Civil War Hospital Ship

The U.S.S. Red Rover, a captured Confederate vessel, was refitted as a hospital ship.

Evolution of Civil War Nursing

The evolution of the nursing profession in America was accelerated by the Civil War.

The Practice of Surgery

Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War.

Army Medical Museum and Library

Surgeon-General William Hammond established The Army Medical Museum in 1862. It was the first federal medical research facility.

Civil War Amputation Kit

Many Civil War surgical instruments had handles of bone, wood or ivory. They were never sterilized.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Dr. Alfred Bollet Interviews

Wednesday, December 20, 2017



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Civil War Medicine" Documentary Trailer Completed!

The trailer for the "Civil War Medicine" documentary series is here!

We spent months on the research, recorded the voiceovers and music live, worked with 11 different institutions for the amazing images.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to completion of the four-part "Civil War Medicine" documentary series, you can use the PayPal button on this website.

We hope you enjoy the trailer! You can see it at

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Prisons of the Civil War: An Enduring Controversy

By Michael E. Haskew, 2-13-17

All the horrors of prison life were experienced by hundreds of thousands of captives, Union and Confederate, during the Civil War.

The June 19, 1861, editorial in the Charleston Mercury newspaper warned: “War is bloody reality, not butterfly sporting. The sooner men understand this the better.” During the four-year course of the Civil War, the entire country—North and South—would come to the same grim realization. There were seemingly endless lists of thousands of soldiers killed or wounded in battle or dead of disease. Thousands more, both Union and Confederate, languished in prisoner of war camps, enduring hardships that previously it had been inconceivable for civilized people to inflict upon one another.

From 1861 to 1865, more than 150 prison camps were established by the Union and Confederate governments. Estimates of the total numbers of prisoners taken and deaths that occurred in captivity vary widely, and Confederate records are incomplete. However, the Official Records of the war cites a total of 347,000 men—220,000 Confederate and 127,000 Union—who endured the privations of being prisoners of war. These privations ranged from inadequate shelter and clothing, poor hygiene, and the monotonous passage of time to outright starvation, intentional cruelty, harsh summary justice, swarming vermin, and rampaging disease. More than 49,000 prisoners died in captivity, at least 26,440 Confederate and 22,580 Union, an overall mortality rate of 14 percent. Twelve percent of Confederate prisoners and 18 percent of Union captives never returned from incarceration.

As in all wars, the victors tend to write the history, and Confederate prisons have become notorious for a litany of horrors. But the simple truth is that neither side could fully claim the moral high ground. Neither side was prepared to accommodate the large numbers of prisoners taken during the war, which many believed would be of short duration but which dragged on for four years of incredible misery.

The Burden of Prisoners of War
From the outset, the South suffered shortages of basic commodities such as medicines, foodstuffs, and textiles due to the strangling Union blockade that stretched from the major ports of the mid-Atlantic to the Gulf coast of Texas. The war on land was fought largely in the South, soaking rich farmland with blood. Thousands of Southern farmers left home to serve in the Confederate Army, and few able-bodied men remained behind to tend whatever crops could be produced in straitened circumstances.

With threadbare Confederate soldiers serving in the field without shoes, subsisting on a handful of cornmeal or a few peanuts, the Southern government faced a virtually insurmountable task to provide adequately for thousands of Union prisoners. Nevertheless, early in the war the Confederate Congress resolved that the rations furnished prisoners of war “shall be the same in quantity and quality as those furnished to enlisted men in the army of the Confederacy.” It sounded good on paper.

In the North, more plentiful food supplies, the availability of medical care, and the relative abundance of resources should have weighed positively on the treatment of prisoners. In too many instances, however, conditions were scarcely better than the worst of the prisons in the South. Administrative indifference, ineptitude, and corruption combined with a desire to mete out the same treatment to Confederate prisoners that was rumored to exist in Southern prisons. Camp Douglas in Chicago and Elmira in upstate New York—prosperous communities both—left horrible legacies of their own.

The burden of feeding and sheltering prisoners steadily increased as the war progressed. Early in the conflict, a system of parole and exchange was utilized extensively, and thousands of soldiers were returned to their units. Patterned after a similar system that had seen widespread use in Europe, officers of equal rank were exchanged one for another, while enlisted men were exchanged on a number-by-number basis. When an even exchange was not immediately possible, officers were exchanged for a certain number of enlisted men, such as one captain for six enlisted soldiers. Parole was sometimes extended to prisoners when a timely exchange was not expected. Parole often took place within 10 days of capture, and the system worked reasonably well for a while as prisoners were returned to their respective sides and rejoined the ranks when notified that a proper exchange had occurred. At times parolees went home to await the official exchange; however, these individuals were often reluctant to return to service. Therefore, paroled prisoners were frequently kept near their units until word of an exchange was received.

The Dix-Hill Cartel
Over time, the system became increasingly untenable due to the sheer weight of numbers. With the surrender of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in February 1862, nearly 12,400 Confederate prisoners were captured by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Union forces. The Confederate commander at Fort Donelson, Maj. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, a personal friend of Grant’s, was imprisoned in Boston until he was exchanged. Another 7,000 captured soldiers were sent to the infamous Camp Douglas; the rest were scattered throughout other prisons in the North.

On July 22, 1862, the Confederate and Union governments agreed to a formalized program of exchange known as the Dix-Hill Cartel, named for its principal negotiators, Union Maj. Gen. John A. Dix and Confederate Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill. Prior attempts to formalize exchange protocol had been complicated by several factors. Since the North viewed the conflict as a civil insurrection rather than a war between two sovereign nations, Abraham Lincoln wanted to avoid any action that might legitimize the Confederate government. A formal agreement to exchange prisoners, in the eyes of many observers, particularly those in foreign governments, might do just that.

Fragile from the beginning, the Dix-Hill Cartel survived with limited interruption for only five months. On December 28, 1862, U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton suspended the exchange of commissioned officers in response to a proclamation by Confederate President Jefferson Davis that labeled Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, commander of the forces occupying New Orleans, “a felon deserving of capital punishment.” The Davis proclamation followed Butler’s execution of William B. Mumford, a civilian resident of New Orleans who reportedly had pulled down the U.S. flag that had been raised above the city’s former mint and torn the banner to shreds. A harmless act of vandalism was raised to a fatal act of treason.

