Pitt County Native Dies at Andersonville Prison

A view of Andersonville prisoners and tents in August 1864. Image from the Library of Congress.

On April 29, 1864, 43-year-old Pvt. Howell Turnage, of Company I, 35th United States Colored Troops, died from the effects of chronic diarrhea while incarcerated at the infamous Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

The Pitt County native was one of three black Union soldiers from North Carolina to die in the prison. A farmer by trade, Turnage enlisted with the 35th USCT, the first black regiment organized in the state, at New Bern in May 1863 for a term of three years. He was captured during Battle of Olustee in northern Florida in February 1864.

Turnage was among the first black prisoners of war to arrive at Andersonville in March 1864, the month after the prison’s opening. Contaminated water supplies and nutritional deficiencies, stemming from the overcrowded nature of the camp, greatly affected the health of the prisoners. The conditions resulted in the deaths of close to 13,000 Union soldiers—a death rate of nearly 30%.

Of the estimated 100 black POWs held at Andersonville, 12 perished during captivity. Two other black North Carolina natives—William Morse and Warren Norfleet—also died of disease at Andersonville. Morse, Norfleet and Turnage are all buried in Andersonville National Cemetery on the former site of the prison.

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