UDC Bethel Heroes Chapter 636 met Aug. 1 for a presentation on “Camp Douglas Civil War Prison” by group President Dottie Barrett.
Frances Powell, local member of Bethel Heroes, has direct ties to the prison. Her ancestor John Parson, who served with Jackson’s Virginia Artillery, during Civil War was a Confederate soldier who died as a prisoner and was buried in a mass grave in Oak Woods Cemetery.
A monument in the cemetery was erected by Southern veterans and dedicated May 30, 1895, to the memory of 6,000 Southern soldiers who died while in the prison from 1862-65.
The prison camp in Chicago was known for having the highest mortality rate of all Union Civil War prisons, Barrett said.
Prisoners began to arrive in February 1862, she said. Confederate soldiers were starved to death as food rations were withheld, and many froze to death in the severe weather while living in tents, she said. Disease was rampant and little medical care was offered. More than 1,091 prisoners died during the winter of 1864.
Prisoners were deprived of clothing to discourage escape. Many wore sacks with head and arm holes cut out; few had underwear. Details on the conditions of the camp came from those who were able to escape.