Cover image for Elmira : death camp of the north
Elmira : death camp of the north
Horigan, Michael.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Mechanicsburg, PA : Stackpole Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
x, 246 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E616.E4 H75 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E616.E4 H75 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room Non-Circ

On Order



The Civil War prison camp at Elmira, New York, had the highest death rate of any prison camp in the North: almost 25 percent. Comparatively, the overall death rate of all Northern prison camps was just over 11 percent; in the South, the death rate was just over 15 percent. Clearly, something went wrong in Elmira. The culmination of ten years of research, this book traces the story of what happened. Author Michael Horigan also places the prison in the context of the greater Elmira community by describing the town in 1864 and explaining its significance as a military depot and draft rendezvous.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Based on solid research, this well-written study of the Civil War prison camp at Elmira, New York, deserves a wide readership. Opened in the summer of 1864, the prison operated for about a year. Horigan details such topics as punishment, escapes, and the writings of survivors. During the war, the Elmira Daily Advertiser, one of several newspapers giving false reports about prison conditions, incredibly referred to the prison as "a small Eden." The prison held over 12,100 enlisted men; 2,950 of them died during their incarceration. Referring to the prison as "Helmira," Confederate prisoners suffered from hunger (they sometimes dined on rats and cats), cold, disease, inadequate shelter, and unsafe water. Since the 1860s Americans have disagreed about the responsibility for this crowded death camp. Horigan carefully analyzes the critical roles played by post commander Col. Benjamin F. Tracy, chief surgeon Maj. Eugene F. Sanger, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, "an enthusiastic advocate of retaliation." Stanton insisted on the reduction of rations because Union soldiers suffered at Libby and Andersonville prisons. Readers will appreciate the fact that Horigan, who thoughtfully compares Andersonville with Elmira, has made a valuable contribution to a significant subject. All levels and collections. G. T. Edwards emeritus, Whitman College