General BRAXTON BRAGG:
GENERAL: Allow me to call your attention to the indorsement of
General Winder upon the "report of inspection of prison hospitals."
General Winder's attempt to prove that the fearful mortality in this
hospital during the past four or five months was entirely independent of
the overcrowded condition of the wards is deemed hardly sufficient to
overthrow a fundamental and heretofore unquestioned hygienic law, the
persistent violation of which has in other hospitals invariably resulted
in a largely increased death rate. Other causes may have contributed to
the sad result set forth in the "report," but the fact remains that the
patients in the prison hospital were limited to half the amount of
atmospheric air required in the treatment of the sick and prescribed by
orders for the management of hospitals. The general admits that the foul
exhalations in the camps on Belle Isle had much to do with the severe
mortality in the hospital, but refuses to believe that the vitiated
atmosphere of the hospital itself was at all prejudicial to the
unfortunate inmates. The condition of the camps on Belle Isle as set
forth in the "report of Surg. G. W. Semple," transmitted by General
Winder, was disgusting and filthy in the extreme, for which Surgeon
Semple asserts the officer in charge was not responsible.
The reference made by General Winder to the fact that the ratio of
mortality a year ago, when the number of patients was comparatively
small, supposing the hospital accommodation then equal to what it is now
(which, however, is not stated), only proves that other grave causes
existed at that time, and suggests the inquiry why they were not
investigated and removed.
The statement that the largely increased mortality in February, 1864,
was due to smallpox cannot be received, as the report does not include
deaths at the smallpox hospital.
The deficiency of soldiers to guard a larger hospital establishment may
be a valid excuse for not correcting the evils referred to in the
report; but of this the inspectors cannot judge. I would, however,
direct your attention to the statement made by the medical director in
the accompanying letter addressed to General Winder,(*) that he
was led to believe by the Surgeon-General that the refusal of proper
accommodations to the sick Federal prisoners was one of State policy. A
paragraph in General Winder's indorsement in which he refers to the
condition of our own sick in the hands of the enemy would seem to imply
that he was to some extent influenced by a similar impression.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. G. RICHARDSON,
Surgeon, Provisional Army, C. S.
Returned with report to Adjutant and Inspector General.
The explanations are not satisfactory, but as the condition of affairs
is entirely changed by the removal of the sick prisoners no further
action seems to be necessary.