By the spring of 1863, Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck, general-in-chief of the Union Armies, halted all major exchanges. This action was in response to Confederate assertions that Southern soldiers captured by Grant at Vicksburg and subsequently paroled would be considered unilaterally exchanged. A May 1, 1863, joint resolution of the Confederate Congress rendered the decision to continue the exchange program absurd. The resolution asserted that captured African American soldiers who had once been slaves would be treated as runaways rather than soldiers and would be returned to their former owners if possible. It further threatened that “every white person being a commissioned officer who shall command Negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection, and shall if captured be put to death or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the Court.”

Grant’s War of Attrition
By then, the protracted war had significantly drained Southern manpower, and the exchange of prisoners was the primary method by which the Confederates replenished the depleted ranks of their field armies. An effort to revive a formal exchange system fell apart after representatives of the U.S. government refused to receive Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens in Washington, D.C., under a flag of truce. Sporadic prisoner exchanges did continue as Butler negotiated with the Confederates under the watchful eye of Secretary Stanton. Butler and Confederate exchange agent Robert Ould arranged the transfer of large numbers of prisoners in the autumn of 1864, particularly those who had been held for the longest time or were in poor health and deemed unfit for further duty. Significant exchanges took place at Savannah and Charleston.

The relentless Grant recognized the fact that continued prisoner exchanges would actually prolong the war. Grant believed that the South could be subdued most efficiently through attrition, as evidenced by his continuation of the Army of the Potomac’s offensive in Virginia in the spring of 1864 despite horrendous casualties. In April of that year, Grant halted exchanges on the basis of the Vicksburg disagreement and the proposed mistreatment of black prisoners by the Confederates. Grant stated his pragmatic perspective in an August 18, 1864, dispatch to Butler, noting: “It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man released on parole or otherwise becomes an active soldier against us at once, either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated.”

Although Lincoln had hesitated to authorize exchanges during the first year of the war, he had bowed to political pressure and to the rising concern of family members whose loved ones were held in Confederate prisons and allowed the Dix-Hill Cartel to become operative. Now he remained notably quiet on the topic, leaving it to Grant to publicly state that future prisoner exchanges would be suspended due to the exigencies of war.

The Horrors of Andersonville
While politicians and high-ranking military commanders debated, prisoners on both sides suffered. Escape attempts occurred with regularity and were infrequently successful. Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and a few of his daredevil cavalrymen tunneled their way to freedom from the Ohio State Penitentiary. The largest escape of the war took place at Libby Prison in the Confederate capital of Richmond when more than 100 Union officers broke out on February 9, 1864, and 59 of them managed to elude recapture.

Within three months of Grant’s suspension order in April 1864, the population of Andersonville prison had grown to more than 20,000, twice its original capacity. At its peak in August, the stockade housed over 33,000 Union soldiers in utter squalor. In July 1864, then-Captain Henry Wirz paroled several Andersonville prisoners, who carried a petition to Washington, D.C., begging for the reinstatement of large-scale prisoner exchanges. Lincoln declined to meet with them, and no action was taken on their plea.

By far the most infamous of Civil War prisons, Andersonville, officially known as Camp Sumter, did not exist until the winter of 1863-1864. With defeats at Chattanooga and Atlanta in the West and expanding Union offensive operations in the East, the war was going badly for the Confederates. Union forces were penetrating ever farther into the heart of the Confederacy. It became necessary to construct a prison deep in Georgia to house increasing numbers of Union prisoners. A location near the town of Andersonville in Sumter County, approximately 60 miles southwest of Macon, was chosen because of its proximity to a rail line, a source of water from Sweetwater Creek that ran through camp, an abundance of pine trees for the construction of a stockade, and the availability of slave labor.

Construction began in December 1863. The original stockade occupied 16½ acres, with a pair of large gates on its western face. A fenced perimeter was set between 19 and 25 feet inside the stockade walls. This was the notorious “Dead Line,” and any prisoner crossing it would be shot immediately. On February 24, 1864, the first prisoners, 600 men transferred from Libby Prison, arrived at Andersonville. Wirz assumed command in April and was subordinate to Brig. Gen. John H. Winder, the newly appointed commissary general of Confederate prisons. The population of Andersonville swelled rapidly. In July, Wirz set the prisoners to work constructing a 10-acre expansion of the stockade. By August, starvation and disease were rampant, and the dead during that month alone totaled 2,994. The creek that ran through the compound became fetid, contributing to an epidemic-level rise in dysentery cases. Many prisoners lived in makeshift lean-to structures. Others had no shelter at all, clawing holes in the ground for whatever cover was possible. Prisoners stole from one another and fought over morsels of food. Organized gangs terrorized the camp.

Private Prescott Tracy of the 82nd New York Infantry Regiment was one of only a handful of Andersonville prisoners actually exchanged in 1864. His description of the horrors at Andersonville was later published in a propaganda pamphlet entitled Narrative of the Privations and Sufferings of United States Officers and Privates While Prisoners of War in the Hands of Rebel Authorities that circulated widely in the North. “The new-comers, on reaching this, would exclaim: ‘Is this hell?’ Yet they soon would become callous, and enter unmoved the horrible rottenness,” recounted Tracy. “The rations consisted of eight ounces of corn bread (the cob being ground with the kernel), and generally sour, two ounces of condemned pork, offensive in appearance and smell. Occasionally, about twice a week, two tablespoons of rice, and in place of the pork the same amount (two tablespoonfuls) of molasses were given us about twice a month. The clothing of the men was miserable in the extreme. Very few had shoes of any kind, not two thousand had coats and pants, and those were late comers. More than one-half were indecently exposed, and many were naked.”

From February 1864 through the end of the war, approximately 45,000 prisoners were held at Andersonville. A total of 12,913, roughly 28 percent, died and were buried in mass graves. The toll at Andersonville represents 57 percent of all Union prisoner deaths during the war. When the war ended, the focus of retribution against the South for the atrocities perpetrated in Confederate prisons would fall on Wirz, who former prisoners remembered brandishing a revolver when greeting them on arrival at the prison, shouting threats, and often losing his temper. The Northern propaganda machine had also been in motion for some time, and photographs of emaciated men, no more than living skeletons, fueled the rage against those who had encouraged, facilitated, or allowed such inhumane treatment to occur.

