infested the tents, and many of the patients were so stung by these pestiferous insects that they appeared as if they were suffering from a slight attack of measles. * * * (*) (*)
The cooking arrangements were of the most miserable and defective character. Two large iron pots similar to those used for boiling sugar-cane were the only cooking utensils furnished by the hospital for the cooking of near two thousand men; and the patients were dependent in great measure upon their own miserable utensils. They were allowed to cook in the tent-doors and in the lanes, and this was another source of filth and another favorable condition for the generation of flies and other vermin.(*)
The rations of the hospital appear to have differed from those of the stockade only in having an occasional addition of potatoes. Indeed, it would seem that but for the shelter of the ragged tents, the shade of the trees and the increased area, the hospital patient had little advantage over the prisoner in the stockade. The supply of medicines was generally deficient, often exhausted, and medical comforts were unknown.
At the time of Dr. Jones' visit one medical officer attended to the sick in the stockade while three were on hospital duty. Generally, however, the medical staff consisted of six or eight for the prison and four or five for the hospital. These officers labored faithfully to alleviate the misery and suffering by which they were surrounded, but unfortunately they were powerless to effect a change in the methods of the establishment.
Day after day, for weeks and months, those surgeons labored, breathing the unwholesome air, and in constant contact with those horrible diseases; but they were patient, faithful men, and their sympathy with the victims often benefited them as much as the medicines they prescribed. * * * I gladly record the little acts of kindness performed by them, for they were verdant spots in that vast Sahara of misery. Drs. WATKINS, ROWZIE, THORNBURN, REEVES, WILLIAMS, JAMES, THOMPSON, PILOTT and SANDERS deserve, and will receive, the lasting gratitude of the prisoners who received medical treatment at their hands during that memorable summer at Andersonville.(+)
The medical profession owes a debt of gratitude to the gentlemen mentioned in the above extract, and to their colleagues on duty in the prison hospital, in that their labors, however fruitless on behalf of the unfortunate men confined at Andersonville, have permitted one unsullied paragraph to appear on that foulest page of American or any other history. The papers published by Dr. JONES, and by the Committee of the House of Representatives, show that Dr. I. H. WHITE, the surgeon in charge of the prison camp, repeatedly called the attention of his superiors to the deplorable condition of the prisoners, appealing for medical and hospital supplies, additional medical officers, an adequate supply of cooking utensils, hospital tents and even for straw for bedding. It is true his requisitions and recommendations should have been put in stronger language; but he probably recognized how utterly fruitless and unprofitable would be appeals to the humanity of an authority whose inhumanity rendered such appeals necessary. The following extract from his report, dated August 6, 1864, to General JNO. H. WINDER, the Commandant of the prison, shows him neither insensible to the suffering around him nor ignorant of the causes that made the prison-pen a charnel-house.
(*) JONES, page 520.
(+) H. M. DAVlDSON, lst Ohio Light Artillery, page 49 of the report of the Committee already cited.
The evils within the power of the proper authorities to correct:
I. The crowded condition of the prisoners.--The number within the stockade should not exceed fifteen thousand. This would allow ample reran for the remainder to be camped in order, with streets of sufficient width to allow free circulation of air and enforcement of police regulations. All that portion of the camp on the north side of the stream could then be used for exercise, where roll-call could also be held, thereby materially aiding the commandant of the interior.
II. Construction of barracks and hospital accommodation.--There should be no delay in the construction of barracks; with the greatest amount of energy it will be difficult to complete them before the cold weather comes on, when they will be required more than at present. Too great stress cannot be placed on the necessity for the construction of proper accommodations for the sick. There are at present two thousand two hundred and eight in hospital, all poorly provided for, and some three hundred without any shelter whatever. There are also at least one thousand men now in stockade who are helpless, and should be at once removed to hospital. Their removal is prevented by the absence of accommodations. The construction of hospitals should be at once begun, and in the meantime the sick should he at once transferred to some point where they can he properly provided for. An officer should he employed to arrange the stream passing through the stockade. The bottom-land should be covered over with sand, the stream be made deeper and wider, the walls and bottom covered with plank; the same arrangements to continue outside, conducting the drainage freely to the creek beyond, and if necessary, build a dam to prevent the overflow of the hanks. The stream from stockade to the railroad should also he improved, and the use of it by the troops outside should he prohibited. Sinks should be at once arranged over the stream of such a nature as to render them inviting; at present, those who have an inclination to use them have to wade through mud and faeces to use them. At the upper part of the stream proper bathing arrangements should be constructed.
