Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cahaba Prison

I've often thought that in senior year of high school there should be a history class that is centered around genealogical research of ones family. Think of how much history kids would learn and how it would stick with them. I always learn so many interesting bits and pieces of history because of my research, that I would not have known of otherwise.

For example, while following a lead about a couple Tennessee men who were taken to an Alabama prison during the time of the Civil War, I discovered Cahaba Prison. Cahaba Prison, also known as Castle Morgan, is located in Old Cahawba, Alabama (I'm not sure why there is a spelling difference). It had been an unfinished cotton warehouse that the Confederate government turned into a prison. Although there were only 432 bunks, it would eventually house more than 3,000 men by 1865. A staggering number crammed into a small space. You can imagine that the living and hygiene conditions were horrendous. Surprisingly the death rate was only 2%, which compared to other prisons this was very low.

There is also an archaeological site in Old Cahawba, which incidentally is where Alabama's first state capitol was built. After massive flooding in 1865 the county seat was moved to nearby Selma. Today you can visit Old Cahawba and the various surviving buildings of this ghost town. There are guided tours for a fee or self guided tours available.

1 comment:

  1. They include a genealogy unit in our Middle School curriculum. The unit is combined with a module on immigration. If, like my family, there are no recent immigrants, it makes the assignments a bit tough to complete! "Interview an immigrant or someone in your family who remembers one." Well, maybe in a seance! I think Senior year would be a much better choice.

    Love this post as it captures one of my favorite things about genealogy!