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Charleston County Jail Prisoner of War Camp

Search, View, Print Union & Confederate Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865

Confederate 1861- 1865
Charleston, South Carolina

To the chagrin of the Confederacy, Castle Pinckney was found entirely too small and too inadequate as a permanent P.O.W. facility. What had been to be a permanent place of confinement proved to be nothing more than a waystop for a handful of prisoners.

On October 31, 1861, the prisoners were removed from Castle Pinckney and held, again, in the Charleston County Jail. By this time there were nearly 200 additional prisoners there. The Castle Pinckney prisoners remained in these crowded conditions throughout the following 6 weeks until the great fire of Charleston occured on December 11th.

The jail was located in the southeast part of town. It was a strange-looking, octagon-shaped, stuccoed masonry building officialy described as having 3 stories. A 40 foot tower loomed over the structure, giving it a somewhat fortress-like appearence. The officers were confined to the 2nd floor and the enlisted prisoners were confined to the uppermost floor.


As late as December 1861, prisoners were still being confined with the local criminals. Sources indicate that these conditions continued through 1864. Letter-writing and newspapers were prohibited at the jail.

During the december 11th fire, nearly all prisoners were in a large upper room. The guards had left to assist the firemen. As the fire headed toward the jail, the prisoners decided to squeeze through the small window in the room and drop to the street. Once there, they stayed together the best they could.
The next morning, the guards came back to gather up the prisoners. They were transported back to Castle Pinckney until the jail could be cleaned up of debris. The jail was able to confine prisoners again in January 1862. The jail stayed in use until 1865 when the Confederacy surrendered.

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