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Correspondence Regarding The Alton Penitentiary/Civil War Prison

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        The correspondence below gives the reader a broader picture of what was happening concerning the Alton Military Prison. You will find not only the Confederate's view of the Alton Prison, but of the Union officers in charge, and the trials and tribulations they underwent in providing for the Confederate soldier in difficult circumstances. While the prison at Alton was not pleasant under anyone's view, much effort was given to treat the Confederate soldiers with compassion and dignity. Many soldiers were housed in the hallways, not in the cells, and allowed to roam freely. Only the more rebellious were kept in cells with doors locked. Prisoners were fed twice a day, which included fresh beef. The hospital for the sick was staffed by their own captured comrades, and the dead were given a coffin and wooden plank for a tombstone and buried, at first, in the City Cemetery. It wasn't until toward the latter days of the war, when over-crowding became a burden and smallpox became prevalent did the horrors begin. Pleas went out from the prison commander to stop incoming prisoners to lessen the over-crowding and reduce the smallpox epidemic, to no avail. Effort was made to erect a hospital off-prison grounds in the city of Alton for the smallpox victims, but the residents of Alton would have no part of it. Plans were made to erect hospital tents in the woods near a good spring of water, about two miles from Alton.  A hospital was later established on an island in the Mississippi, to try and halt the spread of the dreaded disease. Dysentery was also a problem, as water supplies came directly from the Mississippi River (my great-grandfather, David D. Porter, served as a prison guard with the 144th IL Infantry Volunteers and died of dysentery shortly after arriving).


There were many prisoner paroles, exchanges, and releases.  Confederate Officers were paroled regularly, and allowed to roam freely within the confines of the city of Alton, as long as they carried official papers on them.  Visitors were granted access to the prisoners, and loved ones could send money to them to purchase personal items. Any money or items brought in by the prisoners were returned to them upon release. In time, however, prison authorities became lax and 'derelict in duty.'  There were several prison escapes, and one commander was relieved of duty. The Civil War will always be a dark time in American History, but many served their government (North and South) honorably and with distinction.                                 Bev Bauser



Source: The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies By the U. S. War Department, 1898 (Not in Copyright)


Maj. Gen. Henry Wager Halleck



Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major-General, Commanding, St. Louis, MO, to Brig. Gen. L. Thomas, Adjutant-General, December 25, 1861:

          I have between 2,000 and 3,000 prisoners of war. No proper building here for keeping them. If the Governor of Illinois consents to use of State Prison at Alton, now nearly unoccupied, will the General-in-Chief authorize me to fit it up and use it as a military prison?  H. W. Halleck


Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major-General, St. Louis, MO, to Maj. R. Allen, Chief Quartermaster, January 26, 1862:

          A quartermaster or agent should be sent to Alton prison tomorrow morning to provide fuel &c., for the occupation of the place by the prisoners of war and a garrison of say four companies. Fire should be built in all the stoves for a day or two to dry the place of all dampness. The well should be cleaned and pumped out, or provisions made for a supply of water from the river; also tables and benches in eating rooms, &c.   Yours, H. W. Halleck


Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major General, St. Louis, MO, to Lieut. Col. S. Burbank, Commanding at Alton, IL, February 4, 1862:

          You are hereby placed in charge of the prisoners of war at Alton. A list of them will be furnished you by the officer now having charge of them. You will arrange so that the officers may be confined apart from the men. The medical officer of your command will have the general charge of the sick, aided by the surgeons, prisoners of war. The sick prisoners of war will be in all respects treated as our own sick soldiers.  The two officers next in rank to yourself and the surgeon of your command will be constituted a board, to examine and decide what articles of clothing are necessary for the health and proper cleanliness of the prisoners where not furnished by their own Government or friends, and you will make the necessary requisitions on the quartermaster's department at Saint Louis for such articles as may be needed. The prisoners will be required to sign a receipt for any articles of clothing issued to them, the same as in the case of our enlisted men, the issue in all cases to be witnessed by a commissioned officer.

The prisoners will be divided into squads for police purposes, to which squads a chief will be appointed by you or elected by themselves as you may judge best. You will cause an officer to be detailed from your command to take charge of the police of the prison who will be placed permanently upon that duty or detailed weekly or daily for the purpose as you may deem best, and who will see that the prisoners police their quarters daily in a thorough manner; those refusing to do so will be punished by confinement in the cells until they are willing to do their duty to themselves in this matter. You will see that facilities are furnished to enable the prisoners to wash their persons frequently.  To this end you will make such requisitions for required articles as may be needed on the quartermaster's department at Saint Louis. Whenever the weather permits, you will cause the prisoners to exercise in the open air and also to hang out their blankets and other articles of bedding. You will furnish facilities for washing their clothes. You will see that a sufficient supply of medicines and hospital stores are provided by the medical officer of your command. The chief commissary at Saint Louis will inform you what arrangements have been made for the proper supply of provisions for the prisoners, who will be supplied the same as our own troops. You will frequently inspect their rations and see that they are properly cooked and of good quality. Their chaplains will be allowed free intercourse with the prisoners to give them religious instruction and consolation. Those who may die will be decently interred and a proper mark affixed to their place of burial, which will be within the usual grounds set apart for that purpose in the city of Alton. This you will arrange with the proper authorities. You will receive and distribute any articles of clothing or comfort which may be sent to the prisoners by their friends, and will permit them to receive from or transmit to their friends open letters to be inspected by you or by one of your officers charged with this duty which may be addressed to your care or forwarded through you. Every measure will be adopted by you to insure their safe custody. At the same time you will exercise toward them every dictate which enlightened humanity prompts and the laws of war permit. You will cause receipts to be signed by the prisoners for all articles sent to them by friends, whether money or in kind, which receipts will be filed in your office as evidence of the delivery of the articles sent. Money will only be furnished to them in such quantities as may be necessary for their current wants. At Fort Warren, it is understood the commanding officer receives funds sent to prisoners and disburses them upon their order, keeping a regular account with each. This would, perhaps, be the best way to proceed. Prisoners of war holding commissions in the enemy's service will be allowed on parole the limits of the city of Alton in the daytime, or be allowed to reside in the city on parole if in your discretion you may deem proper. All such paroles will be given in writing in triplicate, one copy being given to the prisoner, one retained by you and the third sent to the adjutant-general of the department. You will make monthly reports to these headquarters with full list of prisoners, noting all changes during the month, whether exchanged, released on parole, died, discharged, &c. You will distinguish in such report between those merely held in custody as prisoners of war and those under charges or sentence of court-martial or military commission.         Very respectfully, your obedient servant, H. W. Halleck, Major-General


Letter from Schuyler Hamilton, Brig. Gen. of Vols., U. S. Army, Comdg. Saint Louis District, to Col. J. M. Tuttle, Commanding Second Iowa Volunteers, February 7, 1862:

          As I am informed by General Halleck, a portion of General Burbank's command will proceed to Alton today. The commanding officer will telegraph when everything is ready, and it is the intention of General Halleck that a guard for the prisoners to Alton should be detailed from Colonel Shepard's command now at Benton Barracks. Such prisoners now at the military prison and arsenal as the provost-marshal shall designate, will be taken to Alton. He will call upon you for a guard to escort them from the military prison to McDowell's College and the commanding officer at the arsenal will send those in his charge so designated to McDowell's College under a guard detailed from his command. Those not designated, he will retain at the arsenal for trial by military commission. The prisoners now in McDowell's College, the provost-marshal general may name as proper to be kept here will be sent to the military prison for confinement. You will see that transportation for the baggage of the prisoners from the college to the boat is provided. For this, you will make requisition on the quartermaster's department. Being relieved from the custody of the prisoners, you will be prepared to move your regiment at a moment's warning. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, Schuyler Hamilton.


Letter from Chas. C. Smith, Captain, Thirteenth Infantry, Headquarter at Alton, Ill., to Lieutenant-Colonel Burbank, February 12, 1862:

          We received another invoice of prisoners last night. There will not be room for more if our regiment is to remain quartered inside the walls. We have rented the buildings adjacent for store-houses and quartermaster's department. The surgeon is looking for a building suitable for a hospital, but has not succeeded in procuring one as yet. I am having the prisoners police their quarters thoroughly, and will have them in good shape by tomorrow night. Mr. DeCourcey has made requisitions for all needful articles. Matters are progressing smoothly. We have had no trouble thus far. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, Chas. C. Smith


Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman

Letter from Lloyd Tilghman, Brig.-Gen., C. S. Army, Cairo, to Brigadier-General Cullum, Command, February 16, 1862:

          Brigadier-General Sherman, at Paducah, on yesterday informed me that on reaching this place, myself and the Confederate officers with me would be sent to either Saint Louis or Cincinnati on parole. I have just learned that our destination was Alton. If not incompatible with what you deem the public interest, I desire that the understanding be carried out. Respectfully, your obedient servant, Lloyd Tilghman


Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major General, Saint Louis, to Lt. Col. Burbank, or Commanding Office at Alton Prison, Illinois, February 17, 1862:

          General Tilghman and officers will be given the limits of Alton on their arrival by giving their parole.  H. W. Halleck.


Letter from N. H. McLean, Assistant Adjutant-General, Saint Louis, to Commanding Officer at Alton, Ill., February 20, 1862:

          Special order of yesterday intends that Provost-Marshal Fletcher will on examination release prisoners of war. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, N. H. McLean.


Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major-General, Saint Louis, to Lieut. Col. S. Burbank, Commanding at Alton, February 23, 1862:

          Send General Tilghman by next return boat to this place to join the other officers, prisoners of war, on board the transports. Send General Price on parole to report at headquarters in this city. H. W. Halleck.


Letter from Lloyd Tilghman, Brigadier-General, C. S. Army, Alton, to Major-General Halleck, February 24, 1862:

I respectfully request that four officers of my staff may be allowed to accompany me. Please answer by telegraph. Lloyd Tilghman.


Letter from J. C. Kelton, Assist. Adjutant-General, Saint Louis, to Commanding Officer at Alton, Ill., Feb. 28, 1862:                 

          The general commanding directs that Captain Sweeney's parole be withdrawn and he be returned to prison. The paroles of all other officers now in Alton will also be withdrawn and they be sent with an escort to Columbus, Ohio. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. C. Kelton.


Letter from S. Burbank, Lt. Col, Thirteenth Infantry, Commanding, Alton, Ill., to Col. Bernard G. Farrar, Provost-Marshal-General, Saint Louis, Mo., March 11, 1862:

          Herewith inclosed please find a list of the prisoners who have petitioned for release on condition of taking the oath of allegiance and giving security. It will be observed that many of the petitioners are those taken at Fort Henry. I do not understand General Halleck's order to apply to others than those taken in Missouri, but I may be mistaken in this. Several of the names may be repeated, arising from the fact of a different spelling and the names being handed in by friends who did not know that others had done the same thing. Those noted as having been "received March 3" are those who came with Colonel Freeman, no place being mentioned on the list. Those noted on the list as "unknown" are those who place of residence is unknown. The whole number of bona fide petitioners is about 300. Respectfully, your obedient servant, S. Burbank.


Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major General, Saint Louis, to Col. J. A. Mulligan, Chicago, March 18, 1862:

          When medical officers, prisoners of war on parole, fail to do their duty to their own sick, they will be put in close confinement and their names reported to me in order that I may send them to the military prison at Alton or to Fort Warren. No such medical officer will be released on parole or exchanged. H. W. Halleck.


Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major General, Saint Louis, to D. L. Phillips, U. S. Marshal, Springfield, Ill., March 22, 1862:

Escaped prisoners of war should be arrested and placed in confinement at Alton.


Letter from Richard D. Cutts, Colonel, U. S. Army and Aide-de-Camp, and John J. Key, Major, U. S. Army and Aide-de-Camp, Saint Louis, Mo., to Maj. General H. W. Halleck, Commanding Department of the Mississippi, April 3, 1862:

          In obedience to Special Orders, No. 62, we have examined the condition of the prisoners at Alton, as also the cases of the prisoners arrested in Illinois for assisting in the escape of a prisoner of war, and beg leave to make the following report:

Number and character of prisoners: The total number of prisoners under the charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Burbank is 791, of which 58 are officers, as follows: Colonels 5, Lieutenant-Colonels 2, Majors 3, Chaplain 1, Captains 18, Lieutenants 22, Surgeons 7. Of these, one Captain (Carey of Missouri) and the seven surgeons are on parole, restricted to the town of Alton. The prisoners are those taken at Pea Ridge, 459 in number; those taken at Fort Henry and its vicinity 130, and the balance composed of prisoners captured at Milford, of bridge-burners, soldiers arrested for pillaging, and disloyal citizens.


Quarters: The quarters of the officers, privates and citizens were found to be excellent, certainly equal if not superior to those at Camps Butler, Douglas and Morton. About 300 are quartered in the penitentiary proper - not in the cells, but in the wide passage-ways running around the three different tiers of cells. The bunks are double and amply sufficient for two persons. The others are lodged in the different outbuildings, in large and well-ventilated rooms heated by stoves, and in reply to our numerous inquiries in regard to their quarters, bunks and bedding we heard but a single complaint. That was made by Colonel Stone, and referred to the absence in many cases of straw for bedding and to the fact that the blankets of some of the prisoners had not been brought on from Rolla while en route from Arkansas to Alton. These wants, however, are now being supplied, as the commanding officer has directed the straw, blankets and clothing to be distributed according to the respective necessities of the prisoners. The prisoners are divided into twenty-six squads of thirty men in each. Two squads are daily detailed for police purposes, and the cleanliness of their quarters depends upon their own care and taste. While the quarters generally were in a clean and healthy condition, as demanded and exacted by the U. S. officer in charge, it was very evident that some were better kept and in neater order than others. The officers were quartered together in a large hall, well-ventilated and with abundance of room. In the cells there are confined twenty-four prisoners, part of whom have been sentenced and the others committed under serious criminal charges. None of these, however, are properly speaking prisoners of war.


