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The Civil War prison camps at Camp Sumter (also known as Andersonville) and Elmira bear the distinction of having been the two worst internment facilities in the conflict between the states.Both were products of neglect and of the circumstances of war, which dictated that both sides devote resources to their own troops rather than to enemy soldiers, prisoners though they were.The Civil War prison camps at Camp Sumter (also known as Andersonville) and Elmira bear the distinction of having been the two worst internment facilities in the conflict between the states. Logistical concerns were among the most problematic during the Civil War. Armies in the field commonly suffered from deprivation, from shortages of materiel, ammunition and proper clothing. As such, the Federal and Confederate governments were too concerned with overcoming these problems to pay sufficient heed to housing and caring for prisoners. But there was something uglier at work in the neglect both sides exhibited. Propaganda and a human desire for revenge manifested itself against the helpless prisoners at Andersonville as well as Elmira, where “Secretary of War E.M. Stanton ordered Northern prison authorities to reduce food, fuel, shelter, and clothing of prisoners to levels which he and the propagandists of the North contended were parallel to conditions in the South.” Much has been written of the primitive nature of medicine during the Civil War. ...
For all intents and purpose, prisoners of war sent to these camps were 2 delivered up to death as surely as were those soldiers Burnside sent against Lee’s defenses at Fredericksburg, or the men of Pickett’s division who were mowed down in droves at Gettysburg. CHAPTER 2: ORGANIZATION AND ADMINISTRATION Ultimately, a lack of organization on both sides was to blame for the disasters at Elmira and Andersonville. North and South were far too committed to victory on the battlefield to devote time, personnel or even thought to their prison camps. “Neither North nor South had such a surplus of talent that it could spare first-class soldiers or administrators for prison duties.”2 Careful planning was not in evidence on either side; indeed, both were guilty of reacting to situations that were usually already out of control. With minimal government administrative controls in place, it fell to doctors to manage affairs as best they could. Unfortunately, medical professionals on both sides proved poorly qualified to manage logistics as well as discharge their surgical duties. “Either because of failure to understand the regulations (which were often poorly explained, if at all), or from frustration with petty record keeping, doctors violated protocol. As a result, they were censured for not properly filling out forms for improperly using the hospital fund, and for eating food intended for patients.”3 At both Elmira and Andersonville, this was a blueprint for disaster. In the case of the Confederacy, most prisoners were crowded into fetid camps at Richmond until 1863, when facilities in Alabama and the Carolinas were officially opened. Nevertheless, these facilities
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