Camp on the Big Black River
The enemy has been charged with criminal treatment of prisoners in battles across the Mississippi. Some of these tales are exaggerated, but have some truth to them. The army must be kept under command and must not retaliate in kind. The army will be required to rule this area after the war. Officers and men who engage in such practice must be punished.
General Halleck inquired about the following from a Missouri newspaper. We have little means of determining the facts of this matter until the territory west of Vicksburg is better controlled.
The day after the battle of Milliken’s Bend, in June last, the Marine Brigade landed some 10 miles below the Bend, and attacked and routed the guerrillas which had been repulsed by our troops and the gunboats the day previous. Major Hubbard’s cavalry battalion, of the Marine Brigade, followed the retreating rebels to Tensas Bayou, and were horrified in the finding of skeletons of white officers commanding negro regiments, who had been captured by the rebels at Milliken’s Bend. In many cases these officers had been nailed to the trees and crucified; in this situation a fire was built around the tree, and they suffered a slow death from broiling. The charred and partially burned limbs were still fastened to the stakes. Other instances were noticed of charred skeletons of officers, which had been nailed to slabs, and the slabs placed against a house which was set on fire by the inhuman demons, the poor sufferers having been roasted alive until nothing was left but charred bones. Negro prisoners recaptured from the guerrillas confirmed these facts, which were amply corroborated by the bodies found, as above described. The negroes taken were to be resold into slavery, while the white officers were consumed by fire. Lieutenant Cole holds himself responsible for the truth of the statement.