The Immortal Six Hundred

Modern view of the southeast corner of Fort Pulaski used as a prison during the American Civil War
The southeast wall of Fort Pulaski used as a prison during the American Civil War.

NPS/Andrew Miller

In October 1864, Union troops stationed at Fort Pulaski accepted transfer of a group of imprisoned Confederate officers who later became known as The Immortal Six Hundred.

Before arriving at Fort Pulaksi, the prisoners were being held in South Carolina. Edwin M. Stanton, Federal Secretary of War, ordered that 600 prisoners of war be positioned on Morris Island in Charleston harbor within direct line of fire from Confederate guns at Fort Sumter. Stanton's order was a response that followed word that 600 Union officers imprisoned in the city of Charleston were exposed to direct line of fire from Federal artillery.

This standoff continued until a yellow fever epidemic forced Confederate Major General S. Jones to remove the Federal prisoners from the city limits. The Confederate prisoners were then transferred the from the open stockade at Morris Island to Fort Pulaski at the mouth of the Savannah River.

On October 23,1864, over 500 tired, ill-clothed, men arrived at Cockspur Island. Early on the emaciated troops received extra rations and were promised extra blankets and clothing. However, despite the best intentions of the fort's command, the prisoners never received sufficent food, blankets or clothes.

"After picking out the lumps, bugs, and worms in this rotten corn meal there was not more than seven ounces of meal left fit for use. About December 10th scurvy made its appearance in our prison amongst the weakest of the prisoners. Most every man in the prison was suffering more or less with dysentery and a large majority were from the starvation diet, unable to leave their bunks." Capt. J. Ogden Murray; VA. 7th Cav. Staff

"Two days ago, Lt. George B. Fitzgerald was taken to the hospital, and this morning announcement was made that "Fitz is dead". He was a confirmed opium eater; a poor, miserable wreck--ragged, filthy, lousy...He has had no blanket, no socks, hardly clothes to cover him; none of us could supply him, and he slept alone, covering himself with an old piece of tent fly...A graduate of West Point; a lieutenant in the old army, mingling with the Lees, McClellands and Grants..." Capt. Henry Dickinson; 2nd VA. Cav.

During the Immortal Six Hundred's incarceration at Fort Pulaski, thirteen prisoners died. The dead were buried on site at Cockspur Island. Most died of dehydration due to dysentery. In March of 1865, the remainder of the prisoners were transferred to Fort Delaware located 15 miles south of Wilmington, DE.

Last updated: September 21, 2016

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