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Official Reports-- Ship island -- Page 3

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 2, vol 4, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) Page 880 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

SHIP ISLAND, MISS., September 13, 1862.

JEFFERSON DAVIS, President of the Confederate States.

SIR: A close prisoner on this desolate island with some fifty others of my fellow-citizens, I have thought it my duty at every risk to communicate to you some at least of the incidents of the administration of the brutal tyrant who has been sent by the United States Government to oppress, rob, assault and trample upon our people in every manner which the most fiendish ingenuity and most wanton cruelty could devise and in gross violation of all the laws and usages of the most remorseless wars between civilized and even savage nations and tribes. Previous to my committal to Ship Island as a close prisoner, where I was consigned with seven other respectable citizens to a small hut fifteen feet by twenty, exposed to rain and sun, without permission to leave except for a bath in the sea once or twice a week, I had prepared an elaborate statement of the outrages perpetrated by Butler upon our people or rather of the more flagrant ones which I committed to Reverdy Johnson, a commissioner of the United States who had been sent out to investigate and report upon certain transactions of Butler. Mr. Johnson received this document, but stated that his mission related exclusively to certain issues which had arisen between Butler and the foreign consuls. He manifested, however, some sympathy for our wronged people and some disgust for the excesses and villainies of Butler. Shortly after Mr. Johnson's departure I was sent to Ship Island. A description of the causes and circumstances of the imprisonment of our citizens who are now held on this island will afford some of the mildest illustrations of Butler's brutality. There are about sixty prisoners here, all of whom are closely confined in portable houses and furnished with the most wretched and unwholesome condemned soldiers' rations. Some are kept at hard labor on the fort; several in addition to labor are compelled to wear a ball and chain which is never removed. Among these is Mr. Shepherd, a respectable, elderly and weakly citizen, who is charged with secreting certain papers belonging to the naval officer of the Confederate States, which in his charge when he departed from New Orleans. Mr. Shepherd had the proof that the officer who had deposited these documents afterwards returned and took them and that they had been carried into the Confederate States. This testimony Butler would not receive and declared that if it existed it would make no difference in his case. Doctor Moore, a dealer in drugs, is also at hard labor with ball and chain, on the charge of having sent a few ounces of quinine into the Confederate States. There are five prisoners condemned and employed at hard labor on the charge of intending to break their parole as prisoners of war, captured at Fort Jackson. There is also a delicate youth from the country who is subjected to the same treatment on the charge of being a guerrilla, the term which Butler applies to the partisan rangers organized under the act of Congress of the Confederate States. Alderman Beggs, on the charge of denouncing those who, having taken the oath to the Confederate States, afterwards swore allegiance to the United States, and Mr. Keller, a vender of books, stationery and scientific apparatus, on the charge of permitting a clerk to placard the word "Chickahominy" on a skeleton which was suspended in his show window for sale for the use of students of anatomy, are condemned also to close imprisonment and hard labor for two years. The others mentioned above are condemned for a longer period. A like condemnation and punishment were imposed upon Judge John W. Andrews, a most respectable citizen, recently a member of the judiciary of the State, of the Legislature, and of the city council, and a prominent merchant. This gentleman is advanced in years and in very delicate health. There is little hope that his health can long sustain his present burdens and hardships. The circumstances of Mrs. Phillips' imprisonment are probably known to you. As, however, I desire this to be an authentic and studiously accurate statement of the facts I will here relate them. In the raid of the U. S. troops near Warrenton, Miss., a young officer named De Kay was mortally wounded. He died in New Orleans and an attempt was made by the Federal authorities to get up a pompous funeral ceremony and procession in honor of so "gallant and heroic a young officer" who had fallen in an expedition which had no other purpose or object but the pillage of defenseless farms and villages. The efforts to excite the sympathies of our people on this occasion proved a ridiculous failure and the funeral ceremony had no aspect of solemnity or even propriety, a long line of carriages composing the cortege designed for the Union citizens being all empty. As this procession passed the residence of P. Phillips, esq., Mrs. Phillips, standing on the balcony with several lady friends, was observed by some Federal officer to smile, so it was charged. She was immediately arrested and taken before Butler, who in the most brutal and insolent manner sought to terrify the heroic lady. In this he did not succeed. Whilst denying that her gaiety had any reference whatever to the funeral ceremony Mrs. Phillips refused to make any apologies or concessions to th Thereupon she was condemned to close imprisonment in a filthy guard-room, thence to be transported to Ship Island, where she was to be held in close confinement for two years with no other fare but soldiers' rations; no intercourse or correspondence with any person except through General Butler. This sentence was published in the newspapers, accompanied by words of the grossest insult and most vulgar ribaldry, in which Mrs. Phillips was denounced as "not a common but an uncommon bad woman," referring to his proclamation, denounced by Lord Palmerston and the whole civilized world as 'so infamous," in which his soldiers are authorized to treat "as common women plying their profession" all who may manifest any contempt or discourtesy toward them. To add further insult, in the order condemning Mr. Keller it was made part of his sentence to permit him to hold converse and intercourse with Mrs. Phillips, to which condition this honest man was induced to protest from the belief that his fellow prisoner was a notorious courtesan of the city who bore the name of Phillips. This protest was published in the paper with Butler's order granting the request of Keller, so as to convey to the world the idea that a poor vender of periodicals declined association with a lady of the highest respectability, the wife of a distinguished lawyer and ex-Member of Congress. I can bear personal testimony to the rigorous execution of the sentence against Mrs. Phillips, having been imprisoned for weeks in a building adjoining to that which she was never allowed to leave. Such was the treatment of a delicate lady of the highest refinement, the mother of nine children. The case of Judge Andrews presents another striking example of the brutality and dishonesty of Butler. The charge against him imputed the horrid crime of having received and exhibited, nine months before the arrival of Butler in the city, a cross which had been sent to him by a young friend in our army at Manassas and which it was represented was made of the bones of a Yankee soldier. No proof whatever was adduced that such exhibition had ever been made by Judge Andrews in exultation, and the cross after being received was destroyed before Butler arrived in the city. In his first interview with the authorities of the city Butler had declared that he would take no cognizance of any acts committed before he occupied the city and established martial law therein. This solemn and oft-repeated pledge he has violated in a thousand instances.

