Mistreatment of French Prisoners

General Wilson continues his observations about the retreat after the first snow fall of early November.  “At Viazma, fifty French, by a savage order, were burned alive.  In another village fifty men had been buried alive; but these terrible acts of ferocity were minor features – they ended in death with comparitively little protracted suffering.  Here death, so much invited, so solicited as a friend, came with dilatory step; but still he came without interval of torturing pause.”

“I will cite three or four of the most painful indcidents that I witnessed.

1. A number of naked men, whose backs had been frozen while they warmed the front of their bodies, sat round the burning embers of a hut.  Sensible at last to the chill of the air, they had succeeded in turning themselves, when the fire caught the congealed flesh, and a hard burnt crust covered the whole of their backs.  The wretches were still living as I passed.

2.  Sixty dying naked men, whose necks were laid upon a felled tree, while Russian men and women with large faggot-sticks, singing in chorus and hopping round, with repeated blows struck out their brains in succession.

3.  A group of wounded men, at the ashes of another cottage, sitting and lying over the body of a comrade which they had roasted, and the flesh of which they had begun to eat.

4.  A French woman, naked to her chemise, with black, long, dishevelled hair, sitting on the snow, where she had remained the whole day and in that situation had been delivered of a child, which had afterwards been stolen from her.  This was the extreme of mental anguish and bodily suffering.

I could cite a variety of other sad and sorry calamities, but the very recollection is loathsome.”

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