New Orleans, (La.), Aug. 28, 1863.
To His Excellency, John A. Andrew, Governor State of Massachusetts,
Sir:–I have the honor to present to your Excellency, herewith, an iron relic of a poor slave girl’s torture, which I procured near this city, under the following circumstances.
Soon after the Federal occupation of New Orleans, I was placed in command of a detachment of troops, and instructed to proceed down the river for the purpose of searching suspected premises for arms and munitions contraband of war. At the plantation of Madame Coutreil, a French Creole, residing just below the city, I found quite a quantity, and was about leaving when a small house, closed tightly and about nine or ten feet square, attracted my attention. I demanded the keys of the strange looking place, and, after unlocking double doors, found myself in the entrance of a dark and loathsome dungeon, alive with the most disgusting and sickening stench that can be imagined. The hot, close and stifled air puffed out by me until I was obliged to fall back for fear of suffocation.
“In Heaven’s name, what have you here!” I exclaimed to the slave mistress, of whom I had demanded the keys.
“Oh, only a little girl–she runned away.”
I peered into the darkness, and was able to discover, sitting at one end of the room upon a low stool, a girl about eighteen years of age. She had this iron torture riveted about her neck, where it had rusted through the skin, and lay corroding apparently upon the flesh. Her head was bowed upon her hands, and she was almost insensible from emaciation and immersion in the foul air of the dungeon. She was quite white–quadroon or octoroon–and previous to her confinement, which had continued as I found for three months, must have possessed a considerable claim to beauty. Her only crime, according to her mistress’s statement, was that she had attempted to run away.
She was also, I believe, suspected of having some sympathy with the “Yankees,” and it was the intention of her mistress to keep her in the dungeon until the rebels had driven the Federals from the city–an event confidently expected at that time by the Confederate sympathizers.
I had the girl taken to the city, where this torture was removed from her neck by a blacksmith, who cut the rivet, and she was subsequently made free by military authority.
Your most obedient servant,
S. Tyler Read,
Captain, 3d Mass. Cavalry.