Subsistence: Rations are issued at stated intervals to the prisoners in the same manner and to the same amount as to troops in the service of the United States. These provisions (bread instead of flour) are delivered to the squad detailed permanently as cooks and in charge of the kitchen; are cooked by them and served in a large dining hall by the squad detailed for that particular duty. Fresh beef is supplied every day for dinner. The hall accommodates 300 at one sitting and the hours for meals (two each day) are fixed by the prisoners themselves. The kitchen well supplied with ranges and all the appliances for cooking. The dining hall and the different quarters were all inspected, and to our repeated inquiries as to the quality and quantity of the provisions allow them every one with a single exception expressed themselves entirely satisfied and had not the slightest complaint to make. The exception was Colonel Stone, who thought that the fried pork for breakfast was too salty and that the coffee was too weak. It was suggested that these evils might be somewhat remedied by complaining to their fellow prisoners, the cooks.


Hospital: There are in the hospital about seventy-five sick, some two or three in a precarious condition. The diseases prevalent are pneumonia and diarrhea brought with them, or on generally by exposure previous to their arrival at Alton. Their own surgeons have charge of the hospital. The two whom we found in attendance seemed to be intelligent men and tolerably careful in their attention to the sick. They said that their patients had everything that they needed; indeed one of them volunteered to say that he had been surprised to hear contrary statements, and had denied emphatically to sympathizing visitors that the sick were not as well cared for in every particular as they could be anywhere else. The hospital hall is large, well ventilated and not crowded. All of the sick were not confined there, many with colds, &c., preferring their own quarters.

          In conclusion, we would report that so soon  as the straw for bedding shall be more generally distributed and a few blankets supplied here and there (all of which we understood was done last evening), the condition of the prisoners at Alton will be entirely comfortable and beyond the reach of reasonable complaint. The quarters are far from being crowded; the provisions are sound and abundant and the grounds for airing and for exercise amply extensive, and these facts are sustained by the almost unanimous confession of the prisoners themselves. The wants of each squad are presented every day in its morning report, and these are supplied either from the public stores or from funds deposited by relatives and friends to the credit of the different prisoners.

          Six Illinoisans, under charge of assisting prisoners of war to escape: These six men (W. P. Brooks, N. T. Books, A. C. Gish, W. S. Hutton, W. G. Nabb and William Richardson) are citizens of Auburn, Sangamon County, Ill., and were arrested for extending aid and comfort to an escaped rebel prisoner of war, and they are now confined in separate cells in the Alton Penitentiary and have been so confined for the last two weeks. Charge: They are charged with giving money varying in amount from 50 cents to $2 to a rebel prisoner who acknowledged that he had escaped a short time previous from the cars while en route from Camp Douglas. Defense: The prisoners have each presented a statement of their interviews with the rebel soldier. They confess that they gave the money, but say that it was done unthinkingly and on the assurance of the soldier that he was a Union man; that he would return home and tell his friends of the false stories circulated at the South in regard to Northern people, and that he would report himself to the proper military authority. They, moreover, say that they are loyal men, and to this effect also five petitions have been received at headquarters of the department from 165 citizens of Auburn. Some of these petitioners have been guaranteed as sound Union men by the Governor of Illinois. Recommendation: It is not believed that the State courts of Illinois could take cognizance of the charge against these six citizen prisoners. Complaint could be made to the U. S. district attorney at Springfield and the charges investigated and tried by the U. S. circuit court in Illinois. Considering therefore, that the publicity already given to this case of assisting a rebel prisoner to escape has had its proper effect, that the prisoners are loyal men who acted without thought or disloyal intention, and that they have been kept two  weeks in solitary confinement, we recommend that they be released on taking the oath of allegiance and giving bail of $1,000 in each case for their appearance before the U. S. circuit court, whenever called upon to so appear. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, Richard D. Cutts.


Letter from J. C. Kelton, Assistant Adjutant-General, Saint Louis, to Lt. Col. S. Burbank, Commanding at Alton, Ill., April 15, 1862:

          According to the terms of an agreement entered into by General Curtis and General Price, the prisoners named on the accompanying roll will be returned within the lines of the Confederate Army and released. I desire to know if all these men are under your charge, who are absent and where, in order to arrange the release at once. The officers and men captured from our army have already been released. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. C. Kelton.


Letter from S. [Sidney] Burbank, Lt. Col, Thirteenth Infantry, Commanding Alton, Ill., to Assistant Adjutant-General, Saint Louis, Mo., May 3, 1862:

          I received this morning two copies of lists of prisoners of war said to have been exchanged for others taken by General Price. One of these lists embraces the names of those who are now or have been confined at the military prison in Alton, and the other the names of those on the exchange list who have never been at Alton. Also, a copy of the agreement for an exchange of prisoners by Generals Curtis and Price, a copy of a letter from General Schofield to General Ketchum and a copy of a letter from General Price to General Halleck. As no orders or instructions accompany these papers, I can take no action in reference to them, and I do not know as it is expected I should. Very respectfully, S. Burbank.


Letter from J. C. Kelton, Assistant Adjutant-General, Camp on Corinth Road, Miss., GENERAL ORDERS No. 27, May 15, 1862:

          ....Those prisoners in Missouri and at Alton Prison, who are not liable to be exchanged and who have not been guilty of offenses triable before a military commission may be released on oath and bond at the discretion of the provost-marshal-general. In all cases where the civil law can be administered by loyal courts, he will deliver offenders to the civil authorities. By command of Major-General Halleck:  J. C. Kelton


Letter from S. Burbank, Lt. Col, Thirteenth Infantry, Commanding Alton, Ill., to Assistant Adjutant-General, Saint Louis, Mo., May 18, 1862:

          Herewith I have the honor to transmit a list of prisoners received, released, &c., from the 1st to the 10th of May, 1862. The next and thereafter this report will be made weekly. It has been made monthly heretofore because such were my instructions. I respectfully recommend that no more prisoners be sent to this prison until the smallpox has abated. There are now about twenty cases, and though not severe, it is probable some will terminate fatally. Last evening a squad of twenty-six prisoners arrived on their way to Chicago. It was discovered when they got here that there is no train on Saturday evening for Chicago, a fact that could readily have been ascertained at Saint Louis. There is no other place to keep them but the prison, and there is some risk of their taking the smallpox and transferring it to other places. I will send you a list of the Pea Ridge prisoners in a day or two, as soon as it can be prepared. No list of these prisoners was ever sent here and all the information we have we obtained from the prisoners themselves. The exchanged prisoners left yesterday morning. There were 199. The three officers from Columbus did not arrive to go with them. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, S. Burbank.


Letter from Assistant Adjutant-General, Saint Louis, Mo., to Brig. Gen. James Totten, Jefferson City, Mo., May 21, 1862:

          By direction of the general commanding, I have the honor to say in reply to your favor of the 20th that owing to the fact that smallpox is prevailing to some extent in the Alton Prison, it is deemed advisable not to send any more prisoners there at present and desires that you keep them at Jefferson City. Very respectfully, Asst. Adjutent-General


Letter from Jno. B. Villepigue, Brigadier-General, Command at Fort Pillow, Tenn., to Capt. C. H. Davis, Commanding Western Flotilla, Mississippi River, May 20, 1862:

          On yesterday evening, while temporarily absent from my headquarters, the second in command, Col. A. Jackson, Jr., through inadvertence or carelessness, received at this post 202 Confederate prisoners of war just from an infected prison at Alton, Ill., with two or three cases of smallpox among them, in exchange for the same number of U. S. prisoners turned over to your authorities some time ago free from infection.  While I do not presume that you are in any way responsible for so barbarous an act as sending released prisoners to communicate to my command the loathsome and infectious disease of smallpox, I demand that your Government disown the act by receiving these prisoners back into its lines and caring for them until every symptom of the infection has disappeared from their midst. I am, captain, with high respect, your obedient servant, Jno. B. Villepigue.


Letter from C. H. Davis, Captain, Commanding Western Flotilla, Mississippi River, to Brig. Gen. John B. Villepigue, Commanding Fort Pillow, Tenn., May 21, 1862:

          Your letter of 20th instant has been received. I have not a sufficient knowledge of the circumstances of the case - as for example, the condition of the building at Alton, Ill., in which the prisoners referred to have been confined, the health of the prisoners at the period of their release or the possible change of health they may have undergone on their way to this place - to render it worthwhile for me to enter into the details of the subject.  In order, however, to remove any grounds of complaint and to make a suitable provision for an unexpected emergency, I propose that a temporary neutral hospital be established for the benefit of the prisoners suffering from smallpox. The place for this hospital may be determined by Captain Dove, the bearer of this letter, acting for me and such officer as you may designate on your part. I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant, C. H. Davis.


Letter from Jno. B. Villepigue, Brigadier-General, Commanding at Fort Pillow, Tenn., to Commodore C. H. Davis, Commanding Western Flotilla, Mississippi River, May 21, 1862:

          I construe your reply to my demand of yesterday's date to be a refusal to take back the persons who were sent here on the 19th instant from an infected prison under a flag of truce. As it would be exposing the three persons upon whom the disease has actually broken out to unnecessary risk and exposure to again remove them I will decline doing so. I am, commodore, very respectfully, your obedient servant, Jno. B. Villepigue.


Letter from Jno. B. Villepigue, Brigadier-General, Commanding at Fort Pillow, Tenn., to General Beauregard, May 22, 1862:

          The transaction is no myth, but from what the prisoners say looks very much like an attempt to communicate the smallpox to my command. They were taken at Pea Ridge and are just from an infected prison at Alton, Ill. They were received by the second in command while I was reconnoitering. I endeavored to get Flag-Officer Davis to take them back, but he refused. Will send by first boat all the papers and correspondence. Jno. B. Villepigue.


Letter from Henry E. Peyton, Assistant Inspector-General, Headquarters, Western Department, Corinth, Miss., to General G. T. Beauregard, May 24, 1862:

          In compliance with your order to make an official synopsis of the accompanying papers relating to the exchange of 200 Confederate prisoners captured by the enemy at the battle of Pea Ridge, I have the honor to submit the following:

          On the 26th of March, 1862, Major General Price, of the Confederate Army, and Major General Curtis, of the Federal Army, signed a written agreement for an exchange of prisoners. This paper stipulated that the prisoners held by General Price should be immediately escorted beyond the lines of the Confederate Army, provided with enough rations to subsist them until they reached Fayetteville, Ark.; that they were to be kept on parole until General Curtis shall have sent an equal number of Confederate prisoners to Van Buren, or some other military post within our lines. The agreement closes with this paragraph:

If any of the prisoners held by Major General Curtis and named in the annexed list cannot for any cause be delivered as agreed, others actually in the service - military service - of the Confederate States shall be sent in their stead without unnecessary delay.

          On the 1st of May, 1862, General Halleck written from Monterey to Brigadier-General Ketchum, ordering him to have "the agreement between Generals Curtis and Price carried out without delay;" orders the prisoners to be conveyed by steamer down the Mississippi River and turned over to Commodore Foote, who will have them landed within Confederate lines; ample subsistence being furnished. If those named on list cannot be furnished, others are to be substituted.

          On the 19th of May, Flag Officer C. H. Davis, U. S. Navy, writes to Brigadier General Villepigue requesting him to remove from steamer Kennett 200 prisoners ent into the Confederate lines by order of General Halleck in obedience to an agreement entered into by Generals Price and Curtis for exchange of prisoners. Captain Davis also asks for receipt of same written on the list sent for that purpose.

          General Villepigue writes Captain Davis March 20, that whilst temporarily absent from his headquarters on the 19th, Col. Andrew Jackson, Jr., second in command, through inadvertence or carelessness, received 202 Confederate prisoners of war just from an infected prison at Alton, Ill., with two cases of smallpox among them in exchange for same number of Federal prisoners, free from any contagious disease. General Villepigue demands the enemy disavow so barbarous an act by receiving them again in their own lines and caring for them until cured of smallpox.

          Captain Davis replies to this letter 21st of May, that he has not a sufficient knowledge of all the circumstances in the case, such as the condition of the building occupied by prisoners in Alton, their health at the time released, &c., to enter into the details of the subject. But to remove ground for complaint, he proposes a temporary neutral hospital be established for the use of the infected. The location he leaves to Captain Dove and General Villepigue to determine.

          General Villepigue replies May 21 that he construes the above letter into a refusal to take back the prisoners and declines the proposition of Captain Davis. The two prisoners already broken out with smallpox would be exposed to unnecessary risk and discomfort to be again removed.

          Paper numbered 7 is a letter from General Villepigue to General Jordan stating the facts in the case and commenting severely upon the "barbarous" conduct of the enemy in the affair. He holds Captain Flag Officer Davis personally blameless, as the prisoners were sent directly through from Alton, but from what he learns from the prisoners themselves, he regards the transaction as a deliberate attempt of our enemies to spread the most loathsome disease among us. This he has sufficiently guarded against. Colonel Jackson is stated to have been ignorant of the prisoners' condition when he received them.

