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Elmira Prison Camp OnLine Library -
Government Documents: July, 1864

July 9, 1864: Ordered the first known medical examination of the camp and the prisoners.
July 11, 1864: Medical report called attention to the low amount of food and the potential problem developing with the water supply.
July 15, 1864: Second order for a transfer of 3,000 prisoners from Point Lookout, Maryland to Elmira, NY.
July 1864: Letter not dated but sometime after July 25th. Permission is granted to purchase land for burial of deceased prisoners for a price of $300.00. A laborer was to be employed at $40.00 per month.


Surg. Charles T. Alexander

Acting Medical Inspector, Washington, D.C.

SIR: You will proceed without delay to examine into the sanitary condition of the depot for prisoners of war just established at Elmira, N.Y., under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Eastman, and to confer with him as to the measures necessary to be taken to place the depot in proper condition. You understand my views as to the mode of carrying out the regulations contained in the circular from this office of April 20, and will be able to give any explanations, which Colonel Eastman may desire. Make sure recommendations as to the interior management of the hospital as you may deem proper and request them to be put in force. In making your report use the forms prescribed for the medical inspectors of the Army, and remark on all matters embraced under the several headings noted thereon. Having completed the inspection, you will report in person at this office.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Third Infantry and Commissary-General of Prisoners


Washington, D.C., July 14, 1864
Col. W. Hoffman, U.S. Army,

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

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that on the 11th of this month, complying with instructions received from you, I inspected the camp for prisoners of war recently established at Elmira, N.Y. The camp is at present in good condition. Your attention is respectfully called to the sinks. Some being placed upon a slough, at present stagnant, others in vaults, they may soon become offensive and a source of disease. The remedy suggested is either to bring water from the city of Elmira and construct new sinks with suitable drainage, or to cause the river near which the camp is situated to communicate with the slough, thereby producing a running stream through the camp. Upon the cost of the first method and the practicability of the second the commanding officer was requested to inform you without delay, sending at the same time a plan of the camp, that all might be readily understood. The barracks for the prisoner will accommodate 5,000, and there is room sufficient in the enclosure to pitch tents for from 3,000 to 5,000 more. The barracks are of three sizes - first, twenty, 18 feet by 88 feet, 8 feet high, intended for 100 of our men; second, eight kitchens, 18 feet square, accommodating each 28 prisoners, third, ten, 20 feet by 80 feet, 12 feet high, intended for 150 of our men, now never used. At present, the guardhouse in the camp is occupied by prisoners other than prisoners of war, there being no secure place for them elsewhere. At present there is no proper hospital organization. The surgeon in charge of the hospitals for the troops at Elmira visits daily the prisoners' camp. He had as an assistant to look especially after the prisoners a young man, lately a medical cadet, recently contacted with, and not a suitable person to organize or control a hospital such as will be needed. I found the sick, fortunately but few, in no way suitably provided for expect as for shelter; diet not suitable; some without bedsacks; blankets scarce. Your attention is called to the immediate necessity of a competent surgeon to take charge. After consulting with the commanding officer, a site was chosen for a hospital and directions given that a laundry and three pavilion wards should be immediately built, one to be so divided as to make suitable apartments for administrative duties. A building formerly used as a carpenter shop is so situated as to be serviceable as kitchen and mess room, and is to be alerted to suit as such. The cost per ward will be about $500. I also stated to the commanding officer the necessity of having a requisition at once made for supplies for hospital of 300 beds.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Surgeon, U.S. Army, Acting Medical Inspector

Report of a medical inspection of the camp and field hospital of the Elmira Camp for prisoners of war, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Eastman, U.S. Army, made on the 11th day of July, 1864, by Surg. C.T. Alexander, acting medical inspector of prisoners of war.

·  Camp, name and geographical position -- Barracks No. 3, Elmira, N.Y.

·  Topography of surrounding country -- hilly.

·  Topography of locality, soil, drainage -- Valley of Chemung River; soil, sandy, gravel; drainage, good.

·  Water, source, supply, quality, effects -- from hills, abundant, good, healthy.

·  Fuel, whence obtained, kind, supply -- coal and wood, abundant, obtained on contract.

·  Camp, how arranged, how long occupied -- in square, occupied for prisoners since July 6, 1864.

·  Camp, previous use of ground -- encampment for recruits for three past years.

·  Barracks, constructions, size, number of men to each -- see letter of transmittal.

·  Barracks, heating, cleansing, ventilation -- stoves, clean, well ventilated.

·  Sinks and cesspools, construction, position, management -- some built over slough, others over vaults, clean; see letter.

·  Removal of offal and rubbish, police of camp -- good.

·  Rations, quality, quantity, variety -- good.

·  Vegetables and pickles, kinds, amount, how obtained -- potatoes, conforming to orders; extra issues on surgeon's requisition.

·  Rations, how cooked, how inspected, messing -- in Farmer's boilers, daily inspected by officer in charge, two large mess rooms, space for 200 feet extension.

·  Clothing, condition, deficiencies -- fair, deficient is blouses, pants, blankets, shirts, boots.

·  Men, morale, sanitary condition, personal cleanliness -- good, for prisoners.

·  Hospital -- no hospital established. See letter of transmittal.

·  Sick, ratio of, to strength of command -- not ascertained.

·  Sick, condition, cleanliness -- bad.

·  Diseases prevalent -- diarrhea principally.

·  Diseases of local origin -- none.

C.T. ALEXANDER Surgeon U.S. Army, Lieut. Col. and Medical Inspector, U.S. Army


Washington, D.C., July 15, 1864
Brig. Gen. James Barnes,

Commanding District of Saint Mary, Point Lookout, Md.:

GENERAL: By authority of Secretary of War, I request you will transfer 3,000 enlisted prisoners of war from Point Lookout to Elmira, N.Y., as soon as you can spare the necessary guards from your command. Please observe the instructions given recently on a similar occasion. Direct the officer in charge of each party to see that the cars furnished at New York are well provided with lights and water. Brigadier General Rucker, chief depot quartermaster in this city, will furnish the necessary transports on your notifying him when you require them.

I am, general, Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Third Infantry and Commissary-General of Prisoners

P.S. -- Transports to carry 400 to 800, with a guard of 100 to 150 men, have been asked for, is practicable.


Washington, D.C., July, 1864
Lieut. Col. S. Eastman,

Commanding Depot Prisoners of War, Elmira, N.Y.

COLONEL: Your letter of the 25th instant is received. You are authorized to lease a half-acre lot in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, as a burying ground for deceased prisoners of war, to be used during the war, at the price named by you ($300), and you are also authorized to employ a laborer at $40 per month to dig the graves. Your recommendation that the running gear of a wagon be purchased, to be converted into a hearse, is approved.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Third Infantry and Commissary-General of Prisoners