tv [untitled] February 18, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm EST
the stockade branch because if you did you would get a disease and perish quickly. so the only way you can get water was either by waiting for it to rain and soak it into your clothes and then wring it out, or try to dig a well deep enough and you could extract water from the ground. some union prisoners died digging wells. simply the well collapsed and they were buried alive. this is from an inmate. a guy named william knox a new york man who was captured in 1863 and spend much of his time in andersonville. so it's a nice watercolor sketch of the civil war. now, andersonville was commanded by a general named winder. but he commanded the entire area. the man responsible for the union prisoners and their daily rations was this man right here, captain henry werts, a swiss
immigrant viewed as the tyrant of the camp. all of the union soldiers if they wrote accounts after the war derided this man for his cruelty. part of his reason for being so strict with union prisoners was his paranoia that they were tunnelling their way out. he also attempted to punish in camp entirely for any minor infractions. whereas commandant sweet of camp douglas, he wanted to punish people individually. werts, his challenge was to the entire camp to regulate itself. if there was an infraction the entire camp would bear the brunt of it. which meant half rations or the third rations for the rest of the week. now rationing was the most difficult challenge of these union prisoners because the way the rations were issued they were issued by a leading nco, a corporal or a sergeant. they were the most responsible
for each of the 100-man sections. that person got the ration and had to split it among everyone else. and again, try to imagine that if i gave you -- let's say we give nicole a loaf of bread and she has to split it among 35 people. how are you going to split it? >> very carefully. >> very carefully indeed. because if you come up short, who doesn't get the ration? you do. so this is kind of the prickly situation here. the person who is responsible for issuing these rations has the most power. and also the ones who stand to suffer the most because they'll go without rations for that particular day. and incidentally, one of the things they hated about werts is that werts had a series of wagons that would come in every
morning and they would take out the dead men and they'd be buried outside the wagon. the same wagon that took out the dead men would carry in the rations every day. it was a disgusting prospect to eat off of this wagon that once carried your friends out to the dead house. but nevertheless, you know, they were hungry enough that they would do it. all right. so one of the things you had to be careful about if you were a union prisoner was stepping too close to the deadline. like point lookout, the stockade wall were surrounded by pigeon roosts where there would be one or two sentries monitoring the situation in the camp. you're looking south toward the south wall. here's the stockade branch. you can see the pigeon roosts, they mark the stockade every few feet. the guards could open fire near the deadline.
if you wanted to commit suicide, just walk to the deadline and out you go. the one soldier from new york described one of the first of the shootings he saw, and he basically blamed the prison guards for being cruel. one of the things that he knew is that if a prison guard shot an inmate, they would get a furlou furlough. so there was an incentive for taking down union inmates. this new york soldier said i saw many men shot while i was there. i do not know their names. they were federal prisoners. the first man i saw shot was shortly after the deadline was established. i think it was in may. he was shot near the brook on the east side of the stockade. at the time, there were no railing, but there were posts struck along where they'd put the deadline and this man in crossing simply stepped inside one of the posts and the sentry shot him. he failed to kill him, but wounded him. i don't know his name. i also saw a man shot at the
brook. he had just come in. he belonged to a regiment in grant's army. i think it was the latter part of june. he had come in and knew nothing about the deadline. there was no railing across the brook, nothing to show there was any dead line there. he came into the stockade and after he had been shown his place where he was to sleep, he went along the brook to get some water. it was very dark and a number of men were there. he went to get better water. he went beyond the dead line and two men fired at him. he was killed and fell right into the brook. i do not know the man's name. i don't know exactly how many, i saw several. it was a common occurrence. a social life was regulated by two gangs of union prisoners in the stockade wall. the regulators and the raiders. the regulators were those that tried to enforce some sort of sense of law and order in the prison. they often protected those that
had wells. if you owned a well in the prison you were basically a king among these inmates. and those that kind of owned the well could find ways of getting stock in it by owning enough extra rations or enough extra lumber. essentially a capitalistic system emerged among the union prisoners with the regulators being the law enforcement. the other gang was known as the raiders. this was a gang of people who were the strongest among the prisoners that would raid other mess mates and steal their provisions. eventually the war between the regulators and regulators got so severe that the regulators went to the commandant and asked him for batons, they got the batons,
they regulated the system. they captured a number of raiders and they even tried them and hanged six of them for crimes against their fellow prisoners. this inmate sketch by sneaden is showing the six men hanging from the scaffold. werts was fined with the execution of prisoners by fellow prisoners. here's the image of -- a photograph of the stockade. here's the latrine in the stockade branch. and you're looking kind of north through the huge encampment. this is called the island. it was a big kind of swampy area. where the sickest of the union soldiers lived. those that were too ill to move out of the flooding waste area. here's another image showing you the stockade wall in the background and the pigeon roosts. this shows you an image of the overcrowding. again, the prison camp was never
expanded. it was just continually packed with more union prisoners day by day. the death rate skyrocketed. about 13,000 died or about 29% of the population or about 26 men per day. to give you a comparison, the battle or gettysburg resulted in just about 10,000 dead or 6% of those engaged. and probably unfair to compare the bloodiest battle of the civil war to the prison camp, but if you put it in some perspective you were more likely to survive gettysburg than to survive andersonville. because only 6% of those at the battle of gettysburg died from combat. then this is a very moving poem i saw about andersonville written by a captive. this is the text here. here's our translation. does anyone want to read this out loud?
