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The Civil War
(1861-1865)

Prisoners of War



Prisoners of War
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.52

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    parolee, stockade, overtax, well-equipped, determined, rejoining, better, unsanitary, saying, ventilation, latrine, exposure, swampy, prisoner, arrival, minimal
     content words:    Civil War, Dix-Hill Cartel, Union Secretary, War Edwin Stanton, New York, President Davis


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Prisoners of War
By Mary Lynn Bushong
  

1     When the Civil War began, there was no real need to build prison camps. Prisoners were exchanged right after the battle was over or within days after the fact. One private was traded for another, a general for a general, and so on. If there were not enough men of a certain rank to exchange, they could be paroled instead. The specific rules for this were worked out in the July 1862 Dix-Hill Cartel. A parolee was under promise not to return to the battle until the right number of men had been exchanged to even the balance.
 
2     The Dix-Hill Cartel soon failed due to several problems. The Confederate government refused to exchange black prisoners, saying they would be treated as runaway slaves. Also, many Southern parolees did not honor the agreement. They quickly returned to duty, which is what happened after Vicksburg.
 
3     An interesting pattern began to develop regarding exchanged prisoners. Those from the Union often went home after being exchanged. Those from the South often went back to their units to continue fighting. They were in it for the long haul, and their experience made them more valuable.
 
4     Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton decided in October 1862, that prisoner exchanges would stop. The Federal government was well aware that the Confederacy had limited resources, and if the North couldn't win on the battlefield, they would do it through depletion. By forcing the South to house, feed, and guard prisoners, they could use up valuable resources.

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