You are There: Your Weekly Civil War Conundrum #3

25 Aug

Each week I present an actual event in the lives of those who resided in or came to Franklin, Tennessee during the Civil War. The region serves as a microcosm of the nation (as well as the focus of my dissertation), and these events ask of you – what would you have done in their place?… 

This week you are Ferdinand Beech of Franklin, Tennessee. In 1862 you join up with many of the local boys in Co. H, 20th Tennessee Infantry of the Confederate Army. At the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863 you are badly wounded. Two months later at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, you are captured and sent all the way in the dead of winter to the aptly named Rock Island, Illinois POW camp, where ramshackle barracks and subfreezing temperatures await. Soon after, scores of your comrades start to die of disease, primarily smallpox. You are given the option to take the oath of loyalty to the United States for a chance to be released. What do you do?  

What did Ferdinand Beech do? He took the oath of loyalty, but only after a nearly year had passed. By that time, well over 1,500 of his fellow prisoners had died. Eventually some 1,960 prisoners (and a number of guards) would perish from disease and exposure at Rock Island, making it the 9th deadliest POW camp in the war.

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