Prison Camps In The Civil War

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Prison Camps Many soldiers, both Confederate and Union soldiers, were captured and put into prison camps. Prison camps became packed with soldiers. This left the living conditions horrible. Southern prison camps, in most cases, were just as bad as Union prison camps. However, food shortages in the South made prison conditions especially harsh. Two camps were particularly horrible. Belle Isle, a muddy pen in the James River in Richmond, was a deathtrap for thousands. About 90% of all prisoners weighed under 100 pounds.

Even worse was Andersonville, in Georgia. Originally the camp was designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, but by August 1864 it held well over 33,000 Union soldiers. Diseases, malnutrition, and lack of medical care killed them by the thousands. By the end of the Civil War, 1300 prisoners had been buried in Andersonville's mass graves. The treatment of prisoners had been argued throughout the Civil War.

Poorly clothed Southern soldiers could not stand the harsh Northern Winters. Northern soldiers suffered from the intense heat of Southern summers. Even with a sufficient supply of food it was of poor quality. In general, prisoners received the same rations as the troops who guarded them. Unsanitary conditions resulted from ignorance and overcrowding. Bones of the diseased, excreted wastes, and rodents carrying diseases lay on the prison grounds. Disease spread quickly, but not at the fast rate soldiers were dying. Most soldiers taken captive and thrown into prison camps died within a month.

("Prison Camps" Encyclopedia of the United States at War pg . 60)