Camp Douglas Conspiracy of 1864


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  • “In October, 1864, one of the prisoners requested an interview with the commandment of the post, General Sweet. The message was sent to headquarters. In the absense of General Sweet, I ordered the prisoner sent to my office. He told me that for some time there had been an organization amongst the prisoners of war to break out of the prison square- and that one hundred men had taken an obligation to lead the way, to break the fence, attack the guard in rear of camp, and in the confusion that would ensue, the 11,000 prisoners then in charge would escape.
  • He said that at eight that evening was the time appointed- this was about 6pm that the interview mentioned took place. It was a cloudy evening, and dark- looking like rain.
  • after dismissing the prisoner, i started for the prison square. the officer in charge told me there seemed to be an unsual activity among the prisoners- advised me not to go round without a guard. This, I knew, would attract attention, if not suspicion. At this time the barracks occupied by the prisoners were in rows raised on posts, and each barrack contained from one hundred and fifty to two hundred men. I noticed there was an unusual stir among the prisoners in the barracks.
  • after completing the tour, i returned to headquarters satisfied that there might be truth in the statement of my “spy.” I at once sent an order to the commanding officer of the Eighth regiment to take post on the south and west of the camp. I ordered the Pennsylvania regiment on the rear of that, and around it. I had notified the officer in command of the guard of what might be expected, at the same time had strengthened the guard by turning out the other two reliefs.
  • The rain began to fall, and it seemed to me that the camp was unusually quiet. The disposition of the troops had been made so quietly that the prisoners had not suspected it. I greatly regretted the absence of General Sweet; he had been summoned to Wisconsin, but I carried out this plan to the best of my ability.
  • Eight o’clock had scarcely sounded, when crash! went some of the planks from the rear fence, and the one hundred men rushed for the opening. One volley from the guard, who were prepared for them , the prisoners recoiled, gave up, and retreated to their barracks. Eighteen of the most determined got out, but in less time than i can relate it, quiet was restored. I had the Pennsylvania regiment gradually close in from the outer circle of the race course to the camp. and recaptured all of those that had escaped. I think eight or ten were wounded, but they gradually recovered.
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