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Lincoln’s war concentration camps: Comparisons between Northern and Southern prisons

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Editor’s note: Partially from the Institute for Historical Review.

No aspect of the War of Northern Aggression left behind a greater legacy of bitterness and acrimony (even up to today’s thoughts) than the treatment of prisoners of war either because of northern vindictiveness and meanness or the southern lack of resources such as money, food, medicines, or clothes, due to the detracting of imported goods from European countries, due to the anaconda plan of the Yankees blockading of southern ports, and also due to the Yankee scorched earth policies and the pyromaniac Yankee soldiers commanded by officers such as Sherman and Sheridan.

In the North there was money a plenty with a multitude of available troops to run prisons properly, but due to Yankee vindictiveness and meanness Yankee troops were conveniently made unavailable and the proper money was not allotted to spend on Confederate prisoners.

Partisans in the north produced wildly exaggerated novels, which charged southern prisons with wanton criminal policies of murderous intent which more truthfully occurred in northern prisons.

In Southern prisons holding Yankee prisoners (like in Andersonville).

The meager rations available and provided (being the same rations that were allotted to the soldiers that guarded them).

The rations allotted to the prisoners were mostly stolen from their fellow prisoners, by gangs (mostly New Yorkers) were used by themselves or sold or traded to their ally prisoners who could afford them. Also, there was theft of personal items from fellow prisoners by these gangs such as blankets, clothes, jewelry, and money.

In the beginning of the war prisoner exchanges and paroles were granted, but in April of 1864 Grant and the Yankee political machine halted all prisoner exchanges and paroles. In October, General Lee proposed to grant a man-to-man exchange of the prisoners and this was adamantly refused by the North. Due to this and immense overcrowding, it was almost impossible to properly take care of all the prisoners held in the south. After the war, responsibility for camp conditions that occurred was laid at the feet of the federal authorities from the North and South.

They also condemned the Northern authorities for its deliberate cut in rations of confederate prisoners.

During the tenure of Andersonville Prison while 45,000 passed through its camps commandant Henry Wirz paroled five Union soldiers to deliver a petition signed by the majority of Andersonville prisoners addressed to the Lincoln Cabinet asking that they reinstate prisoner exchange.

This petition was completely ignored by the Yankee government. It just goes to show that they did not care at all about the Andersonville prisoners.

On the other hand, Northern prisons holding captured confederate soldiers did not or would not spend the money needed for medicines, clothes and food etc, and the little that was appropriated was stolen by Yankee prison authorities and allotments that were issued to be passed out by Yankee guards were stolen by the same guards and used for their personal use or sold for their own gain.

In the south a request was sent from women of the South to Washington to send medicines, clothes, and food etc.

For the Yankee prisoners held in the south, but the request was flatly denied by Yankee authorities in Washington. If the items that were requested by the southern women had been approved and sent, there would have been a larger survival rate and a better daily life as prisoners. In the north there were many Christian groups of the North who wanted to send medicines, clothes, and food etc.

To the Confederate soldiers being held in Yankee prisons which was also flatly refused, but what supplies did slip through were stolen by vindictive Yankee guards, which was well known by the prison officials, and was not stopped or had the guards punished.

From the reference guide that follows:

“Confederate P.O.W.’s Buried That Died In Northern Prisons And Hospitals – By: Ingmire and Ericson”

A total of 418 pages of Confederates who died in northern prisons and hospitals not including those who were injured or got sick in northern prisons and later died after release which there is no record.

Some of the Northern Prisons Were:
• Alton Federal Prison – Illinois
• Annapolis, MD
• Baltimore, MD
• Fort McHenry, MD
• Harrodsburg, Kentucky
• Madison, Wisconsin
• New Creek, West Virginia
• Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Some of the Worst Prisons Were:
• Bowling Green, Kentucky
• Brooklyn, NY
• Camp Morton – Indianapolis, Indiana
• Danville, Kentucky
• Louisville, Kentucky
• Jefferson Barracks – St. Louis, MO
• Philadelphia, PA
• Rock Island, Illinois

Some of the Absolute Worst Were:
• Camp Butler – Springfield, Illinois
• Camp Chase – Columbus Ohio
• Fort Warren – Boston, Mass.
• Fredrick, MD
• Johnson’s Island – Sandusky, Ohio
• Fort Delaware – Salem Finns Point, NJ
• Elmira Prison – Elmira, NY

Elmira Prison was better known as “Hellmira” opened on July of 1864. It quickly became infamous for its staggering death rate, unfathomable living conditions, and for its sadistic commandant, Col. William Hoffman (one who deserved to be hung for war crimes more than Henry Wirz). Hoffman forced confederate prisoners to sleep outside in the open while furnishing them little to no shelter, prisoners were left to rely upon their own ingenuity for constructing drafty and largely inadequate shelters consisting of sticks, blankets, and logs.

Elmira prison had at the least listed 9,000 prisoners confined to a camp designed to hold 4,000-5,000.