           Paper marked "8" is a letter from General Price, dated Van Buren, March 26, addressed to General Halleck. He calls General Halleck's attention to the fact that after the battle of Lexington, he forthwith liberated more than 3,500 prisoners, whilst he holds a large number of officers and men of the Missouri State Guard and many citizens of the State in close confinement at Saint Louis and elsewhere, who are suffering greatly by such unjust imprisonment. The hope is expressed that General Halleck will imitate the example set by General Price.

          This letter, though not bearing immediately on the subject matter in these papers, is yet interesting as illustrating the wide difference in the bearing and action of our own and the Yankee commanding generals in the whole history of this war. I have the honor, general, to be, your most obedient servant, Henry E. Peyton.


Letter from D. W. Vowles, Headquarters, 1st Div., Army of the West, Camp Corinth, Miss., to General Thomas A. Harris, May 20, 1862:

          I wrote you some days since and sent it to Mobile to be mailed. I did not in it communicate to you fully the progress of affairs here, and cannot do so now as I write you in a hurry, as we have just returned from the field where we have been in line of battle for three days. The Yankees are evidently afraid to attack us; in other words, they show timidity.

          Old Captain Robards, from Hannibal, reached our camp yesterday direct from his home. He came by water to Saint Louis, from there to Nashville, thence to Chattanooga and here. He says my brother, the old doctor, was sent to Alton in irons. He was chained very heavily, as they thought him very vicious, says the captain, Robards.

          Doctor Foster is there (in Alton) in advance of my brother and condemned to be shot. The sentence has been approved by General Halleck. The charge was bridge burning and railroad tearing up. I wish you would take some action or have some action taken to mitigate this penalty of our old friend Foster.

          The boys are bushwhacking in Northeast Missouri. There are no troops there now, except the Gamble militia or home guards. He reports the boys are taking small parties of Feds every day in that region; they take no prisoners. No quarter is shown by either side. Gilchrist Porter is on the bench. They are making an effort to collect tax in that region, with what difficulty and success you may well judge. Men are determined to resist. General Rains, General McBride, Governor Jackson, Colonel Coffee, Colonel Clarkson, Colonel O'Kane have gone back to bushwhack. They are now in Arkansas preparing to go up. General Curtis in Arkansas with 10,000 men. Why is General Pike in command yet? I write you in haste and will do so again soon and more fully. I should like to hear from you. Address me in care of Brigadier General Green. Your friend, D. W. Vowles.




Source: The New York Times, February 28, 1862


Order by General Halleck, Headquarters, Department of Missouri, St. Louis, February 26, 1862

1. In consideration of the recent victories won by the Federal forces, and of the rapidly increasing loyalty of citizens of Missouri, who for a time forgot their duty to their flag and their country, the sentences of John C. Tompkins, William J. Forshey, John Patton, Thomas M. Smith, Stephen Stott, Geo. H. Cunningham, Richard B. Crowder, and George M. Pulliam, heretofore condemned to death, are provisionally mitigated to close confinement in the Military Prison at Alton. If rebel spies again destroy railroads and telegraph lines, and thus render it necessary for us to make severe examples, the original sentences against these men will be carried into execution.

2.  No further assessments will be levied or collected from any one who will now take the prescribed oath of allegiance.

3. Boards of Commissions will be appointed to examine the cases of prisoners of war who apply to take the oath of allegiance; and on their recommendation orders will be issued from these headquarters for their release.  By command of Maj.-Gen., Halleck.  N. H. McLean, Ass't. Adjt.-Gen.




Source: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, 1910, page 100 (Not in Copyright)


Letter from Fort Pillow, Tenn., May 20, 1862

Captain: On yesterday evening, while temporarily absent from my headquarters, the second in command, Colonel A. Jackson, Jr., through inadvertence or carelessness, received at this post 202 confederate prisoners of war, just from an infected prison at Alton, Ill., with two cases of smallpox among them, in exchange for the same number of United States prisoners, turned over to your authorities some time ago, free from infection. While I do not presume that you are in any way responsible for so barbarous an act as sending released prisoners to communicate to my command the loathsome and infectious disease of smallpox, I demand that your Government disown the act by receiving these prisoners back into its lines and caring for them until every symptom of the infection has disappeared from their midst. I am, captain, with high respect, your obedient servant, Jno. B. Villepigue, Brigadier-General, Commanding


Off Fort Pillow, May 21, 1862

General: Your letter of the 20th instant has been received. I have not a sufficient knowledge of the circumstances of the case, as, for example, the condition of the building at Alton, Ill., in which the prisoners referred to have been confined, the health of the prisoners at the period of their release, or the possible change of health they may have undergone on their way to this place, to render it worthwhile for me to enter into the details of the subject. In order, however, to remove any grounds of complaint, and to make a suitable provision for an unexpected emergency, I propose that a temporary neutral hospital be established for the benefit of the prisoners suffering from smallpox. The place for this hospital may be determined by Captain Dove, the bearer of this letter, acting for me, and such officer as you may designate on your part. I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, C. H. Davis, Flag-Officer, Comdg. U. S. Naval Forces




Source: Letter from W. M. W. of 3d Reg. La. Vol., Memphis, Tenn., May 27, 1862; printed in the New York Times, June 8, 1862

....I deem the course they pursued at Alton the one natural to their instincts, for the prisoners there are almost entirely Missourians, and they consider the State of Missouri a conquered province. Time will probably enlighten them as to this, and then, as I remember the haggard look and deep set eyes of some of the very first men of the State that I saw in close confinement, both at Alton and St. Louis, I almost shudder at the dark depths of the vengeance most certainly in store for the foul tyrants who oppress them.




The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series II, Volume IV, by the United States War Department, 1899

(Not in Copyright)


Letter from W. Hoffman, Col, Third Infantry, Commissary-General of Prisoners, to Commanding Officer, Military Prison at Alton, Ill., June 25, 1862:

          Will you please furnish me for the War Department with a list of all prisoners of war who have been or are now in confinement at the Alton Prison and please furnish a duplicate of the same for this office. Citizens and soldiers should not be entered on the same list. I will send you blank rolls for this purpose by express, and also blank monthly returns of prisoners, with the request you will furnish a return monthly to this office. The roll called for above will take the place of those required in General Orders, No. 54, of May 17, from War Department, and if other rolls have been called for, you need not furnish them till you have further instructions. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. Hoffman.


Letter from W. S. Rosecrans, Brigadier-General, to Col. J. C. Kelton, July 13, 1862:

          General Ord has sent some prisoners to me who are described as wishing to be exchanged. If it be the order of the commanding general that an exchange of only these prisoners should be made, I will go to the trouble and exchange, but if not, I desire orders to send them up for transportation to Alton. W. S. Rosecrans.


Letter from J. M. Schofield, Brigadier-General, Headquarters District of Missouri, Saint Louis, to Col. John C. Kelton, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Dept of the Mississippi, Corinth, Miss., July 13, 1862:

          There are in the military prisons of Saint Louis and Alton several prisoners sent here from portions of the department not in my command, chiefly from Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. They are not prisoners of war. I am in doubt whether I have the same authority to dispose of them as in case of prisoners take in my own district, or whether they are simply to be held subject to orders from the commanding officer of the district from which they were sent, or of the commanding general of the department. I respectfully request instructions on this subject. I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. M. Schofield.


Letter from Ferd. E. DeCourcy, First Lieut., Thirteenth U. S. Infantry, Actg. Asst. Qmr., U. S. Army, to Col. William Hoffman, Commissary-General of Prisoners, Detroit, Mich., July 24, 1862:


          Requisition for clothing and camp and garrison equipage for the use of the prisoners of war at Alton Penitentiary, at Alton, Ill., for two months, commencing August 1, 1862 and ending September 30, 1862:

Commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and privates' flannel shirts:

Required, August 1, 1862                                                 1,000

On hand, to be deducted                                                        0

To be supplied                                                                 1,000

          I certify that the above requisition is correct and the articles are necessary for the public service, rendered so by the following circumstances: For the use of the prisoners of war at Alton, Ill. 


Letter from W. Hoffman, Col, Third Inftry, Commission-General of Prisoners, Detroit, Mich., to General L. Thomas, Adj-General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C., July 31, 1862:

          I have the honor to inclose herewith a report of Maj. F. F. Flint concerning the escape of thirty-six prisoners of war from the military prison at Alton, Ill. Nothing is said to show that all proper precautions were taken to discover the preparation of the means of escape, nor is it explained how so many men could pass so near the sentinel without detection. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. Hoffman.


Letter from F. F. Flint, Major, Sixteenth Reg., Commanding at Alton, Ill., to Col. William Hoffman, Detroit, Mich., July 26, 1862:

          I regret to report the escape of some thirty-six prisoners from this prison last night. They effected their escape through a hole or long trench dug under the wall on the west side and coming to the surface some six or eight feet from it, and not far from the end of the sentinel's post. The hole was first discovered by the sentinel at daylight. A thorough examination was made of the interior of the prison to find the opening on the inside. No place in the vicinity of the wall could be found. At length, upon examining the interior of the buildings, sheds, &c., the opening was discovered on top of an old pile of brick masonry, some twenty inches or two feet beneath the roof of the shed, which has been used as a washhouse by the prisoners. There was no dirt or other indications of the digging visible on entering the shed, and the hole was found by climbing upon the masonry, where the dirt was packed away closely between the top and the roof of the shed. The trench is some fifty or sixty feet in length and must be several feet below the surface to pass under the foundation of the wall. The work has probably been progressing for many weeks. Large knives were found at the outside hole, which appear to have been used in digging through the clay and loam. Among the prisoners who have escaped are Colonel Magoffin and his two sons, Colonel Murrell and Captain Sweeney, a one-armed man. I have sent out several parties to scour the country in the vicinity with the hope that some of them will be captured. Many have undoubtedly crossed the river at this place, as several skiffs are missing. I have telegraphed the provost-marshal-general at Saint Louis and the commanding officer at Saint Charles, Mo. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, F. F. Flint.


Letter from John Stirling, Clerk to Commissary-General of Prisoners, Detroit, Mich., to Maj. F. F. Flint, Commanding Alton Prison, August 19, 1862:

          By direction of Colonel Hoffman, commissary general of prisoners, I send you today rolls of prisoners of war at Alton to be used for the purpose of exchange. These rolls are as full as the records received from you at this office furnish the material, but from a return received from Colonel Farrar, provost-marshal-general at Saint Louis, it would appear that a number of prisoners have been sent since July 19 from Saint Louis to Alton, of which no particulars have been received at this office. It will be necessary to add to the rolls sent to you today those names which have been received since the return and rolls you forwarded at the first of this month. Very respectfully, John Stirling.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Col., Third Infantry, Commissary-General of Prisoners, Saint Louis, Mo., to Col. L. B. Parsons, Asst. Qtrmstr, Supt. of Transportation, Saint Louis, Mo., September 2, 1862:

          The Confederate prisoners of war at the military prison at Alton and at Camp Butler are about being transferred to Vicksburg, Miss., for exchange, and I have to request you will direct the necessary transportation to be provided by rail to Alton and thence by steamboat, stopping at Cairo to Vicksburg. There will be about 3,000 in all, and they will take with them rations to serve them to Cairo where their supplies will be renewed. They will be divided into parties of 1,000 each, and at Cairo they will be delayed to collect several boats together (other parties are moving from Chicago) that they may have convoy beyond that point. They will take cooked rations for as many days as possible, but it will be necessary to make arrangements with the boats to make their coffee and to allow some cooking. The commanding officer at the above stations will notify you when the prisoners will be ready to leave. Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Col., Third Infantry, Commissary-General of Prisoners, Saint Louis, Mo., to Col. B. G. Farrar, Provost-Marshal-General, Saint Louis, Mo., September 2, 1862:

          The Confederate prisoners of war are about being transferred from the military post at Alton to Vicksburg for exchange, and I wish you would have those who are confined in this city ready to join them as they pass down the river. Let them take cooked rations to Cairo. Arrangements will be made with the boat to make their coffee. Prepare duplicate rolls to accompany them, which will be handed to the officer in charge of the guard. If there are any belonging to the Confederate Army who wish to take the oath of allegiance, administer it to them and discharge them. Take it in triplicate - one for the man, one for your records, and one for this office. Send a roll of those who take the oath to the Adjutant-General at Washington, and one to me at Detroit. The commanding officer at Alton will let you know when the prisoners will leave that prison. Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.




Letter from E. D. Townsend, Asst. Adjutant-General, Washington, Special Order No. 207, August 26, 1862:

          By direction of the President, a court of inquiry will assemble at Alton, Ill., the 3d day of September 1862, to inquire into the circumstances of the escape of thirty-six prisoners of war from the military prison at Alton, on or about the 25th day of July last. The court will make a report and give an opinion in the matter, and will consist of Maj. Edmund Underwood, Eighteenth U. S. Infantry; Capt. Alfred Gibbs, Third U. S. Cavalry; Capt. V. R. Hart, Nineteenth U. S. Infantry. The junior member will act as recorder.


