From an Elmira Prison Guard - Six Months Before “Hellmira”
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[CIVIL WAR – UNION].
Autograph Letter Signed “A. Wood” to J. Dudden. Elmira, N. Y., January 25, 1864, 4 pp., 5 x 8 in. With original stamped envelope.
Headquarters Barracks No 1
Elmira January 25th /64
I received your letter last saturday as well as the package of money ($50) I had some trouble in geting [sic] the money When I telegraphed I directed it sent to the care of Lieutenant Benjamin but it came in care of Seret [Sergeant] B— and as there was no such person they would not give me the “monish”. I finaly [sic] found a gentleman who was willing to say that I was the “person” that the money was for & the clerk delivered it to me.
I left Elroy Saturday the 9th inst at 7AM & reached this place at 12 PM. We stayed all night in the cars as there was no room for us in the barracks. <2> Sunday morning we marched to the Warehouse Barracks where I stayed five days. I was appointed seargent [sic] of the second floor containing some three hundred men. Friday I was taken to these barracks. Saturday I was taken to barracks No 3 along with Sheridan & a lot of others where we signed the pay rolls for $125.00 but that evening Col Brooks sent over an order for me to report to these headquarters for duty and for my name to be struck off the pay rolls. I accordingly reported to Col Brook who commands these barracks when he ordered me to take charge of Barrack No. 12.
I get along very well with the men now although when I first took command they were rather unruly. I made them all put out the lights <3> at 9 P. M. and all talking to stop after that until morning; also for them to turn out promptly in the morning at roll call. I had to put two men in the guard house the second night & to place some of the others on police duty. Everything goes on smoothly now. We get two meals per day, one at 9 AM & the other at 3.30 PM. That is the men. I can eat whenever I have a mind to. There is some seven or eight thousand men here at present, & more coming.
The Circumlocution office is located here & in full opperation [sic] & doing a ‘big’ business just now. The weather is very warm & the the snow has mostly melted.
Tom Sheridan & Ed Welch are with
at me <4> Also S Colburn who is Seargent [sic] under me I have not seen any other L— boys out here Lansingbury will loose $400 one man in Sherwood of Johnsonville who enlisted for L— He has had a fit and if he lives the government will undoubtedly throw him out, as he was subject to them before enlisting.
I am in hopes of going to the regiment this week although they may try to keep me here. Your Reg’t has gone to Harpers Ferry Please write on rec’pt of this to me at this place. Direct to me at Barracks No 1 Elmira & if I am not here it will be sent on
Res[p]ects to Eb & the others Yours in haste
At the time, as Union forces advanced South, the need to house Confederate prisoners necessitated conversion of a training facility called Camp Rathbun into a prison camp, which earned a reputation as notorious in the South as Andersonville Prison was in the North. In July 1864, it accepted its first contingent of POWs. Originally designed to hold 5,000, it would eventually house over 12,000 Confederate prisoners. The facility lacked food, clothing, and medical care, and the death rate topped 25% as a result of malnutrition, disease, and exposure. Woodlawn Cemetery, named a national cemetery in 1877, holds the remains of the 2,963 Confederate prisoners who died at Elmira.