any volunteers? dan, go ahead. >> their hearts with hopes still beating in our northern homes, waiting, watching for the footsteps that will never never come. in southern prisons pining, meager tattered pale and gone, growing weaker daily. from pinching cold and want, your brothers, sons and husbands hopeless captives lie. oh ye who yet can save them, will you leave them here to die? from out our prison gate there's a graveyard near at hand where lies 13,000 union men beneath the georgia sand. scores on scores are laid beside them as day succeeds today. thus it ever will be till they are -- till they shall pass away and the last can say when dying with upturned and glazing eye. both love and faith are dead at home and they have left us here to die. >> okay. so you get a sense of the pessimism and the fatalism that
the union prisoners experienced at andersonville, that there was no way out. now that the prison exchange system had broken down. and that a prison sentence was akin to a death sentence. this is an image of a survivor of andersonville. he's a living individual, all skin and bones. images like these were circulated about the north. of course they raised the anger of citizens that the confederacy would allow this to happen. and i'd like to read for you a few pieces of an enlisted man's diary. this is a pennsylvania soldier named samuel elliott who arrived in andersonville in may of 1864. his account kind of describes several of the major incidents that occur in andersonville. you get this kind of sense that he thinks he is going to die very shortly. sunday, may 22, arrived at
andersonville, 60 miles from macon. the camp contains about 15,000 men, most of whom have been prisoners from about eight to ten months and were once strong and able-bodied men, but now are walking skeletons covered with filth and vermin and can be hardly recognized as white men. the horrible sights are enough to make us give up in despair. the ground is covered with filth and in the center of the camp is a stream of dirty water. so warm and greasy we can scarcely drink it. the sights i saw on my first day at andersonville so filled me with horror i can give but a poor idea of this prison den. monday, may 23, 23 years old today. a miserable place to celebrate one's birthday. wednesday, june 15. a poor cripple shot for stepping inside the dead line. he said he was so miserable he wished to die. he took his means of having his wish gratified. thursday, june 16.
the small rations of such poor quality with the rainy weather is killing the men off at a terrible rate. there are now over 100 bodies at the gate to be carried to the dead house. friday, july 2. the majority of the camp grew fresh meat from which the rebel quarter master calls beef, but he can't fool the old soldiers with the mule and horse flesh. it might have been good had it been brought in within a week of the death and given us a large enough piece to allow for the maggots. we were too hungry to consider eating it, so drew chicken feed and a small piece of wormy pork. quite a variety for one day. went out for wood, the first time i had been outside the stockade since i arrived here. what a relief to see the outside world and get a breath of fresh air. wednesday, august 3. on different battlefields i have witnessed many horrible sights, but none compare with what i saw today. a man lying on the bank of the stream being eaten to death by maggots. they could be seen issuing from
his eyes and mouth and his body was eaten raw in several places. we could do nothing with him, but to let him alone the die a miserable death. attended the funeral services of a member of company f who died during the night. it is terrible to see our regiment just thinning out. every day brings the sad news of the death of one or more of our comra comrades. nothing but death throughout the prison. rations small. almost starved. now, one of the true heroes of the civil war for my mind is clara barton who arrived at andersonville after it closed and the prisoners were moved to other locations before the end of the war and she took pains to identify the dead. you can see the evidence of her work if you go down to andersonville today. the prison is just littered with rows of men, most of them are identified. and this is just a small section of this big sea of anguish that you would have seen down there at the national cemetery down at
that location. now, the citizens of the north wanted vengeance for what happened at andersonville and captain werts the commandant of the prisoners was tried for war crimes in november of 1865. and in that month they sentenced him to death. without a doubt werts did not receive justice. a lot of the prisoners were stacked against him. many had rehearsed their statements and some probably weren't even prisoners from andersonville, but had read about i. but in any case, he was found guilty and hanged outside the capitol in 1865. union soldiers applauded the fact that he was punished to the fullest extent of the law for his command of andersonville. now, his defense was that he could not have done any better than he did. he said, listen, i did the best
with the material i had. and if you mean to criticize me you have to go higher up the command chain to the generals in charge and perhaps to the confederate war department. and the union people after that conflict listened to him and they indeed considered but did not execute the possibility of trying jefferson davis for the crimes at andersonville because they said ultimately davis is responsible for the deaths at that prison. now, i'd like to sort of open it up here to some debate. should davis have been tried for war crimes? what do you think? was werts' final plea somewhat correct? should union prosecutors have gone higher up the command chain?
