The 13th’s POWs

Camp Chase Prison, then on the western outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, was not the worst Union prisoner of war camp. Some say that distinction goes to Point Lookout, in Maryland.

But overcrowding and little food encouraged diseases such as smallpox and typhoid fever which plagued the inmates of Camp Chase as the war dragged on, and helped fill its 2,260-man cemetery—surely the only Confederate city of the dead in Ohio.

Captain Zimmerman R. Mixon, of the Spartan Band, apparently is the only 13th Regiment veteran buried there. Jess McLean’s research shows that Mixon died in a smallpox outbreak on Jan. 29, 1864, two months to the day after the regiment was defeated at Fort Sanders. His remains rest in Row 5, No. 5, Grave 101.

Forty-five men of the 13th Regiment, who were captured in the deep ditch in front of the northwest bastion of Fort Sanders, were sent to various prisoner of war camps.

Private John J. Ball of the Kemper Legion, a 17-year-old student when he enlisted in ’61, was sent to Rock Island Prison, on a swampy island in the middle of the Mississippi River near Illinois, by reputation second only to Point Lookout for squalor and disease.

Twelve more were sent by train to a temporary military prison in Louisville, Kentucky and thence to Rock Island. Private William Harris and Private James Tollerson, both of the Secessionists, were sent to Point Lookout. Private James S. Comfort of the Minutemen of Attala joined Captain Mixon at Camp Chase, but Comfort managed to escape in December.

Several of the POWs had had enough of the Confederacy and took the Oath of Allegiance to the Union. They included Private James Marion Gober of the Minutemen of Attala.

McLean says Mixon was an unmarried Alabaman, a school teacher and a farmer who lived near Sparta, MS, when he enlisted as a private on March 23, 1861.

He was appointed a 2nd Corporal, but rose to 1st Corporal on July 10 and subsequently was promoted to 4th Sergeant, 1st Lieutenant and, finally, Captain of the Spartan Band, the rank he took to his grave.

UPDATE:  Private William Harris and Private James Tollerson, both of the Secessionists, apparently survived Point Lookout. At least they are not on the available roster of the dead.

But three other men of the 13th are listed by a descendants’ organization as being among the thousands who died there of exposure, disease and starvation. They are buried in the camp cemetery.

According to the group’s cemetery roster, cross-checked with Grady Howell’s muster roll, they were Private J.W. Kelly of the Secessionists, Private (later 3rd Sgt.) Rufus C. Lee of the Spartan Band and Private Ebenezer Russell of the Wayne Rifles.

Independent historian Jess McLean has no one named Kelly in the Secessionists; Lee as Charles Rufus Lee, a single, 22-year-old farmer at enlistment; and Russell’s first name as Zachariah and that he enlisted as a 20-year-old unmarried farmer.

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Battles: Fort Sanders, Jess N. McLean, The Kemper Legion, The Minute Men of Attala, The Secessionists, The Spartan Band and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The 13th’s POWs

  1. Ralph Poore says:

    Dick, have you ever seen a roster of prisoners at Point Lookout? I tried contacting the Friends of Point Lookout (http://www.friendsofpointlookout.org/) several times but never received a response.

  2. Dick Stanley says:

    Thanks for the comment, Ralph. No, I never saw a roster of prisoners. I’m not even sure one exists. Well, I see at the link you provide that the Friends do have an official list they are working to expand, though why they only plan to make it available on paper is not clear.

    Point Lookout does have a cemetery for some of the thousands who died of exposure, starvation and disease, and this site, http://www.plpow.com/index.htm, belonging to a descendants organization, has a digital list of the interred. I just went through it and found three 13th men: Kelly, Lee, and Russell and will add them in an update to this post.

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