BROCKPORT – The cruelty of war will become apparent to visitors to the Morgan-Manning House on Thursday, Feb. 20th during a 7:00 PM presentation of a new book by Derek Maxfield – Hellmira: The Union’s Most Infamous POW Camp of the Civil War.
An associate professor of history at Genesee Community College in Batavia, Maxfield is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the Morgan-Manning House. Hellmira is his first book. The harrowing tale of Civil War prisoners of war will be explored with an emphasis on the camp that sat on the banks of the Chemung River in Elmira.
Long called by some the “Andersonville of the North,” the prisoner of war camp in Elmira, New York, is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year—from the summer of 1864 to July 1865—but in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man’s inhumanity to man.
Confederate prisoners called it “Hellmira.”
Hastily constructed, poorly planned, and overcrowded, prisoner of war camps North and South were dumping grounds for the refuse of war. An unfortunate necessity, both sides regarded the camps as temporary inconveniences—and distractions from the important task of winning the war. There was no need, they believed, to construct expensive shelters or provide better rations. They needed only to sustain life long enough for the war to be won. Victory would deliver prisoners from their conditions.
As a result, conditions in the prisoner of war camps amounted to a great humanitarian crisis, the extent of which could hardly be understood even after the blood stopped flowing on the battlefields.
In the years after the war, as Reconstruction became increasingly bitter, the North pointed to Camp Sumter—better known as the Andersonville POW camp in Americus, Georgia—as evidence of the cruelty and barbarity of the Confederacy. The South, in turn, cited the camp in Elmira as a place where Union authorities withheld adequate food and shelter and purposefully caused thousands to suffer in the bitter cold. This finger-pointing by both sides would go on for over a century.
And as it did, the legend of Hellmira grew.
The program is free and open to the public. Donations are welcome. Refreshments will be served following the program.
Maxfield’s book is available on Amazon for pre-order as well as other prominent booksellers and is published by Savas Beatie. Anyone with questions about the presentation or the book may contact Derek Maxfield at email@example.com or the Morgan-Manning business office at 585 637-3645.