Letter July 28, 1919 from Unknown

Date

1919-07-28

Title

Letter July 28, 1919 from Unknown

Date

1919-07-28

Description

account of prisoner strike and repressive measures undertaken in response, at Ft. Leavenworth

Subject

WWI conscientious objection / objectors

Coverage

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas

Creator

unknown

Source

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Publisher

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Rights

Copyright for this material may have been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection or may have been retained by the creators/authors (or their descendants) of this set of papers or records, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Please contact SCPC staff for further information.

Format

image/jpg

Language

English

Type

text

Transcription

Monday July 28, 1919

U.S.D.B. Ft. Leavenwort [sic] Kansas

Dear -----

The handling of the recent strike of military prisoners at this institution by the authorities is one of the most flagrant exaples [sic] of Prussianism which has occurred anywhere, in or out of Germany. It violates every principle of Justice and humanity and shows what results may be expected from the intoxication of unbridled authority. The facts are these:-

Since the latter part of January there has existed herein one form or another a grievance Committee of prisoners elected by the men in confinement. Since discipline was somewhat demoralized after the January strike, the authorities tolerated the Committee and granted a number of improvements in conditions suggested by it. Gradually however, the price said for these privileges became greater. – it consisted in the Committee assuming more and more responsibility of discipline. Sentries were taken from the mess hall and from the yard, their places taken by Committee men. A Prisoners’ Court was established. The Committee came to be the unofficial voice of the administration, and a medium for the enforcement of its will upon the prisoners, rather than the organ of prison opinion. When in this manner, discipline had fairly been restored, the administration began to chafe under the necessity of dealing indirectly with the men through a committee. The many privileges “granted pitifully small though they were, hurt the authorities; the time came when the Committee had served its purpose. Things were again well enough in hand for them to abolish the Committee, and to take ever the direct reins of control at the first opportune moment.

In the meanwhile the food which for a time, after the January strike, had improved, began again to deteriorate. The authorities tried to explain this by laying it to the door of the new Army ration system. A slight knowledge of the facts will show that this at the most only partially explains it. Men recently arrived from Fort Jay, the Eastern division of the Disciplinary Barracks, have reported the meals excellent there despite the change. And Fort Jay-is given the larger ration allowance than Fort Leavenworth. On the contrary, this institution has three advantages over Fort Jay. – In the first place, it is located more closely to the center of the meat, grain and canned food centers of America than is New York, enabling food to be purchased cheap—at least with less shipping charges. In the second place, - there are three times the number of men here, enabling supplies to be purchased in larger quantities, with consequent saving. In the third place, this institution has the products of a large farm colony at its disposal. There are several hundred head of fine Holstein-Friesian cattle; some hundred of blooded swine, a poultry farm with scores of thousands of while [sic] Leghorn chickens; a large herd of sheep; a greenhouse where hot house vegetables are grown, and many acres of farmland planted with grain, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beets, etc. The buildings have been reared, the stock bought, etc. With money diverted from the fund of the general prisoners’ mess. Many thousands of dollars which might have gone directly for meals have been spent in this way; the excuse being that the mess would greatly benefit therefrom in the shape of fresh eggs, meats, and vegetables. The expenditure was to be in the nature of an investment, from which the general Prisoners’ mess should draw returns. It was expressly provided at the time of the establishment of the farm colony that only products in excess of those required by the general prisoners’ mess should be supplied to anyone else, the reverse has been the practice. Only when the families of the officers and guards at the posts have had their full [sic], have the products been sold to the general prisoners’ mess, - in fact, up until several months ago practically nothing ever reached the prisoners’ mess because supplies were also sold to the civilian community at Leavenworth. In fact, the farm colony officials boasted that between January 1st and April 1st, $5000.00 worth of swine had been sold for slaughter on the Kansas City

