The Boston Globe
Friday, April 26, 1912
(letter to the Editor)
Editor People’s Column – I have read the recent letters in the [Boston] Globe comparing the Northern and Southern prisons during the Civil War.
There is one fact which should settle forever any controversy in regard to their respective merits or demerits, and that is the burial grounds. The graveyards speak for both sides. Compare the graveyard of the Confederate dead at Camp Morton with that of the Federal dead at Camp Sumpter. The one at Indianapolis, Ind. the other at Andersonville, Ga. Of the two, Camp Morton contained much the larger number of prisoners. You can count the graves at Andersonville by the hundreds, those at Indianapolis by the tens. The soldiers who died at Camp Morton were buried in coffins, inclosed in boxes, those at Andersonville in trenches without boxes or coffins. A record of every death, cause of death, name, rank, regiment, company, date of death, name and address of nearest relative and the graves marked and numbered, was kept at Camp Morton.
The Confederate prisoners had ample room, plenty of shade trees on the grounds, and a roof either of wood or canvas under which to sleep or lounge. There was also a good stream of running water wherein he could bathe or fish at times. At Andersonville there was no protection from the sun or storms. A line 20 feet from the stockade kept the soldiers from the shade of the stockade and many a poor man, over-heated, delirious with fever, wandered over the line to reach the little shade near the stockade was shot down. Wood was so scarce in the camp that the roots of the tree stumps were dug up. Within 30 minutes walk of the stockade was timber enough to build a city larger than any in Dixie at that time.
The Southern sun of Sumner killed the Northern bred men like frost kills flies. Dysentery and scurvy and sunstroke claimed thousands. These conditions were inexcusable. Nearby were plenty of shade and good cool water. The scurvy could have been prevented by an issue of fresh vegetables which were grown all about that neighborhood. There were a few issues of green corn, potatoes, onions and melons. The woods were full of wild berries and cherries. Old Wind and Wirz would rather dig trenches for the prisoners than potatoes.
At Camp Morton some did suffer from the cold at times. One winter it was so cold that several guards on duty were frozen to death. What wonder that men from the South should suffer. The hospital where the Confederate prisoners were treated is to this day used by the City of Indianapolis as it city hospital. I lived in that same hospital for two years and know that it is a good, clean, comfortable building. Some additions were made to it and some of the old wooden portions replaced by brick. But the executive or central portion stands just as it did 50 years ago. The prisoners were allowed to have luxuries and dainties sent to them by the Southern sympathizers of which the city had hundreds. They had sent to them great quantities of reading matter, until one day an employee let fall a box, labeled “Sunday School Papers,” which burst, exposing a lot of Navy revolvers and cartridges. That was the beginning of the exposure of the conspiracy of the Knights of the Golden Circle to organize the Northwestern Confederacy. The arming of the prisoners and Morgan, the raider, coming to their aid, and Gov. Morton’s prompt action preventing the success of the conspiracy is another story.