After the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, the country erupted into Civil War and Elmira became an integral part of the North’s war effort. At first, railroad lines that crisscrossed the area brought raw recruits to train at Camp Rathbun located within the city.
As the war raged on, Camp Rathbun fell into disuse and in July 1864, a part of its 30 acres was converted into a prison to house the increasing numbers of Confederate prisoners of war. Between the summer of 1864 and the fall of 1865, Elmira Prison Camp housed more than 12,000 southern prisoners. Conditions were atrocious, and about one out of every four prisoners would perish from a variety of causes.
Many of the Confederate dead are buried in nearby Woodlawn National Cemetery. After the war, the camp was closed and dismantled, and while much of the camp has disappeared from the landscape, its importance continues to make it part of New York’s Path Through History.
Photos Courtesy of:
The Chemung County Historical Society