Thursday, May 14, 2009


Non-fiction, pjotos, maps, bibliography, notes, index, 479 pp., 2008. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640, $75 plus shipping.

From its discovery, Ship Island has been intricately involved in the history of the United States. Ship Island, Mississippi: Roster and History of the Civil War Prison relates the saga from 1699 when the French explorer OPierre Lemoyne d’Iberville used the island as a base of operation to its current tourist status.

Probably the most sinister history pertaining to Ship Island is when it was used by the Union as a prisoner of war camp. It is interesting that the South abandoned this island thinking that New Orleans was sufficiently defended with Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip at the mouth of the Mississippi. This golden opportunity was realized by the North, and the island was seized to first be used as a base of operations in the Gulf. Once the objectives of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Natchez were achieved, Ship Island was converted into what many inmates called “hell in the Gulf.” Maj. Gen. “Beast” Butler was the first to send prisoners to Ship Island. A note worthy point is that these prisoners were citizens of New Orleans, not soldiers. Later Confederate soldiers would be subjected also to the harsh environment of the small island. “A combination of blistering sun, a lack of fresh water, and rampant disease all contributed to sending the death rates of the prisoners to frightening levels,” states Mrs. Arnold-Scriber in the Introduction of this publication. The graves of these individuals have been claimed by the Gulf of Mexico long ago, but their name is remembered in the pages of this book.

Included in Ship Island, Mississippi is not only the well chronicled history, but the rosters of the men imprisoned there. “Organized first by the state in which the soldier enlisted and then by the company in which he served, entries are listed in alphabetically by last name and include information such as beginning rank; date and place of enlistment; date and place of capture; physical characteristics; and where possible, the fate and postwar occupation of the prisoner.” In addition to this, there is a roster with the citizens who were imprisoned at Ship Island.

As with previous books, the Scribers have done a superb job in researching and compiling crucial information. The meticulous history is worthy of any history book, yet the rosters provide invaluable sources for individuals to explore their family history. Detailed maps allow the reader to visualize the information being given, while photos give a glimpse at people and places. Overall, Ship Island, Mississippi is a creditable publication to be a part of any War Between the States collection.

Written by: Cassie A. Barrow

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