Proceedings of a court of inquiry:

Alton, Illinois, September 3, 1862

          The court met at 10 a.m., pursuant to the above order. Present: Maj. Edmund Underwood, Eighteenth U. S. Infantry; Capt. Alfred Gibbs, Third U. S. Cavalry; Capt. V. K. Hart, Nineteenth U. S. Infantry, recorder of the court of inquiry. The court then proceeded to the business before it and was duly sworn by the recorder and the recorder duly sworn by the president of the court. The recorder here stated that his proper name was V. K. Hart instead of V. R. Hart, and it was directed to be so entered upon the minutes. The recorder requested that the court would adjourn until the next day to allow him time to prepare the case, summon his witnesses, &c. The court then adjourned until the 4th instant at 9 a.m. 

          The court having ascertained that it was determined to send the Thirteenth Regiment of Infantry on active service the next morning at 9 a.m., reassembled at 2 p.m., and in view of the exigencies of service, determined to reconvene at 8 p.m. on the same evening. The court accordingly met at that hour, pursuant to adjournment. Present: Maj. Edmund Underwood, Eighteenth U. S. Infantry; Capt. Alfred Gibbs, Third U. S. Cavalry; Capt. V. K. Hart, Nineteenth U. S. Infantry, and called first Capt. Charles C. Smith, Thirteenth U. S. Infantry, who being duly called and having heard the order read was duly sworn by the judge advocate and testified as follows:

About the morning of the 25th July last, I was informed that some of the prisoners of war had escaped from the military prison, among whom was Colonel Magoffin, under sentence of death. I went up with another officer whose name I do not recollect, to the rear of the prison, whence we understood they had escaped. I saw at the end of post No. 5, who is stationed at the west end of the prison, a hole out of which I was informed some prisoners had escaped, among whom was Colonel Magoffin. The hole was just large enough for the egress of a man, about four feet from the outside of the wall. We went thence to the inside of the prison proper to try and find out where the hole was started. We searched the prison in what we supposed to be the vicinity of the hole, the cells, &c.; sounded the flag-stones and found nothing. We then went outside the prison proper, but inside the walls and were unsuccessful. Eight of the escaped prisoners were afterwards recaptured.

          Dorus E. Bates, first lieutenant, Thirteenth U. S. Infantry, being duly sworn, deposes:

I was officer of the day on or about 25th of July at the military prison. There was nothing unusual happened to my knowledge during the first part of the night. About 12 or 1 p.m. the sentinel on No. 5 gave the alarm; called for corporal of the guard. I went around with the corporal and the sentinel said - his beat is at the end of an alley surrounded by a low fence - he saw two men lying outside the end of the fence. He challenged them and snapped his piece at them when they escaped. I examined on the sentinel's post, but found nothing. I remained at the guardhouse over night, and next morning at daylight the sentinel reported the fact of the hole (to the corporal) and he to me. I placed a sentinel over the hole, but could not find the entrance to the hole on the inside before I was relieved, but kept searching for it from daylight till guard-mount. I reported the fact to the commander of the prison, Lieutenant Irvine, as soon as I could have the rolls of the prisoners called.

          Javan B. Irvine, first lieutenant, Thirteenth Infantry, being duly sworn, deposeth:

I was acting adjutant of the military prison. I came up to the office on the morning of the 25th of July about 7 a.m. and soon after Lieutenant Bates, the officer of the day, came in the office. I asked him if things were all right. He said that they were bad; that a number of prisoners had escaped and asked if I could tell him how many. I told him not until the morning reports were brought in. I asked him how and where they escaped. He said he could show me the hole where they came out but that was all. I went and looked at the hole outside. I thought they must have raised a flag-stone in the corridor and dug under the wall, as they had once before done in May. I examined the location and found that it was untouched and remained as before. When the rolls came in, I took down the names of the absent. The chief of Colonel Magoffin's squad reported him missing. I was much surprised and ordered the officer of the day to take the key to Colonel Magoffin's room and go and see if he were there. He went up and came back and reported him missing, and reported that the padlock to Colonel Magoffin's room was unlocked, but was shut too and seemed to be locked. After I had gotten about twenty-eight names, I gave them to the commanding officer. He ordered me to go and try and discover the entrance to the hole. I did so, and after looking at the hole on the outside, I took the range to find the entrance. We went round to the rear of the prison where there was a range of ovens covered with a shed, with a roof sloping from front to rear, about eighteen inches or a foot from the top of the oven in rear. There was a space of five or six feet in front of the ovens where the prisoners washed their clothes. After looking both front and rear and finding nothing, Lieutenant Griffin stepped up on a bench and looked up and said, "Here's the place." We then got up on top the oven and found the entrance to the excavation they had made. A hole had been cut down through one oven and the dirt thrown on top the two. The ovens had never been used for the prisoners. We could find no other trace of where the earth had been placed that was taken out. I examined the main excavation and found that the diameter was about eighteen inches. The commanding officer ordered the ovens to be demolished and the trench filled up. The wall is at least twenty-five feet high and at least three feet thick at bottom. The hole was cut through this wall underground and the stones carried out.

          First Lieut. Justus A. Boies, Thirteenth Infantry, being duly sworn deposed:

Am in charge of prisoners of war at the military prison. On learning that the prisoners had escaped, I took a lantern and went through the whole of the prison with the provost-marshal; examined the corridors, &c. I then went round to the ovens and the wash rooms in front finding nothing. I went back to where the excavation had been attempted once before, but found nothing. I had frequently before examined the prison ovens, but had not got up on top until the hole was discovered by Lieutenant Griffin. In the top was found one of the police spades, some of the old clothes they had used in digging, and much soiled. I used regularly to inspect for the police of my command. It was extremely dark that night, and having been a good deal of rain, was cloudy.


First Lieutenant Griffin, Thirteenth U. S. Infantry, being duly sworn, deposeth:


The morning after the prisoners escaped, when I heard how many had escaped, I was astonished and asked the officers if they knew how they had gotten out. They said not. In searching the washroom, I saw that the prisoners were astonished. That made me think I had hit the place. I then jumped up on the wash bench in front of the ovens. As soon as I did that, I saw a spade and some old clothes and some caps. I then jumped up and went in. To get in, I had to crawl, when I discovered the hole where they went in. I was the first person who discovered the hole. They dug at least forty-five feet, to the best of my knowledge.


Maj. F. F. Flint, Sixteenth Infantry, being duly sworn, deposed:


The guard on the morning the prisoners escaped was about thirty-six men. The number of prisoners was about 500 or 600. I considered the guard sufficient as I knew the convicts were guarded by a much smaller force. The guard I had mounted was the same as that I found when I assumed command, with about the same number of prisoners. We estimated the distance burrowed underground was about sixty feet. I do not think that any assistance was afforded them in escaping by working from the outside. The work was cut with large knives, some of which were found outside the hole. These knives were probably taken from the mess kitchen. They are not allowed to carry anything of the kind. There was a complete chain of sentinels round the inside through the main prison and one on the outside, where an attempt had been made to cut the bars. This was the sentinel who first discovered the hole. The prisoners had several times before attempted to burrow out, and I had every precaution taken to prevent it. The whole prison had been twice inspected before the day the prisoner escaped by two different officers.


Private Moses Peirce [Pierce], Company B, Thirteenth U. S. Infantry:


I was on No. 5 post on the outside of the military prison on the night the prisoners escaped. Between 10 and 12 p.m. I heard a noise at the upper end of my beat, and going down to see what it was, I found a lot of cows. I could not drive them off and they stayed there. This was where the hole was afterwards found. While I was on post between 4 and 6 a.m., about daylight I discovered the hole about four feet outside my post. I then called for the corporal of the guard. No one could have passed out while I was on post the last time.

          There being no further evidence to produce, the court was then closed, and after a careful and minute inspection of the premises, the grounds and the manner in which the escape was made in company with the officers above named, the court find the following to be the facts:

          That for some weeks prior to the escape of the prisoners of war from the military prison at Alton, Ill., a complete organization existed among them to escape, carried out in the most secret manner and with wonderful determination and fortitude. Ascending to the top of one of the brick ovens, crawling through a place scarcely large enough to admit a man, they first cut through the brick archway of an oven, then through the masonry bed to the depth of at least eight feet, placing the debris in the vacant space round the oven, or else carrying off the pieces and scattering and concealing them elsewhere. Thence at a distance of three feet under ground, with a spade and knives, they burrowed in ground full of limestone rock and pebbles a distance of fifty feet an excavation of about eighteen inches diameter, packing the removed earth and stones to the depth of about two feet on top of and behind the other ovens, securely concealed from view by the shed that covered the others. They then cut through the solid limestone wall under ground, and awaiting a dark and cloudy night made their escape one by one. From the examination of the localities, it is easy to see how they should have escaped the notice of the sentinel near the end of whose post they emerged from the prison yard. The place he was principally directed to guard was at the other end of his post and his attention was principally called to that. Taking advantage of this after the excavation was made, all else was easy, and it is only to be wondered at that more did not escape under the circumstances. On examination of the place of confinement of Colonel Magoffin, it was found that he occupied a room upstairs, being sick. A sentinel was placed over him in front, and the exit for necessary purposes was guarded by an iron door fastened by a padlock, opening into the prisoners' corridor. It was evident to the court that he escaped from his cell by the picking of this padlock by prisoners from the outside. Under these circumstances the court came to the following opinion:

          That the escape of the prisoners of war at the military prison at Alton, Ill., on the night of 24th of July last, was due to dereliction of duty, but to whom the court is unable to say from the evidence before them. Blame necessarily attaches to the officer of the day who when the corporal of the guard was called, did not go to the end of the post to examine further; but as that officer, Lieutenant Bates, has been but little more than a month in service, his laxity has some palliation. It certainly appears that the cell of Colonel Magoffin was insecurely guarded, inasmuch as the only exit from it was fastened by a padlock and opened into a corridor in which the prisoners had free access.

          The court does not attach any culpability to Maj. F. F. Flint, Sixteenth Infantry, as from the continued press of business upon him, he was unable to give his full attention to the prison and was necessarily obliged to rely upon subordinates of short service and inexperience. Ed. Underwood, Major, U. S. Army, President, and V. K. Hart, Captain, Nineteenth Infantry, Recorder of Court.



Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry, Commission General of Prisoners, Detroit, Mich., to Col. Jesse Hildebrand, Commanding Prison at Alton., Ill., September 29, 1862:

          Your letter of the 25th is received, and in reply to your inquiries I have to say that my instruction of the 23d require you to discharge only those prisoners who now belong to the Confederate Army, and who were in that service when they were made prisoners of war. This, of course, does not include any other class of prisoners - no irregulars or State troops, nor citizens. Those only are Confederate prisoners of war who are so designated on your rolls and they are to be sent to Cairo for exchange or discharged on taking the oath of allegiance. W. Hoffman.


Letter from J. Hildebrand, Colonel, Commanding Post at Alton, Ill., to Col. William Hoffman, October 13, 1862:

          The provost marshal general at Saint Louis, Mo., claims entire control of not only the military force there, but also the prison, and frequently sends orders to me to admit ladies and gentlemen into the prison to see their friends. He also orders me to make out the same rolls and returns that you require. He wants returns made to him every two weeks. Now, to undertake to live and act under the rulings of two masters is more than I contracted for, and more than I am willing to submit to. When their orders conflict, everything is deranged thereby. Please give this subject your immediate attention and much oblige, J. Hildebrand.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry, Commissary-General of Prisoners, to Col. Thomas T. Gantt, Provost Marshal General, Saint Louis, Mo., October 13, 1862:

          I am informed by the commanding officer of the military prison at Alton that he receives orders from you in relation to his duties which are in conflict with those which I have given him, and to avoid embarrassment from contradictory orders and to promote the interest of the service, which should be our first consideration, I wish to call your attention to the orders from the War Department, No. 32, of April 2, and No. 67, of June 17, placing all prison camps or stations under my control, and my circular of regulations of July 7, which I have furnished to commanders of posts where prisoners are held, and which I have directed to be closely adhered to. Paragraph 12 of General Orders 32 says that my duties do not extend to prisoners of state, but since that time the charge of all political prisoners has been placed in my hands. As far as practicable, it is desirable that only such prisoners be sent to Alton as will probably remain in custody some time, for under my instructions none can be released from there without the authority of the War Department. If this is not practicable in your department, I wish you would make such suggestions to meet the case as you may think proper, and I will lay them before the Secretary of War. The Gratiot Street Prison should be used for casual prisoners and for such as have their cases under investigation. All military prisoners should be sent to Alton. In every case where prisoners are sent to Alton, a full list should accompany them, giving all the details required by the printed rolls with the charges or sentences under the head of remarks. It is reported to me that prisoners are sometimes received without even a roll. Prisoners should be sent up to arrive during the daytime, if possible. Visitors to prisoners are prohibited, except under specified circumstances, and I request you will give no permit for that purpose. The admission of visitors to the prison is attended with much inconvenience and leads to lax discipline. Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from Thos. T. Gantt, Provost Marshal General, Saint Louis, to Maj. H. Z. Curtis, Assit. Adjutant General, October 15, 1862:

          I addressed Major General Curtis on the 13th instant on the subject of the indefiniteness of the powers and duties of the provost marshal general. The inclosed letter from the commissary general of prisoners shows a very inconvenient conflict between his authority and mine, and illustrates the necessity of a definition of doubtful powers. If there be anything which is essential to the due administration of this office, it is the control of the military prisoners within the district. I cannot perceive how I can exercise any authority over the prison at Gratiot street if I have no power over that at Alton. Both are equally within my district. Alton is as much within the Department of the Missouri as is Saint Louis. There are many prisoners at Alton who will be discharged on parole and bond - some on parole alone and some unconditionally - as soon as their cases can be reached and examined. If these persons are to be retained until the Secretary of War can examine into the cause of their detention, their case is very pitiable. Under these circumstances, I solicit instruction from the major general commanding as to the authority I may exercise over the Alton Military Prison. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, Thos. T. Gantt.


