Elmira, New York, is situated five miles from the Pennsylvania line. In the beginning the camp was used for new recruits, but by May 15, 1864, some of the barracks were set aside for prisoners-of-war. A twelve foot-high fence was constructed, framed on the outside with a sentry's walk four feet below the top and built at a safe distance from the barracks. Housing consisted of thirty-five two-story barracks each measuring 100 by 20 feet. Two rows of bunks were along the walls and as the prison became crowded some prisoners lived in "A" tents.
The first group of prisoners, shipped from Point Lookout, Maryland, arrived at Elmira on July 6 and numbered 399 men. By the end of July, 4,424 prisoners were packed in the compound with another 3,000 en route. By mid-August the number leaped to 9,600. The inmates of Elmira weathered hunger, illness and melancholia but, even worse, exposure to the elements. Late in the winter of 1864-65 some stoves were distributed to the prisoners but not enough for everyone. The southerners were exposed to temperatures of ten to fifteen degrees below zero and many succumbed to freezing.
Of the total of 12,123 soldiers imprisoned at Elmira, 2,963 died of sickness, exposure and associated causes. The camp was officially closed on July 5, 1865. All that remains today of Elmira Prison is a well-kept cemetery along the banks of the Chemung River.