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Posts Tagged ‘prisoners’

 

 

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The WWII POW camp at Gettysburg. Courtesy of the Adams County Historical Society.

Gunter Habock was imprisoned in Gettysburg, but rather than considering it a trial, he enjoyed his time here as a prisoner. It was so enjoyable, in fact, that he returned to Gettysburg in 1970 to show his wife and son where he had spent part of World War II.

 

“He was a boy of 15 in 1939 when Hitler’s Brown Shirts demonstrated for possession of the Polish Corridor and remembers the Polish army in the city,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

An 18-year-old Habock was in Danzig in 1943. He was studying architecture when he was drafted into the German Army.

Habock had served in the war as a paratrooper in the German army, but he had been transferred to infantry when the Germans lost all of their planes at St. Lo, Normandy, after the Allies strafed the location. He was sent to fight in July 12, 1944, and captured along with 24 other paratroopers on July 28.

The captured Germans were taken to Le Havre, where 42 ships waited to sail to the U.S. These ships were loaded with 2,000 German prisoners.

The ships docked at New York and the prisoners were off loaded onto trains to be transported to various prisoner of war camps in the U.S. Several hundred were put on a train to Carlisle. At Carlisle, trucks were waiting to take about 100 of the prisoners to Gettysburg.

Gettysburg housed German prisoners of war from May 31, 1944 until February 1945. It was one of hundreds of POW camps throughout the country during the war.

The early POWs had to build their own camp at Gettysburg. They constructed a 400-foot by 600-foot stockade surrounding the camp along Emmitsburg Road next to the old Home Sweet Home Motel. During this construction phase, the prisoners were housed at the National Guard Armory on Confederate Avenue.

They were primarily put to work supplementing the work force at nearby orchards and canneries. Habock spent a lot of his time working at Peach Glen.

“I ran the cider press and drank lots of apple juice!” Habock told The Gettysburg Times.

Later, he would work at a fertilizer plant in York and loading pulpwood onto trucks and railroad cars in Ortanna.

For their efforts, the prisoners received 80 cents a day. The remaining amount of their daily earnings, which was usually between 50 and 60 cents an hour, was sent to the federal government. According to the National Park Service, the federal government received $138,000 from the Gettysburg POW camp from June 8 through November 1, 1944. On days that a prisoner didn’t work, he received 10 cents a day. The prisoners were paid in coupons, which they could use as cash in the camp exchange.

Habock left Camp Sharpe in February 1946 and was sent to Indiantown Gap, then to Ft. Meade, Md., and finally to Camp Shank, N.Y. From there, he was returned to LaHavre in June 1946 and discharged in Babenhausin, Germany.

He returned to his hometown of Danzig, but found that the Russians had expelled all Germans from it so he and his family had to be relocated to Hanover, Germany.

He earned his degree and became a contractor building apartments and homes. The married in 1947 and went on to have three children.

The Habocks flew into Ontario on vacation and visited Niagara Falls before visiting the sites where Habock had been as prisoner.

“They visited the Peach Glen plant today, where Habock found many changes,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

While in Gettysburg, he met with Eugene Clapper who had also been captured at St. Lo. However, Clapper had been captured by the Germans and sent to a German POW camp. As the two compared notes on their POW experiences, Habock told Clapper, “It was much worse for you than for me. I had enough to eat and the work was not like that.”

At its peak in July 1944, the Gettysburg POW camp held 932 prisoners of war, some of whom, like Habock returned after the war to visit Gettysburg as guests.

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This is the second in a series of articles about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

800px-bird_eye_view_of_the_confederate_prison_pen_salisbury_north_carolina_1864When the Confederate Army left Pennsylvania at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, they left with eight civilians. These men had done nothing wrong except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were captured at different locations around Gettysburg on the suspicion that they were spies for the Union Army.

They weren’t.

They were ordinary citizens caught in the middle of a great battle.

The arrested men were George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

Samuel Pitzer was a Gettysburg farmer who had been arrested on July 2. He wrote that the prisoners were first sent to Castle Lightning prison in Richmond where all of their money except for two cents, their knives and their blankets were taken.

They were then moved to Libby Prison. Pitzer was upset that his hat was stolen there, which he said would have been worth $150 to $200 in Confederate dollars.

“The first thing we hear when new prisoners came in was ‘Fresh Fish,’ to which another would immediately reply ‘Scale him,’ and it was not long they had them all scaled,” Pitzer wrote.

The rations were poor, so much so that even the pigs ate better.

