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Home: Regional: U.S. States: Virginia: Lee County

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Elmira POW Camp, US
Posted by: Brenda Reed (ID *****0982) Date: October 13, 2009 at 09:53:22
In Reply to: Re: Melvin Chyle (Kyle) Ward 1838-1865 by Ed Cress of 2125

Elmira Prison "Hellmira" was a prisoner-of-war camp constructed by the Union Army in Elmira, New York, during the American Civil War to house captive Confederate soldiers.The site was selected partially due to its proximity to the Erie Railway and the Northern Central Railway, which criss-crossed in the midst of the city, making it a prime location for an Army training and muster point early in the Civil War. A great deal of the 30-acre (120,000 m2) Union installation, known as Camp Rathbun, fell into disuse as the war progressed, and the camp's "Barracks #3" were converted into a Civil War prison camp in the summer of 1864. The camp, in use from July 6, 1864, until the fall of 1865, was dubbed "Hellmira" by its inmates. Towner's history of 1892 and maps from the period indicate the camp occupied a somewhat irregular parallelogram, running about 1,000 feet (300 m) west and approximately the same distance south of a location a couple of hundred feet west of Hoffman Street (Foster Avenue?) and Winsor Avenue, bordered on the south by Foster's Pond more or less, on the north bank of the Chemung River. In the months the site was used as a camp, 12,123 Confederate soldiers were incarcerated; of these, 2,963 died during their stay from a combination of malnutrition, prolonged exposure to brutal winter weather, and disease directly attributable to the dismal sanitary conditions on Foster's Pond and lack of medical care. The camp's dead were prepared for burial and laid to rest by the sexton at Woodlawn National Cemetery, ex-slave John W. Jones. At the end of the war, each prisoner was given a loyalty oath and given a train ticket back home; the last prisoner left the camp on September 27, 1865. The camp was closed, demolished and converted to farm land. Woodlawn cemetery, about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the original prison camp site (bounded by West Hill, Bancroft, Davis, and Mary streets), was designated a National Cemetery in 1877. The prison camp site is a residential area today, and few of the city's residents are aware that the prison camp ever existed, however, there is a memorial at the site today.


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