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Belle Isle Prison on the James River


emanciated Union prisoner released from Belle Isle

Beautiful Belle Isle, in the James River at Richmond, became a Confederate prison after 1st Bull Run, confining Union noncommissioned officers and enlisted men. No barracks were erected; Belle Isle and the Union prison at Point Lookout, MD., were the only major Civil War prisons that were made up of clusters of tents. Although Belle Isle Prison was intended to hold only 3,000 men, with tents provided to house that many, its population swelled to double that number and more. The islands location in the rapids of the James River made escape very perilous. Many of the men who tried it drowned before reaching safety.