December 16, 1861 , (Extract from a letter written by Gov. John A. Andrew of Massachusetts to Abraham Lincoln. Taken from “A History of Massachusetts In The Civil War.” by William Schouler, Late Adjutant-General of the Commonwealth. Pages 240-241, Boston: E. P. Dutton & Co. Publishers, 185 Washington Street. 1868.)
The inhuman treatment by the rebel authorities of the Massachusetts officers and soldiers taken prisoner at Ball’s Bluff, caused the Governor, on the 16th of December, to write another letter to the President, upon the necessity of organizing a system for the mutual exchange of prisoners. A large portion of the prisoners in the hands of the rebels belonged to this State; and he urged upon the President to interpose for their immediate relief. He contrasts the cruel treatment of our men at Richmond with the humane treatment of rebel prisoners in Fort Warren.

I am informed, from trustworthy sources, that our soldiers who are prisoners of war at Richmond are neither well fed nor well clothed, and they are subjected to the most rigid military surveillance, and occasionally exposed to the insulting language and demeanor of the population of that city. Some of their number---among whom I may mention Colonel Lee and Major Revere, of the Massachusetts Twentieth Infantry, and Captains Bowman and Rockwood, of the Massachusetts Fifteenth (all of these gentlemen, who have no superiors, in any sphere of human life, in all those qualities which ought to command respectful treatment)---are imprisoned in felon’s cells, fed on felon’s fare, in a common jail: huddled together in a space so narrow that there is not air enough for health of comfort; allowed for exercise, to promenade half hour each day on a narrow pathway surrounding their prison; and especially exposed to disease, by the fact, that some of their companions, who are grievously sick, are not removed to hospitals, but are left to share the same privations, and breath the same foul air, with those whose physical vigor is not yet broken.”

In contrast, allow me to state, that the prisoners at Fort Warren are allowed certainly equal fare with the garrison, which consists of five companies of loyal Massachusetts troops, and are permitted all liberties, consistent with retaining them upon the island; and that traitors, like Mr. Mason of Virginia, and Mr. Slidell of Louisiana, whose hands are red with the best blood of Massachusetts, are treated with certainly equal consideration (as to quarters, fare, and attendance, and all privileges consistent with retaining them in custody) with the officers of that loyal battalion

"These facts and this contrast, sir, are sickening to many of our people, and are especially painful to those who are closely related, by friendship or blood, to our prisoners in the hands, and at the mercy, of the rebels. I submit to you, with all due respect, whether it is just or decent, that the contrast should continue. I urge no inhumanity towards even traitors. If we are at war with cannibals, that is no reason we should eat human flesh ourselves; but it is reason why we should spare no effort to rescue our brothers from the hands of such savages, lest they become their victims.”



15th Massachusetts VI