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market. During this time the prisoners’ mess new [sic] no pork at all. Since then it has seen no pork either, except for two meals, and the meat was bough [sic] through a local packing house. The prisoners are served canned milk, while the fresh milk goes to the post community. The prisoners eat oleomargarine so rank, that it smells, to say nothing of its taste, nearly turns one’s stomach, while the Farm Colony’s butter goes to the post community. Fresh eggs have been the rule once a week – two hard boiled per man, on Sunday morning. During most of this period, the poultry farm was producing from thirty to thirty-five thousand eggs per week, now during the hot weather the product had fallen off to about 8,000 a week. Even this last would enable the prisoners to have two-egg meals a week, if they got all the eggs. Spring broilers are sole by the hundreds to the guards’ mess, but the prisoners’ mess got none.

It must be added, that besides owning the Farm Colony through their mess fund, the prisoners also work it, operate it with pay. Furthermore, not only are the officers and the military community supplied with the Farm Colony products at the expense of the prisoners, but they are charged then the market price for them.

In spite of the apparent advantages of supplying food to the prisoners, the quality of the food took a short turn for the worst about the first of July, at the same time several new disciplinary measures were introduced. Moreover coincident with these events, were the transfer west of several hundred conscientious objectors leaving only fifteen or twenty, most of whom were short timers. And the influx of nearly a thousand disillusioned over-seas prisoners. These men were smarting with a sense of injustice, some had five years sentences, and more for talking to a German woman, for loitering, and similar insignificant offenses. Many had fifteen or twenty years for absence without leave, or some other military charge. Some had long sentences for larceny; it developed that many had received no pay for long periods of time, some indeed had gone eleven months without receiving a cent. These men came fresh with knowledge of a general amnesty in Italy and France. Many suffered severely in the over-seas prisoner camps, and were indignant of brutal treatment.

Monday noon, (July 21st) came the climax of a series of atrocious meals. Beans had been the backbone of nearly every meal consisted of steamed red beans, half a slice of sour pickle and chocolate pudding, which was disagreeably tasteless, bread and water, that was all. It happened that at that very meal Col. Rice, the Commandant, took Col. Penn of the Inspector General’s office, who had arrived on a tour of inspection, through the mess hall. Both of them saw this meal.

It was announced that at one o’clock there was to be a meeting of the General Prisoners Conference Committee, to discuss the mess hall situation. That night the Committee men in each wing announced the results of the meeting. They said that Colonel Rice, Colonel Penn and Lieut. Colonel Smith, the Executive Officer, had been present and had explained the poor mess as the result of the new ration system. However, they felt that an improvement in the mess would take place within twenty-four hours and urged the men to wait that long before taking any further action. “Give the Committee a chance” was their plea. In the seventh wing, where I sleep there was apparant [sic] to this.

The next morning there was another miserable meal, poorly cooked rice, with a little canned meal, was the piece de resistance. The President of the Committee called for silence, mounted one of the benches and talked to the men. He said that the men at early mess had grumbled about the breakfast and that some had shouted “there aint no more” – he urged the men not to be so foolish as to quit work now, but to give the Committee a chance to bring

[page 3]

improvements. He called for a show of hands from those who were willing to back the Committee and go quietly to work. A large majority raised their hands in assent, although there were one or two shouts of “there aint no more, and we want general amnesty.” There followed music from the piano, in front of the mess hall, and a prisoner sang a solo which was loudly cheered to several encores. Then the bell range to empty the mess all. As usual, the front rows stood up and started to file out. As the first men neared the door, they looked back and appeared somewhat hesitant and puzzled. There was a slight murmur of disapproval from the rear of the room. The man at the door wavered, stopped, then returned to their seats, then and then only, a large number of cries, There aint no more, General Amnesty, sit down, etc.” But even then a cool head might have calmed the men. It was only a comparatively few hot heads who had shouted. The Office of the Day at his desk, near the door, dangled his legs nonchalantly over a chair and said nothing. A Committee man then unwittingly made a fatal physocological [sic] blunder. He called for silence and said, “Come on, men, remember your promise to the Committee, get up and go into the yard. You can’t sit in the mess hall for twenty four hours anyway” A number of men laughed, -- so far so good – then the mistake. “If you can’t go out into the yard, go back to your wings. Don’t sit here!” The idea had been sown. Soon the man were filing out of the mess hall laughing and chattering. Most of them went to the wings, although a large number filed out into the yard.

