An interesting ashort article about Castle Thunder, one of several appalling prisons in the Richmond area.
Made up of three old red-brick tobacco warehouses, the prison sat on Cary Street between 18th & 19th in Shockoe Bottom. A wooden fence created a small prison yard with guards lining the top of the walls. Prisoners were divided among the three buildings: Confederate deserters and political prisoners in one warehouse, black and female prisoners in another, and the last warehouse reserved for Union deserters and prisoners of war. In the back of the prison was a brick area where punishments ranging from lashings to executions took place.
In November of 1862, the prison was less than a year old and run by a new commandant, Capt. George W. Alexander. Despite only being on the job for a month, Alexander quickly established a reputation for brutality and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Stories about Alexander and his guards became so heinous that he would later be brought before the Confederate House of Representatives in an investigation into the treatment of prisoners in 1863. He was later cleared of the charges, in part because his defense cited the character of the inmates as justification for his behavior.
Castle Thunder’s residents were a particularly rough bunch, with one newspaper remarking “even Southerners fear this loathsome place.”
I was shaking my head at the Confederacy, thinking about how the South’s prisons were all hellholes of deprivation and depravity, but stopped when I noticed this statement amongst the comments:
While the “want” in Southern prisons was, in most cases, due to lack of ability to provide more (starvation was widespread in the South during the war), in northern prisons it was a matter of policy.