Map of Elmira Prisoner of War Camp Made by a Confederate Imprisoned There

Pat Young

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#1
elmira map.JPG


The Library of Congress website has this really nice map of Elmira Prison drawn by a Confederate who had been imprisoned there. I recommend that you go to the site to blow up the map and explore it. It contains both hand written and typed explanatory notes. You can find it here:

https://www.loc.gov/resource/glva01.lva00001/?r=-0.01,0.258,1.194,0.438,0

The map was likely completed after the war and watercolors are used to "color-code" the map. From the LOC:

"Map made by David J. Coffman, born in 1839 in Luray, [Page] County, Va. Served in Co. D., 7th Virginia Calvary (sic). This map made while he was a prisoner of war at Elmira, N.Y., Military Prison."- Accompanied by a copy of Coffman's Civil War service record (22 x 28 cm.), stating he enlisted Apr. 1, 1862 in Luray, Virginia, was captured May 20, 1864, in Bowling Green, Virginia, and released June 27, 1865, Elmira, New York.
 

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Pat Young

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#4
elmira weather.JPG


Coffman offers some environmental details. He says that the site was "Exposed to freshets" (flooding). The camp was on low ground right next to the Chemung River. In the spring the river would often overflow its its banks and cold water would sweep through the camp.

For weather, he notes that it had "mild pleaant" summers, but winter was "very cold" with "snow all winter."
 

Pat Young

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#8
Here Coffman captions Foster's Pond as "Bayou." The pond was a stagnant body of water when the prisoon opened. Confederates routinely used it as a laterine and over the months it became a major health hazard for everyone at the camp.

elmira foster.JPG


This appears in the Photographic History of the Civil War:

In a report to Surgeon-General J. K. Barnes, dated November 1, 1864, Surgeon E. F. Sanger,assigned to duty at the prison, says: On the 13th of August I commenced making written reports callingattention to the pond, vaults, and their deadly poison, the existence of scurvy to an alarming extent (re-porting 2,000 scorbutic cases at one time), etc. . . . How does the matter stand to-day? The pond remainsgreen with putrescence, filling the air with its messengers of disease and death; the vaults give out theirsickly odors, and the hospitals are crowded with victims for the grave.
 
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Pat Young

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#12
What Coffman does not map out is the failure by the Union authorities to provide permanent strucures for many of the prisoners. Many were forced to live for months in harsh temperatures in tents. At times nearly half of the population of the camp was in tents. You can see the barracks in the background.

elmira tents.JPG
 

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#15
Here is the area north of the stockade. The large building at the center is Foster House. Water Street would not have been devoid of buildings at the time. Officers homes were constructed along it. The map shows the "Observatory" at the northeast corner. This was a commercial venture to allow people to gawk at the prisoners for a moderate fee.

elmira observatory.JPG
 

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