Pvt. (Dr.) William C. Humphreys, Co. F, 8th Georgia Infantry, On His Captivity (2)

22 01 2022

Letter from Dr. Humphreys.

Washington, D. C., August 12, 1861.

To the Editor of the Richmond Examiner;

Having permission to write a few lines to my friends, and being desirous to give information to the friends of all who are held here as prisoners, to our condition and treatment, I address my letter to you with the request you publish it. There are sixty one of us confined in the old Capitol building, a list of whose names you will find enclosed. The authorities have placed over us as General Superintendent Mr. McDurmit, of New York, a kind and affable gentleman who does everything in his power to render our situation comfortable. The officers and guard under Mr. McDurmit are kind and gentlemanly in their deportment to us. Dr. Greenleaf, the attending prison surgeon, is very kind to us. I have a disposition to say, in behalf of the regular Federal officers with whom I have had anything to do, that they treated us as prisoners of war should be, and not as some of their papers have stated they ought to be.

The statements which frequently appear in the Northern papers, from anonymous writers, about inhuman and barbarous treatment by the Confederate Government of their prisoners are simply ridiculous, as no man of common sense could or would believe them. I am forced to believe the editors of papers who publish these anonymous articles of bad treatment of prisoners by our Government, do so to engender a spirit of revenge in the minds of the Northern people, which they know cannot be done otherwise. It may be, for aught I know, that reports of ill treatment of our prisoners are circulated through our Government. If so, I can say, as far as those confined here are concerned, it is a mistake, except in the instance of the mob on Pennsylvania Avenue, while we were being conveyed to our present place of confinement. In this instance we were shamefully and barbarously treated. We were dogged from one end of the Avenue to the other, by an infuriated mob, yelling “hang the rebels – shoot the d—n Secessionists,” and throwing stones, by which several of us came near losing our lives. – Some received severe and painful wounds on their heads, – others were hit in different places by stones – none of the party, twelve or fifteen in number, escaped being hit. Had it not been for the powerful exertions of the officer and his men, who had us in charge, driving back the mob, no doubt all would have been killed.

The officer in charge of us proved himself to be a man of firmness and bravery – his own men, as well as we, were being felled to the ground by stones, he himself in the midst of a continual shower of rocks; still undismayed, he urged his men to be firm and defend us at the sacrifice of their lives; this they did. The mob consisted of men and boys, white and black. A few drunken soldiers could occasionally be seen rushing toward us with drawn knives, but neither the general mob or the few soldiers seemed inclined to come in close proximity to the bayonets of our guard. With this exception our treatment has been good. I am glad to say the Government officials have guarded against any more such scenes being enacting by detailing a larger force to guard the prisoners through the streets of the city to their place of confinement. Our friends in this city and Baltimore have been very kind in furnishing us with clothing and food of a different kind from that usually furnished to soldiers. The Government furnishes us with two meals a day – soldiers fare. Our friends furnish us with such as can be furnished by friends. We long to be exchanged – we had rather be with our comrades in arms on the tented field, ready to help battle for our country and homes than the revel in the luxuries of princely mansions! How long are we to remain prisoners? It is a miserable life to lead even under favorable circumstances; but to know our countrymen are contending for theirs and our homes, and we unable to aid them, is almost insufferable. We beg you urge our Government to have us exchanged.

Respectfully, yours, &c.,

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 8/21/1861

Clipping Image

William C. Humphreys at Ancestry

William C. Humphreys at Fold3

William C. Humphreys at FindAGrave (possible)