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Friday, October 11, 2013
Civil War Photo Friday: Prisoner Exchange
For much of the war, prisoner exchanges were common. A group of prisoners would be traded for a like number of prisoners from the other side. Sometimes prisoners wouldn't even see the inside of a jail. They'd be "paroled" on the spot wherever they'd been captured if they took an oath not to fight until exchanged. They would then return home and await a notice from their commanding officer that they had been exchanged and should return to duty.
The exchange program mostly broke down a few times during the war due to mutual mistrust. General Grant was always wary of exchanges. He had launched a war of attrition against the South and every prisoner exchanged meant one more soldier for the rebellion, he decided against further exchanges. While this led to horrible overcrowding of southern prisons such as Andersonville, it did bleed the South of men.
Image courtesy Library of Congress.