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Prisons and Prisoners

Prisons and Prisoners

The story of prisoners in both the North and the South is a dark chapter in the history of the Civil War. During the war, 409,608 soldiers, one out of seven, became prisoners, and 56, 194 did not survive the experience. Incarcerated soldiers from both sides endured poor sanitation, inadequate food and shelter, and disease. After Grant ended prisoner exchanges in 1864, the conditions in overcrowded Confederate prisons were especially dire. Many New Jersey soldiers were imprisoned in these notorious jails, particularly at Libby Prison in Virginia. One of the most notorious Union prisons, Fort Delaware, was located just off the coast of New Jersey on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River.

Walter E.H. Fentress. "Memoirs and Naval Life" vol. 3 (Detroit, Michigan, 1887? - 1891)

Walter E. H. Fentress was a native of Virginia, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1849 to May 1879. Captured at Rodney, Mississippi in September 1863, he spent fourteen months as a Confederate prisoner. Fentress composed four volumes of memoirs, illustrated with numerous watercolors, for his daughter in the 1880s.

Letter, John. S. Judd, 3rd N.J. Volunteers to Joseph Thompson, January 27, 1864.

Writing from camp near Brandy’s Station, Virginia, John S. Judd of the Third New Jersey Volunteers writes: "I think that I have been through the ‘mill’. I’ve been wounded a wound from which I will never entirely recover, have been a prisoner, hunted lice in Libby Prison, felt the pangs of hunger on Belle Island, have been sick with the fever in Hospital and so on…. "

Memorial to Confederate Soldiers, Finn's Point, Salem County. Photograph. 1966.

Finn’s Point National Cemetery is located about six miles northwest of Salem, New Jersey, at the north end of what was Fort Mott Military Reservation. Originally the United States purchased the land for the construction of the Finn’s Point Battery to protect the port of Philadelphia. By 1863, however, the grounds increasingly served as a burial site for Confederate prisoners of war who died at Fort Delaware. Finn’s Point was officially declared a national cemetery in 1875.The Confederate Monument was erected by the U.S. government in 1910 to memorialize Confederate soldiers buried at the cemetery. The 85-foot tall concrete and granite obelisk features bronze tablets listing the names of the 2,436 Confederate prisoners of war who died there. The Union Monument was installed in 1879 in memory of 135 Union guards who died while on duty at Fort Delaware and were interred at the cemetery.