Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24




War Within Walls: Camp Chase and

the Search for Administrative Reform


The historical literature about Civil War military prisons can be di-

vided into three major categories: prisoners' accounts, accounts of

the camp administrators, and subsequent historical analyses.1 Inter-

est in how captives lived in these prisons, North and South, has nev-

er abated. The historian's desire to find out what prison life was real-

ly like, however, has been frustrated by the utter disparity between

the accounts of the prisoners and their keepers. That such a dispari-

ty exists should not be surprising, for there is seldom a consensus be-

tween the ruler and the ruled. In a prison environment the absence of

freedom often engenders bitter memories among its inmates regard-

less of the actual conditions. This sense of bitterness, which is con-

veyed in most contemporary diaries or journals of former prisoners, is

often accentuated in accounts written later in life.2 The official rec-




Robert Earnest Miller is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Cincinnati.


1. For accounts of the prisoners' perspective of Camp Chase see: Joe Barbiere,

Scraps From The Prison Table (Doylestown, Pa., 1868), 80-250; W. H. Duff, Terrors and

Horrors of Prison Life or Six Months a Prisoner at Camp Chase (New Orleans, 1907),

10-25; John H. King, Three Hundred Days in a Yankee Prison: Reminiscences of War

Life Captivity (Atlanta, 1904), 4-86; and George C. Osborne, ed., "A Confederate Pris-

oner at Camp Chase-Letters and a Diary of Private James W. Anderson," Ohio State

Archeological and Historical Society Quarterly, 59 (December, 1950), 45-57. The ad-

ministrators' perspective of the northern and southern prison systems has been pre-

served in R. N. Scott, et al., ed., A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and

Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, 135 vols. (Washington, D. C.,

1880-1901), 2d. ser., 1-8 (hereafter cited as War of the Rebellion). The second series is

devoted to the records and correspondence among prison administrators. Subsequent

historical analysis of Civil War military prisons has been largely confined to case stud-

ies of individual prisons. See Phillip R. Shriver and Donald J. Breen, Ohio's Military

Prisons During the Civil War, (Ohio Civil War Commission, 1964), 3-29; Gilbert F.

Dodds, Camp Chase: The Story of a Civil War Post, prepared for the Franklin County

Historical Society (circa. 1961), 1-5, available at the Ohio Historical Society (OHS);

and Edward Earl Roberts, "Camp Chase," (M. A. Thesis, Ohio State University,

1940), 1-56. One notable exception is the comprehensive and comparative study of the

northern and southern prisons in William Best Hesseltine, Civil War Prisons: A Study of

War Psychology (Columbus, Ohio, 1930), 34-209.

2. This is particularly true in the accounts of King and Duff.