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Letter May 4, 1919 to Senator Robert M. La Follette
accordance therewith, that he dissolved the Prisoners’ Committee which grew out of the Great Prison Strike, January 30th, and has since been recognized as a valuable adjunct to the establishment. Col Williams announced that he would only hear personal complaints, but when such were presented he refused to listen. It is he who investigated the Ten Day Reign of Terror at Funston.
The Army Post and Disciplinary Barracks are under separate commands. The Guard House is under Post jurisdiction. The Post prisoners are upstairs, the C O’s or D B prisoners are downstairs. The “hydro-therapeutic” treatment, (meaning the water cure) was said to have been directed by the Post Officer of the Day, supposedly Capt Johnson’s 49th Inf. who had no jurisdiction over the C O’s. Did not also the D B officers exceed their authority in surrendering their charges to the Post authorities without adequate protection or assurances thereof? Iit is a technicality only, but may impress the military mind where common-sense logic fails.
If these movements of prisoners were a part of the stage setting necessary to make the ordeal of the 23rd appear justifiable, an investigation will probably reveal, either a fiendish plot of petty officers, or a wanton desire for diversion.
To amass men, unnecessarily under such condition is an unpardonable offence against individual comfort and general hygiene. Denied the most pressing necessities, it is conceivable that some of the men may have been up, awaiting turn at the comfort utensil; though their failure to be in bed after lights were out, may be cited as provocation for the outrage.
However, whether due to wantonness or wickedness, the culpability must rest on those who have committed human beings to the mercy of a system, lacking in necessary safeguards or inclination of its votaries to apply them.
If common sense only had prevailed, the white faced emaciated beings from Solitary could have been on the road to recovery; the others could have been spared the drenching, with attendant danger of pneumonia or a general break-down in those who are still suffering the consequences of Bloody Sunday at Riley and the Reign of Terror at Funston; a discredit to our War Department, a stain on our flag.
As for the rumor of their removal to Alcatraz, Colonel Williams evades the question by telegraphing me that it does not necessarily involve the C O’s – The location would be admirable for a repetition of the Hofer tragedy, being isolated from communication with the outside world, and too remote for prompt investigation and relief.
Why not liberate these men whom the military mind cannot understand, and therefore, fails to treat with decency? What end do reviewals [sic] and reduction of sentences serve, other than to waste good time, prolong the agony of the victims and defer the nation’s work. What possible gain can be derived from their confinement, the ultimate termination of which will render the whole performance farcical?
What right have unsympathetic militarists, whose human qualities are submerged in unintelligent patriotism, to experiment with noble, determined souls, and in the process wreck their bodies? What apology can we utter for permitting their further exposure to indignities and suffering? – Also, why discriminate against those, who have proven their sincerity?