Prisoners of War



The prisoner of war experience varied across time and geography during the American Civil War. Both Union and Confederate governments, expecting a short war, did not possess the capabilities of maintaining large prisoner of war populations. Early in the war, prisoners were often exchanged on a one-to-one basis through a parole process and returned to their respective armies. However, the Union Army's enlistment of Black troops in 1862 soured the exchange process and led to the creation of large prison camps in both the North and South.

As the war continued, and battles grew larger and more frequent, the number of prisoners held in these camps quickly exceeded their capacities, leading to overcrowding by 1863. Civil War prison camps, particularly the Andersonville Prison Camp in Georgia, presented some of the most appalling living conditions of the war, which only deteriorated over time. Prisoners of war during the American Civil War faced inadequate food, water, and shelter while living in cramped and deeply unsanitary conditions. Prisoners of war therefore made up a significant portion of deaths during the war, often dying from starvation or sickness. The experiences of prisoners of war differed depending on which camp they were confined to and depending on their race or ethnicity, particularly as the Confederacy in 1863 adopted a policy of executing Black soldiers who surrendered rather than imprisoning them. Even among whites, hostilities over the experiences of battle also led to abuse and violence within the camps, as prisoners sought revenge on vulnerable prisoners.

Ultimately, the prisoner of war experience for those who survived was universally traumatizing and produced one of the most contentious points both during the Civil War and in its commemoration and reconciliation afterword, as the treatment of prisoners of war became a rallying cry for pointing out the cruelties of the enemy for both North and South (National Battlefield Trust; National Park Service).

See also:,many%20camps%20on%20both%20sides.

Related Subjects

Related subjects

The graph displays the other subjects mentioned on the same pages as the subject "Prisoners of War". If the same subject occurs on a page with "Prisoners of War" more than once, it appears closer to "Prisoners of War" on the graph, and is colored in a darker shade. The closer a subject is to the center, the more "related" the subjects are.