1. Did you know … that in 1861 Samuel L. Clemens, aka Mark Twain, along with some friends, joined a volunteer Confederate militia in Missouri (which was a non-Confederate state) and trained for about two weeks before reconsidering and disbanding the group entirely. Instead, he headed west to Nevada and California for the remainder of the war where he worked as a miner, newspaper reporter and writer.

Mark Twain (photo by A.F. Bradley) Mark Twain (photo by Wm. A.F. Bradley)

2. Did you know … that early in the war there was a process set up by the North and South to exchange prisoners.  Based on a system used during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, prisoners would be exchanged rather than confining them. Or, failing that arrangement, the captured men could be paroled, meaning that the soldiers would be freed but not allowed to return to their units until they were notified they had been officially ‘exchanged’.

1862 Union camp in the Shenandoah Valley guarding Confederate prisoners  1862 Union Camp in the Shenandoah Valley guarding Confederate prisoners.

During the first two years of the Civil War, this mutual arrangement worked out, for the most part. However it began to fall apart in the fall of 1863 when the Union discovered Conferate parolees, who had not been officially exchanged, fighting at the Battle of Chickamauga. To add to the dilemma, the South refused to treat white and black prisoners equally which resulted in some black soldiers being sent back into slavery or worse, massacred (as did happen at Fort Pillow in 1864).  From September, 1863 to January, 1865 (fifteen months) the prisoner exchange program was suspended leading to severe problems for both sides with overcrowded prison camps which were ill-equipped to handle the volume of the captured soldiers. 

3. Did you know …that prison camps during the Civil War were horrific places with severe overcrowding, little food, rampant disease, terrible sanitation conditions and little or no shelter from the elements. According to “The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War” by Thomas R. Flagel (2003), “A Civil War soldier marching into battle stood a one-in-thirty chance of dying. If he stepped into one of the 150 stockades, warehouses or forts serving as prison camps during the war, his odds fell to one-in-seven. More than fifty-seven thousand soldiers died in prison during the war, just shy of all the American soldiers lost from all causes in Vietnam”.

Andersonville Prison Camp Andersonville Prison Camp

Here is a list from Flagel of his Top Ten Deadliest Military Prisons

1. Andersonville, Georgia (Confederate). 10,000 – 33,000 prisoners. Deaths – 12,919.

2. Camp Douglas, South Chicago, Illinois (Union). 6,000 – 12,000 prisoners. Deaths – 4,454.

3. Point Lookout, Maryland (Union). 10,000 – 22,000 prisoners. Deaths – 3,584.

4. Salisbury, North Carolina (Confederate). 2,000 – 10,000 prisoners. Deaths – 3,479.

5. Elmira, New York (Union). 5,000 – 9,400 prisoners. Deaths – 2,993.

6. Florence, South Carolina (Confederate). Peak 15,000 prisoners. Deaths – 2,973.

7. Fort Delaware, Pea Patch Island, Delaware (Union). 10,000 – 12,600 prisoners. Deaths – 2,460.

8. Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio (Union). 4,000 – 9,400 prisoners. Deaths – 2,260.

9. Rock Island, Illinois (Union). Peak 8,600 prisoners. Deaths – 1, 960.

10. Camp Morton, Indianapolis, Indiana (Union). 2,000 – 5,000 prisoners. Deaths – 1,763.

Another source online on Civil War Prison Camps is: http://www.censusdiggins.com/civil_war_prisons.html






If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by two Lincoln experts:


“An Awesometalk With” Harold Holzer, Lincoln Scholar

(posted on November 10, 2008) 


  “An Awesometalk With” Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian 

(posted on December 08, 2008)