Located in Elmira (Upstate New York), the site was originally known as “Camp Rathburn”, and served as a training and staging area for Union recruits. By 1864 (with The War beginning to wind down), more and more containment facilities were needed to hold the massive amounts of Confederate prisoners. In July, 1864 – most “Camp” structures were removed and a large wooden Stockade was constructed. 20 small “barracks” were built to house 6,000 prisoners. Unfortunately, Elmira Prison was soon flooded with up to 12,500 incarcerations. Bad weather, lack of adequate food and medical care (and just plain lack of care in general) – lead to many thousands of Confederates dying (many without shelter). Stories of survival by eating rodents and insects were told by the few survivors.
Elmira quickly earned the name of the Northern “Andersonville”. Nicknamed “Hellmira” by it's inmates, an estimated 29 % of prisoners died (as opposed to 25% at Andersonville – although this has been debated). Many escape “attempts” were made, some involving several tunnels cleverly dug and concealed. No escapes were reported at Elmira, though. A cemetery build to hold “war dead” is located nearby, called Woodlawn National Cemetery. All of the unclaimed Rebel war dead from Elmira were buried there (over 6,000 of the 10,000 who died). Union dead were also buried there as well. A special memorial built in Woodland (by The United Daughters of The Confederacy) was erected in 1937. Oddly, many local Residents have no idea that Elmira even existed! All trace of Elmira Prison was removed in 1865-1866 (other than Woodlawn).