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Friday, October 11, 2013

Civil War Photo Friday: Prisoner Exchange

This image shows non-commissioned officers from the 19th Iowa Infantry. They were recently prisoners at Camp Ford, Texas, before being exchanged and arriving at Union-occupied New Orleans. This shot was taken at their arrival back on friendly territory and shows their mixture of relief and exhaustion.

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.


  1. Very interesting. This same scenario of prisoner exchanges ending in a war of attrition plays a pivotal role in my WIP too. Admittedly, I've stolen a lot of ideas from the US Civil War. :)

  2. Interesting. My great, great, grandfather was a Confederate Soldier captured and according to family exchanged for his brother who had gone to Missouri or Kansas and enlisted with the Union. I haven't found the brother. My gr. gr. grandfather's war records don't mention this. I keep hunting.

    1. Interesting! Would you like to do a guest post about your ancestor's war record? I and my readers would love to hear more.


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