A Confederates Adventure Helps To Establish Confederate Prisoner Flow To Camp Chase
About half of the Confederate dead at the Camp Chase Cemetery had been sent to Camp Chase from the Louisville Military Prison. There were two major campaigns responsible, the Atlanta Campaign which 439 prisoners had been captured and would die at Camp Chase and the Franklin/Nashville Campaign which 581 prisoners had been captured and would expire.
All of the dead at Camp Chase had families and stories and many of them are within the Camp Chase biographies amounting thus far to over 2 million 4 hundred thousand words which as of yet have been released and so far have taken more than 25 years to compile.
The Confederate prisoner flow from the Atlanta Campaign was fairly cut and dry. With the exception of being wounded or sick the Confederates were taken to Chattanooga, Tennessee on the Western & Atlantic railroad. The next leg of the journey was on the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad. After leaving Nashville the prisoners were taken again by rail on the Louisville & Nashville railroad a distance of 187 miles from Nashville to the railroad depot in Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Military Prison will be further referred to as the LMP.
The Federal government in their wisdom took a full city block and built the LMP just west of the L&N train depot. The LMP was a holding prison or sometimes referred to by some historians as a distribution prison.
Colonel William Hoffman was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General on October 7, 1864 and was the northern Commissary of Prisoners and made the decision to what northern prison the Confederates at the LMP would next be sent to with the exception of 82 days when Hoffman was replaced by Brigadier General Henry W. Wessells by Secretary of War Stanton. In March 1865 William Hoffman was promoted to Brevet Major General and again became the Commissary of Prisoners for both the Eastern and Western theaters of war.
The following is from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion which contradicts some of the information about Wessells and Hoffman on Wikipedia.
The OR’s stated this: Correspondence ETC Union and Confederate page 1117.
General Orders No. 280 War Department, Adjutant General’s Office Washington November 11, 1864.
Brigadier General H. W. Wessells, U.S. Volunteers is assigned to duty at Washington as Inspector and Commissary-General of Prisoners for the country east of the Mississippi River. He will immediately relieve Brevet Brigadier General Hoffman of the office in Washington and of the duties connected with the section of country to which he is assigned.
Brevet Brigadier General Hoffman is assigned as Inspector and Commissary-General of prisoners for the region west of the Mississippi until further orders.
By order of the Secretary of War.
The compiler notes Camp Chase was only one of many northern prison camps the prisoners at the LMP could be sent to. Camp Douglas, Rock Island and Johnson’s Island were just a few of other prisons to name a few. A block away from the LMP was also a Military Prison for women.
It was known after the Battle of Shiloh Tennessee, April 6 and 7, 1862 the United States Sanitary Commission had used steamers to transport both Union and Confederate sick and wounded to various places along the rivers and specifically the Monarch and Magnolia had traveled from Pittsburg Landing to Cincinnati, Ohio and the soldiers were then taken by rail to Camp Dennison. Had the Confederate POW’s at the LMP taken the same prisoner flow in 1864 and 1865? No railroad bridges had been in existence during the Civil War from Cincinnati westward along the Ohio River. And the answer for the Confederate prisoner flow from the LMP to Camp Chase remained a mystery for the compiler for years and luck and raw research led to some answers.
The first clue came from studying a military map of Louisville, Kentucky during the Civil War. The LMP was shown as well as the depot for the L&N. After enlarging the map a short railroad spur was noticed just south of the LMP and named the United States Military Railroad. It is the opinion of the compiler that this short spur was also ran and owned by the L&N prior to the war. The Federal government took charge of railroads they felt would benefit them during the war. The short railroad spur dead ended at the Ohio River. Using a magnifying glass the words Louisville & Jeffersonville Ferry could be read. Jeffersonville was located in Indiana.
To confirm the suspected crossing on the Ohio River the compiler found a newspaper article from the Louisville Courier-Journal that stated and will paraphrase “a Confederate prisoner died last night after getting wet while crossing the ferry and died in cars at Jeffersonville.” The next day the newspaper amended its story and stated the prisoner had not got wet and did not die. From looking at a railroad map of Indiana the compiler noticed a railroad line from Jeffersonville, Indiana and merging northward with another railroad line from New Albany and then merging with the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad line near Seymour, Indiana which traveled eastward to Cincinnati, Ohio. The President of the Ohio & Mississippi railroad in 1860 and 1861 was none other than future Union General George B. McClellan.
The confirmation for this being the correct Confederate prisoner flow from the LMP to Camp Chase, Ohio came from an adventurous Confederate 1st lieutenant named Jackson C. Chaffin.
