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Battle of Gettysburg Prisoner of War Broadside:
Confederate Guards Shooting Unarmed Yankees
Click to enlarge:

“At the request of a large number of my fellow Bell Island, prisoners of War, I have written a short sketch from my notes taken on the spot, and have put the same in type. The account imbraces [sic] from the 2nd of July at Gettysburg, Pa., up to September 21st, on Bell Island. The statement is facts only, and not from an imaginary brain….

Union private George Gantt exposes the dismal treatment of Union prisoners of war after the Battle of Gettysburg.

[GETTYSBURG]. Broadside. The Gettysburg Prisoners. March from Gettysburg to Staunton, 175 Miles..., Annapolis, Maryland, September 28, 1863, 14½ x 6 in., 1 pp.

Inventory #22245       Price: $1,750

Partial Transcript

“…The prisoners taken at Gettysburg, on the 2nd day of the battle, belonged nearly all to the Third Corps…. At 8 o’clock, P.M. July 2nd, four hundred of the Third Corps were marched to the rear and encamped on an elevated piece of ground. A strong guard was placed around the men. No rations were given out….July 4.—The men were now half starved, having eaten nothing since the morning of the 2nd….Our men had to trade off their blankets and even take their shoes off of their feet and give the guards for bread…. Rebel guards used their bayonets on our men getting water and trying to buy bread… Guards taking prisoners money on pretence of buying something for them to eat, but never returning….”

“…At noon, on the 14th of August, Private John Donnelly, 91st, P.V., had on that morning came to the Island. He was standing near the bank that incloses the prisoners. The guard told him to go further back, and D. was in the act of turning to comply with the guards order, when the latter raised his gun and shot him down. This act was a cold blooded murder…. The guard was taken off his post for the day, but in two days was back again ready to shoot more unarmed Yankees.”

Historical Background

Belle Island, Virginia, an island in the James River near Richmond, was a notorious Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. The island’s few facilities comprised of several shacks, a prison hospital, and an ironworks. Prison authorities never built permanent quarters, so up to 10,000 prisoners lived in tents that could accommodate 3,000 men. The island held nearly 30,000 prisoners over the course of the war. Exposure was a leading cause of death. With little food, no blankets, lice, and disease running rampant, eyewitnesses reported between 15 and 25 deaths a day. Enlisted men looked forward to being transferred to the notorious Andersonville prison, where there were better facilities.

In addition to great numbers of casualties at Gettysburg, Lee captured over 5,000 Union troops, who then needed to be marched back to their captivity in the South. Gantt’s broadside details the long march he and other Union troops suffered, without adequate food and supplies, through Pennsylvania and Maryland to Staunton, Virginia. The prisoners were then transported by rail to Belle Isle, where they found even more dismal conditions. At Richmond three weeks after their capture, some 800 men who were to be paroled were separated to be exchanged at Annapolis. The account is filled with incidents of depredation and cruelty from merely petty to murderous.

Condition

Very good. Tanned. Professional repair to fold splits on verso; tape and mounting traces. Some paper replacement at upper right.

Sources

“Belle Island Civil War Prison.” http://www.censusdiggins.com/prison_bellisle.html

Kent Masterson Brown, Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign

(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2005).


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