I wish to venture an opinion on one point here. Why did those first men hesitate near the door and come back to their seats when they saw the other men were still sitting? I know that the fact that only the first row got up struck me peculiarly at the time and made me sense the iminence [sic] of a strike as nothing else had done. Why should I have felt that way when it was customary for each row to start up only when the row ahead of it had filed out. The answer is, I believe, that every man who had been here for more than three months (and I with them) was a victime [sic] of a curious slip of the mind, a slip which did more to precipitate the strike at that moment than any other factor Unconsciously during the meal our minds had reverted to the conditions at the time of and following the January strike. At that time the custom at the sound of the bell was for everyone in the hall to [get] to his feet and stand while each row passed out, consequently when the first rows rose upon the sound of the bell, we sensed wrongly that everyone had struck. This falsely aroused the mob or herd instinct of solidarity, and together with the unfortunate one given by the Committee when he said “wings” precipitated the strike. This does not mean that there was not a great feeling of discontent, and that a strike was not anyway impending, for just as the poor food was only the occasion, and not the underlying causes of the strike, which was contained injustice and a desire for amnesty, so this psychological slip was the immediate factor which brought the strike at that moment, rather than the next day when the Committee should either have succeeded or failed in its attempts for better food. When the men who did not go to their wings,- and there were many of them – had filed into the yard, there was no attempt on the part of the authorities to put them to work. On the contrary, they were told to go back to their wings.

Tony, the Committee President, then made another heroic attempt to avert the strike. Under his influence, most of the men in the third and fourth wings marched into the yard, and a few from the seventh wing. Against there was absolutely no attempt on the part of the officers to assist him. No one was outside to put the men to work. A tactful officer could have got several hundred men to work at the time, but none appeared. With those as a nucleus, the others would not have held out long. Besides several hundred paroles, office men, men in the power plant, ice plant, etc. were already

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at work having eaten at early mess. The bakery, butcher shop, mess hall and kitchen men were working, but after hanging around in the yard for some time, waiting either to be put to work, or for the remainder of the man in the wings to come out, the men from the third and fourth wings, and others, slowly melted back into the rotunda.

I had been among those who went directly to the yard from the mess hall. I was not striking; I do not believe in strikes because they are weapons of coercion, and I believe that love, not force and coercion, is the solvent for human troubles. Yet when I went to the yard I was run back into the wing. When Tony made his appeal in the seventh wing, after the third and fourth wings had gone out, I was one of the few from our wing to follow him into the yard. When the crowd in the yard was not put to work, and began to return inside. I went to Vocational Training Office, and volunteered for temporary work in the mess hall during the strike. I was assigned to work there and did K.P. during both of the noon messes. Then the shift to which I had been allotted went off duty. I tried to get out into the yard, but the iron barred doors were locked. There was only one thing to do – that was to return to the wing, which I did.

The men were quiet and orderly. Several men made speeches, using absolute order and refrainment from violence or any semblance of it. In the middle of the afternoon, it was announced that Colonel Rice had telegraphed to Washington the demands of the strikers, which had been presented to him. they were these:- General military amnesty, better food and more tobacco; Also it was announced that no one would be required to work until the reply had been received, although we knew that office men had been told to go back to their wings during the afternoon. The full significance of the latter statement was not apparent until the next morning, then the cooks, K.P.s, a power plant and ice plant shifts, etc. were not allowed to go out to work, and we found ourselves on a bread and water diet, with squads of armed men, and machine guns in the yards, and with armed sentries in the riot galleries opposite the seventh tier in each wing. The third, fourth and seventh wing were quiet an orderly, but a good deal of noise proceeded from the sixth wing, where most of the overseas men were located. During the day, five shots were heard from the sixth wing, and we saw two prisoners later carried on stretchers to the hospital.