Letter from Thos. T. Gantt, Provost Marshal General, Saint Louis, to Col. William Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, Detroit, Mich., October 15, 1862:

          I have just received your letter of 13th instant. The view you take of the control of the prisons within this district will lead to much inconvenience. I have not been furnished with the orders you mention from the War Department, and was not aware of them, but an order issued by Major General Halleck in July last expressly placed all the military prisons within this district under charge of this office. This district then included Alton, as it still does. The same rule which would exclude me from control of the Alton Military Prison would deprive me of all authority over the Gratiot Street Military Prison. There are now at Alton a number of prisoners sent there merely because of the overcrowded condition of the Gratiot Street Prison. As fast as I can, I examine into the evidence against these persons and in many instances find no cause for detaining them, if they will give their parole and bond for future good behavior. To detain these prisoners until the War Department can act upon their cases will be the occasion of very disproportioned imprisonment.

          In no case have prisoners been sent to Alton from this office without a full list setting forth the charge and evidence, but numbers have been sent from Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas directly in which as I learn this has been neglected. I speak of this office only since it has been under my charge. Of course, if it be determined that the Alton Prison is not under my control, no further permits to visit it will be given by this office. On this head I shall seek the instructions of the major general commanding the department, which includes Alton. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, Thos. T. Gantt.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel Third Infantry, Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington, D.C., to Col. Thomas T. Gantt, Prov. Mar. Gen. Dist., October 29, 1862:

          Your letters of the 15th and 18th are received. To obviate the inconvenience which would arise from your not having authority to release prisoners from the Alton Prison I will direct the commanding officer to release on your order all such as may have been sent there by you on charges, which on investigation prove to be informal. To prevent the necessity of sending up prisoners whose cases have not been decided on, I wish as far as practicable, you would hold such prisoners at the Gratiot Street Prison until a decision is had, and then if they are not to be released, send them to Alton. That this prison may not be so much crowded, I will direct that prisoners be transferred from time to time from there to the depot at Sandusky. I inclose herewith Orders No. 142, announcing the cartel. You will perceive that by the supplementary article prisoners of war are to be sent with all reasonable dispatch (in the West) to Vicksburg, where they will be exchanged or paroled. I have already given orders for them to be sent from Alton from time to time as the numbers justify it to Cairo, where the commanding officer is directed to take charge of them and forward them, and I wish you would send any that may now be at the Gratiot Street Prison, or that you may have in charge hereafter, to that point with full rolls. I would not send less than ten at a time. A larger number would be better. It is the direction of the Secretary of War [illegible] Alton Prison.  Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from J. Hildebrand, Colonel, Commanding Alton Prison, to Col. W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, November 19, 1862:

          Captain Freedley is here and informs me that I should not release any prisoner by order of General U. S. Grant, nor any provost marshal general, but make all releases upon your standing or special order. And he has advised me to write and ask you for such letter of instruction, which I hope you will forward me as soon as practicable and much oblige. J. Hilderbrand.


Letter from H. W. Freedley, Captain, Alton, Ill., to Col. William Hoffman, Washington, D. C., November 19, 1862:

          Your letter of the 13th instant, today's telegram and telegram of yesterday to Colonel Hildebrand, were all received today. If the transportation is furnished, the prisoners will be forwarded to Cairo on the morning of the 21st instant. It requires some time to correctly make out the rolls and to investigate their claims for exchange. The rolls here are so obviously incorrect that they are but little indication of the character of the prisoners.  Prison affairs here [Alton] are much complicated. It will require time for investigation and to fully enforce your instructions. If I had the authority, I would assume the temporary command of the prison and would soon enforce the reforms you desire. As I have neither the rank, nor the position in your department, but merely your agent, I cannot act but by your authority and through the prison commander. While Colonel Hildebrand apparently does all in his power, you cannot imagine how provokingly tedious my instructions are carried out, and the information I require is obtained. Every direction I give I must personally enforce. All information I require must be drawn out. There has been a complete want of system, method and organization in everything that relates to prison affairs. None of the officers fully understand their duties and obligations.  It appears that General Grant as well as General Curtis has released and paroled prisoners here without your authority or knowledge, and in opposition to your regulations and oft-repeated instructions. With the orders of the War Department, the circular from your office, and your letters before him, the commanding officer pleads want of information as his excuse. I am investigating this matter and will inform you fully tomorrow. Captain Mason, late adjutant, has been promoted to major, for what peculiar merit I am unable to understand. He has charge of money accounts, returns, rolls, &c., and every return sent to your office has been sent back for correction. He is now absent with detachment of prisoners sent to Sandusky, and everything in his office is in such confusion that I will be unable to correct September and October returns until his return to this post. He is expected back tomorrow. The One hundred and twenty-sixth Illinois Volunteers, stationed here, have been ordered South. Their services are not required here. I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant, H. W. Freedley.


H. W. Freedley, Captain, Third Infantry, Alton, Ill., to Col. William Hoffman, Washington D. C., November 20, 1862:

          On Sunday night the prisoners set fire to the military prison, but the building was but very slightly damaged. During the night, which was exceptionally dark, four prisoners escaped. They procured a wooden ladder and reached the top of the wall and lowered themselves by means of a rope ladder made of bedding. Culpable neglect is shown by allowing a ladder to remain in the prison; want of vigilance in the sentinels in allowing the prisoners to lower themselves down within a few feet of the post. If they could not have seen, they should have heard them. General neglect is shown by the authorities not being able to ascertain the names and number of prisoners who escaped until several hours after their escape was known. I inclose herewith a scrap from the Alton Telegraph relating to their escape. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, H. W. Freedley.

Today J. B. Paxton was paroled from the military prison and ordered to report to Col. J. G. Lane, at Wellsville, Mo.  Last night, about 11 o'clock, the room north of the prison hospital was discovered to be on fire. The room was used only to hold straw and must have been set on fire, as there was no fire used in it. The Alton fire engine was promptly on the ground and extinguished the flames before much damage was done. This morning about 6 o'clock this same room was discovered to be on fire, but the flames were immediately stopped. some time during the night several prisoners (it is not known how many) made their escape from the prison by the use of a ladder and bed clothes torn into strips and made into a rope. They passed over the south wall just west of the big gate entrance by ascending the ladder and letting themselves down by the clothes rope by tying a stone to one end, throwing it over the walls, thus making an easy and quick means of escape. There are stationed here not less than 1,300 U. S. troops as guards and there are but 522 prisoners in the prison. We presume, indeed we know, that the officers attached to the regiments are thoroughly competent for their position, but we submit that there is gross negligence somewhere; for prisoners to have or get ladders and climb over prison walls within ten steps of a sentinel certainly argues a laxity of discipline which demands instant reform. This is not the first nor second escape, but we hope it will be the last.    Alton Telegraph.

Letter from Wm. S. Pierson, Major Hoffman's Battalion, Sandusky, Ohio, to Col. W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, November 26, 1862:

          I send you by this day's mail the roll of prisoners from Alton......There was a guard of over 200 men came from Alton. It will make a very heavy item if all [is] paid at this post. Those prisoners from Alton were in wretched condition. About fifty had to go to the hospital at once, and without stopping to be accurate I should think eight or ten have died, more than usual for two months. Most of the deaths at this post have been of those who came here to die, and would have died very soon anywhere. Very respectfully, Wm. S. Pierson


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry, Washington D. C. to General S. R. Curtis, Saint Louis, Mo., November 28, 1862:

          I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 22d instant yesterday. By the same mail I received reports from my assistant, Capt. H. W. Freedley, U. S. Army, who had been ordered to make an examination into the state of affairs at the Alton Prison, which represented the place in such an utter state of confusion and disorder that I thought it absolutely necessary to apply to the Secretary of War to have him placed in command. I telegraphed to you today to this effect and requested you to detail a guard of 300 or 400 men with no officer of higher rank than captain, so that there would be no conflict of authority. The captain is an energetic and reliable officer and you may rest assured that the command will be well disciplined and the prisoners well guarded and well cared for. Colonel Hildebrand means well, I dare say, but he is wanting in many things essential to such a command. Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington, to Capt. H. W. Freedley, Indianapolis, Ind., November 28, 1862:

          After performing the duty assigned to you at Indianapolis, proceed to Alton and relieve Colonel Hildebrand in the command of the military prison. General Curtis will detail a guard. By order of the Secretary of War, W. Hoffman.


Letter from Confederate Officers held at Alton Military Prison, to General S. Price, Commanding 1rst Division, C. S. Army, July 1, 1862:

          We, the undersigned, members of the C. S. military corps and citizens of the Confederate States of America, respectfully ask through our Government to immediately consider separately and collectively our situations as prisoners of war, now held as criminals by the United States Government and incarcerated in the Alton Penitentiary for executing the orders of the Confederate Government as directed by her commissioned officers. Our treatment by the Federal authorities is and has been of such a nature that we deem it absolutely necessary to appeal to our Government to throw around us her safeguard and relieve us from the horrors of a long imprisonment and the execution of our sentences. Subjected to great indignity, basely insulted by fiendish outlaws, tortured by threats of death and punished with a felon's decree, by being shut up in a cell day and night for boldly assisting the Government we love in resisting the encroachments of a blood-thirsty mobocracy - after undergoing this fiery ordeal we firmly believe we merit from the Confederate States Government her fullest protection and that cognizance should be taken of our cases at the earliest possible moment. With the earnestness of much wronged citizens and soldiers, we append to this the names of Absalom Hicks, Captain; John C. Tompkins, James W. Barnes, Jas. P Snedicor, Captain Recruits; T. M. Smith, A. R. Tompkins, Lieutenants; George H. Cunningham, R. B. Crowder, Matthew Thompson, Captain Recruits; Henry V. Willing, Lieutenant; Owen C. Hickam, Thos. S. Foster, Surgeon in Harris' Division, Missouri State Guard; John W. Owen, James Stout, William J. Forshey, and John Patton, Recruits




Source: The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies by the U. S. War Department, Series II, Vol. VI, 1899

(Not in Copyright)


Letter from T. Hendrickson, Major, Third Infantry, Commanding Alton Prison, to Col. W. Hoffman, Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C., July 1, 1863:

          I regret that I am obliged to report that the smallpox still prevails to a considerable extent in this prison, and will, I fear, continue to do so so long as new subjects for it to work upon are sent here for confinement. The usual preventive against the spreading of this disease - vaccination - has been extensively resorted to by the prison physician, but without the effect thus far to rid this prison entirely of this disease. There is but one way which at this time presents itself to me by which we can hope to be rid of this loathsome disease soon, and that is by not sending here any more prisoners for a month or so, by which time we will perhaps have gotten entirely rid of it. I have the honor to be, sir, with much respect, your most obedient servant, T. Hendrickson.


Letter from Jos. R. Smith, Acting Surgeon-General (above letter referred to surgeon-general for suggestions, July 8, 1863):

          I recommend that this communication be referred to the assistant surgeon-general at Saint Louis with the request that he cause the proper steps to be taken to put a stop to this disease in the Alton prison by vaccination, cleanliness, isolation, and such other means as his immediate presence or vicinity may suggest. I am of the impression that isolation may be accomplished without necessarily ceasing to send inmates. In any event, the assistant surgeon general would be able to act more understandingly in the matter as to details to be pursued than any one at a distance. If the Commissary General of Prisoners should desire it, orders in the case will be issued from this office. Jos. R. Smith.


Letter from T. Hendrickson, Major, Third Infantry, Commanding Alton Prison, to Col. W. Hoffman, Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C., July 13, 1863:

          I have the honor to report that seventy-nine prisoners of war, including four commissioned officers, were received here yesterday from Memphis, Tenn. Rolls of these men will be forwarded as soon as they can be prepared. We have now in this prison about 1,500 prisoners, a number far too great for comfortable accommodation during the warm weather. In reference to this subject, the following is an extract from the report of the medical inspector who inspected this prison on the 29th of May last: That the capacity of the prison be considered as not greater than 1,000 and that not more than that number be confined at one time.   I have the honor to be, sir, with much respect, your most obedient servant, T. Hendrickson.


Letter from T. Hendrickson, Major, Third Infantry, Commanding Alton Prison, to Col. W. B. Mason, Seventy seventh Ohio Volunteers, Alton, July 19, 1863:

          I have information from a reliable source that the Confederate prisoners confined in this prison have it in contemplation upon the first favorable opportunity some dark night to attempt their escape by overpowering the guard or by some other means which may appear to them most feasible. To guard against the possible success of any such scheme on the part of the prisoners, I have to suggest that the prison guard may be increased by the addition of one subaltern and twenty-five men, to report to the officer of the day at sundown this evening, and that this increase to the guard may be continued so long as the prison is full, as it is at present. I am your most obedient servant, T. Hendrickson.


