Elmira Prison

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ELMIRA PRISON. In July 1864 the federal government established a Union prison camp at Elmira, New York, to contain the overflow of captured Confederate enlisted men from the camp at Point Lookout, Maryland. The thirty-acre prison enclosure housed 12,123 captives in barracks and tents. Although the camp was well-equipped and efficiently managed, exceptional hardships marked the prison's history. A stagnant pond used as a sink became, during the summer drought, a fetid and disease-laden cesspool. Scurvy resulted from lack of vegetables in the prisoners' rations. Smallpox spread over the camp. An exceptionally cold winter and inadequate fuel added to the suffering, and, in the spring, melting snows produced a flood. As a result of these conditions, 2,963, or 24 percent, of the prisoners died before the prison closed in the late summer of 1865. This percentage of deaths was the second highest of the twenty-four northern military prisons. Such unfortunate conditions became increasingly common in all Union prison camps as the number of Confederate captives grew, after negotiations to exchange prisoners of war stalled in early 1863.


Hesseltine, William Best. Civil War Prisons: A Study in War Psychology. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1930.

Paludan, Phillip S. Victims: A True Story of the Civil War. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981.

W. B.Hesseltine/a. e.

See alsoAtrocities in War ; Prisoners of War: Prison Camps, Confederate, Prison Camps, Union .