Hellmira (1993) describes the Union prison camp at Elmira, New York, one of the worst of all the Union Civil War POW camps. It also focuses on the reaction of Elmira citizens to a POW camp in their city. Originally built as a training facility for the New York Militia (now National Guard), the Union Provost Marshall converted it into a POW facility for captured Confederates. The title Hellmira, unusual indeed, was the Confederate name the inmates used to describe the place and the horrid treatment they endured at the hands of their Union captors. This film shows how the prison authorities at Elmira built a boardwalk around the camp for the local residents to spend their Sundays promenading and eating ice cream. The Confederate inmates watched with disgust and hatred. It also shows that Elmira’s security was strong, in that only eight Confederates ever escaped, mostly by tunnel. In all, this documentary shows what a local PBS station can do on a shoestring budget and how interest and passion remain strong when it concerns the Civil War.
Robert C. Doyle Franciscan University of Steubenville rcdoyle@sbsglobal.net

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