Two observation towers were erected right outside the prison walls. For 15 cents, Yankee civilian spectators could observe the wretched prisoners within the compound. When winter struck Elmira in late 1864, prisoners lacking blankets and clad in rags collapsed in droves from exposure. By early December, half naked men stood ankle deep in snow to answer the morning roll call.

A one acre lagoon of stagnant water within the 30 acre stockade served as a latrine and garbage dump for all, giving rise to disease. Scurvy and diarrhea took many lives. By November 1864 pneumonia had reached plague proportions.

An epidemic of small pox broke out a month later and remained an ever-present killer. Repeated request for badly needed medicines from Yankee doctors were flatly ignored by Washington officials.

By December 1864 with a lack of beds 70 men were lying on bare cold and filthy floors and another 200 diseased and dying men lay in the regular prison quarters, contaminating their semi-healthy comrades.

In February 1865 Elmira held 9,000 prisoners of which 1,400 were sick and 500 died. In March of 1865, 16 prisoners were dying each day. The monthly death rate however topped the one held at Andersonville Prison in GA. As a result the confederate prisoners spent their winter shivering in the biting cold and their summers in sweltering, pathogen-laden heat.

Overcrowding was yet again a major problem, although Yankee leadership mandated on paper a ceiling of 4,000 prisoners at Elmira, reality was completely the opposite.

Within a month of its opening those numbers had swelled to 12,123 men and by the time the last prisoners were released and left to get back home, on their own and by their own initiative.

By September of 1865, close to 3,000 men had perished, with a death rate approaching 25%. Elmira was one of the deadliest operated P.O.W. camps of the entire war.

Elmira was described as the most dreadful with horrifying conditions found; a quote in a diary was: “In a semi-state of nudity, laboring under such diseases as chronic diarrhea, scurvy, frost bite, general debility, caused by starvation, neglect and exposure, many of them had partially lost their sense of reason, forgetting even the date of their capture and everything connected with their antecedent history.”

They resemble, in many respects, patients laboring under cretinism.

They were filthy in the extreme, covered in vermin. Nearly all were extremely emaciated; so that they had to be cared for like infants.

When Fort Fisher in NC was captured by the Yankees after three attempts it fell on January 1965 1,121 confederates were sent to Elmira.

Out of these 1,121 men 518 or 48 percent would die there within 5 months time. The major causes of death were diarrhea, pneumonia and scurvy. Out of 518 men who died 372 were from North Carolina.

Of these men from the Fort Fisher capture 5 of them died quite quickly after arriving at Elmira from gangrene of the feet caused by frostbite.

The Only Successful Escape From Elmira Prison As Listed In The February Issue Of N.R.A. Magazine

Sergeant Berry Benson from Hamburg, South Carolina was born in 1843 and was part of the 1st South Carolina Infantry. Sergeant Benson was captured on May 16, 1864 at Spotsylvania, Virginia while working as a scout for the Amy of the Southern Confederacy.

Benson, after capture was sent to Point Lookout Prison in Maryland and escaped by swimming away and was recaptured and sent to Elmira prison, while he was there he joined up with 8 other prisoners and dug a tunnel out to freedom. Sergeant Benson walked back to the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia and was sent to Petersburg, Virginia in early 1865. Benson and his brother were at Appamatax, Virginia, but did not surrender so he was able to keep his Enfield rifle. There is a monument in Augusta, GA Including Sergeant Benson.

• Camp Douglas – Illinois – A similar disregard for human life developed at Camp Douglas also known as the “Andersonville of the North”. Camp Douglas originally served as a training facility for Illinois regiments, but later converted to a prison camp. 18,000 Confederate soldiers were incarcerated there by the end of the war. Upon inspecting the camp, the US Sanitary Commission reported that “the amount of standing water of un-policed grounds of foul sinks of general disorder of soil reeking with miasmic accretions of rotten bones and emptying of camp kettles was enough to drive a sanitarian mad”.

The barracks were so filthy and infested that the commission claimed “nothing but fire can cleanse them”.

But still the camp officials and or the Yankee government did nothing at all to fix any problem. Lacking of vegetables by the end of August, there were 793 reported cases of scurvy.

The Secretary of War in the Yankee cabinet Edwin Stanton’s hatred of confederates’ complicated matters even more when in October he cancelled all deliveries of beef of any kind to the northern prisons and efforts to buy any vegetables for the prisoners was also stopped, but the guards and camp officials were living high on the hog.

Yankee camp leadership was mostly to blame for the death toll. Commandants purposely cut ration sizes, quantity and quality for their own personal profit, leading to illness, scurvy, and starvation. One person in seven died, for a total of 4,200 deaths by 1865.

• Point Lookout, MD – Originally constructed to hold political prisoners accused of assisting the confederacy. Point Lookout was expanded upon and used to hold captured confederate soldiers from 1863 onward. Due to its proximity to the eastern theater of war; the camp quickly became dramatically overcrowded. In September 1863 confederate prisoners totaled 4,000 men.

