Welcome to Prison Camps of the Civil War
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The prison struck me as being at best but a miserable makeshift. The day I saw them they were a sweltering mass of humanity, each unit of which was confined to a space of not more than twenty feet. This of itself-was sufficient to make the prison unsanitary. But that was not all. I saw whole carcasses of slaughtered animals being cut up and ready for distribution. The refuse which fell into the creek, together with the filth that washed into it from the hillside during heavy rains, necessarily contamintated the water...I venture to say that on the day i was at Andersonville fully a thousand were in the hospital, and that nearly as many more were sick inside the stockade...I don't know exactly how many died that day, but in all probability a hundred at least; for according to the hospital records, the average death rate for the month of August, 1864 was fully that number. That was what a Confederate boy saw when he went to Andersonville.
Andersonville was one of many prison camps that housed Union Soldiers. Some of the others are Libby Prison, Castle Pickney, and Camp Ford. There were also camps that held Confederate Soldiers. Some of those are Camp Morton, Camp Douglas, Rock Island, and Elmira. Many places were used for prison camps. The most common place for a prison camp was a old run down building or warehouse. They also used wide open fields and built a stockade around it. But if the state had enough money they would actually build a prison for the captured soldiers.
The prison camps were overcrowded immensely. Most of it caused be the small confined areas that were used as prison camps. Also the fact that the state just kept shipping them more soldiers everyday. Most of the prisons were overcrowded by at least 2,000 men. Andersonville which was built only to hold 10,000 soldeirs would end up holding as much as 33,000 prisoners. Elmira which was built for 5,000 would end up holding 9,600 prisoners. The overcrowding contributed to the bad conditions and small rations.
The rations which were very small were hardly enough to keep anyone alive. A ration at Andersonville consisted of 1 tsp of salt, 3 tsp of beans and 1/2 cup sifted cornmeal. A ration at the prison camp Elmira consisted of one course meal cracker and a small bit of bacon. Due to the fact that these rations were so small most of the men took a more direct approach to getting more food. They would kill the rats that lived in the camp and eat them.
Rats are found to be very good for food, and every night many are captured and slain. So pressing is the want of food that nearly all who could have gone into the rat business, either selling these horrid animals or killing them and eating them. There are numbers in the drains and under the house and they are so tame that they hardly think it worth while to get out of our way when we meet them.
The Conditions at the prison camps were wretched. There was always a awful smell The rations were very small. There was difficult to move due to overcrowding. There were sick man lying all over the place because the hospitals were always full. There was never any drinking water, accept for when it would rain.
Many of the prisoners who had the strength would do a variety of things. They would look for food and water. When not looking for food or water they would sing songs and tell stories. During the day time when they were not doing anything else they would engaged in a game called baseball. The weaker prisoners would make things out of gutta purcha (the dried sap for trees) and old bones and then sell them or trade them for food.
Now that the war is over most of the camps have been torn down, but some of them have been rebuilt for the public to see. There are many groups out who are trying to preserve the prison camp sites for historical matters. They have already rebuilt andersonville and use it to show the public what it was like to live there and be in captivity. They hold Reenactments there all the time.
Andersonville (Camp Sumter)
Rock Island Prison
Point Lookout Prison Camp
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