Book Review Andersonvilles of the North: The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners by James M. Gillispie

Pat Young

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#21
Part 9:

The prisoner exchange cartel was suspended by the Union in May 1863 and the number prisoners in the camps on both sides mushroomed. Southern writers after the war depicted the suspension of the exchanges as originating purely in the malevolence of Yankees. What the post-war Lost Cause writers failed to note is that the cartel was suspended when the Confederate leadership announced that captured black soldiers and their white officers would not be accorded the same rights as other prisoners of war.

Black soldiers captured by Confederates could expect to be mistreated, sold into slavery, or executed.
 

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DanSBHawk

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#22
Part 9:

The prisoner exchange cartel was suspended by the Union in May 1863 and the number prisoners in the camps on both sides mushroomed. Southern writers after the war depicted the suspension of the exchanges as originating purely in the malevolence of Yankees. What the post-war Lost Cause writers failed to note is that the cartel was suspended when the Confederate leadership announced that captured black soldiers and their white officers would not be accorded the same rights as other prisoners of war.

Black soldiers captured by Confederates could expect to be mistreated, sold into slavery, or executed.
Really, I think the tragedy of the POW camps can be blamed almost entirely on this one factor:

The cartel failed because of confederate racism towards black soldiers.
 

Pat Young

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#23
Part 10:

Gillispie provides examples of the Lost Cause use of the breakdown of the exchange cartel. He writes:

Sometimes Southern writers of this period simply ignored the reason Federal officials gave for suspending the cartel, preferring to point out that the North halted exchanges and allow readers to infer that no justifiable basis could have existed for condemning thousands on both sides to extended periods of uncomfortable, potentially lethal, confinement in enemy prison pens. Those who did address it claimed it was not the real reason the cartel was suspended. By 1863 the North held more prisoners than the South, making it in its best interest at that point to quit exchanging prisoners. With this in mind, Union officials, one writer claimed, “invented every possible pretext” to keep from exchanging prisoners. The issue of black troops was nothing more, another informed readers, than a “subterfuge to prevent exchanges.” For the Yankees, humanitarian considerations were secondary to winning the war.

The Confederate apologists portray Jeff Davis and his underlings as shocked by the halt to exchanges. The Confederate leadership in this view did nothing wrong to precipitate the change in Union policy. Some later historians adopted this view.

In attacking the suspension of of the exchanges, writers argue that the North stopped trading men because the numbers were in the North's favor if prisoners remained where they were. Because the Confederates had fewer soldiers overall, one returned Confederate prisoner was worth more to the Confederate cause than one returned Union soldier. Grant is typically blamed for taking exchange off the table. Grant did support the suspension of exchanges, but Gillispie points out problems with the argument that he was responsible for them.

Gillispie points out that the suspension came in the Spring of 1863. Think of who Grant was at that point. Here is what the author writes:

There are some serious flaws with this characterization and Grant’s role in the decision. One major problem with laying the issue at Grant’s feet is that the decision was made without any input from him. At the time Grant had his hands quite full with the siege of Vicksburg and it is highly unlikely that he shifted his focus at this critical and decisive moment in the war to make prisoner of war policy changes. More importantly, there is not a scrap of wartime evidence to suggest or prove that he had any direct or indirect effect on the 1863 decision. Grant may well have understood the military advantages of halting exchanges, and no doubt he did, but at that point in the war he was strictly a field officer without much, if any, influence over policy decisions.

Also, let us recall what Grant did with the big catch of prisoners that he took at Vicksburg a couple of months after the exchange halted. Did a massive parole fit in with Grant being strictly opposed to exchanges?
 

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#24
Also, let us recall what Grant did with the big catch of prisoners that he took at Vicksburg a couple of months after the exchange halted. Did a massive parole fit in with Grant being strictly opposed to exchanges?
As I recall, most confederate prisoners of war from Vicksburg went to Camp Douglas near Chicago, and lesser camps that were scattered in southern Illinois.
 

Pat Young

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#25
As I recall, most confederate prisoners of war from Vicksburg went to Camp Douglas near Chicago, and lesser camps that were scattered in southern Illinois.
From the National Park Service:

At the end of the siege of Vicksburg, surrender terms negotiated between General's Grant and Pemberton allowed for the parole of the Confederate garrison. The Union forces did not have to contend with prisoners of war.

Confederate soldiers signed a parole notice promising not to take up arms against the United States until they were exchanged by the proper authorities.
 

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#26
From the National Park Service:

At the end of the siege of Vicksburg, surrender terms negotiated between General's Grant and Pemberton allowed for the parole of the Confederate garrison. The Union forces did not have to contend with prisoners of war.

Confederate soldiers signed a parole notice promising not to take up arms against the United States until they were exchanged by the proper authorities.
Thank you for the correction, Pat.

