Thursday, November 8, 2012

48th Tennessee at Camp Douglas Chicago 1862 (part I)

The 48th was one of the first units ever to be incarcerated in hastily prepared Union prison camps. The Federals sent the field grade officers to Fort Warren, Massachusetts, the line officers to Camp Chase Ohio, and the enlisted men to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois. (The officers were later transferred to Johnson's Island on Lake Erie.) 

The defeated Tennesseans began their trip north shortly after the surrender on the evening of 16 February. Grant's troops herded their prisoners aboard the steamer Empress. The steamer departed on the seventeenth and arrived at Cairo, Illinois, that night. The trip up the Mississippi was both uncomfortable and unhealthy. Many of the soldiers crowded aboard the Empress were already sick from exposure, poor diet, and frostbite. 

Sanitary conditions on the vessel were poor. The weather was cold, and the rations consisted of crackers and raw meat. Along the route, Union soldiers gathered to taunt the prisoners. In response, Andrew Campbell reported, "Our men never failed to cheer for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy." At two points along the river, unknown assailants fired shots at the vessel and several prisoners were wounded. 

The Empress arrived at St. Louis on 20 February. The Confederates were surprised to find that the citizens of the city demonstrated pro-Southern sympathy by providing gifts of apples, cakes, tobacco, and money. The enlisted men boarded trains for Camp Douglas that evening, while the officers remained aboard other vessels for the next five days. Sympathizers risked insult and arrest to help the prisoners. One woman, who threw apples to the captives, was accosted by 
a Union officer who shook his fist in her face. 

To support her, one of the Confederate officers cut a button off his uniform and tossed it to the woman. When she attempted to retrieve the gift, a Federal guard stepped forward and "thrust his bayonet in front [of her] to push her back." Unimpressed, she simply pushed the bayonet out of the way and retrieved the button.

photo: Members of the 48th at Camp Douglas

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