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“C” is for Camp Sorghum.

“C” is for Camp Sorghum. In the wake of a yellow fever epidemic among the federal prisoners in Charleston, Confederate authorities transferred some thirteen hundred to fourteen hundred Union officers to the South Carolina interior in late 1864 to prevent them from infecting the local populace. The first prisoners arrived in October 1864 and were interned in a five-acre field near Columbia on the west bank of the Saluda River (now West Columbia). Because their diet consisted of cornmeal and molasses, the Union prisoners began to call their site “Camp Sorghum.” Due to poor sanitation and inadequate shelter, disease and malnutrition were rampant. As many as twenty to fifty prisoners died every day. In December 1864 Camp Sorghum was closed and the prisoners transferred across the river to Columbia to a facility near the State Lunatic Asylum.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.