The Arrest and Prosecution of Henry Wirz
Born in 1823 in Zurich, Switzerland, Wirz immigrated to the United States in 1849 and opened a medical practice in Kentucky. He later moved to Louisiana with his wife and two stepdaughters. By the eve of the Civil War, his practice was prospering. With the outbreak of war, Wirz supposedly enlisted in Company A, 4th Battalion, Louisiana Volunteers, although there is little information to confirm this. He was further said to have held the rank of sergeant and fought in the Battle of Seven Pines, where he was wounded and lost much of the use of his right arm. Subsequently, he was promoted to the rank of captain for bravery on the field. Rendered unfit for further combat due to his debilitating wound, Wirz was assigned to Winder’s staff in Richmond and later detailed by President Jefferson Davis to serve as a courier to Confederate diplomats in Europe. Upon his return, Wirz was detailed by Winder to serve at prisons in Richmond, Tuscaloosa, and finally Andersonville.

Within days of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the war, Wirz was arrested and taken to Macon for questioning. He was briefly released and went to a nearby railroad station to return to his family at Andersonville. While waiting for the train, he was arrested again. By May 10, he was in jail in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington to await trial. Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace, later the best-selling author of the Biblically inspired novel Ben Hur, presided over the 63-day military tribunal, which lasted from August 23 to October 18.

Henry Wirz wearing his Confederate uniform in better times.
Henry Wirz wearing his Confederate uniform in better times.

Thirteen separate charges were leveled against Wirz, alleging such acts as Specification No. 11: “July 1, 1864, Henry Wirz did incite, and urge ferocious bloodhounds to pursue, attack, wound, and tear in pieces soldiers belonging to the U.S. Army, and a prisoner (unknown name) was so mortally wounded that on the sixth day he died.” Specification No. 4 noted: “On May 30th, Henry Wirz with a certain pistol did feloniously and with malice aforethought, inflict upon a soldier (unknown name) a mortal wound from which the soldier died.”

The remainder of the charges were similar, alleging that Wirz personally abused and murdered prisoners and ordered Confederate soldiers to do so as well. Interestingly, several of the other specifications accuse Wirz of crimes committed either before his arrival at Andersonville or during the month of August 1864, while he was actually ill and recovering at his home five miles from the prison. These allegations may have been false, or they may have been dated incorrectly. There may have been many other incidents that were never specified.

Most of the evidence against Wirz was circumstantial, and as the trial progressed, the validity of the charges hinged on the testimony of a single eyewitness, a former prisoner named Felix de la Baume, who claimed to be from France and a grandnephew of the great Marquis de Lafayette. De la Baume provided the name of one of Wirz’s victims and testified that he had personally witnessed the murders of two unnamed prisoners. De la Baume was praised for his “zealous testimony” at the trial. Before the proceedings were even completed, he was awarded a position in the U.S. Department of the Interior. However, soon after the trial, de la Baume’s true identity was discovered. His real name was Felix Oeser, and he was originally from the German province of Saxony and a deserter from the 7th New York Volunteer Infantry. Oeser supposedly admitted that he had committed perjury, but then his trail went cold. He was allowed to simply melt away.

On the night before his execution, Wirz was visited by his attorney, Louis Schade, who repeated an earlier offer from a highranking government official. In exchange for implicating Jefferson Davis, Wirz would escape the gallows with a commuted sentence. Wirz responded: “Mr. Schade, you know that I have always told you that I do not know anything about Jefferson Davis. He had no connection with me as to what was done at Andersonville. If I knew anything about him, I would not become a traitor against him or anybody else even to save my life.”

Prior to his execution, Wirz wrote two notable letters. One was to Schade, asking for help for his destitute family. The other was an appeal for clemency to President Andrew Johnson. “For six weary months I have been a prisoner; for six months my name has been in the mouth of every one; by thousands I am considered a monster of cruelty, a wretch that ought not to pollute the earth any longer,” he wrote. The appeal went unanswered.

A Just Conviction?
On November 10, 1865, guarded by four companies of soldiers, Wirz was led to the gallows in the yard of the Old Capitol Prison. After ascending the stairs to the platform, the condemned man commented that he was being hanged for merely following orders. With the dome of the Capitol in the background, the hangman’s noose was placed around his neck, and the trap door was sprung at 10:32 am. Wirz’s neck did not snap with the initial drop, and he slowly strangled at the end of the rope. A crowd of about 250 spectators, each issued a ticket for admittance, watched the event with ghoulish pleasure, chanting over and over: “Wirz, remember Andersonville. Wirz, remember Andersonville.”

The debate continues to the present day over whether Wirz was justly convicted or had actually done the best he could in difficult circumstances. Initially, he was only one of several individuals who ran the risk of being charged with heinous crimes against Federal prisoners, and he was certainly a lesser target than Jefferson Davis or Secretary of War James Seddon. However, establishing a direct link between the highest echelon of the Confederate government and the sanctioning of mistreatment of Union prisoners proved a difficult proposition for prosecutors. Furthermore, placing Davis on trial might well have complicated the process of assimilating the former Confederate states back into the Union. Like the much more culpable and dishonorable Japanese emperor Hirohito following World War II, Davis went unpunished for calculated political reasons.

A lesser known figure in the prison drama was General Winder, who conveniently died of a massive heart attack on February 7, 1865. Winder was reportedly heard to brag that more Union soldiers were dying at Andersonville than the Confederate armies were killing in battle. He was also said to have turned a deaf ear to pleas from Wirz for the relief of suffering prisoners. Earlier, Winder had been responsible for the prison facilities in the Richmond area, including Libby Prison, Castle Thunder, and Belle Isle, an island in the James River where Union enlisted men were held. Had he lived, it is likely that Winder would have joined Wirz on the gallows.

“Horrors of Richmond Prisons”
Among the other prisons located throughout the South, Libby was the most prominent. Consisting of three buildings, each four stories high, the warehouse complex was commandeered by Winder for use as a prison following the July 1861 Battle of Manassas. During the war, more than 50,000 men passed through Libby, and conditions became progressively more crowded, with no fewer than 1,200 Union officers held captive there at any given time. The windows were barred, and few of them had glass panes, exposing the prisoners to weather extremes ranging from boiling hot to freezing cold. Captives were not allowed to lie on their blankets during daylight hours and were banned from looking out the windows for fear that they might signal Union sympathizers outside

A story entitled “Horrors of Richmond Prisons” appeared in the November 28, 1863, edition of the New York Times. It noted that at Libby, “the prevailing diseases are diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid pneumonia. Of late the percentage of deaths has greatly increased, the result of causes that have been long at work—such as insufficient food, clothing and shelter, combined with that depression of spirits brought on so often by long confinement.” Describing his early days of captivity at Libby, Lt. Col. F.F. Cavada wrote: “Nothing but bread has, as yet, been issued to us, half a loaf twice a day per man. This must be washed down with James River water, drawn from a hydrant over the wash-trough. There are some filthy blankets hanging about the room; they have been used time and again by the many who preceded us; they are soiled, worn, and filled with vermin but we are recommended to help ourselves in time; if we do so with reluctance and profound disgust it is because we are now more particular than we will be in time.”

