Prisoner Exchange - American Civil War

Prisoner Exchange - American Civil War Famous Historical Events Civil Wars American History Social Studies

During the American Civil War, both sides agreed on specific terms for prisoner exchanges.  In this drawing - from the June 14, 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly - we see the return of Union prisoners to General Burnside.  The men had been held in North Carolina.

However ... by 1864, Union Generals began to rethink the wisdom of exchanging prisoners.  Allowing soldiers to return home simply provided Confederate Generals with more manpower.

On April 17, 1864 - one year to the day before Mary Surratt was arrested - General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order that no more prisoner exchanges, between North and South, would occur unless the Confederacy agreed to new terms.  The terms he presented - as noted by James McPherson in Battle Cry of Freedom - were unacceptable to the South. 

With the lack of prisoner exchanges, the South began to experience a significant loss of manpower.

John Wilkes Booth was enraged by this turn of events.  It was to force the continuation of prisoner exchanges that he concocted a plan to kidnap President Lincoln.  His reasoning?  If he, and his cohorts had the President, they would hold him until the Union agreed to release Confederate prisoners.

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Drawing of Union prisoners, being released to General Burnside, from the June 14, 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly.  Online, courtesy Library of Congress.


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"Prisoner Exchange - American Civil War" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Feb 22, 2020.
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