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Hart's Island Prisoner of War Camp

Discussion in 'Researching Your Civil War Ancestry' started by east tennessee roots, Jul 15, 2012.

  1. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots Sergeant Major

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    My Paternal 2 x great-grandfather, DAVID LAND from Wilkes County, NC. Served in Co. I 13th NC. Infantry was captured April 2nd 1865 " on the south side rail road " Petersburg / Richmond, Virginia. Held here till June 19-20, 1865. Anyone else with Ancestors who were held here ? Or maybe part of guard force ?

    In 1865, as the Civil War was ending, the Federal government used the Island as a prison camp for Confederate soldiers. Hart Island was a prisoner of war camp for four months in 1865. 3,413 captured Confederate soldiers were housed. 235 died. Their remains were relocated to Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn in 1941.
    The final prison established by the Union was on Hart Island in New York City and it quickly evolved into the city's most horrible site. Located in Long Island Sound about twenty miles north of the city and just a few miles south of David's Island, Hart Island wasn't even used until April 1865, the month the Civil War came to an end. Within three weeks of its opening, 3,413 POWs are crammed into the post's tiny enclosed area Hart does not become completely cleared of prisoners until July. Within the four months of its operation, nearly 7 percent of all the camp's POWs died, mostly from illnesses brought with them, such as chronic diarrhea and pneumonia. Civil War Monument on Hart\'s Island N Y.jpg Closer view of Hart Island monument.jpg
    It, too, was nothing more than a concentration camp. The first POWs arrived on April 7 ( David Land was processed that day at City Point, Virginia ) and were immediately placed into a stockade enclosure of about four acres. "Two thousand and twenty-nine prisoners of war were received," noted Henry W Wessells, the prison commandant. "They seem to be healthy with few exceptions, and tolerably well clothed ... The guard is entirely insufficient consisting of a small detachment sent with them from City Point. Three hundred and fifty effective men are required."
     
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  3. Bonny Blue Flag

    Bonny Blue Flag 2nd Lieutenant

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    Very interesting, ETR.

    Thanks so much for sharing it.

    --BBF
     
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  4. ExNavyPilot

    ExNavyPilot 2nd Lieutenant

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    I had never heard of Hart Island, but I'm sure other forum members have and can give you more info.

    I'm not sure I follow your post's timeline. Are you saying that your GGGrandfather was captured on April 2nd, 1865 at Petersburg, processed April 7th at City Point, and then sent to Hart Island POW Camp in New York (Long Island Sound)? Bad break for him. I hope he survived and didn't have his health broken.

    You've raised a very sad topic. POW camps on both sides were horrible places, not necessarily by design but mainly through poor planning, especially overcrowding. Once the camps became overcrowed, resources (food, clean water, shelter, fuel, etc) were inadequate and sanitation rapidly dwindled. The resulting malnutrition, exposure, and bad sanitation fostered disease, especially intestinal diseases, which rapidly weakened the men and led to high death rates.

    One of my ancestors was in the 3rd Wisconsin Battery. At Chickamauga (Sep 20, 1863) they had 11 men captured and become POWs. Two escaped, two survived, and the other seven died in captivity due to disease/malnutrition. That's a 63% death rate spread among various camps; they started at Belle Island in Richmond, were moved to Danville and then to Andersonville. The two survivors then went to Florence Racetrack and were finally released/exchanged in about Mar 1865.
     
  5. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots Sergeant Major

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    Exactly, His regiment, 13th NC was part of Scales Brigade and part of the force that attempted to rally and make a stand at Sutherland's Station. Their efforts were to try and protect the vital south side railroad on the path to Richmond. His record says he was " processed " at City Point, Va. ( Grant's headquarters I believe ) He was held at Hart Island till June 19-20 1865 when he took the Oath of Allegiance. I too had ancestor / relatives on both sides that died as prisoners. I had two Union soldiers from east Tennessee die at Danville. My wife had one from the 11 th Kentucky Cavalry die at Andersonville. The prison experience was very sad indeed !
     
  6. jessgettysburg1863

    jessgettysburg1863 2nd Lieutenant

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    Thanks very much for sharing this, great post.
     
  7. donna

    donna Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Very interesting post. In the book, "Portals of Hell" the author writes about Hart's Island in New York. He states, " when President Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, a ripple of shock, panic, and anger rolled across the nation and entangled the southern POWs still confined. "A few days after Lincoln was assassinated," wrote H.C. Murphy, held at Hart's Island in New York, "there was talk of retaliating on us and I thought we would be shot..We were no longer allowed to collect in groups and the guards had orders to shoot if they found as many as three talking together". Prisoner J.S. Kimbrough also recalled that Hart's Island guards were instructed to fire into the crowd if there was any "demonstration of approval or rejoicing among the POWs over Lincoln's death."

    From: "Portals To Hell" by Lonnie R. Speer, page 288.
     
