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Prisoners of War: 1864

Prisoners of War: 1864

1864. "Chattanooga, Tenn. Confederate prisoners at railroad depot waiting to be sent north." Wet plate glass negative, photographer unknown. View full size.


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All Union soldiers

All these men are Union troops. The overcoats that look gray are light blue. The photo is very remarkable in that it shows many different uniform styles and headgear.

Family History

One of my relatives was captured in the fighting around Chattanooga near the end of 1863, probably several weeks before this picture was taken. He ended up at Rock Island, Illinois, from December 1863 to June 1865.

The commenter who wrote, "the prison camps weren't a Hilton Hotel but at least you weren't getting shot at," may want to read up on Civil War prison camps. They were pretty horrific on both sides, and at Rock Island specifically, the prisoners had several months during which the guards on the wall made a habit of shooting prisoners at the smallest pretense or, whenever bored, firing off a random shot into the compound.

I certainly don't want to get into a discussion of which side's prison camps were "worse," because they were all pretty damn awful. It was bad, bad stuff, and don't think there were many prisoners on either side who would not gladly return to their regiments if they could.


Yeah, I'll bet they are relaxed!! After being in battle off and on for a couple of years, they know they will have it better in a Union prison camp than in the Confederate Army. Sure, the prison camps weren't a Hilton Hotel but at least you weren't getting shot at and shelled all the time.

Hospital Train

Given the large opening in the center and lack of windows, this is a converted boxcar. There were also purpose-built Hospital Cars that more closely resembled passenger coaches. In both cases, they were specially equipped for stretcher cases, however the boxcar's large center door opening would facilitate moving wounded in and out of the car. Period illustrations show a stove for heating, and what appears to be a double boiler for heating water or perhaps cooking at the opposite end of the coaches. As the boxcar shown here has two smokejacks on the roof, it appears it was similarly equipped.

For some period artist's sketches and information on the cars, including an interior sketch circa 1864, click here.


Sure they're skinny, so are their guards. But what surprised me is that most of them looked relaxed and kind of happy!

And that guy on the right, is he talking on his cellphone (above the tophat guy) (only kidding!)

Train Car

Check out the train car that is labeled "Hospital Car." I wonder what the interior looked like.


Yes, the rations were lacking (I use that loosely) at that time of the War. I seem to recall a Confederate memoir by Sam Watkins recalling that the cavalry was eating the corn out of the feed that they were giving their horses.

Nice shot of Lookout Mountain in the background.

Officers and Rations

By their uniforms a number of these are officers. Their slimness derives from the poor rations most Confederates had in the last year of the war, so the Union rations must have been a relief. OTOH, they are may be en route to Block Island prison on the Great Lakes, which got miserably cold and dank in the winters.

Slim soldiers

I noticed how thin all the soldiers are and also the woman and two children by the group of men on the tracks. I really enjoyed browsing over this picture since it showed so much detail.

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