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Camp Chase Prison

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Photos of Camp Chase         More Camp Chase Photos       

Photos of Individual Gravestones at Camp Chase Cemetery

Camp Chase Confederate Burial List

Until Nov. 1861, Camp Chase, named for Sec. of the Treasury and former Ohio governor Salmon P. Chase, was a training camp for Union volunteers, housing a few political and military prisoners from Kentucky and western Virginia. Built on the western outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, the camp received its first large influx of captured Confederates from western campaigns, including enlisted men, officers, and a few of the latter's black servants. On oath of honor, Confederate officers were permitted to wander through Columbus, register in hotels, and receive gifts of money and food; a few attended sessions of the state senate. The public paid for camp tours, and Chase became a tourist attraction. Complaints over such lax discipline and the camp's state administration provoked investigation, and the situation changed.


Problems coupled with complaints by citizens about the absence of military authority at Camp Chase persuaded Colonel Hoffman to send his aide, Captain H. M. Lazelle, to inspect the three prisons at the camp.  Lazelle's report of July 13, 1862, was filled with disturbing revelations.  He made separate reports about each of the three prisons, beginning with number three, the largest. At this time, nearly 1100 enlisted men were held there. The men were divided into messes of eighteen men, who were housed in small buildings, twenty feet by fourteen feet, scattered across the prison grounds in clusters of six. Narrow alleys separated the clusters.


Lazelle noticed that "all the quarters not shingled leaked in the freest manner" and that even the barracks with good roofs tended to leak through the sides because of "defects" in the boards.18 His major concern about the barracks, however, was the lack of ventilation. This condition existed because the foundations of the buildings rested directly on the ground. Water gathered underneath the floorboards when it rained, where it remained. For these reasons, Lazelle recommended that the floors of all buildings be elevated at least six inches above the ground.  These inadequate housing conditions were aggravated by the fact that the prisoners were required to cook their meals in these small buildings. Lazelle echoed the prisoners' complaints when he noted that the men "are heated to an insufferable extent by the stove, which in all weathers, drives the prisoners to the boiling sun or rain to avoid the heat."20 By demanding higher standards for the Confederate prisoners of war, Lazelle demonstrated that the Union army could be its own worst critic.  Read more about Lazelle's findings.


Food supplies of poor quality resulted in the commissary officer's dismissal from service. After an influx of captured officers from Island No. 10, officers' privileges were cut, then officers were transferred to the Johnson's Island prison on Lake Erie. The camp's state volunteers and the camp commander were found to have "scant acquaintance" with military practice and were transferred, the camp passing into Federal government control. Under the new administration, rules were tightened, visitors prohibited, and mail censored. Prisoners were allowed limited amounts of money to supplement supplies with purchases from approved vendors and sutlers, the latter further restricted when they were discovered to be smuggling liquor to the inmates.


As the war wore on, conditions became worse. Shoddy barracks, low muddy ground, open latrines, aboveground open cisterns, and a brief smallpox outbreak excited U.S. Sanitary Commission agents who were already demanding reform. Original facilities for 3,500-4,000 men were jammed with close to 7,000. Since parole strictures prohibited service against the Confederacy, many Federals had surrendered believing they would be paroled and sent home. Some parolees, assigned to guard duty at Federal prison camps, were bitter, and rumors increased of maltreatment of prisoners at Camp Chase and elsewhere.


Before the end of hostilities, Union parolee guards were transferred to service in the Indian Wars, some sewage modifications were made, and prisoners were put to work improving barracks and facilities. Prisoner laborers also built larger, stronger fences for their own confinement, a questionable assignment under international law governing prisoners of war. Barracks rebuilt for 7,000 soon overflowed, and crowding and health conditions were never resolved. As many as 10,000 prisoners were reputedly confined there by the time of the Confederate surrender.
Source:  "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War

Those who died at Camp Chase.

The first Confederate prisoners who died at Camp Chase were interred in the City Cemetery at Columbus, Ohio.  Sometime in the year 1863 a cemetery was established at the prison and the remains of those soldiers were moved to the new prison cemetery.  Known as Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery,  over 2,000 Confederate soldiers graves can be found there.

Several years after the Civil War's passing, William H. Knauss, a Union officer and author of The Story of Camp Chase, took a personal interest in marking the graves of Confederate soldiers who died during the battle at Antietam.  Thanks to his efforts, the first memorial services were held in 1896 and are still performed every year by The United Daughters of The Confederacy.


On June 7, 1902 a memorial was placed at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery.  It is a large arch made of granite blocks with a large bronze statue of a Confederate soldier on top of it, who now stands guard over the graves of all who lost their lives at Camp Chase Prison.  Located inside the archway is a large boulder which bears the inscription: "2260 Confederate Soldiers of the War 1861 - 1865 Buried in this Enclosure."  Beneath the statue, on the front of the arch is one word that says it all....... "AMERICANS".


In 1906 white marble headstones were placed on all graves in Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery.  The cemetery, two acres of land and the honorary memorial are virtually all that is left to tell the story of Camp Chase Prison Camp.

More interesting reading about Camp Chase Civil War Prison Camp

Excerpt from The Letters and Diary of James W. Anderson

I rolled myself in my shawl and stretched my weary bones out on the cleanest bunk I could see and slept untill morning. I awoke early, feeling better, arose, got some water and washed, but I was so miserably filthy and dirty haveing worn one suit all this time without washing that it almost made me sick. I looked round and talked with some of the old Prisoners. I found we were in prison no. 3. It was an enclosure of about four acres and contained 69 mess rooms which, with a forced effort, could be made to bunk 20 men. We formed a mess by order of the Provost, and was put in the next highest number to those filled which was no. 37. I don't think a much ruffer set of fellows could be found than this was.....read more about James W. Anderson's imprisonment at Camp Chase.


Excerpt from How Captain Samuel L. Cowan Escaped From Camp Chase During The Civil War

Having been captured at Fort Donelson at its surrender to the Federal troops, I was taken with other officers to Camp Chase at Columbus, Ohio.....read more.


1864 Camp Chase Grave Robbery!

During the night of November 24, 1864, a gruesome crime took place in the Camp Chase Cemetery.....read more.


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Recommended reading:
  The Story of Camp Chase
by William H. Knauss 1906
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The Military Prisons of the Civil War

A well written and well organized study of Civil War prisons, North and South. The layman will enjoy the ease of prose and scholars will appreciate the authors meticulous documentation. A major strength of the book comes from the many firsthand accounts from prisoners and keepers. It is a good read from cover to cover plus the organization allows easy reference to specific prisons and time periods. It contains 32 pages of excellent pictures of the camps and men.  ORDER


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Experienced historian Bertram Hawthorne Groene shows you how easy it is to trace your forbearers' role in the war, where and how long they fought, whether they were Union or Rebel, soldier or sailor -- even with a minimum of information. ORDER



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