Robert H. Kellog was twenty years old as soon as he walked with the entrances of Andersonville prison. He and his comrades had actually been caught during a bloody battle at Plymouth, phibìc Carolina. In the depths of Georgia, they discovered that their hardships were much from over: "As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eye that nearly froze our blood with horror…before united state were creates that had actually once been active and erect—stalwart men, now nothing yet mere walking skeletons, spanned with filth and also vermin…Many the our males exclaimed with earnestness, "Can this it is in hell?""


Harpers Weekly depiction of Andersonville Prison, 1865 (Library the Congress)


Hardened veterans, scarcely strangers to the sting of battle, nevertheless discovered themselves ill-prepared because that the horror and despondency awaiting them within Civil battle prison camps. While they often wrote frankly the the carnage wrought through bullets smashing limbs and also grapeshot tearing ragged holes through progressing lines, many soldiers described their prisoner of war experiences together a much more heinous undertaking altogether.

You are watching: Where was one of the worst confederate civil war prison camps?

timber engraving that Union soldiers in ~ Andersonville Prison. (Library of Congress)

Not every suffer behind camp walls was the same, however. Some soldiers fared far better in terms of shelter, clothing, rations, and also overall therapy by your captors. Others endured from harsh life conditions, severely cramped life quarters, outbreaks the disease, and also sadistic therapy from guards and commandants.

When prisoner exchanges to be suspended in 1864, prison camps prospered larger and more numerous. Overcrowding brutalized camp problems in countless ways. The the more than 150 prisons established during the war, the following eight examples highlight the obstacles facing the about 400,000 males who had been imprisoned through war"s end. 

Salisbury jail (North Carolina)

The Confederacy opened up Salisbury Prison, converted from a robustly constructed cotton mill, in 1861. In the early months that the camp"s existence, the conditions inside Salisbury were fairly good, fairly speaking.

The 120 or for this reason Union soldiers interned there were fed meager yet sufficient rations, sanitation was passable, shielding from the facets was provided, and also the detainees were even permitted to pat recreational gamings such as baseball. 

illustration of Union prisoners of battle at Salisbury Prison, NC. Picture depicts POWs playing baseball before overcrowding and also subsequent an illness outbreaks. (Library that Congress)

However, together the war progressed, the conditions at Salisbury plummeted. By October that 1864, the variety of Union detainees inside Salisbury swelled to an ext than 5,000 men, and also within a couple of more months the number skyrocketed to an ext than 10,000.

With the increase in men came overcrowding, lessened sanitation, shortages of food, and thus the proliferation that disease, filth, starvation, and death. This is a common thread among camps over the food of the polite War. 

Salisbury marks a prime example of the impacts that overcrowding had actually on jail populations, specifically given the stark contrast in the camp fatality rate. In 1861, while the populace was fairly low, the death rate hovered about 2%. In 1865, when the variety of prisoners ballooned come its peak, the fatality rate surpassed 28%. 

Alton federal Prison (Illinois)

Alton commonwealth Prison, originally a civilian criminal prison, additionally exhibited the very same sort the horrifying conditions brought on through overcrowding. Even though antebellum jail buildings listed some security from the elements, blistering summers and also brutal winter weakened the immune equipment of the already malnourished and also shabbily clothed Rebel prisoners. 

Communicable illness such together smallpox and also rubella brushed up through Alton Prison favor wild fire, killing hundreds. One smallpox outbreak claimed the resides over 300 men throughout the winter of 1862 alone. That the 11,764 Confederates who gotten in Alton federal Prison, no fewer than 1,500 perished as an outcome of various diseases and also aliments.

Point Lookout (Maryland)

photograph of one unknown Confederate sinner of battle at point Lookout, Md., in tart uniform and missing boot. (Library of Congress)

Originally constructed to hold political detainees accused of assisting the Confederacy, suggest Lookout was expanded upon and also used to hold Confederate soldiers indigenous 1863 onward. As result of its proximity to the eastern Theater, the camp quickly ended up being dramatically overcrowded. 

In September 1863, Rebel prisoners totaled 4,000 men. By December of that year, an ext than 9,000 were imprisoned. In ~ its peak, end 20,000 Confederate soldiers occupied suggest Lookout at any type of given time, much more than dual its to plan occupancy.

