DEN OF MISERY: INDIANA’S CIVIL WAR PRISON
By James R. Hall, Pelican Publishing Co., $25, 160 pages, illustrated
COMPLICITY: HOW THE NORTH PROMOTED, PROLONGED, AND PROFITED FROM SLAVERY
By Anne Farrow, Joel Lang and Jenifer Frank, Ballantine Books, $25.95, 274 pages, illustrated
Ever since the “late unpleasantness” came to a conclusion, Southerners have endured two never-ending accusations that, despite their inaccuracy, have made those from the region feel inferior because of their moral implications.
However, with the recent release of two books, the truth finally is available to all who are willing to examine the facts objectively. What makes these two books so compelling is that they were written by Northerners. (Full disclosure: I am a native Southerner and have a personal connection to the subject of one of the books.)
The charge addressed in the first book is that only Southerners mistreated their prisoners of war — most notably at Andersonville.
James R. Hall’s “Den of Misery: Indiana’s Civil War Prison” is about the infamous Union POW camp known as Camp Morton, located in what today is Indianapolis. My own great-great grandfather, John Meredith Crutchfield, spent about eight months there after being wounded at the Battle of Piedmont in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley on June 5, 1864. He was part of a prisoner exchange on Feb. 2, 1865, and then entered Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond on March 10, 1865. He died shortly thereafter, evidently from the mistreatment he had received at Camp Morton.
When the word “mistreatment” is mentioned in reference to Civil War prisons, Andersonville usually comes to mind.
“In Andersonville’s 15 months of operation, almost 13,000 Union prisoners died there of malnutrition, exposure, and disease,” Mr. Hall writes. “The name Andersonville became synonymous with the worst kinds of atrocities that can be committed against other human beings during a time of war. When Northern newspapers and periodicals published photographs of emaciated Union prisoners, the Northern populace became outraged.”
However, the treatment at Camp Morton was no better. As one Confederate prisoner there stated:
“I have seen the prisoners struggling with each other to devour the dirty matter thrown out of the hospital’s kitchen. Rats were eaten, and I have seen dog-meat peddled out by prisoners. The murdering of prisoners, clubbing, tying them up by the thumbs was known to all there. I could put the entire piece of meat given me for a day’s allowance in my mouth at one time.”
Mr. Hall sheds additional light on the two prisons, North and South, and which was guilty of the greater sin: