September After Action Report

There were 16 present when Gerald Jones gave us part 2 of his Civil War Prison Camps talk. He said there were 6 camps in Indiana (namely Camp Morton in Indianapolis, and other camps at Lafayette, Terre Haute, Albany, and possibly one in Ft. Wayne) among approximately 150 altogether in the north, although some were temporary.

He went into detail about Camp Chase at Columbus, Ohio, which began in May 1861 and was operational until the end of the war. Many prisoners were exchanged and few escaped. It was an officer-only camp designed to hold 4,000 men built at a cost of $26,000; it was increased in capacity to 7,000 but up to 15,000 men were housed there.

Camp Douglas, previously a training camp on 30 acres in southeast Chicago, began after Fort Donelson, February 1863, and was in operation until the end of the war. Those prisoners suffered through an especially cold winter when the temperatures plunged to -25 degrees. It was known for its poor conditions and had a high death rate of 17-23%.

Elmira Prison, in New York, also was originally a training camp but was operational only in 1864, held 9,000 men and 3,000 died.

Rock Island, on the Mississippi River, held 6,000 men, many of whom died of small pox. Some of the prisoners had the choice of remaining in custody or go west to fight the Indians. About 1,960 died while prisoner and the prison fund amounted to $181,000.

Camp Point Lookout, located in Maryland, opened in 1862. It is remembered for crowed conditions, 13% died, when the numbers increased after the prisoner exchange was stopped.

Johnson’s Island, built in 1862 on a 300 acre site on Lake Erie, housed 15,000 Confederate officers.

Fort Delaware, covered 288 acres on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, cost $300,000 to build, housed 12,000 prisoners. Everything was hauled in. By August 1863, there were more than 11,000 prisoners on the island; by war’s end, it had held almost 33,000 men.  Although the conditions were good, about 2,500 prisoners died, half of them from smallpox.

At the end of the war, $1.8 million was held in the soldiers’ prison fund.

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