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Elmira Prisoner Of War Camp

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Elmira Prisoner of War Camp

In May of 1864 in Elmira, New York, a prisoner of war camp arose. It occupied about 30 acres and was 1000 feet long. From all directions, high fences surrounded the camp, so that the Union soldiers could closely guard the Confederates. This camp was called Elmira, or "Hellmira", as the prisoners called it.

The first detachment of about 400 men arrived in June 1864. They were unhappy, spiritless, poorly dressed, and tiresome; some of them could hardly move. The Union sufficiently fed and sheltered the first detachments and they had sanitary water that they drunk from a well. In a couple of months, the population of the camp grew to 11,916. Even after the population swelled, the Union still had sufficient necessities that the Confederates needed.

Guarding the prison was fairly easy; there was no need for a deadline because many prisoners didn't try to escape. However, about 12 prisoners began to dig a tunnel and because of a miscalculation the escape plan didn't work. About three prisoners escaped out and wrote a letter to the authorities of the camp boasting about it.

Life in Elmira prison was boring; soldiers busied themselves by making things, baking, or just trying to keep the camp in the best condition possible. For the first couple of months, life was tolerable for the Confederates until a death occurred. There was no arrangement for the proper disposal of dead bodies. The death toll then began to accelerate, with more than 2,994 deaths, averaging about 350 a month. This was partly due to the smallpox breakout where any number between 300 and 400 died.

Elmira was called "Hellmira" by the prisoners because even though the Union provided sanitary water, food, and shelter, it became inadequate. The prisoners were confined to a small space, they barely had clothes and often some were forced to be bare, medical attendance or any form of health care foe the feeble and sick wasn't given, which led to many deaths. About 25% of the Confederate soldiers who were in Elmira died.

When the winter came and it became bitterly cold, the Union soldiers wouldn't allow the Confederate soldiers to receive any form of clothing unless it was gray. Any clothes



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