Letters from Readers — October 2006 Civil War Times

10/3/2006 • Andersonville Prison Camp, CWT Issues

Andersonville vs. Camp Douglas
In Lon L. Leapley’s letter (“Mail Call,” June 2006) he says he had never heard of Camp Douglas, Ill., until he recently saw a TV documentary about it on The History Channel. He then hastily declares that it was a worse prison than Andersonville in Georgia. This is simply not true, and it needs to be corrected.

Of the estimated 575 prisons that existed during the Civil War, I have for over 30 years put Andersonville at the top of the list, as the worst of all prisons. The facts can’t be ignored.

Camp Douglas was located on 80 acres. Most of its shelters were a form of barracks and in very poor condition. The camp was in existence from 1862-65. Deaths during this time are estimated at 4,454 and average 111 deaths per month for 40 months. The camp was built to hold 6,000 but at one time held 12,000.

Andersonville was located on 26 acres, and most of its shelters were made with whatever materials could be found by the prisoners — most just dug holes in the ground and made tents out of bits of clothing and other cloth.

The camp was in existence for 13 months in 1864-65. Deaths during this time are estimated at 13,000 (or 1,000 per month).

The camp was built to hold 10,000 people, but reports show that at one time it held as many as 32,900. When General William T. Sherman’s army captured Atlanta on September 2, 1864, most of the able-bodied prisoners at Andersonville were moved to other camps in the South.

It would take the combined death totals of the top four most deadly Union prisons to surpass the total dead at Andersonville. Those four are Camp Douglas (4,454), Point Lookout, Md. (3,584), Elmira, N.Y. (2,933), and Fort Delaware, Del. (2,460). These combined totals are 13,431. Thus despite Mr. Leapley’s claim, Andersonville remains the worst prison of the war and “the front door to hell.”

Jerry R. Troxell
President, Civil War Roundtable
Sun City West, Ariz.

Mail From the Front
I am currently serving in Iraq with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. We are an Army National Guard unit from Richmond, Va.

I am writing to thank you for your magazine, Civil War Times. I pick up a copy whenever I can at our post exchange, and my wife even mails me one occasionally.
I enjoy the “Gallery” and “My War” departments especially — those sections and the stories in them still ring true for soldiers facing today’s wars. I remember reading about the importance of mail to troops during the Civil War. But even today — with cell phones and e-mail — regular mail is still an important thing to a soldier.

Once again thank you for a wonderful magazine, and I wish your company continued success.

Sergeant Robert Martin

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Addressees
It does one’s heart good to see the only picture of Lincoln at Gettysburg crown the July issue’s “Frozen Moment” department. It might have been explained that it took until 1948 for Josephine Cobb of the Library of Congress to discover Lincoln’s face in the crowd.

You mentioned that 10,000 people were present when the president delivered his Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers National Cemetery. But the number reached a minimum of 16,000. Local papers estimated the crowd at 30,000 and some claimed as many as 150,000 were present — presumably a misprint.

Gabor Boritt
Director of the Civil War Institute
Gettysburg College, Pa.

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