1. When new prisoners are brought into the prison, the term "Fresh Fish" is yelled out to alert the rest.
2. Gangs of thugs prayed on the new prisoners to mug them of their valuables, using clubs and knives.
3. Groups of prisoners collected together to defend themselves.
4. One of the gang of muggers was their leader...a captain, a large, bloated, overgrown, swaggering, filthy bully of course a coward, had been commissioned for political reasons.
5. The Confederate prison officials allowed the prisoners to form laws and courts martial to punish law breakers.
Items one through four all occured at Salisbury Prison, North Carolina according to Sprague's diary.
Item five happend at Danville according to Sprague's diary.
So is the movie correct? Did all of those things happen at Anderson as well?
From the diary...
"RULES UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTED IN THE LOWER ROOM, DANVILLE, VA., PRISON, OCT. 26, 1864:
1. The room shall be thoroughly policed (swept, etc.) four times each day by the messes in succession; viz., at sunrise and sunset, and immediately after breakfast and dinner.
2. There shall be no washing in this room.
3. No emptying slops into spittoons.
4. No washing in the soup buckets or water buckets.
5. No shaking of clothes or blankets in this room.
6. No cooking inside the stoves.
7. No loitering in the yard to the inconvenience of others.
8. No person shall be evidently filthy or infested with vermin.
9. No indecent, profane, or ungentlemanly language in this room.
10. No conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman about these premises.
11. No talking aloud at night after nine o'clock.
12. An officer of the day shall be appointed daily by the senior officer, whose duty shall be to see that these rules are strictly enforced, and to report to the senior officer any violation thereof.
13. Incaseof any alleged violation of any of these rules, the senior officer of the room shall appoint a Court1 to consist of thirteen disinterested officers, who shall fairly try and determine the matter, and in case of conviction the offender's rations shall be stopped, or the commander of the prison be requested to confine the offender in a cell according to the sentence of the Court; and it shall be the duty of every officer to have such offender court-martialed after rejoining his command. For the Committee. H.B.Sprague,Oct,26,1864.
The prison commandant promised that he would execute any sentence short of capital punishment. But one case was tried by such court. The offense was a gross violation of rule 9. The culprit was let off with a sharp reprimand by General Hayes; but my first act after the exchange of prisoners was to prefer charges and specifications against him. The beast was court-martialed at Annapolis in the latter part of July, '65.
The observance of these rules wrought wonders in correcting evils which had become almost unendurable, and in promoting cheerfulness, good behavior, and mutual esteem."