Captives in Gray: The Civil War Prisons of the Union

“This is a vivid description of conditions and events rarely described: the imprisonment of captured Confederate soldiers during the Civil War…”

Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States

Winner of the 2010 James I. Robertson Jr. Literary Prize, sponsored by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Library and Research Center


Contemporary reports from prisoners and witnesses humanize the grim realities of the POW camps.

Perhaps no topic is more heated, and the sources more tendentious, than that of Civil War prisons and the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs). Partisans of each side, then and now, have vilified the other for maltreatment of their POWs, while seeking to excuse their own distressing record of prisoner of war camp mismanagement, brutality, and incompetence. It is only recently that historians have turned their attention to this contentious topic in an attempt to sort the wheat of truth from the chaff of partisan rancor.

Roger Pickenpaugh has previously studied a Union prison camp in careful detail (Camp Chase) and now turns his attention to the Union record in its entirety, to investigate variations between camps and overall prison policy and to determine as nearly as possible what actually happened in the admittedly over-crowded, under-supplied, and poorly-administered camps. He also attempts to determine what conditions resulted from conscious government policy or were the product of local officials and situations.

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“This is a vivid description of conditions and events rarely described: the imprisonment of captured Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Its many parallels to circumstances in Andersonville are especially intriguing.”

—Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States

“Mr. Pickenpaugh provides an examination of the development of the exchange system, its eventual collapse, and the relationship between the system and the development of the Federal prison system. He also documents how the Federal approach to administering these prisons changed as time passed from an arrangement between noble warriors to one of retaliatory punishment and the impact on the prisoners, the overall outcome of these policies, and their legacies as remembered by those affected by them.”

—Roger S. Durham, Director, Army Heritage Museum, Carlisle Barracks, PA

“An ambitious examination of almost all Union military prisons, [which] . . . addresses a specific historical category that has, to my knowledge, not yet been treated.”

—William Marvel, author of Lee’s Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox and Andersonville: The Last Depot

Product Details
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: University Alabama Press; 1 edition (March 28, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0817316523
ISBN-13: 978-0817316525
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

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