From the Richmond Whig, 8/5/1861
THE FEDERAL PRISONERS. - Three large tobacco factories on Main street, near 25th, are now occupied by the prisoners brought from Manassas. We have not been furnished with a "permit" to visit the interior of any of these prison depots, but, whilst in pursuit of information, have indulged in the privilege, common to all, of an outside view. The first thing which ill arrest the attention of a passer-by is the presence of a number of soldiers moving lazily about in squads, or sitting upon the sidewalk with their backs against the fences, whilst sentinels are pacing up and down, in front of and alongside the factories. The inner line of the narrow brick pavement is the limit within which no one is allowed to pass, without a "permit." If you do but stop a minute, and project your toe over the line, the sentinel will require a retrograde movement of your foot. Such is the discipline. The force at present employed in guard duty is composed of the B. Y. G.'s (Buckingham Yancey Guard) and soldiers of the "Provisional Army." The windows of the first and second stories of Harwood's factory are furnished with a few iron bars. The windows in the upper stories, as well as those in the other factories, have no such attachments. The prisoners, except when they are sleeping or eating, are constantly gazing out of the windows. They are not allowed to hold conversation with outsiders, but chat freely with each other.
On Saturday, we observed four of the prisoners engaged in a game of cards near one of the windows. At another, one of them was smoking a pipe, and seemed to be quite contented with his lot. We mention these little facts to indicate that the "Yankees" (as they are termed) are not treated with that rigor which some have supposed. On the cross street, a squad of ten or fifteen of them, mostly Zouaves, were engaged with spades, in digging a trench to carry off the rain. Others were "toting" water, in tubs, from a spring near by. Three or four have been detailed to wait upon the wounded, and these were allowed to cross the street from one factory to another unattended by a guard. Most of the prisoners seemed cheerful, but some looked haggard and dejected. During our stay, two fine hearses drew up at the front door of Harwood's factory. Each contained a coffin, which was removed into the building. On inquiry, we learned that two of the prisoners had died from wounds received in the battle of 21st ult., and their bodies were about to be sent to the burial ground. The prisoners crowded to the front windows to witness the removal of their departed comrades, but curiosity, rather than sympathy, was depicted upon their countenances.
Everybody is asking "What's to be done with the prisoners?" Some suggest that they be sent "down South" to Fort Sumter and elsewhere, to be taken care of until Lincoln is ready to exchange. Others think the best behaved among them should be sent home, in order that they may impart their experience to the deluded people of their section, upon the same principle that a singed rat is sometimes turned loose to frighten away others. - It is stated that the shoemakers among them will be required to "earn their grub" by making shoes for the Confederate army.
We hope that while the prisoners are kept her, their spiritual welfare will not be neglected. John Randolph aptly remarked on a certain occasion, "The Heathen are at your doors." The same remark is applicable to these prisoners, and convey a hint to our Missionary Societies which should not be disregarded. Why "compass sea and land to make one proselyte," when we have among us a large number of men who have been so accustomed to the "doctrines of devils," preached to them by the Beechers and Cheevers of the North, that the "Gospel of Jesus" is absolutely unknown to many of them. We would not require them to listen to a discourse, or read a tract, in which the truth was proclaimed, but they should be invited to attend divine service every Sunday at the Bethel church, or some convenient place, which might be fitted up for the purpose and thus have an opportunity of hearing a profitable and wholesome sermon, founded upon the word of God.
It might not be amiss to furnish them with copies of the Declaration of Independence so printed that the "self-evident truths" of that imperishable instrument would be brought conspicuously to their attention. If their minds are not totally blinded by prejudice and ignorance, they would not fail to perceive that the people of the South are vindicating, while the North is opposing, that fundamental principle asserted on the 4th of July, 1776, "that to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."