Lynchburg’s Civil War POW Camp
Disa Woodland, Copy Desk Editor~
In the past several decades there has been a reinvigoration of the study of the Civil War and a time of remembrance for those lives lost. The curiosity has increased as more documents are being found that would answer questions that are several generations old, such as what happened to the young man who went off to fight in the Civil War?
Dr. Clifton Potter, professor of history at Lynchburg College, aims to answer that question for the Union soldiers that were confined to the prisoner of war camp set up in Lynchburg, Virginia. The camp was set up at the old Lynchburg fairgrounds which were often home to animals; therefore, there were enclosures for these animals and some form of shelter as well. The fairgrounds are now home to E.C. Glass High School.
Potter has been conducting research into the lives and deaths of soldiers at the Lynchburg POW camp for about 10 years now. He has read through and sorted numerous memoirs and regimental histories in an effort to locate the last resting place of many of the Union soldiers who never made it home from the POW camp. His efforts have brought closure to many families, as he has begun piecing together the lives of those who found themselves prisoners of war in Lynchburg from the opening of the camp in April 1862 until its closure in April 1865.
All of the soldiers who died in Lynchburg during the Civil War were buried by the W.D. Diuguid funeral home. Established in 1820 as the main mortuary in Lynchburg, Diuguid’s kept records of every soldier buried and where their body was interred. Some soldiers’ families were able to have them sent home after the war, but many were not, and they can be found in the Old City Cemetery.
Potter has found that the conditions within the Lynchburg POW camp were nearly glamorous in comparison to other POW camps like Fort Sumter in Andersonville, Georgia. There were only two soldiers shot by the guards at Lynchburg compared to the 12, 912 soldiers that died in Andersonville. Unlike Andersonville, there were sources of freshwater near the camp which helped to stave off disease and dehydration. The prisoners stayed in tents and while there were not any hospital facilities initially, by August of 1862 the sick and wounded soldiers from both sides were being treated and triaged in Crumpton’s tobacco warehouse which became a hospital, relative in location to Lynchburg General Hospital.
Those wishing to find possible locations of relatives from the civil war can use the foldthree.com website which uses U.S. census data to locate soldiers’ names and whereabouts before the war.