I was mistaken, as many are... about the p.o.w. camps of that awful time.
 

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Pat Young

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Pat Young

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#30
Part 11:

Gillispie makes the point, in response to claims that Grant played a key role in halting the exchanges, that:

There are some serious flaws with this characterization and Grant’s role in the decision. One major problem with laying the issue at Grant’s feet is that the decision was made without any input from him. At the time Grant had his hands quite full with the siege of Vicksburg and it is highly unlikely that he shifted his focus at this critical and decisive moment in the war to make prisoner of war policy changes. More importantly, there is not a scrap of wartime evidence to suggest or prove that he had any direct or indirect effect on the 1863 decision.


Grant would not have the power to stop exchanges until 1864. It was only then, Gillispie says, that Grant began to put his stamp on the policy. In mid-1864 Grant told Ben Butler, who was heading exchanges, that he felt that the exchanges had become unfair. Union soldiers sent back north were so broken by the poor conditions of captivity that they typically were militarily worthless. Grant believed that the Confederates returned from Union prisons were in considerably better shape.

In a letter from Grant to Canby in September 1864, Grant says that Canby can carry out exchanges right after battles because the captive Unionists are unlikely to have significantly deteriorated under Confederate captivity.
 

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#31
Part 12:

In October, 1864, Lee contacted Grant to see if the Union commander would be willing to exhange men captured in the preceding months. Grant responded that negotiations could not procede until the issue of the equal status of prisoners of war was addressed. Grant wrote “Among those lost by the armies operating against Richmond were a number of colored troops. Before further negotiations are had upon the subject I would ask if you propose delivering these men the same as white soldiers?”

Gillispie describes Grant's response:

Lee told Grant that he was personally willing to exchange all troops on an equal footing, but he had to abide by his government’s position that “negroes belonging to our citizens are not considered subjects of exchange and were not included in my proposition. If there are any such among those stated by you to have been captured around Richmond they cannot be returned.” Regrettably then, Grant informed Lee, no prisoners would be exchanged unless all were eligible. He told Lee on October 3: “I have to state that the Government is bound to secure to all persons received into her armies the rights due soldiers. This being denied by you in the persons of such men as have escaped from Southern masters induces me to decline making the exchanges you ask.” (p. 89)

Can any modern reader find fault with Grant's inquiry and his response to Lee's answer?
 

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#32
Part 13:

Gillispie acknowledges that Black sodliers were hardly treated as equals by the Union army. With a few exceptions they could not be commissioned as officers or serve in "white" regiments. They received lower pay rates for months after their recruitment was first authorized. The suffered harassment from white Union soldiers and were often assigned to menial work. Because the United States army discriminated against its own black soldiers did not, in Gillispie's opinion, mean that it did not take seriously the existential threat that the Confederate leaders had issued against captured African Americans. The idea that United States Colored Troops (USCT) would be enslaved or killed by Confederates if captured was abhorrent to nearly all Americans outside of the South.

The fact is that Jefferson Davis essentially vitiated the 1862 prisoner exchange cartel when he decided not to honor its for Blacks in Blue. The seriousness of the issue was highlighted when the Lieber Code of War, General Order 100, was issued containing a provision barring disparate treatment of captured combatants based on race.
 

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#33
Part 14:

In May of 1863, the War Department issued orders halting the exchanges “in order to be in a position to check the rebel Government and restrain the execution of its avowed purpose" of enslaving or killing USCT. In General Orders 252 the Lincoln administration explained that, “It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its citizens, of whatsoever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies.”

In November 1863, Stanton told Ben Butler:

It is known that the rebels will exchange man for man and officer for officer, except blacks and officers in command of black troops. These they absolutely refuse to exchange. This is the point on which the whole matter hinges. Exchanging man for man and officer for officer, with the exception the rebels make, is a substantial abandonment of the colored troops and their officers to their fate, and would be a shameful dishonor to the Government bound to protect them.When they agree to exchange all alike there will be no difficulty.
 

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#34
Part 15:

Gillispie argues that "With all the correspondence demonstrating that Richmond’s policy was at the center of the controversy, it is difficult, if not irresponsible, to blithely dismiss that policy because Northern whites were racists and could not have really meant what they repeatedly said." (p. 94) Gillispie says that he is not claiming that the Union high command was uniquely racially egalitarian. He understands the racism embedded in the Union leadership. However, even if the moral views of people like Lincoln are set aside, purely practical reasons would suffice to explain Unionist demands that Black soldiers be treated as prisoners of war.

If the Federal government hoped to recruit tens of thousands of black soldiers, it had to demonstrate that it would protect their interests if they were captured. Black recruits already knew that they were likely to receive severe treatment if captured. If the Federal government did not stand up for them, how many fewer blacks would have joined the army?
 

