From the New York Herald, 1/6/1862

THE UNION PRISONERS AT BALTIMORE.
OUR BALTIMORE CORRESPONDENCE.

BALTIMORE, Jan. 4, 1862.

Two hundred and thirty-nine Union prisoners who have been confined at Richmond arrived here this morning by the steamer from Fortress Monroe. They were received, on landing, by the officers of the Union Relief Association of this city, and escorted to the spacious rooms provided by that society. These rooms occupy the whole space of a large four story building on South Eutaw street, near the depot of the Washington Railroad. On entering these hospitable apartments the weary and prison worn captives found warm fires blazing, and a welcome prepared for them which will cause them to remember the warm-hearted people of Baltimore to their dying day. Long tables were spread, covered with clean white clothes, on which were an abundance of the most excellent viands that the markets afford, all served up hot, in hotel style. From the time of their arrival till fifteen minutes to four o’clock in the afternoon, when they departed for Washington to report themselves at headquarters, they were the recipients of many acts of kindness and attention. During that time I conversed with a large number of them, all of whom I found highly intelligent. There was a disposition on the part of some to exaggerate the sufferings they had undergone and the indignities that had been visited upon them. But by far the larger number agree in the main facts stated below, which are certainly bad enough.

The prisoners, according to these accounts, were crowded together in tobacco warehouses, with nothing to sleep on but the floor, and but scanty covering. They had no conveniences for washing or for personal cleanliness. Their food was scanty and of the worst possible description, except the bread, which was fresh and sweet. From the time of their capture, July 21, until December 15, they were liable to be shot if seen at the windows. At the latter date, according to the Richmond Enquirer and the Richmond Dispatch, in both of which papers the statement appears, an order was issued by the military authorities forbidding this shooting in future. One case was related to me of exceeding barbarity. It was that of a young man whose self-denying kindness and attention to his comrades had won for him the respect and attachment of all. he was sitting at an open window smoking a pipe, but not leaning out of the window. Without the least provocation, some ruffian in the street fired at him. The ball passed through his head, killing him instantly. Dr. Higginbotham, mentioned, happened to be in the room at the time, and witnessed the shocking scene. There was a Swiss sergeant in charge of the prisoners, whose brutality is attested by them all. It was his duty to assemble them and call the roll every morning. If any were the least tardy in getting up, he would strike them over the head with the butt of his musket. His language uniformly was of the most vulgar and outrageous character. "Get up, you god damned s --- s of b ---- s," was his usual style. When any of the prisoners died their bodies were carried out to the dead house; but no one knew what became of them, or whether they were buried or not. Some of the men state that when coffins were provided the bodies were thrust into them without tenderness or decency, and if a leg or an arm happened be shattered or broken it was rudely doubled up or crushed in. Such is the dark side of the picture.

But there is, for the honor of humanity, a brighter side also. The prisoners all concur in the statement that they were occasionally visited by ladies, who never failed to leave behind some token of their visits. They brought them cakes, jellies and other delicacies; and often when the stern sentinels would refuse them admission they would seize the presented bayonet with their little hands, turn it aside, and thus eluding the guard, make their visit. Other ladies, in riding past in their carriages, threw bouquets of flowers in at the windows. One lady, with two beautiful daughters, is particularly mentioned as having been kind to the prisoners. Some of the prisoners, under a guard, were allowed to go to a spring for water. The guard remaining at some distance, women would occasionally meet them at the spring. One of these women told them that she had a Union flag concealed in her house, and that if the Union troops came to Richmond she would display it from her housetop.

All of the prisoners speak in terms of the deepest gratitude of the kind attention of Dr. Higginbotham, a well known physician of Richmond. He was constant in his attentions to them from first to last, so much so, indeed, that his loyalty was suspected, and he was placed under arrest by the military authorities. He was subsequently released, however, by the civil authorities, and resumed his kind ministrations.

On Thanksgiving day some kind persons sent several roast turkeys to the prisoners. Captain Warner also, the Commissary General, frequently sent in presents of cakes, &c. The men applied to him frequently for little favors, which were oftener granted then refused. The men seem remarkably grateful for any little kindness of this sort. They speak, for instance, in high terms of Surgeon J. Tripp, of Scranton, Pa., Eighth Pennsylvania regiment, who, they say, supplied them with many comforts from his own purse.

Some of the men state that they got letters from friends at home stating that money had been enclosed, but the latter had been abstracted. Others who had gold sent to them say they never got it, but got instead the worthless Southern shinplasters.

During the whole time of their imprisonment the fidelity of the men to their country never wavered. Not one of them would have asked to be released till the government saw proper to do so. They would cheerfully have remained there and died in prison rather than have our government release them by acknowledging the rebels as belligerents. So they say, at least. And it may be that a knowledge of that fact has made the government more tardy in exchanging them than it otherwise would have been. They say that even now they do not know on what terms they are released, except that they have taken no oath whatever. They are going on to obey whatever requirement may be made of them. Their desire to re-enter the army, however, and to fight, is universal. They say they are in for the war, and they are burning to revenge their wrongs.

They left their prison at six o’clock yesterday morning, January 3; left Richmond at eight o’clock, and came up in the boat from Fortress Monroe last night. Their friend, Captain Warner, of Richmond, the Commissary, saw them safely on board the boat, and provided them with an excellent repast at parting. In taking leave of them he said, "Goodbye, boys; I wish you a safe voyage, and I hope you will soon be in Abraham’s bosom." The boys gave him three cheers; for he had been very kind to them.

I should have mentioned that the sick among our men were not kept in with the rest, but were kept in hospitals. They were provided with good beds to sleep on, plenty of clothes and abundance of good food. The testimony on this point is conclusive.

I was assured by one of the non-commissioned officers that he and a few others knew perfectly all about the defences of Richmond, and that they would give to the War Department at Washington such information as would enable Richmond to be taken. The accounts of the defences of Richmond that have appeared in the HERALD are correct.  

The people at Richmond are purposely kept in ignorance of all that transpires at the North. Whenever a battle is fought it is heralded as a glorious victory for the South. It was believed at Richmond on Thursday that General McClellan was dead, and that the army had disbanded. Another story was that Fremont had seized the reins of power, assumed the style of a dictator and had cleared out Congress a la Cromwell.

The fire at Richmond on Thursday night was a terrific one. It is believed that many lives were lost at the burning of the theatre.

 

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