III. Enforcing stringent police regulations--Some stringent rules of police should be established, and scavenger wagons should be sent in every day to remove the collections of filth. A large quantity of mouldy bread and other decomposing matter scattered through the camp and beyond the dead-line should be removed at once. If necessary, sentinels should be instructed to fire on any one committing a nuisance in other places than the sinks.
IV. Establishment of regulations in regard to cleanliness.--It should be the duty of Confederate sergeants, attending roll-calls, or others, to see that all the men of their command bathe at stated intervals, and that their clothes are washed at least once a week. For this purpose soap should be issued to the prisoners.
V. Improvement in rations.--The meal should he bolted and sifted before being used. Arrangements should he speedily made by which rice, beans and other anti-scorbuties should be issued during the present season; green corn might be issued in lieu of bread ration, if not regularly, at least three times a week. If possible, the prisoners should be supplied with vinegar, and with an occasional issue of molasses in lieu of the meat ration, which would tend greatly to correct the scurvy which prevails to a great extent.
The deaths at Camp Sumter, Andersonville, Ga., during the fourteen months of its occupation numbered about 13,000, when the unrecorded casts are taken into consideration. But these figures greatly underrate the mortality consequent on the treatment to which the prisoners were subjected. Thousands of men died after their liberation from this and other southern prisons. There are no records on file showing the subsequent history of the Andersonville captives; but the following communication indicates the probabilities with respect to them, in detailing the condition of those exchanged from Richmond, Va.:
I have the honor to make the following general report of the condition of patients (sick and wounded) who arrived at and were admitted to this hospital front "Belle Island," Va., per flag-of-truce steamer "New York," via City Point, Va., on the 29th instant:
This vessel left City Point with one hundred and eighty-nine sick and wounded. Before she arrived at Fortress Monroe four men died; on the trip from Fortress Monroe to this place four more died--leaving one hundred and eighty-one to be admitted.
Language is inadequate to express fully the condition of this number, and none but those who saw them can have any appreciable idea of their condition. I do not pretend to particularize, for every case presented evidences of ill-treatment: every one wore the visage of hunger, the expression of despair, and exhibited the ravages of some preying disease or the wreck of a once athletic frame.
I only generalize, therefore, when I say their external appearance was wretched in the extreme. Many had neither hats nor shoes, few had a whole garment; many were clothed merely with a tattered blouse or the remnant of a coat, and a poor apology for a shirt. Some had no under-clothing, and, I believe, none had a blanket. Their hair was dishevelled, their beards long and caked with the most loathsome filth, and their bodies and clothing swarmed with vermin.
Their frames were in most instances all that was left of them. A majority had scarcely vitality to enable them to stand. Their dangling, bony, attenuated arms and legs, sharp, pinched features, cadaveric countenances, deep, sepulchral eyes, and voices that could hardly be distinguished (some, indeed, were unable to articulate) presented a picture which could not he looked upon without calling forth the strongest emotions of pity.
Upon those who had no wounds, its well as on the wounded, were large foul ulcers and sores, principally on their shoulders and hips, produced by lying on the hard ground; and those that were wounded had received no attention, their wounds being in a filthy, offensive condition. One man, who died on the trip from Fortress Monroe told the surgeon previous to death that his wound had not been dressed since the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., where he was wounded in the head, having both tables of the posterior part of the skull fractured.