That afternoon, this wing (the seventh) voted practically unanimously to go back to work. The Committee man who took the news to the barred door (every man had been warned to keep away from the door under penalty of being shot or tried for mutiny), returned with word, that Col. Smith was in Kansas City, and we could have no reply until the next morning, when he returned. This I believe was only an excuse on the part of the authorities who were not willing for the strike to be over yet, because I myself saw Colonel Smith in the yard an hour afterwards, as I was peering through one of the barred windows. The reply came the next morning, in the shape of a decreased bread ration. Wednesday we had received a third of a slice twice during the day, Thursday it was half a loaf, for the whole day. Thursday was distinguished also by several examples of criminal brutality on the part of the officers. From the sixth wing proceeded considerable noise and racket. One officer standing on a pile of boards between the sixth and seventh wings emptied his revolver into the sixth wing. He shot at figures which he saw between the bars of the window. By no means was it possible for him to distinguish one man from another at that distance. Furthermore, any action inside could not have enabled nay [sic] man to escape from the wing; or to injure any soldier or officer on guard outside. The brick walls re thick, and thw [sic] windows stoutly barred and nearly inaccessible. But further proof that the action was nothing more than brutal blood lust was evidenced

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by the action of another officer of a few minutes later. He sat with his chair tilted back against the corner of the prison wall, (mounted on the top of the sentry tower above him, was a machine gun turned on the sixth wing. Near him on a bench were a half dozen sentries armed with rifles with bayonets. The officer was in no personal danger. Over a hundred feet away was a thick brick wall pierced with many rows of heavily barred windows. Fully fifteen feet within that wall rose six tiers of cells, with corridors surrounding them. (On neither side of the wing was it possible for any one on these corridors to come nearer to the barred windows than the fifteen feet.) On the tiers ranged several hundred helpless, unarmed, half starved prisoners. And yet this officer and gentleman” sat there was elbow on knees and from time to time, as he glimpsed a figure within, smiling he fired shots from a big blue automatic. Occasionally he would get up and pace back and forth, pering [sic] intently up at the windows, until he could see some one clearly, then he would take a careful aim and fire. At least two men were carried wounded to the hospital from the sixth wing that afternoon. The men in the sixth wing shouted over to me that two men had been killed.

Friday came the answer to our vote of Tuesday. It was this: No one will be allowed to go back to work until every wing and every man had agreed to go to work. Furthermore, the Committee was declared dissolved. My five o’clock that afternoon every wing had declared its willingness to resume. As a matter of fact, the third, fourth and seventh wings had been ready for some time; it was only the sixth that had held out. Moreover hundreds of men in all the wings had never struck at all, they had been conscripted into the strike. By whom? The strikers question? Not at all! They had been forced into it by the authorities themselves, who gave them no chance to work.

Those who expected breakfast and worked Saturday – because the strike was over did not diagnose correctly the spirit of militarism with which they had to deal. In the morning, a third of a loaf of bread instead of the usual half a loaf (even the latter is less than the regulation prescribes for men on bread and water) was thrown down into the wiaint [sic] blanket from the riot gallery. Then we saw first the third wing, then the fourth, and next ourselves put through the following process. We were called downstairs, Lieutenant Colonel Smith entered the wing and announced “when the door is open, you will march quick time at attention until further orders.” We marched out heavily surrounded by sentries, armed with shotgun and bayonet. We were forced to run on a trot down the stairs, always with arms folded and hand to the front. In the yard a machine gun was pointed at us from a newly built gallery. Still heavily guarded, we were marched several hundred feet to where a group of officers stood (beside them at the table sat several clerks from the Executive office with the record files in front of them). Besides the other officers there were present one general officer, probably the new chief of the Army Services School, Colonel Penn of the Inspector General’s office, Col. Rice the Commandant, Colonel Allison, the Assistant Commandant, and Lieut. Colonel Smith, the Executive Officer.

