Confederate Prison No. 6
The Confederate army converted numerous warehouses and city squares in war-ridden Virginia into prisoner of war camps. This former tobacco warehouse became a prison for fifteen months between December 1863 and February 1865. The prison was crammed with several thousand Union troops, a condition that led to 1,323 of those men perishing while imprisoned here. Local citizens and the Confederate troops stationed here sympathized with the terrible conditions the prisoners faced, and many took small steps to alleviate their suffering. As the South suffered increasing privations as the Union gained control of eastern Virginia, however, local citizens had fewer resources and less of an inclination to aid suffering Yankee prisoners.
Backstory and Context
Originally a tobacco factory, this building was transformed into a prison. The factory was built in 1855 by the mayor of the city, William T. Sutherlin. Up to 7000 prisoners of war were held in six prisons in this area from 1863 - 1865.
Disease and starvation were common in these prisons. The Confederate army allocated precious little food for the Union prisoners. Even with some help from the local population, over a thousand perished owing to malnutrition and disease. For the unfortunate soldiers located here, rats were a treasured food. Small Pox and other diseases spread throughout the prisons, causing many to become ill without any medicine or doctors to help. The winter months were the worst, with few blankets and little firewood.
The site of the former prison has been commemorated by a historical marker at the intersection of Loyal Street and Lynn Street.