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1864 November 5: Death of David C. Burr and Conditions in Danville Prison

November 11, 2014

This item reports on the death of David C. Burr and conditions in Southern prisons.  It appeared in the November 5, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

Prison Life in the South.

DEATH OF DAVID C. BURR.

D Burr, Wis

D. Burr marker in Danville National Cemetery³

Many of our readers were acquainted with David Burr, who was wounded and taken prisoner at the battle of Chickamagua [sic], and whose fate was unknown for a long time.  The following letter to Mr. Buss, from Sergt. C. S. Chapman,¹ Co. C, 1st Reg., is interesting as furnishing additional proof of the cruel treatment of our soldiers who are prisoners :

DEAR SIR :—Yours, enquiring after David C. Burr, a prisoner of war at Danville, Va.,² is received.  I knew him well, but he is dead.  He died with a fever Feb. last.  He was not well from the time of the battle.  He was brought into the prison where I was, but was left on the lower floor, and lay there sick, and we boys, his acquaintances, went down and got him up into our room, and covered him up with our blankets, and made him as comfortable as we could.—While he was below he was on the floor, with nothing over him, no care, and was cold.  The surgeons do very little for the sick except to help them into eternity as fast as possible.  While he lay sick in our room, the prisoners were

David C. Burr marker in Greenwood Cemetery³

David C. Burr marker in Greenwood Cemetery³

moved to another prison, and they made him get up and walk half a mile to the other prison. We had to help him along.  When we arrived there he sat down by the side of the building, out in the cold, for a full half hour before the rebs made up their minds what to do with him.  Finally they took him to the hospital, but he died a few days after.  If he had had any kind of care he wo’d have been alive and well today.  But I tell you that the rebels mean to kill us off in their miserable prisons.  If a man gets sick, he is left to lay on the naked floor, without any care or medical aid, until his case is about hopeless, and then merely go through the form of removing him to a hospital to finish him up.  I have not time to give you an account of our treatment, neither can language describe it ;  one must endure it to appreciate our sufferings.  The newspaper accounts of the treatment of prisoners convey but a faint idea of the sufferings of our men.

1.  Chauncey S. Chapman was from Waterford (Racine County). He enlisted September 10, 1861, in Company C of the 1st Wisconsin Infantry (3 years). Like Burr, Chapman was taken prisoner at Chickamauga. He eventually returned to his regiment and mustered out October 13, 1864, when his term expired.
2.  During the Civil War, six tobacco warehouses in Danville, Virginia, were converted for use as prisons. At one time they held more than 5,000 captured Union soldiers. Starvation, dysentery, and a smallpox epidemic in 1864, caused the death of 1,314 of these prisoners. Most of the bodies of the dead soldiers were initially buried in poorly-marked, mass graves, but were later exhumed and buried with individual markers in the Danville National Cemetery, which was established in December 1866.
3.  David C. Burr’s marker in the Danville National Cemetery says simply “311, D. Burr, Wis.” The photograph (cropped) of his marker  is by Janice Hollandsworth and appears on one of his Find-a-Grave entries. His date of death is listed variously as December 23 or 29, 1863.
A marker was placed by the family in Greenwood Cemetery in River Falls, Wisconsin. His marker there states “David C., Son of S. H. & E. C. BURR, of Co. F 1st Wis. Reg., DIED in Danville, Va. in a Conf’d Prison Feb. 1864, Aged 22 Years.” This date of death matches with the newspaper account, but no doubt they took that date from Sergeant Chapman’s letter as they no other information at the time. The photograph close-up of his marker in Greenwood Cemetery is by Jayne Hoffman and appears on his other Find-a-Grave entry.

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