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Danville Prison No.3

Top floor of one of the tobacco warehouses

The Confederate prison at Danville, Va., was not one prison camp but six tobacco warehouses in which captured Union soldiers were confined. The prisoners regarded the prison commandant. Lt.Col. Robert C. Smith, as "a kind, sympathetic man" who "would not voluntarily inflict any unnecessary hardships upon those under his charge." As in most Southern prisons, however, the guards and the commandant could do little to alleviate the horrid conditions.

Inmate Maj. Abner Small of the 16th Maine Volunteer Regiment reported that crowded conditions and boredom were the worst problems at Danville Prison No.3:

"Our quarters were so crowded that none of us had more space to himself than he actually occupied, usually a strip of the bare hard floor, about six feet by two. We lay in long rows, two rows of men with their heads to the side walls and two with their heads together along the center of the room, leaving narrow aisles between the rows of feet...I remember three officers, one a Yankee from Vermont, one an Irishman from New York, and a Dutchman from Ohio, who messed together by the wall opposite me. When they came to Danville they were distinct in feature and personality. They became homesick and disheartened. They lost all interest in everything, and would sit in the same attitude hour after hour and day after day....It grew upon me that they were gradually being merged into one man with three bodies. They looked just alike; truly I couldn't tell them apart. And they were dying of nostalgia."

In February 1864, the residents of Danville wrote to Secretary of War James A. Seddon to "petition for the removal of the Yankee prisoners located among us to some other place...because the hospitals of the prisoners and sick are located in the very heart of the town...so as to infect the whole atmosphere of the town with smallpox and fever now raging within the limits of the corporation."