Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table

Elmira Civil War Prison Camp Site

On June 24 & 25, 2017, the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp site is being opened to the public for the first time since the camp closed in August of 1865. We thought this living history event would be of particular interest to the membership of the Rappahannock Valley Hill Civil War Roundtable as a number of Confederate soldiers from Virginia were imprisoned at Elmira; almost six hundred died in captivity and are buried at nearby Woodlawn Cemetery. Included below is a press release with the pertinent information about this commemorative event.




Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp





Elmira Civil War Prison Camp Opens To Public


ELMIRA, NEW YORK – MAY 8, 2017 – A  long-buried part of New York State’s Civil War history is being resurrected this summer in the City of Elmira.


The Elmira Civil War Prison Camp site will open to the public on June 24th and 25th, 2017, with Barracks to Prison Pen: A Living History & Preservation Challenge to be held on the historic grounds of the prison camp along the Chemung River in western New York. 


Among the weekend’s activities are the Grand Dedication of an actual reconstructed prison camp building; living history demonstrations with Union, Confederate, and civilian reenactors; tours of a reproduction barrack building; guided walking tours of the camp; a speakers’ slate of Civil War experts; book signings; Civil War exhibits at the Chemung County Historical Society; and an interdenominational memorial service at the military burial grounds at Woodlawn National Cemetery. In addition, visitors can view the prison camp from a replica wooden observation tower and visit the memorial garden.


In July of 1864, the recruiting depot for Union troops at Elmira was re-designated as a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. During its one year of operation, more than 12,000 rebel prisoners passed through the camp. 2,963 of them died in captivity. Since the war’s end, overcrowding; the poor condition of arriving prisoners; the harsh winter climate; shortages in clothing, shelter, food, and medicine; and bureaucratic foot dragging have all been put forth as reasons for the nearly 25% death rate. The dead were buried, with noteworthy respect, by escaped slave and local church sexton, John W. Jones, at nearby Woodlawn Cemetery, where their graves remain today.


“Barracks To Prison Pen will explore the facts and myths surrounding the history of the camp and seek the proper way to remember the legacy of both the Union soldiers who trained in Elmira and the Confederate soldiers who were imprisoned there,” says Martin Chalk, President of the non-profit Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp, sponsors of the living history weekend.


This commemorative event is intended to raise awareness of Western New York’s unique Civil War past and encourage support for the development of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp site as a center for education, research, and critical examination of a controversial chapter in our nation’s history. 


Admission to the event is free, but donations are encouraged. All activities will take place on Saturday, June 24th, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, June 25th, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m


Additional information is available at Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp www.elmiraprisoncamp.com.