In 1864, the Confederate Army imprisoned nearly 600 Union Army officers and more than 300 enlisted men as human shields against federal artillery in the city of Charleston in an attempt to stop Union artillery from firing upon civilians in the city. In retaliation, United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered 520 captured Confederate officers to be taken to Morris Island, South Carolina at the entrance to Charleston Harbor and used as human shields for 45 days in an attempt to silence the Confederate gunners manning Fort Sumter. These men became known in the South as the Immortal Six Hundred.
Upon an outbreak of yellow fever in Charleston, the Union officers were removed from the city limits, and in response the Union army then transferred the Immortal Six Hundred to Fort Pulaski just outside of Savannah, Georgia.
There they were crowded into the fort’s cold, damp casemates. For 42 days, a "retaliation ration" of 10 ounces of moldy cornmeal and half a pint of soured onion pickles was the only food issued to the prisoners. The starving men were reduced to supplementing their rations with the occasional rat or stray cat. Thirteen men died there of preventable diseases such as dysentery and scurvy.
At Fort Pulaski, the prisoners organized "The Relief Association of Fort Pulaski for Aid and Relief of the Sick and Less Fortunate Prisoners" on December 13, 1864. Col. Abram Fulkerson of the 63rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment was elected president. Out of their sparse funds, the prisoners collected and expended eleven dollars, according to a report filed by Fulkerson on December 28, 1864.
The prisoners became known throughout the South for their refusal to take the Oath of Allegiance under adverse circumstances. Southern apologists have long lauded their refusal as honorable and principled.
- Historynet: Immortal 600
- "Fort Pulaski National Monument: Immortal 600 Living History Event". National Park Service. 2007-02-17. http://www.nps.gov/fopu/parknews/immortal-600-living-history-event.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
- "Fort Pulaski National Monument". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/fopu/historyculture/the-immortal-six-hundred.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Confederate Veteran Magazine, July 1909, Page 68
- Murray, Major John Ogden (1911). The immortal six hundred. Roanoke, VA: The Stone Printing and Manufacturing Company. http://books.google.com/books?id=t2EUAAAAYAAJ.
- Alabama Civil War Roots
- Immortal 600 Historynet.com
- Minutes of the 1910 annual meeting of the Society of the Immortal Six Hundred.
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