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October 21, 2011

WRC in the Civil War - Camp Chase

In the summer of 1862, many Western Reserve College students and a few faculty served in Company B of the 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. They served as prisoner of war guards at Camp Chase in Columbus. By all reports, conditions at Camp Chase were harsh. Overcrowding, poor food, and worse sanitation led to the deaths of over 2,000 Confederate prisoners. Their guards were not immune to the harsh conditions, either.

In an undated letter to the Adelbert College librarian, George Thomas LeBoutillier, Class of 1864, reported that he accompanied his classmate, Nicholas David Gilbert, to Camp Chase as a volunteer.

“There, the Commandent begged us to remain outside, within call, or so, until he could get the camp into a sa[n]itary condition, which it was not at all, at the time. Gilbert insisted on going in at once. He was taken out dead from Typhus, in a few weeks time. The rest of us, lodged and boarded outside, as best we could, some of us went to Cleveland, leaving addresses with Commandant. There we drilled quite extensively.”

Accompanying the letter was a “Document regarding N. D. Gilbert of the Class of 1864, who died September 27, 1862. Submitted by Rev. Geo. Thos. LeBoutillier, Class of 1864.” Extracts from the four-page document are transcribed below.

“About the 15th of May 1862, when the Call was made by Gov. Tod for volunteers, the students of W. R. College offered their services, which were immediately accepted. No one of the students seemed more ready to lay aside books and seize arms than N. D. Gilbert, and evidently acting from a sense of duty and the promptings of patriotism and not by impulse or wild enthusiasm. A few days previous to leaving for Camp Gilbert remarked to me ‘We are going down to Camp Chase, perhaps some of us to die’, unconsciously pronouncing his own sad fate.

About the first of June, the Company arrived at Camp Chase. While there previous to his sickness, although surrounded by so many evil and unpleasant influences, G. maintained his Christian standing with strict integrity, sometimes going out upon the parade ground after dark to walk alone engaged in meditation and prayer, as he afterwards told me. About the 15th of July he became indisposed and for several days was unfit for duty and was at the hospital a part of the time. During this time an incident occured worthy of mention, showing G.’s readiness and willingness to alleviate the wants of the needy whenever circumstances would permit, and even when circumstances were quite unfavorable. A poor widow lady whose son had died at the hospital, was desirous of taking the corpse home, but had not the means to defray the necessary expense. G.’s sympathies were immediately excited, but as his own purse was reduced to one dime his own means for rendering assistance were of course entirely inadequate. his last dime, however, was immediately bestowed and then by circulating a subscription paper, he soon raised a sufficient amount to meet the lady’s wants. This was his last act of charity of this nature.

N.D. Gilbert was confined to his bed about eleven weeks.”

Posted by jmt3 at October 21, 2011 01:56 PM

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