The 1850 United States census listed Jackson C. Chaffin, born about 1838 in Tennessee and noted as attending school and living in the household of William Chaffin, born about 1802 and listed his occupation as the high sheriff and his wife Matilda Chaffin, born about 1806 in Tennessee. Other family members were mentioned. The family household was living in District 8 in Lawrence County, Tennessee and the census was enumerated on August 22, 1850.
The 1860 United States census listed (Spelled as) J. C. Chaffin, born about 1838 in Tennessee and living in the household of (Spelled as) Wm B. Chaffin, born about 1828 in Tennessee. Other family household members were mentioned and living in district 8 in Lawrence County, Tennessee the nearest Post Office was reported as Lawrenceburg and the census was enumerated on June 13, 1860.
Compiled Military Service Records stated 1st Lieutenant (Spelled as) J. C. Chaffin with Company I of the 3rd (Clack’s) Regiment Tennessee Infantry and under remarks stated wounded at Donelson escaped after the surrender. The compiler notes this would have been Fort Donelson, Tennessee in February 1862 and had he not escaped probably would have been sent to Camp Chase, Ohio. The compiler notes the junior officers captured as Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862 had been sent to Camp Chase.
Lieutenant Chaffin stated he resigned his commission in the 3rd Tennessee Infantry after Fort Donelson and went back to Lawrence County, Tennessee. In June of 1863 he again enlisted in Company B of Cooper’s Regiment of Tennessee Cavalry.
Lieutenant Chaffin was proving to be a slippery individual but not slippery enough to escape romantic matrimony when he married Susan D. Childress in Lawrence County, Tennessee on October 8, 1863 and appears to have had a limited time of what some soldiers referred to as horizontal refreshments before reporting back to military duty.
Obtaining a pass 1st Lieutenant Jackson C. Chaffin was captured in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee on November 3, 1863 and taken to the LMP via Nashville, Tennessee and arrived in Louisville, Kentucky on January 1, 1864 and discharged to Camp Chase, Ohio on January 15, 1864 from the LMP and accompanied by a detachment of guards under Captain Denny of the 20th Kentucky.
The newspaper Louisville Courier-Journal dated January 21, 1864 helped to fill in some details of the journey. “The prisoners state that they were changed to box cars at Seymour [Indiana] and the one in which they were placed had a hole in the bottom of it, which was covered by a plank. During the time they were waiting for the arrival of the Ohio and Mississippi train some two or three hours, the guard placed over the prisoners in this car laid down and fell asleep, believing them to be perfectly secure, as the doors were locked and guards on the outside. The prisoners then conceived the idea of lifting the plank and making their escape, which eight of them succeeded in doing and after traveling to the first station took the Jeffersonville train and came to this city.” [This city being Louisville, Kentucky].
“The prisoners were under charge of Captain Denny and numbered fifty-six. They left this place on the 15th instant and the Captain says that the escape of the eight prisoners were not discovered until they were about to leave Seymour and that they got away by lying on the floor and covering themselves up with their blankets after which they crawled through the hole in the bottom of the car. The guard denies that he fell asleep and had no knowledge of their having got away until he lifted the blanket to awake them to take the train for Cincinnati, when he discovered nothing but the hole left.”
“When they arrived at Columbus, the Captain left the prisoners in the cars and was absent about an hour to get ambulances. When he returned and took the prisoners out, he discovered that four others had made their escape. He thinks they jumped through the window of the water-closet but is not certain that did not get away between Cincinnati and Columbus. The Captain had only twelve guards with him and says that they were not sufficient to guard fifty-six prisoners and the three men who were arrested here confirm the Captain’s belief.”
1st Lieutenant Jackson C. Chaffin of Company B of Cooper’s Regiment Tennessee Cavalry stated within his Federal POW Records, he escaped at Seymour, Indiana. Lt. Chaffin and others made their way back to Louisville, Kentucky and boarded with Mrs. Lightcap. The 1860 United States census listed this being Mary Lightcap, born about 1829 and living in ward eight in Louisville, Kentucky. It appears a neighbor, Mrs. Stewart thought the men being suspicious notified the military authorities and Mary Lightcap and her daughters and the men were taken to the Provost Marshal at the LMP. The Lightcap’s were released and the escaped prisoners put back in the LMP.
1st Lieutenant Jackson C. Chaffin had cheated Camp Chase twice insofar as being an inmate there. However he would not be so fortunate the third time. He was sent to Camp Chase, Ohio from the LMP at Louisville, Kentucky and spent the rest of his military career in Prison number 1 in barracks number six at the Camp Chase Prison. In March 1865 he was given an early release after signing Lincoln’s Amnesty Oath at Camp Chase and went back home to Lawrence County, Tennessee.