Col. Smith stepped forward and commenced austerely:- “The Commandant has directed me to address a few words to you with regard to the recent mutiny, and to your future condition. Whatever you may choose to call this affair, a strike or what not, the authorities here and in Washington consider it a mutiny. You began this mutiny; we will end it. Accordingly you have been put upon a restricted diet, and will remain upon it until we see fit to withdraw it. The mouthpiece of your mutinous act

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has been your committee, which has therefore been dissolved. (The numbers will be assigned to work before they leave the yard today.) You will lose all privileges which hitherto have been extended to you. First, you will lose all home parole privileges. Those of you whose paroles were about to take effect must do the rest of your time. Next, all the good time you earned to date has been cancelled. If you have earned one month, two months, or six months, you will have to serve that much longer. (Some of you have been wondering why you have not been released during the past several days – that is the reason.) Then all the barrack paroles will be revoked. Your white stars will be painted ouy [sic] before you return to your wings. Finally, all other privileges which have been given you will be withdrawn. You will not have the use of the yard or recreation after work until 7:30 as heretofore, nor on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. In short, you will be in your cells all of the time when you are not working. (The boxing contest and other entertainments in the yard are abolished. There will be no more smoking in the yard. Your allowance of one sack of tobacco will be continued, but it must be smoked only in the cell.) The honor system in all the wings is abolished and guards will be reintroduced into each wing. (The guards will have charge of you, and will issue orders to the room orderlies.) You will be marched at attention to and from all meals; there will be no talking in line or at the table. You will be marched at attention to and from your work, and will talk neither in line or at work. (You will strictly obey in future the regulation requiring you to fold your arms in the presence of an officer or a guard. There are a great many regulations in this institution, which have not recently been enforced. They will all be put in effect from now on.

I am sure you will be glad of the change to a regime of justice and discipline, and will cooperate with us in endorsing good order. There will be in the future no back talk to guards, and anyone who does not obey an order promptly will do so at his peril. (N. B. This means a knock-out blow from a black jack. The “Regulations” mean in practice a revival of the old “iron rule.”) I know that there are some men among you who did not wish to strike, but they must suffer likewise, because they did not persuade the hotheaded ones not to mutiny. There will be a changing of shifts also;- in the mess hall there will be only one shift instead of two. You lose your day of leisure and will work every day. In the power plant, there will now be two shifts of twelve hours instead of three shifts of eight hours.

You will now step forward one by one to the desk as your number is called, so that the sergeant may check your place of work. Then you will line up to be searched. All unauthorized articles will be taken from you. Your wings are now being searched and all contraband is being removed. That is all.”

All this time, we had been standing in the blazing sun, while he stood in the shade. The one man gave out – he was not taken to the hospital but allowed to lie in the shade for a time. When some of the other wings went through this ordeal, as many as a dozen men were overcome by the effect of the heat and exercise on their empty stomachs. A few were carried to the hospital. We were searched in groups of about ten. We had to strip out there in the open. The hot pavement burned our stockinged feet, pencils, pencil holders, odd styles of shoes, shirts or trousers were taken. Some fellows were left nearly naked. Those who had garters lost them. The man next to me lost two bits of twine, with which he had tied his socks up. A doctor passed perfunctorily up the line and asked each man if he felt all right. As each batch was searched, it was marched off under the guard of a “hard boiled sergeant”, and allowed to sit down in the shade of a building. When all had been searched we were marched back to the wing.

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Here utter confusion greeted us. Clothing, sheets, blankets, toilet articles and letters were indiscriminately mixed up with the straw from our bed ticks, which had been slashed open. Pencils, writing paper, books, extra towels and clothing, shelves, rude homemade tables or chairs, pictures – all were taken. Everything which added a little comfort to the grim stone walls of our cells were gone. Even the mirrors in the end cells in each tier where the wash bowls were, and which had been placed by the authorities themselves, had disappeared. Several men, especially among the few remaining C.Os had lost valuable books, which were in no sense of the word contraband. They were their own personal property, and had been examined and permitted by the Intelligence Office. As far as is known they were destroyed along with other articles.

