Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yankee Prison Life


Northern prisoners were issued the same meager rations as their guards, and received the same medicines available to the common Southern soldier. Of the over twelve-thousand Southerners imprisoned at Elmira during its one year existence, nearly three-thousand died, or about one-quarter -- a higher monthly mortality than Andersonville.  This amid the plentiful harvests and food supply of the surrounding countryside of New York and Pennsylvania.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Yankee Prison Life

"March 7 to 12, 1865 – A number of prisoners, mainly from the privates' pen, have signified a willingness to take the hated oath of allegiance, and are now kept in a separate barracks, clothed in blue suits and given better rations. They are called "galvanized" men, and sometimes "Company Q."  These weak and cowardly men are willing to betray their own country and people, and swear to support a government which they can but detest.

Such men could not have been of any real value to the South, but rather skulking nuisances, and they are to be pitied as well as despised. They are either ignorant and deluded, or actuated by self-interest or want of principle.  They regard their personal comfort and safety more than the good of their relatives and friends and their native land.

We have to wash or hands, faces and feet in the sluggish ditch-water which runs through the campus . . . The water is brackish and covered with green scum.  The dirty off-scouring from each man flows to his neighbor, and is used again. Some throw back the water with their hands and seek a cleaner supply.  The whole scene is sickening.

Want of proper medicine and attention, combined with boiled fresh beef and thin, watery soup, keep many ill with constant diarrhea.  Fresh boiled beef, without vegetables, seems to cause and aggravate the very prevalent disease.  The Yankee surgeons know it, but order no change of diet. Such meanness is despicable in its littleness and barbarity.

It is known that [the prison commander has] spies among the prisoners, who mingle freely with them, seek their confidence and then basely betray them."

(Diary of Capt. Robert E. Park, Twelfth Alabama Regiment, Southern Historical Papers, Vol. III, January-June, 1877, pg. 123)