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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy

Civil War
Testimony on
the Treatment of Prisoners


Joseph B. Alter
McLean County, Illinois

(Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier)

Statement of Joseph B. Alter, of Towanda, Illinois

I was captain of Company A, Seventy-fifth Ohio volunteers. Was captured at Gainesville, Florida, August 17, 1864, and was sent by a circuitous route to Macon, and from there to Charleston, South Carolina, and confined in the jail yard without shelter, under the fire of the "swamp angel battery." From Charleston we were sent to Columbia, South Carolina, where we had no rations but corn meal and sorghum molasses. No tents or shelter was provided for us, we had to dig holes in the ground to protect ourselves from the weather. When it rained these caves were no use to us, as the water ran into them. We were removed from Camp Sorghum to Camp Asylum. There was no improvement in the rations or treatment. The men who had money managed to avoid extreme suffering from hunger; but those who had none suffered very much. I have seen United States officers gathering old bones from a rubbish head, to pound up and boil in water to make soup. When on our road for exchange we were allowed to travel without being very strictly guarded. At Goldsboro I saw a train-load of our prisoners brought in, some dead, and others dying from exposure and starvation, scarcely rags enough upon them to cover their nakedness. Some of them were idiotic. About one hundred and fifty sick men were left lying on the ground without shelter, and so weak that they could not move out of their own filth. They had neither medical care nor food to eat but what some kind-hearted rebel woman gave them. This brief sketch can do but little toward conveying an idea of the terrible sufferings of our prisoners. They cannot be written.

Joseph B. Alter,
Late Captain Seventy-fifth Ohio Volunteers
Towanda, Illinois, October 13, 1867

[1869-03-02; Report on the treatment of prisoners of war by the rebel authorities during the War of the Rebellion, to which are appended the testimony taken by the committee and official documents and statistics, etc. Publication: Serial Set Vol. No. 1391, Session Vol. No.4; Report: H.Rpt. 45; page 1137]


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