Thursday, November 20, 2014

Confederate Prisoner of War Monument Restoration

During the War for Southern Independence the United States operated a Prisoner of War Camp in Indianapolis Indiana. The camp, Camp Morton, was named after the Governor of Indiana at that time, Oliver P. Morton. The thirty six acre tract of land just north of the city that camp sat on was owned by the first Mayor of Indianapolis, Samuel Henderson. In the early years of the nineteenth century the area was known as "Henderson Grove". It was a place for quiet walks in the country and picnics under the shade of the towering black walnut and oak trees.

In 1859 the state of Indiana took possession of the land to construct a State Fairgrounds. At the start of the war the only buildings constructed were horse and cattle barns, later to become the barracks that would hold the Confederate prisoners. With the fall of Fort Sumter in 1861 the fairgrounds were turned into training grounds for the regiments being raised by the state. With the fall of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February of 1862, and the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862, the state agreed to accept some three thousand plus prisoners to be quartered at Camp Morton.

The first group of some 3,700 captured Confederates Soldiers arrived on February 22, 1862. The first commandant of Camp Morton was Colonel Richard Owen. By September of 1862 most all of these prisoners were paroled and sent south, except for the ones that had died of disease. Colonel Owen was considered a benevolent camp commander.  Some fifty years after the war was over former Confederate prisoners under Col. Owen raised funds to honor him for his kindness toward them with a bust that was dedicated in 1913 on the Indiana  State House steps with the Commander in  Chief of the United Confederate Veterans, Bennet H. Young, giving the presentation speech. Former Confederate prisoners were in attendance. The bust was placed in the rotunda of the State House. An identical bust was placed in the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University-Bloomington.

In January of 1863 prisoners began to return to Camp Morton. Over the next two years the prison population would grow to just over 12,000 prisoners. With the influx of captured Confederates, the inadequate quarters, disease, starvation, exposure to extreme cold, and the mistreatment of the prisoners, they began to die. Official War Department records show that of the 12,082 prisoners who were confined at Camp Morton, 1,762 prisoners died, or 14.6%. Of the 1,762 prisoners who died, 1,616 were buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, which the city owned. The rest of the deceased prisoners were returned to their families in the south. In 1912 the grave site was fenced off and a monument was erected by the Federal Government. In 1928 the War Department exhumed the remains of the Confederate Prisoners buried in Greenlawn and moved them to the northwest corner of Lot 32 in Crown Hill Cemetery between 1928 and 1931. In 1928 permission was granted by the Federal Government for the Southern Club of Indianapolis in cooperation with the Indianapolis Board of Park Commissioners to move the monument to Garfield Park where it now stands. In 1993, after a four year project initiated by two Indianapolis Police Officers, Detective Wayne Sharp and Sergeant Stephen Staletovich additional marker were installed at the Crown Hill site listing the names and regiments of the dead.

Indiana members of the Major General William D. McCain Camp 584, Sons of Confederate Veterans, are working with the Indianapolis Parks Department, the Indy Parks Foundation, and several community groups to restore the monument to its former glory. We have nationally renowned sculptor, Gary Casteel, from the National Civil War Memorial helping as an adviser on this project. The monument has the names of 1,616 confederate prisoners of war from every Confederate State. There are also Native Americans, and African Americans veterans listed among the names on the plaques. This monument has not had any maintenance or restoration done in over forty years. The Indiana members of camp 584 are seeking donations to restore this one hundred two year old monument. Tax deductible donations can be made to the Indy Parks Foundation on a secure line at, or you can mail in a donation to the address below;

  Indy Parks Foundation C/O Lisa Westenberger
  615 N. Alabama Street Suite 119
  Indianapolis, IN 46204
  Please make sure to mark all donations for Confederate POW Monument, Garfield Park
  Thank you so much for your consideration.

For more information on Camp Morton please read, Den of Misery, Indiana's Civil War Prison, by James R. Hall.

For more information on the Confederate Prisoner of War Monument in Garfield Park contact;

  Brian Blevins

  Kevin Shiflet