“They raise beans down there on which they fatten their hogs,” Pitzer wrote. “We got a broth with about a dozen of these beans and a little corn bread.”

After a time, they were sent to Castle Thunder Prison where the rations were even worse.

The commander there was a Union army deserter named George Edwards. He had a reputation for brutality. Pitzer wrote that he would make the prisoners stand around him while he swung his sword back and forth coming close to slicing the prisoners open.

After two months in Richmond, the prisoners were sent further south to Salisbury, N.C., where they were imprisoned in an old tobacco factory. At first, there were 500 prisoners in the factory prison, but during October 1863, that number swelled to 14,000.

What little food the prisoners received had a lot to be desired. In the beginning, their rations consisted of a little meat that was “strong and so full of worm holes that we could see through it,” according to Pitzer.

Other days, the guards simply threw a little beef and tripe into the garrison and let the prisoners fight over who got to eat it.

Sometimes the prisoners weren’t fed for two or three days at a time. It was a tactic used to encourage them to join the Confederate army so they could be sent to guard forts and camps.

The prisoners got to the point that they were eating just about anything they thought would fill them up.

“They ate rats, cats and dogs and I saw an Irishman eating the graybacks as he picked them from his clothes,” Pitzer wrote.

Within four months that 14,000 number had dwindled to 4,500 as men died from malnutrition.

“As regularly as the day returned from forty to sixty died,” Pitzer wrote.

The dead were buried in a common grave four bodies deep.

The Gettysburgians endured, though, not knowing when the end would come, but knowing that it would come eventually.

Here’s are the other parts of the story:

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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of three posts about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

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Libby Prison in Richmond, Va., where the Gettysburg civilian prisoners were kept for a time.

In March of 1865, the country was still at war, but the end was near. The Confederacy was collapsing and the Union was pressing its advantage and forcing the Confederate Army to retreat.

They would not surrender easily, though. Just a couple weeks earlier, 40 McNeill’s Rangers had snuck into Union-occupied Cumberland, Md., and kidnapped General George Crook and General Benjamin Kelley from their hotel rooms. They escaped back into Virginia and delivered the prisoners to the infamous Libby Prison where they were promptly ransomed back to the Union.

The generals’ incarceration hadn’t even lasted a month. They were lucky.

Around the same time negotiations were underway to free the generals, several men returned home to Adams County, Pennsylvania. They had been missing for 20 months. They weren’t victorious soldiers. They were farmers, postmasters, and ordinary citizens. They were also a secret, or perhaps, a shame of the Confederacy because these men were civilians arrested by the Confederate Army at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg and marched back to Virginia when the Confederate Army retreated.

“The hostages were selected from three target groups. They were agents of the government such as postmasters or tax collectors, they defied or criticized the invaders or they were prominent citizens in the community,” James Cole, a descendant of one of the hostages, said in a 1994 interview.

On July 2, 1863, Confederate soldiers arrested Samuel Pitzer and his uncle, George Patterson on the suspicion that they were spies. The rebel sharpshooters were hidden behind the Pitzer Schoolhouse and surprised Pitzer and Patterson.

The two men argued that they were farmers not spies. The soldiers told them that they would have to go to the headquarters for a hearing.

“As they did not find any firearms upon us they assured us that we would not be held after the hearing. When we reached headquarters however Major Fairfax said it was too late to give the hearing that night and put if off till morning,” Pitzer wrote of his experiences years later and reported in the History of the St. James Lutheran Church.

The following day, the Confederates were defeated and started their retreat. All thought of the hearing was forgotten and the prisoners were forced to march south, accompanied by a guard who stood beside each prisoner.

Emanuel Trostle, was another Gettysburg farmer. He lived with his wife and child on Emmittsburg Road. During the battle, a Confederate colonel rode up to his farmhouse and warned him that his family was in danger because of the battle.

“Mr. Trostle, who was crippled at the time, and walked with the aid of a staff and crutch, told the colonel that he could not pass through his pickets. The colonel told him that he would take him through, and accordingly did so,” the Gettysburg Times reported in 1914 when Trostle died.

Trostle had second thoughts the next morning, though. He worried about some of the household goods that he had left behind and headed back, accompanied by a friend. They got as far as the pickets before they were captured.

“He was taken to the battle-field, expecting to be paroled, but the firing opened before the parole could be made out. He was taken to Staunton, Va., walking the entire distance of 175 miles; was on the road six days, and for three days had not a mouthful to eat,” according to the Gettysburg Times.

When the Confederates left Pennsylvania at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, they left with eight civilians: George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

Here are the other parts of the story:

 

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