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Re: prisoner exchange
In Response To: prisoner exchange ()

General Grant ordered a halt to the process of returning Confederate POWs when he became General-in-Chief of all of the Federal armies in the field. His belief was that most all of the returned Confederate POWs ended up back in Confederate service while almost none of the Federal POWs were fit for any kind of duty after their return. The northern manpower pool was more than adequate to supply the replacements he needed to maintain the Union war effort. Grant's strategy was to wage a war of attrition to subdue the Confederate South.

However, pressure continued to be exerted by others, notably "Beast" Butler who commanded Fort Monore and the Army of the James, to continue the exchange program for the sick and disabled. Butler was a politician with post-war ambitions and getting "our boys in blue" out of Confederate POW camps was good politics. Grant relented in the fall of 1864 and a few thousand POWs were released and delivered to their respective sides at Venus Point on the Savannah River in Georgia, and at Charleston, South Carolina in November and December 1864.

In order to qualify for release, a Confederate prisoner had to be examined and certified by a Union prison surgeon as "likely to be unfit for service for 60 days" after his release. Able bodied Confederates were held in POW camps until the end of the war when they were required to take an Oath of Allegiance to obtain their release from prison.

Prisoners about to be released were "paroled for exchange" meaning they promised not to take up arms or assist their respective governments in any way until "properly exchanged." Exchange was a formal accounting process which released each prisoner from his personal parole promise and allowed him to return to duty. The Confederates declared "exchanged" only those fit to return to duty. Most of the returning prisoners in late 1864 and early 1865 were examined in Confederate hospitals and released on a 60 day furlough to go home. Some were admitted to Confederate hospitals en route home and were noted to be still in "paroled prisoner" status.

This first release seemed to have worked well and two more "humanitarian" releases were made in February and March 1865. This time the deliveries were made on the James River in a "no man's land" between Union Fort Brady at Cox's Landing and Confederate Fort Hoke near Chaffin's Bluff. Boulware's Wharf was located below Fort Hoke in this "no man's land."

Hugh Simmons
Fort Delaware Society

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