By Al Benson Jr.
The story of Camp Chemung, or Elmira POW camp in Elmira, New York is a long and checkered one. Michael Horigan has written a book entitled Elmira—Death Camp of the North which I would recommend to anyone doing research on the gruesome history of POW camps in the North during the War of Northern Aggression. Elmira is one of those scary places you never read about in the “history” books. It was so bad the Union authorities tried to shove it down the “memory hole” with the help of a compliant “news” media. Even back then the “news” media was little more than a lap dog for the establishment. Nothing new under the sun, is there?
The information on the flyleaf of Horigan’s book is quite revelatory. It states: “Elmira’s death rate was the highest of any prison camp in the North—almost 25 percent. Comparatively, the overall death rate of all prison camps in the North was just over 11 percent; in the South it was just over 15 percent. Clearly, something went wrong at Elmira.” A nice way of describing Yankee/Marxist brutality—“something went wrong.”
According to http://civilwar.blluegrass.net “Almost 25 percent of the 12,123 Confederate soldiers who entered the 40-acre prisoner of war camp at Elmira, New York, died. This death rate was more than double the average death rate in other Northern prison camps, and only 2 percent less than the death rate at the infamous Southern prison at Andersonville, Georgia. The deaths at Elmira were caused by diseases brought on by terrible living conditions and starvation, conditions deliberately caused by the vindictive U.S. commissary-general of prisoners, Col. William Hoffman. The conditions were inexcusable; the North had more than enough food and materials for its armies, population, and prisoners.” And that’s the difference between Elmira and Andersonville—the Union had more than enough to adequately feed and care for the POWs. The Confederacy did not. The privations and hardships at Andersonville were NOT deliberate; at Elmira and other places like it, they WERE deliberate.
This is the kind of thing that, after World War 2, they condemned Nazi war criminals for, yet you can’t do that here—Hoffman’s side won the war, so all is automatically forgotten—except at Andersonville, and that, like the slavery issue, will NEVER be forgotten. You see the politically correct thing to do nowadays is to operate a selective forgiveness—they absolve the North of its atrocities, condemn the South for its alleged atrocities—and teach it this way in most public schools so the anti-South propaganda is forwarded along to the next generation, and the next, and so on.
In 1864 a stockade had been built around an unused Northern army training camp in order to create what would become Elmira Prison in June of 1864. The prison had 35 barracks and was expected to house about 5,000 POWs. The first 400 arrived on July 6th, and by the end of July there were already more than 4,400 POWs there. At that point it was almost at full capacity. But, as the fella says, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” By the end of August there were almost 10,000 POWs there, a good portion of them having to sleep in the open, in ragged clothers, what remained of their uniforms and with not blankets.
Would the Yankee/Marxist’s War Department remedy this? Not hardly! Michael Horigan notes in this book, on page 19 that: “…his (Hoffman’s) grasp of the War Department’s arcane Civil War bureaucracy was matched only by his parsimonious, budget-conscious edicts that resulted in withholding large sums of money that were earmarked for the purchase of prisoner-of-war rations, clothing, shelter, and medical supplies. Money withheld by Hoffman for rations alone would result in the return of $1,845,126 to the government at the conclusion of the war.” Even today that’s a pretty good chunk of change. You can imagine what it was in 1865. In other words, Hoffman starved Confederate POW to the tune of $1.8 million.
Even though it was noted that Elmira had only the capacity to take care of 5,000 POWs it seems that Hoffman, somewhere along the line, came up with the idea that it could house 8-10 thousand prisoners. Horigan observed: “Significantly, that figure came from Washington—not even the post commander at Elmira. As to how Col. Hoffman arrived at this estimate remains to this day the single most mysterious aspect of the Elmira prison camp story. Surely has was aware of the fact that Elmira’s accommodation limit was 5,000 prisoners of war. Eastman had made it clear on May 2nd that total capacity of Barracks Nos. 1 and 3 was 6,000 and then ten days later lowered that figure to 5,000. Yet the commissary general of prisoners persisted that Elmira will quarter upwards of 10,000 prisoners of war.” And Horigan continued: “Colonel Hoffman’s arbitrary prisoner-of-war figure is a sticking point that would lead to charges more than a century later that Elmira was deliberately established as a death camp.” I can see now, some naïve person reading this and thinking “Why the virtuous Union would never establish death camps for their POWs.” Why not? We’ve already found out they had secret police, that they tortured prisoners, that they locked people up for years on the merest hint of suspicion with no proof whatever—so why not death camps? If you want to read about Edwin Stanton, his secret police, and torture tactics used by the North then read a couple of the recent articles on http://revisedhistory.wordpress.com Just don’t read them with your morning coffee because you won’t enjoy it.
Rations at Elmira were never enough. Lonnie R. Speer, in his book Portals to Hell—Military prisons in the Civil War frankly tells us that: “As at several other prisons, the POWs often resorted to eating dogs and cats that strayed into the compound. One of the POWs noted that: “The ribs of a stewed dog were delicious, (but) broiled rat was superb.” You have to wonder, with the commissary general turning back to the government over $1.8 million at the end of the war just for rations he did not bother to purchase to feed POWs, what the real name of the game was. From all I have been able to read about the Yankee/Marxist mentality prevalent in Washington during and after the War I would have no doubt that the federal government, somewhere, written or unwritten, had a deliberate starvation policy in regard to Confederate POWs.
During the bitter cold New York winters, POWs families in the South sought to send them warmer clothes for the winter. But, when this happened that example of Yankee/Marxist beneficence Colonel Hoffman, would only allow clothing that was gray to be passed out. Clothing in other colors was simply burned, while sons, brothers, and husbands of those who sent them literally froze to death. I tell you, the depths of Northern charity just knew no bounds.
It got so bad that even the Yankee/Marxist government was thinking of court-martialing some people. The http://civilwar.bluegrass.net site noted: “Before resigning to avoid court-martial for his criminal treatment of sick prisoners, the chief surgeon at Elmira was overheard boasting that he had killed more Rebels than any other Union soldier.”