>> it's like a -- this is kind of tricky. because they're just -- i think maybe that the union was trying to put blame on somebody maybe. that was the person that the soldiers went to, the prisoners were like that's the guy. and to go and try jefferson davis for a war crime was just a whole other can of worms maybe. i don't know. just decided that it wasn't -- it was too difficult maybe. or didn't have enough evidence of it, you know? something. >> there's a whole host of reasons we'll talk about later in the course of why davis is not tried. because they have -- there's many things they want to try him for, including this treason for leading the confederacy. but one of the things they add to this list, they never bring charges against him is what happens to union prisoners. so do you think that davis is culpable? >> i think yes and no. just because you also had this
getting off and having lack of food for the citizens let alone for soldiers and the prisoners. because their supplies are getting short by the end of the war and it's very hard. they're trying to ration it out for everyone. because. >> -- bit's really hard because it's -- because of the supplies they had, but they could have done better. like the river in the middle of the camp and trying to keep that cleaner and directed somewhere else. so it's kind of a 50/50. >> it's a sticky problem. you can kind of see here where the northern public is coming from with this public cartoon. the union prisoners compared to davis' incarceration which they say is fairly nice.
kind of like the minimum security prison. of course it wasn't so nice, because it was up in a case cell over at fortin road across the water. but in any case it was better than what the union prisoners had received. the one thing that doesn't satisfy me is the question of supply. you're saying that the confederacy is suffering from a problem of keeping their own people supplied, much less the union prisoners. now, here's the reason that doesn't satisfy me. because if we go on that idea, that means that confederate soldiers are dying at the exact same rate in their winter encampments. are they dying at the exact same rates at the winter encampments? no. the atrocities on both sides. you can find it only on one side. one area. the prison camps. that is where men are dying. and incidentally, does anyone know -- who are the leaders of this effort to get davis hanged
for war crimes? the prisoners are most certainly upset. does anyone know who leads the charge? >> abolitionists? >> oh, a good guess, but actually not. >> maybe the sanitation people? >> you mean like clara barton? >> yeah, or something like people concerned about the terrible conditions. >> mm-hmm. there are many humanitarians that are concerned about what happens. i say the real leaders are northern women. mothers. listen to this shocking letter. absolutely shocking. most historians say that, you know, women of the 19th century indulge in matters of the heart. i want you to see if there are any matters of the heart in this letter. it is written to president andrew johnson. the guy who takes over after lincoln is assassinated. dear sir, here's my dear son joshua irving, company
g 111th illinois volunteers, he was captured in atlanta and taken to andersonville, went from there to the carolina states and starved and tortured to death. he died ten days after he reached baltimore from cruel treatment that the rebs gave him and he's the only one among 10,000 that jeff davis willfully put to death. will you pardon him or give him his due? my dear joshua was my last son, the staff of my old age and it's nothing more than just as jeff davis money should support the widows, mothers, and orphans he has made destitute as a weakness. i see you as a second joshua. punish the rulers as they deserve. feed them as they fed our sons and husbands, give them a pint of cornmeal per day as a bran because they is the way they fed my dear son. made him mush or gruel for nine months so he died in the few
days after he was paroled in baltimore and i did not get to see him. oh, i am heart broken. when they were removing prisoners, my son was sick, bleeding at the lungs from exposure. he begged to ride but they swore he should walk and they would run a bayonet through him. he would've tried to make his escape that night but thought he was too weak to keep out of the way of the blood hounds so he suffered on for nine months, had to dig a hole in the ground to protect him from the wind. i do not know how he lived so long as he did, but god spared him to get him out of their hands. now you may give my best wishes to jeff, and that is this. i wish that it was in my power to deal out his punishment. i would just let him live as long as he could live in a cold, damp prison eating corn mush with the bran. and if there was any meat left on his bones, the ycrows would have that. it might be that he would repent in that length of time.