Bad as they were, Andersonville and Libby Prison were not alone in their records of deprivation. A camp at Salisbury, North Carolina, housed prisoners as early as 1861, after the Confederate government had paid $15,000 for a 16-acre tract there, including the three-story main building, six smaller brick buildings, and other structures that had once been used as a cotton mill. In the autumn of 1864, nearly 9,000 prisoners were held at Salisbury, considerably outnumbering the inhabitants of the nearby town. One prisoner referred to Salisbury as a “dark hole.” Private Benjamin Booth of the 22nd Iowa Infantry kept a daily log of deaths in the camp, noting that 58 men died on December 1, 1864, alone, and another 40 on January 12, 1865. More than 15,000 Union captives were held at Salisbury during the war, and approximately 5,000 of them died, a mortality rate of 33 percent that may have actually eclipsed that of Andersonville.

The Union Prison Camps
Confederate captives fared little better in Union camps. Captain Francis Marion Headley of the Confederate 8th Kentucky Mounted Infantry was captured in 1862 at Champion Hill, Mississippi, exchanged, and then captured a second time while on recruiting duty in his home state. Headley was sent to the Federal prison at Johnson’s Island, just off the coast of Lake Erie and about three miles from the city of Sandusky, Ohio. The prison opened in April 1862 and consisted of a 1.65-acre tract that included 12 two-story barracks and a hospital building enclosed by a wooden stockade with walls 15 feet high. Prisoners were allowed to receive mail and purchase food and other goods from a sutler. Some were given surplus Union uniforms to replace their worn-out clothing.

Although Johnson’s Island was intended to house only 2,500 men, the prison was regularly overcrowded and as many as 15,000 captives, most of them officers, passed through its gates during the war. The Ohio winters were harsh, and the men were subjected to sub-freezing temperatures and bitter winds that swept through their barracks off Lake Erie. Remarkably, only about 300 died. The difficult experience, however, remained with Headley for the rest of his life and contributed to his declining health.

Elsewhere in Ohio, the prisoners fared much worse. At Camp Chase, established on the outskirts of Columbus in May 1861 as a training facility for Union volunteers, 2,260 Confederate prisoners died. Three separate prisons inside the camp encompassed six acres and were intended to hold a total of 4,000 men. At its peak, the population of Camp Chase numbered from 7,000 to 10,000. Captain H.M. Lazelle, a Federal inspector who visited the camp in July 1862, noted that many of the barracks roofs leaked and that the buildings themselves were constructed so low that standing water soaked the floors for days following even moderate rain. Overcrowding, along with open latrines and cisterns, contributed to an outbreak of smallpox, and the quality of the food was so poor that the commissary officer was relieved of his post and summarily dismissed from the military.

Counting only the 2,260 noted burials and the estimated 25,000 Confederate prisoners who transited Camp Chase during its operation as a prison from the summer of 1861 through the end of the war, the mortality rate at the facility may be estimated at just under 10 percent. Camp Douglas, the most infamous of Northern prisons, opened in Chicago in 1861 as a training camp for volunteer infantry units and was permanently designated a prison camp in January 1863. At times, both Confederate prisoners and Union parolees were held there together.

Camp Douglas
During the war, more than 26,000 Confederates were imprisoned at Camp Douglas at various times, and the estimated number of deaths ranged from 4,500 to more than 6,000. Controversy surrounds the final mortality rate due to the allegation that a large number of prisoner deaths were never recorded, the bodies either buried in unmarked mass graves or simply considered unaccounted for. On the other hand, it was charged that an unscrupulous contractor simply buried a number of empty caskets to increase his payment from the U.S. government. Regardless, the generally accepted mortality rate at Camp Douglas is 17 to 23 percent.

Constructed on land previously owned by U.S. senator Stephen Douglas (hence the name), the camp was in a low-lying area where drainage was inadequate. Conditions deteriorated to such an extent that Henry W. Bellows of the U.S. Sanitary Commission wrote to Maj. Gen. William Hoffman, commissary general of prisons: “Sir, the amount of standing water, unpoliced grounds, of foul sinks, of unventilated and crowded barracks, of general disorder, of soil reeking miasmatic accretions, of rotten bones and emptying of camp kettles, is enough to drive a sanitarium to despair. I hope that no thought will be entertained of mending matters. The absolute abandonment of the spot seems to be the only judicious course. I do not believe that any amount of drainage would purge the soil loaded with accumulated filth or those barracks fetid with two stories of vermin and animal exhalations. Nothing but fire can cleanse them.”

Depending on the sources consulted, the population of Camp Douglas peaked at anywhere from 9,000 to 12,000, fell sharply later in 1862 following an exchange under the Dix-Hill Cartel, and then rose significantly by mid-1863. During the winter of 1862-1863, more than 200 prisoners were crowded into barracks measuring no more than 20 by 70 feet. Prisoners were required to stand in ranks in ankle-deep snow and ice. Temperatures dipped below zero, and up to 1,700 died during that winter alone.

A number of Illinois Militia and U.S. Army officers were in command at Camp Douglas. One of the more memorable was Colonel Charles V. DeLand, previously the commander of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters. DeLand took charge of the camp on August 18, 1863, and attempted to tighten discipline by putting the prisoners to work on an improved stockade. More than 70 escapes were attempted at Camp Douglas, and while DeLand was in command more than 150 prisoners, 26 in a single incident, broke out. DeLand was known for the severe punishment he dispensed, once having prisoners of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry remain standing at attention for a lengthy period after a tunnel was discovered under their barracks and ordering guards to shoot any of the prisoners who sat down. One was killed and two were wounded. On another occasion, three men were hung by their thumbs for an hour with their toes barely touching the ground because they allegedly threatened another prisoner who had been an informer.

