Chronology of the Prisoner of War Exchange and Parole Cartel


1. William Hesseltine, Civil War Prisons: a Study in War-Time Psychology.

2. Lonnie Speer, Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War.

3. Reid Mitchell, "Our prison system, supposing we had any": The Confederate and Union Prison Systems, in On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861-1871 (Stig Forster and Jorg Nagler, editors).

4. Francis Trevelyan Miller, Photographic History of the Civil War (volume 7).

5. Numerous documents found in Series II of the Official Records.

The actual text of the cartel is in the Official Records, and can be read by clicking on this link.


Feb. 18, 1861 U.S. troops in Texas surrender to state forces and are paroled.
May 10, 1861 Roughly 700 Missouri militiamen captured by U.S. forces at Camp Jackson, in St. Louis, and are paroled.
June 3, 1861 C.S. privateer Savannah captured by the U.S. brig Perry.
July 21, 1861 First Battle of Bull Run results in approximately 1,000 U.S. officers and men taken prisoner by the Confederates.
August 30, 1861 Union Col. W.H.L. Wallace (commanding at Bird's Point, Missouri) and Confederate Gen. Gideon Pillow (commanding at Columbus, Kentucky) agree to exchange prisoners.
Dec. 11, 1861 U.S. Congress passes resolutions in favor of opening an exchange agreement with the Confederacy.
Feb. 8, 1862 Battle of Roanoke Island; Brig. Gen. Ambrose Burnside captures nearly 2,500 Confederates.
Feb. 16, 1862 Initial discussions between Generals Benjamin Huger (C.S.) and John Wool (U.S.).

Fort Donelson surrenders to Brig. Gen. U.S. Grant; approximately 12,000 Confederates captured.

Feb. 23, 1862 First meeting between Wool and C.S. Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb, now acting in place of Huger.
Feb. 26, 1862 Stanton disapproves of the proposed Wool-Cobb agreeement, and negotiations break down.
April 8, 1862 Confederate garrison at New Madrid and Island No. 10 surrenders to Brig. Gen. John Pope; 3,500 Confederates taken prisoner.
July 12, 1862 Maj. Gen. John Dix authorized to discuss exchange cartel with the Confederates.
July 18, 1862 Dix and Confederate Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill meet to discuss cartel.
July 22, 1862 Final form of cartel agreed upon and signed. Judge Robert Ould becomes Confederate Agent of Exchange. After some initial confusion, Col. William H. Ludlow becomes U.S. Agent for Exchange.
July 31, 1862 Confederate President Jefferson Davis instructs General Robert E. Lee to inform the Federals that Union Maj. Gen. John Pope, and certain of his subordinates, will not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war, should they be captured, because of orders issued for the removal of disloyal civilians from within the Federal lines.
August 8, 1862 Union Maj. Gen. D. C. Buell issues order restricting paroles. The order is later rescinded at the insistence of the Confederates.
August 21, 1862 The Confederates decree that Union Maj. Gen. David Hunter and other officers be held for execution as felons (instead of prisoners of war) for raising regiments of former slaves for the Union service.
August 30, 1862 Federal defeat at Richmond, Kentucky; perhaps as many as 4,000 prisoners taken and paroled in the field.
