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Captives in Blue

The Civil War Prisons of the Confederacy

Roger Pickenpaugh

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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1. “We all feel deeply on their account”: Richmond Prisons, 1861

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pp. 1-14

At first they came in a trickle. In June 1861, only a few weeks after the shots at Fort Sumter plunged the United States into civil war, newspapers in Richmond, Virginia, began to report the arrival of Yankee prisoners. They came from Manassas Junction, Newport News, and other places where the two armies were feeling each other out for the battles that lay ahead. Generally there were fewer than fifteen ...

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2. “A very inconvenient and expensive problem”: The Search for New Prisons

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pp. 15-34

“Everybody is asking, ‘What is to be done with the prisoners?’” According to the Richmond Whig of August 5, 1861, that was the burning question on the minds of residents of the Confederate capital. Answers ranged from sending them farther south to releasing the “better behaved” to go home, relate their experiences, and “frighten away others.” Some suggested that Yankee shoemakers be required to...

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3. “Fresh air tastes delicious”: Virginia Prisons and the Road to Exchange, 1862

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pp. 35-56

Despite their energetic efforts, Gen. Winder and other Confederate officials were never able to find sufficient prison space outside Virginia to relieve Richmond of all its Yankee captives. This meant Winder would have to locate more facilities in the capital city. In early March 1862, with the spring campaigns soon to get under...

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4. “This prison in our own country”: Union Parole Camps

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pp. 57-73

On June 28, 1862, a month before the signing of the Dix-Hill Cartel, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 72. The goal of the orders was to address what Secretary Stanton considered a serious abuse of the nascent parole system. The Confederates had begun paroling a number of western prisoners, including some two thousand taken at Shiloh. They had also initiated a policy of...

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5. “The most villainous thing of the war”: Libby Prison, 1863–64

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pp. 74-90

As 1862 came to a close, two major battles again sent thousands of Union prisoners to Richmond. One, the battle of Fredericksburg, fought on December 13, took place only about fifty miles away. The other, the battle of Stone’s River, which lasted from December 31 through January 2, was fought near Murfreesboro, Tennessee....

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6. “It looks like starvation here”: Belle Isle, 1863–64

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pp. 91-102

As long as the exchange cartel remained in effect, Belle Isle remained an unpleasant, but generally temporary, place to be confined. After being closed following the big exchange of September 1862, the facility reopened in January to accommodate prisoners from Fredericksburg and Stone’s River. Most of them were gone by early May, when the battle of Chancellorsville resulted in another large group ...

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7. “500 here died. 600 ran away”: Danville and Beyond, 1864

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pp. 103-118

On October 28, 1863, Gen. Robert E. Lee offered Secretary Seddon some advice. The Federals, Lee had learned, were not likely to resume prisoner exchange. The Confederates, therefore, should make plans to keep a large number of Union captives for the duration of the war. “I would respectfully suggest that the city of Richmond is not a suitable place for the accommodation and safe keeping of these ...

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8. “I dislike the place”: Andersonville, Plans and Problems

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pp. 119-133

Prisoners arriving at Camp Sumter, better known as Andersonville prison, often recorded their initial impressions of their new surroundings. They varied in detail only. “It is horrid to see,” wrote William Peabody of the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts. New York soldier Alonzo Decker described it as “a pen not-fit- for hogs.” John Melvin Converse considered it “the hardest plaise I have eaver been in,” while...

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9. “The Horrors of War”: Andersonville, the Pattern of Life and Death

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pp. 134-156

Just one month before observing that life was back to normal, Samuel Grosvenor had summed up that style of living when he remarked, “I scarcely know what to write. All is monotonous.” Another prisoner wrote of one day’s itinerary, “Day had been spent in cooking, catching lice and hanging round.” Another wrote, “Nothing to do but cook, eat & hunt ‘Greybacks’ [lice], which the latter there is ...

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10. “All are glad to go somewhere”: The Officers’ Odyssey, 1864–65

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pp. 157-174

Some three months after Union enlisted men and noncommissioned officers began arriving in Andersonville, their officers followed them to Georgia. Their destination was Macon, some forty miles to the north. Officers from the Plymouth garrison arrived as early as May 1. However, it was not until the next day that Adjutant...

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11. “A disagreeable dilemma”: Black Captives in Blue

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pp. 175-185

In July 1862 the U.S. Congress approved the enlistment of black soldiers into the American armed forces. Two months later President Lincoln announced his intention to enforce his Emancipation Proclamation beginning January 1, 1863. Both changed the nature of the war. Both also had a drastic effect on Union and Confederate prison policies—as well as the captives affected by those policies....

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12. “Worse than Camp Sumter”: From Andersonville to Florence

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pp. 186-199

In early September, the Andersonville prisoners followed their officers east. One group began arriving at Savannah on the 8th. Another reached Charleston starting on the 10th. Those sent to Savannah went to a stockade behind the local jail, not far from where the officers were confined. Their imminent arrival threw Gen. Lafayette McLaws, then commanding at Savannah, into a panic. Writing...

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13. “Will not God deliver us from this hell?”: The Downward Spiral

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pp. 200-216

On November 21, 1864, Gen. Winder was finally named commissary general of prisoners for the Confederacy. All officers and men at Confederate prisons east of the Mississippi were now officially under his authority. More important, “Commandants of posts in the vicinity of these military prisons are made subordinate to Brigadier General Winder in all matters necessary for the security of the prisoners....

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14. “I am getting ready to feel quite happy”: Exchange and Release

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pp. 217-238

On February 6, 1865, Gen. John H. Winder entered the prison compound at Florence to begin an inspection. He had taken only a few steps inside when he collapsed, dead of a heart attack. His tenure as commissary general of prisoners had been just over two months.1...

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pp. Image 1-Image 10

Union prisoners at Castle Pinckney in Charleston harbor. Prisoners sent from Richmond were housed there in 1861 and 1862. Courtesy massachusetts mollUs Collection, United states Army military history institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.Richmond’s Castle Thunder prison. The majority of inmates held there were civilians facing a va-riety of charges and Confederate deserters. Courtesy national Archives, Wash ing ton, DC....


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pp. 239-284


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pp. 285-294


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pp. 295-303

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386511
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317836

Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Prisoners and prisons.
  • Military prisons -- Confederate States of America -- History.
  • Confederate States of America. Army -- Prisons.
  • Prisoners of war -- Confederate States of America.
  • Prisoners of war -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
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