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Department 1

Civil War Institute


Elmira’s history is very similar to that of Camp Chase. Before it was a prison camp, Elmira had been a military depot for training. The Elmira Depot in Elmira, New York, was a great place for a military training camp because of the railroad junctions running in and out of the town. These railroads would be necessary for transporting prisoners to Elmira later in the war. Like Camp Chase, Elmira became an overflow prison camp after the cartel failed in 1863. Many of the prisoners came from Point Lookout along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Elmira was made up of barracks with the Chemung River running behind the prison. There was a pool of water in the middle of the camp three to six feet deep and forty feet wide. At one point there were approximately 10,000 prisoners at Elmira. There was only one successful escape made by ten prisoners, including Berry Benson, on October 6, 1864. There are fewer memoirs and diaries from Elmira than from Southern prisons, but many Confederate ex-prisoners published their experiences in the Confederate Veteran and other newspapers and journals. [excerpt]


This blog post originally appeared in The Gettysburg Compiler and was created by students at Gettysburg College.