Testimony of Surgeon A. Chapel, in charge of West’s Buildings Hospital, Baltimore, Md., taken at Baltimore, June 2,1864.
COMMISSIONERS PRESENT — Dr. Mott, Dr. Delafield, Judge Hare.
Surgeon A. CHAPEL, affirmed and examined:—
I am Surgeon in charge of West’s Buildings Hospital, Baltimore. On the 18th of April, 1864, I received at the hospital one hundred and five of the paroled prisoners from Richmond, brought to this point on the flag-of-truce boat “New York.” These were the worst cases received at this point by that boat; none of them being able to stand alone. All were brought into the hospital upon stretchers.
Nearly all were in an extreme state of emaciation, filthy in the extreme, and covered with vermin. Some of them so eaten by the vermin as to very nearly resemble a case of scabbing from small-pox, being covered with sores from head to foot, so as scarcely to be able to touch a well portion of the skin with the point of the finger.
Their appearance was such in the way of filth and dirt, as to convince any one that they had not had an opportunity for ablution for weeks and months. Several were in a state of semi-insanity, and all seemed, and acted, and talked, like children, in their desires for food, &c. Very few of them had blankets or clothing, some in a state of semi-nudity.
Upon being questioned upon the causes of their condition, the testimony was universal — starvation, exposure, and neglect, while prisoners at Richmond and Belle Isle.
Their universal declaration was, in reference to their living, that they were provided with only one small portion of corn-bread per day, which was made simply from corn meal and water, without salt, not larger than a man’s hand; it was about an inch and a quarter thick. This was the portion for the day. They sometimes got small portions of meat once a day, two days in a week. Several off them told me that they had been able to get occasionally a small piece of the flesh of a dog, which they had cooked and eaten with great relish, and that they had caught rats and eaten them in the same way. Many of them believed that the meat issued to them was cut from the bodies of mules.
They said, while on Belle Isle they had no means of shelter, but were obliged to huddle together in heaps, to protect them selves from the inclement weather ; — often one or two blankets in thickness covering five or six persons ; — often lying one upon another in tiers, and changing places as they became tired out. They state that they had little or no shelter while prisoners at Belle Isle.
We were obliged to treat them as children, in regulating their diet in the hospital, having to restrain their over-eating, and confine them to a concentrated but nourishing and generous diet.
Several cases had no disease whatever, but suffered from extreme emaciation and starvation. The limb of one of these men could be spanned with the thumb and finger, just above the knee. This patient, a boy of nineteen years old, would not weigh over fifty pounds then, though in health probably one hundred and thirty-five pounds. This was not a solitary instance, many others being extremely emaciated. Many presenting the appearance of mere living skeletons, with the skin drawn tightly over the bones.
Many of them were laboring under such diseases as dropsy, pulmonary consumption, scurvy, mortification from cold, several having lost one-half of both feet from this cause.
Several were afflicted with very severe bed-sores, caused by lying in the sand without shelter. One man, unable to lie in any other way but on his face, and lived about four weeks in this way.
Up to the present time, of the number received, (one hundred and five), forty-two have died. All gave evidence of extensive visceral disease, of which starvation, cold, and neglect, were undoubtedly the primary cause. Some of the cases sank from extreme debility, without any evidence of disease as the cause of death.
Surgeon, U. S. A.
Affirmed to and subscribed
before me, June 2d, 1864.
D. P. BROWN, JR.,
United States Commissioner.