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Were Southern prisoner of war camps worse than the prisoner camps in the North?


I assume this is for home work, I would suggest if you want to impress the teacher or get a much better grade you use as much of this as you want; the info came from the Library of Congress.  

In the beginning of the war there were no prisons instead Prisoners of War (POW) were paroled which meant prisoners gave their word not to take up arms against their captors until they were formally exchanged for an enemy captive of equal rank. As more and more soldiers were captured they began making prison camps. Up to 1862 prisoner would still be exchanged, but when the Union started using United States Colored Troops (USCT) the Confederate government at first said blacks would not be considered POWs,  but slaves and returned to their masters.  So exchanges were halted.  After the Southern government changed its mind on USCT and treated them as POWs; the Union decided not to allow exchanges.  The reason being when soldiers were exchanged few Union troops return to combat in fact they argued that being captured allowed them to go home; while Southern soldiers would return to the Army to fight again.

As early as,  June 17, 1862, the quartermaster-general of the Confederacy wrote that it was almost impossible to feed the prisoners.  When exchanges were halted it benefitted the Union.  The South had a hard time feeding their soldiers and finding guards.  They ended up using guards from the Convalescent Corp (soldiers with wounds so bad they could no longer travel with the army).

The prison camps of both sides were terrible but regardless of what you’ll read a school history book;  Union prisoners ate the same rations the of the Confederate Army (after the war many Confederate veterans suffered because of their war time diets).  Union prisons had rations, blankets, and sutlers were originally allowed but as the deaths mounted and as former POW were placed in charge of the Union camps the Camp Commanders became more sadistic making Southern soldiers stand naked in the Chicago winter, not feeding them, charging the public to view them and not allowing blankets.

In January 1865, the U.S. Congress passed Resolution 97 on the treatment of Confederate prisoners. “Rebel prisoners in our hands are to be subjected to a treatment finding its parallels only in the conduct of savage tribes and resulting in the death of multitudes by the slow, but designed process of starvation and by mortal diseases occasioned by insufficient and unhealthy food, as well as exposure of their persons to the inclemency of the weather."

It got so bad that Northern civilians would send food and clothes to the Union camps, the Union doctors risked their careers trying to help Southern POWs; both wrote and visited Washington trying to secure help but the camps got even worse.  Ft. Delaware, Elmira and Camp Douglas were the worse some of their commanders bragging they had killed more Southern soldiers then battle field commander.

Suggested viewing “Eighty Acres of Hell”

24,436 Southerners died in the Northern camps, while 22,570 Union died in Southern Prisons.  

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Gary Adams


If it has to do with the War of Northern Aggression, I have usually been able to answer them all.


Assisted editor Southorn Reenactor, consultant with several books and magazines.

Army of Northern Virginia

Assisted editor Southron Reenactor, consultant with several books and magazines to include Coles.

I have three degrees, sadly not in History.

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