Union Army Lieutenant James Madison Page:
(During the Summer of 1864)
" July brought unusual suffering to the prisoners on account of the hot weather."
The suffering caused the initiation of a petition by the prisoners for reinstatement of prisoner exchanges. Four were paroled to go to Washington and three returned to report their request had been refused.
(Following the return of the paroled emissaries to Washington).
"When we heard [Secretary of War] Stanton's reply in regard to exchange [reinstatement], we felt we were forsaken by our Government. The War Office at Washington preferred us to die rather than exchange us." "Many of the prisoners, being but human, raised their clenched, trembling hands towards heaven and with fearful oaths cursed the authorities at Washington, and the day they were born. Oh what hatred was engendered for our Secretary of War."
(On meeting Henry Wirz).
"I met Wirz while on one of his visits to the hospital. He stopped his horse, and I explained briefly the situation and the condition of my comrades. Said I, 'If something is not done for them at once, in a few days death will be the result,' and this is the substance of his reply: 'I am doing all I can. I am handicapped and pressed for rations. I am exceeding my authority now in issuing supplies. I am blamed by the soldiers for all this suffering. They do not realize I am a subordinate, governed by orders of my commanding officer. Why, sir, my own men are on short rations. The best that I can do is to see that your sick comrades are removed to the hospital. God help you, I cannot.,' and his eyes were filled with tears. I was crying myself. I saw how deeply he felt. He was pale and emaciated. His wounded arm was troubling him - he said nothing about the fact that gangrene had set in. I said to myself, 'Here is a man obliged to endure the odium resulting from the sins of others.'"
(While Wirz was on sick leave during the month of August).
"Scurvy is now fearfully prevalent. Hundreds are dying daily. It is caused by not having proper food - a change of food is absolutely necessary to relieve scurvy.
Captain Wirz was absent on sick leave for the month of August. Lieutenant Davis was in command and he did all that he could to alleviate the suffering. From all sides could be heard from men who had said derogatory things of Wirz, 'I wish the Captain was back.'"
Text by Jon Rice.