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05.05.02 Levy George, To Die in Chicago, Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas, 1862-1865, published in 1999 by Pelican Publishing Co..

Notes Concerning the Author:

Although George Levy is an academic (part time), he is not an historian by trade.  He is a Professor of Legal Studies at Chicago’s Roosevelt University and an attorney “who maintains a private law practice.”  His publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, comments:

Mr. Levy “became interested in Camp Douglas as a student at the University of Chicago, which is located across the street from the site of the camp. . . .   In To Die in Chicago: Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas 1862-65, Levy’s primary sources include original camp records only recently discovered after a church fire in Chicago, as well as baptismal books kept by a priest who visited the camp.  ‘Many people, especially in the South, seem to want some spiritual contact with the place where their ancestors had suffered so much,’ says Levy. In his moving, authoritative account of the atrocities that occurred at Camp Douglas, he bridges the gap between past and present in order to provide the contact necessary to heal these long-festering wounds. . . .  In addition to belonging to the Illinois State Bar Association, Levy is a member of Midwest Authors, which is based in Chicago.”  Among pursuits in his legal career, have been time spent in the “Public Defender’s office and as an Assistant Illinois Attorney General.”


On the jacket of George Levy’s book, the editor wrote:

To Die in Chicago: Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas, 1862-1865, is the first book to delve into the murky waters surrounding what was to become the largest Confederate burial ground outside of the South.  One prisoner lamented, “I wondered what caused all of this fearful mortality. . . .  Was it starvation, neglect, and cruelty?  God alone knows.”  In fact, all three contributed to the demise of thousands, many of whom died from diseases including pneumonia, dysentery, and small pox.  The exact number of prisoners buried at Camp Douglas remains unknown.  Haphazard recordkeeping and a general disregard for the deceased make counting the dead an impossible task, despite the author’s fastidious research, which includes new hospital records found in the National Archives.  Compounding the difficulty, most were buried in unmarked mass graves.

“What is known is that the camp was originally built in 1861 as a Union recruiting and training depot, designed to house approximately 8,000 troops.  The first prisoners arrived the following year.  By December 1864, the number of inmates swelled to 12,082. 

“Surmounting the overcrowding, mistreatment, and abominable living conditions, some prisoners, including T. M. Page, survived.  Of this group, he said, ‘no body of men was ever more tried in any ordeal which tests human nature and proves it credible to mankind.’

“Now their story, and the story of those who died in Chicago, may be told.”  

There are numerous examples of intentional cruelty on the part of Federals at the camp.  Turning to page 289 of this 446 page book, we find this example, not unlike many more:

“Cold temperatures in barracks very likely killed off some sick prisoners who should have been in the hospital.  That Chicago winter [of 1864-65] was devastating.  The death toll reached 217 for November, another 323 died in December, 308 in January and 243 more answered the long roll in February.  This loss of 1,091 lives in only four months was the heaviest for any like period in the camp’s history.  It equaled the deaths at Andersonville from February to May 1864.”

Richard B. Abell, a lawyer, judge, writer and an historian of the War era himself, wrote of Levy’s book: “Compliments to George Levy for his impeccable scholarship and a dispassionate approach that only underscores the reality of a Kafkaesque bureaucratic mismanagement of the Northern prison system that led to the inexcusable death of thousands of Confederate prisoners. . . .  His revelations are nothing less than incendiary.  This book is a ‘must read’ for all Americans’.”

Dr. John McGlone, the editor of the Journal of Confederate History, wrote of Levy’s history: “Not only an exhaustive and detailed study of the largest of Union prison camps, but also a dispassionate exposé of the purposeful brutality practiced by the Federal Government.  The tragedy of the much publicized Andersonville was that a war weary Confederate Government could not feed, clothe or provide medical care for its own people, much less enemy prisoners.  The shame of Camp Douglas and other Northern prisons was that the [Federal] Government could have provided for their Confederate prisoners, but didn’t.  To Die in Chicago is a must read for any student of the supposed ‘Civil’ war.”

Availability of this Book

You can get a new or used copy of George Levy’s book by going to and to other places.  In addition to hardbound books there is a paperback book version and a Kindle e-book version.  You may also go directly to the publisher, Pelican, 1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, LA 70053.