By the time the Civil war ended, more 52,000 prisoners had actually passed through allude Lookout, v upwards of 4,000 succumbing to assorted illnesses lugged on through overcrowding, negative sanitation, exposure, and soiled water.

Human error in the type of overcrowding the camps –a frequent reason of widespread condition – is come blame for many of the deaths at suggest Lookout, Alton, and also Salisbury. In part instances, however, straightforward error and ignorance devolved right into treachery and also malicious intent, culminating in catastrophic losses of human life.



Elmira prison (New York)

Elmira Prison, additionally known as "Hellmira," opened up in July of 1864. It quickly ended up being infamous because that its staggering death rate and also unfathoomable living problems due come the Commissary basic of Prisoners, Col. William Hoffman.

Col. Hoffman required Confederate prisoners to sleep outside in the open while furnishing them with small to no shelter. Detainees relied upon their own ingenuity for building drafty and also largely insufficient shelters consists of sticks, blankets, and logs. As a result, the Rebels spent their winters shivering in biting cold and their summers in sweltering, pathogen-laden heat.

Overcrowding was yet again a significant problem. Although Union management mandated a ceiling the 4,000 detainees at Elmira, in ~ a month the its opening that numbered had swelled to 12,123 men. By the time the last detainees were sent home in September the 1865, close to 3,000 men had actually perished. With a fatality rate draw close 25%, Elmira was among the deadliest Union-operated POW camps of the entire war. 

Camp Douglas (Illinois)

A comparable disregard for person life occurred at Camp Douglas, additionally known together the “Andersonville of the North." Camp Douglas initially served together a cultivate facility because that Illinois regiments, yet was later on converted to a jail camp. 18,000 Confederates to be incarcerated over there by the finish of the war.

depiction of Camp Douglas (Library that Congress)

Upon inspecting the camp, the U.S toilet Commission reported that the “…the quantity of standing water, that unpoliced grounds, the foul sinks, of basic disorder, of soil reeking through miasmic accretions, the rotten bones and also emptying that camp kettles.....was enough to drive a sanitarian mad." The barracks to be so filthy and also infested that the commission claimed, “nothing but fire have the right to cleanse them." 

Union camp management was mostly to blame because that the fatality toll. Commandants purposely reduced ration sizes and also quality for personal profit, causing illness, scurvy, and also starvation. 

One prisoner in 7 died, for a total of 4,200 deaths through 1865.

Belle Isle (Virginia)

Situated top top a 54-acre island in ~ the James River, a stone"s throw away indigenous the Confederate capital of Richmond, Belle Isle got the ire of northern politicians and poets alike.

photograph of personal William M. Blacksmith of Co. D of 8 hours Kentucky Volunteers, a Union soldier following release native Belle Isle Prison, June 1, 1864. Library of congress

Lucius Eugene Chittenden, U.S. Treasurer throughout the Lincoln Administration, defined the dreadful and also horrifying problems Union soldiers uncovered at Belle Isle:

"In a semi-state that nudity...laboring under such conditions as chronic diarrhea, scurvy, frost bites, basic debility, led to by starvation, neglect and also exposure, numerous of them had actually partially shed their reason, forgetting even the day of their capture, and everything connected with your antecedent history. Castle resemble, in many respects, patients laboring under cretinism. They were filthy in the extreme, extended in vermin...nearly every were exceptionally emaciated; so lot so that they had to be cared for also like infants."

Belle Isle activate from 1862 come 1865. In the time, the number of men pack onto the tiny island thrived to an ext than 30,000 men. 

The poet Walt Whitman was propelled to talk about the shocking life arrangements in ~ Belle Isle after ~ encountering surviving prisoners, appalled at "the measureless torments the the...helpless young men, through all your humiliations, hunger, cold, filth, despair, expect utterly offered out, and also the more and much more frequent psychological imbecility."

No wooden structures were furnished because that the prisoners at Belle Isle. If they to be lucky, several men could be crammed into thin canvas tents, but most were forced to build their own drafty shelters. The lack of substantial and adequate sanctuary compounded the prisoners" plight on Belle Isle and increased the lot of death and suffering lugged on by an illness and exposure.

