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Captives in Gray: The Civil War Prisons of the Union, by Roger Pickenpaugh

Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press, 2009. Pp. xii, 287. Illus, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0817316523.

Pickenpaugh, the author of several works on the Civil War, including Rescue by Rail: Troop Transfer and the Civil War in the West, 1863 (1998) and Camp Chase and the Evolution of Union Prison Policy (2007), here takes a broader look at the Union?s prisoner-of-system during. 

Pickenpaugh opens with a chapter on the initial planning for a P/W system by the Union Army, then devotes two to the early operations of the system, culminating in the signing of the "Cartel" between North and South governing prisoners, parole, and exchange. His fourth chapter deals with the collapse of the Cartel due to Confederate refusal to treat black soldiers on an equal footing with whites. Pickenpaugh follows this with chapters on the management and experiences of P/Ws, capture, detention, guards, escape, rations and discipline, health, and liberation. Noting that conditions in almost all P/W camps were poor, Pickenpaugh concludes that planning was inadequate, camp personnel usually not the best, and funds always insufficient, leading to a death rate of about 12 percent, which, though abysmal, was actually rather lower than rate of deaths from disease in the armies as a whole. 

A valuable contribution to the literature on prisoners-of-war, and not just during the Civil War.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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