  8. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots Sergeant Major

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    Thanks so much for sharing that ! My ancestor had begun the process of applying for a Confederate pension ( only 2 pages ) in June 1901. I believe he died shortly after without completing it. He makes no mention of his experience at Hart Island. Only his regiment and the date he entered Confederate service ( as a conscript near 40 years of age ) A doctor states he believes David's " general health " was broken due to the war and he deserved a pension. He didn't even mention his second wife and their only child ( a daughter ) which makes me wonder if he was estranged from them. If so, was his war and prison experience the reason for it ?
     
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  9. donna

    donna Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    If you are interested in all the prisons of Civil War, both Union and Confederate, I highly recommend "Portals To Hell" by Lonnie R. Speer. Mr. Speer's book is a comprehensive study of all the major prisons. He analyzes the many complexities of the relationships among prisoners, guards, commandants, and government leaders. The book is very impartial. It shows all the prisons were "hell on earth".
     
  10. deanbramell

    deanbramell Private

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    My ansestor was in the same brigade. Some of the men in his regement were captured there. He was not and continued the retreat with the army. He was in co. B 34 N.C.
     
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  11. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots Sergeant Major

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    I recall seeing that book on the internet, probably when it was first published and knowing my ancestor spent time there, I tried to look for it in the bookstores. Never saw it. I'd probably have to order it.
     
  12. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots Sergeant Major

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    Good to meet the descendant of another of Lee's " Tarheels ! " I love the North Carolina State Motto following the Civil War : " First at Bethel, Farthest at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, Last at Appomattox ! " I also had kin in the 11th , 37th, 1st, 22nd, and 53rd regiments.
     
  13. Copperhead-mi

    Copperhead-mi Sergeant Major

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    Speer has no ax to grind and does not hold one side more at fault than the other for what happened at the camps. The book is full of charts and primary sources. An outstanding book. I also want to point out that Hart Island's commandant, General Wessell, was one of the 45 Federal POW hostages purposely placed under fire inside Charleston, S.C. by the Confederate army during the Union's bombardment of the city in June-July 1864. This led to Secretary of War Stanton's order to retaliate by placing 600 Confederate officers on Morris Island where federal forces were under Confederate bombardment. These 600 Confederates would become known as the "Immortal 600."
     
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  14. donna

    donna Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    "Portals To Hell" is a hard book to buy. We got it from a book seller on Amazon who was in Arizona. It was his last copy. But it is well worth searching for.
     
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  15. CSA Today

    CSA Today Major

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    It was 600 (not 45) Federal prisoners that the Confederates had moved to Charleston, from Andersonville, in hopes of exchanging them. Federal General John Foster knew exactly where these men were located and fired his artillery their way and then blamed the Confederates for putting them in harms way.

    GG Grandfather John M. Carlisle -- Chaplain 7th SC Inf.GG Uncle James H. Carlisle-- signer of the South Carolina Ordinance of SecessionG Grandfather Nathaniel L. McCormick—Private, Battery E 40th [3rd] N C Artillery G Grandfather Thomas M. Bolton – Private, Co. G 19th Va. Inf.G Uncle Dougald McCormick--Private Co. D 46th NC Inf.G Uncle Duncan McCormick – Private, NC Home GuardG Uncle John Alexander McCormick –1st Sgt, Co. B 6th Ms Inf.G Uncle Murdoch McCormick—Private, Ms Home GuardG Uncle James W. Bolton – Private, Co. B (Rives) Nelson Light Artillery (Va.), 1864 Co. G, 19th Va. Inf.G Uncle Albert G. Bolton – Private, Co. F 27th Va. Inf.G Uncle Alexander H. Bolton – Private, Co. D 7th Va. Inf.G Uncle Lindsey C. Bolton – Private, Co. B. 1st Va. ReservesG Uncle Thomas D. Boone – Captain,. Co. F 1st NC Inf. G. Uncle James D. Boone -- Quartermaster sergeant, Co. F 1st NC Inf. G Uncle John W. Boone -- Private, Co. D 59th (4th Cav.) NC, 1st NC Inf. Co. FG Uncle Peter Lindsey Breeden—Captain, Co. E, 4th SC Cav.G Uncle A.J. Breeden – Private, Co. E. 4th SC Cav.Cousins –Daniel McKinnon, Luther McKinnon, John N. McKinnon, McKay McKinnon,Murdoch McKinnon -- all privates in Company E 40th (3rd) NC artillery [heavy]
     
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  16. Copperhead-mi

    Copperhead-mi Sergeant Major

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    Yes and I should have been more precise in my comment. The original retaliation order was for 50 Confederate officers to be sent to Morris Island to offset the original 45 Federal officers, 5 of whom were generals, that were placed under fire in Charleston. An exchange was conducted between the two groups but then General Foster, learned there were at least another 600 Union prisoners being held in Charleston under fire and that's when Stanton issued the retaliatory order for 600 Confederate prisoners to be sent to Morris Island and placed under incoming Confederate fire.
     
  17. ExNavyPilot

    ExNavyPilot 2nd Lieutenant

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    Amazon is selling the book both new (paperback, 2005 printing) and used. New is just under $20, used about $10.
     
  18. donna

    donna Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    We paid 20 dollars for hard copy that was new. Glad they have the book listed.
     

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