Prisoner of War Camp
In 1862, a prison pen was opened on the old fairgrounds in Macon, Georgia. It
was named after James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia.
The 10th Battalion of Georgia Infantry
was formed March 1862 at Camp Stephens and ordered to Camp Oglethorpe on 14
May 1862 to guard several thousand federal prisoners as well as the supplies
Wedged between railroad tracks and the Ocmulgee River, the site was enclosed by
a rough stockade on fifteen to twenty acres. Nearly 1,000 prisoners, mostly
captured on 6 April 1862 on the first day of the battle of "Shiloh", arrived
in May to find several buildings within, including one large enough to use as a
hospital. The prisoners were a mixture of officers and enlisted men. Their
living quarters consisted of sheds or stalls already on site or shelters
constructed from materials found within the stockade. As a result of a formal
exchange cartel agreed on by the combating powers, most of these prisoners
gained their freedom, and by the beginning of 1863, Camp Oglethorpe was nearly
The breakdown of prisoner exchanges, combined with General Grant's pressure on
Richnond, forced the Confederacy to reopen the facility as an officers'
prison, moving most of the officers from Libby Prison. By the summer of 1864,
more than 2,300 Union officers were housed there. Shelter was barely adequate,
and rations consisted of beans, corn meal, and rice in meager amounts.
The lack of sanitation, coupled with a dwindling diet, led to the usual litany
of such diseases as chronic dysentery and scurvy. An official death total for
the prison is unknown.
Most of the prisoners were moved from the Macon facility by late July 1864 to
the coast, Charleston, SC or Savannah, Georgia, because of Union cavalry raids
in the general vicinity, although some officers were held there until September.
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