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#35
Because the United States army discriminated against its own black soldiers did not, in Gillispie's opinion, mean that it did not take seriously the existential threat that the Confederate leaders had issued against captured African Americans. The idea that United States Colored Troops (USCT) would be enslaved or killed by Confederates if captured was abhorrent to nearly all Americans outside of the South.
One thing that bears repeating when issues like this come up: many Northern whites in the 1860s were opposed to slavery (and reenslavement) while still being racist. Today many people seem to see racism as a binary, but it is more like a spectrum.

Or to use a metaphor: I don't want my dog to have equal rights to humans, but I'm going to be angry if you kick him.
 

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#36
Part 16:

Although Confederate leaders viewed the Union's use of black soldiers as an abomination, the laws of war did not prohibit the recruitment of a multiracial army. In fact, in 1865 the Confederate Congress itself authorized limited recruitment of blacks. Just because the white South opposed the use of blacks as Union soldiers did not mean that it was illegal for the Union to use those troops and to accord them the ordinary protections accorded to a nation's troops. While the Confederates decried black men in blue uniforms as insurrectionaries, the USCT were regularly enrolled troops of the United States under the command of commissioned officers and subject to the laws of war.

Gillispie's point here should be obvious, even some modern historians disregard Confederate behavior in the discussion of the suspension of exchanges.
 

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#37
Part 17:

Gillispie next deals with the charge that Northern authorities purposely starved Confederates.

Until 1864, Confederate prisoners were supposed to receive the same rathions as the Union soldiers who guarded them. This amounted to 4,000 calories per day. The food was not greagt and the fare was monotonous and lacking nutritional completeness.
 

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#38
Lee told Grant that he was personally willing to exchange all troops on an equal footing, but he had to abide by his government’s position that “negroes belonging to our citizens are not considered subjects of exchange and were not included in my proposition. If there are any such among those stated by you to have been captured around Richmond they cannot be returned.” Regrettably then, Grant informed Lee, no prisoners would be exchanged unless all were eligible. He told Lee on October 3: “I have to state that the Government is bound to secure to all persons received into her armies the rights due soldiers. This being denied by you in the persons of such men as have escaped from Southern masters induces me to decline making the exchanges you ask.” (p. 89)

Can any modern reader find fault with Grant's inquiry and his response to Lee's answer?
Yes, Grant's response suggested that the only black soldiers affected by confederate policies were escaped slaves.

But by then, I think everyone on both sides knew that any black soldier captured by the south might well be considered a slave regardless of his actual status. Attempting to negotiate with the CSA to distinguish between captured free blacks and captured former slaves was not only a fools errand, but it also would have violated the principles of the free states. Free blacks and former slaves had to be treated the same.
 

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#39
Part 18:

Gillispie is on shakier ground in his discussion of the impact of ration reductions on the health of Confederates held captive. As the poor treatment of Union prisoners at Andersonville was revealed, the Union reduced its previously adequate rations for Confederate prisoners, which had been 4,000 calories per day until mid-1864.

Higher death rates after the ration reductions are explained by Gillispie as the effect of the poor condition of Confederates at the time of capture. It is true that the Confederate soldier in the field in 1864 was significantly worse nurished than he was two years earlier. Gillispie asserts that many of those prisoners who died of scurvy in the last year of the war had arrived with scurvy when they were captured.

Gillispie acknowledges the reductions caused a hardship, but he says that purchases from suttlers and food sent in to prisoners from friends in the North supplemented the men's diets. I wondered in reading that, how many ordinary privates had friends in the North to send them food or money to purchase supplies from suttlers.
 

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#40
Part 18:

Gillispie is on shakier ground in his discussion of the impact of ration reductions on the health of Confederates held captive. As the poor treatment of Union prisoners at Andersonville was revealed, the Union reduced its previously adequate rations for Confederate prisoners, which had been 4,000 calories per day until mid-1864.

Higher death rates after the ration reductions are explained by Gillispie as the effect of the poor condition of Confederates at the time of capture. It is true that the Confederate soldier in the field in 1864 was significantly worse nurished than he was two years earlier. Gillispie asserts that many of those prisoners who died of scurvy in the last year of the war had arrived with scurvy when they were captured.

Gillispie acknowledges the reductions caused a hardship, but he says that purchases from suttlers and food sent in to prisoners from friends in the North supplemented the men's diets. I wondered in reading that, how many ordinary privates had friends in the North to send them food or money to purchase supplies from suttlers.
That, Pat, is one of the LARGEST pile of bovine excrement ever piled onto this forum.
First off, early on the Confederate Soldiers in prison were walked around so civilians in the North could walk up stairs just to get a peep and charged for it. And they did feed some for a while until this foolishness was stopped as time went on.

The North stopped feeding them on purpose all together.
 



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