The Deadline

Andersonville Klapp
A prisoner shot at the Andersonville deadline.  Detail from a lithograph

J. Klapp

The deadline at Rock Island Military Prison

Department of the Army/Rock Island Arsenal Museum

Even before the war ended, stories began to emerge about prisoners at Andersonville being murdered at the deadline by the hundreds. Drawings of prisoners being shot at the deadline were widely reprinted, and today the term is almost synonymous with Andersonville prison.

The deadline was certainly a source of fear amongst the prisoners at Andersonville, but it was not unique to their experience. Deadlines were common forms of crowd control in military prisons of the era, especially open stockade type prisons. What constituted the deadline varied widely from prison to prison. At many prisons, such as Andersonville, Camp Lawton, Camp Douglas, and Florence, the deadline was a low rail fence. At the stockade on Morris Island near Charleston, the deadline was a series of stakes with rope tied between them. At Belle Isle it was an embankment and trench. At several of the coastal fortifications, a deadline was not necessary, as prisoners were confined in the casemates. Interestingly, Elmira did not have a deadline, even though it was a stockade prison. The deadline at Rock Island consisted of a series of white stakes that were illuminated by lanterns at night. So while most people associate the prison deadline with Andersonville, it was not a feature that was unique to this place.

Last updated: October 26, 2022

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