Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for A Comment on Cruelty to Slaves and POWs.– Downing’s Civil War Diary.

A Comment on Cruelty to Slaves and POWs.– Downing’s Civil War Diary.

January 18, 2015

Diary of Alexander G. Downing; Company E, Eleventh Iowa Infantry,The American Civil War

Wednesday, 18th—The weather is very pleasant. We are still on duty guarding the main road to Beaufort. The trains have all gone in for supplies. All is quiet in front. This low country, before the war, was planted to cotton, the planters living in town while their plantations were managed by overseers and worked by slaves brought down from the border states. We can see rows of the vacant negro huts on these large plantations, set upon blocks so as to keep the floors dry. The negroes are all gone, being employed in the armies of both sections.[1]

[1] When I think of the vacant plantations I saw all through the South, when I recall the hardships of the negroes, and the different modes of punishment inflicted upon the slaves, all with the consent of the Southern people, then I can understand how they could be so cruel in their treatment of the Union prisoners of war. They put them in awful prison pens and starved them to death without a successful protest from the better class of the people of the South. The guards of these prisons had lived all their lives witnessing the cruel tortures of slaves; they had become hardened and thus had no mercy on an enemy when in their power. Many an Andersonvllle prisoner was shot down just for getting too close to an imaginary dead-line when suffering from thirst and trying to get a drink of water.

Not all Southerners were so cruel, for I lived in the same house with an ex-Confederate soldier from Georgia, when in southern Florida during the winter of 1911 and know that he had some feeling. He had been guard at Andersonvllle for a short time, and told me that he would have taken water to them by the bucketful, for he could not bear to hear the poor fellows calling for water; but that he did not dare to do it. This man’s name was McCain, and at the time I met him his home was at College Park, Atlanta, Ga.—A. G. D.

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