INside Story

Indianapolis once hosted a Confederate prisoner camp

We’re taking a look back at Indiana history. All this week, News 8’s Adam Pinsker is taking a look at Indiana’s role in the Civil War. This is the fourth of five entries in our latest INside Story series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Camp Morton first served as a recruiting ground for Union troops.

Amy Vedra, director of reference services at the Indiana Historical Society, said, “The troops would go there, they would muster in and they would be sent to where they would be fighting.”

In 1862, following a major Union victory at Fort Donelson in northern Tennessee, the grounds were converted into a prisoner of war camp for Confederate prisoners.

“During that February after Fort Donelson, 4,000 Confederate soldiers came to Indianapolis to be housed at Camp Morton,” Vedra said.

The camp was named after Oliver Morton, Indiana’s governor during the Civil War.

Camp Morton was on 36 acres that bordered present-day Central Avenue and 19th, 22nd and Talbot streets. The site had been previously used for the state fair, and was again used for the fair after the war. Today, it ‘s a residential neighborhood known as Morton Place.

In a year’s time, 9,000 prisoners passed through the camp. Roughly 1,700 of them died there from disease.

“Many prisoner of war camps dealt with issues of clean water to support those that were there, because their latrine facilities were not always as clear cut from the water facilities,” Vedra said.

Those who survived were released and went back to their homes in the south.

“Some of them even stayed and took the oath of allegiance to the United States as those who have declared their allegiance,” Vedra said.

The Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Morton are buried in a special section at Crown Hill Cemetery on the city’s north side.