By December of that year, more than 9,000 were imprisoned there. At its peak over 20,000 confederate soldiers were held at Point Lookout, at any given time more than double its intended occupancy. By the time the war of northern aggression ended, more than 52,000 prisoners had passed through Point Lookout, with upwards of 4,000 succumbing to various illnesses brought on by overcrowding, bad sanitation, exposure and soiled water.

Human error in the form of overcrowding the camps, a frequent cause of widespread disease is to blame for many of the deaths at Point Lookout, Alton and Salisbury. In some instances, however, simple error and ignorance developed into treachery and malicious intent, culminating in tragic losses of human life.

Barely are to meet the logistical demands of their own soldiers, confederate authorities were hard-pressed to secure and care for federal prisoners. Major General John H. Winder C.S. served as commissary general of all prison camps east of the Mississippi River from November 21, 1864 until his death on February 7, 1865.

On March 30, 1865 Major General Daniel Ruggles replaced Winder. Ruggles and others associated with the confederate bureau of prison camps labored manually under nearly impossible conditions.

Yankee prisoners in the south suffered from overcrowding, inadequate food and unsanitary conditions because of the Yankee blockading scorched earth policy and cancelation of prisoner exchanges. Henry Wirz was installed as commandant of Andersonville which was foiled before it began and Wirz ended up being a scape goat for the Yankee government retribution to hang him.

Civilians, newspapers, authors of novels were all full of their selves with propaganda of Yankees.

In military prisons in the confederacy, congress gave official sanction to the propaganda campaign, right up to the presidency. The Yankee sanitary commission published a narrative of Yankee prisoners in southern prisons and found that all of the atrocity tales told at the time were found to be exaggerated and fabricated false hoods which inflamed the sick minds of northern people to an extent of enlarging the false tales from one to the other on down the line that got larger and larger up until and after the end of that war.

To the extent to help justify a vengeful and vindictive occupation policy of reconstruction imposed by the north at the end of and after that war. Many a Yankee author of fictional novels filled their pockets with money from the sick minds of Yankees who ate up reading the fabricated lies.

During and after the war northern press described Henry Wirz as a monster and a beast, which he was nothing of the kind. During the war crime trial by the Yankees of Wirz the prosecutor could not prove any of the charges against him, but the Yankee judicial system and Yankee politics would not allow but a few witnesses. In his behalf and even without any damning evidence against him he was politically hung until dead. The best and most reliable evidence on prisons and prisoners was by adjutant General F.C. Ainsworth in 1903 from Yankee and Confederate prisons. A morality rate of northern prisons was 16% of confederate prisoners as compared to less than 7% of Yankee prisoners in the south.

From Currituck County
Captain James M. Whitson
Private George W. Dowdy
1st Lieutenant Lewis N. Simmons
Private Major Dowdy
Private Daniel Austin
Private S. Dozier
Private James W. Bauance Jr.
Private John Alan Etheridge
Private Robert Balance
Private John H. Guard
Private John Combs
Sergeant Alexander V. Jarvis
Private Thomas Litchfield
Private Samuel McHorney
Private Robert Mimercer
Private Zion S. Ballance
Private Walter S. Newbern

Died While In Yankee Prisons
Private John A. Banks died at Elmira Prison from pneumonia.
Private Willoughby Barco died at Elmira Prison from chronic diarrhea.
Private John C. Dough died at Elmira Prison from diarrhea.
Private Thomas T Dough died at Elmira Prison of pneumonia.
Private John V. Doxy died at Elmira Prison of pneumonia.
Private Edward Killett transferred to Elmira on June 3, 1865 with no further record.
Private Joseph Litchfield died at Elmira Prison of variola.
Sergeant Charles E. Morton sent to Elmira, suspiciously nothing was reported after February 28, 1865.
Sailor/Musician Issac Murrell sent to Elmira believed died of conditions there February 28, 1865 and never heard from again after sent to the hospital.
Currituck County Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD
Private Francis Graves died at Point Lookout prison and suspiciously not reported.
Corporal Jesse J. Spry was also at Point Lookout prison
Private G.N. Owens died at Point Lookout and the cause of death was not reported
Sergeant James B. Snowden was also at Point Lookout prison
George Waller of the 61st Jackson Grays Virginia Company A was also at Point Lookout prison
Sergeant John J. Williams was also at Point Lookout prison

Prisoners From Washington County, NC
Private Hosea G. of CO. H. 17th Regiment N.C.T. was confined at Fort Columbus, NY, cause of death was not reported.
Weymouth T. Jordan Jr. CO. H. 17th Regiment N.C.T. Morris Guards was confined at Fort Columbus, NY, cause of death was not reported.
Private James Gurkin CO.K. 41 Regiment N.C.T. from Martin County was confirmed at Point Lookout, MD died there and cause of death was not reported.
Louis H. Manarin CO.K. 3rd regiment Calvary from Martin County was captured with no other records existed.

-By Dr. Dave