Most of the cases were suffering with diarrhoea---some of them with involuntary evacuations--their clothes being the only receptacle for them, and they too weak to remedy the difficulty. This being the case, you can, of course, imagine the stench emitted from them. Many had pneumonia; some in the advanced stages were gasping for breath. Delirious with fever, many knew not their destination or were not conscious of their arrival nearer home; or racked with pain, many cared not whither they went or considered whether life was dear or not; in some life was slowly ebbing, from mere exhaustion and the gradual wasting of the system. How great must be the mortality, then, of these men, and how dreadful among those still suffering the horrors of imprisonment. Every man who could, rejoiced over his escape, deplored the scenes through which he had passed, and mourned the lot of those he had left behind. Weak and debilitated, they wished but to die among their friends, a wish which, unfortunately, will be realized in too many instances.--Letter of Acting Assistant Surgeon S. J. RADCLIFFE, U. S. A., Medical Officer of the day, at the U. S. General Hospital, Division No. 1, Annapolis, Md., reporting to the Surgeon in charge the condition of the sick and wounded admitted October 29, 1863, from Belle Isle, via City Point, Va.
The records of the prison hospital at Danville, Va., extending from November 23, 1863, to March 27, 1865, furnish a total of 4,332 cases admitted. As 157 of these were cases of wounds and injuries and 7 cases in which no diagnosis was recorded, the number remaining as due to specified diseases is 4,168. But since there is no record oŁ what became of 429 of these cases, the number of terminated cases of specified disease is reduced to 3,739, of which, 1,074 or 28.7 per cent. were fatal. An examination of the following table will discover the absolute and relative mortality of the prominent diseases for comparison with the Andersonville record, already presented, and with the records of our Northern prisons, to be submitted hereafter.
Summarizing the Records of the Prison Hospital at Danville, Va., Nov. 23, 1863, to March 27, 1865.
Cases admitted into hospital Cases with
with recorded results
Died Ratio of cases per 1,000
cases admitted with specified diseases
Ratio of deaths per 1,000
deaths from specified disease
Total cases 4,332 437 3,895 1,084 Wounds and injuries 157 6 151 10 Not specified 7 2 5 0 Specified diseases 4,168 429 3,739 1,074 1,000 1,000 28.7 Continued Fevers 69 12 57 12 16.7 11.1 21.1 Malarial Fevers 235 19 216 17 56.4 15.8 7.9 Eruptive Fevers 880 258 622 165 211.1 153.6 26.5 Diarrhoea and Dysentery 1,418 51 1,367 451(a) 340.2 420.0 32.8 Debility 178 18 160 13 42.7 12.1 8.1 Dropsy 62 6 56 24 14.9 22.4 42.9 Consumption 18 1 17 7 4.3 6.5 41.2 Rheumatism 348 17 331 18 83.5 16.8 5.4 Scurvy 91 2 89 6 21.8 5.6 6.7 Bronchitis 269 12 257 31 64.5 28.9 12.1 Pneumonia and Pleurisy 314 19 295 88 75.3 81.9 29.8 Other diseases 286 14 272 242 68.6 225.3 89.0
(a) Dr. WOODWARD, on page 35, Part II of this work, gives the number of deaths from diarrhoea and dysentery as 592 instead of 451. The record shows that while in 1,367 terminated cases there occurred 451 deaths, by following out the histories of the cases other titan diarrhoea and dysentery 141 of these are found to have proved fatal by the supervention of the prevailing intestinal flux. This accounts, for instance, for the high death-rate attaching to the cases tabulated under the caption of "other diseases."
Diarrhoea and the eruptive fevers, small-pox chiefly, occasioned the largest number of admissions as well as of deaths. Diarrhoeas constituted 340.2 of every thousand cases of disease, and caused 420 of every thousand deaths from disease. But scurvy, which exercised so fatal an influence at Andersonville, was less manifest here, as it occasioned only 21.8 of every thousand cases and 5.6 of every thousand deaths. The general percentage of fatal cases of disease in this prison was only 28.7, as compared with 73.7, the Andersonville percentage. Evidently the prisoners at Danville were treated with comparative humanity, although the mortality among the cases was nearly three-fold that reported among the Confederate soldiers treated in the Chimborazo Hospital at Richmond, Va.(*) The ratios of sickness and deaths to the strength present were no doubt correspondingly augmented among the prisoners, although in the absence of data it is impossible to give any other titan this vague expression of the facts.
Source: Medical/Surgical History--Part III, Volume I, Chapter I.--On The Medical Statistics Of The War. III.--Prevalence And Mortality Of Disease Among The Union Troops In Confederate Prisons.
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