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Confederate Prisoners, Chattanooga, Tenn. 1864


2.5D rendering of a photo of Confederate prisoners. Amazing the amount of detail that 'pops' out to the picture by using this technique. As this photograph was taken, some of the Confederate prisoners were standing at the railroad depot awaiting transportation to the prisons in the North. There such bodies were usually guarded by partially disable soldiers organized as the Veteran Reserve Corps. They had more to eat than the Norther prisoner in the South, yet often less than the among to which they were entitled by the army regulations. In the South, during the last years of the war, prisoners almost starved, while their guard dared little better. With all the resources of the North, Confederate prisoners often wen hungry, because of the difficulty of organizing such a tremendous task and finding suitable officers to take charge.”

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Confederate prisoners at Chattanooga

Confederate Prisoners after Battle of Chattanooga, September-November 1863.

It is recorded by Shelby Foote and others in books, diaries and periodicals of the time, when Confederates were captured and asked why they were fighting their unequivocal answer every single time was, "Because YOU'RE here." 

You have NO reason to be ashamed of your Confederate ancestors. They fought because the South was INVADED. Period.

Confederate prisoners at Belle Plain Landing, Va.

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Confederate prisoners at Belle Plain Landing, Va., captured with Johnson’s Division, May 12, 1864

Series probably taken by an unknown photographer of Matthew Brady’s firm on May 16th or 17th, 1864. The "Punch Bowl" was the informal name for a series of ravines at Belle Plain, Virginia, that became a temporary holding area for Confederate’s captured during the Overland Campaign. 

Arguing against their identity as Johnson’s Division is the fact that one of the other shots taken on this visit to the Punch Bowl shows a group of prisoners around a dugout. Historian William Frassanito was able to enlarge the image to show a hat insignia reading “AL 4”, presumably the 4th Alabama of Field’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps.  About 7500 prisoners from both the Wilderness and Spotsylvania were moved through this holding area between May 13th to 18th. Only about 3000 of those were from Johnson’s Division.

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P.O.W’s And The Civil War


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P.O.W’s And The Civil War - Psychological Disorders-PTSD

One of the most intense contributing factors to psychological effects and disorders were the prisoner of war (P.O.W) camps. 

Some of the most detestable incidences in the war occurred inside these camps. Psychologically, people are put in situations with numerous traumas, such as ubiquitous death, fighting and abuse, making P.O.W camps a minefield for psychological disorders. Camps like Salisbury, Libby, Douglas and the most notorious Andersonville were overpopulated and did not have proper supplies for the number of prisoners it contained. At one point, Andersonville detained thirty-two thousand men but the original capacity was for only ten thousand men. When Sherman’s soldiers liberated Andersonville, they found some prisoners completely emaciated. The fight to survive in hellish places like Andersonville, Libby, Salisbury and Douglas was exceedingly stressful. Witnessing the intense trauma of death on a daily basis was more than enough to produce PTSD. -SARAH A. M. FORD Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Photo: Corporal Calvin Bates of Co. E, 20th Maine Infantry, reminds us that not all amputations resulted from bullet wounds. A prisoner at Andersonville, Bates suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of his prison guards. His maltreatment resulted in illness, decay, and ultimately the amputation of his feet.

Confederate prisoners - Fairfax 1863

Confederate prisoners held at Fairfax in June 1863. Photograph by Timothy H. O'Sullivan

These soldiers were probably taken prisoner during the battle at nearby Chantilly Plantation on 1 September 1862. In the early part of the war, both sides had a system of exchanging prisoners of equal rank, release of captives on parole conditional on an oath not to take up arms again. By 1863 the system had broken down and prisoners were kept in camps. Conditions were often appalling, due in part to the sheer numbers, 400,000 in all on both sides. From the album assembled by John Downes Rochfort who visited all the major American Civil War sites in 1867.

National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

POW's journal from Andersonville

Sgt. John Clark Ely of Company C, 115th Ohio Infantry, was captured in Tennessee in late 1864. Following his transfer from Confederate prison camps in Mississippi and Alabama, Ely was imprisoned at infamous Camp Sumter in Georgia. His journal entries are courtesy of Andersonville National Historic Site. (By “scalloway,” Ely probably meant “scalawag.”)

Feb. 18, 1865 (Saturday)
Beautiful morning and day. P.M. some 800 prisoners came in, were the sick left at Meridian, captured of Hood.

Feb. 19, 1865 (Sunday)
Slight frost, fine morning, some rumors of exchange. 9th Division drew cooked rations again.

Feb. 20, 1865 (Monday)
Fine day.

Feb. 21, 1865 (Tuesday)
Lowery in morning, pleasant p.m. Wrote note to Lt. Eadie.

Feb. 22, 1865 (Wednesday)
Washington birthday. How different from where I was a year ago, some scalloway opened our tent at bottom and stole from me one shirt, one pair drawers, one () and haversack with 4 days rations meal.

Feb. 23, 1865 (Thursday)
Slight shower in night, many rumors of exchange in rebel papers yesterday. Drew more cooking vessels p.m. division sergeants sent communication to Capt. Wirtz relative to changing quarters, refused.

Feb. 24, 1865 (Friday)
Rainy night, showery day with some thunder.


Elmira's Prisoner Camp

A view of prisoner of war camp that operated along the Chemung River in Elmira during the Civil War. Though more than 12,000 Confederate POWs were assigned to the Elmira prison camp, there was only enough barrack space for 5,000 prisoners.

