Explanation of some

Civil War Terminology and Practices


Source: "Civil War Cards," printed 1993 by Atlas Editions, Durham, CT, written by Stephen T. Foster

I have a source that tells a little about paroling. Any prisoner that wasn't exchanged within 10 days of capture was "paroled," by signing a pledge not to bear arms against his captors. He had to wait until he was formally exchanged to return to his unit. This was not usually a problem, because they could go home until they were notified that they were "exchanged." Some soldiers even got themselves captured, hoping to be paroled, so they could go home. It got to be such a problem that, they had to show that they were captured honorably to be paroled or exchanged.

It was a violation of the intent of the system of parole when a soldier was given a noncombat assignment, like fighting indians, or even duties like cleaning or cooking, as this would, "free up other soldiers for combat."

"After the capture of Vicksburg,Miss, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant paroled about 31,600 confederate defenders of the city at one time." In 1863, black soldiers were captured, and the confederates reduced them to slave status and threatened to execute the officers that commanded them. After severeal threats of prisoner executions passed but and forth between the north and south, the exchange program broke down. Later, when the south needed soldiers, and asked that exchanges resume, Gen. Grant, with plenty of northern troops, refused. The rate of exchange:
1 general = 46 privates, 1 major general = 40 privates, 1 brigadier general = 20 privates, 1 colonel = 15 privates, 1 lieutenant colonel = 10 privates, 1 major = 8 privates, 1 captain = 6 privates, 1 lieutenant = 4 privates, 1 noncommissioned officer = 2 privates.


From "Civil War, Prisons & Escapes, A Day-by-Day Chronicle," by Robert E. Denny. Dated, June 10, (Friday) 1864:

"At Rock Island Barracks, Rock Island, Ill., the camp commander, Col. A. J. Johnson, was directed to place all confederate prisoners who had expressed a desire to take the oath of allegiance and enter the U.S. Naval service in separte barracks pending their transfer to another location."

In Appendix VI, Deaths in Northern Prisons: Rock Island, Ill. had the highest percentage of deaths with 77.4%. Followed second by Elmira, N.Y., with only 32.5%. Next was Alton, Ill., with 20.9%, Camp Butler, Ill., with 19.6%, Camp Morton, Ind. with 17.0%, back to Ill. with Camp Douglas, Ill., with, 16.8%


Source: "Civil War Cards," printed 1993 by Atlas Editions, Durham, CT, written by Stephen T. Foster

It starts out talking about the "Conscription Act," goes to exemption, then this sentence, "Furthermore, until the practice was abolished in December 1863, a rich drafted man could hire a substitute to take his place in the ranks, an unfair practice that brought on charges of class discrimination." Note: this reference refers to the Confederate Draft.

Another reference: "A draftee could gain an exemption by paying a fee of $300 or by hiring a substitute. The obvious inequity of this provision prompted the cry of "rich man's war, but poor man's fight." Note: this reference refers to the U.S. draft.

I also noticed in the U.S. Draft card that, "A draftee could gain an exemption by paying a fee of $300, or, by hiring a substitute."

Draftees that voluntered before the final muster were eligible for a $100 bounty from the federal government, plus bounties from state and local communities. These bounties could exceed $500, about the average yearly wage in those days. This led to, "bounty jumping." The practice of enlisting, collecting their bounty, then deserting and enlisting somewhere else to collect another bunty. "The record for "bounty jumping" was held by John O'Conner. He admitted enlisting and jumping 32 times before being caught; he received a four-year prison term."

Thanks to Kenneth D. Wood for this information.

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