When Hell Was in Elmira
Elmira’s Civil War prison camp operated from July 6, 1864, until July 11, 1865, incarcerating a total of 12,121 Confederates. Insufficient food, extreme bouts of dysentery, typhoid, pneumonia, smallpox, inadequate medical care and flooding of the Chemung River resulted in the deaths of 2,963 prisoners at the Elmira prison camp, a mortality rate of about 25 percent. Prisoners dubbed the camp “Hellmira.” An observation platform with chairs and binoculars was built outside the prison camp across Water Street west of Hoffman Street. Visitors were charged 10 cents apiece to look at the prisoners. Refreshments were sold to spectators while the Confederate soldiers starved. Located directly across from the camp on Water Street, the observation decks were only opened for a few weeks before the military closed them.