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carvings from a Union prisoner at Andersonville

Civil War prisoners tried all sorts of methods to stave off their greatest enemy, boredom, including some activities that were intellectually and morally stimulating. In Richmond, for instance, Northern officers formed the Richmond Prison Association to regulate prison life. Those who had been college professors offered courses in Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, and Mathematics, and members of the debating society took up such issues as the advisability of discouraging their fellow prisoners from trying to escape.

At the Johnson's Island Prison in Ohio, a Young Men's Christian Association was created to help the sick and others in need. Members were required to write and present at every meeting an address on a religious, social or literary topic.

Elsewhere, local pastors were often brought into the prisons to "improve" souls. Confederate prisoners at Camp Chase resented patriotic sermons delivered over the prison wall by Col.Granville Moody, "The Antislavery Republican."

While the most popular prison pastime was gambling, there were also baseball teams, until overcrowding prohibited the games. Musical societies and "thespian bands" sometimes offered entertainment as well.