As the war progressed, the Union armies took prisoners in ever-growing numbers. Of the 12,000 Confederates that inhabited the prison at Rock Island, Illinois, during the war, 2,000 died. At Point Lookout, Maryland, 50,000 prisoners passed through during the war and from 12,000 to 20,000 were housed there at any given time. Among these, an estimated 4,000 deaths occurred, for a rate of roughly eight percent. The famous Southern poet Sidney Lanier was a captive at Point Lookout and contracted tuberculosis there that dramatically shortened his life. He died at age 39.

At Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island in New Castle County, Delaware, the population swelled to more than 13,000 prisoners following the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 and increased to more than 30,000 by the end of the war. The prisoners suffered about 2,500 deaths. One prisoner from Georgia was starved from a healthy weight of 140 pounds to 80, while another prisoner wrote graphically, “The bacon was rusty and slimy, the soup was slop filled with white worms a half-inch long.”

In the spring of 1864, the problem of overcrowding had become so severe that a new prison was constructed on the site of a former mustering location for Union troops at Elmira, near the banks of the Chemoung River in upstate New York. Troops were detailed to convert the dilapidated camp into a prison and build a stockade. By July, 700 prisoners had been transferred from Point Lookout, and a month later the prison population swelled to more than 10,000 Confederate enlisted men. Conditions at Elmira were terrible from the beginning. The prison was below the level of the river, making drainage problematic. The barracks could hold only about half the prisoners; the rest were forced to live in tents. With the onset of winter, the men were exposed to extreme cold. Disease was widespread. By war’s end, more than 12,000 prisoners had occupied Elmira, known to many of them as “Hellmira.” Nearly 3,000 died, yielding a harvest of death approaching 25 percent and rivaling that of Andersonville.

On November 1, 1864, Dr. Eugene Sanger, the commander and camp surgeon at Elmira, wrote to U.S. Army Surgeon General Joseph Barnes: “Since August there have been 2,011 patients admitted to the hospital and 775 deaths. Have averaged daily 451 in hospital and 601 in quarters, an aggregate of 1,052 per day sick. At this rate the entire command will be admitted to hospital in less than a year and thirty-six percent die.” Elmira operated for 15 months, and on July 1, 1865, nearly three months after Lee’s surrender, 218 Confederates remained in the facility’s hospital. The last prisoner departed Elmira on September 27.

The Frugal Commissary General William Hoffman
Union Commissary General Hoffman has been both praised and vilified for his administration of the Union prisons during the Civil War. A career officer, he had been a classmate of Lee’s at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was a veteran of the Indian wars and the Mexican War. Captured in Texas at the beginning of the Civil War, he was exchanged on August 27, 1862. As commissary general, he was subordinate to Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, who instructed him that the barracks at the Rock Island prison should be “put up in the roughest and cheapest manner, mere shanties, with no fine work about them.” Meigs, who had lost a son in the war, had no sympathy to spare on Confederate prisoners.

While adequate supplies of food and clothing were available most of the time, some civilian contractors took government funds and either failed to deliver goods or dealt in such shoddy products that clothing and blankets were of such inferior quality as to be of little use. Likewise, contracted meat was delivered to prisoners already spoiled and unfit to eat. At Point Lookout, Major Allen G. Brady, the prison provost, was widely believed to have taken provisions meant for prisoners and kept them for himself.

Hoffman’s frugality became legendary. Although Congress had appropriated adequate funds for the purpose of caring for prisoners, he was reluctant to make such purchases and actually returned $2 million to the Treasury at war’s end. He once ordered a prison commander, “As long as a prisoner has clothing upon him, however much torn, you must issue nothing to him.” When a Confederate officer questioned Hoffman about his ill treatment at Camp Chase, the commissary general bluntly stated that it was “retaliation for innumerable outrages which have been committed on our people.” After the war, Hoffman was officially commended for his “faithful, meritorious, and distinguished services as Commissary-General during the Rebellion.” He retired from the army in 1870 with his permanent rank of colonel and died at the age of 77 in 1884.

The Controversy Around Civil War Prison Conditions Continues to This Day
An 1864 report by the U.S. Sanitary Commission accused the Confederates of a predetermined plan to mistreat Union prisoners. No doubt this charge, unproven then or now, influenced the desire for retribution against Rebel authorities who supposedly had perpetrated such an outrage. The debate continues to rage among historians to this day. At the very least, it appears that the Federal government endorsed a policy of retaliation for the poor treatment of Union prisoners in Confederate hands. Secretary of War Stanton went on record, writing to Hoffman: “The Secretary of War is not disposed, in view of the treatment our prisoners are receiving, to erect fine establishments for their prisoners.” That the North, largely untouched by the war, was much better able to care humanely for its prisoners than the starving South, is beyond dispute. Whether it cared to do so remains an open question—at least in the minds of pro-Union historians.

In the end, Henry Wirz, the only individual on either side to be punished for inhumane treatment of prisoners, remains the most controversial figure of the Civil War’s tragic prison legacy. One historical footnote remains. The defense that he had only followed orders failed to absolve Wirz of guilt in the mind of the court and established a precedent for the trials, 80 years later, of Nazi war criminals who made the same claim at Nuremberg following World War II. Simply acting on orders, it was judged, does not relieve an individual of his larger responsibility to humanity. It is a distinction that remains, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the government’s concomitant response to terrorism, very much in question today.

Image 1: A closer view of the squalid conditions at Andersonville, August 1864. The notorious “dead line” can be seen at the right. Anyone crossing it was shot on sight.

Image 2: The hangman places a noose around the neck of Andersonville commandant Henry Wirz prior to his execution in Washington on Nov. 10, 1865.


Ann Bradford Stokes


Stokes (1830-1903), an illiterate African American woman born into slavery in Tennessee, served as a “contraband” (escaped slave) nurse on the hospital ship USS Red Rover, the first Union Naval
ship, from January 1863 to October 1864. She also received regular wages of a “first-class boy.”

Notably, she was among the first women to serve as a nurse in the United States Navy and the first to serve on a U.S. military vessel. In 1890, after years of unsuccessful petitions for a pension, Stokes reapplied for a pension based on her 18 months of service in the Navy instead of as a widow of a deceased soldier. Since she was listed as a “boy” while serving on the USS Red Rover, Stokes was granted her a pension of $12 per month (the usual amount awarded to nurses at this time) by the Navy.

The Mystery of the Glow-in-the-Dark Civil War Soldiers

By Lauren Davis, 4-7-12

The American Civil War Battle of Shiloh left 16,000 soldiers dead and 3,000 soldiers wounded, and some of those wounded soldiers are part of an odd mystery. Some of the soldiers had eerily glowing wounds, which healed more quickly than the non-glowing wounds. So what strange battlefield science was at work?

