Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- February 24, 1862The Rebel Captives in Camp Douglas Chicago Endangered by Their Presence (Editorial)
There are already four thousand Rebel captives at Camp Douglas, and this number is to be increased to seven thousand, according to reports. Such is the present state of affairs. The English newspapers have broached the question of what is to be done with these captives? Some would have them returned to the South; others would have them exchanged for Union captives, even though from twenty to fifty Rebel captives might have to be sent back for each Union captive; still others would like to see them distributed among the counties of the Northern States, making the Federal Government responsible for their care and support, and requiring that the National Authorities pay the respective states a certain sum for the keep of these unfortunate Confederate soldiers. If the season were advanced by a few weeks, we would recommend what we proposed last summer, namely that the 2Rebel prisoners be distributed among the farmers, in order to replace the farm workers who have left to defend the country against these accursed slave holders.
There can be no doubt that it will be necessary to build large forts in the interior, and that the Illinois-Michigan Canal will have to be enlarged to connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River, and thus with the Gulf of Mexico. A large number of workers will be required to do this work, and the more workers that can be employed on these projects, the sooner these very important enterprises can be finished.
Therefore, we recommend that the seven thousand prisoners with whom Chicago is to be blessed be used for the immediate construction of fortifications along the Canadian border, and for the contemplated enlargement of the Illinois-Michigan Canal.
"Idleness is the root of all evil," and seven thousand Rebel prisoners 3confined in a space the size of Camp Douglas cannot but demonstrate the truth of this proverb, and therein lies a great danger for the city of Chicago, and for the lives and property of its citizens.
The barracks of Camp Douglas consist merely of four rows of wooden buildings which surround a four cornered plot for reviewing and exercising. These barracks and the wooden fences, which do not even enclose the camp from all sides, cannot prevent seven thousand captives from escaping any time they wish, even though a garrison of several thousand men were kept at the camp at all times to watch the prisoners. If these prisoners should make independent attempts to gain their liberty, they could be frustrated--a double or triple line of pickets could be maintained and the sentries ordered to shoot every fugitive who did not halt immediately on command; but concerted action by all the prisoners could not be prevented, even if several thousand sentries were employed and if the prisoners had no weapons.
If the entire number of Rebels made a well planned mass attack upon the 4"fortifications," only a few hundred could be shot to death or wounded, while most of the prisoners would escape and could then attack the city.
Then again, if one remembers that it would be very easy to set fire to the barracks which are joined one to the other (and it would be impossible to extinguish the fire), how could anyone prevent these hordes from scattering and taking French leave?
Should the Rebels once be free to attack the city, which is protected by only sixty policemen, everybody can picture to himself what grave danger would threaten the lives and property of the citizens.
However, it would not even be necessary that all prisoners break out at the same time. Let us assume that only one hundred escaped. One hundred hostile people (no doubt the boldest of them would leave first) without money, without any means of subsistence, dependent upon robbery and 5plundering, let loose upon a city protected by only sixty policemen--what a menace to the community they would be!
In addition, seven thousand Rebel prisoners would also endanger the health of the city. It would be necessary to keep them in the barracks where they would find it impossible to move about very much. This close confinement in small, unventilated rooms filled with foul oders emanating from the hay and from the perspiring men, could not help but cause sickness, and, what is more, contagious disease. All measures to prevent the latter would be futile, and thus the disease would quickly spread.
It is not our intention to scare our citizens, but we do call attention to the danger in order that they may give serious thought to the feasibility of organizing home guards and arming the citizens in general, for the purpose of protecting the city and its inhabitants.
I J, I G, I M
Your search criteria returned no results.