Letter from T. Hendrickson, Major, Third Infantry, Commanding Alton Prison, to Col. W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, July 26, 1863:

          I have the honor to report that 768 Confederate prisoners of war from Vicksburg and points above arrived here this morning, but on account of the crowded state of the prison at this time, we could not receive them. They were sent to Saint Louis to be provided for by the provost marshal general of Missouri at that city. The number of prisoners confined here is over 1,400. Two of the female prisoners, Mrs. Nicholson and Mrs. Hyde, were released today, the former by an order from Brigadier General Hurlbut, commanding at Memphis, Tenn., remitting unexpired sentence, and the latter by parole to Nashville, Tenn., by order of General Rosecrans. I have the honor to be, sir, with much respect, your most obedient servant, T. Hendrickson.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington, to Maj. Gen. J. M. Schofield, July 29, 1863:

          The surgeon recommends that no more than 1,000 prisoners be held at Alton prison at one time. Prisoners of war are not to be forwarded to City Point without order from the War Department. W. Hoffman.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington, to Maj. Gen. J. M. Schofield, Commanding Saint Louis, Mo., July 29, 1863:

          The General in Chief has directed that all rebel officer prisoners of war be confined at the depot on Johnson's Island, near Sandusky, and I have the honor to request that you will order to that point any now at or who may arrive at Saint Louis or Alton, provided it can be done without danger of carrying the smallpox with them. Under existing orders, medical officers and chaplains are to be sent beyond our lines and unconditionally released, but at this time the order is suspended, and I have therefore to request you will detain until further orders at Saint Louis or Alton any who may now be held at either of those place.  W. Hoffman.


Letter from T. Hendrickson, Major, Third Infantry, Commanding Alton Prison, to Col. W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, August 9, 1863:

          I received your telegraphic dispatch of the 6th in relation to cost of building and lease of lot for smallpox hospital at this place in due time, and would have replied to it sooner, only that it was not known till yesterday whether we could get a place within a reasonable distance of the prison to locate the establishment. I have not made an estimate of the cost of the building like that suggested by me for the reason that it has been decided by the Surgeon General of the Army, who has sent instructions to that effect to the officers of his department at Saint Louis, that hospital tents shall be used for the purpose of a smallpox hospital at this place. Requisitions have been already sent to the quartermaster's department for these tents, and so soon as received they will be put up on the ground selected, and the hospital put into operation as soon after as possible. We have had great difficulty in getting a place within a reasonable distance of the prison and suitable in all respects to locate the hospital. Persons owning land and living in the vicinity of Alton are strongly opposed to having an establishment of the kind on or near their premises, hence our delay in a great measure in getting the hospital established. A position has, however, been selected in a wood near a good spring of water, about two miles from town, to which place I hope to have all the smallpox cases removed in the course of the present week. I have made contracts for medical attendance on the sick of the prison with two physicians of Alton, in compliance with Doctor Keeney's recommendation. I have the honor to be, sir, with much respect, your most obedient servant, T. Hendrickson.


Letter from J. M. Schofield, Major General, Saint Louis, Mo., to Col. William Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C., August 21, 1863:

          A few days ago I learned that Colonel Kincaid, who succeeded Major Hendrickson in command of the Alton prison, was releasing considerable numbers of prisoners of war on their taking the oath and giving bond. I at once telegraphed him to stop it and to report by what authority it was done. I inclose for your information a copy of his reply received yesterday. No authority for this action of Major Hendrickson can be found among the papers left at the prison nor at these headquarters. I have sent an officer to make a thorough inspection of the Alton prison, and will send you a copy of his report when made. I think it important that a competent and reliable officer be assigned as permanent commander of that prison as soon as practicable. J. M. Schofield.


Letter from G. W. Kincaid, Commanding Alton Prison, to Major General Schofield, Saint Louis, Mo., August 19, 1863:

          In answer to your telegram of the 15th instant, inquiring by what authority I was discharging prisoners of war, I have to reply that I was governed wholly by the instructions of my predecessor (Major Hendrickson). He informed me that there was an order to that effect, and he also turned over to me a large number of blanks prepared, and also a list of over 100 names of persons who had applied to take the oath. He also advised me to receive no more applications until I had disposed of the list referred to. I find also by the books and papers in this office, that my predecessor had discharged in the month of May last, sixty persons on oath. In the month of June, sixty two were discharged. In the month of July, 120, and from the 1st to the 9th of August, fifteen were discharged. From the 9th to the 15th, the day I received your telegram, I had discharged about thirty five persons, some of which were by order of the Secretary of War. Supposing that Major Hendrickson was acting agreeably to orders and seeing no orders to the contrary, I, in accordance with Major Hendrickson's instructions, proceeded to discharge those and those only who in my opinion, were sincere in taking the oath. I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, G. W. Kincaid.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry and Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D. C., to Brig. Gen. J. M. Schofield, Saint Louis, Mo., August 27, 1863:

          I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 21st instant relative to the discharge of prisoners of war at the Alton prison. On examining the records of this office, I find that instructions were given in February last to release prisoners of war on their taking the oath of allegiance in good faith. These instructions were countermanded in May, but I do not find anything to show that the countermanding order was sent to your headquarters or to Alton, and it is probable that through an oversight it was never forwarded. This will account for the action of Major Hendrickson in this matter. Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry and Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D. C., to Lieut. Col. J. O. Broadhead, Saint Louis, Mo., September 7, 1863:

          Your letter of the 30th in relation to the disposal of prisoners is received, and in reply I have to direct that whenever you have more prisoners to dispose of than can be provided for in Saint Louis or at Alton, you will please report to me and I will direct to what place they shall be ordered. There should be at no time more than 1,000 prisoners at the Alton prison. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. Hoffman.


Letter from G. W. Kincaid, Colonel, Commanding Alton Prison, to Major General Schofield, Saint Louis, Mo., September 7, 1863:

          I would respectfully represent that there are some eight or ten rebel officers now in this prison, including Jeff. Thompson; that there is no way to prevent the great body of the prisoners from associating with them unless they are placed in close confinement. They have a powerful influence over the mass of rebel prisoners with whom they necessarily mix. They may make a concerted attack on the guard under their directions. I would respectfully suggest whether it would not be best to have them taken to Johnson's Island, as this can now be done without danger of carrying the smallpox with them. Very respectfully, G. W. Kincaid.


Letter from Jas. O. Broadhead, Provost Marshal General, Saint Louis, Mo., to Col. William Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D. C., September 11, 1863:

          In answer to that portion of your favor of the 7th instant in relation to the Alton prison, I have to say that I have not the entire control of that prison. We have no regular official information as to the number of prisoners there. At this time, I have before me a copy of a report of an inspection made by an officer appointed by the commanding general of this department to make inspection of the Alton prison, and find from his report that there are now 1,316 prisoners at Alton. Unless reports from the Alton prison come through this office, I cannot be informed of the number of prisoners on hand at that prison. I would most respectfully suggest that the Alton prison be used only as a prison for convicts for this and other departments of the Mississippi Valley, and that it be placed exclusively under the control of the provost marshal general of this department, and that all the business of the prison pass through this office.

          I find that quite a number of prisoners are now in the Alton prison serving out sentence from some other department. Lately, a number of these prisoners have made application to be discharged, on the ground that their term of imprisonment has expired. I can take no action in these cases, as they never pass through this office. In this way, a great many are kept in prison for a long time and neglected. I most respectfully call your attention to the above suggestion. Very respectfully, Jas. O. Broadhead.


Letter from Wm. S. Pierson, Lt. Col, Hoffman's Battalion, Sandusky, Ohio, to Col. William Hoffman, Washington, D. C., October 17, 1863:

          The smallpox has been brought here by prisoners three times; twice from Alton. Cases well developed have been in the ranks when prisoners arrived, though I suppose not so on leaving Alton. Hitherto it has been kept under, but is increasing now. There are seven cases in the pest house. There is much alarm in the prison, and cunning men in there are pretending to be more alarmed than they are. It is one way on the part of desperate men to urge on desperate attempts. I have directed the doctor to do everything in the way of purification; also to have every prisoner vaccinated as soon as possible, and to move out cases as soon as the disease is detected. Of course, it is a bad disease in such a crowd. Very respectfully, Wm. S. Pierson.


Letter & Report from A. M. Clark, Surgeon & Acting Medical Inspector, Saint Louis, Mo., to Col. W. Hoffman, Washington D. C., October 17, 1863:

          I have the honor to transmit herewith my report of inspection of the U. S. military prison at Alton, Ill. I am now engaged inspecting the prison hospitals at this place, and shall leave for Indianapolis, Ind., on the 20th instant. Very respectfully, A. M. Clark.

Surgeon in charge - Actg. Asst. Surg. H. Williams.

Location - on a limestone bluff on left bank of Mississippi River at northern border of the city of Alton, Ill.

Vicinage - south, city; west, Mississippi River; north and east, limestone hills.

Drainage - very good, drains kept in good order, lead into main sewer emptying into river.

Buildings - formerly used as State prison workshops.

Wards - two in number, besides a small shanty used as a smallpox hospital, on the northern end of a small island in the river opposite the prison.

Capacity - for 100 patients.

Patients, number of - 114.

Patients, condition of - very good, although the wards are overcrowded.

Ventilation - very good, by side windows in each ward.

Warming - sufficient, by stoves.

Lighting - lamps, coal oil.

Lavatories and baths - sufficient and in good order.

Water supply - water brought from river in casks; one well in prison but water not good.

Sewerage - sufficient and well attended to.

Latrines and sinks - sufficient in number, well constructed, well policed, and well disinfected.

Excreta, removal of - carried off by a drain connecting with main sewer.

Furniture and utensils - sufficient in quantity and in good order, except bedsteads, which are of wood.

Bedding - sufficient and clean.

Kitchen - in good order and well policed.

Kitchen utensils - sufficient and well kept.

Cooks - prisoners, duties well performed.

Cooking and serving - daily inspected by surgeon in charge.

Diet, quality of - good.

Diet, variety of - according to U. S. Army hospital diet table.

Means of supply - through commissary and by purchase from hospital fund.

Diet tables - U. S. Army hospital diet table.

Storeroom - small and close, no means of ventilation, but clean and well kept; not sufficient room.

Dispensary - well kept.

Instruments and medicines - sufficient supply and in good order.

Compounding and dispensing - by a hospital steward said by the surgeon in charge to be competent.

Hospital stores and comforts - sufficient in quantity and same as U. S. Army general hospital; obtained on requisition from medical purveyor.

Hospital records - very well kept.

Hospital accounts - everything accounted for as in U. S. Army general hospital.

Hospital fund - none on hand; has been expended for use of the sick.

Hospital clothing - sufficient, obtained on requisition from medical purveyor.

Reports - well attended to, except report of deaths to Commissary General of Prisoners.

Laundresses and laundry - no laundry attached to prison, clothing and bedding washed outside by laundresses paid from hospital fund.

Repairs - none apparently needed at present; a new floor has been recently laid in one of the wards.

Alterations and additions - should be additional accommodations for twenty-five patients provided.

Medical attendance - competent but insufficient; an additional medical officer is needed.

Discipline and police - discipline not as strict as it should be; police very good.

Nurses - men, prisoners.

Operating rooms - none provided, operations seldom required.

Post-mortem rooms and dead houses - none provided.

Interments - in city cemetery.

Diseases prevalent - typho-malarial fever, pneumonia, dysentery, diarrhea.

Diseases zymotic [infectious diseases] - erysipelas; smallpox has been very prevalent, but five cases now remain and they are recovering.

Diseases, prevention of - now carefully attended to; every man is vaccinated on his entry into the prison.

Recoveries from diseases - ready, considering the general debilitated condition of the patients.

Mortality from diseases - average for last three months, 7 per cent of the sick; about 2.8 per cent of whole number of prisoners. This high average is owing to the prevalence of smallpox

        during the months of August and September 1863.

Medical officers - Dr. H. Williams, contract made July 4, 1863, by Major Hendrickson, former commandant, a thoroughly competent officer; Dr. D. R. Marks, contract made

        September 1, 1863 by Colonel Kincaid.

Commandant of post - Col. G. W. Kincaid, Thirty-seventh Iowa Volunteers.

Command and strength - prisoners of war, 950; civilians, male, 160; female 2; total 162; Federal prisoners 164; total prisoners 1,276.

Guard - Thirty-seventh Iowa Volunteers, 764.

Police of prison - generally very good, is somewhat neglected about the mess room and quarters of Federal prisoners. The prison cells are in very good condition, except that the

         bedding, &c., is not taken out and aired with sufficient frequency, and the prisoners are allowed to occupy the cell during the day.

Quarters - the prison is overcrowded; there is only sufficient accommodation for about 900 prisoners; many of the cells are occupied by two men; the cells are well ventilated by means

        of shafts opening into the cells, and communicating with a main shaft opening on the outside of the building; they are well warmed by means of stoves in the corridors. Such

        quarters as were formerly used as workshops are tolerably well ventilated by means of side windows, and are warmed by stoves and open fireplaces.

Cooking - the kitchen is well arranged and is well kept; the food and cooking for the prisoners is frequently inspected by the surgeon in charge.

Cleanliness of men and clothing - better observed than in the other prisons which I have visited, but is still not as strictly enforced as it should be; the laundry facilities are entirely


Clothing - sufficient and good, obtained on requisition from quartermaster's department.