Of the other prisoners there are three captains in the Confederate service who have copies of their parole as prisoners of war and who are sent here upon no specific charge, but as suspicious persons who might break the lines and go into the Confederate service. They are Captain McLean, late of the McCulloch Rangers; Captain Losberg, who commanded the De Feriet Guards of the Chalmette Regiment, captured and paroled by Commodore Farragut in the attack upon the forts below the city, and Captain Batchelor, of the Third [First] Regiment of the Louisiana Regulars. There is also a young creole, the sole protector of his family, his father having recently died, who is sentenced to an indefinite punishment on the charge, supported by the testimony of his own slave, a negro boy, of having thrown a revolver into the river after Butler's order requiring the citizens to deliver up their arms had been published. This is the case of Mr. Le Beau, of one of the oldest and most respectable Creole families in the State. The other prisoners here are imprisoned upon like frivolous charges. Some eight or ten of them for the publication of cards denying that they had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States, their names having been published in Butler's journal among those who had taken that oath. In the case of Mr. Davidson, a gallant young lawyer who has not yet recovered from a severe wound received at Shiloh, the offense consisted in his publishing a card stating that he was not the person of the same name who was published as having taken the oath. So much for the prisoners at Ship Island, with the facts of whose cases I am personally acquainted. I refrain from any reference to my own case, hard as my doom is, closely confined on this island with all my property appropriated by the enemy and my family placed under strict espionage and subject to many annoyances, insults and discomforts. With all its trials and hardships the condition of the prisoners here is quite easy and endurable compared with that of those who are confined in the damp and unwholesome casemates of Forts Jackson and Saint Philip, on the Mississippi, and in Fort Pickens, on Santa Rosa Island. Among the latter is the mayor of the city, who has been imprisoned for four months for the offense of writing a letter to Butler protesting against his order relative to the treatment of the ladies of the city and declaring his inability to maintain the peace of the city if the Federal soldiers were thus authorized to insult and outrage our women at their own pleasure and will. The secretary of the mayor, who wrote the letter signed by the mayor, was included in the same committal and imprisonment. Several members of the council for like or smaller offenses suffer the same punishment. Doctor Porter, a wealthy dentist and citizen, is imprisoned for requiring the Citizens' Bank, the pet bank and place of deposit of Butler and his agent in his vast schemes of corruption and extortion, to pay checks in the currency which Butler alone allowed the banks to pay. George C.
Laurason, formerly collector of the port of New Orleans, suffers a like penalty for applying for a passport to go to Europe, where his family now is. Thomas Murray, as president of that benevolent institution known as the Free Market, which supplied the families of the soldiers with the means of subsistence; Charles Heidsieck, a French citizen, the owner of the celebrated wine manufactory in France; Mr. Dacres and other British citizens; Mr. Mire, a wealthy and highly respectable Spanish citizen, the owner of extensive saw-mills in Florida and the contractor to supply the French navy with timber, are all imprisoned at Fort Pickens for endeavoring to pass the lines without taking the oath prescribed by Butler for foreigners, which oath requires them to reveal to the United States all information they may have respecting the acts and designs of the Confederate States on pain of being regarded and treated as enemies and spies. There are, too, many prisoners who are confined on the information of political and personal enemies as dangerous characters for offenses alleged to have been committed by them months and years before Butler's arrival in the city.

