Book Review: Captives in Blue: The Civil War Prisons of the Confederacy


by Roger Pickenpaugh

Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 304. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $49.95. ISBN: 081731783X

Prisoners of the Confederacy

The author of  Captives In Gray: The Civil War Prisons Of The Union     (2009), Camp Chase And The Evolution Of Union Prison Policy , and a number of other works, Pickenpaugh takes a look Union troops captured by the Confederacy.  As was the case with most armies of the day, at the time the U.S. Army (and thus also the C.S. Army), had no formal policy on prisoners-of-war, only a little tradition and poorly documented precedent from earlier wars.  So improvisation had disastrous consequences, on both sides. 

Pickenpaugh does an excellent job explaining the emergence of the South’s P/W system.  Despite generally good intentions, an effective “policy” never emerged.  Poor oversight, scant resources, and poorly trained personnel led to hardship, disease, and occasional atrocity.   Pickenpaugh covers the experience of capture, incarceration, and exchange, and the development and collapse of exchange cartels.  He also gives us profiles of many individuals, most notably John H. Winder, the elderly and inept head of the South’s P/W system, who also doubled as the Provost Marshal of Richmond, Henry Wirz, of Andersonville infamy, who seems less a brutal thug than an insensitive, inflexible, and unimaginative petty bureaucrat overwhelmed by his duties, among several others. 

This is a useful book on Confederate military prisons and on the history of prisoners-of-war in general.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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