Life and Death in Civil War Prisons

Overview

More than anything, Civil War soldiers feared becoming a prisoner of war. Among the deadliest prisons for Confederates was Rock Island Prison in Illinois. One of the most notorious for Northern prisoners was Georgia's Camp Sumter - better known as "Andersonville." Dysentery, starvation, exposure to harsh weather, and brutal mistreatment killed more men in prisons than were killed at Gettysburg, the war's deadliest battle.

The gruesome reality of Civil War prison life is found in...

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Overview

More than anything, Civil War soldiers feared becoming a prisoner of war. Among the deadliest prisons for Confederates was Rock Island Prison in Illinois. One of the most notorious for Northern prisoners was Georgia's Camp Sumter - better known as "Andersonville." Dysentery, starvation, exposure to harsh weather, and brutal mistreatment killed more men in prisons than were killed at Gettysburg, the war's deadliest battle.

The gruesome reality of Civil War prison life is found in the personal stories of those who suffered it. Two such victims were Corporal John Wesley Minnich - a Southern teenager from Louisiana - and Sergeant Warren Lee Goss of Massachusetts. In Life and Death in Civil War Prisons, these two common soldiers become uncommon symbols of the largely untold under-life of the American Civil War. It is a penetrating, unforgettable portrait of the worst of the war - the military prisons of the North and the South. The book strips the war of its romance and pageantry. What is left is the hardship and horror of the war - and the extraordinary courage of American soldiers from both North and South.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
At a time when Americans are coping with shocking revelations about the mistreatment of prisoners of war (POWs) at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, it is useful and informative to turn to Martinez's thoughtful and engaging account of conditions in Civil War prisons. By interspersing segments of the letters and narratives of two soldiers-one Union, one Confederate-with a broader account of POW issues as they developed during the war, Martinez provides an illuminating historical background for present problems. Poor training for guards, the high command's lack of attention to POW issues, poor facilities, the passions of war, and the horrors of prison life combined to create hellish conditions in both southern and northern prison camps. Martinez also reminds us of another painful truth: that the hatreds caused by mistreatment of prisoners are slow to heal. Fifty years after the end of the war, survivors of the camps (and the literary partisans of the two sides in the war) were still hurling venomous charges back and forth. The echoes of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib may be with us for a long time to come.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401600945
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2004
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

J. Michael Martinez is an attorney working with environmental affairs and a corporate counsel. He also teaches political science at Kennesaw State University. He has written three previous books including Confederate Symbols in the Contemporary South.
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Table of Contents

Foreword v
Preface vii
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction: The Fires of Sectional Hatred xv
1. Surrendering Just Then Was Not on My Program 1
2. The Black and Reeking Pits 14
3. He Is Lost, Indeed, Who Loses Hope 26
4. The Exigencies of the Moment 43
5. We Were Ushered into What Seemed to Us Hades Itself 56
6. Too Much Fuss over a Very Small Matter 78
7. The Grave Question of Escape 99
8. That Most Terrible of Afflictions--Hunger 119
9. Sickness and Death Were Inevitable Accompaniments 130
10. Crazy with the Idea of Freedom and Home 140
11. It's Twelve O'clock and All Is Well, and Old Jeff Davis Is Gone to Hell! 160
12. Loathsome Bones of a Sad and Lamentable Past 182
13. The Terribleness of the Sufferings 195
14. The Last Bugle Call 210
Notes 219
Selected Bibliography 245
Index 263
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