your friend, elizabeth irving. imagine writing that to the president of the united states. so to finish up, you know, we have here some statistics of prison camps. select ones from the north and the south showing you the mortality rate and the number of deaths. some are better than others, andersonville was definitely the number one worst, but closely followed by elmira. clearly both sides had a poor record. what explains this poor record? is it negligence or is it mercilessness? what do you think? stephanie? >> i think they probably didn't really care that much about them. they were prisoners. so they just really obviously had showed they didn't care. they were feeding them weak old meat that probably had like salmonella in it, who knows. so if they would just took better care of them and thought more about it and showed a
little more mercy then maybe so many people wouldn't have died. >> i think it could be also like the whole theory of the 19th century of battlefield -- death on the battlefield was more courageous and if you were a prisoner, it was a weak thing. and they saw that and didn't see them as a full soldier because they had to surrender -- because of the whole mentality of the battlefield. >> possibility. starting off we have a whole wave of respect. they're treated kindly, new york soldiers had liquor, and now they're starving. paul? >> isn't it also in the civil war we had never seen p.o.w.s on the scale of this magnitude. we never had a situation where we had this many prisoners all at once. could it be they didn't know how to handle this many people at
camps and that heavy of a prisoner population? they had to maintain their own soldiers and prisoners, as well. so they didn't have all the supplies to feed them? >> i'm not really satisfied by this question of supply. but one of the things you do bring up here is that it seems like each of the phases that they create just sort of pushes the problem to the side. and they're just postponing this real question of dealing with large numbers of prisoners of war, such that by the end of it, they've sort of drifted into this horrible situation where you have men dying every day in prison camps. >> i was just going to say, obviously the different phases showed where they came from as they got more numbers, you know, kind of like what you said a second ago. like -- maybe like as they keep going and the problems keep getting worse, they just -- the war is lasting longer than anyone anticipated and they probably got tired of it and the
people who suffered were just shoved to the side, we're tired of fighting, we're tired of this. you tried to kill me last week, so just push them to the side, keep going. >> right. >> getting tired of war. >> nicole? >> also the soldiers that are guarding the camps, they also feel that this is the only way that they're helping their side win is by destroying these people who if they're released are going to go back and shoot at them again. it's not really a revenge thing, it's a this is their way of fighting the opposite side by not treating these prisoners well in order to kill them. >> right. and i mean certainly if we considered that explanation that it's just sort of the animosity that comes out of the war that fuels, you know, things like the fence line shootings and the malnourishment, you know, it changes our perspective on what we think the civil war was
about. we've often called it the brothers' war. and there's no sense of brotherhood between the two sides here. it's definitely a serious event and one that was going to leave a lasting animosity between the two sides come reconstruction. so as we proceed on into that phase as the war draws to an end and they want to punish those who led the confederacy, you know, these notions of andersonville and libby prison and many others are going to be very firm in the memory of those who fought this conflict and was not all glory. all right. we're definitely out of time. i like to thank our viewers out there on c-span and definitely thank you for an excellent lecture, guys. enjoy the rest of your day. lectures in history airs
each saturday at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern and sundays at 1:00 p.m. we feature classroom lectures on different topics and eras of american history. to keep up with american history tv during the week, or to send us your questions and comments, follow us on twitter. we're at twitter.com/c-spanhistory. american history tv usually shown on the weekends on c-span 3 will continue this week in prime time. our focus on tuesday night is black history month. at 8:00 eastern, with the ground breaking of the new smithsonian museum of african-american on history and culture. the museum's founding director takes us through the storage facility to see some of the artifacts on display. at 8:30, the relationship between martin luther king jr. and his mentors, benjamin mays and howard therman. as we travel the civil rights
museum built on the site where martin luther king jr. was assassinated. and at 10:30, professor william foster teaches a class on the history of the "n" word on american literature and culture, with a focus on "uncle tom's cabin" and mark twain's "huckleberry fin." this week on "american artifacts," we visit the center for education and leadership across the street from ford's theatre where john wilkes booth shot president lincoln as he enjoyed "our american cousin," it's the newest addition where visitors can learn about the life, death, and legacy of abraham lincoln. ford's theatre society director talks about the center's purpose and goals. >> we are in the center of education and leadership. directly across the street from historic ford's theatre on 10th street in washington, d.c.
behind me is the tower of books, which is a concept that really started about five years ago to visualize and showcase the unending quest to learn more about abraham lincoln. and so this tower of books represents as we all know that abraham lincoln is the most written about figure in world history next to jesus christ. we believe that ford's theatre is the location in washington, d.c. to learn about lincoln and his legacy. it's one of the things that we do better than anyone else. we are able to marry the concepts and the excellence that we bring to theatrical productions to the museum experience. we will teach our oratory programs as part of our education programs in this facility. we will use this facility to do our teacher training. all of