Prison fund - over $7,000 now on hand. Articles purchased from this fund are registered, ready to be accounted for when necessary. In this prison more than any other which I have yet

        visited, regard seems to be paid to the comfort as well as security of the prisoners. The military discipline maintained is not as strict as it should be, yet every precaution seems to

        be taken to prevent escapes.

The surgeon in charge is skillful and experienced in his duties, having served for two years in the Army of the Cumberland. All means in his power are taken to promote the comfort of

        the sick and health of the well. Disinfectants are thoroughly and judiciously used. The necessity of ventilation is recognized and well provided for, and the result, notwithstanding

        the crowded state of the prison, is plainly to be seen in the pure condition of the atmosphere in the corridors and wards and in the improved appearance of the inmates.

This prison has lately suffered severely from an epidemic of smallpox. This, by the energetic and well directed efforts of the present surgeon in charge, has been thoroughly arrested. A

        temporary smallpox hospital was erected on a small island in the river, opposite the prison, and to it every case of the disease was removed, with the necessary nurses,

        dispensary, cooking apparatus, &c., and a strict quarantine established. Every person in the prison was vaccinated, and this is still enforced with each new prisoner on his

        entrance. The result is that there are but five cases of the disease remaining, and they are rapidly recovering.             A. M. Clark


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry & Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D.C., to Col. G. W. Kincaid, Commanding Alton Prison, October 27, 1863:

          You will please inform all prisoners of war under your charge that for the present, no more discharges will be granted, but those who do not wish to be sent South for exchange may make application to you to this effect and you will please forward to this office semi-monthly or oftener rolls of all such applicants, giving the rank, regiment, and company, when and where captured, and in the column of remarks such other particulars as on examination you may think necessary to a proper understanding of the case. Cases which you may deem of an extraordinary character may be presented separately.     Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from John M. Cuyler, Acting Medical Inspector General, Washington D.C., to Surgeon General U. S. Army, Washington D.C., November 6, 1863:

          Medical Inspector C. C. Keeney, U. S. Army, reports as follows: Prison at Alton, Ill., in good condition, except the crowding, being less than 200 cubic feet space to each man. He again recommends, in his report on the post hospital at Camp Douglas, Ill, that the surgeon of the post be directed to furnish the sick prisoners with the necessary clothing and bedding. I recommend that this communication be forwarded to the assistant surgeon general for his information. Very respectfully, Jno. M. Cuyler.


Letter from R. C. Wood, Assistant Surgeon General, respectfully returned to Surgeon General, November 12, 1863:

          As there is no authority in this office on the subject matter of clothing and bedding, I recommend that this communication be referred to the Commissary General of Prisoners; also the report of the want of room at Alton, Ill.                  R. C. Wood


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry and Commissary General of Prisoners, to Col. G. W. Kincaid, Commanding Prison at Alton, December 1, 1863:

          By direction of the Secretary of War, you will prohibit all trade with the sutler [a person who followed an army or maintained a store on an army post to sell provisions to the soldiers] by prisoners of war at Alton Military Prison. See that this order is strictly carried out. W. Hoffman.


Letter from Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington D.C., to Hon. Benjamin S. Cowen, Roswell Marsh, Esq., and Hon. Samuel W. Bostwick, December 2, 1863:

          You have been appointed a special commission to examine into and report upon the cases of political and State prisoners held under authority of the United States at the State prison at Alton, Saint Louis, Camp Douglas, or elsewhere within the Department of the Missouri. For your services in the performance of this duty you will be allowed the usual compensation of $8 per diem while actually employed and your necessary traveling expenses. You are also authorized to employ a clerk at a rate of not exceeding $3 per diem.....Having completed your examination at Saint Louis, you will proceed to Alton and hear and determine the cases of such prisoners.....After having completed your duties at Alton you will proceed to Camp Douglas, at Chicago, Ill......


Report to Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington City, D. C., December 7, 1863:

          There are 1,550 rebel prisoners of war here, who are confined in this building, which was formerly used as the State penitentiary, but some years since abandoned. They are comfortably quartered and well supplied with good, warm bedding. This prison is too much crowded. It should be relieved of 500 men. The prisoners are well supplied with an abundance of food, which is well prepared and cooked. A sutler is allowed to sell to them. The sanitary condition of this prison is very good. It is cleanly and well kept and under good discipline. There were, November 25, 119 sick in hospital. The deaths for October were thirty five, and for November twenty nine. The garrison, commanded by Colonel Kincaid with his regiment, 450 strong, is sufficient. The wall surrounding this prison is in some places in bad condition and propped up, much facilitating chances for escape. It could be cheaply rebuilt by the labor of prisoners here under sentence. There are very many prisoners here under sentence, by court martial or military commission, of hard labor, &c. Some 200 Federal soldiers are here under sentence, but there is no mode of executing the sentence at this place.      Wm. W. Orme, Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry and Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D.C., to Col. G. W. Kincaid, Commanding Alton Prison, December 17, 1863:

          The practice, as reported in your letter to General Schofield of the 19th ultimo as prevailing at the Alton prison, of taking gold from prisoners and giving them sutler's tickets in return is unauthorized and in violation of the instructions on this point. Whatever money is taken from prisoners must be returned to them in money of the same character, unless expended for them on their own orders; and if there are any prisoners in your charge now holding sutler's tickets, you will cause them to be immediately redeemed in the same kind of money for which they were given. Report your action under this order.  Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry and Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D.C., to Col. G. W. Kincaid, Commanding Alton Prison, December 31, 1863:

          Your letter of the 23d instant, in relation to money transactions between the sutler and prisoners is received, but the sutler's ticket mentioned was not inclosed. The regulations contemplate that the prisoner will purchase from the sutler such articles as he may wish, for which on the bill he will given an order on the commanding officer who pays it, and who thus knows what the sutler sells. Your practice is just the opposite of this. You give the prisoner an order or ticket on the sutler for $5, more or less, in trade, and he buys with it, or he disposes of it in some other way. Your plan possibly saves trouble in disbursing the deposits, but the mode required by the regulations must be adhered to. If the prisoners deposit gold, they are entitled to the full value of it, including the premium, and if the premium belonging to any prisoner, now present, has been placed in the prison fund, it must be returned to him by deposit in your hands. When prisoners are released on bond, forward the bond to this office. Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from G. W. Kincaid, Colonel, Commanding Alton Prison, to Col. William Hoffman, Commissary General, Washington D.C., January 7, 1864:

          There are a great many of the rebel prisoners in this prison who are willing and anxious to enlist in the U. S. service as soon as an opportunity is offered them. Many of them have been conscripted in the rebel service and are now anxious to be avenged for the wrongs done them. Others were induced to enter the rebel service through misrepresentation of wicked and designing men, and would be glad to avail themselves of the first opportunity of enlisting in the U. S. Army. Can there not be some person authorized to enlist them? Many of them will make as good soldiers as any in the service. There is another class of prisoners that I would call your attention to. These are young boys, from fifteen to seventeen years of age, who were forced into the rebel army, and who are not able to endure the hardships of prison life. Many of them are now in bad health. Cannot some discretionary power be given the commanders of prisons in respect to this class of prisoners? Very respectfully, G. W. Kincaid.


Letter from A. M. Clark, Surgeon & Acting Medical Inspector of Prisoners of War, to Col. W. Weer, Commanding Alton Prison, February 18, 1864:

          In accordance with my instructions from the Commissary General of Prisoners, I have the honor to request the following, viz: First. That the female prisoners now held in confinement at this post be, as soon as practicable, placed in quarters more appropriate to their sex, the quarters at present occupied by them being utterly unfit for the purpose. Second. That a more thorough system of police be enforced throughout the prison; that additional facilities for supplying the prisoners with water be provided, and that it be ordered that all prison blankets and bedding be exposed to the open air daily when the weather permits. Third. That as soon as practicable, the prison sinks be thoroughly cleansed and their connection with the main sewer cleared. Fourth. That the shed at present used as a dead house be properly inclosed and lighted, and furnished with the necessary tables and appliances for making post mortem examinations of such deceased prisoners as may be deemed necessary by the surgeon in charge. Fifth. I am informed by the surgeon and chaplain that the ground now used for the burial of deceased prisoners is in a dilapidated condition. I would suggest that a fence be placed around it, and that it be kept in as decent condition as circumstances will permit. Very respectfully, A. M. Clark.


Letter from A. M. Clark, Surgeon & Acting Medical Inspector of Prisoners of War, Alton, Ill., to Col. W. Hoffman, Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D.C., February 18, 1864:

          I have the honor to report that I have made a thorough inspection of the military prison at this post, a detailed report of which I forward herewith. I shall leave tomorrow morning for Saint Louis, Mo.  I have written by the previous mail advising you of my movements. Very respectfully, A. M. Clark

Surgeon in charge - Surgeon Worrall, U. S. Volunteers

Commandant of post - Colonel W. Weer, Tenth Kansas Volunteers

Location - Alton, Ill., on bluff on Mississippi River.

Vicinage - city on south, river on west, high land on north and east.

Topography - ground high, limestone bluff.

Drainage - at present, bad; drains frozen up; naturally good and tolerably improved; might be better.

Prison buildings - old State penitentiary, with additional frame buildings in prison yard.

Wards - two in building on north side of prison yard.

Tents - six in smallpox hospital.

Capacity - of prison, properly 800, now contains 1,757 prisoners; of hospital, 125; of smallpox hospital, 50.

Patients, number of - in hospital, 125; smallpox hospital, 20; total, 145; in quarters, 109.

Patients, condition of - excellent, clean and well taken care of.

Patients, discharge and return to duty of - returned to quarters when convalescent, except such as are needed as nurses, &c.

Ventilation - only through side windows in hospital; in prison, sufficient in main building, utterly insufficient in the others.

Warming - sufficient in all parts by coal stoves.

Fuel - supply sufficient.

Lighting - in hospital, by coal oil lamps; in main prison, gas.

Lavatories and baths - hospital, insufficient, but can be made to answer purpose at present; in prison, no arrangement except one caldron; hospital clothing washed outside prison.

Water supply - from river; conveyed in barrels in one six-mule wagon; entirely insufficient; another wagon ordered.

Sewerage - by one main sewer into river.

Water-closets, latrines, and sinks, excreta removal of - sinks, on north side of yard in close proximity to hospital, connect with main sewer, which connection is now interrupted from

        some cause, and the sinks are in a filthy and most offensive condition; ordered to be cleansed without delay and connection with main sewer reopened.

Furniture and utensils - supply sufficient, and in hospital in very good order.

Bedding - in hospital, sufficient and clean; in prison quarters, sufficient, but filthy, and swarming with vermin.

Kitchen and kitchen utensils - in hospital, in excellent order and police; in prison, kitchen in great disorder and miserable police; mess room in somewhat better police; much cooking

        and messing is done in prison quarters; direction to be discontinued.

Cooks - detailed prisoners.

Cooking and serving - in hospital, well done; with the prison kitchen in its present condition cannot be properly done.

Diet, quality and variety of - in hospital, nearly U. S. general hospital diet table; in prison, ordinary rations.

Supply of vegetables - sufficient.

Dispensary - in very good order, in charge of a hospital steward, U. S. Army.

Instruments, medicines, &c. - supply sufficient and in good order; compounding and dispensing by prisoners detailed as acting hospital stewards, under charge of a hospital steward,

       U. S. Army.

Hospital stores and comforts - necessary supplies.

Hospital records and accounts - very well and apparently accurately kept.

Hospital fund - $900, January 1, 1864; judiciously expended for articles of diet, hospital furniture and utensils and hospital laundresses.

Clothing - sufficient supply, obtained on requisition on the medical purveyor.

Reports - well kept up and apparently exact.

Requisitions - promptly filled.

Laundresses and laundry - no hospital or prison laundry; hospital washing done outside and paid for from hospital fund.

Repair, alterations, and additions - dead house required and directed; laundry directed, as the prison yard is too much encumbered already.

Prevention of fire - if occurring in yard buildings can hardly be arrested without tearing down the buildings, owing to scarcity of water.

Medical attendance - sufficient and skillful.

Chaplain - post chaplain.

Discipline and police - in prison, no discipline; in hospital, all are orderly, though not under strict discipline.

Police - of hospital, good; of prison, generally much neglected.

Nurses - men, detailed prisoners; women, three female prisoners now confined in a damp, half-underground room, only partitioned off from an open cellar. The commandant has been

         requested to remove them to quarters better fitted to their sex. Their present condition is an outrage on humanity.

Operating and post-mortem rooms - none

Dead house - an open shed; have directed that it be inclosed and lighted, and fitted for its purpose, and as a post-mortem room.

Interments - near the prison; did not visit it, but am informed that it is unfenced; have directed that it be fenced in.

Diseases local - malarial fevers, forming with catarrh the great bulk of the sick list.

Diseases prevalent - pneumonia, bronchitis, catarrh, intermittent fever, chronic diarrhea.

Diseases zymotic - smallpox has been prevalent, but is now rapidly disappearing; the same may be said of measles.

Diseases, mitigation and prevention of - in hospital all is done that care and attention can accomplish, but the close and crowded quarters keep the hospital constantly full; every

        precaution is taken to prevent the spread of smallpox.

Report for January 1864 - mean strength, 1,708; aggregate sick, in hospitals and quarters, 1,882; deaths, 92. Percentage of deaths to mean strength, .053; percentage to sick, .048.

