Tuesday, December 17, 2013

150-years-ago -- POW LIFE AT POINT LOOKOUT

Richmond Daily Dispatch
Dec. 17, 1862
Confederate prisoners of war.
(Library of Congress)

          We have had a conversation with Mr. Robert Craddock, late an orderly of the President, and afterwards connected with the detective force in this city, who was a short time ago captured by the Yankees on the Peninsula and taken to Point Lookout, from which place he escaped and arrived safely in this city a few days since. He gives the following particulars of prison life at Point Lookout:
          The prisoners' camp, under charge of Capt. Patterson, Provost Marshal, is surrounded by a fence most fourteen feet high, with a platform near the top, on the outside, on which the sentinels walk. The guard consists of three regiments of infantry, the 2d, 5th, and 12th New Hampshire, and a squadron of cavalry of the 2d regulars.
           The enclosure embraces about fifteen acres of ground, and the prisoners are in tents. Three thousand are in the small "A" tents, five to each tent; the rest (say about 6,000) are in Wall & Sibley tents, from 14 to 20 in a tent. The tents are laid off in camp form, 100 men to a company, and ten companies to a division. There are nine divisions.
         On one side of the enclosure are the mess houses, where 500 eat at one time, and each house feeds 1,500 men. The provisions consist of one-quarter of a pound of damaged pork or beef, and ten small crackers, (say, three-quarters of a pound,) and a pint of wash, called by the Yankees coffee. Occasionally rice or Irish potatoes are substituted for bread, and about once a fortnight half a loaf of soft bread and one spoonful of molasses. About twice a week they get what they call bean soup, in lieu of coffee. Each day a detail of five men from each company is made to go for wood, and as the guard will not let them go beyond the creek, they have to dig up stumps and roots in an open piece of new ground, without an axe, unless they steal one. With as much wood as would last comfortably for half an hour they must shiver over for four nights; and this is all the wood allowed them. Many of the prisoners have no-blankets, and nothing but the cold damp ground to sleep on.               About two weeks ago they had orders to appear in front of their quarters with knapsacks and blankets.--They were marched to the beach, and then passed in review as fast as possible (about four or five abreast) by the Provost Marshal. About one out of every five who had no blanket was told to stand aside, and was given a blanket. They presented a very woe-begone look, and were generally poorly clad and emaciated. Many have given up all hope, and will of course die.
          The hospital is laid off on two sides of a wide street, and each ward has two wall tents joined at the ends and holding fourteen beds. The kitchen or mess tent is at the end of the street. The sick are as well attended by the Confederate surgeons and nurses as the means given them will permit, but there has been weeks at a time when they had no medicine on hand of any kind. Three or four die daily in this hospital. When their cases seem hopeless they are taken to the general hospital on the Point, outside of the enclosure, and that is the last seen of them. For some time the dead were buried without coffin or box, but thrown in a hole just as they died. The small-pox hospital is situated on a creek outside of the main guard: The average number of cases are from six to eight per day, and about half of that number die. The patients must be very strong to recover with the treatment received, as they are in tents on the ground, on the bleak shore of the Potomac, and near the bay.
          The guard shoot the men without halting them. On one occasion five of them bribed the sentinel to allow them to escape, and after letting them pass he called the guard, and two of the men were shot after they surrendered. A young man, named McLeary, was shot through the head, exposing the brain, and then through the body, by a man who was called an officer. Another one of the men was shot down and kicked about after surrendering.--These men were made to walk about half a mile in that condition. This instance of brutality came under the immediate observation of Mr. Craddock, who vouches for its truth.

No comments: