Andersonville/prisoner exchange- NOT!
Chuck- I got this from Eddie Inman, who does not know how to send it to you.
Please, attribute this to him.
This from Edward Wellington Boate —
Things, however, soon calmed down. A few weeks previously, a great movement had taken place in the prison. The great paramount idea of the prisoners was exchange. They accordingly called a great meeting, and after some preliminary proceedings, resolutions, and a memorial to President Lincoln, were adopted, asking, in view of the suffering and mortality of our men, that he should agree to an exchange of prisoners, as the Confederates were willing to exchange man for man, and officer for officer, leaving the excess of prisoners at which ever side found. Six prisoners, including myself as Chairman, were appointed a Commission to proceed to Washington and lay the whole question before the Executive. This was toward the close of August. After some negotiations with General Winder, the balance of twenty-one men due to our government, the six delegates being included, were permitted to come North; and on our way through Macon we met General Stoneman at Prison Oglethorpe, where the Federal officers were confined, and he gave us a letter to the President, strongly urging the necessity of exchange, not for the officers he said, but for the brave men who had fought so gallantly in the field, and suffered so much in prison; and begging the President to forego all idea of the exchange of negroes, if that were the point which stood in the way.
Down to Charleston. Arriving at Pocotaligo, we were exchanged – that is, nine out of the twenty-one, two of the commissioners being kept back, although the twelve not exchanged might as well have been, as there were plenty Confederate prisoners at Beaufort, only a dozen miles away.
Arriving in New York, the four commissioners applied for the necessary transportation at General Dix’s office. It was refused, although Colonel Hall, Deputy Provost Marshal at Hilton Head, had given us letters to the headquarters of the department of the east, stating our mission, etc. The Sanitary Commission, however, supplied the transportation, and three of the commissioners proceeded to Washington, I remaining, however, in this city through illness, although I was not idle. They wrote to the President, and reported the object of their visit on three consecutive days; but in distresses me to state that the representatives of thirty-eight thousand Union prisoners were treated with silent contempt, the President declining to see them or have any communication with them!!!
For obvious reasons I shall be silent as to the motive of President Lincoln in his treatment of the delegation. But I cannot help stating that the lives of some ten or twelve thousand men might have been spared had an exchange justly, I will not add generously, taken place at this period.
From February to the end of August there were some six thousand deaths at Andersonville from various causes, circumstances and diseases. This number, I understand, before exchange took place, or our government consented to do so, reached some fifteen or sixteenth thousand.
General Winder remarked to us before we quitted Andersonville, that the object of our government in refusing to exchange was that they felt it hard to give soldiers for civilians. "The time," added he, "of thousands of those unhappy men in that stockade is out many months; thousand of others are rendered worthless for soldiers through long confinements, disease and privations – for I will admit that we have not the resources to treat your men as we would wish."
Since I returned to the North, Winder’s words were confirmed, for it was semi-officially stated to me that, "It might look very hard that we refused to exchange; but we could not afford to do so. We would have to give a number of strong; well fed, available soldiers for a number of men broken down from campaigning, disease, and out of the service by the expiration of their term."
A policy like this is the quintessence of inhumanity, a disgrace to the Administration which carried it out, and a blot upon the county. You rulers who make the charge that the rebels intentionally killed of or men, when I can honestly swear they were doing everything in their power to sustain us, do not lay this flattering unction to your souls. You abandoned your brave men in the hour of their cruelest need. They fought for the Union, and you reached no hand out to save the old faithful, loyal, and devoted servants of the country. You may try to shift the blame from your own shoulders, but posterity will saddle the responsibility where it justly belongs.