War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Introduction

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Prisoner's of War Intro

Vol. 1 Introduction - Serial 114

Prisoners of War

These volumes contain many reports and letters from junior military figures, department commanders, Commissioners for prisoner exchanges, naval officers, and politicians in Washington and Richmond.
The subject, in one way or another, is always the question of what to do with the leftovers of war: prisoners, or civilians who disagree with the government. As examples of the nastiness of warfare in a Border State with divided loyalties, we have material on Missouri in the early war. Two contrasts are offered of different political situations: Maryland under Union occupation, and East Tennessee under Confederate occupation.
The whole question of civilian disloyalty to government in wartime is covered in Volume 2, from big cities to small towns.
The bulk of the material is about the details of prisoner exchanges, from the plaintive reports of field officers about where to send their prisoners, to political decisions about how to treat them. Key decisions were made early in the war: captured soldiers would be treated as belligerents, not hanged as rebels. Late in the war the Union stopped exchanges to run the CSA out of soldiers, and the results included such prison camps as Andersonville.

This volume covers a variety of quasi-military activities, from the Texas seizure of Federal property (where the reports here supplement those in Series I, volume 1) to actions in the border states. The bulk of the volume covers the early years (until January 1862) on the Missouri frontier, with correspondence from civilians, between Union and Confederate generals (especially Sterling Price for the CSA), and from the generals to their political masters. The difficulties of waging war in a Border State are clear.
Maryland had remarkably different circumstances, and never, even on paper, left the Union. This was because of Union military occupation, including the suspension of civil rights in areas, and this is covered with the frank title of "Union Policy of Repression in Maryland" and covering events until November 1862.
The third portion of records cover the politically delicate treatment of captured and fugitive slaves from March 1861 to May 1862. This includes the vital decisions by Ben Butler to use runaway slaves to the benefit of the Union rather than enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, a precedent that other Union generals didn't follow, and that the Secretary of War was over a year in ratifying.
If the US violated civil rights in Maryland, the Confederates did the same to the small holders of East Tennessee. The Confederates hanged what they judged to be civilians who burned bridges, but generally spent more time expelling those who didn't want to be in the CSA.

Prisoner's of War Intro