Doctor McPhevroa, an elderly and most respectable citizen, was condemned to the casemates of Fort Jackson for speaking in a circle of his friends of Butler's proclamation, Numbers 28, that relative to the ladies of New Orleans, as "infamous," the very epithet which Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons declared as the only appropriate one. Dr. Warren Stone, the distinguished surgeon and philanthropist, was consigned to a like punishment for refusing to recognize an individual who had been announced as president of a Union association and yet against the Yankees and had advised our people to cut the throats of all invaders. Several ladies of the highest social position have been imprisoned for the expression of sympathy with the Confederates and the wearing of ribbons of certain colors. Mrs. Dubois, an elderly lady long engaged in the business of teaching our children, was imprisoned on the charge of not being able to account for certain keys and books belonging to the schools which were never in her possession. All the members of the finance committee of the city council are imprisoned for authorizing the subscription of the city to the fund for its defense, and several hundred of our citizens who subscribed to this fund have been compelled to pay 25 per cent. of their subscription to Butler under threat of imprisonment at hard labor. To swell this exaction to the sum of $3000,000 of all the cotton factors of the city who had united in a circular address to the planters advising them not to send their cotton to New Orleans were assessed in sums of $500 and $250, which they had to pay or go to prison. The treatment of a venerable citizen named Roberts, a farmer living a short distance from Baton Rouge, is one of peculiar atrocity. A son of Mr. Roberts, a soldier of the Confederate Army, having come on sick leave to see his parents, a detachment of the Twenty-first Indiana Regiment was sent to arrest him. The young man hearing the approach of armed men went out to meet them, when several shots were fired by the Indianians, one of which killed young Roberts. The father, seeing the danger of his son, seized a gun and fired through the door, slightly wounding Colonel McMillan, the commander of the detachment. He was then arrested and charged with having killed his own son, and was taken with the rest of his family from his house, the body of his son being brought out and laid on the ground. The building, all the outhouses, barns and stables were burned to the ground and his mules, horses and cattle were driven off to the Federal camp. Old Mr. Roberts was condemned to close imprisonment for twenty years and this imprisonment he is now undergoing at Fort Pickens. There are many other cases of equal atrocity and hardships of citizens of the highest respectability, who upon the most frivolous charges have been dragged from their homes by a brutal soldiery and immured in cells or the casemates of forts and condemned to hard labor. I have not the time nor the exact information to state these cases fully. The prisons of New Orleans are crowded with citizens whose highest offense consists in the expressions of opinions and hopes of the success of the Confederate cause. Not a few are confined for repeating reports of Confederate victories or for having in their possession newspapers containing such reports.