Modern approximates place the complete deaths close come 1,000 men, however, period assessments varied greatly. In spite of the controversial number – Confederates claiming only a couple of hundred and the Union declare upwards the 15,000 mortalities – the dreadful problems Federal prisoners challenged is unquestionable.

Florence Stockade (South Carolina)

After Atlanta fell to Union pressures in September 1864, Confederates pressures scrabbled to scatter the 30,000 Union soldiers imprisoned in ~ Andersonville prison in Macon County, Georgia. Fearing that Union forces could cause a jailbreak in ~ Andersonville, a new Union POW camp was developed in Florence, south Carolina. Florence Stockade activate from September 1864 to February 1865 and also 15,000 to 18,000 Union soldiers were processed through the camp. Many prisoners had currently been imprisoned in Andersonville. As such previous imprisonment, they to be weaker and an ext susceptible come the harsh conditions and also communicable conditions that thrived at Florence Stockade. 

After the war, many Union soldiers noted the poor, hastily all set shelters in the camp, the lack of food, and also the high death rate. Imprisoned in both Andersonville and Florence, private John McElroy detailed in his publication “Andersonville: a Story of Rebel military Prisons” the “I think also that all who competent confinement in the two areas are joined in pronounce Florence to be, on the whole, much the worse ar and an ext fatal to life.” In October 1864, 20 to 30 prisoners died per day. By the end of the war, 1 in 3 males imprisoned in ~ Florence died. 

Andersonville/Camp Sumter (Georgia)

In the 14 month of its existence, 45,000 prisoners were got at Andersonville prison, and of these almost 13,000 died.

Federal detainees of battle await the distribution of their rations. Andersonville Prison, Ga., august 17, 1864 (Library that Congress)

 Captain Henry Wirz, commandant at Andersonville, was executed together a battle criminal because that not offering adequate supplies and also shelter for the prisoners. However, modern-day interpretation the the evidence argues did in fact confront real it is provided shortages. There were merely too numerous prisoners and also not sufficient food, clothing, medicine, or tents to walk around. 

Limited rations, consist of of cornmeal, beef and/or bacon, result in too much Vitamin-C deficiencies which regularly times brought about deadly cases of scurvy. In addition to the high frequency of scurvy, plenty of prisoners endured intense bouts that dysentery which further weakened their frail bodies.

Prisoners in ~ Andersonville likewise made matters worse because that themselves by relieving themselves where they gathered their drinking water, bring about widespread outbreaks the disease, and by developing into gangs for the purpose of beating or murdering weaker guys for food, supplies, and also booty.

See more: How Many Gallons Is 144 Ounces In Gallons? Convert 144 Fl Oz To Gal

One prisoner commenting on the daily fatality toll and also foul conditions proclaimed, “… (I) walk approximately camp every morning in search of acquaintances, the sick, &c. (I) deserve to see a dozen most any type of morning laying approximately dead. A an excellent many space terribly afflicted with diarrhea, and scurvy starts to take organize of some”. 

The nature of the deaths and the reasons for them room a continuing resource of controversy. While some historians contend that the deaths were chiefly the result of deliberate action/inaction ~ above the part of Captain Wirz, others posit that they to be the an outcome of condition promoted by serious overcrowding. Andersonville was an ext than eight times over-capacity in ~ its peak. The shortage that food in the Confederate States, and also the refuse of Union authorities come reinstate the prisoner exchange, are likewise cited as contributing factors.

Despite the controversy, there deserve to be tiny doubt that Andersonville was the civil War"s most infamous and deadly prison camp. However, the worries raised by Andersonville were mutual by countless camps ~ above both sides. 


picture of Confederate detainees of battle at Camp Douglas. (Library that Congress)


Prison camps throughout the Civil battle were potentially more dangerous and an ext terrifying 보다 the battles themselves. A soldier who survived his ordeal in a camp often bore deep emotional scars and also physical maladies that might or may not have healed in time. 56,000 men passed away in jail camps over the course of the war, accounting for around 10% of the war"s full death toll and also exceeding American combat losses in civilization War I, Korea, and Vietnam.