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Elmira: Death Camp of the North Hardcover – March 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"Horigan's prose is clear and his arguments compelling." --Civil War News "This is the definitive work on a Union prison compound that should never have been one of the worst in the Civil War." --James I. Robertson, Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor in History, Virginia Tech" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Michael Horigan taught and lectured in American History for more than twenty years. Recognized locally as an expert on the Elmira Civil War prison camp, his views were included in a 1993 Public Television documentary on the subject entitled Helmira: 1864-1865. This is his first book.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books; 1st edition (March 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811714322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811714327
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By John Tonello on April 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When talk turns to American Civil War prisons, its often the Confederate's Andersonville, Ga., site that comes first to mind and gets the credit for creating a hell-on-earth for captured soldiers. But Michael Horigan's 2002 book about a northern camp helps set the record straight: Elmira was just as bad and probably worse.

Horigan spent years researching, lecturing about and writing "Elmira: Death Camp of the North" and he makes strong arguments that support the idea that Elmira's abuse of its prisoners was intentional, and the South's abuse of theirs was more a matter of a lack of resources and funds. He reports strong evidence to support his claims, including records that show the Elmira prison camp officers sat on a $239,000 fund without shelling out for food or clothing, and mail between officers showing bureaucracy at its worst.

In fact, much of the book focuses on the decision-makers at the camp, in Albany and in Washington who dragged their feet or ignored problems. It took them nearly half a year to approve a plan to drain Foster's Pond, an open cesspool that likely contributed to illness and disease. The commanding officer, Col. Benjamin F. Tracy, instituted a policy to reject about half the beef intended for Confederate prisoners, which Horigan says essentially helped starve many men to death. By the time the camp closed in July 1865 after just one year in operation, nearly 3,000 men had died there along the banks of the Chemung River.
Horigan's book is engaging, lively and well-researched. Later chapters reiterate earlier points without boring. Even if you're not into the Civil War or prison history, you'll find this book a good, brisk read.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Charles C. DiVincenti Jr. on July 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Mr Horigan's detailed report shows the other side of the Andersonville(Ga) coin - the Northern prison at Elmira! While gut reaction to civil war prison life makes one usually think of the horrors of the Georgia settlement, Horigan deftly outlines the shameful treatment of Confederate prisoners at this installation in an area relatively untouched by the hardships of war. While one could argue many "excuses" for the ill-treatment of Federal troop at Andersonville, Horigan details that NO excuse could exist for the probably deliberate hardships suffered by those at Elmira. Adequate transportation and abundant food existed in the surrounding area, but little was done to offer humane treatment to the incarcerated. Horigan attempts to "name names" and offers insights into the real "villains" in this shameful episode.
Although the text reads a bit static or flat, Horigan makes his points with emphasis. The last chapter summary is well done, too. I'd have like a map or sketch of the grounds and environs, however.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Cox VINE VOICE on April 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I was eight or nine, my family took a Civil War summer vacation: we visited Gettysburg, Antietam, Harper's Ferry, Manassas. We toured battlefields. We went to museums that showed artifacts - minie balls and cannon balls, examples of uniforms and swords, flags of various regiments, photos and paintings showing scenes from the critical days. We saw films, wax museums, displays. It was fascinating, and brought history to life for me. I've always been thankful to have traveled to these places when I was so young.

What I didn't realize is how much Civil War history there was to learn about right here in the Twin Tiers.

Because of my father's ongoing interest in history, and my own interest in books, I knew of MacKinlay Kantor's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Andersonville", an intricate novel detailing life in and around the infamous prison camp in the South. I learned that the Andersonville Prison was a place of horror, where Union soldiers were taken to die by neglect and appalling conditions. Many of us learn of this, at least in passing, because the North won, and winners get to focus on their perspective of the events, people, and places that make up the stories that become history. And then there are books written - several excellent books have been researched and published on Andersonville - and movies made. Eventually, though, enough time passes and people become interested in their local history without feeling indicted by the shame in it. And so, as Michael Horigan explains in the introduction to his book, "Elmira: Death Camp of the North", in 1974 he was asked to teach a graduate workshop on the history of the Civil War prison camp in our backyard.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Lamont G. Sible Jr. on February 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book provieds plenty of ammunition for debates, when people say how terrible Andersonville was.
The North NEVER had a food shortage, Never had an embargo, with-holding food, medicine or clothing. Yet, all this was PURPOSELY with held from the Southern POW's at NOT only Elmira, but other Northern POW camps for pure and simple revenge. This book contains the documents by General Halleck and Col. Hoffman, who ordered the suffering of these poor Southern soldiers.
Using information from this book, has already IN MANY OF MY DISCUSSIONS, quickly halted the accusations of The Terrible Southern POW camps.
The facts are extremely well documented, and the book, while a great read, does a vivid description of the horrors of Elmira. ( Called, "Hell-mira"--by the POW's) ( This book does include photos)
In conclusion, after reading this book, one may wonder how can civilized people, treat their fellow human beings this way. Unfortunatly, this is another chapter of Americas shameful history.
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