Camp Chase Prisoner of War Camp Civil War


"Two months after his arrival at Camp Chase, Watt had settled into a routine. He was housed in Prison 3 which contained 18 barracks, each 24 by 100 feet. Built two foot off the ground each building had open foundations to deter tunneling. The ground between the barracks was graded so water would run into a main ditch leading to a larger drain. Supplied with plenty of wood, soap and water, each barrack contained two large box stoves and 80 bunks and was designed was designed to hold from 200 to 300 men. Prison 1 contained commissioned officers and Prisons 2 and 3 contained field officers and enlisted men. Relatives were kept separated and not allowed to visit or communicate. Each prison was surrounded by an 18 foot tall parapet and patrolled by armed sentinels.
As new barracks were built the prisoners would take wood scraps and use their knives to shave bits of wood for bedding. The prison authorities discovered this and forced the prisoners to burn their bedding. A reporter with The Columbus Daily newspaper heard about the action and reported it. When the article was published, the residents of Columbus raised a public outcry and soon wagon loads of straw were being delivered to the prison. Straw was kept supplied after that incident.
Each prisoner was given one blanket, one change of underwear, one suit of common grey pants and coat. If they had money, the prisoners were allowed to purchase from the prison supply room such items as, stamps, writing supplies, tobacco, cigars, pipes, combs, hair brushes, tooth brushes, scissors, thread, needles, handkerchiefs, towels, pocket mirrors and matches. In mid-December of ’64, newspapers and candles were added to the list. Prisoners were allowed to make money by crafting things and selling them to the Yanks. Boots, fiddles, rings and knife handles all brought good prices.
As the temperatures dropped and snow fell for days, Watt realized that he would be warmer on a top bunk. Even though all bunks were shared by at least two prisoners, being close to the ceiling afforded more warmth than a lower bunk. Another benefit of being so high off the ground was, most men would lounge on the lower bunks thereby keeping the upper bunks cleaner.
Hunger was the worst suffering. Rumors abounded that some barracks were hunting and killing rats for food. One third rations was the daily allowance, but the prisoners were often not allowed to eat for three days at a time. Sometimes this was punishment for real or imagined infractions and sometimes in retaliation or because a prisoner had escaped or tried to escape.
Christmas Day, Watts barracks was trying to acknowledge the occasion. They had all been hoarding bits of food for several weeks in order to have a special Christmas dinner. There were little bits of all types of foods including a hot stew made with mystery meat. The soldier who cooked it said it was snake. Doubtful of its true origin the men ate it and enjoyed it."

Excerpt from A Twist of Tobacco by Rita Ownby Holcomb 


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