A Mr. Levy, a respectable merchant, was imprisoned for one month for stating to a Federal that he heard that Baton Rouge had been evacuated, when it really had been evacuated. Another citizen was arrested in the cars and imprisoned for saying that the distress for cotton in England would soon increase; and another for repeating what had been published in the Delta that "Richmond had fallen," such a remark being regarded as ironical after the Confederate victories in the first days of July. A great many have been imprisoned on the information of their slaves that they had concealed or destroyed arms, and the informers emancipated. Mr. Lathrop, a respectable lawyer, is now undergoing in the parish prison a sentence of two years imprisonment for "kidnapping" his own slave who had been appropriated by a Federal officer. This sentence, Butler declared, was intended as a warning to the people not to interfere with the servants of his officers, meaning the slaves of our citizens appropriated by them. A number of our citizens enrolled as partisan rangers or in the State militia have been closely imprisoned and threatened with death as guerrillas or pirates. W. E. Seymour, late a captain in one of the regiments in the defense of the State and honorably paroled, is a close prisoner at Fort Saint Philip and his property all confiscated Bulletin, of his father, the late gallant Colonel I. G. Seymour, of the Sixth Louisiana, who fell in the battle at Gaines' Mill. The writer of the article, Mr. Devis, an old and inform citizen, was subjected to a like punishment and is now a prisoner at Fort Pickens. Besides these instances there are a great many citizens who have only escaped imprisonment by the payment of large fines, and in many cases by corrupting Federal officers of influence. To enumerate the cases of confiscation by order of Butler, and in many cases even by the order of his subordinates, would exceed the bounds I have affixed to this report. I have, however, kept a record of these cases and will communicate them at some other time. Suffice it to say that nearly all the large and commodious houses of our citizens, especially those of absentees and officers in our army and Government, have been thus appropriated. Officers of no higher grade than lieutenants occupy houses which have cost our citizens $30,000, and where furniture has been removed, and when deficient any articles which the appropriations may deem necessary to their comfort are purchased at the expense of the owners of the property. The wives and families of our citizens are frequently ejected from their houses to make way for coarse Federal officers and the negro women whom they appropriate as their wives and concubines. Ships have been loaded with costly articles of furniture stolen - they say confiscated - from our citizens and transmitted North to the families of Federal officers. Many a house in New England is even now resounding with the tones of pianos thus stolen from the parlors of our citizens. A vast amount of silver has been appropriated in like manner. The example set by Butler in appropriating the house of General Twiggs' minor heir and furnishing it in a most lavish and luxurious style at the expense of the estate, and in transmitting the plate and swords of the deceased veteran to Lowell; the seizure and removal to the North of the statue of Washington by Powers and of the state library from the capitol at Baton Rouge, have been extensively followed by Butler's subordinates. Nor have I here space to expose the extortions of Butler through the agency of his brother, and abandoned gambler and speculator, who has compelled our citizens by all kinds of threats to sell their property to him at rates fixed by him, who has monopolized all the shipping employed by the United States to transport the produce thus forced from our people, who has acted as broker to obtain remissions of penalties and the restoration of fugitive slaves, in many cases on condition of the payment of half their value and an pledges of half of the growing crops.

In this manner have the plantations within fifty miles of New Orleans been taxed. Many of them unable to secure even these terms have been depopulated. You have doubtless been made acquainted with the proceedings of Butler to compel our citizens to take the oath of allegiance to the United States - the prohibition of all trade to those who have not taken the oath and the seizure of their funds in bank. The last device will be to compel all those who do not take that oath to register themselves as enemies of the United States, when they will be either imprisoned or driven from the city and their property confiscated. These orders, especially the oath requirement, are applicable as well to women as to men. Indeed the malice of Butler against females is more bitter and insatiable than that against males. A placard in his office in large letters bears this inscription: "The venom of the she adder is as dangerous as that of the he adder. " And this is but a feeble and deficient presentment of the enormities and brutalities of this cowardly and brutal monster. It is in vain that some of his subordinates remonstrate and protest against many of his acts. He will permit no one to thwart his two great objects - to bid highest for the favor of the Northern mob and to accumulate a vast fortune by extortion and plunder. The extent to which this latter purpose is carried will surpass all similar efforts of great robbers from Verres down.

I content myself with this mere epitome of Butler's crimes. At some other more favorable occasion I will present them in greater detail and with the authentic proofs which I cannot-now command. It would not be becoming in me to solicit or suggest that some steps be taken by the President and Government of the Confederate States to correct and to avenge these wrongs done our people. I have full confidence that all will be done in that behalf which can be done. I cannot but say, however, that a feeling prevails among our people that they have been forgotten or abandoned by the Government for which they suffer, or an apprehension that the true state of affairs is not known or appreciated by our Government. That this may not any longer be the case I have incurred the peril of writing this memoir in a close prison on a desolate island, with a Federal sentinel at the door and the broadside of a Federal frigate frowning upon all in the bay.

I beg to subscribe myself faithfully and truly your friend and compatriot,


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