Sunday morning brought another small ration of one third of a loaf of bread. That day, the sixth wing, the second and third class prisoners in the basement, and the colored men were put through the same ordeal. A special machine gun was set up about 60 feet from where the red and yellow number men rested while waiting for their comrades to be searched. And it was pointly [sic] directly at these unarmed men who were already under heavy armed guards, many fainted in the sun.

During the day six and possibly more men in the wings collapsed from weakness and lack of food. They were carried on stretchers to the hospital. The one who was taken there from this wing was revived and sent back to the wing, being told that the hospital was full.

This morning (Monday) there has been no bread at all, but the cooks have been called to duty, and it is rumored that we are to eat this noon and tonight ttgo [sic] to work tomorrow morning. No one has had a bath for over a week, nor a shave. There has been no change of underwear, for nearly two weeks, because of the last bath day, before the strike, neither underwear nor towels were distributed, who wished could bathe, and without drawing himself put on again the grimy, fetid, underclothing he had been wearing. Although a Sanitary Squad is supposed to have killed the vermin in the cell during the last month, this wing at least is infested with bedbugs, which cause many a suffering, sleepless night. Clean handkerchiefs have not been issued in over a month.

In examing [sic] the penalties which have been inflicted for this so-called mutiny, and remembering that there has been no violence on the part of the prisoners, and that the authorities not only made no effort, to separate strikers from non-strikers, but actually sent back from their jobs hundreds of men; it is to be seen that great injustice has been done. The penalty divide themselves into two classes:- collective penalties and individual penalties. The former are those which is physically impossible to inflict upon the guilty without inflicting upon the innocent. In this class fall lots of yard privileges, etc, in fact the re-enforcement of all those restrictions which made up the “iron rule.” The chief injustice of these, apart from the infliction upon innocent and guilty alike, lies in their inhumanity and their unsanitary nature. For instance, to be shut up in the wings Saturday afternoon and Sundays, and evenings after work, during these hot summer days is not only torture but is extremely unhelpful. The air is hot, and stuffy and impure, the worst effect is upon those hundreds of prisoners whose daily work confines them indoors. Now they will rarely get any sunlight or fresh air.

But the most horrible injustice lies in the infliction of the individual penalties. These consist of home and barrack paroles and in the loss of “good time.” (Five days good conduct time for each month served in the first year, and ten days on each month the following years is allowed all prisoners unless taken away as punishment. Only good time already earned can be forfeited.) Many men by losing the home parole privileges have

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in effect had six months, a year, and sometimes more added to their sentences; and added just as they were about to be released. Yet these men were among those who did not strike, precisely because their release was so near, that they wished naturally to avoid any kind of trouble here in the case of a man in this wing, which is typical;- several weeks ago, two recommendations for home parole were forwarded from the parole board here to Washington. One of these was termed “a doubtful risk” and came back approved on Monday, the 21st, and the man was released the first day of the strike. The “sure risk” was delayed in the mail or the pigeon holes at Washington. As a result the letter man did not go out before the strike. Naturally he did not quit work voluntarily – but he was not allowed to work. Now through no fault of his he loses his parole, and is forced to serve another year.

