Danville's Civil War prisons, 1863-1865
Byrne, Karen Lynn
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During the Civil War, six abandoned tobacco factories in Danville, Virginia, served as one of the Confederacy's major prison compounds. From late 1863 to 1865, the Danville Prisons held over 7,000 captured Federals. The compound was used as both a permanent place of confinement and a transitory depot. The earliest captives found the prisons ill-prepared. Inadequate food, heat, and medical facilities contributed to miserable living conditions. During the spring and summer of 1864, the prisoners enjoyed some sense of normalcy inside the compound. By autumn, conditions had deteriorated. Prisoners suffered from extreme deprivation during the finals months of the war. Throughout Danville's operation, the captives suffered from disease. Chronic diarrhea, smallpox, pneumonia, and variola were the deadliest illnesses. While conditions inside the prisons were often harsh, Confederate authorities in charge of the compound provided for the captives to the best of their ability. Often the citizens of Danville experienced the same living conditions as the prisoners. Hunger, exposure, illness, and depression affected civilians and prisoners alike. tried to alleviate suffering When possible, Danvillians inside the compound. The experiences of captured Federals in the Danville Prisons reveal not a deliberate Confederate plot to abuse prisoners, but rather suffering brought on by shortsightedness and the exhaustion of supplies in the Southern states.
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