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Union Orders, Reports and Letters -- Camp Chase

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 2, vol 7, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) Page 580 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

COLUMBUS, OHIO, August 11, 1864.

Colonel W. HOFFMAN,

Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C.:

COLONEL: Inclosed I have the honor to transmit report of inspection of Camp Chase, Ohio, camp for prisoners of war. Owing to the improvements snow in progress at this camp the police is not as good as it otherwise would be. By the end of this week there will be completed in all seventeen barracks, accommodating 198 prisoners each, averaging 100 feet by 22. Your order authorizing barracks sufficient to increase capacity of prison to 8,000 is being rapidly executed. The tents now in use are to be abandoned as quarters are erected. The sinks are well managed, being so constructed that water drainage is secured daily. The plan devised for the purpose will do very well in summer; in the winter the offal will have to be removed by the prisoners to a proper distance from camp. The rations are good and sufficient, limited in variety. Since the potato does not form a part of the soldier's ration the prisoners are deprived of vegetables unless upon the surgeon's certificate. I would respectfully suggest for the health of he prisoners the commanding officer of each be instructed to have issued, purchased from the prison fund, three times a week, such antiscorbutics as may at the season of the year the most economical. The suggestion is offered as the surgeon in charge may not feel authorized to recommend an issue of vegetables until disease has already appeared.

The prison fund on hand ending July was $18,278. 69; hospital fund $422. 28. Both appear, judiciously managed and properly expended. The individual accounts of prisoners are well managed, satisfactorily to the prisoners and without loss to the officer in charge.

Orders to the guard are plain; instructions to the prisoners defining their privileges definite; trade with the sutler by checks. The hospital accommodation is limited. A necessary exists for building exists for building a suitable hospital consisting of six wards, accommodating each sixty patients, with proper administrative building, kitchen, attached, if the capacity of the prison is to be increased to 8,000. The cost of the material for such a building will be near $10,000. A site was selected and place explained, so that your instructions can be carried out without delay if you think proper to order the building.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


Surgeon, U. S. Army.

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 2, vol 6, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) Page 747 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION A CONFEDERATE.
CAMP CHASE, OHIO, December 22, 1863.

Lieutenant Colonel A. H. POTEN, Commanding Prisons:

SIR: As per request I beg leave to report that I have under my care as surgeon, in prison No. 3, about 1,600 men. The sick during my attendance, two weeks, has averaged about 1 1/4 per cent. Their quarters are, by the aid of stoves, I think comfortable. They are well fed, some of them rather thinly clad, which I understand can be remedied on application to the proper authority. Their general health is good as could be expected under like circumstances.

Very respectfully submitted.


Acting Assistant Surgeon

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 2, vol 5, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) Page 142 - 143 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

[Inclosure- From the Columbus, Ohio, Crisis.]


We speak wholly of the political prison, the prison of the State, as we know nothing whatever of what occurs in the prison where "rebels taken in arms" are kept; that is, the prisoners of war. It must not be forgotten that there have been from 600 to 700 political prisoners at Camp Chase at a time, and although 700 have been lately discharged without trail there are yet there some 400. One hundred or 200 of these have arrived there within a few days past from Kentucky and Western Virginia. These men are taken from their homes, some from their beds at night, some from heir houses in daytime, and a great many of them are picked up in their fields at work and never suffered to see their families before being spirited off to Ohio and incarcerated in this celebrated Bastile, which will soon be as famous as Olmutz itself. Our Ohioans are put in the same prison with these men from other States and from them we have learned some facts which the people of Ohio ought to know. Many of these men have been kept in this prison for over one year, a great many for five, six, seven and eight months, without even seeing outside or being allowed to communicate personally with any one, not even wife, child, other, mother or stranger. They are furnished with nothing but a single blanket even these cold nights unless they are able to purchase additional comforts with money they may be able to command. Many are poor men and unable to purchase. They were not permitted to bring along a change of clothing and many had on when seized nothing but summer wear, and that has become filthy, worn out and scarcely hangs upon their backs. They have no bedding and are therefore compelled to sleep on the bare boards. They have not enough wood furnished to keep fires up all night, hence the suffering is intensified by the cold weather. If they attempt after night to walk out in the yard to take off the chills of the dreary night they are instantly threatened to be shot by the guards as ordered by those in command.

