“It was soon apparent that there was a determination to make us live down to the very lowest limit capable of sustaining life. . . So extreme was the hunger of some that they dug down with their hands for grass roots for subsistence.” ~ Capt. Henry Dickinson, Second Virginia Cavalry
In 1864, the fortunes of the South were declining steadily, and six hundred Confederate prisoners of war were forced to represent their dying country’s desperation. President Lincoln’s war council had decided to stop all prisoner exchanges, leaving countless Confederate soldiers in Union hands. Despite the number of prisoners denied freedom, none suffered so much as the six hundred Confederate officers who were made to serve as examples to their countrymen. Here, their own words describe the cruelties and deprivations they experienced at the hands of their Union captors.
In Charleston Harbor, fifty officers were used as human shields against artillery fire from their own armies and comrades. Elsewhere, Confederate officers were held in deliberately inhumane conditions, in unheated quarters, given a food ration so low that they that they gradually starved, and were denied medicinal care. Slowly, the soldiers died from malnutrition, exposure, and disease. Courageous and heroic, all six hundred of these men served their country just as proudly as their allies on the battlefield and fought for the ideals they held so dear.
Author Mauriel Phillips Joslyn recreates a story of undeniable horrors of Lincoln’s policy and the mistreatment of the prisoners in his power.