Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/248

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

The Confederate government was aware of its inability to properly care for prisoners, and made every effort possible to turn them over to the Federal government, so that they could care for them, but they refused continually and finally General Grant put his positive veto upon the exchange of prisoners upon the grounds that if they were exchanged they would have to fight them. That is the greatest monument that I know of to the Confederate soldier; that they could not whip them in the field and the only way to conquer them would be to starve them to death.

The Federal prisoners got the same rations that the Confederate soldiers in the field received; the only difference being that the prisoners got their's regularly, while the soldiers in service frequently failed.

Another unavoidable hardship and one that caused many deaths in Southern prisons was that, except in Virginia and Tennessee, the South raised no wheat, and after 1862, the wheat growing section of these States was lost to the Confederacy. Hence, as corn was our only staple for bread, all were glad to get cornbread, a diet that the Northern man was unused to, and a less healthy bread in hot weather than wheat bread.

Your armies had burned our mills, destroyed our crops, both growing and gathered. Sheridan wrote Grant that a "crow passing through the Valley of Virginia would have to carry a haversack." Sheridan also said that "nothing should be left the people but eyes to lament the war." How then, Corporal, could we treat our prisoners "more humanely" with our eyes running great creeks of tears.

Sherman said "war is hell," and he made it so, and I charge the Federal government with deliberately starving and freezing to death Confederate prisoners. It was in their power to feed, clothe and shelter these men, but they gave them insufficient, and in some cases rotten cornmeal, when plenty of good, wholesome food could be had, and when remonstrated with, informed the prisoners that they were giving them the same diet that the South was giving the Northern prisoners; and Corporal Tanner says our soldiers were half-starved, and hence we could only half-feed our prisoners.