Union Prison Camp
[Letter to the Wall Street Journal, 3/26/96]
Robert Goldberg's Feb. 26 review of the two-part TV series on
Andersonville ("Hell's 26 Acres") has raised one of
my pet peeves. Throughout my 77 years, whenever the subject of
Civil War prison camps was discussed, I heard only about Andersonville.
Yet there was an even more heinous hellhole (because there was
far less excuse for it) right here in St. Mary's County, a scant
86 miles from our nation's capital. Here, more than 4,000 Confederate
prisoners perished in 18 months due to privation and disease;
and in a climate far less temperate than Andersonville's.
The Point Lookout prison camp began in July 1863 when Gen. Gilman
Marston arrived with nearly 200 Confederate captives and the
2nd and 12th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry Regiments. By October
1863 more than 7,000 prisoners were held in a swampy compound
with water on three sides. Given the resources available to the
Union side (whereas the South was virtually destitute), I can
muster far more sympathy for one-armed Capt. Wirz, commander
of Andersonville, than I can for the Union camp commanders who
permitted the atrocities at Point Lookout. It is amazing that
historians can so conveniently ignore the cruelty practiced there
while continuing to harp about Andersonville.
Colin F. Burch Jr.
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