Sept. 15, 1862 Federal garrison at Harper's Ferry surrenders; about 12,000 men taken prisoner and paroled in the field.
Sept. 17, 1862 Federal garrison at Mumfordville, Kentucky, surrenders; 5,000 prisoners taken and paroled in the field.
Dec. 24, 1862 C.S. President Jefferson Davis issues proclamation branding Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler an outlaw, to be hanged immediately upon capture. The same proclamation decrees that white officers of black regiments, and the troops themselves, will be remanded to state governments for trial on charges of servile insurrection.
Dec. 28 & 30, 1862 Exchange and parole of Confederate officers halted by order of Stanton and Halleck.
Jan. 11, 1863 Rebel troops at Arkansas Post surrender; 5,000 prisoners taken.
Jan. 26, 1863 Grant issues order making invalid any paroles "in the field" offered to the troops of his department.
Feb. 3, 1863 Rosecrans informs Federal Secretary of War Stanton that the cartel does not allow paroles in the field, yet the Rebels have consistently been doing so.
Feb. 28, 1863 General Order 49, restricting the granting and giving of paroles, is issued by the Federal War Department, but not officially transmitted to the Confederates.
March 16, 1863 Orders issued to exchange the Arkansas Post prisoners through City Point, Virgina, rather than have them directly reinforce Vicksburg while Grant is campaigning to take the town.
March 27, 1863 Exchange of officers on a man-for-man basis is re-authorized by the Federal War Department.
April 24, 1863 General Orders 100 (the Lieber Code), adopted by U.S. War Department.
May 1, 1863 In response to Davis's December 24 proclamation, the Confederate Congress provides that the officers of Negro troops in the Union army should be tried under Confederate law for inciting servile insurrection, and put to death upon conviction; while the Negro troops themselves would be "delivered to the authorities of the State or States in which they shall be captured to be dealt with according to the present or future law of such State or States."
May 15, 1863 Two Rebel captains (McGraw and Corbin) executed, by order of Burnside, for spying while recruiting in Kentucky.
May 22, 1863 General Orders 49 and 100 finally transmitted to the Confederates.
May 25, 1863 Exchange and parole of officers ordered halted by Federal War Department, in retaliation for the action of the Confederate Congress with regard to Negro troops and their officers.
June 13, 1863 Confederate Gen. E. Kirby Smith writes to his subordinate, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor: "I have been unofficially informed that some of your troops have captured negroes in arms. I hope this may not be so, and that your subordinates who may have been in command of capturing parties may have recognized the propriety of giving no quarter to armed negroes and their officers. In this way we may be relieved from a disagreeable dilemma."
July 2, 1863 Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens embarks on mission to Washington to discuss the prisoner of war issue; Lincoln refuses to meet with him.
July 3, 1863 General Order 207, reminding officers in the field of the regulations regarding exchange and parole, is issued.
July 4, 1863 Vicksburg garrison (about 30,000 men) surrenders, is paroled by Grant.