It took two days and nights for the medics to reach all of the wounded soldiers in Shiloh, and some of the soldiers noticed that their wounds glowed in the darkness. Because the glowing wounds healed more quickly and cleanly, the mysterious force was termed "Angel's Glow."

It wasn't until 2001 that this 1862 mystery was finally solved. Seventeen-year-old Bill Martin was visiting Shiloh with his family, where he heard about the strange glow. His mother, microbiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, had studied luminescent bacteria, and Martin wondered if similar bacteria might have been at work. With his friend Jon Curtis, Martin researched Photorhabdus luminescens, a type of bacteria that lives in the guts of parasitic nematodes. When nematodes vomit up the glowing bacteria, P. luminescens kills the other microbes living in the nematoad's host.

Normally, P. luminescens couldn't live in the human body since it dies at human body temperature. But Martin and Curtis, studying the historical records and the conditions in Shiloh, realized that the nighttime temperatures were low enough for the soldiers to develop hypothermia, allowing the bacteria to thrive in their bodies, kill off competing bacteria, and perhaps save the lives of their human hosts.

For solving this decades old mystery, Curtis and Martin won first place in the 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.


Ann Preston: First Woman Medical School Dean

By Maggie MacLean, 10-10-2012

Ann Preston (December 1, 1813–April 18, 1872) was a doctor and educator of women in Pennsylvania. One of the most notable achievements of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in the 19th century was the role it played in the entrance of women into medicine. Ann Preston was one of those pioneer Quaker women doctors.

Through her leadership and her persuasive influence, Dr. Preston promoted educational, professional and social changes that eventually established the right of women to study medicine and removed the barriers which blocked the path of those women who aspired to become competent and successful physicians.

Early Years
Ann Preston was born on December 1, 1813 in West Grove, Pennsylvania, Quaker community near Philadelphia. She was the oldest daughter and second of nine children of Quaker minister Amos Preston and Margaret Smith Preston. Of their three daughters, Ann was the only one to survive to adulthood.

Ann grew up in a close knit family revolving around the West Grove Meeting. Her parents were abolitionists and supporters of women's rights. The famous Quaker minister Lucretia Mott was a friend of the Prestons and often visited them.

Ann was educated at the local Quaker school, then at a boarding school in Chester, Pennsylvania, until she had to return home to care for her family when her mother became ill. To continue her education she attended lectures of the local literary association and lyceum, where such poets as James Russell Lowell and John Greenleaf Whittier came to speak, and began to write her own essays and poetry.

Ann also became a member of the temperance movement and the Clarkson Anti-Slavery Society, for which she wrote petitions and lectures. After her younger brothers were old enough to care for themselves, Ann became a teacher, and in 1849 she published a book of children's rhymes, Cousin Ann's Stories.

Because girls were restricted to sedentary and indoor activities and dressed in tight clothing, Ann believed that women should know more about their own bodies. After some intense study of those subjects, she began teaching physiology and hygiene to all-female classes.

For the first half of the 19th century all medical schools uniformly refused to admit females. In 1847 Geneva College in New York made a one-time exception for Elizabeth Blackwell, and she became the first American woman doctor. But others who wanted to train were forced to study medicine in the offices of physicians and could not gain the status of 'medical doctor.'

Medical Education
Encouraged by Philadelphia Quakers who were becoming interested in medical education for women, in 1847 Ann Preston became an apprentice in the office of Dr. Nathaniel Moseley. After two years of medical training under Dr. Moseley, Preston applied to four medical colleges in Philadelphia but her applications were rejected because of her gender.

To provide opportunities for women to study medicine, a group of Quakers founded the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1850 - the first institution in the world established to train women in medicine and offer them the degree of Doctor of Medicine. The first year the faculty of the College was all male, but in 1851 Hannah Longshore was selected as a demonstrator in anatomy and was listed as a faculty member.

Preston enrolled in the first class, graduating in December 1851 at the age of 38. She returned to the college the following year for postgraduate work, then ran a series of lectures on hygiene for women. In 1853 Preston was appointed professor of physiology and hygiene at the Female Medical College, and spent the rest of her life in service of women in medicine.

Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia
In 1857, the Philadelphia Medical Society spoke out against the Female Medical College, effectively barring its women students from educational clinics and medical societies in the city. Undeterred, Dr. Ann Preston organized a board of "lady managers" to fund and run a teaching hospital to care for women, where her students could gain clinical experience.

The area around the Medical College was too crowded to add a hospital wing, and it was therefore necessary to find a new location. But to buy such a site meant raising money. The supporters of the college had already given as much as they could, while other wealthy Philadelphians objected to women doctors. In 1858 Preston began walking from door to door soliciting funds.

During this time, she began to suffer from rheumatic fever and exhaustion, and she was confined to a hospital for three months to recuperate.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), the Medical College was forced to close due to lack of financial support. However, Dr. Preston had raised enough money to send friend and colleague, Dr. Emmeline Horton Cleveland, to Paris to study obstetrics so that she could be the resident physician at the new hospital.

When there was still not enough money in the coffers, Preston borrowed her family's horse and buggy and began to go from farm to farm in Bucks, Montgomery and Chester Counties, calling on Quaker families and pleading her cause. Her earnestness and faith were deeply moving, and slowly the money trickled in.

In 1861, Preston and her supporters founded the Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia to offer medical and surgical care for women by women. Its purposes were to:

"establish in the City of Philadelphia a Hospital for the treatment of diseases of women and children, and for obstetrical cases; furnishing at the same time facilities for clinical instruction to women engaged in the study of medicine, and for the practical training of nurses; the chief resident physician to be a woman."

Woman's Hospital accepted its first patient, to the "Lying In Department (maternity)," on December 16, 1861. By April of 1862, twelve patients occupied beds. The hospital grew steadily; by 1875 it housed 37 beds, treated nearly 2,000 patients at their homes (with visits carried out largely by students), and saw more than 3,000 visitors in its dispensary. Women and children were admitted "without regard to their religious belief, nationality or color."

After the Female Medical College was re-opened in 1866, student Mary Putnam Jacobi was refused a medical degree by Edwin Fussel, though she met the required qualifications. Most of the faculty, including Preston, disagreed with the decision. Fussell resigned following the incident, and Preston was appointed dean.

