~ Letters ~

Letter from A. J. Morey, editor of the "Cynthiana News" to the "Avalanche" in Memphis, Tennessee

MEMPHIS, TENN., December 11, 1861
Having made my escape from the Federal prison located near Columbus, Ohio, I deem it due to the 240 brave but unfortunate Southern men whom I left incarcerated there on the 29th of October last to make known to the South and to the world the suffering and indignities to which they are subjected by their inhuman jailers.

The Government prison to which I refer is at Camp Chase about four miles south of the city of Columbus, the capital of the State of Ohio. Brigadier-General Hill is the commander under the direction of Generals Mitchel and Rosecrans, the prison being used for the confinement of military and political prisoners for both Kentucky and Northwestern Virginia. It contains about half an acre of ground inclosed by a plank wall nearly twenty-five feet high, with towers on two sides. Inside of this inclosure are two rows of board shanties with five rooms (16 by 18 feet) in each. In these small rooms, each occupied by about twenty-five men, and in this contracted space the crowd of prisoners are compelled to cook, eat and sleep. Men of every class and grade are huddled together and all treated as felons.

It will be remembered that Columbus is in a very cold country. The winter winds blow fiercely from those Northern fresh-water lakes over the State of Ohio and Camp Chase prison receives its full share of the chilling blasts. Yet while I was prisoner there, including the month of October, when the weather was very rainy and cold, no fires were allowed in the prison to warm the half naked and shivering prisoners. Promises were made from time to time by the subordinate officers that the prison should be warmed either by stoves or by a steam-heating apparatus but up to the 29th day of October no steps had been taken looking to that end. To add to the discomfort of the poor prisoners the wretched shanties, their only shelter, leaked badly, keeping the floors, their only bed, and even their scanty bed clothing soaked with water. The fear was entertained by the prisoners generally and constantly expressed that it was the intention that they should perish from the effects of cold and damp. This treatment of human beings by those calling themselves Christians is unparalleled. Inhumanity and cruelty by the Lincoln Government toward those in its power is a policy which has been suggested by many of its allies to put down the rebellion.

The prisoners sometimes remain in this wretched prison weeks before they receive even a blanket which when they get it would hardly have been sufficient for their comfort in summer let alone in a Northern October. The consequence of this severe exposure was that most of the prisoners were sick from affections of the lungs and throat and a number died while I was there, while many were perishing by inches coughing away their lungs; and many were suffering from pneumonia, measles and other diseases. It may seem incredible that this body of sick and suffering men including a considerable number of prisoners of war were left through that damp, cold and horrible October without fire and half naked in that wretched mudhole of a prison and without adequate medical attention; and yet I assert it to be a fact and defy the contradiction of the Lincoln jailers and authorities.

A large number of old men from Western Virginia and Kentucky whose heads were white with the frosts of age were among the prisoners in this bastile charged with sympathizing with the cause of the South. Among them I mention the name of Colonel Hamilton, of Virginia, who was carried from the prison in a dying condition a few days before I left and I have learned since that he died soon afterward of pneumonia. A young man from Western Virginia died two hours after he was removed from prison. I will add in this connection that the prisoners of war who had been in the prison several months were almost naked and that all were engaged in a perpetual strife with the vermin with which the loathsome den literally swarmed.

The food furnished the prisoners with the exception of the bread was of the most inferior kind and in insufficient quantities for the sustenance of the famishing men. The pork was absolutely rotten. But the great complaint was the difficulty in obtaining enough wood to cook the half-spoiled and scanty meal, only five small sticks per day being allowed for a mess of twenty-five men and that often not furnished until away in the night, leaving the men starving for want of their scanty meals during the entire day.

I have visited the military prison in this city where the Belmont prisoners are confined and found them surrounded with every comfort--lodged in a large brick house well warmed, with good beds, provided with newspapers, books and writing materials, all of which were denied to the prisoners at Camp Chase. These Federal prisoners testified to me that they were well and civilly treated and expressed their abhorrence and regret at my recital of the treatment of our prisoners.

It is but justice to the ladies of Columbus to say that they offered to furnish comfortable beds and bedding for us but were denied the privilege by the commandant because he said it was not permitted by the orders. When these kind-hearted ladies visited us in our vile prison and beheld our wretched condition they involuntarily burst into tears. They gave us all they were permitted to bestow--their sympathy and tears.

Among the prisoners were, from Maysville, Ky, Hon. R. H. Stanton, Isaac Nelson, W. B. Casteo, Mr. Thomas, John Hall, A.D. Hurt and George W. Forrester, proprietor and editor of the Maysville Express; also Lieut. A. O. Brummell of the Confederate army from Richmond, Va.; Colonel Ferguson and Henry Martin from Western Virginia and quite a number of other officers from that State who were in rags. I cannot here attempt to enumerate the names of other gentlemen.

Judge J. R. Curry, judge of the Harrison County court; Perry Wherret, clerk of the same court, and W. B. Glave, sheriff of the same county, and myself were arrested at Cynthiana its county seat. We were first taken to Newport, Ky., barracks and there confined in the cells without even a blanket for twenty-four hours. We were then marched at night through the rain and mud to the Little Miami Railroad depot.
But the cars having left we were ordered to about face and marched four miles farther to the Hamilton and Dayton depot where we took the cars for Columbus. During the march Judge Curry who is over seventy years of age being much fatigued came near giving out, but the captain of the guard with oaths gave orders to drive him up and they punched and struck him in the most brutal manner with their guns, kicking him at the same time. W. B. Glave who owing to his feebleness was also unable to keep up, the pace being double-quick, was treated in the same savage manner. Our only offense was that we dissented from the measures of Lincoln.

I have given an unvarnished statement of facts which will be attested by my fellow-prisoners whenever they can be heard. I do not desire that the Federal prisoners shall be treated with less kindness; but I do desire that the Confederate Government shall take some action in behalf of its captive citizens that they may not be murdered by slow degrees in the bastiles of the North. As the attention of the public has been directed by the press to my humble self I deem it proper to say something of the circumstances attending my escape from the Federal jailers. My wife being in delicate health was taken dangerously ill after my arrest from the effects of the shock, and hearing of her condition I determined if possible to get out to see her before her death. To effect this I wrote a letter feigning repentance which procured me a release on parole for ten days when I returned to Cynthiana to find that my wife had been buried four days. Considering that I was not bound by either law or honor to observe my parole having been dragged to Ohio for my political opinions in violation of the Constitutions of both the United States and Kentucky I embraced the opportunity to escape from my persecutors and after a very circuitous journey attended with many risks and perils I reached this city.

This much, Messrs. Editors, I have deemed proper to say for myself. I do not whine nor ask the sympathies of any one. I am loose from Yankee despotism and with my musket in one hand and the black flag of extermination to the foe in the other I intend to avenge my own and my country's wrongs; and if thoughts of a murdered wife and home made desolate do not nerve my arm to strength and execution I should be an ignoble son of Kentucky.

Editor of the Cynthiana, Ky., News.

Source: O.R.--SERIES II--VOLUME I, pp. 544- 546

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