16. Rules of the camp divided the prisoners into controlled units
New Year’s Day, 1865, saw the first official rules for the prisoners within Camp Sumter. The prisoners were assigned to divisions, with each consisting of five detachments of 100 men. Each detachment elected a sergeant. One of the sergeants was elected to draw rations for the entire division each day. Officially those rations included bacon or another preserved meat. Most days meat was unobtainable. Each division was assigned its own area of the camp, and the sergeants were responsible for the condition of the area. They were also responsible for carrying the sick to the hospital, and for the those not admitted, returning them to the assigned area. Two roll calls were scheduled each day, and all men assigned needed to be present or otherwise accounted for at each. Prisoners were not allowed to speak with the guards.
If a sergeant failed to report the whereabouts of any man absent during roll call, or reported it falsely, the entire division was denied rations for the day. Additionally, if it became evident the missing prisoner had escaped, or attempted to escape, the sergeant was placed in irons, under close confinement. He was to remain in that condition until the missing man was recaptured or killed. The prisoners were granted the privilege of writing two letters each week, though the letters were closely censored by the Confederates. Descriptions of conditions within the camp were not allowed. The prisoners were also granted the privilege of requesting a private interview with the commanding officer, between the hours of 10 and 11 AM, by addressing themselves to the Sergeant of the Guard. The majority of the day at Camp Sumter was spent in hunger and crushing boredom.