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COTTON FOR THE BELIEF OF CONFEDERATE PRISONERS Morgan Allen Powell The United States transport Atlanta, loaded with cotton from Mobde , Alabama, steamed into New York Harbor on Tuesday, January 24, 1865, and made fast to North River Pier 4L1 Her arrival almost escaped notice. The New York Herald of the following day mentioned it only in the shipping columns. Actually, the Atlanta's mission was an important part of one of the most unusual operations of the Civil War. More than ten weeks earlier, on November 12, 1864, General U.S. Grant and Judge Robert OuId, Confederate Agent for Exchange of Prisoners, completed an arrangement whereby either side might supply clothing and other essentials to its own people who were prisoners of the other. In a euphemistic admission of poverty in the Confederacy, OuId had said it would not be practicable to send supplies from the South. It was then agreed that articles necessary for the Confederate prisoners of war should be bought in the North with money obtained there by the sale of Southern cotton.2 Use of some of the Confederacy's vast cotton resources for relief of its prisoners in Northern hands was a sensible idea. It could have precluded much suffering had it been adopted earlier, had the Ould-Grant agreement been faithfully carried out, and had there been an expeditious shipment of a large quantity of this commodity, so scarce in the North, so plentiful in the South. Who first suggested such employment of cotton is not known. Credit is due Miss Mary Cherry, of Memphis, for an early effort toward it. Having exhausted her own means in behalf of imprisoned Confederates, in the spring of 1864 she obtained a Rear ADMmAL Morgan Allen Powell, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired), now lives in Santa Barbara, California. 1 U.S. War Dept. (comp.), The War of the Rebellion: a Compihtion of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, 1880-1901), Ser. II, VIII, 123. (Hereafter cited as OR; except where noted otherwise, all references are to Ser. II. ) 2 Ibid., VII, 926, 1117-1118, 1121-1122; Dunbar Rowland (ed.), Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers and Speeches (Jackson, Miss., 1923), VIII, 523-524; Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government ( New York, 1881), II, 606. 24 permit from the Richmond government to sell two hundred bales of cotton to Northerners, the proceeds to provide for continuance of the same good works. A personal injury forced Miss Cherry to delay starting her project, however, and it appears that she never completed it.3 A plan of broader scope was offered to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton on August 11, 1864, by W. H. Winder, of New York, a brother of Brigadier General John H. Winder, Confederate Commissary General of Prisoners. Mr. Winder outlined a system for the supply of necessities to prisoners of each side. He suggested that the Federal government provide the needs of those it held in prison and be repaid by the South in cotton. In his opinion, "this would be equivalent to pay in gold." A functionary in Washington putWinder's proposal aside with a comment that such things could be done only with the consent of the other side, and "all experience shows that no such consent can be obtained." A month later another New Yorker, M. M. Broadwell, presented to the War Department a scheme with the same expressed objectives. Its author would supply Confederate prisoners by commercial enterprise. In a letter dated September 12, Broadwell asked permission to bring cotton from the South and leave to visit Richmond where "his personal and family connections with rebel officials" would help him negotiate in behalf of the prisoners, North and South. In Richmond, Broadwell would bind himself to supply imprisoned Rebels and to take his pay in cotton. General Grant approved his request about three weeks after its submission and returned it to Stanton. Broadwell was by then, however , carrying a letter from Lincoln asking that the plan be considered. A War Department pass from Washington to Grant's headquarters at City Point was written for Broadwell on October 3; no evidence exists that he used...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 24-35
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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