Testimony of Miss D. L. Dix, taken at Baltimore, Maryland, June 1st, 1864.
Miss D. L. Dix, sworn and examined: —
Last winter I was at Annapolis and examined many hundred returned prisoners. I inquired of these men exactly the manner in which they were fed and treated on Belle Island, examined them individually, and by sixes and sevens. I saw no disposition on the part of these men to exaggerate their sufferings.
Inquiring from what causes they had suffered most severely, whether rapid marches, exposure to inclement weather, lack of apparel, or hunger, — the answer was invariably, “From hunger while at Belle Island.” I inquired the amount of animal food allowed a day, when they had any at all; they replied that an iron-bound bucket, filled with packed meat, was the allowance for one hundred men ; the weight of bucket and meat would be twenty-five pounds. When cooked this afforded a very small quantity for each man.
As Winter and Spring advanced, the only food supplied was corn-meal mixed with water and roughly baked. This bucket of meat I speak of was allowed them about twice a week, with a very little rice in the autumn. I understand that in the hospitals they occasionally had a little boiled rice, to which was sometimes added a very small quantity of brown sugar or molasses.
I gather from Confederate authority as well as from our returned prisoners, — and a Confederate official whose evidence cannot be questioned in that matter, declared, that the sole sustenance at Belle Island was cornmeal and water, — that of the numbers remaining at Belle Island, then about eight thousand, about twenty-five died daily; that the mortality in Georgia was still greater, and that it would be but a few weeks before the deaths would count fifty a day.
Another fact which he affirmed as a reason for withholding so much from our prisoners, sent by their friends and the Government, was the cruel and severe restrictions imposed on their men in our hands.
I had visited those very prisoners to whom he referred at Point Lookout; they were supplied with vegetables, with the best wheat bread, and fresh or salt meat three times daily in abundant measure — the full Government ration.
In the camp of about nine thousand rebel prisoners, there were but four hundred reported to the surgeon; of these, one hundred were confined to their beds, thirty were very sick, and perhaps fifteen or twenty would never recover.
The hospital food consisted of beef tea, beef soup, rice, milk, milk punch, milk gruel, lemonade, stewed fruits, beef-steak, vegetables and mutton; white sugar was employed in cooking. The supplies were, in fact, more ample and abundant than in hospitals where our own men were under treatment.
To return to the condition of the Federal prisoners on Belle Island, there was at no time adequate shelter for the entire number till late in spring, when the number had been greatly reduced by transfer to Georgia, exchanges and death.
I was told that in the morning it was not uncommon to find men dead from exposure and rain.
I have repeatedly seen the exchanged prisoners reduced to the lowest extremity through want of food. Of more than four hundred landed in Baltimore, some little time since, nearly, if not the entire number, were suffering from the effects of hunger; more than one hundred of these were taken a few yards across the wharf, to the hospital, on stretchers; seven died before they could be taken into the building, and seven more that same night. Their clothing was filthy to the last degree; they were covered with vermin; they were the merest bundles of bones and skin, and some bones piercing the flesh. The cries of these poor men for food were pitiful in the extreme.
In addition to their other sufferings, many had lost portions of their feet by frost. The minds showed the weakness of the body. Some were reduced to idiocy. They would entreat for an apple or a bit of meat to look at, if they could not be allowed solid food. Many of these poor creatures died, and others, I understand from surgeons, are enfeebled for life.
Many of these prisoners when brought on the flag-of-truce boat, were observed to clasp their hands and fix their gaze upon the American flag: “It is enough, thank God, we are at home.” A remarkable trial of disinterestedness: Rev. M. Hall said, “What can I do for you, my boys?” “hasten exchanges and bring away our comrades.”
A gentleman of Washington, who had been permitted to convey a body for burial to the South, on board the flag-of truce boat, remarked that all the rebel prisoners were in vigorous health, equipped in clothes furnished by the United States Government; many of them with blankets and haversacks, while we received in return not one able-bodied man at that time. I have witnessed this fact myself, on other occasions on the flag-of-truce boats.
The rations served to the prisoners on Belle Island, whether drawn from supplies furnished by the Federal Government, or through the individual liberality of Northern citizens, were never dispensed in sufficient quantities by the Confederate authorities to satisfy hunger.
I have seen tons of provisions shipped on the flag-of-truce boat from the North, for the relief of our prisoners at Richmond. Little or nothing came from the South for rebel prisoners at the North. Clothing and blankets were sent by our Government to the prisoners in quantities, but not fully distributed.
One reason why our men were so wholly destitute of clothing at a late season, was the temptation they were under to give them away for a biscuit, or a small quantity of food, to save them from starvation.
D. L. DIX.
Affirmed to and subscribed
before me, June 1, 1864.
D. P. BROWN, JR.,
United States Commissioner.