Dorence Atwater was a member of the 2nd New York Cavalry. After his capture he was sent to Andersonville where he became the keeper of the book of death records. He also made another copy of the book which he secretly kept.
Concerned about the grief and uncertainty of families who did not know what had happened to their loved ones, he approached the War Department asking them to publish the list. He was soundly refused. He took his problem to Clara Barton asking her to intercede for him, which she did.
Dorence accompanied Clara Barton to Andersonville to properly mark the graves. The shallow trench graves had been only lightly covered with soil and portions of remains were protruding through the covering. In addition, animals had been digging among the graves. They were able to get funds from Congress for wooden grave markers, which were placed in accordance with his list.
The government still had not published the list, so he took the list which he had loaned to the government and published it himself. He received a court martial for this act and was sentenced to a term in prison before being pardoned by President Johnson. After his release he eventually moved to Tahiti where he married a member of the royal family.
Did You Know?
Around 30,000 Americans were kept as prisoners of war in and around New York City during the Revolutionary War. Most of these prisoners were held in warehouses, churches, and on ships in nearby harbors. An estimated 18,000 (60%) died as prisoners from 1775 to 1783. Of those, over 10,000 are thought to have perished on prison ships, most notably the Whitby and the Jersey.