At Gettysburg, Lee offers to exchange prisoners with Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, but Meade declines. Confederates parole their prisoners before retreating, but the paroles are declared invalid by Federal authorities and the men are returned to duty.

July 6, 1863 Rebel authorities select (by lot) Union Capts. Sawyer and Flinn, held in Libby Prison, to be executed in retaliation for the execution of Capts. Corbin and McGraw.
July 9, 1863 Port Hudson surrenders; 6,000 men taken prisoner by Maj. Gen. N.P. Banks, and are paroled through Mobile.
July 13, 1863 Exchange of enlisted men ordered halted (by Stanton), "until there is better understanding in relation to the cartel and a more rigid adherence to its stipulations on the part of the rebel authorities."
July 15, 1863 President Lincoln orders that Brig. Gen. W.H.F. Lee, captured on June 26, be held as hostage for Capts. Sawyer and Flinn.
July 23, 1863 Col. W.H. Ludlow replaced as Federal Agent of Exchange by Brig. Gen. Sullivan Meredith.
August 7, 1863 Meredith announces to Stanton his intention to insist that black troops in Union regiments, and their officers, be treated as prisoners of war.
Sept. 7, 1863 Confederates announce exchange of the bulk of the Vicksburg garrison.
Oct. 1, 1863 As of this date, Judge Ould is claiming an imbalance by which the Confederates are owed 7,500 men, whereas Gen. Meredith claims the Federals are owed 10,024.
Nov. 28, 1863, & Dec. 2, 1863 Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen Hitchcock, serving as Federal "Commissioner for Exchange," writes letters to New York Times, placing the blame for the suspension of exchanges largely on C.S. policy toward black troops.
Dec. 17, 1863 Maj. Gen. Ben Butler appointed U.S. Agent of Exchange, begins negotiations to re-open exchanges.
Jan. 12, 1864 Butler proposes "man-for-man" exchange to Ould.
Feb. 25, 1864 Brig. Gen. Rooney Lee and two Rebel captains ordered exchanged for Union Brig. Gen. Neal Dow and Capts. Sawyer and Flinn.
April 9, 1864 Butler reports to Stanton that it is his impression that the Confederates, on the matter of paroles, seem willing to be fair and reasonable, but on the matter of former slaves in blue uniforms, the Confederates are unyielding.
April 15, 1864 Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant is informed by Col. William Hoffman, U.S. Commissary-General of Prisoners, that the Confederates "owe" the Federals some 23,000 men.
April 17, 1864 Grant issues orders to Butler essentially forbidding exchanges unless and until the Confederates agree to treat black troops equally with white, and agree to compensate the U.S. for the early release from parole of the Vicksburg and Port Hudson garrisons.
April 20, 1864 Plymouth, North Carolina, falls to Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. Robert Hoke, with a large number of Federal troops being taken prisoner. In mid-July a survivor of the Federal garrison signs an affadavit alledging that the Confederates systematically and brutally murdered all the black Federal troops taken prisoner.
May 7, 1864 Federal War Department orders all parolees back into active service, declaring that, even after this, the Rebels, because of recent unilateral declarations of exchange, will "owe" the Union some 33,600 men.
June 13, 1864 C.S. Secretary of War James Seddon writes to Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb, commanding the Georgia militia: "As to the white officers serving with negro troops, we ought never to be inconvenienced with such prisoners."
August 8, 1864 Halleck informs Maj. Gen. John G. Foster, commanding the Federal Dept. of the South, that, "No exchanges will be made without special instructions of the War Department. Any offer for exchange will be communicated here for the action of the Secretary of War."
August 10, 1864 Judge Ould agrees to a man-for-man exchange.
August 18, 1864 Grant writes to Butler, "It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated."
August 19, 1864 Grant writes to Union Secretary of State Seward, "We ought not to make a single exchange nor release a prisoner on any pretext whatever until the war closes. We have got to fight until the military power of the South is exhausted, and if we release or exchange prisoners captured it simply becomes a war of extermination."
August 27, 1864 Butler responds to Ould's proposal of August 10, asking if black troops will be included in the Confederate proposal. No reply is made. (After the war, Ould contends that Butler made no reply.)
Sept. 8, 1864 Hood proposes to Sherman an exchange of recently captured men, and Sherman agrees.
Sept. 9, 1864 A proposal for exchange of prisoners unfit for immediate active military service is made by Butler.
Sept. 11, 1864 Hood attempts to exchange men from Andersonville and men whose enlistments have expired for men recently captured from his army; Sherman refuses, Hood gives in, and about 2,000 men are exchanged each way.
Sept. 18, 1864 Exchange of invalid and sick prisoners begins.
Oct. 1, 1864 Lee proposes an exchange with Grant, but the idea founders on the question of black troops.
Oct. 6, 1864 Ould proposes that the two sides be allowed to provide for their men held in captivity by the other side; this proposal is eventually accepted by the Federals.
Oct. 15, 1864 Stanton places all prisoner of war issues in Grant's hands, with instructions to "take any steps that you may deem proper to effect the release and exchange of our soldiers and all loyal persons held as prisoners by the rebel authorities."
Jan. 20, 1865 Confederate Brig. Gen. John Winder, in charge of prisoner issues for the South, suggests paroling all the men held at Florence, South Carolina.
Jan. 21, 1865 Grant informs Stanton that he has given instructions that negotiations be re-opened with a view to resuming a general exchange.
Jan. 24, 1865 Ould proposes to Grant that exchanges be re-opened on a man-for-man basis.
Feb. 2, 1865 Grant informs Stanton that he intends to exchange about 3,000 men per week until one side or the other has no more prisoners. The Federals intend to exchange men from states such as Missouri and Kentucky first, to minimize the chances that they could be put back into their units.
April 2, 1865 Grant directs that no more prisoners be sent to City Point, due to developments in the military situation around Petersburg.
April 9, 1865 Judge Ould informs Grant that he is within Federal lines, with all of the Confederate records on prisoners and exchange.

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