Joseph Babb Letter of February 26, 1863



Small Pox Hospitale1 St. Louis Mo, Feb. 26, 63

Dear Father and Mother,

I have just received your letter of the 24th intr and hasten to answer the same. I have had the Small Pox very bad but am getting better now and I hope it will not be long until I can return to St. Louis again which I will do as soon as I am able and tho I will you know forthwith that you may get my release as quick as possible for I would like to get home once more if I can do so by taking the oath and giving bond, I have not forgot to put my trust in the Lord for he is is the great physician of mankind and regard him in that light in ever Since and believe in his healing Powers and am Satisfied that he will do his work right. I will add no more present but remain your affectionate Son until death.

J. C. Babb

Died Feb. 28-1863


Conditions in the [Alton] prison were harsh and the mortality rate was above average for a Union prison. Hot, humid summers and cold Midwestern winters took a heavy toll on prisoners already weakened by poor nourishment and inadequate clothing. The prison was overcrowded much of the time and sanitary facilities were inadequate. Pneumonia and dysentery were common killers but contagious diseases such as smallpox and rubella were the most feared. When smallpox infection became alarmingly high in the winter of 1862 and spring of 1863, a quarantine hospital was located on an island across the Mississippi River from the prison.

Up to 300 prisoners and soldiers died and are buried on the island, now under water. A cemetery in North Alton that belonged to the State of Illinois was used for most that died. A monument there lists 1,534 names of Confederate soldiers that are known to have died. An additional number of civilians and Union soldiers were victims of disease and illness.



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