Doctor Allen, of Columbiana County, Ohio, said he lay on a bare board until his hips were black and blue. The wood furnished them is four feet long and they are compelled, each mess, to chop it up for themselves, and the provisions being furnished raw they have to cook for themselves. Recollect always that these are political prisoners against whom no one appears as accuser and no trial is permitted. The prison has become filthy, awfully so, and the rats are in droves. If the prisoners attempt to kill one of these rats they are forbidden and threatened with being shot instantly. Recollect always as we sid above these are political prisoners against whom some malicious negro worshiper has created a suspicion of disloyalty but whose name is kept a secret and hence there can be no trial. The prison is perfectly alive with lice and no chance is given to escape the living vermin. A dead man, one of the prisoners, was carried out to the dead yard and laid there overnight and when visited in the morning by other prisoners who heard there was a dead man there they found the hair on his head stiff with lice and nits, the lice creeping into his eyes in great numbers, and as he lay with his mouth open the lice were thick crawling in and out of his open mouth. Not long since two of the prisoners got into a scuffle in trying their strength and finally into a fight as was supposed, ad several other prisoners rushed to part them when the guards from the lookouts above fired on them killing an old man by the name of Jones from Western Virginia, and the ball grazing the skull of another he fell and it was supposed at first he was killed also. Another of the balls passed through a board at the head of a sick man in the hospital and only escaped him by a few inches. The two men in the scuffle were not hurt. We might go further, but God knows this is enough for once. It is enough to make one's blood run cold to think of it. now if any one doubts this- if the authorities at camp or at the State- house doubt it- if the legislature when it meets will raise a committee we promise to name the witnesses who if sent for will under oath prove all this and as much more, some of which is too indecent to print in a newspaper for the public ear. We do not bring these things to light for any other purpose than an act of humanity, of respect for the fair fame of Ohio and to direct public attention to them that the brutal authorities of that camp may have justice done them. The commandant of the camp is himself a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He will no doubt appear on the first Monday of January to take his seat. let him answer to his peers on that floor; let him answer to his constituents who elected him; let him answer to the whole people of Ohio if he dare whether these things are so or not. Heaven be blessed if any modification can be put upon these transactions, any excuse of the most trivial nature by which the fame of Ohio may be vindicated from the crime and stigma whih otherwise must go down to all time upon the pages of our history. We copied a paragraph from the Herald on Tuesday to the effect that-

The colonel and every field officer of the Ninth New York State Militia were in this city on Friday last when they should have been with their command at Fredericksburg. Colonel Stiles, of the regiment referred to, explains his absence as follows; On the 3rd of December N. Isham, acting surgeon, pronounced Colonel Stiles unfit for duty on account of pleurisy, and recommended an absence of twenty days in order to prevent permanent disability or death.

(Edited For Length)

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 2, vol 5, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) Page 132 - 137 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

COLUMBUS, OHIO, December 31, 1862.
Commissary- General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C.

---------The prisoners at Camp Chase, 266 in number, political and military, are all confined in the prison know as Prison Numbers 2. -----

Page 133 -- The prison is generally speaking quiet well drained, though material changes are needed to make it complete in arranging and grading the drains. Raised walks and roadways have been made in the prison which if the ground was firm and made of gravel or clay mixture would retain their shape and answer the purpose for which they were designed, viz, to promote drainage and present so far as possible a hard surface to the foot or the passage of wagons; but the side of the prison is on low ground not easily drained and the soil is of a soft, loamy character which in wet weather absorbs and retains the moisture, rendering at such times the interior of the prison exceedingly disagreeable from the accumulation of mud. For this reason too the proper place and cleanliness of the floors of the quarters in wet weather is next to impossible. From causes already referred to it is obvious that the ground would except in long continued dry weather be damp and that the floors of the buildings placed very near it would also be so and for that reason unhealthy. The floors of both the barracks and hospital have been laid close to the ground, but a fe winches separating their surfaces from it, and the vertical walls of these buildings extending below the floors generally to the ground prevents the circulation of air under the floors and as a consequence they are almost always damp. To insure dry barracks and hospital accommodations and a dry interior of the prison the floors should be raised at least one foot from the earth, the portion of the walls projecting vertically below them sawed off and the walks and the roads of the prison covered with a layer of gravel to a proper depth. As all this could be readily done at an expense not exceeding $300 and as this sum is much less than the present amount of the prison fund I have in obedience to your order directed it to be immediately done and that the roads and walks should be properly graded as well as the drains and sewers.

Page 134 -- I have also directed the constant and free use of lime which has been seldom if ever distributed as it should be. The prison is infested with rats which make their hiding- places under the floors, so that if those were raised as described the number would undoubtedly greatly diminish. no objection has ever been made by the authorities against the destruction of these vermin by the prisoners. On one occasion, however, a large number of the prisoners armed themselves with clubs with the intention they stated of killing rats, but the officer in charge of the guard very properly suspecting other designs, since the rats could readily retreat under the buildings, caused the clubs to be taken from he prisoners. Camp Chase has been infested in all parts by immense numbers of rats, and from inquiries among officers I am satisfied that the prison is quite as free from them as other parts of the occupied quarters and camp ground.

With much resect, I am, colonel, your obedient servant,

Captain, Assistant to Commissary- General of Prisoners.

(Edited For Length)

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 2, vol 4, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) Page 164 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

------3. Authority should be given to some one on the spot here to grant discharges and paroles. We have in the prison insane, idiotic and maimed prisoners who should at once be discharged. Command humanity requires the occasional parole of prisoners dying by slow degrees from confinement. There are may confined in the prison, political as well as military prisoners, whose cases should at once be investigated and discharged.

Very respectfully, yours,


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