Take the case of the barrack parolee:- All of whose while [sic] stars were painted out. A large number of them were short timers (a man is not given a white star, unless he has less than a year to do.) Many of them had eaten at early mess and had gone to work. Later they were sent back to the wing among the strikers, and yet all of them have lost their paroles. Now consider the loss of all good time by all men, the longer a man has been here, the more good time he loses (some have lost a year or more of good time). And yet the longer he has been here, the less likely it is that he voluntarily struck. Even if the old timer did strike is [sic] punishment is far greater than that of the new man, who to say the very least, has been equally turbalent [sic] with the new man has earned only five or ten days – possibly ten days of good time, and the old timer loses many months. For instance one man on my tier in this wing, was due to go out yesterdya [sic] (Sunday July 27,) He did not strike, he worked in the mess hall and was turned back from work. Now he has two months more to go. In the case of the men who work in the mess hall, and [sic] additional punishment has been inflicted. Now these men will have to work every day instead of every other day; there will be only one shift instead of two. This means they will work every day from five in the morning to seven at night – fourteen hours, of hard dirty work, indoors, seven days a week, without a chance for recreation. And yet not one of these men actually struck, whatever their sympathies might have been. They were sent away from their work by the authorities themselves. The same is true of the power plant. There will now be two twelve hour shifts, instead of three eight hour ones. These men also work seven days a week – the work is hard, dirty and unhealthy, and they will have no leisure and no recreation. To sum up, the strike was caused by ill treatment towards and unjust sentences; its occasion was poor food; the thing which precipitated it at the moment it occurred was a psychological suggestion on the part of a speaker by the indifference of the authorities. The Administration seeing in the insipient strike an opportunity to abolish the Committee and to re-introduce the “Iron Rule” made it impossible for them not to strike. This they did not by once adjusting the men themselves, and urging them or even ordering them to work; by making no effort to put to work those men who, twice went into the yard ready to work; but not going into the wings and giving those men who wished to work an opportunity to do so, and finally by sending back to the wings those paroles, office men, etc. who had already gone to work, and later by sending back the men working in the kitchen, bakery, butcher, shop, mess hall, power plant, and ice plant.

Having conscripted the majority of the prisoners into striking (or mutinying) as they choose to call it,) they then proceeded by starvation and by brutal show and force to “break” the strike they had then largely responsible for developing. When this process was complete they subjected each prisoner to personal indignities and punished each man, innocent or guilty, with as many punishments as could be devised. This punishment, not only was not equal upon each man, but tendered to be most severe on those who had the least to do with it. There has been one thing which these militarist methods have succeeded in accomplished; they had succeeded far in destroying in whatever patriotism existed in the hearts of the men. They have done this by destroying their belief in the justice of the Government.

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Only a swift remedy of the injustice suffered by the military prisoners here will succeed in keeping alive any faith in the high ideals and principles of this country as uttered by the President. Punishment of the officers guilty will not solve the difficulty. To inflict punishment on the perpetrators of injustice does not right the wrong. The men confined here believe firmly that they deserve the benefit of a general military amnesty, no less than the soldiers of their Allies, France and Italy. They believe that they are entitled to humane and sanitary living conditions, while they remain confined. It is for these they plead not for the punishment of those individuals who have wronged them.

Monday evening, July 28, 1919

P.S.- The intimidation and personal humiliation increase. We have now had two meals in the mess hall, meals neither good or bad, merely indifferent, however they tasted good to starved stomachs. Riot galleries have been built on either side of the mess hall, and four armed sentries sit at each. The mess hall is full of armed officers. Tonight they are beginning to shave off men’s hair clipping it to the scalp. This as humiliation and explains why mirrors were removed. No man is allowed no on any other tier than his own under penalty of immediate solitary confinement. This makes visiting with one’s friends, even in the same wing, well nigh impossible. Seeing friends in other wings is out of the question.

Since the strike we have been held strictly “incommunicado”. No mail has come in or gone out. No visitors have been allowed. There lies a possible connection between this and the loss of home paroles “good time.” The authorities have rushed many troops here. They have killed and injured a number of prisoners. They desire to keep the true facts from the people as long as they can. The fewer the releases there are for a few months, the better it will be for their policy of concealment.

An order has just come round confining each man, not merely to his own tier, but also to his own cell. More punishment!

Citation

unknown, “Letter July 28, 1919 from Unknown,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed October 19, 2020, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/1724.

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