George Templeton Strong Expresses Outrage
After the fall of Fort Fisher and occupation of Wilmington, 10,000 Northern prisoners were offered to the invaders for the taking—to reduce their suffering. Anxious to maintain the burden on the retreating Carolinians and force them to feed the prisoners with their own meager rations, the Northern commanders stalled. It will be remembered that Grant himself ended the exchange of prisoners with Lincoln’s approval, thereby increasing the suffering at Andersonville. Add to this the Northern blockade which stopped medical and food supplies from reaching those prisoners.
George Templeton Strong was the type of patriot who helped bring on war, and then felt comfortable living behind the lines while his government paid volunteers with generous bounties and hired European mercenaries to maintain the voluntary federation of States. Below, he suggests that those who knew of the torture and starvation within prisoner camps should be killed—which would mean Elmira, New York and Springfield, Illinois (Camp Butler) residents as well.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
George Templeton Strong Expresses Outrage:
Diary of the Civil War, George Templeton Strong,
29 March 1865. Page 570:
“Our supplies sent by Chase reached Wilmington just at the right moment and saved scores of lives. His account of the condition of hundreds of returned prisoners, founded on personal inspection, is fearful. They have been starved into idiocy—do not know their names, or where their home is. Starvation has gangrened them into irrational, atrophied, moribund animals. No Bastille and no Inquisition dungeon has ever come up to the chivalric rebel pen for prisoners of war.
I do not think people quite see, even yet, the unexampled enormity of this crime. It is a new thing in the history of man. It definitely transcends the records of the guillotines and the concomitant nogades and fusillades. The disembowelment and decapitation of all men, women and children of a Chinese city convicted of rebel sympathies is an act of mercy compared with the politic, slow torture Davis and Lee have been inflicting on their prisoners, with the intent of making them unfit for service when exchanged.
I almost hope this war may last till it becomes a war of extermination. Southrons who could endure the knowledge that human creatures were undergoing this torture within their own borders, and who did not actively protest against it, deserve to be killed.
30 March 1865, page 571:
From observation at Wilmington, Agnew thinks the Southern “masses” are effete people, unable to take care of themselves now that their slave-holding lords and magnates are gone. A “local committee” at Wilmington is feeding four thousand Wilmingtonians all rations issued by the government. The white trash of even North Carolina is helpless and imbecile, unable to work or to reorganize the community.”
(Diary of George Templeton Strong, Allan Nevins, editor, MacMillan, 1962)