Camp Douglas: The History of the Notorious Union Prison Camp That Became Known as the North's Andersonville

ISBN: 9781791386047
*Includes pictures
*Includes contemporary accounts
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
“Sir, the amount of standing water, unpoliced grounds, of foul sinks, of unventilated and crowded barracks, of general disorder, of soil reeking miasmatic accretions, of rotten bones and emptying of camp kettles, is enough to drive a sanitarian to despair. I hope that no thought will be entertained of mending matters. The absolute abandonment of the spot seems to be the only judicious course. I do not believe that any amount of drainage would purge that soil loaded with accumulated filth or those barracks fetid with two stories of vermin and animal exhalations. Nothing but fire can cleanse them.” - Henry Whitney Bellows, president of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, in a report to Lieutenant Colonel William Hoffman, Office of the Commissary-General of Prisoners, about Camp Douglas
It is impossible to conduct a war without atrocities occurring, primarily because war itself is an atrocity, but when those who win the war write the histories, as they almost always do, they typically ignore or seek to explain away their own malevolent acts while exaggerating those of their defeated enemy. This goes a long way in explaining why the name Andersonville immediately conjures up visions of horrific suffering for many Americans, while the name Camp Douglas means almost nothing to those who aren’t intimately familiar with the Civil War.
When Union forces marched through Georgia and liberated Andersonville in May 1865, photographers were brought in to record the scenes of overcrowding, sickness, and death, ensuring the sight was preserved for future generations to see. Unable to supply its own armies, the Confederates had inadequately supplied the prison and its thousands of Union prisoners, leaving over 25% of the prisoners to die of starvation and disease. All told, Andersonville accounted for 40% of the deaths of all Union prisoners in the South, and the causes of death included malnutrition, disease, poor sanitation, overcrowding, and exposure to inclement weather. In fact, Andersonville infuriated the North so much that Henry Wirz, the man in charge of Andersonville, was the only Confederate executed after the war.
Conversely, Camp Douglas, closed at roughly the same time, was torn down, and its very existence was nearly wiped from memory. The attempt to forget Camp Douglas was understandable, because in the last two years of the war, at least 4,000 Confederate prisoners died there, meaning nearly 1 in 5 Confederates who were sent there never left.
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