Federal POW

Mint Julep

Mar 4, 2015

A while ago, I was doing a little research, and I found a picture of a Federal officer that escaped from a Confederate POW camp. After he made it back to friendly lines, a photo was taken of him and others that he was with during the escape. His uniform is missing his shoulder boards, which seemed unusual. My question is, would the Confederates have made him remove his shoulder boards while in captivity?


Jun 2, 2017
Lynchburg, VA
It really depends on where the soldier had escaped from. In certain places like Libby Prison, Belle Isle, and Andersonville the conditions were so harsh, that it is possible his uniform could have worn out depending on if he was using it for a blanket or pillow. It is known that at Andersonville, the soldiers entering that prison were stripped of valuables by guards of the camp, so it is plausible that his shoulder boards could have been removed and kept by a guard who wanted them.

Gary Morgan

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Aug 2, 2019
It's also possible that he traded them away himself in prison. There was usually some kind of prison economy where you could barter whatever you had with you for whatever was available, like trading a button for reading material or shoes for food. In Andersonivlle, there was actually a "market street" that ran perpendicular to the North Gate where prisoners set up their own little shops and even games of chance. As near as I can figure it was about where this picture was taken. If you look really closely, you can sort of make out the wheels on the food wagon that the men are all clustered around (it took me a long time to spot it; Kevin Frye had to point it out to me) - it's to the left of the blanket draped "structures" and pretty much dead center in the picture; where there are no men standing - that's the food wagon) and extends back toward the big, slope roofed sutler's building in the background. Your officer probably would not have been at Andersonville, though. With very few exceptions, no officers were held there because the Rebels thought that the prisoners would be more manageable if there were no clear leaders in the group. There was briefly a spot where officers were held up the road a bit (there's a sign marking the location on the left as you walk toward the Wirz monument), but it didn't serve for very long.