Dean of Woman's Medical College
Dr. Ann Preston served as dean of the college from 1866 through 1872, becoming the first woman dean of an American medical school, a position that allowed her to champion the right of women to become physicians. Under her leadership the college trained the first African American and the first Native American women doctors in the country, as well as the first women medical missionaries to Asia.

The school changed its name to Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867. Soon many eminent physicians, male and female, were among its teaching staff. When many small medical colleges were forced to close because of the introduction of higher standards in medical training, the College survived. In 1863 the school began to train nurses, one of the first institutions in the United States to do so.

Some of the women who audited the courses at the college gave lectures on physiology and hygiene to women in the poorest sections of the city of Philadelphia, thus pioneering medical outreach as a branch of social work. One of these women was Sarah Mapps Douglass, an African American teacher and Quaker.

While she had achieved her goal of establishing a woman's hospital, Ann Preston believed that her female medical students deserved the right to attend the larger, all-purpose clinics and hospitals in Philadelphia so they might learn to deal with a greater variety of medical conditions. At first all the hospitals barred "lady doctors."

However, in 1868 Preston won the right for her students to attend the teaching clinics at Blockley Hospital. When the first women arrived, however, they were met by an angry demonstration. The male medical students shouted insults and threw paper, tinfoil and tobacco quids at the women. The female students remained composed and attended the clinic, but on their way out they were pelted with rocks.

Following this demonstration, the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and of Jefferson Medical College held a meeting attended by representatives of the medical staffs of all the hospitals in Philadelphia to discuss the admission of women medical students and declared themselves to be opposed to the "admixture of the sexes at clinical instruction in medicine and surgery."

Because of the publicity over the behavior of the male medical students at Blockley and Preston's protest against it, public opinion began to swing in favor of the education of women doctors. In 1869 she made a similar arrangement with the Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Preston accompanied her students to the first clinic and witnessed the harassment by male students firsthand.

In a letter written February 21, 1925, one of Preston's former students, Sarah Hall, recalled the events that day for the 75th anniversary of the Woman's Medical College:

"We were allowed to enter by way of the back stairs, and were greeted by the men students with hisses and paper wads, and frequently during the clinic were treated to more of the same. The Professor of Surgery came in and bowed to the men only. More hisses... We retired the same way we entered and, on reaching the outer door, found men students lined up on one side of the way, and we, to get out, had to take the road and walk to the street to the tune of 'The Rogues March.' Our students separated as soon as possible. All who could took the little antiquated horse cars in any direction they were going. The men separated also, and in groups of twos, threes and fours, followed the women."

Late Years
By this time Ann Preston was gravely ill, suffering from articular rheumatism. She continued to teach at the college, serving as professor of physiology, and to serve as consulting physician at the Woman's Hospital, but she had to restrict her private practice to office visits because she could no longer ride out to visit her patients in their homes.

Nevertheless, her spirit remained strong, and she was a constant inspiration to her students. Year after year she addressed the graduating class of the Female Medical College, urging them to continue to practice the highest standards of medical care despite opposition. In 1871 Preston suffered an attack of acute articular rheumatism, which left her in a weakened state.

Dr. Ann Preston died on April 18, 1872 and was buried near her beloved friends Lucretia and James Mott and many other Quaker abolitionists at Fair Hill burial ground in North Philadelphia. Ann left her instruments and her life savings to her beloved college for a scholarship. Six years later, her friend Dr. Emmeline Cleveland died and was buried next to Dr. Preston, as she had requested.

There is a beautiful sequel to Ann Preston's life. The Woman's Hospital that she founded flourished on North College Avenue for many years and then was moved to West Philadelphia, where the street facing it was named Preston Street. The neighborhood around it deteriorated, there was less need for a woman's hospital, and it was abandoned some years ago. However, it has now been rehabilitated by a Quaker group, Friends Rehabilitation Corporation, as housing for elderly and homeless women.

Wikipedia: Ann Preston
Pioneer Woman Doctor: Ann Preston
Changing the Face of Medicine: Dr. Ann Preston
Wikipedia: Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania


Black Women After the Civil War: African American Women in Postbellum America

By Maggie MacLean 9-14-16

After the Civil War, African American women were promised a new life of freedom with the same rights provided to other American citizens. But the newly freed women in the South had little or no money, limited or no education and little access to it, and racism impacted every area of their lives. The transition from enslavement to freedom was a difficult and frightening one for most black women who emerged from enslavement knowing "that what they got wasn't what they wanted; it wasn't freedom, really."

The Civil War promised freedom to African American women, but as the Confederate Army and slaveowners fleeing from Union troops often took their male slaves with them. The women and children were left behind. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation freed African Americans in rebel states in 1863 and the Thirteenth Amendment emancipated all slaves wherever they were, the nation was still unprepared to deal with the question of full citizenship for its newly freed black population.

Freedmen's Bureau
The Bureau assisted African Americans in finding jobs, land, a home, and an education, as well as obtaining clothing, food, water, and health care. It distributed 15 million rations to blacks and set up a system by which planters could borrow rations to feed freedmen they employed. Its efforts were quickly consumed with the plight of former slaves and the objective of establishing emancipation in the face of strong opposition.

In 1865, Republican congressmen founded the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, better known as the Freedmen's Bureau, to avert mass starvation and suffering of freedwomen and men. The immense social crisis that made the bureau necessary came as a direct result of the Union Army's physical destruction of the South.

The Freedmen’s Bureau, which had offices in 15 Southern states and the District of Columbia, operated from 1865 to 1872 to help manage the aftermath of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves.

Southern blacks now faced the difficulty Northern blacks had confronted for decades - that of a free people surrounded by hostile whites. Freedman Houston Hartsfield Holloway wrote:

"For we colored people did not know how to be free and the white people did not know how to have a free colored person about them."

The Reconstruction implemented by Congress, which lasted from 1866 to 1877, tried to find ways for whites and blacks to live together in a free society, but people in the South saw Reconstruction as a humiliating imposition.

With the protection of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, however, African Americans enjoyed a period when they were allowed to vote, participate in politics, purchase the land of their former owners, and seek their own employment. Opponents of this progress, however, soon rallied against the former slaves and eroded the gains for which many had shed their blood.

Nicodemus, Kansas
After the Civil War there was a general exodus of blacks from the South. Some emancipated slaves quickly fled from the neighborhood of their owners, while others became wage laborers for them. Benjamin Singleton led an exodus of African Americans from various points in the South to Kansas. Six blacks and two whites ncorporated the Nicodemus Town Company in Kansas in 1877 - the oldest of about twenty towns established predominately for blacks in the West.

