In 1862, Camp Oglethorpe, a prison pen, known as Camp Oglethorpe, was opened in Macon. Wedged between railroad tracks and the Ocmulgee River, the site was enclosed by a rough stockade on fifteen to twenty acres. Nearly 1,000 prisoners arrived in May to find several buildings within, including one large enough to use as a hospital. The prisoners were a mixture of officers and enlisted men. Their living quarters consisted of sheds or stalls already on site or shelters constructed from materials found within the stockade. As a result of a formal exchange cartel agreed on by the combating powers, most of these prisoners gained their freedom, and by the beginning of 1863, Camp Oglethorpe was nearly abandoned.
The breakdown of prisoner exchanges, combined with General William T. Sherman's Georgia campaign, forced the Confederacy to reopen the facility as an officers' prison. By the summer of 1864, more than 2,300 Union officers were housed there. Shelter was barely adequate, and rations consisted of beans, corn meal, and rice in meager amounts. The lack of sanitation, coupled with a dwindling diet, led to the usual litany of such diseases as chronic dysentery and scurvy. An official death total for the prison is unknown. Most of the prisoners were moved from the Macon facility by late July 1864 because of Union cavalry raids in the general vicinity, although some officers were held there until September.