Union Prisoner of War Records

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United States
Civil War, 1861-1865
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Introduction[edit | edit source]

As many as 674,000 men might have been taken prisoner during the Civil War. At first prisoners were paroled or exchanged, but this mostly ended in early 1864. Union officials thought that released Confederates would return to the military.

"Over 400,000 men were held in prisons in the north and south until the end of the war in April 1865. An estimated 56,000 died in prison - 30,000 in Confederate prisons and 26,000 in Union prisons. There were as many as 150 prisons, small and large, through the north and the south. Death rates ranged from 20 to 30 percent, North and South, with the highest death rate occurring at Camp Douglas in Chicago."[1]

Confederate Prisons for Union Soldiers[edit | edit source]

Prisoner of war records of Union prisoners are described in The Confederacy: A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America (Worldcat) (FHL book 973 A5mb 1986) by Henry Putney Beers. Records of the Commissary General of Prisoners are described on pages 247–59.

National Archives Catalog - Selected Collections

Alabama[edit | edit source]

Cahaba Prison at Cahawba[edit | edit source]

Cahaba Prison was located near Selma, Alabama, in the now vanished town of Cahawba, Dallas County. The prison was in a cotton warehouse by the Alabama River. It was in operation off and on from 1862 to April 1865. Over 9,000 men were imprisoned there during that time.[2]

"At its peak in 1864 and 1865, 3,000 men were housed there in with an average living space of only six square feet, by far the most crowded of any prison, north or south. Conditions were harsh, but thanks to a humane prison director and the kindnesses of town people, fewer than 250 soldiers died there. Over 800 men who had been imprisoned at Cahaba perished in the Sultana disaster on April 27, 1865."[3]


  • Cahaba (CivilWarPrisoners.com) is name searchable and gives rank, company, regiment, date and location captured, date and cause of death, fate, and remarks. It also gives links to related sites.

Georgia[edit | edit source]

Andersonville Confederate Prison Records, 1864-1865[edit | edit source]

The "Selected Records of the War Department Commissary General of Prisoners Relating to Federal Prisoners of War Confined at Andersonville, GA, 1864-65" (NARA M1303) is a collection of registers, lists, returns, reports, and indexes that relate to Union prisoners of war that were held in the prison at Camp Sumter, Andersonville, GA, February 1864 to April 1865. The records include a register of about 30,000 departures from the prison, indexes and registers of prisoners admitted to the prison hospital, registers of prisoner deaths and burials as well as monthly reports of prisoners.


North Carolina[edit | edit source]

Salisbury Prison at Salisbury, North Carolina[edit | edit source]

"In the fall of 1864, the number of soldiers at Salisbury prison doubled from 5,000 to 10,000. It suffered from one of the highest prison death rates, with as many as half the men dying of starvation or disease."[4]



South Carolina[edit | edit source]

Florence[edit | edit source]

From 1864-1865, the Florence Stockade housed Union prisoners of the Confederate army. Many of the prisoners had been transferred from the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia. Prisoners who died at the Florence Stockade were buried at what is now the Florence National Cemetery. For more information, quarterly publications, and history visit Friends of the Florence Stockade.

Other Resources
Ledoux, Albert H. The Florence Stockade: A Chronicle of Prison Life in the Waning Months of the Civil War. Florence County, SC: lPrimedia E-launch LLC, 2015.

Virginia[edit | edit source]

Belle Isle opposite side of the James River from Richmond, Virginia

Castle Lightening at Richmond, Virginia

Castle Thunder at Richmond, Virginia

  • Casstevens, Frances, George W. Alexander and Castle Thunder : a Confederate prison and its commandant, Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland and Co., ©2004.

Libby Prison at Richmond, Virginia

Smith Prison at Richmond, Virginia

Scott Prison at Richmond, Virginia

Pemberton Prison at Richmond, Virginia

Danville Prisons at Danville, Pittsylvania County, Virginia



Sultana Disaster[edit | edit source]

The Sultana disaster occurred April 27, 1865, when a boat loaded with nearly 2,200 Union POWs exploded, killing many of the men who had lived through Andersonville and Cahaba prisons. The boat was on the Mississippi River, north of Memphis, Tennessee when it exploded. The confirmed 1,221 verified deaths from existing sources, including Adjutant General (AG) reports. Many Sultana experts put the death toll at 1,500 to 1,800[5]


  • Sultana Disaster (CivilWarPrisoners.com) is name searchable, and gives rank, regiment, date captured, and fate.

Regular Army Officers[edit | edit source]

Related Books[edit | edit source]

  • Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War (FHL 973 M2spe) (Worldcat) by Lonnie R. Speer contains the history of Union and Confederate prisons.

Internet Sites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Claire Prechtel Kluskens. "The Rebs Took My Money!" NGS Magazine 41 # 2 (April-June 2015):42-45. FHL 973 D25ngs
  1. Lundquist, Jack and Carol, Civil War Prisons, (accessed 10 April 2012).
  2. Civil War Prisons, Cahaba Prison, (accesses 10 April 2012).
  3. Civil War Prisons, Cahaba Prison, (accesses 10 April 2012).
  4. United States. Department of Veteran Affairs. Salisbury National Cemetery, (accessed 10 April 2012).
  5. Civil War Prisons, Sultana Disaster, (accesses 10 April 2012).