        Average daily sick in hospital, 144 11/31; in quarters, 135 3/31. Cases smallpox, 107; deaths, 28; percentage, 26.17. Cases smallpox since February 1, 26; deaths, 5;

        percentage, 19.23; present cases, 20, mostly varioloid.

Medical officers - Surgeon Worral, U. S. Volunteers, post surgeon, reported about February 10, 1863; two acting assistant surgeons. Actg. Asst. Surg. H. Williams, formerly in charge and still on duty as attending surgeon, is entitled to great credit for the generally satisfactory condition of the hospital. One hospital steward. There are at present confined in this prison as follows, viz: Prisoners of war - officers, 8; enlisted men, 1,523; civilians, including three females, 60; Federal prisoners, 166; total, 1,757. Prison fund, January 31, 1864, $9,087.34. The smallpox hospital is still located on the island in the river opposite the prison. Intercourse with it is sometimes interrupted by the obstruction of the river by ice, as was the case at the time of my present inspection. I am, however, assured that every precaution is taken to prevent the sick on the island from suffering from this non-intercourse, five to ten days' supply of rations (except fresh meat), medicines, and other necessaries being kept on hand. I am also assured that at no time hitherto has intercourse been suspended for more than forty-eight hours at a time. The chief difficulty caused by it has been the prevention of the immediate transfer of smallpox patients from the prison to the island. Thus, at the time of my inspection, there were four cases of the disease within the prison walls awaiting transfer. Such cases are, however, almost entirely [isolated] from the other inmates of the prison until they can be removed. The utmost care appears to be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. Vaccination is thoroughly enforced. All infected clothes and bedding are removed to the island and none allowed to be returned, convalescents being furnished complete with new clothing before leaving the island. I was, for the reason above given, unable to inspect the smallpox hospital, but I am assured by the surgeon in charge that it is in good condition in every respect, and, judging from the condition of the prison hospital, I place confidence in his statement. The commanding officer appeared much chagrined at the condition in which the prison was found as regards police, &c., and gave his assurance that as soon as the weather and as far as the state of the prison will permit, it shall be rectified. I would respectfully but urgently represent the absolute necessity of speedily diminishing the number of prisoners confined in this prison, which was originally intended to contain but 800. It now contains nearly 1,000 more. I append a table of the measurements of the various parts of the prison, with a calculation of the number of cubic feet and inches of air allowed to each prisoner. These measurements and calculations were made by Acting Assistant Surgeon Williams at my request, and I presume them to be correct, though I have had no time to verify them.   A. M. Clark.


Admeasurement of Quarters in Alton Military Prison, January 10, 1864





Total Number


Ave. Allow. Air to Each man








Cu. Ft.

Cu. In.

# of Inmates



Room No. 1a












Room No. 1b







Room No. 2












Room No. 3












Room No. 4












Room No. 5












Sides - East












Sides - West







Ends - 1







Ends - 2







Cells, old (88)









Cells, new (168)







Cells, doors







Little house, above












Little house, below












Old dead house












Old stable, above












Old stable, below












Rock bldg, above












Rock bldg, below












Qtrs, Fed prisoners












Qtrs, Civilian prisoners


















                  Notes:  Room 1a &1b measured in two parts, being partially divided by a partition.

                              Cells, old & new is the main body of prison

Letter from Benj. F. Butler, Major General, Commanding Fort Monroe, Va., to Secretary of War, February 22, 1864:

          Flag of truce boat arrived. No news of military movements of interest. I am able to answer more particularly about the officers in irons. There are but two, in retaliation for two officers confined in Alton, Ill., penitentiary, by order of General Burnside, as is alleged.    Benj. F. Butler


Letter from W. T. Hartz, Captain & Assistant Adjutant General, Washington D.C., to Col. W. Weer, Commanding Alton Prison, February 24, 1864:

          By direction of the Commissary General of Prisoners, I have the honor to inform you that the effects left by deceased prisoners will be taken possession of, the money and valuables to be reported to this office (see note under head of remarks on blank for semi-monthly report of deceased prisoners), and the clothing, if of any value, to be given to other prisoners who may require it. If the legal representatives of the deceased, being loyal, claim the money or other valuables, the claim, with the proof, will be forwarded to this office. All moneys left by or accruing from the sale of valuables or other effects of deceased prisoners will be placed in the camp or prison fund until called for. Very respectfully, W. T. Hartz.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry & Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D.C., to Col. William Weer, Commanding Alton Prison, February 29, 1864:

          I have just received a report from Surg. A. M. Clark, acting medical inspector of prisoners, of his inspection of the Alton military prison, from which I learn that it is not in a very satisfactory condition. Though many things are in a commendable shape, there are others where much reformation is required. I know that it is impossible for you to give your personal daily attention to the internal management of the prison, but with proper assistance I trust you will be able to give it enough of your supervision to insure as near an approach to a proper state of things as may reasonably be expected. You require as an inspector of the prison an active and reliable officer, whose duty it should be to inspect the prison daily in every part and to give all necessary orders for policing, and to make report to you in writing every Sunday morning of the condition of the prisoners and prison in every particular - personal cleanliness, clothing, bedding, quarters, messing, sinks, yards, prison rooms for special purposes, and the hospital and all connected with it. Let nothing pass unnoticed; make your comments on these reports and forward them to this office. Select from your command a suitable officer for this service and give as close a supervision yourself as your other duties will permit. Let the foregoing instructions be put in immediate force. I must rely entirely on your energy and judgment for the proper administration of the affairs of the prison, for however good your assistants may be, unless they are properly directed and controlled, no satisfactory results can be anticipated. Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.


Letter from W. Hoffman, Colonel, Third Infantry & Commissary General of Prisoners, Washington D.C., to Col. William Weer, Commanding Alton Prison, March 3, 1864:

          By authority of the Secretary of War, I inclose herewith a list of articles which may be sold to prisoners of war in confinement at Alton Prison, by some suitable person to be appointed by yourself. It is not expected that a large sutler's store will be established, but merely a small room where supplies for a day or two may be kept on hand. None but the articles enumerated on the list can be sold, and every precaution must be taken to prevent abuse of the privilege, either by the person permitted to sell or the prisoners. No sale should be made before 8 o'clock in the morning or after half an hour before sunset. As prisoners are not permitted to have money in their possession, all sales should be made on orders on the commanding officer or officer in whose hands is deposited the money belonging to prisoners, and these orders should be paid as often as once a week, if practicable.  Very respectfully, W. Hoffman.

List of articles which sutlers may be permitted to sell to prisoners of war:

Tobacco, cigars, pipes, snuff, steel pens, paper, envelopes, lead pencils, pen knives, postage stamps, buttons, tape, thread, sewing cotton, pins and needles, handkerchiefs, suspenders, socks, underclothes, caps, shoes, towels, looking glasses, brushes, combs, clothes brooms, pocket knives, scissors. Groceries: crushed sugar, sirup, family soap, butter, lard, smoked beef, beef tongues, bologna sausage, corn meal, nutmegs, pepper, mustard, table salt, salt fish, crackers, cheese, pickles, sauces, meats and fish in cans, vegetables, dried fruits, syrups, lemons, nuts, apples, matches, yeast powders. Table furniture: crockery, glassware, tinware.




Source: The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies by the U. S. War Department, Series I, Vol. XXXIV - 1891

(Not in Copyright)


Letter from W. S. Rosecrans, Major General, Saint Louis, Mo., to Lieut. Gen U. S. Grant, Culpeper Court-House, Va., April 4, 1864:

          Only four regiments of volunteers, one of State militia, and six companies colored recruits (infantry) in this department. One of these regiments is guard at Alton prison; one and the militia guard the interior fortified depots, Pilot Knob, Rolla, and Warrensburg. Only two here at Saint Louis, 1,200 men. Could not spare them without other troops. Very sorry. Have written you fully, W.S. Rosecrans.


Letter from W. S. Rosecrans, Major General, Saint Louis, Mo., to Lieut. Gen U. S. Grant, Commanding U.S. Armies, Washington, April 6, 1864:

          I enter warmly into your views of bringing all our available force into the field in the coming campaign......Four regiments of volunteer infantry, one whose term expires in June next, is the prison guard at Alton; two guard this city and the depots and landings here....  W. S. Rosecrans


Letter from Frank S. Bond, Major and Aide-de-Camp, to Brig. General Copeland, Alton, Ill., May 3, 1864:

          The general commanding directs that you have 50 picked men secretly got ready, armed with revolvers, to be sent out tonight on the Terre Haute road by an extra train. You will place an officer in the telegraph office, in citizens' clothes, and allow no dispatches to be sent without his approval. An officer will be sent up tonight to take charge of the expedition. The greatest secrecy alone will insure the success of the expedition.  Frank S. Bond.


Letter from H. W. Halleck, Major Gen, Chief of Staff, Washington, to Maj. Gen. E. R. S. Canby, Cairo, Ill., May 11, 1864:

          General Grant designated particular regiments in the Department of Missouri to be sent down the Mississippi, but I do not know what they were.....There are nine companies of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry at Alton without horses. They can act as infantry. Order them where you please, and I will telegraph to Governor Yates that they obey your orders.....H. W. Halleck


Special Orders No. 132 from O. D. Greene, Asst. Adjutant General, Saint Louis, May 14, 1864:

          The Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry, now at Jefferson Barracks, will proceed with the least practicable delay to Alton, Ill., and relieve the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry, in garrison at that point. Upon being relieved by the Seventeenth, the Thirteenth will proceed at once to Saint Louis, Mo., and report to Brigadier-General Davidson, commanding cavalry depot, to be equipped as speedily as possible and forwarded to Major General Steele, commanding Department of Arkansas......O. D. Greene





Source: House Documents, Otherwise Publ. As Executive Documents: 13th Congress, 2d Session, 1865 (Not in Copyright)


Letter from S. R. Curtis, Major General, St. Louis, to Maj. Gen. Halleck, April 23, 1863:

          I wish Major Majors, Alton prison, exchanged for Major McConnel. McConnel has important intelligence to disclose after exchange. Immediate answer is desired.  S. R. Curtis.


General Order 39, from W. Hoffman, Col, 3d Infantry, Com Gen of Prisoners, Washington, February 9, 1864:

          Respectfully returned to Major General B. F. Butler, commissioner for exchange. W. S. Wright, surgeon Mitchell's regiment, was captured in St. Louis county, Missouri, February 11, 1863; was transferred from St. Louis to Alton, June 6, 1863; sentenced to be shot to death at such time and place as the major general commanding department of the Missouri may direct. General Order 39, department of the Missouri.


Letter from Ro. Ould, Agent for Exchange, War Department, Richmond, Va., to Major General Hitchcock, Com'r Exchange of Prisoners, Washington, September 12, 1864:

          Your communication of the 10th instant, accepting a proposition made by me some time ago that "all prisoners of war on each side be released from confinement (close) or irons, as the case may be, and either placed in the condition of other prisoners or sent to their respective homes for their equivalents" has been received.....I am quite confident also that there is a number of our officers and soldiers in close confinement in irons or at hard labor at Alton. I think some will also be found at St. Louis and in other prisons east and west.....




Source: The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies By the U. S. War Department, Series I Vol XLVIII, Part 2, 1896

(Not in Copyright)


Letter from G. M. Dodge, Major General, Saint Louis, to Colonel Kuhn, Alton, April 9, 1865:

          As soon as the companies of Fifth U. S. Volunteers are clothed and equipped, send them to Fort Leavenworth to report to commanding officer at that place. How long before they can start? If you have no arms, they can draw them here or at Fort Leavenworth. G. M. Dodge.


Letter from J. W. Barnes, Asst. Adjutant General, Saint Louis, Mo., to Col. J. H. Kuhn, Alton, April 18, 1865:

          Col. J. H. Kuhn, One hundred and forty-fourth Regiment, Illinois Infantry Volunteers, is hereby assigned to duty in command of the post at Alton, Ill., to date from March 10 ultimo, since which date he has been in performance of such duty. J. W. Barnes.  [144th consisted of six companies, under Lieut. Col. James N. Morgan and Col. J. H. Kuhn]


Letter from G. M. Dodge, Major General, Saint Louis, to Maj. Gen. John Pope, Saint Louis, Mo., June 4, 1865:

          ....Harry Truman was tried in November 1864 by military commission convened by General Rosecrans, for offenses alleged to have been committed by him in North Missouri in June 1864, and was sentenced to be hung. General Rosecrans disapproved the proceedings of the commission, but ordered him (Truman) confined in Alton Military Prison until further orders. The Secretary of War ordered Truman released from confinement some time in March last, and on his release he was ordered to Washington, D. C. or some place East, by Colonel Baker.......


Letter from H. Hannahs, Major, Fiftieth Missouri Volunteers, Saint Louis, Mo. Special Orders No. 141, June 24, 1865:

          Pursuant to paragraph 4, Special Orders, No. 168, current series, Department of the Missouri, Company G, Fifty first Missouri Volunteers, will proceed to Alton, Ill., to take charge of and preserve the military prison, barracks, &c., at that place, after the public buildings shall have been vacated. The commanding officer of company, while at that station, will be subject to orders from these headquarters, and will forward the regular tri-monthly reports of his command on the 10th, 20th, and last days of each months. The quartermaster's department will furnish transportation. By order of Brigadier-General Williamson.



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