Letters From Readers – January 2008 – Civil War Times

Don’t Forget Camp Morton

In the October 2007 “Ask Civil War Times” section, a reader asked whether there was a Union equivalent to the Confederacy’s horrific Andersonville Prison. Your answer did not include Camp Morton, the infamous Union facility in Indianapolis, which I wrote about in my recent book Den of Misery: Indiana’s Civil War Prison. (Pelican Publishing Co.).

Nearly 2,000 Confederate soldiers and sailors died at Camp Morton, about 15 percent of the number incarcerated there. On the other hand, an estimated 11.7 percent of Confederates in all Northern prisons died in captivity, so the figures for Camp Morton clearly are much worse than the norm.

There was widespread suffering, brutality and starvation at the prison, and some prisoners were even murdered by guards. But the horrors of Camp Morton might have been lost to history if not for the efforts of Dr. John A. Wyeth, a former prisoner. Wyeth, who went on to become a prominent physician and nationally known medi­cal researcher, wrote and published an account of the prison’s atrocities in the late 1800s. Several other former inmates soon joined Wyeth’s campaign after his account was published. Prominent Union politicians and military officials, of course, quickly followed with denials and launched an extensive coverup effort.

Needless to say, Camp Morton was one of the most inhumane of all Civil War prisons, North or South.

James R. Hall
Shelbyville, Ind.

Thanks for the Picacho Story

I was pleasantly surprised to see the photo of Picacho Pass in Andrew Masich’s article “The Civil War’s Last Frontier” (August 2007). I have driven by the site several times on the highway between Phoenix and Tucson.

As I read the account of the brave soldiers of the California Column, and their important role in protecting the Arizona Territory from Rebel forces fighting to secure California and the West for the Confederacy, I was astonished that I had never before heard of this remarkable group of young men. Their dedication, under exemplary leadership, saved the Southwest for the Union early in the Civil War.

I was enthralled by Masich’s sensitive portrayal of the men, their courageous desert trek, the respect they had for each other and their devotion to their officers.?Masich was poetic in describing the horrors of conflict through these heroes’ eyes. Also helpful were the article’s timeline and pictures, which added another dimension to an unfamiliar story of the war in the Far West.

When our emotions are stirred, we tend to sit up and read on. Please give us more fine articles like this—stories we must never forget.

Mary Friedlander
Bellevue, Wash.

Honoring the Rebel Flag

After reading John Satterlee’s letter to the editor about the Confederate flag in the October 2007 issue, I wonder what the civil rights movement in the 1960s has to do with his grandfather’s speech in 1885. I doubt civil rights for blacks was on his grandfather’s mind during that speech. As a Vietnam War veteran, I know that for years after any war a soldier will have great disdain for the enemy he once fought.

Although racists continue to wave the Confederate flag, that shouldn’t take away from the honor due the many Confederate soldiers who fought and died defending it.

Albert Bianchini
Pittsburgh, Pa.

One Response

  1. Larry McFall

    Even though Camp Morton seen it’s days as an undesirable Civil War Prison, under Colonel Owen’s watch it was know as a prison that was somewhat desired by Confederate soldiers if they were captured. It is unfortunate that war brings so much hate that men get indifferent to death and destruction and Camp Morton suffered this ill as all of rest did.

    Picacho Peak story is a good one in respect to the Civil War time. A book titled “Confederate Pathway to the Pacific” by L. Boyd Finch gives a perspective of the time.

    Reply

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