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Cahaba Prison (Confederate Prison)

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  • Frank Heinrich Beckmann, (USA) (1838 - 1888)
    Civil War Veteran; prisoner of War at Cahaba & Andersonville prisons; severe abdomen war wound at Pleasant Hill battle.National Archive pension records show that Frank signed his surname as "Beckmann" ...

Cahaba Prison, also known as Castle Morgan, was a prisoner of war camp in Dallas County, Alabama where the Confederacy held captive Union soldiers during the American Civil War. The prison was located in the small Alabama town of Cahaba, at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers, not far from Selma. It suffered a serious flood in 1865. At the time, Cahaba was still the county seat, but that was moved to Selma in 1866. Cahaba Prison was known for having one of the lowest death rates of any Civil War prison camp mainly because of the humane treatment from the Confederate commandant.

R. H. Whitfield, the prison surgeon, reported unhygienic conditions at the camp, citing the lack of a sanitary water supply. The warehouse building had one fireplace and 432 bunk spaces. Despite this, the death rate was about 2%, the lowest rate of any Civil War prison camp. Most Confederate camps averaged 15.5% and Union camps had mortality rates of more than 12%; most deaths were due to disease. Federal and Confederate records indicate that between 142 and 147 men died at Cahaba Prison.

The most outstanding health problem were constant outbreaks of flea infestations. Park historians believe the low death rate was mainly due to the humane treatment of the prisoners based on Capt. Henderson's Methodist beliefs. Once freed, many of these prisoners later died in the subsequent Sultana disaster; it sank while transporting them to the North.