Camp Douglas Banner

engraving of Camp Douglas made from
a sketch by F. Munson

Statue erected at Camp Douglas
by the citizens of Chicago and
camps of the United Confederate Veterans
in memory of prisoners who died there

[Source: Atlas Editions; Civil War Cards]

Camp Douglas, located near Chicago, Ill., was a sprawling training base for Union soldiers before it was converted into a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers captured at the February 16, 1862, surrender of Fort Donelson. More than 7,000 prisoners were in the camp, many of them ill-clad and sick, with only one surgeon to care for them.

Conditions at Camp Douglas were horrendous. Disease, hunger, poor sanitation, lack of adequate clothing, and miserably cold weather were endured by the men incarcerated there. The president of the U.S. Sanitary Commission inspected the prison and gave a dismal report of an "amount of standing water, of unpoliced grounds, of foul sinks, of general disorder, of soil reeking with miasmic accretions, of rotten bones and emptying of camp kettles.....enough to drive a sanitarian mad." The barracks were so filthy and infested, he said, that "nothing but fire can cleanse them."

In January and February 1863 an average of 18 prisoners died every day, for a death rate of 10 percent a month.