Public invited to free Confederate prison exhibit Dec. 9

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SALISBURY ó The public is being invited to view a free exhibit on the Salisbury Confederate Prison Dec. 9.
The exhibit will be available from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Stanback Auditorium of the Rowan Public Library, 201 W. Fisher St.
The Dec. 9 date marks the 150th anniversary of the entrance of the first prisoners into the Confederate military prison in Salisbury. The prison was active between early December 1861 and late February 1865.
Salisbury Confederate Prison Association Inc. members will be on hand to answer questions and to distribute their pamphlet, ěNorth Carolinaís Salisbury Confederate Prison.î
On display will be the model prison buildings made by the late Don Weinhold Sr. The models, constructed about 20 years ago, were based on an 1886 lithograph by Charles A. Kraus.
On Weinholdís death, they were donated to the SCPA Inc. A copy of the Kraus lithograph depicting the prison in 1864 will be a part of the exhibit.
In addition, images of some of the individuals associated with the prison will fill tables, as will descriptions of the prison, drawn from letters and editorials written during or after the war, and a transcription of the deed.
Men from 32 states and the District of Columbia were at this military prison, and flags from these locations will be displayed.
No photograph of the prison is known to exist, but sketches and prints will be shown including one of baseball being played in 1862. There will be photographs of the two cemeteries where Confederate and Union soldiers from the prison were buried ó the Old Lutheran Cemetery and the Salisbury National Cemetery.
Each April, wreaths are placed at these cemeteries during the Annual Salisbury Confederate Prison Symposium, held by the R.F. Hoke No. 78, United Daughters of the Confederacy. There will also be a photograph of Prison Commandant Kentís gravesite at the Old English Cemetery.
North Carolina seceded on May 20, 1861, shortly after Gov. John W. Ellis informed President Lincolnís Secretary of War that ěyou can get no troops from North Carolina.î
By June 8, the Confederate government was seeking a location in the state for a prison. Salisbury was not the first location considered by Gov. Henry T. Clark, who assumed office upon Ellisí death, but it was one that provided acreage, buildings and proximity to the railroad lines.
The property consisted of 16 acres with a three-story brick building, once used as a cotton factory, and additional cottages that had been donated to Davidson College prior to the purchase by the Confederate government for $15,000 on Nov. 2, 1861.
The first prison commandant at Salisbury was Capt. Braxton Craven, who as president of Trinity College brought the Trinity Guards with him to serve as prison guards. Nine others held the position of commandant in Salisbury until the prison was closed in February 1865.
The guards changed over the years with some small units staying for most of the prisonís existence. Some regiments stationed in the area provided guards for much shorter periods and other military personnel were detailed to Salisbury only while recovering from illness or injury.
The first Union prisoners sent to Gov. Clark in Raleigh were 46 soldiers captured in July 1861 at the Battle of First Manassas in Virginia. In November, they were joined by 73 sailors from the U.S. Steam Transport Union, which had run aground on Bogue Island during heavy weather.
All of these prisoners were transferred to Salisbury on Monday, Dec. 9, 1861. By the closing of the prison, it is estimated that 15,000 prisoners were held in Salisbury, and they included prisoners of war, hostages, political prisoners, citizen prisoners and Confederate soldiers who were serving a sentence.
Individuals interested in reading more about the prison may visit the Salisbury Confederate Prison Association Inc. website at www.salisburyprison.org. Questions may be directed to Sue Curtis, president, at southpaws@salisbury.net.

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