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À NARROW ESOAPE.
Unfortunately, in the morning the magazine blew and wounding several hundred more. Among our officers who fell in the assault were Colonels Bell and Moore, and Lieutenant Colonel Lyman, killed, and Colonels Curtis, Pennypacker and Lieutenant Colonel Coan, wounded. In the fleet the loss of which in the assault was about two hundred, Lieutenants Preston and Porter were killed, and Lamson and Bache, wounded. The other forts in the vicinity, one after another, with eighty-three cannon now fell into our hands, the garrisons retiring to Wilmington.
In the meantime Thomas' army being no longer needed in Tennessee, was broken up; and A. J. Smith's command, with a division of cavalry, ordered to report to General Canby, while Schofield's Corps was brought east and sent to Fort Fisher, and Newbern. North Carolina was created a separate military department, and placed under the latter, with orders to report to General Sherman.
But while we were rejoicing in our victories on the Cape Fear River, a disaster came very near befalling the Army of the Potomac, that would speedily have wiped out its remembrance. Knowing that our war vessels were nearly all
away at the former place, the rebels on the night of the 24th sent four iron-clads down the James River, with the intention of severing the armies on the two sides of the stream, and, reaching City Point to destroy the communications of
A heavy rebel force in the meantime, was massed north of the James, to fall on our army there the moment success was announced. The signal of this was to be the burning of a high tower at City Point, erected by us for the purpose of overlooking the enemy's lines. The iron-clads broke through the obstructions at Dutch Gap canal-passed Fort Brady-drove back the only vessel we had stationed in the river, and bid fair to reach City Point. The utmost
consternation prevailed along our lines, and officers were seen galloping off in every direction. Fortunately the vessels grounded and one of them was blown up, and the other destroyed—so that the well-laid scheme totally failed.
In the Court of Inquiry summoned to investigate this affair, every officer but General Grant that was examined as a witness, testified, that had the rebel iron-clads reached City Point, the siege of Petersburg and Richmond would have been raised, as not another pound of provisions could have been got to the army. Grant, on the contrary, said he had provisions enough on hand, that with great economy might last two weeks, and he thought in that time the Government would have succeeded in re-opening his communications. Thus it will be seen even on Grant's testimony, that his salvation would have depended alone on outside help, and not on any thing that he could do. The country never dreamed how narrow was our escape, and how much depended on a few, more or less inches of water.
The close of the month was made memorable by the ar. rival at Fortress Monroc of Alexander H. Stevens, Vice President of the Confederacy, R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia and J. A. Campbell, of Alabama, as Peace Commissioners from Jefferson Davis. President Lincoln and Secretary Seward met them two or three days after, on board a steamer, and had an informal interview. The rebel commissioners wished a postponement of the question of sepation, and proposed a cessation of hostilities and the resumption of intercourse between the two sections, to see what time and the subsidence of passion might effect. But Mr. Lincoln mildly yet firmly insisted on a complete restoration of the national authority every where, as the first condition to a cessation of hostilities, and hence the interview broke up
without any beneficial results.
EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS.
Nothing awakened more indignation at the North in the progress of the war than the treatment of our prisoners by the South, which during this Winter reached its climax. As stated in the previous volume, for more than a year after the war commenced we would consent to no cartel with the rebels, as it recognized them as belligerents—but finally, in the Summer of 1862 one was agreed upon, in which it was stipulated that prisoners should be exchanged man for man, and the excess, on either side, be paroled until regularly exchanged.
At that time the balance was greatly against us, and hence the cartel worked in our favor. But the introduction of colored regiments into our army, the soldiers of which the rebel authorities refused to place on the same footing as white ones, brought on an acrimonious correspondence between the Commissioners, Meredith and Ould; the latter insisting that the provisions of the original cartel should be carried out, and exchanges resumed, and the other refusing to consent to any exchange unless stipulations were made in regard to tüe colored soldiers. Besides, the prisoners captured at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, bad turned the balance in our favor by nearly thirty thousand, whom we were afraid to release on parole, having no confidence in the good faith of the Confederate Government. Hence, no regular system of exchanges could be agreed upon. General Butler endeavored, while commanding at Fortress Monroe, to establish one, but failed.
At length, the whole subject assumed a character disgraceful to both Governments. The rebel Government had so treated Union prisoners that they were utterly worthless for active service, if exchanged, while it was sadly in need of soldiers for its rapidly diminishing army, and hence proposed to exchange officer for officer, and man for man, as far as it could be done. To this proposition, our Commis
TREATMENT OF SULDIERS.
sioner refused to accede, giving various reasons for his refusal, but they failed to satisfy the people who were becoming clamorous on the subject.
The real fact was, the Secretary of War saw that while we could raise an indefinite number of men, the South was exhausted, and he had no idea of reinforcing its armies with thirty or forty thousand able-bodied men, and getting in return the same number of emaciated, half-starved, enfeebled soldiers, that would not be fit for duty till the war was over, if ever.
His motives, unquestionably, were right, and he thought that he was doing his country a service by keeping the rebel army reduced in this way. Doubtless, too, he thought this course would be a saving of life in the end, but it was cruel as the grave.
There are certain things to be done and to be left undone, without regard to consequences. A ruler may think it the quickest way to end a war, to massacre all the young men fit to bear arms, that he can capture, but the end sought to be obtained can never justify the use of such means. powerful nation, in war with a weaker one, might think that the shortest way to end the struggle, would be to hoist the black flag and give no quarter, and judge rightly, too; buu the whole civilized world would cry out against the barbarot, act.' And yet these measures have their excuses, but no course can be justified, that, for a probable good, allows brave soldiers, who have nobly struggled to sustain their Government, to languish and die in prison.
There is no class of men, whose interests and welfare should be so dear to the Government, as its soldiers captured in battle. So the country felt, and the pressure became at length su grrat on the Administration, that it was 21ada od to LUTA arver the whole matter to Guneral Grant. With he strong, pravvical conmon sense, and his love of the
mer Tht to
soldier, he did not long hesitate respecting the criarse be ought to adopt.
Not the injustice and wickedness of the South, nor the advantages that might accrue to it, could deter him from acting humanely to our own soldiers, and exchanging kan for man as long as it could be done.
The exchange of prisoners, under his wise administration, became very active, and as the emaciated, dying, half-idiotic forms of humanity, that had once been brave American soldiers, reached our lines, the barbaric, diabolical system practised in Southern prisons became painfully apparen. It was vain for the rebel authorities to say that their own soldiers lacked food, and that the inhabitants were starving, and that our prisoners only shared the common fate. Making all due allowance for the scarcity of provisions in the South, the treatment of our prisoners indicated a depth of moral degradation and a sevage hate, that will be a disgrace to Southern civilization as lorg as time endures. If such mhunanity and fiendish cruelty were ine resuri of Giardry, it rould need no deeper damnation.
We cannot go over the sickening details of Southern prison-life. Men left to perish with the scurvy-slowly eaten up with maggots-shot without excuse, and tortured, apparently, for mere love of cruelty, make up a picture from which the heart of any but a Fejee would turn with loaths ing and abhorrence.
The principal prisons, South, were Andersonville and Millen, Georgia ; Columbia, Florence, and Charleston, South Carolina ; Tyler, Texas; Salisbury, North Carolina ; Cahawba, Alabama; Danville, Virginia; and Libby, Pemberton, Castle Thunder, and Belle Isle, Richmond. Of these, Millen, Andersonville, and the Richmond prisons, were preeminent for infamous barbarity.
It is impossible to tell how many perished in these various