Beyond the Battlefield: Civil War POW Camps in South Carolina

Published by: SCNHC     Categories: The Civil WarAfrican American History

Approximately 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War (though recent studies suggest the number is closer to 850,000). But gunshots were not the only means of death during America's deadliest military conflict. 400,000 soldiers were taken as prisoners of war, and upwards of 56,000 died in captivity. This is almost as many as the fatalities of those fighting in Vietnam. Here we outline POW sites in South Carolina and images we have found throughout our research. Make sure to also check out the SC Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum to do more research on your own, and if you have any information to add to our list please email us!

CAMP SORGHUM (COLUMBIA, SC):

  • October 1864-December 1864
  • 1,400 imprisoned, few men died
  • Named after the rations they served of cornmeal and sorghum molasses
  • Eventually moved to Camp Asylum and eventually North Carolina
  • Escapes were common
  • Officer's camp in present-day West Columbia

THE IMMORTAL 600 (MORRIS ISLAND, SC)

  • In 1864, Confederates imprisoned 50 Union soldiers to act as human shields in the City of Charleston
  • In retaliation, the United States Secretary of War ordered 600 Confederate officers to be taken to Morris Island at the entrance of the Charleston harbor to act as human shields for 45 days in attempt to silence the Confederates at Fort Sumter
  • 3 of the 600 died, mostly from starvation which was a retaliation from the conditions of Union prisoners in Andersonville, GA
  • After a yellow fever outbreak, the prisoners were moved to Fort Pulaski outside of Savannah, GA where 13 prisoners died
  • Five eventually died at Hilton Head and another 25 at Fort Delaware
  • Today Morris Island is accessible by boat or private tour only

CASTLE PINCKNEY (CHARLESTON, SC):

  • Originally a log and earthen fort built and named after Revolutionary War hero Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, it was built in 1797 to protect the harbor from France. Completed in 1804, it never saw any conflict and was destroyed by a hurricane that same year.
  • In 1809-1810 the castle-like fortification was built over the fort ruins and was garrisoned throughout the War of 1812 where it also saw no action.
  • A sea wall was added and the castle was garrisoned during the 1832 Nullification Crisis. Afterwards, it was used as storage for gunpowder and military supplies.
  • By the late 1850s, Castle Pinckney was a part of a network of forts protecting the harbor including Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter.
  • On December 27, 1860, one week after SC seceded from the Union, the fort surrendered to the South Carolina Militia and became the first Federal military position seized forcefully by a Southern state government.
  • The Charleston Zouave Cadets manned Castle Pinckney. "Zouave" was a term used to describe a volunteer regiments that were ornamnetally dressed.
  • 154 Union solders that were captured after the First Battle of Manassas were first sent to the Charleston Jail or the Race Course (Hampton Park) before being held at Castle Pinckney. Richmond officials reportedly picked the most "insolent" of prisoners to be held here. They stayed at the castle only 6 weeks because of inadequate permanent accommodations.
  • The prisoners briefly returned to Castle Pinckney because of a fire at the city jail
  • The castle can be viewed by boat.

FLORENCE STOCKADE (FLORENCE, SC):

  • Operated September 1864-February 1865
  • Over 18,000 imprisoned with over 2,800 deaths
  • Built to accommodate prisoner evacuations from the Confederate POW camp in Andersonville, GA
  • Many written accounts from prisoners document cruel treatment under Lt. Thomas Barrett's leadership
  • The site is open to the public and a local Friends group conducts walking tours

CAMP ASYLUM (COLUMBIA, SC):

  • Operated December 1864-February 1865
  • 1 documented death
  • Also a refuge for locals during Sherman's march into Columbia
  • Was recently excavated to prepare for development

HAMPTON PARK (CHARLESTON, SC)

  • Former plantation and race course
  • Deaths estimated at 200
  • Proper burial of the Union dead and a commemorative parade marked first ever Memorial Day celebration
  • Bodies were moved in 1871 to either Beaufort or Florence National Cemeteries
  • Today the property is at Hampton Park and Mary Murray Drive follows the original race track
  • Hampton Park named after Confederate General

Other resources: The SC Confederate Relic Room, The SC Historical Society, SC Department of Archives & History

*See Also: The Charleston Jail