By Ray Finger, Star Gazette

Elmira’s Civil War prison camp operated from July 6, 1864, until July 11, 1865, incarcerating a total of 12,121 Confederates. Here are 20 facts about that dark period in the city’s history to mark its 150th anniversary this month:

1 One day after the first 400 Confederates arrived from Maryland, two prisoners scaled the Elmira prison camp’s 12-foot stockade wall and escaped.

2 At the beginning of the Civil War, Elmira had been a military recruiting depot where soldiers attended basic training. Later in the war, Elmira was chosen as a draft rendezvous, and then it was turned into a prisoner of war camp.

3 When rats became a problem at the prison camp, a medium-sized black dog was used to catch them. Rat meat was sold to prisoners for 5 cents, but few could afford it. Eventually, two Rebel soldiers from North Carolina were sent to the guardhouse for 30 days after they captured and cooked the dog.

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Cahaba Federal Prison

Cahaba Prison

By PETER COZZENS, New York Times
For more than the obvious reasons, Civil War soldiers in both armies despised military prisons. Not only were the inmates held against their will, but the hunger, filth, vermin, rampant disease, overcrowding, brutal treatment and soul-crushing ennui made prison camps slaughterhouses of slow death. Andersonville, the infamous Georgia prison, was the ultimate abattoir; during the summer of 1864 nearly one in three Union inmates died. In other Confederate prisons, the average mortality rate was 15.5 percent; in Union prisons, 12 percent.

There was one remarkable exception: the virtually unknown Cahaba Federal Prison, 15 miles southwest of Selma, Ala. At Cahaba, the mortality rate was just 3 percent, a lower death rate than that among American prisoners in German stalags during World War II. According to federal figures, only 147 of the 5,000 prisoners interned at Cahaba died there.

What made Cahaba unique among Civil War prisons? Read more at The New York Times

Letter from the Rock Island prison


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Letter With Colored Sketch,  Confederate Soldier James W. Duke To An Unidentified Cousin, Written From A Union Prison Camp, 31 August 1864.(Charles Buford Papers)

There were about 150 military prisons on both the Confederate and Union sides during the American Civil War. The type of structures used to house prisoners of war included forts and fortifications, jails, penitentiaries, altered warehouses and factories, and enclosed barracks and tents. Only the South used open stockades. The facilities most dreaded by Confederate prisoners were the bleak and inaccessible fortifications at Fort Delaware in the Delaware River and Fort Warren in Boston harbor, Massachusetts, but no northern prison equaled the horrors of the Andersonville stockade in southern Georgia where more than thirteen thousand men died from exposure, malnutrition, and disease.

This color sketch of the federal prison on Rock Island, a small strip of land in the Mississippi River between Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, was found in a letter written by Confederate soldier James W. Duke to his cousin (presumably a woman) in Georgetown, Kentucky. The sketch was drawn by a soldier identified only as H. Junius, and it apparently is the item described in Duke’s letter as “the picture of our row of Barracks.” Duke likely inserted it as a keepsake and token of his gratitude for his cousin’s “kind letter.” As Duke’s letter suggests, prisoners often sent various items, including prison-made jewelry, to civilians who wrote to them or supplied such comfort commodities as tobacco and baked goods.

Rock Island prison was authorized in July 1863. When finished, it consisted of eighty-four barracks, 82 feet long and 22 feet wide, arranged in six rows of fourteen each, and surrounded by a high fence. Each barrack contained two stoves for cooking, but potable water was scarce and at times nonexistent. From December 1863 until the end of the  war, Rock Island held between five thousand and eight thousand Confederate prisoners, many of whom arrived before the facility was completed. Obviously, this idyllic sketch of men strolling peacefully on the grounds or performing routine chores among the neatly maintained barracks reveals more about the restrictions placed on outgoing mail than on actual conditions within the prison. Knowledgeable viewers can only assume that the artist was obliged to show the prison in as good a light as possible in order to get it by the guards, many of whom also served unofficially as censors.

Words and Deeds in American History

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Camp Asylum

In this Jan. 30, 2014 photo, In this Jan. 30, 2014 photo, crews excavate the site of “Camp Asylum,” the Civil War-era prison that once held 1,500 Union officers on the grounds of the state mental hospital in Columbia, S.C., in the waning days of the Civil War. Racing against time, South Carolina archeologists are digging to uncover the remnants of a Civil War-era prisoner-of-war camp before the site in downtown Columbia is cleared to make room for a mixed-use development. (AP Photo/Susanne Schafer)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Racing against time, South Carolina archeologists are digging to uncover the remnants of a Civil War-era prisoner-of-war camp before the site in downtown Columbia is cleared to make room for a mixed-use development.

The researchers have been given four months to excavate a small portion of the 165-acre grounds of the former South Carolina State Hospital to find the remnants of what was once known as "Camp Asylum." Conditions at the camp, which held 1,500 Union Army officers during the winter of 1864-65, were so dire that soldiers dug and lived in holes in the ground, which provided shelter against the cold.

The site was sold to a developer for $15 million last summer, amid hopes it becomes an urban campus of shops and apartments and possibly a minor league baseball field.

Chief archaeologist Chester DePratter said researchers are digging through soil to locate the holes — the largest being 7 feet long, 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep — as well as whatever possessions the officers may have left behind.

"Almost everybody lived in holes, although the Confederacy did try to procure tents along the way, as they could obtain them," said DePratter, a research archaeologist with the University of South Carolina's Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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