Nicodemus, Kansas is located on the plains in the northwest corner of Kansas. The six founders, all from Lexington, Kentucky, named the town Nicodemus after a legendary African slave prince who had purchased his freedom. They envisioned Nicodemus as a place where its settlers would have both political freedom and economic opportunity.

Northern teachers, many of whom were white women, volunteered to provide education and training for the newly freed population. In time, schools from the elementary level through college provided a variety of opportunities, from the rudiments of reading and writing and various types of basic vocational training to classics, arts, and theology.

By 1886 Nicodemus had become a prosperous community surrounded by farms owned by blacks. The town had two newspapers, the Nicodemus Enterprise and Nicodemus Western Cyclone. There was also a drugstore, a bank, schoolhouse, three churches, and a general store, the first two story building in the town.

Kate Drumgoold
Multiple sources estimate that she was born in 1858 or 1859 near Petersburg, Virginia. While Drumgoold was still young, her mother was sold to allow her owner to pay a poor white man to go to the Civil War in his place. Drumgoold's mother left a husband, one son, and 17 daughters behind. Kate later wrote:

We did not know that she was sold until she was gone; and the saddest thought was to me to know which way she had gone and I used to go outside and look up to see if there was anything that would direct me.

When Kate's mother returned to her family after Emancipation, she found her husband remarried, her daughters scattered, and her only son, who had fought for the Confederacy, was now missing.

Kate and her mother reunited as much of the family as possible and moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Kate worked as a domestic, battled significant illnesses, and worked toward obtaining an education, which she considered essential to the advancement of African Americans. Her plans to attend school had to be put aside for a few years after she contracted smallpox, but she never wavered in her determination.

"For every time that I saw the newspaper there was some one of our race in the far South getting killed for trying to teach and I made up my mind that I would die to see my people taught."

Kate Drumgoold left Brooklyn and went to Wayland Seminary school in Washington DC and later returned. In 1878 she left again and went to Harpers Ferry for four years at school. She returned again to Brooklyn and began teaching in 1886, fulfilling her dream of teaching African Americans. Her mother passed away on February 28, 1894, but Kate continued to teach for eleven more years until her health began to fail.

On January 20, 1897 a severe illness of some sort struck Kate Drumgoold, and she was forced to quit teaching in March of 1897. Her autobiography ended abruptly soon after, as she prayed for the strength to finish her work.

Mattie J. Jackson
Mattie Jane Jackson was born in January 1847 in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Westley Jackson and Ellen Turner. Despite being enslaved by different owners, her parents had three children together: Sarah Ann, Mattie Jane, and Esther J. After the birth of his youngest daughter, Westley Jackson escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad. He settled in Chicago, Illinois and became a minister, but he died before the Civil War.

Mattie Jane Jackson (1847-1910) is known for her 1866 autobiography, The Story of Mattie J. Jackson: Her Parentage, Experience of Eighteen Years in Slavery, Incidents During the War, Her Escape from Slavery: A True Story (1866). Excerpt from that book:

"Two years after my father’s departure, my mother, with her two children, my sister and myself, attempted to make her escape. After traveling two days we reached Illinois. We slept in the woods at night. I believe my mother had food to supply us but fasted herself. But the advertisement had reached there before us, and loafers were already in search of us, and as soon as we were discovered on the brink of the river one of the spies made enquiries respecting her suspicious appearance. She was aware that she was arrested, consequently she gave a true account of herself - that she was in search of her husband. We were then destitute of any articles of clothing excepting our wearing apparel. Mother had become so weary that she was compelled to leave our package of clothing on the way. We were taken back to St. Louis and committed to prison and remained there one week, after which they put us in Linch's trader's yard, where we remained about four weeks. We were then sold to William Lewis."

Six years later, Ellen Turner met and married George Brown and together they had two sons. Brown escaped to Canada around 1855. Turner tried several times to join her husband, but was repeatedly caught and beaten. Brown returned to the United States, changed his name to John G. Thompson, and became a barber in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Her owner grew tired of Turner's constant attempts to escape; he sold her and her children to the captain of a Mississippi River steamboat. When Ellen met Sam Adams and made preparations to marry, the steamboat captain kidnapped the family and sent them to Louisville, Kentucky, where they were sold to different owners.

With the help of the Underground Railroad, Mattie escaped to Indianapolis, Indiana, where her mother and brother reached her several months later. At the end of the American Civil War, Mattie and her mother and brother traveled back to St. Louis, where Turner married Sam Adams.

Shortly after the end of the war, Mattie Jackson's stepfather, who had earlier changed his name to John G. Thompson, located the family and invited Jackson and her half-brother to join him and his wife, Dr. Lucy Susan (Prophet) Schuyler Thompson, a botanical physician and antislavery activist. Mattie was nineteen when she brought her eleven-year-old half-brother to Lawrence, Massachusetts to live with his father and stepmother, Lucy Susan Prophet Schuyler Thompson, who had recently lost her only child, a Civil War soldier.

In 1866, Mattie related her life experiences as a slave to her stepmother who went by the title Dr. L.S. Thompson. also published The Story of Mattie J. Jackson to raise money for Mattie's education. Evidence shows she finished her education and moved back to St. Louis, with her mother Ellen and her third husband, Sam Adams.

In 1869, Mattie married William Reed Dyer, a native of Warrenton, Missouri, a Union Army veteran who was employed as a porter on steamboats traveling up and down the Mississippi River. They eventually moved into their own home in the city of St. Louis. Out of their eight children, four sons and a daughter reached maturity. Of their nine children, five would live to maturity. After Ellen Turner Adams' death in May 1893, the Dyers moved to Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, about thirty-five miles from St. Louis, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Docsouth: Mattie J. Jackson
Wikipedia: Mattie J. Jackson Nicodemus, Kansas
Library of Congress: African American Odyssey
A Slave Girl's Story. Being an Autobiography of Kate Drumgoold
NWHM: Claiming Their Citizenship: African American Women, 1624-2009: The Civil War and Reconstruction Period

Image 1: A freed family on a plantation gathered for a photograph

Image 2: Image: Mustered Out. Little Rock, Arkansas, April 20, 1865. Published in Harper's Weekly, May 19, 1866.
Alfred Waud's drawing captures the exuberance of the African American women and children as the U. S. Colored Troops returned home at the end of the Civil War.



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